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How I ended up with a photo of Amos & Alzina Whiting

These two pioneers homesteaded on the piece of land where we live today! (Technically, they filed a Timber Claim on this piece, not a Homestead Application, but more on that later.) Their names were Amos & Alzina Whiting.

Credit: Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society

Credit: Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society

Because De Smet is famous for being the Little Town on the Prairie and the girlhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, they have done a better than average job of preserving the regional agricultural and pioneer history.

This community boasts the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society. The role of the society is, in part, to preserve the lives of those who lived nearby when the Ingalls family was homesteading in Dakota Territory.

As a result, when I asked The Memorial Society if they knew anything about the Whiting family, they took me to a tall file cabinet in a fire proof room. Within 5 minutes I was holding an entire folder labeled “Amos Whiting.” This folder was complete with this photo, every newspaper clipping, and all relevant records of Amos Whiting ever found. Plus, thanks to some interested decedents, there was also a 28-page document on the entire history of the Whiting family, tracing all the way back to their immigration to the US in 1636.

Now, I’m mostly interested in Amos – not the seven generations prior to him. But still…easiest research ever!

First of all, to figure out who first owned this piece of ground, I went to the County Courthouse – which also happens to be in De Smet. This means De Smet is the County Seat for Kingsbury County. Another perk for me, sure makes for easy fact-finding if your courthouse is only six miles away. The Register of Deeds keeps all of the records on land and they are available for the public to access. For $1 you can get a copy of a page out of their huge, old book. The books are hand-written in tidy cursive.

So, that’s how a came to have a photo of Amos & Alzina Whiting and how I confirmed that they were the original owners of this farm ground.

Pretty lucky, huh?


  1. Kelly || Old Blue Silo

    This is SO COOL!

    I almost want to go back and read all of the Little House on the Prairie books again.

    Definitely way better than Miley Cyrus.

    Keep sharing!

  2. Nancy Overstreet

    I also have been doing some research on my family and the community where I live and I have to say that the feeling I get when I find a photo or a piece of paper with handwriting of someone special in my family can not be beat. I wonder what will happen many years from now when everything will just be on a computer screen – doesn’t seem near as exciting. Oh, and CONGRATULATION!!! We could not be more excited for you and John.

  3. Laurel Wilson

    Hi Sierra,

    Nice job on your research project. I will look forward to seeing the results of your research in a future blog or story.



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Hey, I’m Sierra Shea! I am so glad you are here. 

Where do I start with writing to introduce this blog? At the beginning, I suppose: I’ve been writing on various platforms online since 2013. I started blogging shortly after moving to South Dakota.

I am a mother and a maker at heart. I’m so grateful to be married to John and mother of three: Joslyn, J.D. and Jesse.

I am a self-taught decorator and designer. I am a brand new shepherdess and a Spiritual Director.

I love living in South Dakota, even though the winters & the wind can be a near-daily struggle.

Blogging is a grounding force in my life and it helps get me out of my head, unstuck and moving in the directions I always hoped I’d be going!