Will Lillibridge’s words & my photos


My great-great uncle, William Otis Lillibridge (1877-1909) was a dentist and an author in South Dakota. One of his books, Ben Blair was made into a movie in 1916. My grandfather recounted that his father used to say that Will was a much better writer than dentist.

After a recent trip to South Dakota I wondered if I had photos that reflected some of Will’s words. It seems that Uncle Will loved the wildness of the prairie as much as I do.

A BREATH OF PRAIRIE & OTHER STORIES by William Otis Lillibridge

The reddish glow in the east had spread and lit up the earth…”

“The self-confidence of the splendid animal was his. He would work and advance himself.”

THE DOMINANT IMPULSE by William Otis Lillibridge

“I’m serious, Robert. Douglass is a cattle man west of the river.”

“The river!” apostrophized Bob. “The man juggles with mysteries. What river, pray?”

“The Missouri, of course. Didn’t you ever study geography?”

“…in a spirit of bravado, roped the “devil” and instituted a contest of wills. The pony was stubborn and a battle royal followed. As a buzzard scents carrion, other cowboys anticipated sport, and a group soon gathered.

“No, but I know the country. It’s new and wild now, of course, and you’ll find neighbors a bit scarce; but it’s alright.”

LINK: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/29245/29245-h/29245-h.htm#:~:text=WILL%20LILLIBRIDGE%20AUTHOR%20OF%20%E2%80%9CBEN%20BLAIR,%E2%80%9D%20%E2%80%9CTHE%20DOMINANT%20DOLLAR,%E2%80%9D%20ETC.

The story of his life is characteristically told in this brief autobiographical sketch, written at the request of an interested magazine.

“I was born on a farm in Union County, Iowa, near the boundary of the then Dakota Territory. Like most boys bred and raised in an atmosphere of eighteen hours of work out of twenty-four, I matured early. At twelve I was a useful citizen, at fifteen I was to all practical purposes a man,––did a man’s work whatever the need. In this capacity I was alternately farmer, rancher, cattleman. Something prompted me to explore a university and I went to Iowa, where for six years I vibrated between the collegiate, dental, and medical departments. After graduating from the dental in 1898 I drifted to Sioux Falls and began to practise my profession. As the years passed the roots sank deeper and I am still here."