PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

The Other Ypsilanti

Posted by ppna on December 19, 2007

If you didn’t know there are two other Ypsilanti’s in the US besides Ypsilanti, Michigan.

There is Ypsilanti, Georgia which doesn’t have a lot of information about it.


Ypsilanti, North Dakota: Not much was known of Ypsilanti, North Dakota until one of our own Ypsilantians, Leighton, took a fact finding mission there last year so we can have a little more insight into this place. Of course the Director of Operations at Maproom Systems has discussed this other Ypsilanti as well.

Although, I’ve never been — Megabus has not connected the Ypsilantis Yet — I have found a bit of interesting history of Ypsilantians venturing into the Dakotas.

I’m aware that the place where the original Ypsilantians landed in the Dakotas at the Rosebud agency in SD is 380miles from the town of Ypsilanti, ND. I’m thinking that the impression the original Ypsilantians made in the Dakotas was certainly worth a city designation.

Here’s the short of it summarized from:
A Sioux Chronicle
By George E. Hyde
University of Oklahoma Press

The Dakota story of Ypsilanti starts in 1879 with a man named Cicero Newell. He became a major during the Civil War and had done well for himself. Cicero was an office-seeker who through his connections was appointed Chief Spotted Tail’s agent at the Rosebud Agency in the Dakota Territory. From what I’ve gathered he was a very proud Ypsilantian and at one point was Marshall of Ypsilanti, Michigan and also a baker. From what Spotted Tail gathered Cicero was going to be an easy man to manipulate.

Upon appointment Cicero filled all the positions he might need at the agency with his Ypsilanti Neighbors. In 1879 a caravan of men, women and children left for the Dakotas. All the men had been promised jobs and they were all happy. The happiness of the families faded on the long journey West. All remaining good will was lost when the caravan reached the agency. Instead of a promised land the Ypsilantians were greeted with an angry mob which almost rioted after finding out that Cicero had given their jobs away to his friends. Spotted Tail offered comfort and protection to the caravan which assured his goal of controlling those who were sent to control him.

Carl Schurz came as a visitor to the agency and upon introduction Cicero Newell introduced himself as an Ypsilanti man and proceeded to introduce the other Ypsilanti men he had brought with him. With so many introductions to Ypsilanti Men Schurz asked if there was anybody remaining in Ypsilanti.

The tale of these Ypsilantians is best stated in this quote from the book A Sioux Chronicle.

“These Ypsilanti folk were about the strangest group that ever turned up at a Sioux agency, and as late as 1935 there were old men at Rosebud who still remembered and chuckled over the doings of Cicero Newell and his followers. The families had brought old feuds with them from Michigan and as soon as they began to feel a little settled in their new surroundings, they split up into groups and, led by the ladies, revived the old bickering of the Ypsilanti days. Agent Newell had several thousand Sioux to deal with – a full time job for any agent but he seemed to think that the petty quarrels among his Michigan followers were more important that any problem that had to do with running the agency. He spent a large part of his time going from one house to another, trying to patch up quarrels, mainly among the ladies. And while he thus labored, Spotted Tail sat in the agent’s office issuing orders. The Michigan people, particularly the women and children, were afraid of Indians and at night any unusual noise in the Sioux camps that surrounded the agency threw them into hysterics. Agent Newell then went about from house to house, soothing the frightened families. He had considerable trouble in talking some of them out of a sudden desire to return to Michigan at once; and while he argued with them Spotted Tail sat in the agency office, running things to suit himself.”

The Newell saga continued at Rosebud until the late summer of 1879. Newell had lost control of the agency and had spent more money than he was allotted. In his brief stay he started a bakery – which was never used, started a police force – with officers that weren’t willing to arrest for fear of death themselves, and he moved the saw-mill to the river bank- where it was washed out by a flood. It wasn’t until Mrs. Owens who had moved from Ypsilanti Michigan with her husband wrote a letter to the Indian Office that they took action against Newell. It turned out that Cicero offered jobs to his neighbors but expected them to pay him for the appointment upon arrival, at the same time billing the Indian Office for workers that were not getting paid.

At the end of the Summer of 1879 Cicero Newell was replaced and I think we can assume so were his friends from Ypsilanti. It is my assumption that this group of Ypsilantians ventured out into the Dakotas and formed communities one being called Ypsilanti in recognition of the place that they couldn’t afford to return to.

Cicero Newell turned up in Seattle some years latter and started a school for delinquent boys. Of course Newell’s way of dealing with delinquent boys was to chain them to a fence.

Cicero Newell


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