De Smet, South Dakota

After days of watching the weather reports, we finally had a day that was supposed to be mostly sunny and warm up a bit. That day was the day after we went to see The Corn Palace (see previous post). Sooooo, we decided we would take the one hour drive north and west of our RV park to visit De Smet, South Dakota.

De Smet is the final place Charles and Caroline Ingalls lived (parents of Laura Ingalls Wilder). If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’ve been on a quest to visit all the places where Laura and her family lived. For those who may not know, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the Little House series of books. I’ve enjoyed reading those books several times, and really LOVED the television series “Little House on the Prairie” which was based on her books.

The Ingalls family arrived in De Smet in 1879. Charles filed for a formal homestead the winter of 1879-1880. That was a mild winter in which the Ingalls family lived in the surveyor’s house on the shores of Silver Lake just outside of De Smet.

Once the family was settled in De Smet, Laura and Carrie Ingalls attended school (it is uncertain why Mary didn’t attend school in De Smet). Laura and Carrie worked several part-time jobs and made friends. Laura also met Almanzo Wilder, her future husband, in De Smet. When she was 18 years old, she married the 28 year old Almanzo in 1885. Almanzo had already achieved some prosperity on his homestead claim, so they lived together in his home a few miles north of De Smet.

A little over a year later, Laura gave birth to their daughter, Rose. Three years after that Laura gave birth to a son who had yet to be named when he died 12 days later. On his grave marker, he is remembered as “Baby Son of A. J. Wilder.” The next few years of their marriage were frequently difficult and riddled with tragic incidences, sickness, and several years of severe drought. Around 1890 Almanzo, Laura, and Rose left De Smet and headed for Missouri.

Charles and Caroline Ingalls stayed in De Smet. Their three daughters, Mary, Carrie, and Grace lived in De Smet with them. Their oldest daughter, Mary, had suffered an illness when she was 14 years old that left her blind. She attended the blind school in Vinton, Iowa (see my previous post from the summer of 2018). When she finished her studies there, she returned to De Smet and lived with her parents. She contributed to the family income by making and selling fly nets for horses, sewing, and various other things she could make with her hands even though she was blind.

Carrie Ingalls became a typesetter for the De Smet News in her late teens. As an adult, she also worked for other newspapers throughout the state. At the age of 41, Carrie married David N. Swanzey and helped raise his two children, Mary and Harold. Harold was one of the workers who helped carve Mount Rushmore, and his name can be found on the granite walls below the monument. Carrie died at the age of 76 and is buried in the De Smet Cemetery.

Grace Ingalls is the youngest child of Charles and Caroline. She studied to become a schoolteacher. After completing her training, she taught in a town (Manchester) seven miles west of De Smet. In 1901 she married farmer Nathan Dow in the parlor of her parents’ home (the one Charles built himself and gradually added on to, eventually make a five bedroom home). Grace was not only a farm wife, but she also worked in journalism like Carrie, acting as a freelance reporter/writer for several newspapers later in life. Grace and her husband had no children. Grace died in 1941 at the age of 64. She is also buried at the De Smet Cemetery.

After Carrie and Grace’s parents died (Charles died when he was 66 in 1902; Caroline died after a long illness on Easter Sunday, 1924, at the age of 84; they are both buried in the De Smet Cemetery), they both helped take care of their blind sister, Mary. Mary lived with Grace in Manchester, SD, for a while. Then she travelled by herself to Keystone, SD (near Mount Rushmore), to live with Carrie. It was there that she suffered a stroke at the age of 63 in 1928, and not long after, died of pneumonia. She was taken back to De Smet and buried next to her parents.

Here is the De Smet Cemetery and the area where the Ingalls family graves are:

Grace Ingalls Dow and her husband’s grave stone.

Carrie Ingalls Swanzey’s grave stone.

Mary Ingalls’ grave stone.

Laura and Almanzo’s son’s grave stone. Notice there is no date on this stone.

Ma’s (Caroline Ingalls) grave stone.

Pa’s (Charles P. Ingalls) grave stone. This is the original stone and it is very difficult to read. There is a Masonic symbol above his name as he was a member of the Free Masons.

While we were in De Smet, we took the $14 tour of the surveyor’s house, the schoolhouse where Laura and Carrie attended, and the Ingalls’ house on Third Street (also known as The House Pa Built). These ARE the actual structures from when the Ingalls were there! The surveyor’s house and the school were moved from their original locations to where the museum is now. The Ingalls’ home is still in its original location.

The surveyor’s house:

We could not go upstairs, but the mirror at the top of the stairs allows visitors to see where Laura and Mary’s room was.

The School House (you will want to zoom in to read some of the signs):

The two small sections of old wood that is exposed here is the original wood floor of the schoolhouse. In order for people to be able to come inside, they had to lay a sturdier wood floor on the top of the original floor. They left this portion of the original floor exposed so we could see it.

Charles and Caroline Ingalls’ original house (the house that Pa built):

We picked up a map at the museum of all the various sites around town that had anything to do with the Ingalls such as the location of Pa’s store, the Wilder brothers feed store, Loftus’ store, and many more.

Here are a few of the sites in downtown De Smet (again, zoom in to read some of the information about the various sites):

The building with the black top and red front is the Couse Hardware building. You can tell if you zoom in and look at the black top closely and compare it to the picture of the building on the information sign.

The old Kingsbury County Bank building. You can compare the building in my photo to the photo of the building on the informational sign.

We also drove a couple of miles out of town to the north and saw the location of Almanzo and Laura’s homestead. Because their house burned to the ground, there is nothing left to see except the prairie that was once where they lived.

We drove a short distance east of town to the Ingalls’ homestead land. When you turn off to go the the homestead location, you will see where the Ingalls Pageant is put on every July.

The homestead land doesn’t have any original structures left on it. However, there are numerous recreations of structures from the time period in which the Ingalls would have lived there.

There is a monument that marks the original location of their home. This monument is on a one acre plot which is marked off by a fence. You can park your car and walk up the path to the monument. As you enter the area, notice the huge cottonwood trees lining the path. These trees were planted by Charles Ingalls himself!

There is SO MUCH MORE that I learned in De Smet and could tell you about. I really enjoyed our visit here! Plus, the people here are so nice and very friendly! You will just have to make a trip up here to see it and learn about it yourself some day. South Dakota is a beautiful state!

So, for now ….. “On the Road Again!”


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wanda Johnson
    May 28, 2019 @ 05:26:32

    Love how you keep us up with the Ingalls/Wilder family. Love all your pictures. so glad you are getting some decent weather. Wish you were going to be in Spfld. next week as I will be there. Would love to see you.


    • Betty Huffman
      May 28, 2019 @ 14:18:26

      Thanks, Wanda. I think I have now covered all the places Laura lived. When we get over by Mount Rushmore, we will be close to where Carrie raised her step-children. If we have time, I may go by that museum. We were so disappointed when we heard you would be in Springfield and we were going to miss you by a couple of weeks! Maybe next time. Praying for safe travels for you!


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