Darwin M. Inman Biography

This biography appears on pages 64-70 in "History of Dakota Territory"  by George W. Kingsbury, Vol. IV (1915).


"He did mot proclaim his goodness but he lived it, which is the vital thing," wrote a close personal friend of Darwin M. Inman, and in  this is summed up the strongest characteristic of his life. He was a believer in all those things which make for upright manhood in every relation and his belief found embodiment in his daily conduct. He did  not seek to be a teacher, but the influence of his life was as a radiating force. He was perhaps best known to the public as banker, as legislator and as one of the founders and champions of the State University at Vermillion, and yet it was not his public career but the inmate nature of the man that so endeared him to all with whom he came in contact, causing his memory to be revered and cherished by all who knew him. He was born March 14, 1838, in Clarendon, Orleans county, New York, and it was in his native city that he passed away on the 14th of January, 1913, while visiting his brother. In the family of his parents, Phillip and Anna (Thompson) Inman, were seven children. His ancestors were among the colonial residents of America and one family with which he was connected was represented in the Revolutionary war by father and six sons.

After attending the public schools of his native county, Darwin M. Inman continued his education at Holley and Albion Academies and completed a classical course in Rochester University, from which he was graduated with high honors. He took up the profession of teaching when but fourteen years of age and followed it for a number of terms, and his deep and helpful interest in educational affairs was ever one of the salient traits of his character. That he was a man of influence even in early life is shown by the fact that Clarendon elected him one of its supervisors when he was yet a young man and for two terms he filled that position.

On the 28th of December, 1874, Mr. Inman was united in marriage to Miss Adele Lewis, of Columbus, Wisconsin. She was born in New York, a daughter of William L. and Eliza A. Lewis, both natives of Orleans county, New York, whence they removed to Wisconsin in 1856. They
afterward came to South Dakota, settling in Vermillion, where Mr. Lewis lived retired until called to his final rest. In their family were five children, of whom three daughters survive: Mrs. M. D. Thompson, of Vermillion; Mrs. R. A. Morgan, also of Vermillion; and Mrs. Inman. Those who have passed away are M. J. Lewis and Jennie, who died at the age of twenty-three years. Mrs. Inman acquired her literary education in Wisconsin and received musical instruction in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and in Chicago, and in early womanhood she engaged in teaching music. The wedding journey of Mr. and Mrs. Inman consisted of a trip to Vermillion, where they arrived on the 30th of December, 1874, thereafter continuing residents of that city, where Mrs. Inman still
makes her home. Early in the following year Mr. Inman was instrumental in organizing a bank in connection with M. J. Lewis and M. D. Thompson. This was operated for venue years as a private bank under the name of D. M. Inman & Company and was later converted into the First National
Bank of Vermillion, Mr. Inman remaining at the head of that institution for thirty-eight years. This business brought him into close connection with many of his fellow townsmen and there are scores who attest his helpfulness in business relations and his ready assistance when financial aid was needed. Above all desire for success was ever found that broad spirit of humanitarianism which he continually expressed in a helping hand extended to one in need of assistance.

It was but natural that a man of Mr. Inman's well known ability and public spirit should have been called to office. In the fall of 1876 he was elected a member of the territorial legislature and was
twice reelected, serving in all for three terms. He was also elected a member of the first state legislature and he left the impress of his individuality Upon important laws enacted. He also served for four terms as a trustee of the State University, which institution he aided in founding and of which he was ever a stalwart champion, doing everything in his power to further its interests. While thus actively engaged in public affairs Mr. Inman continued in business and his efforts in that direction were attended with growing success. He was associated with M. J. Lewis and M. D. Thompson in the grain and elevator trade, in the lumber business and in other enterprises, all of which were carried forward to successful completion. In business affairs Mr. Inman's judgment was sound' his enterprise keen and his energy unfaltering.

