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I decided it was time to move from the banks of Plum Creek and finally on to the Dakota Territory. Even though Silver Lake is no longer there, it’s fun to go back to the area and look at the wide open plains and imagine Ma’s frustration as she has to move again due to a job change for Pa. You might be surprised to discover one of my favorite parts in the book By the Shores of Silver Lake.
“And in the dazzle of the lamplight Uncle Henry was coming, laughing. So this must be Uncle Henry’s house in the Big Woods when Laura was little, for that was where Uncle Henry was. “Henry!” Ma exclaimed. “It’s a surprise, Caroline!” Pa sang out. “I thought I wouldn’t tell you Henry’s out here. ” ~ By the Shores of Silver Lake p.68
Alrighty, I’m guessing I have you confused now at what this paragraph has to do with anything. Well, its story time…
When I got married I didn’t realize how little the hubby knew about local history. Being someone that was raised with a grandpa telling me stories and taking me to open mines and a father that told me stories about discovering caves while exploring the Hills, I’d go on and on about local history info and something stuck to him. We started investigating history together. I got some old ghost town books from my Grandpa and me and the hubby combined his hobby and my hobby, we’d go off-roading in his Jeep in the Hills to find ghost towns and check out what’s left.
Sometimes it was hard to find the towns we were looking for. We had the coordinates and you can trace them by using free forest service maps from the forest service stations. But sometimes when there is very little, or no trace of the town left, they are very difficult to locate. One such town was Harney. Harney was a 3 sentences in my Black Hills Ghost Town book. It fascinated me. It said it was the established white settlement in the Black Hills and yet I couldn’t find any info on it.
We first discovered the town of Harney by doing another free activity, geocaching.(Another article, another time!) We were looking for the cache and suddenly I looked around and realized I was standing in a very old graveyard. We found a headstone, many many many gravesites, and a few wooden fence graves. And, as with anyone interested in history, I was fascinated with it. So we headed to the library and did a little research on the computer to find up any reference to the graveyard. Somehow we came up with name, Harney City Cemetery.
You’d think since we had a name it would be easy going from there. We found out otherwise. After months of research and driving around and all over a certain are in the Hills we still couldn’t find the town that this graveyard belonged with. So we headed to Pierre to look for more info in the state library. In all this process we discovered a few names. I started to research the 2 that went together. Henry O Quiner and Ruby Quiner. They seemed so familiar to me but I didn’t place them right away. Then I pulled out something that I didn’t realize in the beginning that would help, my Little House Books. And I finally placed the name, Henry as in Uncle Henry. Quiner as in Ma Ingalls maiden name. Henry Quiner, Laura Ingalls uncle. He lived right there in that town that we couldn’t find and he was buried right there in the cemetery we found by accident.
After doing more research, checking out libraries, learning how to use microfilm and examining old papers, even going to the newspaper and checking out the real copies we didn’t get too far. But we learn so much. Plus, it was all fascinating to me and now to the hubby. It was fun learning all this about our local history here in the place that I was born and raised.
For more info…we finally found the town of Harney, after 2 years and realizing it was right in the spot we’d driven past 100 times. And we found the original headstone for Henry that’s buried in a dusty corner of a local museum that’s only open 3 months out of the year. But it was the chase that was fun. Discovering all that history on our own by investigating. And it was all free!(Besides the gas to drive around) Our research was done in libraries and we discovered that librarians in the Hills are more than happy to help you learn about microfilm and discover new things with you. We might have paid for a few photocopies of pictures and references but from that little amount we got memories of a real life “treasure” hunt that will last us forever.
Everyone has their own local history, and we can discover it, for free or at very little cost! It’s a great family activity idea, plus it’s learning and having fun. In our adventure I even got to combine two of my favorite things; history, and the Little House books.
Plus think how cool your family will think you are when they find out you can create a real life National Treasure in your own backyard!
Make sure you check out the entire Living Like Little House series!