Carrie Ingalls Swanzey in Keystone, South Dakota | OK Which Way


Carrie Ingalls Swanzey in Keystone, South Dakota

As a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, I am also interested in her sisters. So, as we were traveling through South Dakota we visited the Keystone Historical Society museum to learn a little more about the life of Carrie Ingalls Swanzey.

Caroline Celestia Ingalls (Carrie) was born in Kansas on August 3,1870. In 1911, at the age of 41, Carrie moved to Keystone while working for a newspaper. She met & married a widower, David Swanzey, and raised his two children, Mary and Harold. Her husband was a mining prospector and is credited with naming Mount Rushmore. Harold Swanzey helped carve the monument. Carrie lived in Keystone until her death in 1946, at the age of 75. She is buried in the family plot in De Smet.

To read more about Carrie check out this article from the historical society.

Where Carrie Lived

1870-1873 Kansas
1873-1877 Walnut Grove, MN (Does anyone else have a soft spot for this town because of the TV show?)
1877-1878 Burr Oak, IA
1878-1879 Walnut Grove, MN
1879-1905 De Smet, SD (graduated in 1888)
1905-1906 Boulder, CO (searching for a temperate climate to help with her health problems)
1906-1907 Philip, SD (bought 160 acre homestead claim for$80. She owned this land for the remainder of her life)
1907-1912 De Smet, SD (worked for various newspapers in the area)
1912-1946 Keystone, SD



Keystone School South Dakota | OK Which Way


Keystone Historical Museum

The Keystone Historical Society museum is located within the old Keystone schoolhouse. It is a beautiful, two story Victorian building and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The museum has a variety of things, but I was there for the Ingalls memorabilia.

Keystone Historical Society museum | OK Which Way


Classroom setup on the second floor
A sign in the room reads:
First Classes: Jan. 1901, 158 students
Last Classes: 1988, 8 students

Keystone Historical Society Museum classroom | OK Which Way


A letter from Laura Ingalls Wilder to the school children. It says:

February, 1947
Dear Children:
I was born in “The Little House in the Big Woods” of Wisconsin just eighty years ago the 7th of February. Living through all the Little House Books, as told in those stories, I came fifty years ago with Almanzo and our little daughter, Rose, to live on our farm in the Ozarks. Rose, now Rose Wilder Lane, grew up and went away. Her home is in Connecticut.

Almanzo and I still live on the farm but are not farming now. We care for our pet bulldog, our comical Rocky Mountain burro and our milk goats. We no longer keep horses but still go driving together in our car. Schoolmates and friends of the “Little Town on the Prairie” are scattered. Perhaps you would like hear about them. Ida married Elmer and went to California where her children and grandchildren are now.

Mary Power married the young banker and did not live many years. Nellie Oleson married in the East, later separated from her husband and died long ago. Cap Garland was killed in an explosion of a threshing machine engine soon after Almanzo and I were married.

Sister Mary lived at home after graduating from college. She never recovered her sight but was always cheerful and busy with her work, her books and music. Carrie married a mine owner in the Black Hills. Her home was near Mt. Rushmore where statues of four presidents are carved in the solid rock of the mountain top. Grace married a farmer and lived only seven miles from De Smet.

Pa and Ma died years ago and Mary soon after. Grace followed them several years ago and Carrie died last June, so I am the only one of the family left. Pa’s fiddle is in Memorial Hall of the museum of the State Historical Society at Pierre, South Dakota. And every year at their public concert someone will play on it the songs Pa used to play.

The Little House books are stories of long ago. The way we live and your schools are much different now, so many changes have made living and learning easier. But the real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful, to make the most of what we have, to be happy with simple pleasures and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
With love to you all and best wishes for your happiness. I am,
Yours sincerely,
Laura Ingalls Wilder


Memorabilia on Display

Carrie’s glove box

Carrie Ingalls Swanzey in Keystone, South Dakota | OK Which Way


Pioneer Era Items

Carrie’s husband, Dave, was a miner and the lantern belonged to him. The other items are representations of what pioneers of the time would have used – such as the sun bonnet & the hay twist.

Carrie Ingalls Swanzey in Keystone, South Dakota | OK Which Way


Rose’s Books

Carrie’s niece, Rose Wilder Lane, was an accomplished author. On display are some of her printed works.

The note below Cindy says: This book Cindy by Rose Wilder Lane was a gift to Carrie – given to her in 1928 as a Christmas gift from her sister – Laura Ingalls Wilder – mother of Rose.

Carrie Ingalls Swanzey in Keystone, South Dakota | OK Which Way


Clock & Fiddle Decor
The note says: Carrie had this in her home as a memento of “Pa” and his fiddle.


Ma’s Little Shepherdess
A note near the Little Shepherdess said:
One of the first things Ma Ingalls did when the family moved into a new home was to carefully unwrap the little figurine that they knew as the Little Shepherdess. She placed it on the shelf that Pa had made for her. She became a sentimental symbol for the Ingalls family as they moved from place to place.

After they were all gone, researchers began to wonder what had become of the little shepherdess. This figurine was found among Carrie’s things in Keystone. The foot had been broken and mended with sealing wax, evidence that it had been cherished. Later William Anderson found a letter that Laura had written to some school children. In it she wrote Carrie has the little shepherdess. We feel confident that this is the figure that the family treasured through the years.

Apparently Ma (then Caroline Quiner) had received the little figurine as a gift when she was a girl. It is typical of items sold in the middle of the 19th century at fairs, etc. She kept and cared for it all through the years of her marriage to Charles Ingalls.

Carrie Ingalls Swanzey in Keystone, South Dakota | OK Which Way


Pa’s hymn book
The hymn book signed by Laura, Charles Ingalls, & Robert Boast. Mr. Boast was a friend of the Ingalls family and is mentioned in Laura’s book By the Shores of Silver Lake.

Carrie Ingalls Swanzey in Keystone, South Dakota | OK Which Way


Final Thoughts

If you are a Little House fan & in the Mount Rushmore area, this is a must see. There wasn’t a ton of memorabilia, so it didn’t take long to tour the museum. But, I was so excited to see what was there. For me, just the old building itself was fun to walk through. Reading about & seeing belongings of a family I’d learned about and adored as a kid was a great experience.





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