Friday, October 21, 2016

The Mysterious Lives of Freide, William and Henry, Part II

Huron, South Dakota.  About 1915

Our story left off in Part 1 in 1887-88, when Freide and her children moved from their homestead in Beadle County, Dakota Territory, into the nearby town of Huron.  One source claims she moved to the current site of the Marvin Hughitt Hotel building, and later moved to 319 3rd St. SW.  Her home initially served as her office as well.  In 1894, she married Henry A. Van Dalsem, a local publisher.

Just who was Henry Van Dalsem, and how did he come to be in Huron, South Dakota?

Henry was born in New York in 1842.  He married Sarah Lindley Thomas, and at age 20, he enlisted for service during the Civil War, in Albany*.  From 1873-74, he served as a Congregational Church minister in Hamden, Connecticut; in 1880 he was an editor in Fairfield,  and shortly afterward returned to the ministry in Pomfret, Vermont until 1887.  The Van Dalsems, like the Feiges, had eight children in all.  By 1890, he had moved to Bloomer, Wisconsin.  Since his wife and children appear in Wisconsin (sans Henry) in 1900, they are probably with him at this time as well.** For whatever reason, the Van Dalsems were divorced, and it appears that Henry left them behind when he came to South Dakota.

Henry Van Dalsem was in Huron by 1892, working as a partner in the Van Dalsem and White publishing firm, and married Freide Feige two years later.

Van Dalsem and White publishing house may have faced an uphill battle from the beginning.  This era of newspaper and publishing work appears to have been a rough one for anyone trying to be successful in these vocations.  What little reading I have done on the subject suggests that newspapers were commonly used as pawns in political fights, and editors needed to write editorials that backed the groups that kept them financially afloat, whether or not they were personally in agreement.  A newspaper article in the Daily Plainsman (Huron) reprints an article from the Redfield (South Dakota) Journal-Observer, and points out that Huron is never without drama regarding its newspapers. 

                “First, one of its leading newspapers suspends publication, or rather, is absorbed by another.  Then one of its leading and foremost citizens, the whilom publisher of the defunct Journal, Ham. Kerr, is reported as skipping out under suspicious circumstances.  Now comes a tale of a first-class row in a publishing firm of Van Dalsem and White – the former being remembered as a member of the pop convention here two years ago – wherein Van Dalsem is charged with looting the office at night.  Verily, ye Huron citizen is on the move, in both senses of the word.”

Around the time of his business’s demise, he married Dr. Feige.  Over the next 20 years, he had various occupations including notary, working for an employment agency, an account collector, and interestingly, considering his previous looting charge, a judge.  But his real passion and calling appears to have been writing.  He wrote editorials for “The Ruralist,” created writings for a fraternal organization, and authored scholarly addresses for a variety of organizations.  And after his death, his widow published a well-respected volume of his poetry and prose.

Henry passed away on December 1, 1913, and left instruction with his wife and friends regarding his wishes.  One of them, ironically, illustrates his apparent disdain for organized religion.

“Fourth – Let no so-called ‘sermon’ be preached over me.  No perfunctory encomiums nor condolences fit either them or me who are in actual interest.  No pulpiteer knows them or me, nor aught of the world and condition to which I go, wherefore his conventional ministerial flatteries must be as idle in death as they have always been distasteful to me in life.”

Dr. Freide Feige Van Dalsem

Dr. Freide Feige Van Dalsem was a pioneer in many respects, and it’s hard to imagine anyone working harder than she.  As a physician, she called on sick and injured patients day and night, both in town and miles away from town in every direction, including the town of Highmore, nearly 70 miles away.  Most of her early travel was done on horseback.  She performed services for Beadle County, in 1907 being paid by them for attending to 25 births and one death, a total of $6.50, or in today's labor value, about $1,150.*  The county certainly got their money's worth out of Dr. Freide.

Freide was one of ten physicians in Huron, and the only female.  By 1930, as her practice was winding down, there were more physicians but she was still the only woman in the ranks. 

Over the years she kept busy, and birth announcements involving her were numerous.  One very long and tiring day in 1909 she delivered three Huron infants –

“At 6 a.m., December 5, a daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Bandy of Simmons avenue.  At 10:40 a.m., the birth of a daughter took place at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Oreline on Beach street and at 6:20 p.m., Mr. and Mrs. E. R. Adams welcomed a new born daughter to the circle of their family.  Dr. Frieda [sic] Van Dalsem helped all three of the little ladies to a safe arrival.”

But she was hardly a glorified midwife.  Newspaper accounts record her involvement as attending physician in everything from accidents, farm mishaps, and even a prominent family with diphtheria.
One of the last newspaper accounts of her medical practice was in 1931 when she attended to the birth of yet another young Huron citizen.  At that time she was 84 years old.

Besides tending to the sick and injured, she was a frequent speaker for many groups on various topics.  She herself was involved with the Homeopathic Medical Association, the National League of Women Voters, her local Presbyterian church, Eastern Star, the Rebekahs, and the Relief Corps.

She was also a landlord, owning “considerable property” including at least two homes, one garage she rented out, and the land she had homesteaded with her husband, Rev. William Feige.

After the death of her second husband, one of her sons and his wife made their home with Dr. Van Dalsem at 1219 3rd St. SW.  This son, along with another son and Freide all died within the same year, 1937.

The graves of Henry and Dr. Freide Van Dalsem, Riverside Cemetery, Huron, South Dakota
Photo courtesy of Brenda Behlke

Notwithstanding a complicated personal situation, Dr. Van Dalsem made a huge contribution to the burgeoning town of Huron and its residents, and was an inspiring example to women who desired uncommon roles in life. 

But still the question remains – What happened to William Feige?   Part 3

*Interestingly, William and Freide Feige were in Albany at this same time, where William also enlisted, and where he also pursued ministerial opportunities, but I found no indication of whether or not they knew each other.  
**The 1890 Veterans Schedule does not list anyone other than the veteran himself. 

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