The history of South Dakota is so much more than just Lewis and Clark and the Black Hills gold rush.

The early days of South Dakota, particularly in Sioux Falls, are full of fascinating stories that would make great movies.

We have the life of a great woman, the time Sioux Falls was abandoned and burned, murder, and more. These stories could be serious historical dramas, silly farces, or great biographies. Here are five:

(And if any move producers are reading, I am available for pitches or to sell a script or an outline or story credit or whatever - Ben)

5 Stories from Sioux Falls Past that Would Make Great Movies

5 Stories from Sioux Falls Past that Would Make Great Movies
Historical marker, N Cliff Ave (Google Maps)
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1. The Amidon Affair 

In August of 1862, Judge Joseph B. Amidon and his son William were making hay on their land claim a mile north of their cabin in Sioux Falls (near where the Penitentiary is today).

When they didn't come home that night, Mrs. Amidon alerted the Dakota Cavalry detachment in Sioux Falls. The men's bodies were found in the morning. Joseph had died from a gunshot and William from arrow wounds.

It was believed that they had been killed by a scouting party of Native Americans under orders from Chief Little Crow to drive settlers out as part of the Dakota War.

A few days after the Amidon men were buried, the governor of the Dakota Territory called for the abounding of Sioux Falls. The town remained abandoned for three years until Ford Dakota was built in 1865.

There are some great stories here. How about a movie about what happened when the natives met the Amidons? We could see the event from each group's perspective. Or a movie about the abandoning of Sioux Falls and moving of all the people to Yankton. That would make a great Coen Brothers-type movie.

MORE: What Some Iconic Sioux Falls Locations Look Like Today

5 Stories from Sioux Falls Past that Would Make Great Movies
Terrence Park (Goggle Maps)
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2. Makana Na Ota E ‘En (a.k.a. Among Little Trees)

The story of Makana Na Ota E ‘En is the tragic sequel to the Amidon Affair. A few months after Sioux Falls was abandoned in the early 1860s, a military scouting party returned to the town site with some civilians. They found the town burned.

Near the Falls of the Big Sioux, they saw a group of Native Americans. The Calvary sounded a charge and went after the people at the Falls. The Native Americans escaped, except for one man whose horse got caught in some mud near Covell’s Slough.

That man was Makana Na Ota E ‘En (Among Little Trees). Soldiers fired and wounded him. He was then killed by a mounted soldier’s saber lashes. He was supposedly buried in an unpark grave in Terrace Park.

At the time Makana Na Ota E ‘En was thought to be related to the band that was accused of killing the Amidons and burning the town. It turned out that the group of Native Americans at the Falls that day were not part of anything and had just been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Imagine a movie about that last day of Makana Na Ota E ‘En's life. Start in the morning, breaking camp, maybe some hunting. Stories about the men in his party, their lives, and the future. Then they stop for a rest at the Falls. While enjoying lunch the military arrives and tragedy unfolds.

5 Stories from Sioux Falls Past that Would Make Great Movies
Old Courthouse downtown Sioux Falls (Google Maps)
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3. Hanging of Thomas Egan

Thomas Egen was an immigrant from Ireland who homesteaded near Sioux Falls in 1876. He was hanged in Sioux Falls for the murder of his wife in 1880. She was found in the cellar of their sod home, beaten to death.

At Egen's trial, his step-daughter Catherine and her husband James Van Horn testified for the prosecution leading to Egan's conviction.

Before he was hanged Thomas said, "Judge, I have nothing against anybody in the Court, or anybody around the country, except the Van Horns. They betrayed me and may the curse of God be upon them. I can stand it, Sir. The law may not reach the Van Horns, but the curse of God will." What a great speech!

45 years later while on her deathbed Catherine confessed to killing her mother. She said they had argued and she beat her mother to death.

This could be a great courtroom movie. Or a movie told from Thomas' or even Catherine's perspective. Or maybe a story told by the ghost of the mother.

5 Stories from Sioux Falls Past that Would Make Great Movies
Google Maps
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4. Life in East Sioux Falls

It was the Deadwood of Minnehaha County. East Sioux Falls was a mining town just to the east of Sioux Falls proper, where Arrowhead Park is today. The town was set up to quarry the great deposits of Sioux quartzite and cut the rock into paving stones.

The town thrived towards the end of the 19th century. It had a wild reputation, especially compared to its fancy neighbor, Sioux Falls proper.

The lives of the stone cutters were hard and dangerous. And life in East Sioux Falls could be bawdy. When an electric rail line connected the two Sioux Falls in the 1890's the town became a sort of 'sluming' destination for the proper folks of Sioux Falls.

But, the stone market eventually died and the town disappeared.

There's a great story about the rise of this town and its struggle to establish itself under the judgmental eye of the bigger city. A story about working-class people building and establishing a community against the odds.

5 Stories from Sioux Falls Past that Would Make Great Movies
Dakota Avenue and 12th Street, Sioux Falls (Google Maps)
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5. The Life of Eliza Tupper Wilkes 

Eliza Tupper Wilkes was an ordained Universalist minister who came to Sioux Falls in 1877. Shortly after arriving, she worked as a lone missionary, traveling to remote communities for services.

She was the first ordained woman minister to publicly preach in the Dakota Territory. She also organized seven churches in South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota.

She was a driving force in the building of the All Souls Church at the southeast corner of Dakota Avenue and 12th Street (now The Washington Pavillion). She and her husband built several houses in the Cathedral Historical District in Sioux Falls.

Eliza was also a civic leader and a champion of women's suffrage. She was instrumental in starting the city's first public library and a key part of growing the institution.

A biopic of Eliza's life would be a wonderful, amazing story.

Source: South Dakota State Historical SocietySouth Dakota Historical Markers.

 

35 Movies That Take Place in South Dakota

When it comes to South Dakota and Hollywood, we've seen our fair share of films that have used our state as the backdrop for a number of productions over the years. They may not have always filmed here, but movie folk love to set stories here.

We're all familiar with the blockbusters like 1990's Dances With Wolves, 1959's North By Northwest, and more recently, 2007's National Treasure: Book of Secrets. But our state's life on the big screen goes back nearly 100 years.

According to IMDb, it all started with Courtin' Wildcats, a 1929 film which, like so many of the 29 films on this list, is a Western set in the time before South Dakota became a state in 1889.

Gallery Credit: Jeff Harkness/B1027.com

 

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