Two articles about Rutland by Arvilla Dilly and Galen Crosby were prime sources of information for this history written by Sandra Koistinen.
The town of Rutland was named after the township in which it was founded in 1905. The county received the name from settlers, who had come from Rutland, Vermont, whose early settlers had come from Rutland, England.
In 1887 the prohibitionists in Lake county campaigned to close all the liquor stores. However, each township had the right to be either "wet" or "dry." The election resulted in the closing of all Lake County saloons except for those in Rutland, which immediately became a popular place to spend Saturday night. The township also claimed the best roads in the county.
Martin and Martha Nelson sold about 20 acres of land to the South Dakota Railroad Company, later known as The Great Northern Railroad, which came through the city. On February 3, 1906, the South Dakota Central Land Company, a corporation and owner of the land, requested J.L. wagner to survey and subdivide the town of Rutland into lots, blocks, streets, and alleys.
The Hawkeye Elevator and Lumber Company, managed by A.B. Walters, was Rutland's first business. A second elevator was built in 1907 and was operated by G.F. Graff & Son until 1947. A third elevator was built and known as the Farmers Elevator Company; grain buyer was Ole Frislie. That elevator is now a part of the Madison, Nunda, and Ramona Farmers Elevator.
The Rutland State Bank was organized and built in April of 1906. During these first years of the town's existence, T.W. Woldt built the first livery barn and feed service with a dray line. He later bought Halseth's Hardware and was in operation until 1962 when the business was destroyed by a fire. A second dray line and livery bar was opened by W.H. Grinel and operated for three years.
Other businesses were Conley's saloon and the C.W. Thomas Store with Oscar Albertson as clerk. Rutland claimed the Corner Drug Store run by J.W. Koehler, as well as Ed Johnson's dress goods store. A dry goods store was built by T.H. Behm. In this same store Archie C. Johnson served as the town's jeweler.
Stephen King built a meat market in July of 1906 and ran a butcher wagon. The Rutland depot, built in the spring of 1906, was modeled after the Wentworth depot. The first train, the South Dakota Central, came through Rutland on May 2, 1906.
Rutland had a post office as early as 1906 when Emil Goecke, banker, was postmaster. The first school in Rutland was a two-story wooden structure built in 1907. A new school was built in 1921 with M.W. LaBounty as superintendent.
Many other businesses were opened and operated in the thirties. Ed Kerr ran the pool hall while his wife operated a grocery store. Art Stampe operated a store and a cream buying station. Albert Stampe operated a filling station. Vern Lyberger operated a cream station. Herman Auchshon operated a butcher shop and meat market for many years before closing in the early forties.
The area farmers came to Rutland on Saturday evenings to do their shopping and bring their cream and eggs to town. Both sides of Main street were lined with cars. Another big Saturday night attraction was being able to attend a free outdoor movie shown between the Benedict Store and Woodmann Hall.
The village of Rutland with its three general stores, lumber yards, hotel, banks, drug store, three grain elevator and other businesses had the potential of becoming a prosperous little town. The town was believed to have had a population of 300 at one time, but since the village was never incorporated, the census included the entire township.
The drought came in the 30's, causing hard times and bringing about business failures. When businesses went broke, they were never rebuilt. Automobiles made travel to larger town more appealing, furthering the decline of the small town. Some houses in the 40's and 50's were torn down while others were moved to a farm residence or to larger towns.
The final touch in making Rutland nearly a ghost town came on April 25, 1962. It was a hot spring day with a temperature of 90 degrees and 25-mile-an-hour winds. A fire somehow started outside. The flames spread rapidly and were soon out of control because of the high winds and no available phone lines.
Fire departments from Wentworth, Madison, Colman, Sinai, Ramona and Nunda responded to the blaze, with nearly 100 firemen on hand. The firemen worked feverishly to save the church and area structures from destruction by dousing them with water, but five buildings were completely destroyed. The old Tom Flynn Hotel that was destroyed was not only being used as the post office, but was living quarters for postmaster Clarence Johnson and his wife. John Graff lost his pool hall and living quarters. The Woodman Hall was destroyed, as was Jack Woldt's hardware store and home.
The fire was the final blow, as only the post office was rebuilt. Rutland consolidated school is in operation today and can be credited with giving Rutland much of its prosperity, though that, too, is in jeopardy as enrollment nears the minimum for state support.