Gen. W. H. H. Beadle, from left, 1857, 1864, 1881.
 

From Lamb’s Biographical Dictionary of the United States

By John Howard Brown, 1900

transcribed by Karen Seeman

 

BEADLE, William Henry Harrison, educator, was born at Liberty, Parke county, Ind., Jan. 1,1888. He was graduated at the University of Michigan in 1861, received the degree of A.M. in 1864, and then completed the law course and received that of LL.B. in 1867. He served in the Union army from 1861 until 1866, receiving regular promotions and three brevets, the last being that of brigadier-general, March 15, 1865. After the civil war he served as private secretary to Governor Howard of Dakota, then as U. S. surveyor-general of the territory, member of the territorial legislature, as the superintendent of public instruction, and as regent or trustee of several educational institutions in the territory. He was an instructor in the Yankton Congregational college, superintendent of the Indian industrial training school at Salem, Oregon, and in 1889 was called to the presidency of the State normal school at Madison, S. Dakota, which institution he placed upon a high grade of thoroughness and excellence. The township system of school organization first advocated by Mr. Beadle was adopted in most counties of Dakota, and he succeeded in creating a sentiment for the protection of the school lands donated to the state by the United States, whereby a great state school fund should be accumulated. He wrote the article upon education in the state constitution, secured a prohibition of the sale of these lands at less than two dollars an acre, which Congress extended to the other five new states in enabling acts, viz.: North Dakota. Washington, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. He also advocated the leasing of the lands upon twenty-five or fifty year leases, the rental to be reppraised every five years.

 

 

 


 

From Lamb’s Biographical Dictionary of the United States

By John Howard Brown, 1900

transcribed by Karen Seeman

 

 

BURLEIGH, Walter Atwood, a prominent pioneer of Dakota, was born at Waterville, Me., Oct. 25, He studied medicine at Waterville, and in New York city, and was graduated at Castleton medical college. He removed to Kittanning, Pa., where he acquired a large practice, and devoted much of his time to the campaigns of 1856 and 1860 to the support of the Republican party as a platform speaker. In 1861 President Lincoln appointed him agent of the Yankton Sioux Indians of Dakota territory. The Indians being inflamed by previous grievances, threatened to burn the warehouse, council house and other property of the agency. Dr. Burleigh despatched two brave and reliable men to Fort Randall for a body of U. S. regulars, and at daybreak on the following morning just as the hostile Indians, armed and in their war paint, gathered for an attack upon the buildings, the troops approached, and their chiefs sued for peace. In the latter part of August 1862,  the agency was again in danger from the hostile Sioux in their retreat from the Minnesota massacre.   Dr. Burleigh at once built a substantial block house, and called for troops from Iowa, and with these and the good offices of Struck-by-the-Rees. the head chief of the Yanktons, the agency was saved, and South Dakota was spared a bloody invasion. Dr. Burleigh was elected a delegate to the 39th Congress in 1864, and in 1866 to the 40th Congress. In 1877 he was elected a member of the legislature of Dakota, and chosen president of the council. He was a member of the last legislature of Montana territory, and was elected to the convention of 1889, which framed the constitution of that state. He also engaged in many private enterprises, having at one time a fleet of steamboats on the Missouri river, which did a large carrying trade between St. Louis and Fort Benton.  Burleigh county, North Dakota, was named in his honor. He graded fifty miles of the Northern Pacific railroad and erected the first house in Bismarck. He practised law for twelve years in the courts at Miles City, and Billings, in Montana. He, upon removing to Dakota, made his home at Yankton, where he erected a magnificent mansion overlooking the Missouri, and having a wide range of scenery. He died at Yankton, S. Dak., in 1896.

