|Having loved the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder all my life, getting to spend some time where she spent many of her years has been a real treat. And Mike even enjoyed the day and all their history even though he has never read the books. How romantic the books and TV show made it all seem but being here, walking in the houses in which she and her family lived, seeing how far she had to walk to school, working in the garden, carrying water to the garden and house, twisting swamp grass to heat the stove because they had run out of coal and there was no trees around to burn, grinding wheat with a coffee grinder because they were out of food, living in such small, cramped quarters, you can sense just how tough it must have been. But Laura claimed she had a wonderful life and wanted to share what it was like to be a "Pioneer Girl," which was the title of her first book that was rejected three times by publishers. Never one to give up, Laura kept writing but it was her daughter Rose Wilder Lane who finally helped her get her books published in 1932 when Laura was 65 years old. The Ingalls family came to the "Shores of Silver Lake" (the name of the book about their move to De Smet in 1879) when Pa went to work for the railroad, as a timekeeper earning $50.00 a month. They lived in a shanty until fall when the railroad crews went home for the winter and ended up staying in the Surveyors House through the winter with their closest neighbors living 10 miles away. That next spring, Pa found their homestead just three miles south of town where he built a house for his family a portion at a time. Pa planted over 1000 cottonwoods on the homestead and only five of them survive today. They have been dedicated to his 5 girls...Ma, Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace. They "proved up" on their claim and lived and worked on the homestead for seven years while the girls walked into town to school. Pa also built a store in town which he ran along with working the homestead and during their 2nd winter in De Smet, the area suffered the worst blizzard of South Dakota's history and the family lived in the back of the store. As the months wore on, supplies and coal ran out, for the entire town and the family had one loaf of bread a day to eat which was made out of ground wheat and the only heat they had was the swamp grass that Pa and Laura twisted into knots which would burn for just a few minutes. It took twelve knots just to heat water for tea. De Smet is where Laura met her husband, Almanzo Wilder and they were married when Laura turned 18. She taught school at the age of fifteen 12 miles south of town called the Brewster School which has been moved to town for the publics enjoyment. Many of the landmarks that are so familiar to us all are no longer standing but the Surveyor's House, the De Smet School House where Laura and Carrie walked to school, all of the buildings at the Homestead and the Ingalls town house are all original. THe town house was a beautiful home with a huge sitting room where the family entertained guests, 2 bedrooms, a big kitchen and living area on the main floor and 3 bedrooms on the 2nd floor. It was quite a home in the late 1890's. THe Ingalls family was the first to settle in De Smet and Pa, Ma and Mary lived the rest of their lives here. Laura and Almanzo homesteaded north of town but there are no buildings left standing on that homestead. Most of the original businesses in town (that we know of from the books) are also gone. THe original Loftus Store is still in operation where Laura and Mary purchased Pa a set of suspenders for Christmas and the store attached to it is the original building where the seamstress shop was that Laura worked for to help send Mary to the Blind School in Iowa. Laura and Almanzo had two children, Rose and a baby boy that lived less than a month and is buried next to Pa and Ma in the De Smet Cemetery. Laura and Almanzo moved to Mansfield, MO which is where they spent the rest of their lives, he passing away at the age of 92 and Laura at the age of 90. Carrie and Mary are both buried next to Charles and Caroline and Grace and her husband are buried nearby. Contrary to the TV show, Mary never married and lived her entire life excluding the 7 years she spent at the Blind School, with her parents until Ma's death. At that time, Grace and her husband moved to town to take care of Mary until she died, just 4 years after her mother. Silver Lake was a pothole lake that has been drained for many years. It is safe to say that Laura Ingalls Wilder put this little town on the map and they get over 25,000 visitors a year, from all over the world, who want to taste the experiences of the wonderful stories Laura told and maybe, just maybe just walk in her shoes for a day. No photos were allowed in the Surveyor's House, the Ingalls Town House, and the De Smet School but trying to decide which of the 50 photos to post is still hard as there are so many great share. The Laura Ingalls Wilder (LIW) Historical Society continues to do an amazing job of maintaining the buildings and the stories of the families and realize they have a gold mine in their "Little Town on the Prairie."