In his political views Mr. Inman was ever a stalwart democrat. He kept well informed on the questions and issues of the day and was ever ready to support his position by intelligent argument. Fraternally he was a very active and prominent Mason. He held membership in Incense Lodge, No. 2, A. F. & A. M.; Vermillion Chapter, No. 21, R. A. M, both of Vermillion; and also became a member of DeMolay Commandery, K. T., of Yankton. Later he demitted therefrom when Vermillion Commandery, No. 16, was organized. He was also a member of El Riad Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., of Sioux Falls. He affiliated with the Baptist church to which Mrs. Inman still belongs' and he was most active and helpful in church work. The Dakota Republican, in speaking of his religious life, said: "Mr. Inman affiliated with the Baptist church. He was a Bible student, and we doubt if there was another layman that could quote Scripture as readily as he. He was always a liberal supporter of the church. He lived a practical Christian life. His motto was the golden rule. His
charities were boundless, helping where help was needed, and in all this he fulfilled the scriptural injunction of never letting his left hand know what his right hand was doing. Many were his acts of
kindness, and many were the homes helped by his generosity that the world at large knew nothing of."

The same paper, writing of him in other connections, said: "As a citizen of the community in which he lived, Mr. Inman was held in high esteem by all with whom he came in contact. In the early days when the country was new, and the trials and hardships of pioneering were the experiences of our people, he gained a hold on their esteem by his counsel in urging them to persevere despite adverse conditions' and by aiding them in a substantial manner. Down through the years his good counsel has not been forgotten, and the younger generation has looked to him in the same manner as did the former. In all matters where the interests of the community were involved, where public improvements and the welfare of the city were under consideration, he always showed his public-spiritedness by standing behind any proposition whereby conditions might be bettered, and whereby better civic circumstances might be promoted. The same conditions prevailed in his relations to the county, and his best efforts were directed to the end that this county might not be behind any of the other counties of the state. Over the state he was regarded as one of its foremost citizens, not only along lines of business, but in matters of public policy and public welfare . . . Mr. Inman was preeminently an educational enthusiast. In the early struggles of the State University he was one of its strongest supporters, and was untiring in his efforts to firmly establish that institution. As a member of the board of trustees he took advantage of every opportunity to advance its interests. Not only did he give his attention to the university as an institution, but he took a deep interest in the students, and assisted them in their careers. Scattered throughout the length and breadth of the land today are many young men who would have been unable to continue their studies had it not been for his timely financial assistance. While a member of the territorial and state legislatures he kept the theme of public education constantly in mind, and never missed an opportunity where any act of his would advance the educational cause. Politically, Mr. Inman affiliated with the democratic party. He was a conscientious and consistent democrat and always stuck to his colors; he never had any use for the political flopper who was after office only, and who declared allegiance to any political party simply for office-seeking purposes. Being thus affiliated, he did not become the political figure in this republican commonwealth that otherwise he might have been. He served in the councils of the party as state chairman and member of the advisory board. His close contact with prominent democrats in New York was often helpful to his party in the Dakotas. But he never let party polities interfere with the interest he always manifested in the material
development of this young commonwealth. He was eminently a most zealous advocate for South Dakota, and never let pass an opportunity for saying a good and effective word, or performing a proper and judicious act in behalf of this young and growing state."

For thirty-eight years Mr. Inman lived in Vermillion and when he passed away it seemed that his fellow townsmen could not find words adequate to express the high regard in which he had ever been held. Every man who knew him was his friend. One writing for the Plain Talk said: "We recall that on the occasion of the laying of the corner stone of our new courthouse on June 8th last, Mr. Inman said that he had seen many points in the development of the county, and that the new
courthouse was but another step in the onward march of improvement. He spoke of the application of the golden rule in controversies between individuals, and said that if the golden rule were more closely followed, there would be less need of courts and court officials, and much of the expense of the litigation of the present day might be avoided. This sentiment was typical of the man, and characteristic of his business career. . . . In city and county affairs he was active from the first day that he arrived in Vermillion, and there isn't a home in the county today that does not know the name of Inman. No one could be more public-spirited. He was always looking out for the welfare of others, whether it was the student of the university who needed financial assistance, a member of his church, or a citizen of the city or county. He was liberal in his views and with his money. He
did things in a quiet way. He was not officious. There was no display of his philanthropy. He did not seek notoriety, but such a man could not help but gain publicity. He will be sorely missed by all our
people. A good friend and neighbor has been called home. In the days and years to come the bank which he established in Vermillion will continue to prosper; city and county affairs will go on as usual; the State University will advance; but it will seem strange for a long time to be without the aid and counsel of Darwin M. Inman."