 


 

From Lamb’s Biographical Dictionary of the United States

By John Howard Brown, 1900

transcribed by Karen Seeman

 

 

BROOKINGS, WILMOT W., pioneer, was born at Woolwich, Me., Oct. 23, 1880. He was graduated at Bowdoin college in 1855. While reading law he taught in schools at Litchfield, North Anson and Wiscasset, and in May, 1857, was admitted to the bar in Portland, Me. In August, 1857, he removed to Sioux Falls, then a part of Minnesota territory.   He helped to organize a county, and was appointed district-attorney. In 1859 hr was elected to the upper house and by the same legislature was appointed governor of Dakota territory. In 1861 he was elected to the council for two years and then for three successive terms as a representative from Yankton county. In 1864 he was speaker of the house. In 1865 he was appointed superintendent of a United States military wagon road from Minnesota to Montana. In 1866 he was nominated as a delegate to Congress by the anti-Johnson branch of the Republican party. He was chosen member of the council from Yankton county in 1867 for two years; elected president of the council in 1868, and he served as district-attorney for Yankton county in 1867 and 1868. In 1869 President Grant appointed him associate justice of the supreme court of Dakota, and he served until 1873. From 1883 to 1885 he was a member of the state constitutional convention. In 1871 he was the prominent organizer of the Dakota Southern Railroad —the first railroad to enter Dakota — and was either president, vice-president or solicitor of the Dakota Southern, Sioux City & Pembina, and the Sioux City and Dakota railroads, afterward part of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul system during the ten following years. He conducted the Sioux Falls Leader from 1883 to 1885; was president of the Minnehaha Trust company and a director of the Sioux Falls national bank, national realty company, and safe deposit company.

 


 

From Lamb’s Biographical Dictionary of the United States

By John Howard Brown, 1900

transcribed by Karen Seeman

 

ARMSTRONG, Moses K., representative, was born at Milan. O., Sept. 19, 1832. He received his education at Huron institute and Western reserve college, O., and removed to Minnesota in 1856, where he was elected surveyor of Mower county, and in 1858 was appointed surveyor of United States lands. On the admission of Minnesota as a state he removed to Yankton on the Missouri river, and on the organization of Dakota in 1861 was elected to the legislature of the territory, being re-elected in 1862 and 1863, serving as speaker during the last year. In 1864 he was editor of the Dakota Union. He was also territorial treasurer, clerk of the supreme court in 1865, a member of the territorial senate 1866, and in 1867 president of that body. In 1872 he was elected president of the first national bank of the territory. He was a representative from his district in the 42d and 43d congresses, and was also employed by the United States government in locating the boundary lines and making surveys in South Dakota, and the Northern Red river valley, and was secretary of the peace commission sent to the Sioux Indians.

 

 

 


 

 

 

From Lamb’s Biographical Dictionary of the United States

By John Howard Brown, 1900

transcribed by Karen Seeman

 

BLACKBURN, William Maxwell, educator, was born at Carlisle, Ind., Dec. 30, 1828. He was educated at Hanover college and Princeton theological seminary, graduating from the latter in 1858. After holding various pastorates in the Presbyterian church, he was from 1868 to 1881 professor of church history in the McCormick theological seminary of Chicago, resigning in 1881, to accept the pastorate of the Central church of Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1884 he was elected to the presidency of the University of North Dakota, and after successful work in organizing that new institution, he resigned in 1885 to become the first installed president of Pierre university in South Dakota. He, in addition to his duties as president, was professor of mental, moral and political sciences. The institution was largely in debt and this he succeeded in paying off, and establishing the university on a permanent and substantial basis. The degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him by Wooster university, Ohio, in 1894. Between 1861 and 1866 he wrote nine Sunday-school books, chiefly for the Presbyterian board of publication, and in 1866 a work on the Reformation in Switzerland. He also published a “Life of St. Patrick " (1867); "Admiral Coligny, and the Rise of the Huguenots" (1868), the first historical biography of Coligny based on original documents written in the English Language; and "The History of the Christian Church from its Origin to the Present Time" (1879).

