Nunda is named after the township it is in. Lake County's youngest town, Nunda was the last town in the county started as a result of the expansion of the South Dakota Central Railway. In 1907, area farmers, like many of those along the rail line, rallied to pay money up front to bring the line through their area. The line's route took it about a mile north of Prairie Queen, bringing about that town's demise and the beginning of Nunda.
The town's first building was a building used by the railroad crew for leisure and moved in from Chester, another S.D.C.R.R. town in the southeast corner of Lake County. Buildings from Prairie Queen and other areas soon followed as did new construction. It wasn't long before Nunda was bustling with a depot, hardware store, harness and shoe repair shop, two restaurants, two general stores, cigar and confectionery store, post office, blacksmith shop, two banks, meat market, pool hall, two saloons, implement shop, lumberyard, barbershop, livery, and three elevators. In 1917, Nunda had a garage-car dealership where cars were assembled from bodies and chassis shipped by train.
Prior to the establishment of an official post office, mail intended for Nunda would be given a "gentle boost" by the train conductor as the train passed through town. One newspaper reported, "At present it is almost as hard to get a letter into or out of Nunda as if it were a fortified town with a besieging army around its walls." This practice finally ended when Nunda's post office was officially established on Sept. 12, 1907. It has been in continuous existence for over 100 years and is currently housed in one of the last two, original buildings in Nunda's business district.
For the first three years of Nunda's existence, children continued going to rural schools. Finally in 1910, a two-room school was built on the east side of town. For a few years, junior high subjects were taught but a lack of students caused the discontinuation of that. The school continued as an elementary school until its closure and consolidation with Rutland in 1966. For a while in the 1970s, the building housed a snowmobile factory. The building was finally torn down in the 1990s.
In the early years, most of Nunda's citizens attended the Prairie Queen Lutheran church, about three miles away. A church was started in town in 1920. In 1953, the Prairie Queen congregation dissolved and merged with Nunda. A new building was built in 1971.
Nunda's first streetlights were installed in 1910. A town hall and jail were built in 1913. Materials, excluding cells and buckets, totaled $131.80. Cells, buckets, and installation cost another $194.81. The 1914 town council purchased two fire engines, excluding ladders, for $700. The next year, a 12 mile per hour speed limit was enacted. An electrical plant was approved in 1922. Power was turned on for a few hours an evening and on Tuesday mornings so townspeople could do laundry.
Nels Helgerson was Nunda's town marshall for several years and was known for his stringent enforcement of the 9 p.m. curfew. From 1910 to 1929, Nunda also had a number of resident physicians.
Nunda's early "claim to fame" was not utilities or medical care but the availability of alcohol. Before Prohibition, Nunda was one of only two or three towns in the county where alcohol was available. Bill's Place was a lively spot for this. It also had an upstairs meeting hall used for dances. Area youths earned money by collecting bottles and turning them in at the back doors of the bars. 1909 was not a "wet" year, though. In July of that year, the Lake County sheriff conducted an alcohol raid on Nunda. The contraband was poured out and the bottles smashed. Nunda's pool hall has been in existence since the town began and is in the other original building left in the business district.
Like all other towns, Nunda has had its share of tragedies and triumphs. The only murder within the town's limits occurred at the end of July 1925 when one transient harvest, under the influence of alcohol, worker killed another. Justice was swift; the killer was placed in the state penitentiary less than two weeks later.
A tornado swept through the area on June 18, 1934, demolishing the North Prairie Queen School northeast of town. Classes were held in the living room of a local family until the structure was rebuilt.
The biggest blow to the town, however, was the decline of railroads. From a high population of over 200 at its peak, the town of Nunda now has around 50 citizens.
These citizens are part of Nunda's greatest triumph. These citizens and those from the surrounding area are active in maintaining interests such as the post office (Esther Hyland, postmistress), town council (led by Mayor Dan Hansen), fire department, pool hall-café with a gas pump (owned by Gene Anderson), and two insurance agencies (owned by David Hanson and Reggie Olson).
A committee formed at the beginning of 2007 to plan the Nunda Centennial celebration regularly had 35 to forty or more people at its meetings. This group hosted riders from the Tour de Kota on June 14. About two weeks later, on June 30 and July 1, people from coast to coast and border to border attended the two-day Centennial celebration. The first day, there were over 110 parade entries and at least 550 people attended the pork loin feed. The next morning 400 people attended the community church service and brunch. The afternoon's car show featured 65 entries. A temporary museum featuring hundreds of artifacts from the town's past had been set up in the Legion hall.
Nunda enters its second century with a small but dedicated group of citizens.