At the funeral services Dean L. E. Akeley said: "I regard it as one of the good fortunes of my life that I personally knew some of the men who conquered the wilderness of western New York, and that later it was my privilege to become acquainted with the pioneers who made possible this great young commonwealth in the west. The experience is not at all peculiar to myself, for it will be readily duplicated by any man of middle age present. Never before in the world's history could one short life span such a reach of historic movement. From that group of pioneers in the older state came Mr. Inman in the early days of South Dakota history, and he was destined to play in the development of
the new state the same conspicuous part his father had acted in New York. Of Mr. Inman's activity in financial and political lines in those days I cannot speak with any authority. I first knew him as president of the board of trustees of the university during the administration of Dr. Olson. Dr. Olson's administration raised the university from a condition of obscurity to a position which commanded the interest and respect of the whole state. The state's consciousness of the university's interests thus secured has never been lost. It is difficult to see how the institution could have withstood the storms of the succeeding years had not the work of the Olson administration been
so well done. That work was Mr. Inman's. It was he who selected Dr. Olson. He knew his man. Our friend knew men. It was no easy matter in those days to hold the faculty together, and to give them confidence in the stability of the institution The one great personality who made us feel that we were building no mere castle in the air was Mr. Inman. During those years faculty, president, and students had freest access to Mr. Inman's advice and counsel. He gave freely of his time, his thoughts, and his sleepless nights. He gave the best a man can ever give to a cause — himself. In contemplating Mr. Inman's character there is one quality conspicuous above all others — expressed by one of the noblest words in our language — loyalty. In Mr. Inman's loyalty there was a peculiar quality that gave it power. No one was for a moment ever in doubt regarding the object of that loyalty. All over the state were men who looked to Mr. Inman for leadership in matters financial and
political. Those men knew beyond any shade of doubt that the one way of reaching his heart was through a recognition of the university. This certainty in the character of his loyalty gave his support of a cause an effectiveness which few men ever acquire This was beautifully illustrated by a letter from the Hon. Frank P. Phillips, read by President Gault on the University Charter day of last year, February 3, 1912. He said: 'Whenever I am called back to Watertown I can look about among the young business men and Call note a great many of theme who are graduates of the University of South Dakota, and the more I see of the results of the work this institution has done, the prouder it makes me feel of the vote I gave to help it get started away back in 1883. My wish is that it will never have another struggle to get maintenance as it had then to get its beginning, and I can truthfully say that only for the great efforts of that patriarch, D. M. Inman of Vermillion, its success could not leave been attained at that time. My prayer is that the university may ever grow greater and stronger each year as long as time lasts.' Loyalty of this character, in the wider circles of human activities, constitutes the moral force that builds states and social institutions, and in the narrower circles of personal relationships it gives to friendship its supreme worth. If Mr. Inman gave you his friendship you knew you had something that would weather the storms of life."