 

 


 

 

 

From Lamb’s Biographical Dictionary of the United States

By John Howard Brown, 1900

transcribed by Karen Seeman

     

 

BLISS, Philemon, representative, was born in North Clinton, near Hartford, Conn., July 28, 1813. He removed to Whitestown, N.Y., with his father in 1821. He attended Steuben academy and Hamilton college, paying his tuition by his own labor, but did not complete a college course. He studied law under Theodore Sill, 1833 - 34; removed to Florida for his health and thence to Ohio, entering the profession of law at Elyria, Ohio, in 1841. He was an abolitionist; was presiding judge of the 14th circuit, 1848-'51; a Republican representative in the 34th and 35th congresses, 1854-‘59; chief justice of Dakota Territory where he organized the courts, 1861-'63; removed to St. Joseph, Mo., in 1864; was probate judge of Buchanan county, 1868-'72; justice of the supreme court, 1868-‘72; professor of law in the Missouri state university, 1872-‘89, founding a law department in 1873 of which he was dean until his death. He was a curator of the Missouri state university, 1807-‘73. He received the degree of LL.D. He published: "Code Proceedings'' (1878, 2d ed., 1887); and "Sovereignty" (1885). He died in St. Paul, Minn., Aug. 25, 1889.

 

 


 

From Lamb’s Biographical Dictionary of the United States

By John Howard Brown, 1900

transcribed by Karen Seeman

 

 

BULKELEY, William Henry, statesman, was born at East Haddam, Conn., March 2, 1840; son of Eliphalet A. Bulkeley, and a direct descendant of the Rev. Peter Bulkeley, founder of Concord, Mass. He received a public-school education and learned the dry goods business in Brooklyn, N. Y., from whence, in 1861, he went to the war as a private in the 13th regiment, N. Y. S. M., and the next year raised a company for the 56th N. Y. volunteers, was elected captain, and served in General Smith's division until the regiment was ordered home during the New York draft riots in 1868. He returned to Hartford in 1868, organized and became president of the Kellogg and Bulkeley company, lithographers; was a member of the common council of Hartford five years, and vice-president and president one year each. He was commissary-general of Connecticut from 1879 to 1881, lieutenant-governor from 1881 to 1888, and state commissioner to the Yorktown celebration in 1881. He was the Republican candidate for governor in 1883, being defeated by Thomas M. Waller. At this election he declined to take advantage of eight thousand black ballots, which would have made him governor, the courts declaring them illegal The general assembly by joint resolution validated the black ballots before declaring Mr. Waller elected governor. He then removed to South Dakota, where he founded Forest City, Potter county. He was president of the Forest City and Sioux City railroad, and of the Forest City land and improvement company.

 

 


 

 

From Lamb’s Biographical Dictionary of the United States

By John Howard Brown, 1900

transcribed by Karen Seeman

 

BRISTOL, Charles Lawrence, educator, was born at Ballston Spa, N. Y., Sept. 29, 1859; son of Lawrence W. and Caroline (Hawkins) Bristol. He was graduated from the University of the city of New York in 1883, and in 1884 attended the Harvard college summer school. From 1884 to 1887 he was teacher of science at Riverview academy, Poughkeepsie, N. Y., and from 1887 to 1891 was professor of zoology in the state university of South Dakota. During the summers of 1890, '91 and '92 he was at the Marine biological laboratory, and in 1891-'92 was fellow of morphology at Clark university. In 1892 he was made senior fellow in biology in the University of Chicago, which institution conferred upon him the degree of M.D. in 1888.

 


 
 

Dr. William Maxwell Blackburn

 Dr. Blackburn was born near Carlisle, Indiana, December 30, 1828; graduated from Hanover College In 1850 and took his theological course at Princeton. After seventeen years In the pastorate, for thirteen years he occupied the chair of Biblical and ecclesiastical history In the Theological Seminary of the Northwest—now McCormick Theological Seminary, at Chicago. A short term of three years In the pastorate at Cincinnati intervening, he was president of the University of North Dakota for one year, and In 1885 took charge of the Presbyterian Synodical College at Pierre, South Dakota, continuing there till the time of his death, December 29, 1898, rounding out a fruitful life of seventy years. He received from Princeton the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity and from Wooster University that of Doctor of Laws.

