Archive for March, 2019

passion-1In honor of National Library Week (April 7-13, 2019), I present Passion in the Library: An Apocalyptic Comedy in Flames and Shadows. The play “is a multimedia drama revealing a new emotional perspective on the human confrontation with human knowledge …” The script is located in the George Prescott Scott papers in the Archives and Special Collections. Scott wrote the play, and constructed a complex projection device he called the Crystalline Flame Dragon. Janet Pfishchner McNeil wrote the musical score. A performance of the play was taped and shown on SDPTV (now SDPB) Thursday December 6, 1973 at 9:30 pm.

I so want to see this play. They had me at dragon. If anyone know where I can find a tape, let me know.

Information from the George Prescott Scott papers, Richardson Collection, Archives and Special Collections, The University of South Dakota.


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The Archives and Special Collections recently received the book Rediscovery the Barns of Clay County, South Dakota by the Clay County Historic Preservation Commission.

Members of the community, under the leadership of Jim Stone, investigated and recorded approximately 350 barns in Clay County. Most of the book consist of Historic Sites Survey Structure forms, which describe each barn with photographs, sketches, maps, histories, and more.

The book is full of local history, such as:

“With his basement walls up he used a sled and a team of oxen or horses to harvest timber in Nebraska Territory. This timber was cut and hauled back across the ice on the Missouri River in the winter” (page 744).

“Huge limestone blocks under the granaries on the West side in original barn. Limestone blocks were extra’s from the Court House construction, in 1912” (page 1450).

“This was a very large operation. Immigrants and young farmers could always get a job on the Lee ranch to build a nest egg before they started farming on their own. … Oral history states that they had 76 teams of workhorses at one time” (page 2601).

“Lodi church remodeled into a barn” (page 2644).

Copies of the book can also be found on the Clay County Historic Preservation Commission’s web site, local public libraries, museum, and historical society.



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Betty Turner Asher was the first woman president of any public higher education system in South Dakota. She served at USD from 1989-1996, resigning after seven years of service. At the time, her tenure was tied with two other presidents for the fourth longest term of any president at USD. Asher was previously the Vice President of Student Affairs for Arizona State University, and held three degrees: a bachelor’s in history, a master’s in counseling, and a doctorate in education.

Asher’s accomplishments while at USD are many, and some are listed here. Under President Asher:

-USD approved and began additions to the I.D. Weeks library

-Renovation was approved for the oldest building on campus, Old Main

-Construction was completed on the Health Sciences Center in Sioux Falls

-Funds were dedicated to expand the Lommen Health Sciences Library

-Enrollment hit a record high of 7,739 in 1989

-A record 1,118 degrees were conferred in May 1995

-USD Law rose to the top half of rankings in accredited institutions by the American Bar Association

-USD ranked in the top 5% of the nation’s colleges and universities, as reported by US News and World Report

-Psychology, Nursing, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Administrative Studies, Counseling, Physician’s Assistant are just some of the programs that were added or experienced growth under her leadership

Asher was known to students and faculty for her open door policy, and made leaps and bounds in improving diversity at USD. In an interview with the South Dakotan in July 1996, she states: “But I am happy that our gay and lesbian students are comfortable enough to meet openly as a group…I have received all kinds of letters and notes from the Native American community. I have been deeply touched by their response.” Asher goes on to speak about how the students and faculty make USD a success, and that she appreciated the close relationships she had with USD and its faculty and students. She recalled students coming up to her home and inviting her to join them downtown, and said that USD is where she never woke up in the morning and did not want to go to work.

Asher is the first in a short list of female leadership at South Dakota public universities. Only seven women have served as university presidents in South Dakota since Asher’s term. They are:

Peggy Gordon-Miller, South Dakota State University, 1998-2006

Kay Schallenkamp, Black Hills State University, 2006-2015

Laurie S. Nichols (interim), Northern State University, 2008-2009

Heather Ann Wilson, South Dakota School of Mines, 2013-2017

Maria Ramos (interim), Dakota State University, 2014-2015

Jose-Marie Griffiths, Dakota State University, 2015-Present

Sheila K. Gestring, University of South Dakota, 2018-Present

Betty Turner Asher’s papers are held at the Archives and Special Collections at USD.


Betty Turner Asher, from USD’s Past President’s website, sourced below


South Dakotan, July 1996 Issue

Karl Mundt Library, Dakota State University






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Some of South Dakota first ladies (i.e. governors’ wives) are described in the Tidbits sections of the South Dakota governors residence cookbook: a culinary legacy celebrating the first families of South Dakota, 2007.

Margaret Wylie Mellette “was a china painter and portrait painter and was the hostess at the South Dakota Building at the 1893 Columbia Exhibition in Chicago.”

“Annie Chappelle Lee was active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and wore the little hatchet pin of the WCTU on her inaugural gown.”

“Vera Cahalan Bushfield was appointed to the U.S. Senate to complete her husband’s term after his death in 1948.”

“Gertrude Bertelsen Gunderson was a poet of renown and served as co-editor and president of a magazine of poems, Pasque Petals.”

“Lorena McLain Berry had a love for music and published several pieces of music she composed.”

“Emilie Beaver Byrne was a Christian Scientist and wrote a novel with a religious theme, The Song Beneath the Keys and she also wrote poetry sharing her innermost thought.”

“Harriet Russell McMaster was partial to outdoor sports. She was an expert tennis player, liked to boat, and participated in skating and coasting in the winter.”

“Madge Ellen Turner Mickelson was an accomplished athlete at Aberdeen Normal, now Northern State University. She lettered in five sports. She also won the National Javelin Throwing Championship.”

“Lorna Buntrock Herseth is the only First Lady elected to a statewide office. She served as Secretary of State from 1972-1978.”

This is one of the many cookbooks in the Chilson Collection. I wasn’t expecting to find information about South Dakota’s first ladies or the history of the governors’ homes in this book. What a pleasant surprise, recipes and history.


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