Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Orator Henry LaCraft (1850-1940)


  This obscure South Dakota resident is one Orator Henry LaCraft, listed by most historical resources by the initials "O.H." During his long life, LaCraft was regarded as one of Clark County's most influential citizens, and gained his notoriety through a variety of public endeavors, including town postmaster, rancher, farmer, teacher and state senator. Very few sources exist that mention Mr. LaCraft at great length, with the exception going to Doane Robinson's "History of South Dakota, Volume II" which was published in 1904. The majority of the facts on today's "honoree" were found in the aforementioned work, and within its pages are numerous biographies on other notable South Dakota residents who lived in the latter part of the 19th century.
  Orator LaCraft was originally born in Farmington, Wisconsin on August 13, 1850. His parents were natives of the Ashtabula, Ohio area and resettled in Wisconsin a few years before his birth. He attended schools local to the Washington County, Wisconsin area and after reaching adolescence moved to the town of Sheboygan. It was here that he began a decade long career as a farmer, while also pursuing a teaching career during "the winter months." In April 1873 he married Charlotte Haviland, and the couple were married ten years before her death on July 17, 1883. They also had one son, Oscar Merton LaCraft, who died at age 20 in 1898.
  In 1883, LaCraft removed to South Dakota, and eventually settled in Clark County. Within a few years of his relocation, he built up a prosperous general merchandise store, which he ran until 1891. Orator LaCraft remarried in 1885 to Ms. Clara Smith, and the couple had five children: Walter (born 1886), Delmar (died at age 3 in 1892), Osmer (born 1893), Lynn (born 1897) and Irma (born 1897). In addition to having a large family, he was also the owner and operator of a 320 acre ranch in Clark County for many years.
  Throughout the 1890s, LaCraft involved himself with public offices in his native county, beginning with his stint as assistant postmaster of Clark County in 1891. He later served as a member of the Clark School Board (including four years as its president) and also as a justice of the peace. LaCraft was also active in local fraternal organizations, including the Knights of Pythias, the Ancient Order of United Workmen, and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
  In 1900, Orator H. LaCraft won election as a Republican to the South Dakota State Senate, representing his native county of Clark. He served in the senate until 1904 and after leaving office, virtually nothing is known of his life.  LaCraft died at age 89 on July 25, 1940 and his wife Clara predeceased him by one year. The graves of the LaCraft family are located in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Clark County and the portrait of him shown above was discovered in the 1903 South Dakota Legislative Manual, which has proven to be another great repository for both names and pictures!

1 comment:

  1. HEY! When will Othniel Looker or Peter Dinwiddie Wigginton get some love and affection? No one looked or wigged better than those two!

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