Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

The South Dakota Air & Space Museum tells the story of the Rapid City Army Airbase, established in 1941.
The South Dakota Air & Space Museum tells the story of the Rapid City Army Airbase, established in 1941.
Black Hills Knowledge Network photo/Chelsea Gortmaker

Box Elder - Civic Life & History

Box Elder is a city in South Dakota’s Pennington County. In 2016, the population of Box Elder was 9,348. Box Elder is comprised of a few businesses, the Douglas School District, and housing. Ellsworth Air Force Base is located on the north side of the city. The Box Elder Post Office was founded on June 22, 1907, according to the South Dakota State Historical Society, but was not incorporated until decades later in 1964. 

Ellsworth Air Force Base

Ellsworth Air Force Base, home to the U.S. Air Force 28th Bomb Wing, is located 10 miles east of Rapid City, SD, in Box Elder, SD. The base's main entrance was constructed to symbolize a B-52 Stratofortress, one of the aircraft formerly flown by the 28th Bomb Wing. The entrance was a gift from the citizens of Rapid City.

Ellsworth was originally established in 1941 as Rapid City Army Air Base. It was renamed in honor of Brigadier General Richard E. Ellsworth who was killed during a training flight. During World War II, General Ellsworth flew 400 missions in the China/Burma/India Theatre. Ellsworth was the commander of the 28th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. The 28th Bomb Wing is divided into the 28th Operations Group, the 28th Maintenance Group, the 28th Mission Support Group and the 28th Medical Group. The goal of the 28th Bomb Wing is to deliver decisive combat power for global response. There are also several tenant units located on the base.

Historical Photos & Documents Online

A number of historic photographs of Ellsworth Air Force Base are available from the Prints and Photographs Department, Library of Congress.

The Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce has a collection of historic photos and documents relating to Ellsworth Air Force Base on their digital archive. Find it online here.

To explore other Black Hills area anthologies on the Black Hills Knowledge Network, see our Digital Archives page.  

Museums, Libraries, & Archives


The South Dakota Air and Space Museum is located just off of Ellsworth Air Force Base. The museum features 25 military aircraft from World War II bombers to modern B1 bombers currently housed at the base. Visitors can also see four military missiles on display.

The museum is free and open year-round. Hours are 8:30am to 6pm June through September, and 8:30am to 4:30pm early September through May. Visitors can also take a bus tour through Ellsworth Air Force Base. The tour includes a visit to the Minutemen II missile silo, which is a deactivated nuclear missile from the Cold War. The tours are $8 for adults and $5 for children and are available from mid-May through mid-September.


Located on the Douglas High School Campus in Box Elder, the Douglas High School Community Library serves the Box Elder community during the academic year.

On Ellsworth Air Force Base, the Holbrook Library serves the Ellsworth community year-round. With a collection of over 43,000 items, the library’s catalog is available online.


There are several churches in located in Box Elder, including Emmanuel Baptist Church, Temple Baptist Church, Paradigm Church, Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, and the Liberty Christian Center.

According to a national survey of congregations conducted in 2010, a majority of people in Pennington County (59,336) were not identified with a specific religion or denomination. Of those who did respond, Evangelical Protestants comprise the largest single denomination or faith in Pennington County. At that time, there were 16,338 Evangelical Protestants in the county. The next largest group was the Mainline Protestants with 14,196 members. Between 2000 and 2010, a major decline in membership in the Catholic Church and a major increase in people with unclaimed faiths marked the most important trends. Access the county profile from the Association of Religion Data Archives here. To see a chart with the data from 2000, click here.

More Information 

The South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority was created by the South Dakota Legislature in 2009. The mission of the Authority is fourfold: to make sure the State of South Dakota is always a great place for the U. S. Department of Defense to conduct its national defense mission from Ellsworth Air Force Base; to work to promote the health and safety of those living or working near the base; to protect and promote the economic impact of Ellsworth Air Force Base and associated industry; and to work with the Base and local communities to prepare for additional growth in missions at Ellsworth Air Force Base. More news concerning the Ellsworth Air Force Base can be found in the Black Hills Knowledge Network archives.

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