We have a leisurely morning of hot showers and grocery shopping… We drove about two hours to De Smet, SD.
We pulled into the Ingalls Homestead RV Park. This is adjacent to the Visitors Center. This is the actual homestead where the Ingalls family lived for several years, about a mile from the town of De Smet. They have several displays and buildings, from the authentic to the replication. They also offer covered wagon rides across the prairie. We weren’t interested in the ride, but it was really cool to see a covered wagon pass by on the horizon:
They had a real dugout/sod house to view:
And here is a replica of the claim shanty Pa built here on the homestead claim:
It was fun to stand here on the prairie and see what the Ingalls family saw 135 years ago:
We asked at the visitors center how far it was into town to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum there. We were told that it is less than a mile; she knew, she said, because the Ingalls girls walked to town to go to school every day. Well, if three little girls could walk to town, certainly we could, too.
It was 1.6 miles to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society…
The first stop was the Surveyors House:
This was the Ingalls family’s first home in De Smet, even before De Smet was started. The Surveyor’s house was built for the advance crew for the railroad; it was probably built somewhere east of here and dragged along from place to place as the railroad proceeded westward. Pa Ingalls was asked to stay for the winter after all the railroad crews left to safeguard the railroad equipment, so the Ingalls family moved in. To them, this was a mansion! They lived here their first winter in South Dakota, with the house serving as an unofficial hotel/boarding house for settlers coming through on their way west. The family was living here when Pa walked the 40 miles to Brookings to file his homestead claim. As soon as he could, Pa built a single room of his claim shanty (see above) and the family moved to the homestead that spring. At the time, the house was located By the Shores of Silver Lake. When the Railroad was done with the house, it was bought by a family here and moved to town. It was later bought by the LIW Memorial Society and moved to this location.
Also on this site is a replica of the Brewster School, where Laura taught when she was 15 years old:
Our guide said this replica is probably bigger than the original…
The best thing here is the original schoolhouse, the first school built here in De Smet:
This is the actual location of the school that the Ingalls girls walked to from the Homestead…
The school had been used as a home for many years before it was acquired by the LIW Memorial Society and restored. The original blackboards are here… These desks are not original, but the school did have store-bought desks, not the home made desks you saw above in the Brewster School.
After seeing these buildings here we went over through downtown De Smet; Pa built a store here in town as an investment; the family lived in the store during The Long Winter, in 1880-1881. The store is no longer there, but we were able to see the location, here in “downtown” De Smet:
We then arrived at the Ingalls house, just around the corner:
The family only lived on the homestead for about seven years; Pa built this house, room by room, and the family lived out their lives here. (Laura never lived here; she had married Almanzo by the time the house was built…) Carrie and Grace lived here until they married and moved a short distance away. (Grace lived in Huron, Carrie lived in Keystone…) Mary, Ma, and Pa lived here for the rest of their lives. Pa wasn’t much of farmer, and he made his living as a carpenter, Justice of the Peace, and just about any other odd job he could get… They also took in boarders to help pay the bills. All of the family had had constant health problems, probably due to malnutrition throughout their lives. Only Laura lived into her 90s. (Laura died in 1957 in Mansfield, Mo.)
So after this great time seeing the history of this family we walked back to the Villa, hoping to beat the predicted rain; we made it with no problems. We met our neighbors, who had just pulled in, with tent trailers. One was from Hull, Iowa, a town full of Dutch people. This guy had even been an adjunct professor at Dordt College!
Lynda went to walk around the homestead, and she climbed the observation tower to see the views:
There were awesome clouds:
Our neighbors had set up their chairs and prepared a campfire. They invited us to join them… But we politely declined, as we already had begun dinner, and there was football to watch… And then it began to rain. And rain hard.
Our neighbors re-grouped inside their trailers and we settled in for Happy Hours and dinner. Later that evening we looked out at and saw more beautiful cloud formations, accented with flashes of lightning. No thunder, just flashes of lightning. Amazing. We had never seen such a thing…
And an enjoyable time was had by all…