From its earliest days, Hot Springs was known for the warm, healing springs meandering through the town. However, Hot Springs was not always known as Hot Springs. Prior to its current name, the town was known as “Minnekahta,” which is the Lakota word for “warm water.”
On January 31, 1883, the town was officially named Hot Springs and the name Minnekahta abandoned. The late 1800s was a time of many changes for the Southern Hills town, including a dispute concerning whether or not it would become the county seat for Fall River. Nearby Oelrichs was also determined to be in the running. However, after a vote was held and fraud charges leveled, Hot Springs ultimately won the title.
Choosing a location for the county courthouse in Hot Springs proved to be even more of a challenge. At the time of the designation as county seat, Hot Springs was just three-quarters of a mile long and divided between upper town, where many of the resort-like spas were located, and lower town, where many of the common businesses were located. Some argued that the courthouse could not be located in upper town, as it was technically located outside of city limits.
Ultimately, local entrepreneur Fred Evans donated a plot of land in upper town and won a $23,000 bid to construct the courthouse there. Although the building was completed in 1891, employees were not authorized to work in the building for nearly two years due to pending litigation concerning the building’s location.
To learn more about the history of Hot Springs, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s community profile.