STATE CAPITOL, PIERRE, S. D.
South Dakota, 1889.In February, 1889 the Omnibus bill was passed for the division of Dakota into two states and to enable the people of North and South Dakota, Montana, and Washington to form constitutions and state governments and to be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original states and to make donations of public lands of such states. On the 15th of April, 1889, Governor Mellette issued his proclamation ordering the election of delegates in South and North Dakota to elect delegates to two constitutional conventions and for other purposes. That portion of the proclamation relating to South Dakota reads as follows: "It is ordered that on May 14, 1889, an election shall be held at the usual voting place in each election precinct in all that portion of the territory of Dakota situated South of the 7th Standard parallel produced due West to the boundary line of said territory, for the purpose of electing seventy-five delegates to the constitutional convention for the state of South Dakota, and at the election thus provided each elector may have written or printed on his ballot the words, `for the Sioux Falls Constitution,' or the words, `against the Sioux Falls Constitution,' the votes on which question shall be duly returned and canvassed. The convention of delegates, so chosen, shall assemble at the city of Sioux Falls, July 4th, and in case the majority of votes cast at the preceding election shall have been 'for the Sioux Falls Constitution,' such convention shall resubmit for ratification or rejection, the said Sioux Falls Constitution, at an election to be held on Tuesday, October 1st, and shall also resubmit the articles and propositions separately submitted at the election whereby said constitution was ratified, including the temporary location of the capitol, together with such changes of said constitution only as relate to the name and boundary of the state of Dakota, the reapportionment of the judicial and legislative districts, and such amendments as may be necessary to comply with the act of congress herein before mentioned." (The Sioux Falls Constitution had been adopted by the people of Dakota Territory, South of the 7th Standard parallel in the November election of 1885.) At the prescribed election in South Dakota the official vote was 37,710 for the Sioux Falls Constitution and 3,413 against. The constitutional convention met July 4th and remained in session until August the 5th. They amended the constitution and appointed commissions to settle the boundary line between North and South Dakota and the amount of the indebtedness which was to be assumed by each state. On Tuesday, October 1st was held the first general election and at this time the constitution was ratified and the temporary capital was located at Pierre.
The legislature met at Pierre on October 15th, perfected their organization and proceeded to the election of United States Senators, Gideon C. Moody and Richard F. Pettigrew. Then they adjourned until the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January, 1890. On the 2nd of November the president issued his proclamation admitting South Dakota, the fortieth state, to the Union. On the 6th of November 1889 the state officials elect were officially sworn in at Pierre and the state government was organized and set in motion with A. C. Mellette as governor. The first official act of the governor was to issue the Thanksgiving proclamation.
In the beginning of South Dakota statehood the state had to face the burden of heavy indebtedness as well as other serious problems. In his message to the state legisature of 1890, Governor A. C. Mellette stressed the need of strict economy. This along with the general cry for a cut of expenditure lead to a failure on the part of the legislature of 1891 to provide adequate appropriation for South Dakota's representation at the World's Fair which was to be held in Chicago in 1893.
On February 5th, 1891 a convention was held at Pierre to devise means to have the state properly represented. Colonel Bullard, one of the national world's fair commisioners, explained the object of the convention.
This convention, however, failed in its attempt and a convention was called to meet at Yankton, May 27th, at which eighteen commissioners, two from each of the eight judicial districts and two from the state at large, were assembled to take charge of the whole matter and achieve success. The commissioners at once met and called for a special session of the legislature for the purpose of appropriating fifty thousand dollars. (The editor was elected from his district.) The commission appointed Oliver Gibbs, Jr., of Montrose, general manager and Robert Fisk of Gettysburg, secretary. Mr. Gibbs had been the commissioner from Minnesota during the New Orleans cotton exposition and so was experienced. He was sure of success, so all was left to his management. He and Secretary Fisk spent the whole year of 1891 in the endeavor to raise the necessary funds, but finally reported to the governor that they had failed. The governor then called a meeting of the commission at Huron, May, 1892. After Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Fisk had given their reports the other members were called upon to give their suggestions. The last speaker was our Day county member, the editor, L. G. Ochsenreiter.
His plan was to incorporate as the South Dakota World's Fair Commission capital stock to be $50,000, par value, $1.00 per share; at this low rate per share any man, woman, or child could purchase a share. Each county was to be assessed its pro-ratio share according to population. He proposed to go to Yankton, the birthplace of the commission, and to Sioux Falls, as the largest city in the state, in order to obtain a guarantee of their pro-ratio share and should these fail to come forward he would quit. This plan was deemed feasible by all and he was instructed to go ahead.
