Live The Legacy... Of THE ‘WILDER’ LIFE

Depot Museum / HarveyHarvey Dunn Photos

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”.

Harvey Dunn
West of the De Smet Depot Museum is the country school attended by prairie artist
Harvey Dunn. The school can be seen in the background of his “After School” painting.

After leaving his country school, Dunn attended South Dakota State University, the Chicago Art Institute and studied under the famous illustrator, Howard Pyle. Dunn became one of the leading magazine illustrators for the Saturday Evening Post, was named President of the American Society of Illustrators and was an influential art teacher. He was also one of eight official illustrators selected for WWI American Expeditionary Forces. Dunn was a frequent visitor to the prairie that he grew up on. Dunn, a realist, painted what he saw. He depicted the hard life of the homesteader and the horrors of soldiers in war. Dunn’s collection consists of prairie paintings, illustrations and WWI paintings. Five of Dunn’s paintings hand in the De Smet library, The Hazel L. Meyer Memorial Library, while others can be viewed at the South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings.

Visitors will enjoy viewing the Laura Ingalls Wilder memorabilia featured in a display case and four Harvey Dunn paintings owned by the library and a fifth Dunn painting, which is owned by the local American Legion.

Library hours are 12:30 to 5:00 pm to Monday, Tuesday, Library hours are 12:30 to 5:00 pm to Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 12:30 to 6:00 pm on Wednesday. The library is open on Saturday from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm during the summer. Call us at 605-854-3842 for further information.

Harvey Dunn Society 7th Annual Plein Air EventHarvey Dunn Painting
Plein Air is an expression which means “in the open air”, and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors. That is exactly what happens the second weekend of August here in De Smet. Artists of all levels gather to enjoy fellowship and paint outside on the prairie as renowned artist Harvey Dunn had done. Artists begin their weekend of activities and competition with registration on Friday, August 10, 2015. Those who love art but do not paint or draw get the opportunity to watch and learn as the artists create on Saturday, August 8, 2015. Artists from several states will be seen painting at various locations in the De Smet area. Workshops will be held for artists to learn more about painting at various locations in the De Smet area. Workshops will be held for artists to learn more about painting techniques. Everyone has the opportunity to purchase these creations at a wet sale Sunday, August 9, 2015. The event is open to the public with no admission charge and free registration.

Artists: for more information, call Cheryl at 1-800-880-3383 or email