Kingman homesteads, helps settle Walworth Co.
By Sandy Bond
In the early part of the 21st century the county of Walworth was alive with patriotic fervor. The communities of Selby and Java were celebrating their centennials in June of 2000, and in 2002, the Walworth County Veterans Memorial was dedicated on the courthouse grounds.
At that time, Sheryl Stroh was employed as custodian at the Walworth County Courthouse. She researched the history of the courthouse in order to seek listing the courthouse on the South Dakota and National List of Historic Places. In the process, she rediscovered a Walworth County legend, Civil War veteran and South Dakota pioneer, Captain Newton H. Kingman.
In her research, the name Newton H. Kingman kept appearing. He was Register of Deeds, City Finance Officer, and started the oldest business still in operation in Walworth County, the abstract office. The captain donated Civil War cannons to the courthouse.
For his Eagle Scout project, Rodney and Sheryl’s son Justin obtained a replica cannon that was placed on the Walworth County Courthouse grounds. The original had been patriotically donated as scrap metal to the War Effort.
The second son of 10 children born to Edmund and Hannah Kingman, Newton Hawes Kingman was born near Chester Center, Ohio. The family traced its roots, immigrating to Massachusetts in the early 17th century. The family moved to Walworth County, Wisc. in 1849. Pursuing a course of study at Albion Academy in Dane County, Wisc., Kingman taught in rural schools in the area until the advent of the Civil War. Fulfilling his patriotic duty, he enlisted for a term of three months in the First Regiment of the Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry in 1861. Following his return to Wisconsin, and at the request of Wisconsin Governor Alexander Randall, he recruited a group of volunteers for a three-year enlistment and was commissioned as a lieutenant. Before his honorable discharge in 1865, his regiment saw some action quelling rebellious Indians in Kansas. He retired to civilian life with the rank of captain.
First looking into adjoining counties of Potter and Faulk that were accessible by railroad, Kingman finally entered Walworth County. Reportedly impressed with its landscape and deep fertile soil, and aware that the railroad was considering extending its line to the Missouri River, he decided that this was the place for him. He set up a homestead and tree claim for his family and also his father-in-law and “squatted” because the land was not yet ready for filing. Eventually, the land was sold to William Sawinsky.
Impressed as he was with the land, Kingman became an avid booster of his adopted county, and by 1883 the land surrounding his homestead was taken up by homesteaders. He returned for his family in 1884. Among the Kingman’s possession were Jersey cows, cattle, Plymouth Rock Island chickens, a crate of sprouted black walnut seedlings and six evergreen shrubs.
In 1884, the Kingman home served as the post office with Kingman as postmaster, and also as a stage stop for changing horses between the lines from LeBeau to Ipswich. The farm also served as a religious center for itinerant ministers of various faiths that served the area.
“The Blue Blanket,” published in a wing of the Kingman home, first raised the question of relocating the county seat from Scranton to Bangor in the latter part of 1884. In the subsequent election Bangor was selected as the county seat. Eventually businesses were moved into Selby, the new county seat. Kingman was a Charter member of the Grand Army of the Republic in Bangor and later in Selby. Kingman and his wife eventually sold their South Dakota holdings and went to live with their children in Oregon. Mary died in 1924, and the captain in 1937.