A merited tribute was paid to Mr. Inman by the Rev. Craig S. Thoms: "Doubtless most of us think of Mr. Inman preeminently as a business man; and in his business career three things command attention. First, his ability. That he was an able business man is attested by the business he built up, and by the feet that men in every walk of life sought him for counsel and guidance in their own business affairs. But a bigger and better thing than ability is character Mr. Inman's character was the prominent and dominant fact in all his business dealings. He was a man of sterling integrity, of unsullied honor, and was trusted implicitly by all who knew him. I have heard man after man speak of Mr. Inman's honesty. His word was even better than his bond, for he not only did the just timing by men, but, going beyond strict justice, he was constantly doing what was helpful and needed. He
loved to see his fellow citizens succeed, and that it was his privilege to help many of them to succeed, was his joy. But better even than sterling character' was Mr. Inman's large heartedness He did business with his heart as few men do. Not a few of our citizens are on their feet in business today because back in the grasshopper days Mr. Inman stood by them and saw them through. Not a few men now in middle life have him to thank for giving them a start when their only security was
his confidence in them. This may not have been good business as business goes' but it is noble in any man, and it was one of the beauties of Mr. Inman's life. His heart could not be held within the bonds of strict business practice and in that feet we rejoice today even more than we rejoice in his splendid business success. During the past thirteen years I have known personally many students who were
working their way through our university. Often these students have come to that place where, unless they could secure help, they must leave school. Many times during these years I have sent these men to Mr. Inman, sometimes with a personal note, more often with no message whatever except their own statement of need. Not one such man have I known him to turn away without help. It was Mr. Inman's constant practice to help young men if they were worthy and in need. He loved worthy young men. He was deeply interested in their education, and delighted to help them. Mr. Inman was a good church man How I shall miss him! He was always in the morning congregation when he was in town, and well enough to attend, and he was an earnest and appreciative listener. He was a great reader of the Bible. He was intensely interested in building up the kingdom of Jesus Christ. He gave largely to missions, both at home and abroad. Evangelistic work deeply interested him' and he gave regularly and largely to the work in the state. There are two other things about Mr. Inman that were very beautiful to me: He had a tender heart' and he thought in world terms. Two simple incidents will illustrate these traits of character. When speaking at the graduating exercises of the university a few years ago, Dr. Herbert Johnson of New York city told the story of a little girl who was musically gifted, but who had happened with an accident which endangered her musical future. While he was telling us about her heroism in helping herself, her suffering, and her possibilities, she was lying in the hospital. Dr. Johnson told me that before he left town, Mr. Inman sought him out and gave him a sum of money to help the child. This incident was typical in the life of this tender-hearted man. The large terms in which he thought are illustrated in this fact: Eight or ten years ago there was held in New York city a meeting of Baptists which contemplated a closer union of the churches north and
south, which had been divided by the war. At that time Mr. Inman called me into his office and gave me a hundred dollars, saying, "I want you to go to that meeting in New York; that is an important meeting, and will make history.' He had a mind for large things. An earthquake in California, or a famine in China at once elicited his interest and secured his help."

Another said: ""His individuality, independence, generosity, epigrams; his mixing of the best classic expressions found in the books, with the current vernacular of the west; his own language, neither local, eastern, nor western, all combined in so unexpected, apt and original a way, will always linger in my memory. He was a manager of men. He had a faculty of divining a man's purposes; and seemed to know intuitively what was in the mind of the man he dealt with Whether dealing with political, business or social problems, he could manage the men who had them in charge. I wish some writer with a gift for delineation of character like Thackeray or Dickens might give us a pen
picture of Mr. Inman. I am sure that it would require more than an ordinary person to convey any adequate impression of him. I eared for this man in a way I cannot explain, and if I had formed such an attachment for anyone else I know it would have been unnatural. He befriended me in so many unexpected ways. He was so interested in my success. He affected my business and professional life at so many angles. I have always been his debtor. To him whose friendships, benefactions, kindnesses were myriad, and of which not one-hundredth part will ever be known, I pay my tribute."

Edward F. Jorden, president of Sioux Falls College, wrote of Mr. Inman as follows: "But the thing which brought him near to the heart of those with whom he mingled was the deep interest which he always manifested for the personal welfare of the man who was fighting a battle in the interest of humanity. He both remembered the cause and the one engaged in it, and so expressed himself to the man in the struggle as to leave no doubt in his mind of his real friendship to him. In short, he was a humanitarian. He loved to see humanity uplifted, and he loved the man who was seeking to perform this task when he saw in him a spirit in keeping with the mission of his life. Neither was he a man who loved in word and tongue only, but one who loved rather in deed and in truth. His words were not empty, but filled with substantial blessing and often the same letter which brought congratulations and cheer for the worker contained a gift of no small proportion for his own personal use."