We’re still in Sioux Falls, South Dakota! This week, our destination is Woodlawn Cemetery. Founded in 1905, it’s a not as old as nearby Mount Pleasant Cemetery. But it has an illustrious history all its own.
With some cemeteries, it can be difficult for me to locate information on who the founder was or any kind of history. With Woodlawn, their website provides plenty of useful information.
The man at the center of Woodlawn’s history is Richard Franklin Pettigrew, who is (as you might imagine) interred at the cemetery he founded. There’s a lot of material written about him because he was a key player in South Dakota history.
A Dakota Pioneer
Born in Vermont in 1848, Richard and his family relocated to Wisconsin where he attended the University of Wisconsin Law School. In 1869, he moved to the Dakota Territory, where he first worked as a surveyor, then entered the Territorial Bar in 1871. After establishing a law practice in Sioux Falls, he also pursued real estate interests.
Active in politics, Pettigrew served a term in the Dakota Territorial Legislature, and two terms on the Territorial Council before being elected as a Democrat to represent the Dakota Territory in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1880. He served a single term in Congress from 1881 to 1883, and was unsuccessful in his bid for re-election.
When South Dakota was admitted to the Union in 1889, Pettigrew was elected along with Republican Gideon C. Moody as the state’s first two Senators to the U.S. Senate. He served two terms from 1889 to 1901, switching from Democrat to Republican in 1896. The party switch hurt him of politically, and he lost his re-election bid to Senator Robert J. Gamble. His post-Senate career was marked by a time of practicing law in New York City before returning to Sioux Falls.
A New Cemetery for Sioux Falls
It was during his time in New York City that Pettigrew served as an officer of the Rosehill Cemetery Association (located in New Jersey), which sparked his intent to help establish a cemetery in Sioux Falls.
When a 70-acre tract of land in the southeast corner of the city went up for sale, Pettigrew paid the $8,750 purchase price from his personal funds.The entire amount, plus interest, was repaid to him as the cemetery association’s funds slowly grew. In the winter of 1922, an adjacent 10 acres were purchased from a private owner.
Today, Woodlawn Cemetery covers 80 acres, with about half of it plotted and sold. According to Find a Grave, there are about 17,400 recorded burials.
Unfortunately, the last decade of former Sen. Pettigrew’s life was colored by difficulty. In 1916, his wife, Bettie Pittard Pettigrew, died after a long illness. In 1917, he criticized America’s involvement in World War I, and publicly urged young men to evade conscription. As a result, he was arrested and charged with sedition under the newly passed Espionage Act of 1917. He enlisted famous lawyer Clarence Darrow as his defense attorney, who delayed the case long enough for the charges to be dropped.
Before Pettigrew passed away in 1926, he donated his residence to the city of Sioux Falls and it is operate it as the Pettigrew House and Museum. He was interred in the Pettigrew mausoleum with his wife, Bessie. Also interred inside are his youngest brother, Harlan, who died in 1917 at the age of 34, and unmarried sister Alma Pettigrew, who died in 1922 at the age of 78.
Other siblings of Richard Pettigrew are also buried at Woodlawn. His older sister, Luella Belle Pettigrew, is buried near the Pettigrew mausoleum. Born in 1839, Belle was greatly influenced by her abolitionist father, Andrew. After graduating from Rockford Seminary in Illinois (now Rockford University), she devoted her life to missionary work.
For 12 years, Belle represented the Woman’s Baptist Home Mission Society as a missionary among African-Americans, teaching at two historically black institutions, Shaw University and Roger Williams University. She also spent three years as a general missionary in South Dakota, living in Sioux Falls for periods of time.
A Lifetime of Service
Later, Belle lived for several years in Washington D.C., where was a member of the Columbia Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, the Anti-Saloon League, as well as being a member of a missionary society and literary club connected with the Calvary Baptist Church. She traveled extensively in the U.S. and internationally, including visits to Europe, India, China, and the Philippines to do inspection visits for missionary organizations.
Belle died in 1912 of hardening of the arteries. Staying at a sanitarium in Chamberlain, S.D., her remains were returned to Sioux Falls for burial at Woodlawn.
It’s hard to miss the other Woodlawn monument for a Pettigrew because it’s one of the largest in the cemetery.
Born in 1850, Frederick “Fred” Pettigrew moved from Vermont to Flandreau, S.D. (about 40 miles north of Sioux Falls) around the same time as sister Belle did. He married Jennie Salome in 1879 and they had five children.
Fred did not attain the status of his brother Richard, but he made a mark in his community just the same. More comfortable in a rural setting, he was content developing and working his large farm in South Sioux Falls. He was a judge in Moody County for several years as well.
A Mysterious Accident
At the same time, Fred had a reputation for being somewhat taciturn in nature. On Dec. 8, 1901, while doing evening chores around his farm, he was found unconscious and injured in the road by two hired men near his home. Some thought he might have been accidentally run down someone in a buggy in the darkness. But others wondered if he was attacked by an enemy with a grudge.
A few days later, Fred regained consciousness for a short time but did not make a great deal of sense. When asked about the accident, he claimed a buggy driven by someone he didn’t know had struck him in the darkness, although he had tried to step back out of its way. Despite the belief he might recover, Fred passed away on Dec. 21, 1901.
Another farmer that made his mark in Sioux Falls was John Alguire, whose family has a distinctive “tree” monument at Woodland.
A native of Canada, John was born in 1842 and took a circuitous route to get to the Dakotas. He left Canada for New York in his late teen years. He later moved to Wisconsin to farm, marrying Jane Foster in 1869. The couple moved to Benton, S.D. around 1874 where their third child was born.
“Summoned to the Other Side”
After moving to Oregon for a few years, the Alguires returned to South Dakota and John continued to farm. He and Jane had a total of nine children together. John died of pneumonia at the age of 69 on Dec. 1, 1911. His obituary in the Sioux Falls newspaper had a headline that said he was “summoned to the other side.”
John must have done quite well because one article I found estimated his estate to be worth $75,000. That would be about $2.03 million dollars today.
I am especially fond of the Alguire family “tree” monument. There are no specific first names or dates on it. Those are inscribed on individual stones or “logs” around the monument. There’s a potted calla lily at the base and a sweet bird resting on a branch near the top.
Here’s a look at the “logs” for John and Jane, his wife who died in 1920 at the age of 73.
Next time, we’ll return to Iowa for some more cemetery hopping…
Excellent article and photos. Will add to Historical Society fb page
LoyAnn Rossel said:
I love your information. LOVE IT. Thank you for doing this and sharing your discoveries. I’m a big fan of your work.
Hi, LoyAnn! So glad you are enjoying the blog! Keep coming back, I’m always posting new adventures.
Helene Maurer said:
very interesting so glad I found this story