Mitchell, South Dakota   4 comments

Corn Palace Festival starts today! We stopped in first thing this morning and found that Kenny Rogers is opening the Corn Palace Festival, but his show has been sold out for over a week…. His RV is right behind the palace so maybe we’ll just sit out there & wait to see him in person.

We did meet one of his equipment delivery drivers

And talked to the driver for the band (who gave us an autographed photo) and told us Kenny’s RV is the black one in the middle.

You might remember my posts from last year while on the Lewis & Clark trip when we visited the Corn Palace. Every year they change the corncob murals on the outside of the building, using over a half million ears of corn that are sawed in half and nailed to the building following the patterns created by a local artist.

The inside is redone every 10 years, so they are still the same that was there last year.

We are lucky that we went into town the day before the festival because the palace had vendors all around making it impossible to take pictures.

The home of Laura Ingalls Wilder was just 1 ½ hour motorcycle away, so off we did a nice ride out to De Smet, S.D, known as the “Little Town on the Prairie.” Legendary author Laura Ingalls Wilder drew inspiration for her endearing “Little House” books from her early childhood spent from 1879 to 1894 in the Surveyors’ House, Ingalls’ Home and First School of De Smet.

Lured by the prospect of free land from the Homestead Act of 1862, the Ingalls family traveled over a thousand miles in a covered wagon to claim land, which meant living on the land for at least 5 years, build a home and plow at least 10 acres.

They spent their first winter in the Dakotas in 1879 when the surveyors decided to go home for the winter and asked Pa if he would stay in their house during the winter to watch over their tools and equipment.

They could help themselves to all the shelves of food that was left behind, which was more food than the family had ever seen. Laura thought she died and went to heaven with all the room in the house, pots and dishes, and food. As we toured the house, I was not aware we could not take pictures until I had already taken 3, whoops….(I swear I did not use a flash)

Pa found his family homestead in 1880 and built his last house in 1887. It is the house he died in. Laura never wrote about that house because she never lived in that house. After Pa died, Ma rented out rooms and that is how she and her blind daughter, Mary, survived.

First School of DeSmet (grade 1-8)

2nd school house (grade 1-12), which is still being restored.

Dakota Discovery Museum

In the early 1890s, Richard Sears was a railroad station agent in North Redwood, MN, when a very large shipment of watches arrived by rail. The order had been sent in error and the local jeweler refused to accept them. Sears purchased them himself and then sold the watches to other railroad station agents up and down the line. The watches sold well, he made a good profit, and started selling watches through mail order catalogues. He soon moved to Chicago, IL, where Alvah Roebuck joined him in the business. In 1893, the corporation business name became Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Below is a photo of the inside of a wagon and a Claim Shack replica of the original average 1800’s home as you see, it is small almost no room to stand. The Claim shack was probably used by pioneers. The bed takes up half the room

Many left the Dakotas in the 1930’s. Others stuck it out with amazing endurance. The 1930’s were years of great hardship throughout the country. Of the 123,000,000 people in the U.S. 53,000,000 lived on farms. Unemployment was near 25 per cent, and the hourly wage for those employed was 44 cents. The Dakotas suffered a drought and the first terrible dust storm occurred in 1933. It was called the “Black Blizzard.” Many more followed. They earned the name “Dirty Thirties” for the decade. When these storms raged, it was as dark as night in the middle of the day. A fine deposit of topsoil was left everywhere. Soil erosion was so severe that fences were nearly buried in the fine, windblown deposits.

L.E. Beckwith was the founder of the Corn Palace. He was born in 1837 in Pekin, IL. Hmmmm that town sounds familiar. Could it be because we were just there visiting friends? He came to Mitchell in 1882. The Beckwith house was built in the late 1800s and is on display at the Dakota Discovery Museum.

A photo of the first Corn Palace is on display in the Beckwith House.

Beckwith’s wife was quite talented with a needle and thread. Her works are displayed in the house.

I neglected to get a picture of her needlework that won her first place in the Chicago World’s Fair.

Charles Hargens (1893-1997) was one of American’s foremost illustrators. Most of his work has been designed to capture the scenes and feeling of the Old West.

Walking into his studio is like stepping into a bygone era.

On our way back to our RV, we came upon a Doe and her fawns. I took a quick picture from the truck & then decided to climb the hill to get a closer look. I was surprised that they didn’t run away while I was climbing the hill, which was very steep & I kept slipping back down. Once I got up there, they were just grazing and as I walked closer, “mama” heard me. She perked up, looked right at me, wandered over to her babies and took off down the hill and across the road, babies in tow.

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4 responses to “Mitchell, South Dakota

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  1. We are really enjoying your blog. Much of it brings back good memories of places we have visited.

  2. Shirley, I’m so glad you are keeping up with us. We miss you guys so much!

  3. Carol, We are camped in Cuba, New York. This is where “Pa” Ingalls was born and spent his childhood. We have been enjoying your blog as well.

  4. Sharon, I’m so glad all of you guys are enjoying. Wow, what a coincidence that you are where pa was born & we were where he died. That’s weird. It sure was an interesting tour. We learn so much that it’s impossible to post it all.

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