“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Hettinger in Adams County, North Dakota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

Recognizing our Past

Recognizing our Past Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Ruth VanSteenwyk, August 15, 2017
1. Recognizing our Past Marker

Yellowstone Trail

The Yellowstone Trail was the first transcontinental automobile highway through he United States northern tier. The highway was created from a grassroots movement of local volunteers and originated near this location.

Six sandstone obelisks hauled from south of White Butte with horse and wagon still mark the Yellowstone Trail with in 13 miles of this site. Honoring the historic road's success they stand at original locations in the Hynes City park, Haynes, ND, Petrified Park in Lemmon, SD, and in Hettinger, ND.

In 1912 adequate all-weather roads were rare. The first government marked highway route was not organized until 1918. The Yellowstone Trail idea grew among South Dakotans, as conceived by J.W. Parmley who wanted a good road from his home in Ipswich to Aberdeen.

Lemmon hosted the first Yellowstone Trail Association meeting in 1912. Thirteen elected directors, including three from Hettinger, mapped a route in both directions, advertised it as the "Shortest Route to Yellowstone Park" and motivated citizens to build their own road section. Soon the Yellowstone
Recognizing our Past Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Ruth VanSteenwyk, August 15, 2017
2. Recognizing our Past Marker
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Trail became "a good road from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound," covering the entire 3,700 miles from coast to coast, In the west much of the road later became US Highway 12.

The Yellowstone Trail was an instant success and drivers could now speed through Adams county "in high gear without once dropping into intermediate or low"

Adams County held its first Trail Day May 22, 1914, pictured below, with volunteers wielding picks and shovels and driving horses hitched to discs, harrows and improvised road drags. Photo courtesy of Dakota Buttes museum, Hettinger, ND.

This sandstone Yellowstone Trail marker stands in Hettinger's Centennial Park in its original location. Arrows denote travel directions. Photo courtesy of France Berg.

Tepee Rings

Hundreds of tepee rings similar to this replica once lay across this valley. For centuries, nomadic buffalo-hunting families from many Indian tribes used stones to hold tepee edges to the ground at Hiddenwood. For the 1882 Great Buffalo Hunt over 2,000 Teton Lakota set up their teepees in the valley.

Stone tepee rings are generally older than 200 years and may be 1,000 years or more. Native women moved camp with dog travois hauling goods prior to the introduction of the horse in the 1740s. Tepee rings vary in size, averaging about 16 feet across. They anchored
Wayside area image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Ruth VanSteenwyk, August 15, 2017
3. Wayside area
large, heavy tepees made of buffalo hides stitched together and braced by 10 to 20 lodge poles. Earlier rings were generally smaller, used with smaller, lighter tepees. In historic times canvas replaced buffalo hides and wood tent stakes were used or combined with stones.

On unplowed grazing lands, tepee rings still lie half-buried in grass throughout this region. Orange lichens on the stones indicate long exposure above ground. Occasionally stones appear in two rows indicated use of a tepee liner. An irregular pattern suggests how stones were pushed aside the last time women broke camp.

Petrified Wood

Petrified wood is widespread in this region of western North and South Dakota. The two large pieces displayed here come from hills 10 miles north. Area petrified wood trees include Cypress, Dawn Redwood, Ginkgo, Maple, Sycamore, Palm, Cedar, Poplar, Walnut, BoxElder, Elm and Sequois dakotensis.

Most comes from the Paleocene era, 55 to 67 million years ago, when vast swamps and forested floodplains covered the terrain. Petrified wood is also found locally in the Hell Creek Formation from the older Cretaceous period 145 million years ago when Tyrannosaurus Rex and other dinosaurs stalked this land.

Huge trees grew 12 feet in diameter and over 100 feet tall. When they fell into swamps, oxygen deprived, their rapid burial
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in mud or sand prevented normal decay. Mineralized ground water penetrated the wood, gradually coating cell walls with silica or quartz and adding color. Stone replaced wood grain structure, growth rings and knots were branches split off.

Built in 1930-32 this large Petrified Park, pictured above, fills more than a city block in downtown Lemmon, SD. Much of the petrified wood comes from these hills, once mined for coal. Photo courtesy of Francie Berg.

The Last Great Buffalo Hunt Historic Site was developed by Dakota Buttes Visitors Council Hettinger, ND. Our book, "The Last Great Buffalo Hunts: Traditional Hunts in 1880 to 1883 by Teton Lakota People," documents the last stand of free-ranging American Buffalo, available from Hettinger Chamber of Commerce ( Our special thanks to Duane Wamre for deeding the land, to David and Yvonne Seifert for donating petrified wood, to the North Dakota Historical Society and North Dakota State Legislature for support and assistance and to all who have contributed to the historic site and its care.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Native AmericansRoads & Vehicles.
Location. 45° 57.858′ N, 102° 24.444′ W. Marker is in Hettinger, North Dakota, in Adams County. Marker is on
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U.S. 12, half a mile north of 40th Ave SE. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Hettinger ND 58639, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 2 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Custer and Hiddenwood Cliff (here, next to this marker); The Last Great Buffalo Hunts (here, next to this marker).
Credits. This page was last revised on January 25, 2018. It was originally submitted on January 24, 2018, by Ruth VanSteenwyk of Aberdeen, South Dakota. This page has been viewed 453 times since then and 17 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on January 24, 2018, by Ruth VanSteenwyk of Aberdeen, South Dakota. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Mar. 29, 2023