Richard Franklin Pettigrew

Sioux Falls is a vibrant city with a rich history. Many people helped shape into what it is today. One such person has been characterized as studious, hard working, and visionary. This man was intelligent and had a wonderfully attentive memory. He had a strong connection in the development work of the Dakota territory and the State of South Dakota. He was a prominent politician, businessman, and community leader. He spent the majority of his adult life promoting and representing Sioux Falls and South Dakota.

Richard Franklin (R. F.) Pettigrew (July 23, 1848-October 5, 1926) was born in Vermont and moved with his parents to Wisconsin in 1854. He engaged in farm work until he was sixteen years of age, receiving his education in rural schools. He attended college in Iowa and studied law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In 1869, Mr. Pettigrew came to Dakota as a part of a surveying party. In the spring of 1870, he made Sioux Falls his home. Pettigrew worked tirelessly to build and promote local communities. He practiced law and engaged in surveying and real estate. He was responsible for bringing all five early railroads through Sioux Falls. Pettigrew was instrumental in convincing an eastern investor to finance construction of the seven-story, twelve-hundred barrel per day Queen Bee flour mill. As a U.S. Senator, he convinced Congress to appropriate funds to construct the Federal Courthouse and Post Office building and insisted that they be built of local quartzite. R. F. Pettigrew was a member of the first School Board in in 1873.

He was elected to the upper house of the legislature of and then was sent to the congress as a delegate for the territory. He was a member of the constitutional convention of 1883 and helped to frame a constitutional provision that was incorporated into the laws of the State of South Dakota.

South Dakota was admitted to the in 1889 and R. F. Pettigrew was elected United States Senator. Mr. Pettigrew was reelected to the United States Senate for a second term and became a distinguished leader in the Senate.

Pettigrew loved collecting things. He was a world traveler and amateur archaeologist. He opened his own museum in the back of his house in 1925 to showcase his collections.

Pettigrew left his home to the City of Sioux Falls in his will. The Pettigrew museum is designed to emulate how a person of Pettigrew’s stature would have lived at the turn of the century.

By naming the new school, R. F. Pettigrew Elementary, it will be bringing to life the historical beginnings of and as well as promoting the importance of education, leadership and service to others—all of which were characteristic of this man.