The ancestors of Dr. Blackburn were of Scotch-Irish blood. Tradition says that the family was of those who, under the persecutions of the time of Mary Stuart, left Scotland and joined the Huguenots in France in their struggle for religious liberty —a struggle seemingly disastrous in outcome, but vindicated in history as triumphantly glorious. Escaping from their pursuers, it is said that they crossed the English Channel in an open boat, and, about the time of the massacre of St.

Bartholomew, returned to Scotland. Falling under the influences that were making for the settlement of the New World they came to America and settled in eastern Pennsylvania, members of the Pennsylvania colony. From there they extended their borders south and west into Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and beyond. The famous pulpit orator. Dr. Gideon Blackburn, of Georgia, belonged to the Virginia branch, and from Kentucky came Governor Luke Blackburn and United States Senator Joseph Blackburn.

The grandfather of William Maxwell Blackburn, William, had his home in Kentucky, but, being opposed to slavery, came north and settled in the valley of the Wabash in Indiana. He was killed not long after at a house-raising and left his widow, a very superior woman, in that new country with a large family of children, of whom the second son, Alexander, became the father of the subject of this sketch. The mother was Delilah Polk, of the same general family as that of President Polk. She was of Kentucky birth and grew up amid the surroundings of Daniel Boone. Her father, Charles Polk, was born at Detroit, Michigan, whither his mother, made prisoner by the Indians in Kentucky, had been taken in midwinter, and his father did not see the boy until he was about two years old. Then the mother bore him on horse-back back to Kentucky. Those were heroic days and produced heroic men and women; though not more heroic than these days of ours where conditions exist like those of that time. Not more than twenty-five years ago, I was with a party which rode in the bitterest of winter weather from the Rosebud Agency to Fort Sully, in South Dakota, and one of that party was an Indian woman who rode on horseback with the rest, having her five-year-old daughter strapped in her blanket upon her back. Often the child cried from the cold, and every member of the party suffered from frost, but the mother never made complaint. There are heroic men and women in these days!

The Blackburns and the Polks were thrifty and well-to-do, and belonged to the better educated class of farmers and business men. Alexander Blackburn and Delilah, his wife, bravely attacked the rugged conditions of pioneer life incident to building up a home and fortune for themselves and their children. They moved from the Wabash Valley when the eldest son, William Maxwell, was four years of age, going with an ox team a distance of two hundred and fifty miles into northern Indiana and making their home near La Porte.

Probably but few of the incidents of that journey were permanently remembered by the boy, but the impressions made upon him could not easily be effaced. There was the long and slow journey; the encampment at night by stream and near rich meadows where the tired oxen grazed; the restful play at evening about the camp fire with the little brother, two years younger, who doubtless cried often and often was left to cry, because mother was busy with the evening meal; then there were the rivers to cross and a part of the way a new country to traverse, while there were roads to cut through thick timber and other difficulties to overcome and trails to meet before they reached the rich prairie land known as Rolling Prairie in "the edge of some of the finest timber that ever grew." There they made their new home. Strong of character by inheritance, the circumstances of early pioneer life developed additional strength. And to this there was added the life-giving spirit of a true religious experience, so that in this pioneer home was ever a glad, joyous household. It was a good place for a boy to grow to young manhood. One writer has fitly characterized this home as "cheerfully religious," the words "cheerfully religious" being used with intention, for he goes on to say, "I was never in a home where the religious life was so prominent and yet never saw a more joyful home," and in the games of youth the "father and mother romped with all the enthusiasm of the youngest." It was here, in walks with his parents, that the future doctor of divinity and enthusiastic student of geology early learned to love the study of nature.

