Little Arrie Burggraaf is the youngest son of Elizabeth and Jan Burggraaf. He was born 27 April 1886 in Sioux County, Iowa, but would live a very short life.1 John Burgraff had married Mary Kortlever and in late 1893 the Burggraaf family (John, Mary, Peter, William, Arrie, Sadie, and Maggie) moved west to Bon Homme County, South Dakota. The circumstances of the move are not well known, but John was speculating on land and South Dakota was booming. It would be a fateful decision for the family and its impact would be felt for years.
A newspaper article from The Springfield Times dated 16 November 1893 tells the story.2
Warning: The newspaper article that I’m about to quote is extremely graphic – journalism in the 1890s was a little more free-wheeling.
Last Friday a telegram was received from Running Water asking the immediate attendance of Dr. Keeling at the residence of Mr. Burggraff, who lives two or three miles north of that place, where it was stated that one boy was killed and another injured by a gun. On the arrival of the doctor at the place it was found that the affair was the result of the accidental discharge of a gun in the hands of the oldest son of Mr. Burggraff, a boy named Peter, about 16 years of age. The piece was loaded with buckshot, for the purpose of goose hunting, and at the time of the discharge was pointed in the direction of the two younger brothers, Arrie and Willie, who stood in the doorway. The head of the former was nearly blown off and he was instantly killed, the blood and brains being scattered about the floor and on the screen. Willie, the younger child, received four shot and was considerably injured, but is in a fair way to recover under the treatment of Dr. Keeling.
The father was absent in Iowa at the time of the accident and was immediately telegraphed for.
A coroner’s jury was impaneled Saturday, and brought in a verdict of accidental death.
The family have but recently come to this county from Iowa. Mr. Burggraff having bargained for the I. W. Seaman place southwest of here, but the trade having been declared off, had moved to the location above described, being only a temporary residence, as it is said that he will move to Nebraska, where he has purchased a farm.
While the article didn’t get all the ages (Peter was a month shy of his 13th birthday) or information about where the family was going (Minnesota) correct, the event itself appears to be correctly documented. Little Arrie is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Bon Homme County. The cemetery committee placed a plaque on his grave some years ago, but got the birth date wrong. It should be 1886 – 6s and 0s in old handwriting are frequently confused. I am grateful to the committee for marking his grave.
I’ll have more on the aftermath of this tragedy in the next post when I talk about Peter and William.
1. Family Group Sheet – Jan Burggraaf, Burgraff-Scott Family Archives; privately held.
2. Carol Hagen, Springfield, South Dakota to Sharon Scott, e-mail, 11 Apr 2007, “Article in November 16, 1893 paper”;