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Small Town of the Day – DeSmet, SD

If you’re from South Dakota and have ever read a book, you probably know of DeSmet, SD, today’s Small Town of the Day.

In fact one of my first recollections of reading, other than The Cat in the Hat and Curious George was probably books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Little House on the Prairie perfectly describes the tranquility mixed with hardship that growing up on the plains of South Dakota in the late 1800′s must have presented.

The way I figure, there are more grandpa’s and grandma’s who have called their kids saying, ‘hey, we’ll take your kids for the weekend.  We have a place we would like to take them and show them a little South Dakota history.  We’re going to DeSmet.

I did a little research on DeSmet, SD.  According to Wikipedia,

It was named for Belgian Father Pierre De Smet, a 19th-century Jesuit missionary who worked with Native Americansin the United States and its territories for most of his life. De Smet was settled as early as 1860′s and was

originally, “De Smet, Dakota”, being part of the Dakota Territory until 1889 when South Dakota became a statehood. In the mid 1880s, failures of crops after three-year period of drought and prairie fires caused settlers to relocate their farms and homesteads.[9] By 1917, it was a cow town, with many trains passing through every day.[10]

It’s amazing how many of the towns we talk about were located and still are located by the rail system.  DeSmet, no exceptions.

DeSmet is a quite little town.  Population about 1000.  And in the summer, many come from all over the country, and I imagine all over the world to see the town that Laura Ingalls Wilder both lived in, and wrote about.

Since 1971, De Smet has hosted a pageant, held over several weekends in July, to honor Laura Ingalls Wilder. Five of her classic Little House books were based on her experiences in and around the community.

The story of how Charles Ingalls and his wife Caroline arrived in De Smet in 1879 by covered wagon from Walnut Grove, Minnesota, is told by a cast of thirty in an open-air theater near the old Ingalls homestead and the

Surveyors’ House. Nearby are Silver Lake and the Big Slough, locations mentioned in her books. Reminders of De Smet’s pioneer past are evident throughout the town, including the First Congregational Church, where the Ingallses worshipped. Laura, husband Almanzo Wilder, and daughter Rose left De Smet in 1894 to live on a farm in the Ozarks near Mansfield, Missouri. There Laura Ingalls chronicled her De Smet memories in such works as The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years. Many residents in De Smet have made a special effort to learn the Ingalls story in hopes of assisting inquiring tourists each summer.[12]

I also like what is written on the front page of DeSmet’s website.

Come to experience our heritage as the Little Town on the Prairie.  You’ll witness wide open spaces and enjoy an outdoor paradise.  What you’ll find is a vibrant, modern LITTLE town, with friendly people and the same spirit of family, hospitality, integrity, and opportunism always found on the frontier.

If your from South Dakota and have never been to DeSmet, it’s really a great little town for a ‘day trip.’  It’s a town with so much history, all you have to do is walk the streets and watch for the next wonder to appear.  If you’re into SD history, this town is a must see.

They feature loads of restaurants to grab a bite to eat, and also boast great hunting and fishing year round.   We’ll be adding more to this story throughout the day about ‘DeSmet, SD…Our Small Town of the Day.

See Mondays Small Town of the Day Menno SD

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