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The Hauntings at Royer Mansion


Daniel Franklin Royer was the Indian agent on the Pine Ridge Reservation during the tragic Wounded Knee massacre. He was born on 21 March 1851, at Greencastle, Pennsylvania. He attended State Normal School in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania and was graduated from Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia in 1875.

In 1883 Dr. Royer moved his family to Alpena. South Dakota. In addition to his medical practice, he became postmaster, city treasurer, chairman of the board of education, and coroner of Jerauld County. He represented Jerauld County in the territorial legislature in 1887 and also served in the last session before South Dakota became a state in 1889. President Harrison appointed Royer to the position of Indian agent at Pine Ridge in 1890, even though Royer was interested in the position of registrar at the land office in Huron. Royer was totally inexperienced and incompetent in Indian affairs and the Indians were quick to perceive his weakness. At this time the Sioux Indians were practicing the Ghost Dance religion. Although cooler heads advised that the Indians be allowed to dance themselves out, Royer panicked and called for troops. The presence of the soldiers resulted in the tragic incident at Wounded Knee. Royer was dismissed on 8 January 1891, less than three months after he had arrived.

In 1896 he moved to Orange, California and became the local surgeon for the Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and Pacific railroads. In 1897 the California Board of Medical Examiners brought charges against Royer for dispensing an excessive amount of narcotic drugs. He was found guilty, but the charges were dismissed because of his advanced age. He died in Long Beach on 27 November 1929, at the age of seventy-eight.

The mansion was purchased in the early 80's by real estate developer and owner of Secrest Construction, Gene Secrest and his wife Charmella. The home had been used as a mortuary just before it was acquired by the Secrests'. After an extensive renovation, the couple hosted an invitation only open house reception on March 17, 1985 to celebrate the restoration of the mansion.


Upon Secrest's research of the mansion, he came across some astounding coincidences. Secrest was a graduate of Shippensburg State College in Pennsylvania and so was Royer. Royer was born and raised in Waynesboro, PA., just 45 minutes from Breezewood, Pa., Secrest's hometown. Royer's birthday is March 21, and so is Secrest's. In South Dakota, Royer way U.S. Indian agent at Pine Ridge when Wounded Knee took place. Later he was community leader in Alpena, S. D., where Mrs. Secrest's father was born.

The grand ballroom on the first floor west-facing side of the house, which would have served as the funeral home's viewing room was transformed into 11 semiprivate office spaces divided by heavy oak partitions. (can be seen on page 1 of the floor plan link to the left)

A Basement with a History

The basement, formerly a casket showroom is a menagerie of pleasures unfamiliar to most office buildings. There is an old English pub with a bar that was used for dining and entertaining. The area where the pub now exists housed a "cold storage" vault where bodies were stored. The Secrests did not toss out the vault. History and a sensitivity to time saved it. Secrest had it placed under the front porch facing west towards Grand St. There were plans to use it as a time capsule in conjunction with the City of Orange's centennial celebration. Plans to use the vault as a time capsule never came to fruition. The large basement also boasts of a men and womans locker room with showers.

There was also a workout room that has since been converted into an office.(currently leased out to a lawyer for office space) The north-east corner of the office has a concealed door that opens into a hidden area of the basement designed with rock wall features to look like a cave. Upon entering about 10 feet, it branches out to the left into another rocky cave room with jacuzzi built into the ground. The jacuzzi has since been boarded shut by the City of Orange. Continuing through the cave feature will take you into a brick-lined wine cellar framed by a richly carved, arched, walnut confessional door from Austria. The opposite end of the wine cellar leads to a narrow stairway which will take you a ground-level exit.  The exit door can be seen at the very back of the mansion facing east.