September 2020

Falls of the Big Sioux Painting

Falls of the Big Sioux Painting

This painting of the Falls of the Big Sioux River was donated to the museums in 1983 by the family of William and Winona Axtell Lyon. It has always been believed to be the earliest known painting of the falls. The painting is signed by L. P. W., but little else was known about the origins of the painting, or who the artist was.

This spring, while the museums were closed to the public, staff had time to spend researching. A couple of newspaper articles caught our attention. In 1920, several members of the Waldron family returned to Sioux Falls to attend an historical pageant about the founding and progress of Sioux Falls. The Waldrons were one of the first families to ever call this community home, arriving in 1857. The articles speak about a painting that was done of the falls around 1860 by Lulu P. Waldron when she was just 14 years old. The painting was apparently exhibited at the first Territorial Fair in Dakota. Lulu had given the painting to her sister-in-law Jane; she and her husband Charles wished to make a gift of the painting to the community and arranged to give it to the Women’s Alliance of Sioux Falls. The painting is now part of the permanent collection of the Siouxland Heritage Museums and is currently displayed on the second floor of the Pettigrew Home. Prints of this painting can be obtained in our Museum Store.

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