Valentine Trant McGillycuddy Biography
Born: February 14, 1949
Died: June 6, 1939

Mayoral Dates:
1896-1898

 

Valentine Trant McGillycuddy

Mayoral Quip
Valentine M'Gillycuddy came to the Black Hills in 1875 as a doctor and mapmaker for the Jenney-Newton Expedition.  He developed a good relationship with the Lakota people, becoming a friend of Crazy Horse and an Indian agent at Red Cloud's agency.  In 1886, he moved to Rapid City and built a large Victorian house with a red sandstone base topped with an olive-green roof.  He became president of the Lakota Bank and the Governor appointed him Surgeon General.  He was elected to the state constitutional convention and served on a joint committee to settle the affairs of North and South Dakota when they became states in 1889.  He organized and supervised the construction of a hydroelectric power company.  He was president of the South Dakota School of Mines and served as mayor for two years.

Biography
Dr. Valentine Trant O'Connell M'Gillycuddy (also spelled McGillycuddy) was one of the most diversified and controversial residents of Pennington County.  He was born to Irish immigrants in Racine, Wisconsin, on February 14, 1849, (Valentine's Day).  At age twenty, he graduated from the Detroit Medical School, which was connected to a Marine hospital.  After practicing medicine for a year and teaching at the Medical College, he got a job with the geodetic survey working on Lake Michigan.  A weak heart prompted him to seek the exercise and fresh air that government expeditions in the West would provide, so he came to the Black Hills as a doctor and mapmaker for the Jenney-Newton Expedition in 1875.  While on the expedition, M'Gillycuddy met Calamity Jane who entertained him with fantastic stories of her life.  While on his way from Cheyenne to Washington, DC, he detoured to Detroit and married Fanny Hoyt. 

M'Gillycuddy is credited with the discovery of the original warm mineral springs in Hot Springs and being the first man to make it to the top of Harney Peak while on this exploration party.  Because of his mustache that drooped to a length of two inches below the corners of his mouth, the Sioux named him "Putin hi chikala" or "Little Whiskers." 

While stationed at Fort Robinson as a surgeon and holding the rank of major in 1876-77, he developed a good relationship with the Lakota people, becoming a friend of Crazy Horse, but was a thorn in the side of Red Cloud, who considered him an upstart. In September 1877, when Crazy Horse was tricked into surrendering at Fort Robinson and then bayoneted by a white guard, it was M'Gillycuddy who stayed with him, gave him morphine, and insisted that the Chief be allowed to die in the adjutant's office instead of in the guard house.  The white doctor who had taken care of the dying Crazy Horse was henceforth known as "Tasunka Witko Kola", "Crazy Horse's Friend."  In 1879, M'Gillycuddy was ironically appointed Indian Agent at Red Cloud's agency, where he stayed for seven years.  A stickler for discipline and acknowledging the difference between officers and those of lower rank, he organized a police force at Pine Ridge and, among other things, enforced heretofore-sporadic attendance at the reservation school.

After several years of cold war with Red Cloud, M'Gillycuddy was replaced during the Cleveland administration by Captain James Bell of Custer's old Seventh Cavalry.  The M'Gillycuddy's left Pine Ridge and moved to Rapid City in 1886.  They built a large house with fancy Victorian architecture.  It had a red sandstone base and was topped with an olive-green roof.  He became president of the Lakota Bank and the Governor appointed him Surgeon General.  In 1889, he was elected to the SD Constitutional Convention and, in that capacity, served on a joint committee to settle the affairs of North and South Dakota when they became states in 1889.  He also found time to organize the Hydroelectric Power Company in Rapid City and undertook supervision of its construction, which enabled him to work outside again and to experiment with static electricity.

Prior to the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890, M'Gillycuddy returned to Pine Ridge as official observer for the governor of South Dakota, but could not prevent the events that were to happen.  After the battle, he volunteered his time to provide medical care for the wounded survivors.  M'Gillycuddy was asked many times who was responsible for the Wounded Knee Massacre otherwise known as the Messiah War.  His answer was: "Whoever fired the first shot.  After that, nothing short of the Almighty could have stopped the killing."

Throughout his life, M'Gillycuddy held many responsible positions.  He served as Medical Inspector for the Mutual Life Insurance Company.  He was president of the South Dakota School of Mines at Rapid City from 1892-1897 and, under his leadership, the school expanded and added much needed engineering equipment.  He was elected mayor of Rapid City in 1896, but resigned in 1898 after his wife, Fanny, died in 1897.  He later moved to California and married his second wife, Julia Blanchard, whom he had known as a little girl at Pine Ridge. 

When near seventy, he traveled all the way to Alaska to treat victims of the flu epidemic in 1918.  He died at age 90, June 6, 1939, in San Francisco.  The next day, the Pine Ridge flag flew at half-mast.  On October 17, 1940, sixty-five years and eighty days from the day the young topographer was the first white man to set foot on Harney Peak, his ashes were buried on this highest peak overlooking the panorama of the Black Hills and the high plains sweeping down to Pine Ridge.  A small box with his ashes is mortared into the stone stairway of the lookout tower with this inscription:

Valentine T. McGillycuddy—Wasicu Wakan*
1849-1939

*Holy White Man