Live The Legacy... Of The ‘WILDER’ Life
Depot Museum / Harvey Dunn School
Take a step back in time to the early days of De Smet area residents. The current depot was built in 1906 after a fire on April 23, 1905 destroyed the original one. Pa Ingalls served at the first depot in De Smet. Contrary to the TV series, the Ingalls never actually lived in the depot. The Ingalls’ family lived in the Surveyor’s Shanty (which can be toured at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society).
The Dakota Central Railway Company owned the first railroad through De Smet. Marvin Hughuit, a Chicago broker, surveyed, and bought the railway and surrounding land.
He later sold the land in 1881 to the Chicago Northwestern Railroad Company. The De Smet railroad had two passenger trains for many years. One of the trains was referred to as the “400”. The 400 referred to how many minutes it took to travel from Huron, SD to Chicago, Il. The depot was one of the town’s gathering spots. Many people stopped to chat and to watch the trains come and go. The Depot soon became the property of the city after the Chicago Northwestern Company no longer found it useful.
S. Neal Meyer (local banker) purchased the depot and donated it to the city of De Smet for a museum. Mrs. Doris Thorson gave the city money to refurbish the building. Some of the original lights, windows and fixtures are still in the depot over one hundred years later. The brick walk way on the west of the depot ground was laid by the Chicago Northwestern Railroad Company in 1906.
The museum also has the town’s original fire/curfew bell on display. The museum is home to many important artifacts. The artifacts include everything from bedroom to ballroom vintage clothing, a pot-bellied stove, an ornate organ, children’s toys, native American and military artifacts. The museum is also home to a wildlife display that includes native birds and animals. Much of the bird and animal collection was purchased from a local taxidermist and other species have been donated or on loan. The De Smet museum is run by 28 volunteers. For more information or to volunteer, please call Charmeine Bohn 854-3809 or Helen Gehm at 854-3274.
The Depot Museum relies on donations from its operation. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, 10 am - 5 pm in the months of June, July and August. Adjacent to the museum is the school house attended by Harvey Dunn and made famous in his painting “After School”.
‘The Garden of Remembrance’
Located on the south side of the De Smet Cemetery on the road to the historical Ingalls grave sites is a quiet haven of stone, plantings, water and labyrinth. This ‘Garden of Remembrance’ is designed ‘for the living’ as a place where all who visit will find comfort and peace of mind. It is place where all can pray and meditate. As you walk around the garden you hear the comforting sounds of water falling and the babbling of the creek. The boulders and rocks - all thoughtfully selected and delivered to the site are each different and unique in their own way - just like people. The labyrinth represents life’s pathway full of twists and turns and definitely not always level ground. As you follow the path, allow yourself to let go of the presence of grief and sorrow and look to the future that we cannot see but must have hope and faith in. When you reach the center boulder and gaze all around you can see so much beauty of life and nature! There are trees, the plants and grasses, the flowers! You can hear the spirits thought the pine trees! Much love, thought and care has gone into the creation of this garden as all work was donated by community members. It is truly “A place that Heaven touches Earth.”
This ‘Garden of Remembrance’ was built in 2008 spearheaded by the De Smet High School class of ‘08 after they had witnessed a great deal of tragedy with classmates and peers. There are no names placed at the Garden as it is for everyone. Many years ago the ground to the west of the Garden was the burial place of 635 plus people who passed away in poorer times and were laid to rest by the county with no recognition. It was previously called a Potter’s Field. It is “For those whose names are known only to God’. Everyone is welcome to help with the care of the plants as it is all maintained through volunteer help. It is handicap accessible and open to everyone. It is a beautiful area that all should take a little time to visit, reminisce on your time in De Smet and feel the serenity. For more information, contact Susan Purintun, 854-3896 or 854-3176.
While you’re in De Smet, drive eight miles west on Highway 14 to visit the Manchester Monument. Learn about the Spirit of Manchester, where artist Harvey Dunn was born, where Grace Ingalls Dow “Baby Grace” lived most of her life, and where a 1961 Dakota Territory Centennial Celebration drew nearly 150,000 people. The town was destroyed by a massive F-4 tornado in 2003.
This distinctive monument stands at the site of the old Town Hall and includes the historic Town Pump, two places where everyone gathered and shared their sense of community.
Enjoy what are often exhilarating sunsets at this site, which is surrounded by many varieties of native South Dakota grasses. You’ll be inspired by the historic spirit of this community and learn about small towns that grew along a railroad as it punched west across the prairie. Add this site to your De Smet, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Harvey Dunn itinerary.
Wilder Welcome Center
Located on De Smet's main street, the Wilder Welcome Center is the beginning of the ultimate Laura Ingalls Wilder experience. Stop in for Laura Ingalls Wilder attraction information, town maps, and travel brochures. Take a bus tour in and around De Smet that features Silver Lake, Lake Henry, the De Smet Cemetery, and Almonzo and Laura's claims. End your trip by shopping for locally made items in the gift shop. Call (605) 854-6012 for more information.