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!”


Springfield, Missouri: Part 2

While we were still visiting with family in Springfield, we decided to stay a couple of extra days, so we cancelled our RV reservation for Carthage, MO. The whole purpose of staying in Carthage was to be able to drive over to the Independence, Kansas, area where the Ingalls family lived for a short while. I decided I could just drive from Springfield because it only added about an hour or less to the drive. I would be gone most of the day. Jack borrowed one of his brother’s (Carl) cars, so he wouldn’t be stuck at the RV all day.

This past Wednesday we left the RV around 8:00 a.m. and I dropped Jack at his brother’s house. Then I headed west towards Independence, KS. It was a gorgeous day with full sunshine, deep blue skies, and a few white, billowy clouds. I drove to the Missouri/Kansas/Oklahoma state line on I 44 and then picked up Kansas State Hwy. 166. Even though it was a two lane road (nice, wide lanes with good, wide shoulders), it was an easy drive.

The land was either flat or gently rolling hills. I thoroughly enjoyed the drive. Before I knew it, I was turning on the last couple of county roads completing the last few miles to the official Kansas home of the Charles Ingalls family. They lived about twelve miles southwest of Independence, KS, from 1869 to 1871. Mary, the oldest daughter, was five years old and Laura was three years old when they moved here. Carrie Ingalls, their third daughter, was born here.

The area in which the Ingalls family settled was Indian country. “Pa” (as Laura called her father in her books) had been told that the location would soon be open to white settlers. However, when they arrived this was not the case. It was discovered that their homestead was on the Osage Indian reservation, and they had no legal right to the land. They had just begun to farm when they heard rumors that the settlers would be evicted. They left preemptively in the spring of 1871. Those rumors may have prompted the Ingalls to leave. However, Laura’s parents needed to recover their Pepin, Wisconsin, land because the buyer had not paid the mortgage. Therefore, they left and headed back to Wisconsin.

On this site in Kansas is a recreation of the one room cabin in which the Ingalls family lived. This cabin was reconstructed by Laura’s vivid descriptions in her Little House On the Prairie book. The well on the site was dug by hand by Charles Ingalls with some help from his neighbor, Mr. Scott. The was instrumental in helping historian Margaret Clements discover the side of the Ingalls family homestead in 1969 on what was then the Horton farm.

Also on the site is the Wayside Post Office constructed in 1885. The Ingalls family had moved by then, however, William Kurtis moved it here in 1977 to save it from destruction and preserve it for the education of future generations. The Sunnyside Schoolhouse was built in 1871 about four miles from the Ingalls homestead, however the Ingalls children were too young at the time to have attended during their time in Kansas. Again, Mr. Kurtis moved the structure to this site in 1977 to preserve the building. It was their hope that children of future generations would be able to experience what school would have been like back in the late 1800s.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. Please read the information on the pics of signs. They explain further about some of the structures.

This farmhouse was built in 1880. The next photo is a close up of the sign in this photo. It has some interesting information on it. You probably will have to zoom in on the next photo, though.

This log cabin is a recreation of the Ingalls’ cabin.

Another photo of the old farmhouse. The farmhouse is where the museum and store are located.

This census page was found in the county courthouse. If you zoom in to the bottom left corner, you will see on the last four lines the names of the Ingalls family. If you have trouble, just look at the next two photos.

There is a restroom behind the farmhouse, and also some picnic tables behind the hand dug well. It’s a great place for a family picnic!

This is one of the smaller Laura Ingalls Wilder home sites. It doesn’t really take a long time to go through everything. That is, unless you are like me and like to read every word on every sign and every description with any artifacts. It probably took me a little over an hour to go through everything.

As I left and walked to my car, I noticed how quite it was out on that prairie. I could just imagine Laura and Mary running through the tall prairie grass playing. I got in my car with a smile on my face and headed back to Springfield.

So, for now ….. ” On the Road Again!”


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