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Orlando T. Grattan


Posted By: Lyn Lysne - IAGenWeb volunteer
Date: 9/23/2013 at 17:32:22

ORLANDO T. GRATTAN was born in Mount Carroll, Carroll county, Illinois, on the 8th of May, 1853, being a son of H. G. and Phoebe (Tisdell) Grattan, the former of whom was born in Connecticut. The paternal grandfather of the subject was Amos Grattan, who was a blacksmith by trade and who came of stanch old New England stock. As a young man H. G. Grattan learned the printer’s trade, becoming one of the pioneer newspaper men of Illinois, and having been identified with the publication of papers at Mount Carroll, Freeport and Sterling. He later became general agent for the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, and finally removed to Waukon, Allamakee county, Iowa, where he died in 1896, his wife having passed away in 1866, at Sterling, Illinois.

The subject attended the schools of Sterling, Illinois, until he had attained the age of thirteen years, and then accompanied his father on his removal to Waukon, Iowa, where he worked on his father’s farm until he had attained the age of eighteen years, in the meantime attending school as opportunity afforded. He then entered the employ of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company as traveling salesman, and was thus engaged about seven years.

In December, 1880, he came to Elkton, South Dakota, and here engaged in the hardware business, beginning operations with a capital of only two hundred dollars of his own. Upon coming to the state it was his intention to locate in Pierre, but at Tracy he met a traveling salesman for the house of Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Company, of Chicago, who advised him to look over the field at Elkton, which was then known as Ivanhoe. He arrived in the embryonic village at ten o’clock at night, and his first impression could not have been very favorable, for he found entertainment, so-called, in the only hotel, which was connected with the local blacksmith shop. The interior was not plastered, and the second story had a floor of loose boards, while the roof was of most flimsy construction. There were five beds in the room which was assigned to him and during the early days of his sojourn in the town blizzards raged every day, while he states that the snow was drifted so deep in some places that one might, if desired, sit on top of the telegraph poles and view the prospect o’er. This memorable winter of 1880, was one of the worst ever experienced since the settlement of this section but the subject was not dismayed by the outlook and determined to establish a business here. About the middle of January he began the erection of his two-story “business block,” the same being a most primitive structure. He secured a portion of the lumber from Flandreau, eighteen miles distant, and the remainder from Lake Benton. Twice within that winter he made his way on foot to and from Flandreau, and when the roof was placed on his building those engaged in shingling the same could walk about on the snow drifts and prosecute their work, though the building was of two stories. On the 15th of April, 1881, Mr. Grattan equipped himself with snow-shoes on which he started for Gary, thirty-five miles distant, to meet a friend. The journey required two days. The first night he stopped at the home of Henry Kienast, ten miles out, and there found that the only supply of food was that secured by grinding wheat in an ordinary coffee-mill and then baking the same into bread. He finally had to hire a team to take him to his destination, having become snow-blind, so that it was unsafe for him to continue alone.

He then returned to Waukon, Iowa, where his wife and two children had remained in the meanwhile, and as soon as the railroad was opened in the spring, he brought his family to the new home, and for the first week after their arrival they slept on improvised beds laid on the floor of the local railway station, a small and crude building. Thereafter the family resided in the rooms over the store for seven years, when they took possession of the present attractive and commodious modern residence, which is valued at about five thousand dollars, and which is one of the best in the town.

During the first years of business in Elkton, Mr. Grattan made expenses and cleared sixteen dollars, and from his nucleus he has built up his present extensive and flourishing enterprise and has gained precedence as one of the leading business men and capitalists of the town. In 1897 his place of business was destroyed by fire, entailing a loss of four thousand dollars, but he promptly erected his present substantial brick and stone block, of two stories, which is one of the best in the town, being valued at ten thousand dollars, while his stock of hardware reaches a valuation of four thousand dollars. He formerly handled farm machinery, but has now dropped this branch of his enterprise. He controls a large and representative trade, and in addition to his hardware business does a large loan and insurance business.

In politics he supported the Republican party until 1896, when he became convinced of the legitimacy of the financial policy adopted by the Democratic party in its platform, and showed the courage of his convictions by transferring his allegiance to the latter, whose principles he has since advocated. He is not formally identified with any religious organization, but gives his support to the Baptist church, of which his wife is a devoted member. He is identified with the lodge and chapter of the Masonic fraternity in Elkton, with the commandery of Knights Templar at Brookings, and with the temple of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine at Sioux Falls.

On the 18th of May, 1874, Mr. Grattan was united in marriage to Miss Eva Hersey, who was born and reared in Waukon, Iowa, being a daughter of Adaniram J. and Mary (Reed) Hersey, who came to that state from Massachusetts. Mr. and Mrs. Grattan have three children, concerning whom we offer the following data: Paul H., who was graduated in the South Dakota State Agricultural College in 1896, and in the law department of the Iowa State University in 1899, is now a traveling salesman; Ray J. is associated with his father in the conducting of the store; and Edna G., who is now prosecuting her musical studies in the city of Buffalo, New York, where she will complete a two-years course in 1903, was previously a student in the Francis Shirmer Musical Academy of the University of Chicago, and is a specially skilled pianist, having gained a high reputation in Buffalo, where she is now studying.

~source: “History of South Dakota, Together with Personal Mention of Citizens of South Dakota”, by Deane Robinson, Vol 2, 1904; pgs 1607-1608

~transcribed by Lyn Lysne for Allamakee co. IAGenWeb


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