His ready wit and sturdy character, so marked in later life, grew naturally, as does a plant in rich, well watered and carefully tended soil. There was nothing left to chance, and yet it is also true that but few boys needed less of supervision and guidance. His body grew healthy and robust in the life of a farmer's bow. The farm in those days was in a wheat growing region. The sickle gave place to the cradle and this to the famous McCormick reaper, one of the first three, it is said, manufactured by Cyrus McCormick. In the sowing and the reaping and then in threshing the grain, at first with an old-fashioned flail, and in marketing the result at Michigan City or New Buffalo, on the lake twelve miles away, the boy did his full share.

It is probable that he attended school when opportunity offered, but undoubtedly his earlier study of books was at home under the direction of his parents. His father is spoken of as a remarkably well educated man and a great reader, and as having taught school as occasion demanded. That Dr. Blackburn did not lack for early advantages is evidenced by the fact that at seventeen years of age he began to fit for college, and that he graduated with honors shortly after reaching manhood's estate.

At college he was a hard-working student, a ready debater, and early evidenced the clear logic and mental grasp of later days. After graduation a year was spent in teaching school, a winter term at La Porte and a summer term at Constantine, Indiana. His professional studies occupied the following three years, and we find him ordained as an evangelist and preaching at Three Rivers, Michigan, before reaching the age of twenty-five. Shortly before ordination he was married to Miss Elizabeth Powell, who, after treading life's journey fifty-five years with him, survived her husband but a few months, dying March 7, 1899.

The young preacher was always a student; he studied men and books and soon began to write. In his early pastorates his efforts at authorship were largely biographical and show the trend of his study; and out of these studies—or were they but an indication of the larger selection already made—the study of church history came to have for him attractions, and this became his chosen field.

In 1862 he spent some months in travel and study in the mother country. He also went to the continent and was in France, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands, where he devoted himself to careful study of the causes and events of the Reformation, that he might the more correctly interpret the far-reaching results of that religious upheaval. On his return there was published, during a pastorate of four years at Trenton, New Jersey, other biographical studies— lives of John Calvin. Ulric Zwingli, William Farrel, Aonio Palario. the great Swiss reformer, and a history of the Huguenots under the title "Coligny and the Huguenots," in two volumes; all of which appeared in rapid succession.

When it is remembered that to the exacting responsibilities of a city church were also added the absorbing study of history in the life of the Christian church and the Growth of doctrine, one is astonished at the amount of work accomplished. It is only when a powerful mind works effectively and without waste that such results appear. A partial list of the product of Dr. Blackburn's pen gives thirty-three titles to his credit. While still a pastor at Trenton he was offered the presidency of his alma mater. This he declined, though fully appreciating the honor of the call. It was rather as a student of church history than in general administrative ability that he felt his power. In June, 1868, he was elected to the vacant professorship of ecclesiastical and church history in the Presbyterian Theological Seminary at Chicago. He entered upon the duties of the chair at once, and threw himself with all the zeal and the training of years of special study into meeting the needs of the position. The place had found the man and the man had found his place. It was as when a machine complete, made for a specific purpose and perfectly adjusted, falls into the steady stroke and regular beat of the accomplishment of that for which it was made.

Dr. Blackburn enjoyed his work and worked with all his might. The amount of work he accomplished at this time is marvelous. Occupying the chair of a most important professor-ship, he assisted in making good vacancies in other chairs, sup-plied one or other of the city churches, delivered ecclesiastical and historical lectures outside, and made frequent contributions to periodicals and reviews, and made a steady advance in the preparation of his historical works. His "History of the Christian Church" was published about the time of his withdrawal from the seminary. It is well understood that this resignation was one of the attendant results of the David Swing heresy trial. Dr. Blackburn did not hold to Professor Swing's views, but defended the man in his right to hold these without being branded as a heretic. No one now remembers this trial—we do not know what it was about and wonder what was gained by it. Though Professor Swing was acquitted, he was virtually driven out, and the spirit of intolerance prevailed. With this Dr. Blackburn was not in sympathy, and resigned. Death came and further weakened the faculty, and it was years before the seminary could re-cover.

