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Traveling S.D.: 75 Years Ago

Apr 27, 2011

While researching a story for our upcoming issue, I've spent considerable time looking through the South Dakota guidebook compiled in the 1930s. The authors were writers struggling to find work during the Great Depression, so they joined the Federal Writers Project under the Works Progress Administration. They got to travel the state and write about what you could find. Sounds like a pretty good gig.

The pages are filled with interesting nuggets of South Dakota history. Here are a few examples:

  • When a writer passed through Corson County he found Sitting Bull Park on the site where the great Hunkpapa chief was killed in 1890. He noted that an Indian guide was available during the summer. Today, however, Sitting Bull's great-grandson Ernie LaPointe reports that the only marker at the death site is one place by the state historical society, and that it can only be reached by four wheel drive.
  • The city of Woonsocket was in the running to be world headquarters for Post cereals. C.W. Post liked Woonsocket's location in the heart of the grain belt, but city leaders were skeptical of the young man's plan. Plus he wanted them to simply give him a piece of land for his factory. They passed, and Post took his idea to Battle Creek, Michigan.
  • The largest tree in the state was discovered on the Sutton Ranch in Sully County. The huge cottonwood measured 40 feet around at its base. A fierce windstorm later blew it down.

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