Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes in DeSmet

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As teachers, we are big fans of the Little House on the Prairie world. We have read the books multiple times, and we even listen to them on long car drives. On a recent cross country trip, we listened to several of the books and then stopped in DeSmet, South Dakota. This little town is where the Ingalls family lived during several of the books. DeSmet lies On the Shores of Silver Lake. It is where The Long Winter of 1880 takes place. It is even the Little Town on the Prairie where Laura lived and met her husband Almanzo. In fact, it is the town where Pa, Ma, and Mary lived for the rest of their lives.

The Charles & Caroline Ingalls family when they arrived in DeSmet.

Museum

There are several stops in DeSmet, and we did not make it to all of them. This post is about the tours through the Laura Ingall’s Wilder Historic Homes. This tour begins at a small museum where you pay the fee. You will then be lead on tours of two of the houses the Ingalls lived in. If you don’t want to pay for the tours, you can walk around the homes and read the historic signs. We loved being inside and seeing all the things Laura talks about in her books.

The museum is small, but there are a few artifacts on display from the Ingalls family. Some of the things that we were excited to see were a pig bladder ball, Carrie’s fur muff, and some original letters written by Laura. There is also a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs.

This is the museum. Begin your DeSmet exploring here.
The museum is a small room, but filled with great stuff.
We loved seeing (and touching) the Pig’s bladder ball.
If you’ve read the books, you know about the fur muffs.

Surveyor’s Home

The first stop on the tour is the surveyor’s home where the Ingalls lived in DeSmet. There are some artifacts from this time, but much of the Ingalls property was lost by later residents. Still, this is the very house described in the Silver Lake book. You can see the girls’ upstairs room and walk through the room where the family lived.

The Surveyor’s House was so important to the Ingalls Family during that long winter.
Inside there were lots of little things from their time here.
The upstairs rooms
We loved seeing artifacts from Laura Ingalls history.

School House

Just behind the surveyor’s house, you can visit the school. This is the original building as well, though it has gone through some restoration. There is also a smaller replica of the tiny school where Laura first served as a teacher. These frontier schools help to fill in the details of the story in a unique way.

This is the actual school house that Laura and Carried attended in Desmet.
The blackboards on the wall are original.

Ingalls Home

Finally, the tour guide will caravan with you across town to the Ingalls’ home. This house was built by Pa, and it is where Ma and Mary lived until their deaths. As you tour the home, it looks exactly as it looked in the early 1900’s. True to the books, Pa really was an amazing builder, and you can see it in the construction of this home. It has definitely stood the test of time. There are lots of pictures of the family, and many more artifacts that the Ingalls actually used.

This is the home that Pa built in DeSmet.
Pa’s actual fiddle is in the Missouri Wilder Museum, but we love this picture of Ma sitting right in this room.
Mary’s braille bible is on display.
These cabinets were built by Pa, and the dishes were used by the Ingalls family.

Cemetery

Finally, you can drive to the cemetery just outside of town. Using the map, you can easily locate the graves of Ma, Pa, Mary, and other members of the Ingalls family. (Laura was buried with Almanzo in Missouri.) It is worth the short drive to see the final resting place for the family.

Pa and Ma are buried side by side.
Mary and Carrie were both buried by Ma and Pa.

Other Stops

There are a few other stops in DeSmet. One of the main highlights is the Ingalls Homestead. This is where lots of pioneer activities happen such as wagon rides, washing cloths, wheat grinding, corn cob doll making, and more. We didn’t have time to visit this spot, but if you have a full day in DeSmet, add it to your list. More information here.

Here are a few smaller stops on the map that the docents gave us:

  • Visit Charles “Pa” Ingalls homestead one mile southeast of De Smet.
  • Visit the five original cottonwood trees that “Pa” planted for his family.
  • Visit Almanzo Wilder’s homestead

For more information about these locations, as well as current hours and prices for the tours, visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes in DeSmet website. If you are in the area of DeSmet, you are about 4 hours from Badlands National Park. We loved this are of South Dakota. Use the Badlands link for more information about the western part of South Dakota.

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