Albert Galatin Seney

In all cities, unexpected tragedies occur without warning. In large cities, they often go unnoticed or if noted are quickly forgotten given the pace of life in the present world. This was not the case in Sioux Falls in 1887 when the population was about 10,000 persons. It was in this year a tragedy occurred that was remembered long after the fact, particularly since it involved a child. That child was Albert Gallatin Seney, a boy of four years of age, son of Augustus Seney.

By 1887 the Seney name was well established and prominent in the development of early Sioux Falls. It was George Seney, the New Jersey capitalist who was solicited by Richard Pettigrew to finance the building of the Queen Bee Mill, the remnants of which are still visible in Falls Park. The final cost of the Mill which opened in 1881 was about $500,000. The island which existed amid the river at that time, a favorite place to picnic and relax was even renamed Seney Island in his honor. The Seney family was also connected with the Wemple family. Dr. Daniel Wemple, the boys' uncle, who died at the age of 27 was buried in a Lot of ten spaces in Mt. Pleasant in 1883 along with other members of the family.

It is within this context of early Sioux Falls connections that the event leading to the boy’s demise occurred. The local paper first reported the event in the “News of the Day” on March 30, 1887:

A Young Son of A. G. Seney Fearfully Lacerated by a Newfoundland Dog this Morning

” A very serious accident occured at the residence of A. G. Seney at 10:30 o’clock this morning. The little four year old boy of Mr. Seney was playing in the yard with a very large Newfoundland dog, when the animal for some reason became fearfully enraged, leaped upon the little fellow, tore one of his cheeks from the eye to the jaw bone and inflicted a frightful wound on both upper and lower lips. The screams of the child brought assistance and the animal, almost wild with rage, was beaten off. Mrs. Seney ordered a man who came to the rescue to shot the dog immediately. This was done. Drs. Olney and LeBlond were sent for and the wounds of the little sufferer were dressed. Dr. LeBlond, who had practised for years, says he never saw a worse wound caused by a dog. The child is in fact in a very serious condition and it is impossible to estimate the extent or serious nature of the injuries received”.

It is certain news of this event went through the town in a matter of hours. Neighbors and friends descended on the Seney household in sympathy and support. One can only imagine the anguish on the part of the parents with their son in such a precarious and desperate condition. The uncertainty was to last but two days. The Paper reported the death of the boy on Friday, April 1st:

“Died — At 4 o’clock a, m. April 1, 1887, Albert Gallatin Seney, aged 4 years and 3 months. No announcement as to funeral. The hundreds of friends of Mr. and Mrs. Seney will feel with them deeply in the loss of their bright little boy. Little Albert was just at the age of promise and his sudden death takes for this reason an air of peculiar sadness. Telegrams were sent this morning to Thomas Rushmore, Mrs. G. I. Seney and Mrs. Martha L. Wemple all of New York City and the arrangements for the funeral will be deferred until these and other relatives are heard from”.

Cemetery records indicate the funeral took place on Tuesday, April 5th. It was attended by a large segment of the Sioux Falls population and remembered for years after the event. The boy was buried on the Wemple Family Lot in a grave that has remained unmarked for whatever reason until this day. We here at Mt. Pleasant have decided it has been far too long and a small marker has been purchased by the Cemetery and will be set permanently this spring so that this little boy’s name, so long forgotten, will once again be returned to the world in which he lived.

P.S. In setting the new marker the remains of a monument foundation and a few pieces of stone were found beneath the ground indicating the grave had originally been marked.

Albert is buried in the Wemple family spaces in Block 14 – Lot 9 of the Cemetery.