Have You Ever Been to Cream City, South Dakota? You May Have and Didn’t Know It!
First of all, a shocking surprise...hang on to your hat:
South Dakota is a rural state!
And perhaps more than anything else, that's why I've loved calling South Dakota home for over 40 years. Having grown up on a small farmstead near a small town, I've always loved the 'small town' atmosphere of our state. You may not know everyone in South Dakota, but there's a pretty good chance you know someone who does know that person you're talking about!
I've had the good fortune to live in different sections of our state, from the south central to the northeast to the far west and southeast. And, maybe like you, I could probably name pert near every town in the state, from Sisseton to Edgemont, Lemmon to Elk Point.
How about Cream City? Huh?
Have you ever been to Cream City? I didn't think I had, but turns out I have been a number of times, even have friends there! As a matter of fact, back in my sports play-by-play days, I even called football and basketball games there!
But wait, OK I'll admit it now...Cream City isn't actually legally named Cream City.
One of the things I absolutely love (besides country music) is history, whether national or local. And it was that curiosity that brought me to 'Cream City'...otherwise more popularly known as De Smet. Now, while most of us know about De Smet's connection to the Ingalls family (and by the way, if you haven't been to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, do yourself and your family a favor and see it soon!), there's a great history to De Smet, as I found on their website:
About 10,000 years ago a large glacier covered the De Smet area. The glacier moved southward forming the west side of the Missouri River. As the glacier retreated, it left large stagnant blocks. These blocks formed the numerous South Dakota sloughs and lakes. Lake Thompson, near De Smet, is the largest glacial lake in the state. The American Indian entered the South Dakota area during the period, between 5,000-8,000 years ago.
In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson assigned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the territory that would become the state of South Dakota in defense of the Louisiana Purchase. After exploration, Clark referred to South Dakota as the “Land of Plenty”.
The present North Dakota and South Dakota area became the Dakota Territory in 1868. The history of Kingsbury County begins in 1838 when John C. Fremont of the US Army and Dr. Nicolet came through this section. The early settlers found a sea of waving grass when they arrived in the late 1800’s. Prior to 1877, the hand of the white man had not disturbed the soil or erected habitations in Kingsbury County except the driving of stakes by the government surveyors. Kingsbury County was named for George W. Kingsbury of Yankton, a pioneer, editor, historian and legislator.
With the railroad came many tents of workmen who added to the towns. The graders were closely followed by the tracklayers and then the locomotive. The first train came to De Smet in 1880.
At the May 9 meeting of the board, De Smet was named county seat. It was plotted in 1880 and incorporated in 1883. Years later it was dubbed “Cream City,” because of the high cream production.
The county seat got one of its first buildings in 1880, when Henry Hinz Sr. built a recreation place. Structures started going up rapidly along the business street, and the lumber was hauled mostly from Volga before the first train came.
The first family of De Smet was that of Charles P. Ingalls. He was the timekeeper for the railway construction crew at his camp on the shore of Silver Lake, a mile east of where De Smet was to be built. As construction work ceased in the fall of 1879, he and his wife, along with four daughters remained in the timekeeper’s building through the winter and spring and built what was to become Ingalls’ store.
By 1883, De Smet was a typical early prairie town. De Smet had about 60 buildings including grocery and provision stores, wagon shops, lumber yards, banks, a drug store, newspaper companies, a flour mill, a church, a school, an elevator, two attorneys, a harness shop, one hotel and two real estate dealers.
So, on your travels through South Dakota, stop by and say 'Hi' to the folks in the town once knwon as 'Cream City',De Smet. Have a cup of coffee, find out more about the Ingalls family and you'll find yourself leaving town feeling just a little bit better!