Who owns the Medary Monument?


BROOKINGS – The Brookings County State Attorney’s Office is looking to obtain the title for the Medary Monument, located along the roadside a few miles south of Brookings along Highway 77.

The basic problem, according to Brookings County Deputy State’s Attorney Steve Britzman, is that there are some gaps in the paper trail regarding the monument’s title.

“I think someone either assumed that a deed wasn’t necessary to set it apart for historic purposes or the deed never got recorded,” Britzman said.

Britzman’s recommended solution for this is filing a title action so that it becomes the county’s, for which he doesn’t expect any opposition.

A public notice about the title action will soon be published, he said.

The monument, built in 1929 to honor the settlers of Medary, is showing its age.

“I was out there, and it needs to have structural improvements and of course it’s got mortar and rock and so forth that with all these weather cycles probably needs a bit of care,” Britzman said.

The Daughters of the American Revolution have offered in the past to do some fundraising to help cover repair and maintenance costs, and settling the issue of ownership will be a benefit to them.

“So, if they spend money or do fundraising to preserve this monument, they’ll know that that will be protected over time and there will be that stability that if you improve that monument and take care of it, there’s going to be that entity that will survive all of us, which would be our local county government holding title and protecting that monument also,” Britzman said.

And ensuring the protection of such a structure with such history behind it is no small thing, either.

The town of Medary was established in 1857 and served for some time as the first county seat for Brookings County. According to the “Brookings County History Book,” however, the town was soon abandoned in 1858 after Yankton and Yanktonnais Indians, concerned with the rapidly growing presence of settlers in the area, “began moving southeast in the general direction of the Pipestone Quarry, stopping at Medary and Flandreau to warn the settlers away.” The settlers did just that, and Medary was abandoned for 11 years.

The town was slowly resettled starting around 1869 and 1870, and further development of Medary took off from there, with the first store opening in 1871.

In 1879, the planned railroad bypassed Medary, and the little town’s fate was sealed. When that happened, the businessmen of that and other area towns also skipped by the railway came together to build Brookings, and Medary was largely abandoned.

The history book then explains that by the 1920s, the pioneers were dying off and with that, a nostalgia regarding those frontier days settled in. So, a stone monument was built to mark the townsite of early Medary and to honor the pioneers who had arrived there.

By February 1929, $80 had been collected for the construction of the monument, described in the book as a 17-foot obelisk constructed of “rubble stone found on the prairie.”

Contact Eric Sandbulte at [email protected].

Register photo: The county is looking to take ownership of the Medary Monument, located a few miles south of Brookings. Built in 1929 with various repairs through the years, it is showing its age again. With gaps in the paper trail regarding the title to the monument, Brookings County Deputy State’s Attorney Steve Britzman said county ownership would lend stability and certainty to the matter.

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