The following is an autobiography of Cassius Silas Amsden
July 2, 1938
CASSIUS SILAS AMSDEN
Was born at Janesville, Wisconsin, March 26, 1856, the son of Galen and Martha Brown Amsden. His father died August 10, 1856, and left the mother with four children at the age of twenty-eight years. The father having taken government land near what is now the city of Northfield, Minnesota, the mother decided to and did move with her two youngest children to the hoped-for home in October of the same year but when she got to the claim she found that the lumber that her husband had left on the land and had contracted to be used in the construction of a house had been stolen and there was no house to shelter her and the two babies so she accepted a position as housekeeper for Amos J. Kibbe, who was a widower with a family of grown children, whom she in due time married. This was the home in which the subject of this sketch grew to manhood on the banks of the Cannon River five miles northeast of Northfield.
From the age of six years to the age of twelve I attended the public school district #69 six months each year and from twelve to nineteen three months in the winter only. At past sixteen took the teachers examination before Philip Crowley, County Superintendent of Dakota County, Minnesota, and was granted a third grade certificate. At nineteen again passed the teachers examination before County Superintendent Ray of the same and county and received a second grade certificate. Entered Carleton College at Northfield in 1875 in the preparatory department and pursued the course one year. Taught in North Waterford part of a term but services were not acceptable so resigned with the Daniel Webster statement and promise that they would hear from me yet.
During the winter of 1877-78 I prepared to follow the advice of Horace Greeley so left home on the last day of April, 1878, for Dakota Territory and arrived in Grant County on May 12th with two yoke of oxen, accompanied by brother Lee, prepared to carve out a home for ourselves on the barren country inhabited only by Indians. When we took claim in Section 10, Township 119, Range 49 in Grant County it was at that time unorganized. We made our filings with Albert Morins at what is now Big Stone City, then Inkpa City, he having been appointed clerk of courts of Grant County by Territorial Judge Shannon. When the Land Office official found that the county was not organized and no one to approve Morin's bonds they refused to act upon the filing papers that he had sent in so it was necessary to petition the Territorial Governor at Yankton, which was then the capitol, to appoint a board of County Commissioners in order to have his bonds approved so our filings could be acted upon, which petition was circulated and we all signed the same and the petition was honored though I presume not more than five or six of the nearly one hundred names were legally authorized to sign same as nearly all of the rest of us had not been in the Territory thirty days. However, the county was organized by the appointment of a Board of Commissioners on June 17, 1878, now past the half-century mark.
We finally got our filing receipts and left for home on July 5 after having broken forty-five acres upon our claims and arrived at Northfield on the 18th of July and commenced work on the home farm the next morning at $20.00 per month in the haying and harvesting season. That winter I taught school for four months at $26.00 per month and worked for my board and in the time that elapsed between July 18th and the first of the next April I saved $200.00 which was our cash assets to build a home in the new country. While we were back to the old home again in the winter of 1879 and upon our return to Grant County we found that Grant Center people had secured the organization of a school district, taking their land upon the north right up to our doors and leaving us out, which made our neighbors very much peeved. So we suggested that we petition for the establishment of the school district in the form of an "L", which would place the school house centrally where Madison No. 2 now stands. The neighbors agreed and we prepared a petition, took it to the County Superintendent and the petition was granted, though the school house was not built until May, 1882. I was one of the first school officers of this district, which was No. 14. We finally went under the Township district system and I served for fifteen years upon the board following this change.
On January 5, 1881, I was married to Lois L. Morton at Montevideo, Minnesota. About one year later the dear girl was stricken with tuberculosis and on the 22nd day of June, 1882, she passed to the Great Beyond, leaving me with twin babies, one of whom followed her mother August 21, 1897. Having the two babies to care for, whom I was anxious to keep together and, realizing that they needed a mother's hand and care, I sought and won a former dear friend who was a widow, in the person of Julia A. Mattison Smith, and we were married on July 3, 1884, and fortunately no mother ever bestowed upon her own offspring more affection and love than did she upon these little ones.
In November 1884 I was elected county Superintendent of Schools for Grant County and held the office for four years, after which I returned to the farm, teaching school in Grant Center and Madison winters. In 1904, I was elected from the 31st Senatorial District to the State Senate, elected again in 1908 and re-elected each succeeding biennium up to and including 1926, serving in that capacity for twenty-two years. In 1903 was elected as a member of the board of directors of the Stockholm Mutual Fire Insurance Association and was made secretary and continue to hold the same position (1928).
The above, together with the holding of township offices and other minor offices gives some of my career since I first saw the light of day more than 72 years ago.
Additional Notes taken from press clippings
During the terms as County Superintendent of Schools he established more than one half of the rural schools of Grant County.
Service in the South Dakota Legislature to date (1935) includes a total of 22 years as senator and 4 years as representative. He was president pro tem of the Senate for 7 successive terms beginning in 1915. Each year he received a beautiful gift as recognition of esteem from the members of the Senate. In 1931 he was speaker pro tem of the House.
In 1915 he was a decided influence in helping pass the Women's Suffrage bill.
On Nov. 6, 1934, he celebrated the fiftieth election anniversary. In November 1884 he was elected County Superintendent of Schools, his first entry into political activity.
The South Dakota Senate of 1927 named the new baby of Senator Whitney "William Amsden" in honor of C.S. Amsden.
Received life membership in South Dakota Library Association in recognition of his work in the Senate on behalf of legislation for public libraries.
Hon. Pierce Butler, Justice of U.S. Supreme Court, was a pupil of C.S. Amsden in the old Lewiston School near Northfield, 1878-79.
Granted a Certificate of Honor in recognition of service as chairman of the Four-Minute-Men of the committee on public information for Grant County during the World War, 1917-1918.
Appointed permanent chairman of NRA Board in 1934.
Purchased first stamp and posted first letter from new post office in Milbank, July 16, 1932.
Quoted from a Grant County paper in 1911: "Senator Amsden is built on the square and a square deal to him is as natural as water is to a duck. He practices the Golden Rule in all the affairs of life and counts the number of his friends by his acquaintances".
--Notes compiled by Averil Amsden-Ross (1935)
Compiled by Averil Amsden-Ross
The Honorable C.S. Amsden lived to celebrate his eighty-seventh birthday on March 26th in a GRAND manner. Four members of each branch of the legislature were appointed to confer with local people in Milbank. A fine banquet was served and Lieutenant Governor Al Miller was the principal speaker. Mr. Amsden died the following August 6, 1943.
After the first notes were written, he served two more terms or four more years in the House. One of these terms he was Sergeant at Arms. The last year of public service was in 1941-42 when he served as a representative from Grant County.
During the 1936 term he was the ablest representative of the group. He did not run in 1938 but was called to Pierre and given a place in the Capitol where he could be easily reached for advice.
Mr. Amsden was a Mason for forty years and a Grand Trustee of the Grand Lodge of the Knights of Pythias for South Dakota for a period of twelve years.
When plans were being made for the funeral, friends said to the family "remember when you are planning that Mr. Amsden does not belong entirely to you but to the public". So the services were held in the Municipal Auditorium. Many public officials from various parts of South Dakota were there.
From "Legislative High Lights" of January 20, 1945, this fitting tribute was taken: "A resolution in memory of the late C.S. Amsden Grant County pioneer and for thirty years a South Dakota law maker was adopted by the Senate Friday p.m. -------- Amsden was honored as a public servant of high ability and integrity."
Mr. Amsden served in the legislature from 1904 through 1942 with the exception of three terms (6 years) making a total of 32 years.