Long before this Dr. Blackburn's reputation as an author and an authority in his chosen field had been settled. Not only in this country, but in Europe as well, his name was favorably known. A British review of the history of the Huguenots says: "In this work the author has gone to many fountain-heads and set them before the reader in all the distinctiveness of a dramatic picture. If there had been no authentic work on this most interesting subject written on this side of the Atlantic, here is one by an American author that admirably fills the needs," and of his "History of the Christian Church" one of our foremost American reviews says: "Our own country has produced but few ecclesiastical historians of note; Dr. Philip Schaft and Dr. William M. Blackburn are the best. The volume of Dr. Blackburn's now before us is the most creditable general history of the Christian church that has appeared on this side of the Atlantic. Dr. Schaft has as yet covered only a part of the ground. The author is a professor of church history and a well-known lecturer and writer of learning and ability. His researches in general and ecclesiastical history have been widely extended, and his study of Christian doctrine has been thorough. His style is lucid, direct and forcible. His method is much better than that of the old German authors, not being encumbered with endless divisions and sub-divisions, yet following a definite outline with a sufficiently minute analysis. The chapter on religious denominations is of peculiar value. We discover a spirit of fairness and candor which will doubtless secure for the work a wide acceptance among Christians of various names. The author is not unwilling to acknowledge the mistakes of those Christians with whom he would most naturally sympathize, and the virtue of those with whom he is known to differ in important respects. On the whole the history is a fine specimen of condensed, yet spritely historical writing. The work ought to have a place, not only in the theological seminaries and ministers' libraries, but in the families of intelligent Christians of all denominations."

European comment is no less favorable in the tone and spirit with which the author is regarded.

It was expected that the historical study of the church would be followed by a companion volume on the "History of Christian Doctrine." Upon this work had been spent years of study and research, and the manuscript was nearly completed and ready for the printer when this and other valuable notes were destroyed by fire. Such a loss cannot be recovered and the work was not re-written.

On withdrawal from the Chicago professorship, Dr. Blackburn was selected to be chancellor of the Western University at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, which position he declined. A few years were spent in the pastorate at Cincinnati, when failure in the doctor's hitherto robust health and that of others of the family, brought them to North Dakota for a summer in the Devil's Lake region. Quite unexpectedly to him, the University of North Dakota offered him the presidency. He accepted with many doubts and was entirely satisfied to continue the connection but one year. There was too much of politics in a position in a state institution to suit the doctor's make-up. However, he did not choose to return to the older homes and cities from whence he had come. The wine of life and the breezes of the prairies had found way into his blood, and the doctor longed to take part in the work of empire building by making men of character in this newer land. He was called in 1885 to be president of the Presbyterian Synodical College of South Dakota at Pierre.

Until now the most of us had not known Dr. Blackburn.

His stocky figure, strong face and active movements drew attention at once, and men beheld with a gasp the reckless dash with which the doctor, with hat well back on his head and sitting firmly in his two-wheeled cart, sent the half-wild pony through the streets. He became a familiar figure, and we came to love him, though it is doubtful if many fully appreciated him. He was never idle; work was the dominant note in his life. The habit of life had long been fixed and he could not have changed it if he would, and would not if he could, and the new college in a new region afforded ample Held. It was the work of laying foundations, and the doctor strove to lay these deeply and well. Conscious of his own strength, of the great opportunity, and confident of hearty support by his associates in the churches and ministry of his order, nothing discouraged him — the work of the master builder was joy to him and inspiration to beholders.

