While driving around in GreaterDakota, Farmer Fred took a side trip to DeSmet, where the Charles and Caroline Ingalls family lived. They had a homestead claim near this town. Notice the sign in the window, they were open and selling tickets for a tour. Laura Ingalls Wilder made this place famous in her Little House on the Prairie books. Click here for more information.
Buildings have been moved or rebuilt in a park like location in DeSmet. The cottonwood trees are still on the original homestead, but the buildings are gone. Above is the actual surveyors house in which the Ingalls family spent the winter. Photos were not allowed inside, but we were able to tour the house. It is much the way Laura described it in By the Shores of Silver Lake.
Nearby is a rebuilt school house similar to the one in which Laura taught.
As I stepped inside, I doubted the authenticity of the reconstruction. These thin wood walls would not have kept children warm enough during a South Dakota winter. There was no insulation on the walls or roof. The tour guide told us that they burned hay twists made of native grasses in the stove. It took four hay twists to heat a small kettle of water.
We followed our tour guide to the "house in town" Laura described in the book. Pa Ingalls built it and it remains on the original site. Seeing this house reminded me that the Little House books are our stories. This house is every frame house ever built on the plains. Her dugout on Plum Creek is my grandfather's dugout. Struggling, hopeful, courageous and heart breaking, these books are the stories of all the children who settled the plains. Laura Ingalls Wilder is reported to have said that she wasn't writing history, but telling stories from her childhood. She told them from the perspective of a child, charming and innocent. Inadvertently, she spoke for all of us on the American Plains. Her Little House books inspire us to look back and remember the independent, hard working people who settled the area. Be sure your children get a chance to read them.