ANNA and FRANK DUDECK (standing)

Seated...Mr. and Mrs. Ray Tillman


It was a classic love story..the lovely young miss and the dark handsome schoolteacher with the striking deep set eyes. They met in the new town that had been built on the edge of the slough. The muddy streets and wind swept prairies held no fears to this young couple who had their whole life ahead of them.

Francis E. (Frank) Dudeck and Annie Laurie O'Bryan were perhaps not all that different from hundreds of other pioneer couples, but truly, there is something about them that catches the imagination. We talk today about the work ethic. Some have it, some don't. These two had it. They both worked hard at the business of making a living for their family. Many years later when their girls were grown and gone they both worked in their fields near Peever. to this day they are remembered, Anna on a B Farmall and Frank driving a Farmall Regular with steel wheels. She would be wearing a shady hat and looking as elegant as any society lady as she followed her husband out to plow.

Frank was born June 26, 1878 in Rolling Prairie, Indiana to John and Antonia Dudeck. John had come to this country from Poland in 1886 with his family and settled in Indiana.

Annie Laurie was born in the Morris, MN. area on June 24, 1887 to John C. and Mary Ellen (Monahan) O'Bryan. John Calvin O'Bryan was a Civil War veteran who came to Wisconsin after the war. Soon he began the trek west as did many others at that time, moving through Minnesota until at last he settled at Morris. His wife had died at Eau Claire WI. Leaving him with three small children. He hired Mary Ellen Monahan to look after the children, and eventually the two were married. He was a hotel keeper and the sheriff at Morris, besides having some farm land.

In about 1893 the farm was burned out and John and Mary Ellen loaded the family in a covered wagon and drove to Ortonville, MN. From there they traveled around the end of Big Stone Lake and up to Wilmot. They drove five or six miles further west into the foot hills and settled there. Their home was a framed dug out and they farmed the land for sometime until moving one mile west of Peever. Then later they moved into Peever and built a house.

Frank's family settled in Roberts County about 1894, but Frank wanted an education so he stayed in Indiana to study. He graduated from a university in that state, and then came to South Dakota to find a teaching position. He taught a rural school at first somewhere in the Milbank- Big Stone area . In 1905 he moved to Peever. He taught the Peever School (the old Peever School on School Street) in winter and farmed with his brother during the summer. He earned $1.00 day teaching and doing all the chores that went with running a school at that time. He soon became the principal of Peever School where Annie was one of the students.

Now in summers Frank would go to Big Stone and manage a restaurant called Polly Cookit, which was built out over the lake. It was a place that catered to the students who would go there for summer school.

On June 24, 1908 Frank and Annie were married. In 1909, he bought the Peever Pilot, the weekly newspaper from Bert Opsal of Wilmot. However his printer left and moved to Montana and Frank had to sell the newspaper.

But Frank did not sit around waiting for things to happen. He ran a store and bought cream from the farmers, showed movies, and did surveying. He surveyed the Peever Cemetery when it was being set up.

In March 4, 1909 they had a daughter and named her Irene, also known as Jerry, and Florence was born January 4, 1911. Anna and Frank knew the heartbreak of losing four other babies, three, boys, including a set of twins, and a girl who died at birth.

In 1914 Frank became the Peever Postmaster but in 1915, the post office along with most of the buildings in that block burned to the ground.

When the girls were old enough they would sell popcorn at the movies. They also went with their father to sell it at fairs in other towns, the Wacipis that were held at the Agency and the dances in Browns Valley. Irene remembers the big Coliseum in the Valley where Guy Lombardo had played.

When Irene and Florence were seven and five their father took them on the train to Milbank where they were enrolled in the St. Lawrence Catholic School. They were to learn the catechism and prepare for their first communion. "We could come home now and then," Irene told us, "But one day Florence and I decided suddenly that we were going home to Peever and went to the depot. But the agent called the depot agent in Peever, who just happened to be our Uncle Jack Nilan. It ended with someone from the school coming and taking us back."

After that year in Milbank they attended three years at St. Mary's Convent School in Graceville, MN. They both graduated from Peever High School, Irene in 1927 and Florence in 1928.

The Dudecks helped to build the little Catholic Church that stood at the south end of their street. A priest would come from Sisseton to say Mass. Both Irene and Florence were married in this church. Irene married Oscar Abel in 1934 and Florence married Harry Dahlner in 1937.

Anna was not just a housewife by any means. She managed the telephone company in Peever for many years. Then in 1943 when WW2 was going on, she went out to Portland OR. to work in the Kaiser shipyard as a welder. Her sister, Antoinette, Mrs. Jack Nilan, did also. In the meantime Frank stayed in Peever to finish out Anna's contract with the telephone company. Then he packed up and went to Oregon too. When the war was over in August of 1945, they came back to Peever.

Frank Dudeck had an eye for beauty, his daughter told us, and he began collecting Native American art from his Indian customers who would trade with him at Opitz store. His first trade was a pair of moccasins that he bought for $1.00. From then on he acquired a sizable collection, mostly of Eastern Sioux and Ojibwa origins. In 1980 the collection was loaned on a permanent basis to the SD Art Museum, in Brookings. In 1993 Irene and Florence donated the entire collection to the museum where it is know as the Frank and Anna Dudeck Memorial Collection of Native American Art.

Frank died in 1957 and was buried in St. Peters Cemetery in Sisseton…….on the hill where he could overlook the valley. Anna passed away in 1974 and is buried beside him.

Memories of Irene Dudeck Abel (Jerry)