Arthur Mellette was the
tenth and last appointed Governor of Dakota Territory and elected the
First Governor of the State of South Dakota. Arthur
Calvin Mellette, the son of Charles and
Mary Moore Mellette, was born in Henry
County, Indiana, on June 23, 1842.
He was educated in Indiana
eventually attended Indiana
graduating with distinction. He entered Law School
at the University, only to have his studies interrupted when he
enlisted in the
of the Indiana Volunteers on October 6, 1864. He
served as a soldier in the Civil War until
he was discharged in September of 1865.
Arthur as a young gentleman.
After being mustered out of the army,
Mellette finished his
studies at the University and attained his law degree in 1866. Shortly after graduation,
on May 23, 1866, he
married Margaret (Maggie) Wylie. They
moved to Muncie,
where they began their married life
Wylie Mellette was born August 6, 1843, the daughter of
and Rebecca Dennis Wylie. Her father was
a professor at Indiana University.
She and Arthur met when he boarded at her
family’s home in Bloomington.
marriage, Maggie bore Arthur’s
four sons: Theopholis Wylie (1867-1894); Charles Edmond (1869-1964);
Anton (1872-1953); and Joshua Richard (1872-1929).
Maggie enjoyed a good life in Muncie where Arthur practiced law,
co-owned a newspaper, and served in the Indiana state
legislature. Maggie’s health, however,
was delicate and in 1878, Arthur decided to seek a better climate for
Dick, Wylie and Charles.
eventually visited Dakota Territory
and decided this would be a good place to relocate his
family. He was able
to obtain an
appointment as Registrar of the United States Land Office which was
located at Springfield,
in southern Dakota Territory.
The family arrived in Springfield
on a crisp January day in 1879 when the temperature was reportedly 45
below zero. They
remained in Springfield
until the Land Office was relocated in Watertown in
1880. The family
then moved north to this new
prairie town. There was little housing available.
They camped at Lake
the first summer they were in Watertown and Arthur eventually
bought a small store in
town. He operated
the land office from
the front rooms and lived with his family in the rear of the store for
Wylie, Anton, Charles
Mellettes built their
Italianate home on
Prospect Hill in Watertown
in 1885 and lived there for the next ten years.
Arthur Mellette was involved in a number of
business pursuits in early Watertown and
Territory. He was
very public spirited
and interested in having Dakota Territory enter the Union as two
states, South Dakota
His advocacy led to his being a popular and
effective political voice. He
named the tenth and last Governor of Dakota Territory in March of 1889. He took his oath of office
in his Watertown
office. In October
of 1889, he was
elected the first Governor of the
State of South
2, 1889, North and South
Dakota entered the Union
as the 39th and 40th
Calvin Mellette as Governer of South Dakota.
Governor Mellette served
two terms and decided not to seek a
third term. He left
public life in 1894 and was anxious to re-establish both his law
practice and other business interests; however, a series of tragedies
beset the family.
May of 1895, the family left Watertown
and moved to Pittsburg,
intending this to be a temporary move from their Watertown home. Arthur lived just one more
year. He died on May 25, 1896 at the age of
53 years. Knowing
of his imminent death, Governor Mellette had asked that his
be brought back to Watertown
for burial. Maggie
continued to live in Pittsburg with
her son, Anton, until her own death on
November 29, 1938.
Maggie was 95
years old at the time of her death.
Arthur, Maggie, and
two of their sons, Wylie and Dick, are buried at Mount Hope Cemetery
The Mellette family, taken at
the World's Fair in Chicago.