It is to be regretted that, as seen from the outside. Dr. Blackburn's efforts in behalf of education at this outpost did not receive the loyal support they deserved. Hard times came and the new country did not develop according to plans laid in dreamland. Local jealousies, growing out of the bitter war waged upon Pierre by other aspirants for the capital, alienated some from the support of their college. To Dr. Blackburn there fell the greater burden. With a scanty corps of instructors, he was left almost unaided to secure pupils, and to some extent provide the necessary funds. Had he been a younger man, and had he been a college president of the modern type, it is altogether possible that the institution would have weathered the period of stress and difficulty. But Dr. Blackburn was not of the modern type of college president— he was not a money-getter, and did not take kindly to this feature. Nor would he run into debt, and the result was that when funds were not forthcoming the doctor paid bills out of his own pocket, and when the pocket was empty did without, rather than incur indebtedness. Dr. Blackburn was pre-eminently a teacher, and as such was remarkably successful. Whether in class or as a lecturer, or in the pulpit, he had the ability of a master.

You could not talk with him on the street corner without learning something from him. He taught without effort—he simply could not help himself, for he was a born teacher. It is a pity that such men are obliged to attempt anything other than the chosen work of their high calling. With much the same power as that of Mark Hopkins did Dr. Blackburn teach men. If President Hopkins, sitting on a log with a student by his side, stood for a fully equipped college, the same might be said of President Blackburn and his student seated together on a boulder here in South Dakota.

In June, 1898, the college was removed from Pierre to Huron.

Dr. Blackburn resigned from the presidency, was chosen president-emeritus and to give instruction in psychology and geology, and attended to the duties of his position through the first term of the college year. His death was sudden and painless and took place at his home in the city of Pierre. His body rests in the cemetery overlooking the city and the river beyond, while the ideals for which he strove, the purposes for which he lived and the men into whom he builded of his own lofty character remain, our rich inheritance from one most worthy, who has gone before. This brief sketch has followed the course of only the larger events of Dr. Blackburn's life. It has not attempted to show in any adequate degree his life's abiding influence for good in this world's betterment, nor was it attempted as other than a sketch. Any just analysis of his life and the work accomplished would require much more time than the limits of this paper allow. A few sentences should be written giving in brief the estimate of men who knew him well as a writer, a preacher and a lecturer, and as a man whom to know was a joy and an inspiration. As an author Dr. Blackburn made for himself an international reputation before reaching the age of forty. His style was always that of vital youth. It was clear and full of vigor, almost electrical in effect. A tremendous worker and an insatiable reader, he had something to say on many topics, and he knew how to tell what he knew effectively. In his earlier days and in middle life, when the fire of authorship burned most, the productions of his pen were marvelous in variety and number—church history, biography, books for youth, tracts for the public and studies in many directions followed one another in volcanic pro-fusion. Fact, fancy and argument were at his command.

As a lecturer he was early in demand. Within the first ten years of his work as a pastor, a writer refers to him thus: "He proved able and popular, young, brilliant, eloquent, full of life and energy, an untiring worker, with just enough of a strain of Scotch bluntness and independence in his make-up to make him bold and decisive of speech. He was never tame or common-place, never merely rhetorical, but always argumentative, convincing and stimulating. As a lecturer and pulpit orator he was a perfect artist in word painting. His pictures of scenes that he had witnessed and descriptions of occurrences in which he had borne a part were as clearly and vividly shown before the imagination as if depicted on canvas." And these words continued to be true of his entire life. After coming to South Dakota we find him much in demand. He was interested in every educational effort. He was for one year, and possibly more, a member of the faculty of the Lake Madison summer school; he was also slated for lectures on psychology and geology. This was after he had taken up the special study of geology himself and had become interested in the Bad Lands, the traces of glacial drift and other open pages of the book of nature at hand in this broad and generous state. I cannot say what the psychological course was, but he was brim full of geological data and could not fail to be intensely interesting and instructive.

In the pulpit there were but few his equal. He spoke with conviction and with trained ability. There was nothing for show and no effort at "effect." He preached as he taught, out of a full life. His sermons were often severely logical in form and always logical in thought. As an exegete he was particularly happy, and some one has said that his later sermons were running commentaries on the Scriptures.

