See a former governor’s home in Wessington Springs

Last week during his first State of the State address to the Legislature, new South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard mentioned the name of late former governor Robert S. Vessey, of Wessington Springs.

Daugaard said that even though Vessey was a very popular governor 100 years ago, it’s unlikely many South Dakotans remember his name today.

“And you see, that’s the point,” Daugaard said in his speech. “A century from now, Gov. Dennis Daugaard will be as forgotten as Gov. Robert S. Vessey. Let us seek to be remembered not for our names, but for our deeds.”

Daugaard is right that most South Dakotans probably don’t know Robert Vessey’s name or anything about him. In Wessington Springs, though, Vessey’s name and legacy are well-remembered.

To this day, Vessey’s house still stands in the small town. The house is under private ownership and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and you can read about it and see a picture of it in a 2009 issue of the local newspaper, The Wessington Springs True Dakotan.

The True Dakotan claims that on April 6, 1909, Vessey proclaimed the nation’s first Mother’s Day observance. That’s a story I’ve heard from other sources in South Dakota, too, but I’m not sure it’s true. It does predate the establishment cited in Wikipedia: "The holiday was declared officially by the state of West Virginia in 1910, and the rest of the states followed quickly."

If you want to learn more about Robert S. Vessey, there is a surprising amount of information available on the Internet. You can read a hilarious early 1900s campaign description of Vessey, for example, at http://www.usgennet.org/usa/sd/state/whos_who/vessey.html. Here’s an excerpt:

His unsullied manhood will now become more conspicuous than ever before. The eyes of the state are riveted upon him. The smoke of the last campaign is clearing away, and above the clouds of strife, like the sphinx on the Egyptian desert, there stands out in bold relief against the historic sky the resplendent character of the man.

About Author

Seth Tupper

Seth Tupper was born and raised in South Dakota and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2001. After college, he worked at a newspaper in Minnesota and then returned to South Dakota in 2003 to join the staff of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, where he is currently the publisher. Seth has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2007 Outstanding Young Journalist award in the daily newspapers category of the South Dakota Newspaper Association's Better Newspapers Contest. Seth's day-job and freelance work have granted him opportunities to meet hundreds of South Dakotans and travel across much of the state. He also spends a lot of his free time exploring South Dakota's state and national parks, hiking trails and kayak-friendly rivers.

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