De Smet is the county seat of Kingsbury County and the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the famous author of the Little House series. Pa Ingalls first came to De Smet in 1879 to work as a paymaster and bookkeeper at the Silver Lake railroad camp. The family followed a short time later.
That fall the Surveyors wanted to go back east for the winter. Pa was asked to live in the Surveyors' House during their absence so they would have a safe place to leave their equipment. The Ingalls lived in the Surveyors' House for the winter of 1879-1880. In the spring of 1880 a town was formed as Pa filed a claim one and one half miles southeast of town. It was named for Father De Smet, a Jesuit missionary who spent his life among the Sioux Indians.
In the fall the Ingalls moved into Pa's store on Main Street where they lived during the Long Winter. That spring they moved back to the claim, living there during the warm months and wintering in the store.
During these years, Laura began teaching in one-room schools. It was also during this time that she met and married Almanzo James Wilder. They had a daughter, Rose, and a son who lived less than a month. In 1894, they moved to Mansfield, Missouri, where Laura named their home in the Ozarks "Rocky Ridge."
In 1887, Pa built a home on Third Street now called the Ingalls Home. At that time the entire family lived there except Laura.
In 1901, the youngest of the four girls, Grace, married Nathan Dow. They farmed near Manchester, South Dakota.
Carrie Ingalls eventually moved to Keystone, South Dakota where she worked on a newspaper. It was there that she met and married David Swanzey.
Ma passed away in 1924 and Mary in 1928. After their deaths, the house was rented out until 1944 when Carrie sold it to the Ferguson family of De Smet. It was then a private residence until 1972 when the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society purchased it. It was renovated and opened to the public in 1973.
The Surveyors' House is also open to the public. It was purchased by the Society in 1967 and opened the next year. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society is a non-profit incorporation dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the homes and sites associated with Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Pa, Ma, Mary, Carrie, and Grace Ingalls are buried in the De Smet cemetery, which is one and one half-mile southwest of town. The infant son of Laura and Almanzo is also buried there.
Among the many attractions visitors may see are the five cottonwood trees that Pa planted for his girls. This is located at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Site. There are also 16 other sites associated with the "Little House" books.
For three weekends in July, local actors present an outdoor pageant near the Memorial Site.