Surrounded by fresh construction, less than a mile from Silver Lake, stands the De Smet home of Charles and Caroline Ingalls. The couple, originally from Wisconsin, planned to be in the area only temporarily, but have now decided to make the growing town, just sixty miles from Brookings, their home.
As they welcome us inside, Caroline says that Charles has secured a homestead nearby, and they will soon be moving out of the house. She explains that it was built by surveyors and they have merely been caretaking for the past several months.
Charles and Caroline were considering a move back east with their four young daughters, Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace, when a chance meeting with the head surveyor changed their plans. Charles relayed the conversation, which took place in the company store, “They thought they had to stay and they laid in coal and provisions enough to last them through, but if I’ll take charge and be responsible for the company tools till spring, they’ll go out for the winter.” *
The family, having moved from Wisconsin to Indian Territory, then Minnesota, and finally to De Smet so Charles could accept a job with the railroad, is ready to settle down. Caroline has homeschooled the girls, but hopes for more formal education opportunities.
“I’ll be thankful when we’re settled,” said Caroline. “This is the last move we’re going to make. Mr. Ingalls agreed to that before we left Minnesota. My girls are going to have schooling and lead a civilized life.” **
And although the surveyors’ house is only a temporary home, the Ingalls’ have been happy to have it.
Laura tells us it’s the biggest place she’s ever lived as we enter a front common room. In one corner sits a wooden rocking chair draped in a quilt. We learn that it’s where Mary likes to sit, due to its proximity to the stove, which Caroline is visibly excited to show us.
The black iron behemoth is well constructed with six lids on top and two oven doors, which allow for efficient cooking for the large family and their frequent visitors, in addition to providing heat during the long South Dakota winters.
The Ingalls’ were alone for the first months of winter, after the railroad men packed up and left. To keep his family entertained, Charles would often play his fiddle while everyone else sang along. He says that hymns are big in their house, but so are reels and jigs. Often, he says, the occasion and mood determines the music choice. What made winter evenings livelier was the addition of their friends, the Boasts, who arrived on Christmas Eve to beat the spring rush of homesteaders.
To read the full article, pick up July’s 605 Magazine or click here. For more photos, continue to scroll.
For more info about the Laura Ingalls Memorial Society and tours, click here.
(*Pg. 133, **Pg. 209, By the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura Ingalls Wilder)