Biography of Thomas Dignan

Thomas Dignan, born June 12, 1846, in County Cavan, Ireland, emigrated to America with his family in 1849, settling first in Ohio, then in Winneshiek County, Iowa, in 1853. His father, Michael, became a successful pioneer farmer there. In 1884, Thomas moved to Faulk County, South Dakota, establishing a 400-acre ranch and a 6,000-acre grazing range. He specialized in high-grade Hereford cattle, hogs, and Percheron horses. Thomas was an active Republican, serving on the township board. On July 4, 1874, he married Catherine Hand, with whom he had five children: George (missing since 1901), Edward M., Loretta, Alice, and Cleophas.

Thomas Dignan.—The fair old Emerald Isle figures as the place of Mr. Dignan’s nativity, since he was born in County Cavan, Ireland, on the 12th of June, 1846, being a son of Michael and Ann Dignan, both scions of staunch old Irish stock. In 1849, when our subject was a child of about three years, they immigrated to America and located in Richland County, Ohio, whence, three years later, they started for Iowa, arriving in Winneshiek County, that state, in August, 1853, where the father took up government land and became one of the pioneer farmers of the Hawkeye Commonwealth. He was prospered in his efforts as the years passed, and continued his residence there until 1885, when he disposed of his farm and came to South Dakota, locating in Faulk County, where he was identified with farming and stock growing until his death, which occurred in March, 1893, while his wife died in September of the same year. Michael Dignan had been engaged in dealing in livestock in Ireland prior to his emigration to America, and was an excellent judge in the line, while he was a man of energy and sterling integrity of character. He was a Democrat in politics and both he and his wife were communicants of the Catholic Church. Of their eleven children, six are living, and of the number, two are residents of South Dakota.

Thomas Dignan, whose name introduces this sketch, was the second child and was reared to maturity on the home farm in Iowa, while his educational advantages were those afforded by the public schools. In 1874, at the age of eighteen years, he left the home farm and initiated his independent career, engaging in farming and stock raising on his own account, in Winneshiek County, Iowa, where he remained until 1884, when he closed out his interests there and came as a pioneer to Faulk County, South Dakota, where he now has a finely improved ranch of four hundred acres of most arable land, all of which is under cultivation and devoted mainly to the propagation of wheat, barley, pulse, corn, and millet, in each of which lines he secures large returns for the time and labor expended, being known as one of the progressive and thoroughly scientific farmers of this section. In addition to the agricultural farm, he also has a magnificent range of six thousand acres under fence, which is utilized for the grazing of his large herds of stock. He raises high-grade Hereford cattle, breeding from registered stock, and running an average of from five hundred to one thousand head. He also raises large numbers of hogs and is convinced that no section of the Union offers better advantages for successful enterprise in this line, as the swine attain large and vigorous growth, while he has never known of any disease prevailing in any herd in this section. On his fine ranch are also found the finest specimens of Percheron horses, of which he usually has a large herd, while he also has raised some very superior driving and coach horses. In the spring of 1903, he sold a magnificent Percheron stallion for thirteen hundred and fifty dollars, the animal weighing two thousand and forty pounds. Mr. Dignan has attained a high degree of success in South Dakota and is an enthusiastic admirer of the state and a firm believer in the still more magnificent future in store for the same, while he is a representative citizen of Faulk County, public-spirited and enterprising, and held in the highest esteem by all who know him. On his beautiful ranch, he has erected a substantial and commodious residence and other buildings ample for the proper care of livestock, farm produce, machinery, etc. In politics, he accords a staunch allegiance to the Republican Party, and at the time of this writing, he is serving as a member of the board of township trustees.

On the 4th of July, 1874, were spoken the words which united the life destinies of Mr. Dignan and Miss Catherine Hand, who was born and reared in Allamakee County, Iowa, being a daughter of Michael Hand, of whom individual mention is made on another page of this work, so that a repetition of the genealogical data is not demanded in this connection. Of this union have been born five children, concerning the fate of the eldest of whom, George, a most pitiful uncertainty exists, a source of unremitting grief to his parents. George was a young man of sterling character and correct habits, and in the fall of 1901 went to Chicago for the purpose of selling a shipment of stock from the home ranch. That he had started on the return trip is assured, since on the 1st of October he sent his father a telegram from Sioux City, Iowa, and from that time forward all trace of him has been lost, it being supposed that he met with a violent or accidental death. The disappearance causes a feeling of unqualified grief and sympathy in the community in which he was so well known and well liked. The other children remain at the parental home, their names, in order of birth, being as follows: Edward M., Loretta, Alice, and Cleophas.


Robinson, Doane, History of South Dakota: together with mention of Citizens of South Dakota, [Logansport? IN] : B. F. Bowen, 1904.

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