Today was the day! I have always wanted to go to De Smet, South Dakota and visit the Ingalls homestead there. When we pulled into WalMart last night, we realized that we were now back on Central Time, so we had lost an hour. We stayed up way too late, so we slept in a lot later than we were hoping. We pulled out of WalMart around 9:00 a.m.(our goal had been 8:00 – it took a little while longer because Charlie and Ryon had been clowning around and had somehow broken Ryon’s top bunk in the camper, so then Charlie had to fix it.) We drove to De Smet and went to the homestead. A lady there explained to me that there was a museum in town that would take us to some of the buildings that the Ingalls family had lived in, so we decided to do that first. We were able to drop our camper at the homestead since we would be going downtown De Smet, and they had a big festival and parade going on there that day.
When we arrived downtown, we were able to park easily. Charlie took the younger kids across the street to play at a park while I signed us up for a tour. The older kids and I spent time looking around the museum they had there, and then we all went out for the tour. We saw the Surveyor’s House, which is where the Ingalls lived during their first winter in De Smet. Then we were able to see an older school like the school Laura would have attended as well as a small school that would have been like the school she taught at. Next we had to drive (following the tour leader) to the home that Charles Ingalls built for his family in town after Laura was married. However, due to a parade for the local festival they were having, we were delayed a bit. We had to stop and wait on the parade. While we were watching the parade, the people in the parade generously threw a ton of candy our direction. We ended up with a grocery bag full of candy. Just what we needed! Candy for children who are riding in the car multiple hours every day! The kids were so excited. I just groaned every time more candy was tossed in our direction. AnaClaire got a small Twizzlers that kept her happy for quite a while. They all did well and didn’t overdo it.
After the in-town tour, we drove out to the homestead. Thank goodness this was a good place for them to all run around and burn off their energy from the candy. We ate lunch, saw a short video, and went outside to see the property. The Ingalls family received 160 acres from our government via the Homestead Act. Charles and Caroline Ingalls had 5 children of which 4 lived to adulthood. Of those 4, only Laura had biological children, a son who died as an infant and a daughter who lived to adulthood. The daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, only had one stillborn child, so there are no direct descendants of the Ingalls family. Assuming I understood correctly, none of the original buildings from the Ingalls’ homestead still existed. However, the people who own the property now had brought in old buildings from other locations and maybe built some of them in order that we could see the size and manner in which these late 1800s buildings were fashioned. We saw a dugout home, a homestead shanty, a sod-roofed barn, a huge wood barn, an old schoolhouse, and a home that would have been about the size that Charles Ingalls had eventually built for his family on their homestead. There was a lot of information and references to the books that Laura had written. In the school, the kids were able to dress up in period hats and sit at the desks and listen to a teacher talk about school in the late 1800s. They were also able to take horse or pony rides, and we all rode in a horse-drawn wagon. They all were able to take turns making jump ropes from a little machine with baling twine and making corn-cob dolls (or super-heroes for the boys). Needless to say, we all had a wonderful time. It was a very full day. We had thought that we would finish here in a morning, but there was so much to do that we spent the whole day there and left happily exhausted and full of smiles.