The Beginning... A metropolis on the prairie! A city in the finest valley of the West! Such was the dream of Milton M. Rich. Richland was founded in 1861 by Milton M. Rich of Chicago, Illinois. He is said to have been a man of worldly ambition who dreamed of building a community below the bluffs. This is now the little village of Richland. In 1861, Rich and Stephen Horton rendezvoused near Westfield, Iowa, and waited for the Indian title to Dakota lands to be terminated. Horton had been in the area since the 1850's and had a squatter claim on land on the west side of the river. Rich had selected the present Richland townsite at the foot of the bluffs.
The Railroad...The Illinois Central Railroad was originally laid toward Richland and Mr. Rich was then in the position of bargaining with railroad officials. It is written that Mr. Rich could not agree with the railroad representatives on how to divide the townsite. The railroad wished to own half the town. Rich agreed, but wanted to retain every other block rather than divide the town by large sections. As a result the railroad was deflected to Sioux City after reaching LeMars. Although Richland never reached the proportions of greatness that Milton Rich had planned, it was for a time a thriving community center.
Methodist Church...The Richland Methodist Church dates back to 1861, before the territorial government was organized. Settlers were beginning to move into the area and a church was needed. At this time A. J. Bell and the Thomas Watson family organized a church consisting of 10 members. Bell possessed a capacity for public leadership, so in 1862 he became superintendent of the Sunday School. Due to the Indian raids and violence in the fall of 1862, they left the area for Fort Brule and returned later in the year with a drove of horses to sell for service in defending the frontier against the Indians. During this time at Fort Brule, the church was reborn in a hay barn with about 25 members. Rev. Jason Payne was appointed Pastor.
In the fall of 1865, the community erected a log building covered with brush, hay and earth for school and church purposes on the Edward Tollefson farm. The church had its home here for four years until the Conference reorganized and Richland, along with Elk Point and Vermillion, became members of the Des Moines Conference. Ministers came regularly to Elk Point and Vermillion, but only haphazardly to Richland because of the irregularity of the congregation and the inadequate facilities. It was then decided that W. H. H. Fate should be made an ordained minister to conduct services, baptisms, funerals and marriages when a regular minister was not present. In 1878 Rev. O. R. Newell served the Richland church as well as a parish just getting started in Portlandville, Iowa.
In 1885, the school which was formerly used for church services, became closed to public worship. The congregation took it upon themselves to build a suitable church. By the strong effort of many people, funds were raised to start the building of a church. This church was purchased by Goodwill Industries and moved to Sioux City, Iowa in 1981, where it still stands. It has been restored to its original condition and serves as a place of worship yet today. The church was designated as a South Dakota Historic Landmark.
School...In the early 1860's the first school was held near Fort Brule. About 1865 a school was built in Richland. The school had a roof of split poles covered with slough grass and a few inches of earth. The floor, benches and desks were of rough cottonwood boards. The spaces between the logs were chinked with what might be called stovewood, but there was no plastering. The toilet was a hole in the dirt covered by a roof. This picture of the school was taken in 1914.
Midi Composition by Bruce DeBoer