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Laura Ingalls Wilder

De Smet, South Dakota Street Map


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In By the Shores of Silver Lake , Laura, Mary, Carrie, Grace and Ma traveled by train from Walnut Grove to Tracy , Minnesota . There they met Pa and traveled by wagon to Silver Lake in the Dakota Territory where Pa was working for the railroad. As the railroad tracks were built into the Dakota Territory , surveyors staked out towns along the tracks. One of the towns was to be named for Father Pierre Jean De Smet, a Catholic priest who had been a missionary to the Lakota.

A Locomotive
Photo courtesty of JupiterImages


Laura thought that the train went fast. In one hour the train could go twenty miles. It would take Pa a whole day to go that far in the wagon. The development of the railroad made the westward journey easier for the pioneers. Railroads brought goods such as food supplies, cloth, lumber and farming equipment to frontier towns. During the hard winter of 1880 and 1881, the trains could not get through to deliver supplies to De Smet, and the Ingalls family and other settlers came close to starving. What kind of supplies do you think the Ingalls family and other pioneers needed to survive on the prairie?

Train depot

The Railroad Depot in Iowa City, Iowa
--Photo courtesy of the Johnson County Historical Society, P.O. Box 5081, Coralville, IA 52241-5081


Each town along the railroad had a depot where supplies were delivered and where passengers could wait for the train. In Little Town on the Prairie , Ben Woodworth, whose father was the depot agent, invited Laura and her classmates to his birthday party at the depot. After eating oranges, oyster soup and white-frosted cake, the teenagers played games downstairs in the waiting room.




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