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South Dakota History

South Dakota History, volume 52 number 3

Price: $10.00

South Dakota History, volume 52 number 3

 

The latest issue of “South Dakota History,” the quarterly journal of the South Dakota State Historical Society, showcases a unique document from the South Dakota State Archives: the travel journal of Earl Neller, who led a group of children on a one-of-a-kind tour of South Dakota during the height of the Great Depression.

In the summer of 1933, Neller, a teacher from St. Louis, Missouri, took six children—he and his wife Lydia’s two daughters and one son as well as the son and daughters of a family friend—on a hitchhiking adventure from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Hebron, North Dakota. After Lydia Neller made plans to visit her parents in Hebron, Earl thought it would be instructive for the children to tramp their way across the Dakotas.

Between June 21 and July 17, when they finally reached Hebron, the travelers visited an array of towns, nature areas, and tourist attractions. At a stop in Mitchell, they saw the Corn Palace. During an extended tour of the Black Hills, they ventured to Mount Rushmore, Iron Mountain Road, Battle Mountain Sanitarium, Harney Peak, Wind Cave, Crystal Cave, Mount Moriah Cemetery, and the Homestake Mine. In addition to walking, they rode a train through the White River Badlands and caught several rides from kind strangers.

Author Matthew Reitzel, who has served as the manuscript/photo archivist with the State Archives program of the South Dakota State Historical Society for seventeen years, reconstructs and contextualizes this group’s unique journey. Alongside colorful excerpts from the travel journal, Reitzel offers insight into the social context of the time. The article includes several photographs taken by Earl Neller as well as contemporary images from the South Dakota State Archives that help bring the story to life. The final product should be of interest to both general readers and scholars of travel and tourism in the region.