Arthur C. Mellette

Arthur Calvin Mellette (June 23, 1842 – May 25, 1896)[1] was the last Governor of Dakota Territory, the first Governor of the State of South Dakota, and an American Civil War veteran.

Arthur C. Mellette
Governor Arthur C Mellette.jpg
1st Governor of South Dakota
In office
November 2, 1889 – January 3, 1893
Preceded byHimself
as Governor of Dakota Territory
Succeeded byCharles H. Sheldon
10th Governor of Dakota Territory
In office
March 22, 1889 – November 2, 1889
Preceded byLouis K. Church
Succeeded byJohn Miller
as Governor of North Dakota
as Governor of South Dakota
Personal details
Born(1842-06-23)June 23, 1842
Henry County, Indiana
DiedMay 25, 1896(1896-05-25) (aged 53)
Pittsburg, Kansas
Resting placeMount Hope Cemetery (Watertown, South Dakota)
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Margaret Wylie
ResidenceMellette House
Alma materIndiana University
Indiana University Maurer School of Law

He is the namesake of Mellette, South Dakota, and Mellette County, South Dakota.[2]

Early life, education, and Civil WarEdit

Mellette was the son of Charles Mellette and was born in Henry County, Indiana. He was educated at Marion Academy in Marion, Indiana. In 1862, Mellette entered Indiana University Bloomington as a sophomore and graduated in 1863. On October 6, 1864, he enlisted in Company H of the 9th Indiana Volunteers, serving as a conscripted soldier until mustering out on September 28, 1865. He served in the army as a substitute for his older invalid brother and experienced many humiliations as a result. In 1866, Mellette graduated from the School of Law at the Indiana University and went to Muncie, Indiana, where he began practicing law with Thomas J. Brady. On May 26, 1866, he married Margaret Wylie.[3]


Mellette was elected as district attorney for Delaware County, Indiana. In 1870, Mellette purchased the Muncie Times, a newspaper which became influential and prosperous under his tutelage. During that same year, Mellette was elected the county superintendent of schools.

When his wife became ill, Mellette visited western states to find a climate that would be more beneficial to her. Mellette's family eventually settled in Springfield, Dakota Territory, for two years; and, Mellette served as register of the United States Land Office in Springfield until the land office was moved to Watertown, Dakota Territory, in 1880.

Political career in the DakotasEdit

In October 1885, the Republicans nominated Mellette for governor of Dakota Territory. In November 1885, Mellette ran unopposed for the office of governor; and, voters selected Huron as the temporary capitol of Dakota Territory. In 1889, voters approved the new constitution for South Dakota and elected Arthur C. Mellette as South Dakota's first Governor. On November 2, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison signed the proclamation to make South Dakota the fortieth state. Mellette County, South Dakota, is named in his honor.

Personal lifeEdit

Mellette built a mansion on the bluffs of the Big Sioux River in Watertown, South Dakota. He was an advocate of bringing the capitol to the area. He summered on Lake Kampeska.


The family made what was meant to be a temporary move from Watertown to Pittsburg, Kansas, in 1895. Mellette died May 25, 1896, while in Pittsburg.[4] His body was sent back to Watertown and interred in Mount Hope Cemetery.

The Trail of Governors statue of Arthur C. Mellette, by sculptor John Lopez, was unveiled in 2012 and is placed in Pierre, South Dakota.

Mellette’s former home in Watertown is maintained as a museum. In 2012, a statue of Mellette was unveiled in Pierre, South Dakota; it was the first statue placed on the city’s Trail of Governors.


  1. ^ "Arthur C. Mellettte". Find A Grave. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
  2. ^ Federal Writers' Project (1940). South Dakota place-names, v.1-3. University of South Dakota. p. 50.
  3. ^ "Arthur C. Mellette". Mellette House. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
  4. ^ "Arthur C. Mellette". Mellette House. Retrieved August 31, 2012.

External linksEdit

Party political offices
First Republican nominee for Governor of South Dakota
1889, 1890
Succeeded by
Charles H. Sheldon
Political offices
Preceded by
new office
Governor of South Dakota
Succeeded by
Charles H. Sheldon