Little House on the Prairie

On Wednesday, June 10 we drove to De Smet, SD and stayed the night at the Lake Thompson Recreational Area. It was fascinating to realize that Laura Ingalls Wilder actually road in Almanzo’s buggy with him on Sunday afternoons through this area.  She loved to visit Lakes Thompson and Henry (the twin lakes).

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Thursday morning we drove into town where the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum is located. The house with the store and gift shop also had an exhibit set up in the back, and they had this little hands-on corner set up where children could put together a booklet and write a story, like Laura.

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The tour included the Surveyor’s House, which is the actual house (it has been moved) that Laura and her family stayed in their first winter on Silver Lake near De Smet. Laura thought this was a two-story mansion! (We were not allowed to take pictures inside.)

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Then, we went into the First School of De Smet, which is the school Laura and Carrie attended. This, also, is the actual building. This building at one time was turned into a home. When the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society obtained possession of this building, they began removing wallpaper and found the original blackboards underneath! While in here, we learned more about the Long Winter, and got to grind wheat in the coffee grinder, like Laura and her family did that winter so they would have something to eat — brown bread that Laura grew tired of!

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The next building was a replica of the Brewster School, which was the first school at which Laura taught, when she was only 15 years old. It was a claim shanty that they town turned into a school for 2 months. She taught 5 children there successfully. Isn’t our tour guide adorable?  I loved that they dressed in costume!

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After this we drove across town (about 5 blocks) to the house that Pa built when he and Ma decided they would rather live in town than on the prairie. It is in the actual location where they lived. They had a station set up for people to bead like Mary did, by having someone tell them where each color is located then trying to remember while their eyes are closed.  Minnie Mouse did a great job!

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We also were able to attempt to play the fiddle (this is not Pa’s actual fiddle — that is in Mansfield, MO), and the pump organ. Mary and Ma were the two who played this organ most, although all the girls knew how to play.

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In the kitchen, they had combs and wax paper for people to try making music!  We got to keep the comb, so Minnie Mouse has been practicing.  She is getting pretty good!

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A block away was the First Congregational Church, which Pa helped build.

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We went downtown to see the main street. Many of the businesses have signs in their windows telling what they were when the town began. The only one that is the same is Loftus’ Store, which Laura writes about in her books.

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From here we drove to Camden State Park to stay the night.  This turned out to be a gem of a place. We had a nice evening walking around the campground and on a trail. The sunset was gorgeous!

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The next morning we set out for Walnut Grove, MN. We visited the museum here, which included on room filled with several things belonging to Laura and her family, and one room filled with items and information about the television series.  There were other buildings to visit as well, but they were mostly replicas.

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Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

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They had a replica of the dugout house that the Ingalls’ lived in when they first arrived on Plum Creek (near Walnut Grove). I can’t believe that 5 of them lived in this little thing for any length of time!

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There was a building with several hands-on activities centered around the original town of Walnut Grove: the general store, the post office, the telephone booth. Wait? What? I don’t think that was around when Laura was a girl! Oh well.  Still fun!

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Even though the property is now privately owned, we were still able to visit Plum Creek, and the actual site of the Ingalls’ dugout home. The roof has since caved in, but they have the area roped off.

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Again, this was fascinating to realize this is the very place where Laura played with Mary and Carrie, where she walked to school, did her chores, and just lived her life. And that’s the thing that strikes me.  She was just living her life. She had no idea her life would eventually have such an impact on so many people around the world. She didn’t seek out fanfare or try to stand out in any magnificent way while living in these now famous places. She just lived her day-to-day life, doing what was expected of her, what needed to be done. She loved her family dearly, and wanted to do what she could for them. What a great example she has become for me. I am anxious to find out more about this wonderful woman!

We made a decision to not visit Pepin, WI on this trip (where Laura was born, and where Little House in the Big Woods takes place). So, we made our way to Madison, WI and stayed the night in a Cabela’s parking lot. We’ll see you at the next stop!

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