A Calvinist by inheritance and training, he was broadly liberal in his recognition of the good in other systems. He would defend his own lines of faith, but never was intolerant of others. His youngest brother is a well known and widely honored clergyman of the Baptist denomination, and the two have always been one in sympathy and desire for the success of the other. When Dr. Blackburn chose to talk doctrinal theology he was fully able to hold his own. He would not, however, allow any-one to force a profitless discussion—too much like threshing over old straw. The story is told of a persistent effort to bring the doctor out on the dogma of infant damnation. Again and again was reference made to bring argument. "You Presbyterians believe that infants dying unregenerate are lost and eternally damned, don't you, now?" was the final attack. The doctor fairly lost his patience, and replied, "Well, suppose we do believe in infant damnation; suppose we do; it does not hurt the infants at all!"

It was not till after coming to South Dakota that Dr. Blackburn devoted himself especially to geological studies. The so-called Bad Lands had great attractions, and he made repeated visits to them, bringing strange casts and shapes of former life back with him. On such an expedition the doctor was a boy again. He wore his oldest clothing and had but little in appearance to recommend him. At one time, when on one of these expeditions, the party drifted into the mining regions of the Black Hills, and here was an opportunity to visit one of the deeper gold mines. This could not be neglected, and application was made to the superintendent, stating who the applicant was and his interest in science as additional reason for the favor desired. Now, the doctor was in traveling attire and had been out in the wilds for some weeks, and there was doubtless ample justification for the incredulous refusal of permission to visit the mines. "You Dr. Blackburn! You president of Pierre University! Not much! Why, Dr. Blackburn's a gentleman, he is!" Had the superintendent heard Dr. Blackburn preach the Sunday following he would have obtained truer knowledge of his identity, notwithstanding the clothes worn by him.

The earlier existence of our State Historical Society had inception in 1890. The first steps for public recognition were taken at a general meeting called for that purpose February 20, 1890, presided over by that grand and rather peculiar old hero, Rev. Edward Brown. Several meetings were held for perfecting the organization, resulting in the selection of permanent officers— Hon. George H. Hand as president, and Hon. O. H. Parker as secretary. It was not, however, till February 18, 1891, that the society was finally incorporated, and February 20, 1891, Dr. Blackburn was chosen to be permanent secretary. Of historical value, as probably the last specimen of the handwriting of Mr. Hand in the interest of the Historical Society, is a slip of paper now loose in the records, giving the fact of Dr. Blackburn's election as the matter of business attended to by the board and signed Geo. H. Hand, president. This slip has further an endorsement by Dr. Blackburn, stating the fact above mentioned relative to Mr. Hand's handwriting. President Hand died soon after, and though a general interest was kept up by individuals, the society, as such, fell into the domain of the future. Dr. Blackburn once grimly remarked that he hoped his election as secretary had not brought on the death of the original society!

He quietly devoted himself to the collection and care of such objects of historical value as came in his way, and waited for the renewal of life which would surely come.

Dr. Blackburn was always interested in everything pertaining to the real advancement of the state and the community in which he lived. He was, moreover, keenly alive to the demand made upon him as a citizen for the public good. State and city politics, in the broader sense of the term, claimed his thought and effort. He was a wide reader. On all national questions he kept himself well posted, and international issues were fresh and living topics when he talked upon them. His life as a man and with other men was manly and robust. His thinking was never lacking in strength. He had a message to men, whether it were of life eternal or the open secrets of nature. This gave him power, for he lived up to the doctrine he taught. He had no patience with form for form's sake, and could not endure shams, nor could he abide fraud and deception. Absolutely fearless in sup-port of truth as he saw it and always ready and eager to learn.

Dr. Blackburn never grew old. The eternal springs of youth were his. There was no such thing as "'dry rot" in either head or heart.

At the appointed time the body failed and was laid to rest. The man still lives—he lives in the work he did, the characters he helped build, and in the remembrance of men. Such men truly live, and live forever.

—Thomas Lawrence Riggs.
Oahe, South Dakota, August, 1902.

[Source: "South Dakota Historical Collections", Compiled by the State Historical Society, Vol. 1, 1902 - Transcribed by K. Torp]

 

 


 

 

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