Laura Ingalls Wilder moved to De Smet, South Dakota in 1879. Many of her books are based on her time in De Smet: By the Shores of Silver Lake, Little Town on the Prairie, Long Winter, These Happy Golden Years & The First Four Years. These stories are why I love the books so much. Laura, Almanzo & their daughter, Rose, eventually moved to Mansfield, Missouri. But, Pa, Ma & Mary lived the rest of their lives in De Smet and are buried in a cemetery in town. More than 100 years later, in 2006, we took a road trip that was planned around visiting the homes of LIW in De Smet & Walnut Grove. I experienced so much about LIW that I’m going to split this post into 3 parts, then do 3 more posts on what we saw in Walnut Grove.
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CALUMET AVENUE & THE LOFTUS STORE
De Smet, in 2006, was (and probably still is) a small, quiet town. To see an interactive map of De Smet in the 1880’s similar to the one drawn by Laura visit the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.
The main street through town is Calumet Avenue. Located on Calumet is The Loftus Store! This is the original building. In the book The Long Winter, Laura tells about Mr. Loftus selling wheat to all the starving people in town.
Throughout the town, Little Town on the Prairie is written on the banners in De Smet. I am 100% tourist. I love seeing all the little details a town does to remember their history.
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society has a walking tour through town. I left the boys at our camp site & took a couple hours to do the tour. I loved it. I believe they also have a guided tour. But, I was kind of in a hurry so I chose to do the walking tour by myself. At the beginning of the tour was a gift shop, the Surveyor’s house and a replica of the Brewster School. The rest of the tour was within walking distance from the starting point.
Laura and her family lived in the Surveyor’s House during the winter of 1879-1880 as mentioned in By the Shores of Silver Lake. This is the original house, but has been moved to this location
BREWSTER SCHOOL REPLICA
At the age of 15, Laura first started teaching 12 miles from home at the Brewster School. As you can see it was a tiny.
Bottom Left: Inside the one room schoolhouse were two rows of desks. Each desk had a slate & a McGuffy Reader. The seats do not look comfy, and I’m sure the kids were not allowed to fidget.
THE HOUSE THAT PA BUILT
The next place I was excited to visit was the house that Pa built. Pa quit farming and the family moved to town. Pa, Ma & Mary lived in this house until they died. The house was eventually sold to a private family & later purchased by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society – thank goodness. What a treasure for all us LIW fans.
Bottom Right: Since I couldn’t take pics in the Ingalls’ Home, I bought this postcard. It is decorated similarly to the way it was when the Ingalls’ lived there, which is quite nice.
Here’s an interesting blog post about the building of the home.
DE SMET’S FIRST SCHOOL
Not far from the Ingalls’ home was De Smet’s first school. Laura & Carrie walked to this school in town from their homestead just outside of town.
I believe the LIW Memorial Society is renovating this old school building. But, when I visited De Smet it wasn’t something you could go in to. There was just a sign out front and a plaque on the wall.
More from our 2006 visit to Laura sites:
Ingalls Homestead in De Smet
Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant in De Smet
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove
Wilder Pageant in Walnut Grove
Plum Creek in Walnut Grove