Newton Hills State Park was named after William Newton who settled in the area in the 1850s. Newton's wife was a mid-wife; until the 1870s, she was the only European American north of Vermillion who could deliver babies and cure the sick.
Glaciers created this narrow strip of rolling hills and forest that is part of the geological formation called the Coteau des Prairie, which extends along the eastern boundary of South Dakota. At its highest point, the Coteau rises to more than 2,000 feet above sea level. Artifacts and burial mounds found near the park indicate that a Woodland Indian Culture inhabited this region between 300 B.C. and 900 A.D. The area's unique dark forest, amidst a vast open prairie, has prompted many recent legends, including buried gold, robbers' hideouts and horse thieves.