Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Homestead Tour

This blog is dedicated to the memory of my Aunt Lorene, who was the insiration for wanting to have another South Dakota Reunion, and to my Uncle George, who decided to make this journey, and to share this time with family.

Saturday afternoon, we drove from White River, east on Hwy 44 to find the Cedar Butte Cemetery, a small, untended plot of land, where my Grandmother, Mary Hutchinson Joslin’s two brothers are buried.
Having found the cemetery, our next step was to uncover the headstones for my great uncles, Neen and Bobby. My great–grandmother had planted some purple iris at her sons grave sites. This iris has grown untended, to overtake a large area.  We dug out the headstones, and preserved some of the iris, as we had done in 1996. That iris now grows at our Seneca Way house in Sioux City, as well as at the cabin in Farmerville, and in Monroe, in my families yards, and other places that I might not have named from those who took some cuttings. I took some of the bulbs, this time, to plant in Brian’s yard in Sioux City.
Cornelius ‘Neen’ Hutchinson died in WW1 and his brother Bobby had died at 5 years old.
And then….there was, also, incredible beauty………
Further down Hwy 44, about 20.9 miles from the intersection of Hwy 44 and Hwy 83 in White River, lies the Homestead Site – which is currently owned by the Berry family who ranches it. To get down to where the homestead was, you have to turn off the road, and drive through two gates. Then, you see why my grandparents, Virgil and Mary Joslin, fell in love with this land……..My mother, Ruth, lived the first 6 years of her life here, and she, along with her brothers, George and Jim, were able to help us find the ‘landmarks’…..
The old basement foundation….deteriorating over the years…..
From there……..we noted where the old barn would have stood.
And we found the location of the old well.
And the pond that my grandfather had dug. It never saw any water in it when they had the homestead.
The dust bowl drought years came in the early 1930’s. No rain….no crops….the land dried up and blew away……people had to move to find work and a means to support their families. In 1934, Virgil and Mary Joslin and their family pulled up stakes and moved…..eventually settling in Missouri.
The Homestead story  is a legacy of dreams dreamed and of the pioneer spirit and grit and the hard work that it takes to bring those dreams to fruition.  Of dealing with the hardships that life sometimes brings……. and of starting over with dignity…..when necessary and making a new beginning……

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

White River Parade

Saturday morning we enjoyed the White River Centennial Parade. Since White River is only about 6 blocks long, we didn’t think that the parade would be much. Boy were we wrong! I think that almost all of Mellette County’s 2,000 people were there, either watching the parade, or riding in it!

There was, of course, Miss Rodeo America, who was from a small, neighboring town in SD, and who appeared at EVERY centennial event…….


And the mayor of White River, and other dignitaries…..


White River’s community band added a musical touch.


The schools were there to celebrate…….


As well as the Rosebud Reservation Indian School…..


People drove wagons and dressed to commemorate South Dakota’s pioneer heritage.


Even the local skateboarding group joined in.


Cowgirl ropers…..and lots of ‘beef’ themed floats….After all, ranching is the major industry.


Christmas trees?? and other oddly decorated trucks…..


Horse riders………and so on……for 1.5 hours……


I gave up taking pictures before the farm equipment paraded by…….oh well……

It was quite the sight! And a good chance to see the ‘real people’ of this wonderful community.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Joslin Family South Dakota Reunion

Aug. 19, 20, 21 - Friday evening, we met up with the group at the Best Western in Murdo, South Dakota. We were gathering, with the small group of Joslins (my mother’s family) that could get together to visit the old ‘homestead’ . The timing (and our activities) centered around the Mellette County 100th anniversary. For those who do not know, my mother, Ruth, and her brothers were born on a homestead in Mellette County, SD, just outside of the little town of Cedar Butte.

From left – front row – siblings: George Joslin,Springfield, MO; Ruth Joslin Liuzza, Monroe, LA; Jim Joslin, Springfield, MO– back row – Richard Kutz, Ft. Collins, Colorado; Becky Wiseman, Indiana and ‘on the road’; Tim Joslin, Richmond, Virginia; Babs Joslin Christy, Huntsville, Alabama; Joann Liuzza Perrer, Monroe LA; Fred Elliott & Susan Liuzza Elliott, Farmerville, LA


All the ‘festivities’ were being held in White River, a small town of about 500 people, located just about 30 minutes south of Murdo, where we were staying.


