Monday, July 13, 2009

Summertime in good ol' South Dakota

This post is for the 76th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: The Good Old Summertime.

My mother's family has strong ties to South Dakota. My mother was born in Watertown, Codington Co. My grandparents were born in Clark and Codington counties. Three of my four great-grandparents were born in South Dakota. In fact, most of their parents (my great, great-grandparents) came to Dakota Territory in the 1880s from places such as Rice Co., Minnesota, Dane Co., Wisconsin, Whiteside Co., Illinois and Houston Co., Minnesota.

My family took very few vacations when I was a child. I guess you could say we did a lot of "staycations" long before that even became a word. Who knew we were trend setters? However, there is one vacation I distinctly remember from the summer of 1981 when my mom, sister, and I joined my grandparents to drive for two (very long) days across two (very long) states to get to eastern South Dakota to visit our extended family. Bear in mind, I was six years old and we probably hadn't been on the road 50 miles before the infamous "Are we there yet?" began.

Since I was only six there are a few things I vaguely remember and others I don't recall at all. When I asked my mom last week for photos from that trip seeing them triggered some memories and brought up some wonderful stories. I remember seeing the old drilling rigs slowly pumping from the interstate in Wyoming. I remember my grandparents pointing out the antelope, which I thought for sure they called "cantaloupe". I was very confused about what the orangy colored fruit was doing in the middle of nowhere and what the big deal was about the "deer" out there. I vaguely remember stopping in the heat for a photo op at Independence Rock in Wyoming. Notice my protective arm around my younger sister.

Our first major stop was in the Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore. My grandpa Fred had a brother, Harry, and nephew and their families living in nearby Rapid City. Since we lived a couple of states apart and they didn't see each other often, I'm sure there was a visit though I don't recall it. I do however recall the pictures we took at Mount Rushmore. I also recall that my grandpa lost his lens cap to his camera over the edge at the viewing area. It also seems like we stayed in a campground in the Black Hills that had an evening program that was Native American dancing. It was quite impressive to see the feathered costumes, headdresses and fast moving feet of the performers.

Here I am in all my ruffled glory with my little sister and the four Presidents. I was 6 and she was about 3 1/2.

So our final destination was Clark County, South Dakota, specifically in the tiny town of Naples at my great-grandparents house. My grandma's parents, Helmer and Bernice (Hanson) Hiby, were in their mid-80s and late 70s, respectively, at this time. I had only had occasion to see them a couple of times and was really too young to remember any of them. I remember they had a beautiful old farmhouse with a big lawn and barn behind. There was a big enclosed porch on the front of the house at the front door that held lots of wonderful treasures, but everyone came in through the back door right into the kitchen. My great-grandma Bernice liked to sew and quilt. She had made a beautiful green quilt top that my mom loved and took notice of a few years prior to this trip. Mom asked if she could have it to quilt and she had it done by the time we took this vacation. We took several photos of the quilt hanging on the clothesline out behind the house. Here is one of me with my great-grandma Bernice and the beautiful quilt that holds a special place in our family.

My grandpa Fred's parents, Edward and Kate (Arthur) Harmon, had both passed on in 1960 and 1974, respectively. Their three sons, Ken, Harry of Rapid City, and my grandpa Fred, all lived elsewhere by this time and there wasn't really any family left living there. However, Edward and Kate's house in Henry, Codington Co., South Dakota was still there (and is still today) right on a corner of the little town. Here my sister and I are standing on the west side of the house. The upstairs window is a bedroom and the downstairs I believe is the living room. An enclosed porch with a door facing north can be seen on the left side of the photo. My mom recalls visiting this house as a child and staying in a makeshift bed on the upstairs landing. There my great-grandma Kate had a beautiful square (now antique) table with glass ball feet that was covered with books. My mom now has that beautiful table in her living room. Not only was my great-grandma a lover of books like me, but she was the family historian before there truly was such a thing in our family. Her handwritten notes gave me a start on our Harmon, Arthur, Struble and Myers lines.

In the yard of the Harmon house in Henry stands a wonderful tree with this interesting split trunk. Mom also captured us in front of the tree. Next door to the old house was a playground with an old metal slide and a wonderful merry-go-round that were reminiscent of the ones on my own school playground. After we took photos of the house, I remember playing on the merry-go-round and my grandpa Fred helping make it go faster.

This trip we took holds more significance than just the simple memories of a six-year old. This would be the last time my mom, sister or I would see my great-grandparents. Bernice passed away the following March 1982 and Helmer in June 1982. The next time my mom, sister and I went back to visit was with my grandma in 1995. My grandpa Fred had passed away two years earlier. Much has changed since then, but fond memories of this trip and the sweet childhood pictures my mother took of us as such little girls will always be a special treasure.

Photos held privately by author. Please do not use without permission.


  1. What wonderful memories. My family didn't take many "real" vacations, either, but that makes the ones we did take all the more memorable. By the way, the pictures of you and your sister are so cute!

  2. Tracy,
    I agree with Greta, you and your sister are cute as buttons in those photos.

    I am envious that you knew your great grandparents! All of mine had passed away before
    I was old enough to take notice of having great

    Thanks for telling us about your vacations!