For a musical family on the Plains of South Dakota, it was a tragedy that left ashes in the soul – not just that a fire on Nov. 26, 1898, burned down the log house at Oahe Mission north of Pierre, but also that it destroyed the Steinway Grand Piano inside.
It was that same Steinway that had traveled up the Missouri River by steamboat for Nina, the first wife of missionary Thomas L. Riggs, in the early 1870s when the Missouri River country was still Dakota Territory. It supplied just the right tone, full and powerful, to fill that big empty space in the grassland. It helped carry the message of the ancient faith to Dakota and Lakota converts through music.
Very likely it was on the Steinway that Nina taught her first son, Theodore Foster Riggs, what a piano sounded like after he was born in 1874; probably it was a silent reminder of Thomas Riggs’ grief when Nina died in childbirth in August 1878. In spring 1885, when Louisa Irvine Riggs, also with a love for music, moved into the log home at Oahe Mission as the second Mrs. Riggs, the Steinway sat along one wall; and she started to play.
And now, in November 1898, it was burned to cinders…
Read the rest of the story at Keys to the Ancient Faith – Capital Journal: News.