Saturday morning, after a delicious pancake breakfast hosted by the White River volunteer fire dept., we hung out at the Mellette County Museum.

In pics- Sue – then, Ruth, George, Jim


Becky, Joann, Tim


My Grandfather, Virgil Joslin, took out a homestead in 1916…..He married Mary Hutchinson and they worked the homestead until drought and the ‘dust bowl’ drove them out in 1934.


We pinpointed on the map, the section that the homestead was located.


My mother always tells the story of how she and her brothers were born in White River  at a ;laying in’ house, assisted by a midwife named Mary Eaton. We found a reference to Ms. Eaton and her family in a book at the museum.




And, in White River, after a bit of looking around, we found the house. (note- it is at the corner of 2nd and Broad) It looks quite a bit worse for the wear, since we last saw it in 1996, when it had a new coat of paint.


Mellette County, and the Rosebud Reservation, has a proud Native American heritage. They celebrated the contribution of a number of Native American homesteaders and neighbors.




A rich, proud heritage of self-determination, co-operation, hard work, family, and community,  ……..

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Wind Cave National Park–South Dakota

Aug 19th – Leaving Sundance, we drove down to Wind Cave National Park. We have seen Mt. Rushmore, and Custer Park on a previous trip, so we decided to bypass them and take the few hours that we had to see Wind Cave National Park.

Wind Cave was discovered by two brothers who happened to be passing by and heard a noise like a wind blowing up from the ground. They investigated and discovered that the wind was coming from this opening into a cave. Because of the large air volume underground, and the relatively small natural openings to the surface, Wind Cave ‘breathes’ as the pressure seeks to equalize. On this day the air was blowing into the cave at 20 MPH.


Wind Cave was first explored and mapped by a young, 16 yr old  fellow in the 1800’s, whose family owned the property and was trying to mine the surrounding area, looking  for gold. No gold was found, but Wind Cave became a tourist attraction, known for its extensive tunnel system.

Wind Cave is the forth largest cave in the world, with 135 miles of known underground passages, on 3 levels. Researchers who have studied the volume of air flow in and out of the cave feel that only 1/5th of the cave has been discovered.



Wind Cave is a ‘dry’ cave, meaning that it does not have the water seeping through the rocks and forming the usual stalactites and stalagmites and flowstone formations. What Wind Cave does have is lots of these ‘boxwork’ formations.


We explored only a small area of Wind Cave, yet felt that we could imagine what it would have been like to crawl through the tiny passageways and wind one’s way through such a maze of tunnels…….


Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Little ‘Planned’ Sightseeing

Thurs Aug 18th – We had a short day of driving planned from Casper to Sundance, in the northwest corner of Wyoming. Sundance is famous for, among other things, the Sundance Kid. They had a quaint downtown with a s.mall history museum……free…...



What we were really interested in was Devil’s Tower, just 30 minutes west of Sundance. For anyone who has seen the 1978 (has it been that long ago?) movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, this is instantly recognizable …….


It stands out from a distance…a solitary structure ….distinct form the surrounding mountains……


And, up close, it calls to you……


Devil’s Tower was formed 50 million years ago when molten magma was forced up through sedimentary rock, becoming a volcanic cone under the ground. As it cooled, it contracted and fractured into columns. Over millions of years, erosion of the sedimentary rocks exposed Devil’s Tower.


The Tower rises 867 feet from its base and stands 1,267 feet above the river. The area of its top is 1.5 acres. The diameter of its base is 1,000 feet.


The Kiowa Indians tell another story of the Tower’s origin. They say that a great bear chased 7 young girls. As they ran, they came to the stump of a great tree. The tree spoke to them and told them to climb upon it. They did…and the tree stump began to rise into the air. The bear came to kill them, but the 7 young girls were just beyond its reach. In frustration, the great bear reared against the tree and scratched and clawed the tree’s bark all around. The 7 girls were borne into the sky, becoming the stars of the Pleiades and the tree stump became the Devil’s Tower.

In 1906, Present Theodor Roosevelt named Devil’s Tower the first National Monument. Today, people come to hike around the base, or to rock climb the fractured columns……if you look carefully, you can see the climbers in the upper, right corner of this picture.



We were content to hike…..and to sit in the shadow of this amazing formation and to feel its ‘otherworldly’ energy.