Gentleman of the Historical Society:
I do not know that I am expected to make a report of the doings of the Society for the past year, but I have concluded not only to do so, but to submit some suggestions and recommendations for the future.
Very little has been accomplished. At the very outset I was met with a question which the Society at the time of its organization overlooked, and the importance of which cannot be overestimated. It is the question of a safe place in which to keep the books, papers, and other contributions of the Society. In my judgment a room should be procured in the city of Pierre in some building nearly or quite fire proof, where all publications of other Societies, papers relating to the early history of Dakota and the Northwest, Indian relics and antiquities and other articles of value can be arranged for convenient examination and inspection. The Capitol building does not afford such facilities.
Sometime in the summer I addressed letters to the Historical Societies of most of the western states informing them of our organization and requesting the courtesy of contributions of their publications and any other books or articles of interest which they might be able to spare. Favorable responses were received from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.
The Society of the first mentioned state as well as Kansas and Nebraska at once forwarded a number of volumes of their publications. Iowa sent a list of its publications from which I was requested to make selections. The Librarian of the Historical Society of Minnesota informed me that he had a complete set of the publications [of] their Society consisting of five volumes, which were unbound but that he would have them bound for us and at the same time inquired if we had a safe place in which to keep them. He subsequently informed me that the volumes were bound and asked where they should be sent. I requested him to keep them for us until a proper place was provided at which time we would call for them.
I suggest that a committee be appointed with authority to provide a proper and secure room for the society and that this meeting adjourns to meet at some future time during the present session of the legislature, to receive and act upon the report of the Committee. This committee or some other one should be charged with the duty of providing necessary funds.
Either the Secretary or some suitable person should be placed in charge of the room.
I also recommend that the secretary be instructed to prepare a circular letter, which should not only be published in the newspapers, but sent to each person in the state as may be though proper, inviting contributions. No time should be lost in gathering together books, documents and other matters relating to the early history of the Territory of Dakota and of the present State. Files of newspapers should also be solicited. Implements and other articles of Indian manufacture should be secured now while they are plentiful. In a few years they cannot be obtained.
I have also thought that if some competent and careful person could be found in each county to write its history and have this manuscript filed with the society it would furnish invaluable information for the future historian of the State. Besides then manuscripts could be published by the newspapers in the respective counties and thus afford a mass of valuable and interesting information.
The society has not yet been incorporated. In my judgment it is not a matter of immediate and pressing necessity. Until a proper and secure place is obtained in which to keep the property of the Society it is useless to spend money to incorporate. It should not however be unnecessarily delayed.
It is with great regret that I announce to you the death of one of the vice presidents of the Society - the Hon. James S. Foster, who died at Mitchell on the 29th day of October, 1890 from the result of an accident.
Hon. Foster was one of the early settlers of the Territory. He came to Yankton in 1864 from the state of New York. He held many places of trust during his residence among us. He was greatly interested in educational matters, establishing one of the first schools in the territory and was for two years Superintendent of Public Instruction of the Territory. But it was in his work of securing immigration to this new country that be considered his greatest service to the public. In this labor extending over a period of more than a quarter of a century he was untiring. By writing books, papers and pamphlets and scattering them broadcast over the East by his lectures, conventions and personal interviews he induced thousands of people to make their homes among us. It can be safely said that during those long years of unceasing labor he induced more men to come to Dakota than any other one person.
He was a man of fine character, of genial ways and kindly heart. Among those who have labored for the settlement of this country and the upbuilding of its institutions, few if any name will shine brighter on the pages of South Dakota’s history than that of James S. Foster.
I wish the future of this Society that so auspiciously began, may in time take rank with those of the older States. The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, which was organized in 1848, has accumulated a library of 150,000 volumes ranking third in size and importance among the great historical libraries of the United States.
The Minnesota Historical Society, organized in 1849, now has the largest library in that state, containing over 30,000 volumes.
In addition to this, both state societies have fine museums containing mineralogical and geological specimens, Indian curiosities, articles of antiquity, etc.
With such examples before us of what can be accomplished, I trust we may have faith to go forward in our work, looking in confidence to the time when we too shall number our books by the thousands and be possessed of other articles of historical value second to none.
In conclusion, I desire to express my appreciation of the courtesy shown our society and the willingness expressed to aid us by the different librarians and secretaries with whom I have corresponded.
Geo. H. Hand
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