Richard F. Pettigrew first came to Dakota Territory in the
summer of 1869 as the head of a land survey crew. After
attending law school in Wisconsin, he returned to Sioux Falls
in 1870 and established his home here. He was active in
political affairs and was elected a territorial delegate to
Congress in 1880. He was influential in promoting statehood
for South Dakota. When South Dakota became the 40th
state in 1889 he was one of the state’s first two senators.
After serving two terms in the senate he returned to
Sioux Falls to practice law and to pursue his interests in
political and civic affairs.
Pettigrew’s involvement as as officer of the Rosehill
Cemetery Association in New York City sparked his interest
in establishing a cemetery in the growing city of Sioux Falls.
When a 70 acre tract of land in the outlying southeast corner
of the city was offered for sale, he bought it with the
express purpose of using it for a cemetery. He paid the $8,750 purchase price from his personal funds. The entire amount, plus interest, was repaid to him as the cemetery association’s funds slowly accumulated. In the winter of 1922, an adjacent 10 acres were purchased from a private owner. These 80 acres, bounded on the north by 26th Street, on the south by 33rd Street, on the east by Cliff Avenue and on the west by residential lots fronting on 7th Avenue constitute all of Woodlawn Cemetery. More than half the area has been plotted and sold; the southern section will be used for future expansion.
By November 1911, 82 family lots and 26 single grave spaces had been sold. During those early years charges were figured at $.30 per square foot of space. Grave spaces were furnished free of charge to the South Dakota Children’s Home; thirteen had been used by the year 1911.
In the decade 1910 - 1920 the cemetery’s assets were growing rapidly, a fact attested to by the minutes of 1918 authorizing the secretary to rent a safety deposit box for bonds, mortgages and securities. A separate account for Perpetual Care was established, and the Board of Directors wisely predicted that lot prices would need to be increased within five years.
The year 1926 marked the death of the chief developer of Woodlawn Cemetery, Richard F. Pettigrew. He had remained active in all aspects of the cemetery’s management and growth from its very beginning. The beautiful arch at the 26th Street entrance, made of stones from the petrified forests of Arizona, is one of his great achievements and will remain a lasting tribute to this energetic man.
For some time it had been thought desirable to have a more distinctive entrance to the cemetery. A June, 1932 Board decision resulted in the purchase from Jasper Granite Company of Jasper, MN, of two stone piers 3’ x 3’ x 8’ and six stone piers 2 ½’ x 2 ½’ x 6’. One large and two smaller piers were placed on either side of the 26th Street entrance. The two remaining piers were placed at the south entrance off 33rd Street.