Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) is one of the most bestselling US authors of all time. Her most popular books are part of the Little House on the Prairie series, which was made into a long-running television series in the 1970s starring a young Melissa Gilbert as Laura. The writer lived in De Smet in her adolescence. At the time, the population was barely more than a hundred people. It grew to approximately ten times that number of residents in current day.
Read more about Laura Ingalls Wilder here: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Laura-Ingalls-Wilder.
Visiting De Smet
One of the best “Author Adventures” I ever had was a visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes in De Smet, South Dakota, during the cold winter of 2014. On the day of my visit, there was a lot of fresh snow everywhere, the sky was almost a metallic blue color because the sun was so bright, and the temperatures went below zero. Basically, it was a perfect day to visit places directly associated with the final four of the Little House books!
I drove to De Smet during the afternoon and phoned ahead of time to make sure that the museum would be open since it was so cold. One of the highlights of my visit was stepping inside and taking an official tour of the actual Surveyor’s House where the Ingalls family lived, as described in By the Shores of Silver Lake. It was easy to imagine how wonderful it seemed to them compared to some of the other places they’d lived.
During my visit, not all of the buildings were open because it’s too expensive to keep them heated during the winter. However, I loved trudging through heavy snow up to the actual school house which Laura and Carrie attended and peering inside the windows. Through the beautiful patterns of frost on the window panes, you could see the inside of the school house and enjoy the fact that the school-related shenanigans described in Little Town on the Prairie took place in that very room.
The town of De Smet really celebrates its connection to Laura Ingalls Wilder and hosts many Laura-inspired activities during the summer months. Even though I was visiting in the off season, and couldn’t see everything, it was still completely worth the drive.
More Places to See
This is the final stop on our South Dakota Author Adventures Trail.
Rebecca Blake Beech