Family Life

The Worralls Go West: Day 2

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This morning we drove two hours west from Marshall, Minnesota, to De Smet, South Dakota, where we spent most of the day exploring the little town and the surrounding prairie.

The Ingalls family moved west to De Smet when grasshoppers destroyed their wheat crop in Minnesota. Pa got a job working for the railroad. He moved alone at first, since the girls were sick. (This is the illness that left Mary blind.) But when the girls were strong again, Ma brought them to join Pa, and the family took advantage of the Homestead Act of 1862. Pa built the family a home and worked their farm for seven years before he moved the family into town.

Six of the Little House books take place in and around De Smet: By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years. It’s here that Laura met and married Almanzo, and they spent the first four (very difficult) years of their married life on a farm just outside of town.

We spent several hours exploring The Ingalls Homestead. The kids played in the sod house and the shanty. We looked around the replica of the Ingalls’ homestead home. We rode a covered wagon to school, and Amelia even drove part of the way. Not to be outdone, Daryl took a lesson on how to drive his own pony cart. The kids made jump ropes and corn cob dolls and had a great time.

After a quick bite to eat, we went into town to tour the Laura Ingalls Historic Homes. Here you can see the Surveyers’ home where Ma and the girls first came to meet Pa in De Smet. Laura describes this structure in some detail in By the Shores of Silver Lake. On this site you can also see the school house where Laura and Carrie attended school and a replica of the school house where Laura first taught when she was 15. This tour finishes at the town house that Pa built for the family in 1887.

Here are a few photo hightlights.

 The above photos are from The Ingalls’ Homestead.

Below are a few photos from the Laura Ingalls Historic Homes Tour.

We’re spending the night in Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the World’s Only Corn Palace. Back in the day, it was quite something to behold (see below), a whole palace actually made of corn. Now they simply cover the front of an actual building/palace with a new corn mural each year. Certainly, it’s still one of a kind, and if you happen to be in town anyhow, you might as well have a look.

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Corn palace

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