“I call the city ‘my child,’ for I feel that I mothered it from the beginning. I am sure no one cared more for it than I did, nor prayed more earnestly that it might grow in all ways that were good.” ~ Hattie Phillips
Life on the prairie was tough! If you don’t believe me read a few chapters out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel! Now imagine going through all of that as a widow with seven children! That is exactly what Sioux Falls Mother Hattie Phillips did.
We’ve spoken a lot about great men in Sioux Falls History. From our blog post on the Top Sioux Falls Politicians, to our in-depth interview with Mayor Mike Huether! What better time chance, than Mother’s Day, to highlight a women so instrumental in our cities upbringing – and also a leading voice in creating the family friendly and fun atmosphere that we all enjoy today! Today, on Mother’s Day, we salute a Sioux Falls Mother – Hattie Phillips!
Sioux Falls Backstory
Mrs. Phillips moved to Sioux Falls in 1870 meeting her husband, Josiah Phillips, who had already been here for about a year. Josiah Phillips was a trained surgeon and Sioux Falls’ first doctor. He had served as an Army Surgeon accompany William Tecumseh Sherman’s soldiers in their famed “March to the Sea.” Phillips bought the old Officer’s Quarters building from the decommissioned Fort Dakota that had occupied Sioux Falls first city site, and turned it into a home for himself and his wife.
Josiah rarely practiced medicine in Sioux Falls, preferring to pursue his new trade as a land surveyor and taking on responsibilities as a newly elected trustee of the city of Sioux Falls. The Phillips family purchased the bluff overlooking the sioux river valley, the top of the hill immediately west of modern day Downtown Sioux Falls. In 1882 Josiah suddenly became ill and died, leaving behind Hattie Phillips (pregnant with their seventh child), six children, and a large real estate holding.
Sioux Falls Mother
Mrs. Phillips didn’t skip a beat. You don’t become the “Sioux Falls Mother,” by retiring to quiet existence! She plunged head first into raising her children and overseeing Sioux Falls civic affairs. She was instrumental in establishing the first Sunday school, named Pioneer Union Sunday School, organizing the first city temperance society, creating the first Women’s Benevolent Association, the Children’s Home Society, and the Women’s History Club, as well as opening a local chapter of the YMCA. Hattie would oversee the construction of the Phillip’s Mansion on top of the bluff her husband had acquired so many years earlier. Only after her children had grown older did Hattie leave her beloved city and retire to warmer climates.
Hattie Phillips would declare later in life, “I call the city ‘my child,’ for I feel that I mothered it from the beginning. I am sure no one cared more for it than I did, nor prayed more earnestly that it might grow in all ways that were good.” She truly qualifies as the Sioux Falls Mother!
Still A Sioux Falls Mother, Long After She Was Gone!
Even after her passing Mrs. Phillips’ work continued to go on in making our city a fantastic place to live, much of her property was converted to places of family fun and recreation. Her home housed the first zoo in Sioux Falls, Covel Lake, Terrace Park, and Japanese Gardens are all located on what once was Phillips’ property. Surely our city is lucky to have such an esteemed and dignified woman to call “The Mother of Sioux Falls!”