The History of Powderhouse Road (SF City Council Public Testimony, 7/7/2015)

What’s in a name? Why is a name important? We offer this impassioned testimony given to save a long cherished story of Sioux Falls South Dakota history.

1936 Powder House Blast – South Dakota Historical Markers on… tells a brief tale of the events. There is more but start with this;
“William Raymond Nesbit, a man who failed to choose his partners and their girlfriends wisely. After relieving a Sioux Falls, Iowa, jewelry store of $37,000 worth of baubles in 1936, Nesbit and gang hatched another scheme, one that involved the use of the explosive nitroglycerin. Still hanging around Sioux Falls, they drove five miles outside of town to obtain dynamite and gunpowder to make the nitro. In the process of purchasing the materials, an argument ensued among the thieves. They began brawling. The girlfriend of bandit Harold Baker decided to wade into the fury and try to stop the fight. Bad idea. Nesbit clubbed her on the skull with a hammer, and another gang member shot her. To cover their tracks, both Baker and the girl were dragged into the store’s powder house. One of the gang lit a fuse, and those who remained took off. Despite her severe injuries, the lady managed to crawl away before the sparks hit the powder. Her boyfriend wasn’t so lucky. In a classic case of literal overkill, 3,500 pounds of dynamite and 7,000 pounds of black gunpowder erupted, incinerating Harold Baker and shattering windows in Sioux Falls.

“It was not the most ingenious way for a gang of burglars to lay low after a successful robbery. Aside from alerting half the state, Nesbit and crew had also left a very angry, very determined witness. Baker’s girlfriend survived the hammering, the shooting, and the massive explosion, and helped the authorities identify the culprits.”

Our local historians tell a much more colorful version of the events, sit back and let them tell you a story you will not soon forget. Cameraman Bruce’s father and family lived 50 miles away, north of Vermillion, and they told versions of the story. It was a big deal and now our throwaway City administration is throwing out another piece of our history. As you enjoy MayorCam remember how little regard some people have for our local history. Throwing away Powderhouse Road is like throwing away the Wallace Dow buildings in Sioux Falls because they were old.


#1 Joan on 07.10.15 at 7:46 pm

It seems like everybody wants to change the name of something. Why not leave well enough alone? The new name has absolutely no historical meaning. I can’t help but feel Rolfing did a lot of pushing for this because of his son. But there are other roads with names that aren’t as historical and would have been closer to Veteran’s Park.

#2 Bruce on 07.11.15 at 8:20 am

Like so many things done by our city government, everything is done in out of the public’s eye or comment. This is an example of where a small group wanted something and no one was to know until it was to late to stop the fuse. article shows the council did not know there was any opposition or name “Powder House” significance because there was not public hearings or comment period.

The citizens are getting tired of this and now the national faux patriotism is showing here.

BTW, is Kermit the only veteran on the council and he did not like this?

#3 The Daily Spin on 07.11.15 at 3:01 pm

We’re lucky it wasn’t named Huether or Sanford. The mayor upset vets when he took VA property for his indoor bathhouse. Perhaps, calling it Veterans Parkway is a bribe for votes. I’m a vet and would prefer the name remain. Soon, everything will be renamed and nobody knows their way around. This pattern is worse than when 1st Street became the 900 block because city hall was on 9th Street. Everyone new to town notices. Their first impression is the courthouse is city hall. As it should be. It’s time to merge the city and county and forget home rule charter. We cold trus the county with public money. We’d be free democracy with a better quality of life for the average citizen.

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