Friday, June 16, 2017

South Dakota photo once considered "first" of a tornado

A photograph of a tornado and two funnel clouds, taken on Thursday, Aug. 28, 1884, by photographer F.N. Robinson of Howard is currently on display in the research room of the South Dakota State Historical Society Archives at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre.

(Photo courtesy of the South Dakota State Historical Society)

The photograph will be on display throughout the summer. The State Archives is open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. CDT Monday through Friday and the first Saturday of most months. There is no charge to see the display.

The State Archives has two cabinet cards of the Robinson tornado photo, measuring roughly 4-by-6.5 inches in size. The display features the one cabinet card image of the tornado and the second showing text on the reverse, reading:

“The only cyclone ever photographed was taken by F.N. Robinson, Miner County, D.T. August 28, 1884. The storm passed 22 miles west of the city. It was first noticed at 4 o’clock p.m., moving in a southeasterly direction, remaining in sight for over two hours; killing several people and destroying all property in its course.”

The tornado tracked 20 miles west of Howard that day around 4:30 pm. Surviving records, accounts and sketches of the tornado would today put it in the F3 to F4 range of the Fujita scale. The tornado was part of a larger outbreak of storms and tornadoes that killed at least six people and caused extensive property damage and loss of livestock in southeastern South Dakota, mainly located along the James River Valley.

A detailed report of the August 1884 storm was compiled by Samuel W. Glenn of the United States Army Signal Corps titled “Report on the tornado of August 28, 1884, near Huron, Dakota.” The report featured a number of accounts of the storms, sketches of the tornadoes and notes of their destructive force. The report is available at the library of the South Dakota State Archives.

Robinson took two and possibly a third image of the tornado west of Howard. The tornado was visible for an extended period of time. The more well-known image was the second one taken by Robinson and is the one shown in the photo display.

The photo was slightly retouched, a common practice in the era, and sold as a postcard. Robinson applied for and received a copyright for the image through the Library of Congress.

For decades, Robinson’s photograph held the distinction of being the first photograph of a tornado. An earlier photograph of a tornado does exist, however, taken by A.A. Adams near Westphalia, Kansas on April 26, 1884, three months before Robinson’s image. Robinson’s photo, being more dramatic and from a storm with fatalities, supplanted Adam’s image as the more popular tornado.

In addition, 13 weather-related books from the collections of the State Archives Library are also on display next to the photo display case. The books feature historical accounts of South Dakota weather-related incidents such as tornados, floods and droughts.

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About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call (605) 773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call (605) 394-1936 for more information

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Scotty Philip's Buffalo Herd photo display open in Pierre

"Scotty Philip's Buffalo Herd" is a new photo display in the Education Room of the Cultural Heriage Center in Pierre.

Scotty Philip's buffalo herd near Fort Pierre.  Historical photo was taken by P. H. Kellogg.
 (Photograph is courtesy of the South Dakota State Historical Society Archive)
The display, expected to be up through the end of the year, features 11 images, found in the archival collections of the South Dakota State Historical Society and online at the South Dakota Digital Archives.

James “Scotty” Philip was a Scottish-born rancher, businessman and politician commonly known as “The Man Who Saved the Buffalo.” He purchased buffalo from the estate of Fred Dupree, who had rounded up five bison calves in the 1880s when buffalo were on the brink of extinction.

Philip prepared a specially enclosed pasture for the buffalo on his ranch along the Missouri River located north of Fort Pierre.  At the time of Philip's death in 1911 there were approximately 1,000 head of buffalo on the ranch.

"Scotty Philip's herd was one of the most photographed groups of buffalo in North America," says state archivist Chelle Somsen.  "These particular images are held in the State Archives photo collections and many are viewable online at the South Dakota Digital Archives."

The South Dakota Digital Archives, an online resource launched in January 2012 by the South Dakota State Archives, an office of the State Historical Society, provides researchers digital access to unique historical records.

There are currently over 63,000 photographic images from throughout the state available for viewing by visiting history.sd.gov/archieves and clicking on the link to the "South Dakota Digital Archives."

The Cultural Heritage Center is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. CDT and Sundays and holidays from 1-4:30 p.m.  There is no fee to view these images, but standard admission fees apply for visitors wanting to go into the museum galleries.  Admission fees are: Children (17 and under) and society members -- free; Adults -- $4; and Seniors (60 and over) -- $3.  Special discounts apply for AAA Members.  There is free admission to galleries for all visitors the first Sunday of the month.

The Education Room is occasionally rented or in use.  Visitors may want to call ahead to confirm access to the display.
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About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call (605) 773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call (605) 394-1936 for more information.

