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Alfred N. Waters

De Smet land office attorney and partner in the Dakota Loan and Investment Company.

A. N. Waters returned last Saturday, from New York. He reports a large fraction of the population of that ancient bailiwick as coming to Dakota this year. – De Smet Leader, March 1883

Alfred Newman Waters was born November 14, 1855, in Greene County, New York, the son of Arthur Waters and Almyra Newman; his mother died when Alfred was about a year old. He was raised in West Durham, New York, by his uncle, A.W. Newman.

Alfred was graduated from Albany Law School, and in 1880, he went into partnership in Kingsbury County with A.A. Anderson of Lake Preston, with Waters locating in De Smet. Waters boarded with the Arthur Sherwood family in De Smet during the Hard Winter of 1880-1881, in a house “sixteen feet square with sixteen people in it,” he later recalled. In late March 1881, the trains still not running from De Smet, Al Waters walked four days to Tracy, Minnesota, hoping to catch a train east from there, as he was soon to be married. There were no trains in Tracy, either, so he walked to Sleepy Eye (no train!) and continued on to New Ulm. He married Josephine Evadine Humphrey on April 13, 1881, at her family home in West Durham, New York. Josie was the daughter of Curtis and Adeline (Benedict) Humphrey; she was born March 11, 1853.

Alfred and Josie Waters settled in De Smet after the Hard Winter, where they were quite active in social and church affairs in town. In the spring of 1884, Josie returned to Durham, New York; she gave birth to a daughter there on June 25, 1884, but the child died in infancy. Josie remained in New York through the winter, caring for her grandmother, a sister, and her mother, who died in November 1884. Thus started a pattern for the Waterses for over ten years: Josie spending part of each year in De Smet and Alfred spending part of each year in West Durham. Although Wilder wrote that the Waterses divorced, they did not. They lived together in New York and together in South Dakota, and were sometimes apart for a month or more due to Josie’s responsibilities in looking after her invalid sister. When in New York, Waters used his time to promote life in Dakota and to entice friends and neighbors to invest in property there. Old neighbors in West Durham were the Frank Cooley family from On the Way Home, and the family ended up in Kingsbury County. Emma Cooley and Josie Humphrey were girlhood chums.

For several years, Waters was in partnership with attorney A.A. Anderson in De Smet. As a land and loan attorney, Alfred Waters was secretary and helped organize the Dakota Loan and Investment Company in 1885, with Thomas Ruth as president. Two years later, Alfred Waters and Charles Dawley purchased the business. They built a brick building in De Smet, still standing today and housing Heritage House Bed and Breakfast.



THE DAKOTA LOAN AND INVESTMENT CO. Is an institution the importance of which is scarcely second to any other in Kingsbury county. This company was organized in the summer of 1886—less than a year ago—is officers as follows: President, A.N. Waters; Secretary, C.L. Dawley. Both gentlemen have been residents of De Smet since its earliest origin in 1880, and are thoroughly acquainted with the county and people, a fact that adds not a little to the advantages for doing business. While the business of this company embraces a variety of transactions, one of the most important features perhaps, and one that is conspicuously prominent in all new countries, is the negotiating of farm loans. Formerly business of this character has been transacted through agents having no power or authority to pass upon the acceptance or rejection of an application for a loan, and applicants were compelled to wait for days and months in uncertainty, and were often times put to considerable expense outside of the regular commissions, and fees. One of the greatest advantages possessed by the above company is the power to accept or reject applications, and securing to the borrower his money without delay, and the fact that they are doing a leading business in their line, is not only evidence of the truth of the above, but also the best commendation of the company’s integrity and reliability that could be offered. They own a complete set of abstracts for Kingsbury county, Mr. Waters is an attorney, while Mr. Dawley is clerk of the district court, thus it will be observed that they are possessed of every facility of doing business promptly, cheaply and legally. In addition they transact a general real-estate and collection business, and make government land office business of every description a specialty. The Dakota Loan and Investment Company represent one of the most reliable agencies in the country, whose popularity and extensive business has been achieved by offering low rates, liberal terms and pursuing an honest course with patrons. -The De Smet Leader, 1887.



Josie Waters died May 18, 1900 in De Smet; Alfred Waters took her body to West Durham for burial.

On May 11, 1904, Alfred married Maude Bevers, daughter of a former De Smet minister, Rev. A.C. Bevers. The couple had no children, but both were active in De Smet social life. The house they built on Second Avenue (still standing) was a showplace; in later years, it served as the De Smet Hospital. They purchased the farm of Fred Dow east of town, on whose claim the Surveyors’ House originally stood, and also had a cottage at Spirit Lake.

Alfred Waters died unexpectedly of heart trouble on August 25, 1927. He was buried in the De Smet Cemetery. Maude Waters died July 3, 1958, and was buried beside Mr. Waters.


Alfred Waters (PG) – “lawyer named Waters” in Pioneer Girl
     Josephine Waters (PG) – “his wife” in Pioneer Girl