Mellette House, Watertown, South Dakota
About the Mellette Family

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 and eventually attended Indiana University in Bloomington, graduating with distinction. He entered Law School at the University, only to have his studies interrupted when he enlisted in the 9th Regiment 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 Calvin Mellette
Arthur as a young gentleman.
Margaret Wylie Mellette
A young Maggie.

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, Indiana where they began their married life together.

Margaret Wylie Mellette was born  August 6, 1843, the daughter of Theopholis 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

After their marriage, Maggie bore Arthur’s four sons: Theopholis Wylie (1867-1894); Charles Edmond (1869-1964); Arthur Anton (1872-1953); and Joshua Richard (1872-1929). 
Arthur and 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 her. 
Four Mellette Sons
Anton, Dick, Wylie and Charles.

He 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 degrees 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 Kampeska 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 some time.

The Mellette Family
Standing: Wylie, Anton, Charles
Seated: Maggie, Dick, Arthur
The 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 the Territory.  He was very public spirited and interested in having Dakota Territory enter the Union as two separate states, South Dakota and North Dakota.  His advocacy led to his being a popular and effective political voice.  He was ultimately named the tenth and last Governor of Dakota Territory in March of 1889.  He took his oath of office in his Watertown law office.  In October of 1889,  he was elected the first Governor of the State of South Dakota.   On  November 2,  1889, North and South Dakota entered the Union as the 39th and 40th states, respectively.
Gov. Arthur Calvin Mellette
Arthur 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.

In May of 1895, the family left Watertown and moved to Pittsburg, Kansas, 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 body 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 in Watertown.

The Mellette Family

The Mellette family, taken at the World's Fair in Chicago.

605-886-4730                                                                                                                      Copyright 2006, Mellette Memorial Association.. All Rights Reserved.
 421 5th Ave NW, Watertown, South Dakota, USA