South Dakota Nature February 02, 2020
Few People Know That South Dakota Is The Birthplace Of Little House On The Prairie, One Of The Most Beloved Book Series In America
When it comes to beloved American literature, there is no series quite like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s iconic Little House on the Prairie. While most who read the books know Ingalls is referring to the Midwest, few realize that much of her story takes place on a modest homestead right here in South Dakota:
Like many families in the mid-1800s, the Ingalls - led by parents Charles and Caroline, pictured - frequently moved around in search of work, which took them from Pepin, Wisconsin (where Laura was born) to Rothville, Missouri to Independence, Kansas, which is where her father first learned of potential work down south.
When life on the Osage Indian reservation did not turn out as planned, the family moved several more times, beginning with a move back to Wisconsin and then Kansas, Minnesota, and Iowa, before making a final move to the Dakota Territory.
In the winter of 1879, Charles Ingalls filed for a formal homestead in De Smet, South Dakota, which would turn out to be a permanent home for the family (and the home that Charles, Caroline, and sister Mary would spend the rest of their lives in) and the setting for Wilder's "The Long Winter," "Little Town on the Prairie," and "These Happy Golden Years."
During her time in De Smet, Laura Ingalls not only witnessed the town being built from the ground up, but attended school, worked, and accepted her first teaching position all before the age of 16.
In addition to these critical milestones, Ingalls met and married Almanzo Wilder during her time in De Smet, where they also had their children and bought a small home before Almanzo began experiencing health problems and required a move to a warmer climate.
Pictured is the farm and homestead of the Wilders, located just off SD Highway 25 in De Smet.
After moving to Florida, the Wilders moved back to De Smet and then to Missouri, where Laura began writing for the "Missouri Ruralist" and then - several years later - began penning the "Little House on the Prairie" series that made her a household name.
While Laura, Almanzo, her parents, and her siblings have all passed away, their spirits live on through both Laura's books and the family's De Smet homestead, which can still be visited today.
Do you know of any SoDak hidden gems that you would like us to feature?
Tell us about it here! To learn even more about the town of De Smet, click on The Historic Small Town That Every South Dakotan Should Visit At Least Once. Address: De Smet, SD 57231, USA