Friday, June 2, 2017

J. W. Parmley and his Quest for Good Roads

Long before the television show “The Amazing Race,” Joseph Parmley was making what one newspaper described as “the most remarkable run in the history of the state.”
“This is an important day in the history of the Yellowstone Trail,” read an article in the Pierre Weekly Free Press referring to an event on May 15, 1915. “At 4 o’clock this morning, J.W. Parmley, of Ipswich, president of the association, left Lemmon in a Studebaker Six for a trip across the state, which he expects to finish at Ortonville, Minn., at 8 o’clock this evening, making the 349 miles in 16 hours.”
It was a feat many considered impossible.
J. W. Parmley (1861-1940)
Parmley, was a driving force behind the establishment of the Yellowstone Trail Association in 1912. The association’s goal was to create a high-class transcontinental highway from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound with the hope it would attract travelers to Yellowstone National Park and open the Northwest to tourists.
At the time, roads weren’t marked, there were few maps and mud was the usual road surface.
Parmley set out to prove that travelers from the east need not fear selecting the Yellowstone Trail as the route west by dashing off in the dawn to travel the entire distance of the Trail in South Dakota in less than a day.
A race driver from Kansas City, W.R. Payne, drove the Studebaker Six that was furnished by W.C. Nissen, the Studebaker distributor in Aberdeen.  Parmley and Payne were accompanied by a mechanic and representatives of Aberdeen newspapers. Accounts of the journey were given in the Aberdeen Daily News and Aberdeen Daily American.
Cheering crowds in every town along their route sped the party on its way. The racers also encountered the nemesis of travelers: muddy roads.
Despite losing track of the trail and plowing through mud hub-deep, the group arrived in Aberdeen at 2 p.m., only 10 minutes behind schedule.  
“Hundreds of people lined the streets to see the car arrive and at the W.C. Nissen garage a huge crowd had collected, which set up a mighty cheer as the car swept down the street and slid into the garage on high gear,” read the Aberdeen Sunday American, the Sunday edition of the Aberdeen Daily American. “The crowd swarmed up to the car in their enthusiasm and it was with difficulty that the waiting mechanicians adjusted new (mud) chains to all the tires and filled the gasoline tank.”
Good roads between Aberdeen and Ortley enabled the car to reach Ortley exactly on schedule. The party was ready for a flying trip down the grade into Big Stone City.
“Upon leaving Marvin, however, they encountered the worst piece of road on the trip,” read the article in the Aberdeen Sunday American. “The road was in many places covered with water from the rains, which had assumed almost the magnitude of a cloud burst. The grade through here is rather low, necessitating the car to travel on intermediate and low speed the entire distance. As was the case along the western part of the trip, the carburetor filled with water from the road bed, necessitating a stop to drain it.”

The band was playing and crowds had gathered when the mud-plastered Studebaker arrived at Ortonville at 8:15 p.m.
The vehicle failed to make the run in 16 hours, “but everybody there considered that despite this fact the car had made the most remarkable run in the history of the state, and with decent weather could have cut two hours from the running time easily.”
Parmley became known as “The Father of the Yellowstone Trail,” now U.S. Highway 12. A man of vision and action, he helped bring about the International Peace Garden and advocated for many special projects such as soil conservation, diversified farming, building dams to create artificial lakes and beautifying towns by planting flowers on vacant lots.
He was named to the South Dakota Highway Hall of Fame in 1972 and the South Dakota Cowboy and Western Heritage Hall of Fame in 1981. His house in Ipswich is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The J.W. Parmley Historical Home and the Parmley Western Land Office in Ipswich are maintained as museums.

This moment in South Dakota history is provided by the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising partner of the South Dakota State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. Find us on the web at www.sdhsf.org. Contact us at info@sdhsf.org to submit a story idea.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

"South Dakota History" features 1972 Rapid City flood

Rapid City’s mayor during the flood of 1972 recalls the disaster that killed 238 people in a memoir published in the Summer 2017 issue of “South Dakota History,” the quarterly journal of the South Dakota State Historical Society. This summer marks the 45th anniversary of the flood.
Cover of South Dakota History
Summer 2017
Donald V. Barnett was the youngest mayor in Rapid City history and the youngest mayor in the country when elected in 1971. He had not yet turned 29 when heavy rains devastated the city and a four-county area on the night of June 9, 1972.
In his memoir, “Never Again: The Rapid City Flood of 1972 and a Vision for Change,” Barnett gives a dramatic account of the rescue and relief efforts he helped to spearhead. He also recalls the growing consensus among planners and elected officials that the city would have to change the way it used its urban floodplain in order to prevent a similar disaster in the future.
Barnett, a Vietnam veteran, has a bachelor’s degree in political science from South Dakota State University. After his four years as mayor, he went on to pursue business interests in several western states and now lives in Littleton, Colo.
 The entire summer issue of “South Dakota History” is devoted to Barnett’s memoir and to a “Dakota Images” profile of Maj. Gen. Duane L. “Duke” Corning, the adjutant general for the South Dakota National Guard from 1963-83. Corning was a key figure in the flood response and recovery.
“South Dakota History” is a benefit of membership in the South Dakota State Historical Society. For information on membership, call (605) 773-6000. To purchase individual issues, call (605) 773-6009.
About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/ development offices. Call (605) 773-3458 or visit www.history.sd.gov for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call (605) 394-1936 for more information.