On the afternoon of the same day he proceeded to Yankton where he received a favorable guarantee of a thousand dollars. He then went to Sioux Falls where he, the governor and Mr. Gibbs met the commercial club.
The members of the club approved the plan and appointed a committee to try to raise the quota of two thousand dollars by voluntary subscription. John W. Tuthill, chairman of the committee, and the editor went out next morning and raised about half. The editor then went home and the committee was to continue the work, wiring him their success. On the following Sunday morning he received a telegram from Mr. Tuthill as follows:
"L. G. Ochsenreiter, Webster, South Dakota. Sioux Falls guarantees her quota of two thousand dollars provided that the balance of $20,000 be deposited in the bank of Sioux Falls." J. W. Tuthill, Sioux Falls.
The editor then took the telegram to Mr. David Williams in order to ascertain what could be done. They decided to run the bluff. The following telegram was sent Sioux Falls:
J. W. Tuthill, Sioux Falls. "Your telegram received and would respectfully say the necessary amount will be raised without Sioux Falls."
L. G. Ochsenreiter.
The following Monday these two telegrams were presented to Aberdeen and Watertown by the editor with the challenge they implied. The papers soon got hold of the proposition and the attitude of Sioux Falls was duly attacked. This venture proved thoroughly successful and the people heartily endorsed the proposition of the commission which was to make a loan to the state without interest until the legislature should make an appropriation when the money would be returned the stockholders. Inside of thirty days the money had come in so that the building could be erected and the exhibits gathered. By January 1893 the commission had collected from the counties $25,000, completed the building, and gathered the exhibit. The legislature made an appropriation of $50,000 to the men's commission and $10,000 to the women's commission. $25,000 of this was to redeem the outstanding stock of the association and the remainder to defray the expenses of the commission during the six months of the fair. At this time the commission turned the matter over to the state. Governor Sheldon, who was a resident of Day county, under the act of the legislature had the power of appointing a new commission. He appointed most of the old commissioners as they had proven so efficient. The new commission met at Sioux Falls in March and L. G. Ochsenreiter, editor of this book, was elected president; Thomas H. Brown, secretary and manager.
The South Dakota World's Fair commission obtained two concessions from the national commission which seem worthy of mention. 1st. All of the national buildings were covered with a white stucco and it was the desire of the national commission that all buildings be of a uniform color, the fair grounds was called the "White City." The South Dakota commission could not comply with that because of the heavy cost and they wished to show the product of the state cement plant which was located at Yankton. The roof was to be covered with tin from the tin mines of the Black Hills. 2nd. The South Dakota commission also wished to exhibit within the state building, which was contrary to the plan of the national commission. Since the South Dakota commission was granted these two concessions a condition for the entrance of South Dakota was made possible. This is important from the fact that since that time cement has been used in construction of all kinds.
The building was formally dedicated July 12th, 1893, and Governor Sheldon was present and made an address in reply to the presentation speech of T. H. Brown, manager.
In order to ascertain the success of the commission it seems well to quote the words of J. B. Campbell, editor of the World's Columbian Exposition Illustrated, the official organ of the national commission:
"South Dakota at the Fair.Although young in statehood, South Dakota is not at all youthful in enterprise. The exhibit made by this young state in the several departments at the World's fair shows the wonderful resources of that part of the United States which she represents. Being essentially an agricultural state the greater part of her exhibit is devoted to the products of the soil. The mining industry of the state is not forgotten and a fine display of its mineral productions is made in the Mining building.
"The building erected by the state is one of the tidiest little structures on the fair grounds, and is well filled with a varied exhibit of its agricultural and mineral products. Located in the North end of the grounds near the 57th street entrance to the fair, it is one of the first of the state buildings seen by visitors, and generally one of the first they enter.
"It is in the agricultural building that the state makes the best showing. The pavilion, reproduced in grains, is one of the most handsome and attractive in the building. Here is shown in an artistic manner the products of the state, wheat being most prominent, while the other products are given special attention. The exhibits made in the horticulture building in the reproduction of the Crystal Cave near Deadwood is one that attracts much attention from visitors and will bring this place prominently before the world as a great resort."
With the fifty thousand dollars appropriated by the legislature the South Dakota World's Fair commission redeemed the outstanding stock of the commission incorporate, paid the running expenses at the fair until its close and turned back to the state treasury $667.02.
In spite of the financial limitations and many other handicaps which the commission faced they were able to accomplish a very great deal for the state of South Dakota. Throughout their whole procedure it is evident they desired to do the very best they could for their state.