Ingalls family furniture item “comes home” to De Smet, SD

We are very excited to announce the “coming home” of a unique and valuable Ingalls Family possession. This month, one of our board members attended the estate auction of Patricia Schneider of Howard, South Dakota. Mrs. Schneider had in her possession a “secretary with glass door and shelves” that originally belonged to Nathan and Grace Ingalls Dow of Manchester.

Secretary owned by Laura Ingalls Wilder Family in De Smet South Dakota

After a stressful and heated bidding session with a phone-in customer from Omaha, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society won the highest bid. Then, the secretary came home to Ma and Pa’s home on Third Street in De Smet, South Dakota.

Mrs. Schneider included a handwritten letter explaining in great detail the story of how she came to own the secretary. The secretary came to her through her relatives that were good friends of Harvey Dunn and his sister, Carrie Dunn Reiland. Harvey and Carrie were niece and nephew to Nathan Dow. She offered $700 for the secretary over thirty years ago.

Mrs. Schneider recalls, “Believe me – I came up with the $700 in a hurry, it was such a beautiful piece of furniture.”

After purchasing the piece, Mrs. Schneider brought it home and began preparing to strip and refinish the wood. However, she discovered a packing slip glued to the back.

The slip read “Shipped to N. W. Dow, Manchester, S.Dak.” and the date of the label read “9-12-1908”.

Mrs. Schneider wisely put the secretary back together without stripping it. She left the label intact and – over 100 years later – it is still on the back of the secretary today!

Unlike Mrs. Schneider, the Memorial Society was not able to purchase this secretary at the bargain price of $700. It is rare that an item comes up for auction or donation that has a genuinely documented connection to the Ingalls family. Our ability to add these items to our collection is granted by all of you, our generous supporters.

If you are interested in supporting our most recent purchase of the secretary, please use the secure donation page on our main website.

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12 comments on “Ingalls family furniture item “comes home” to De Smet, SD

  1. Melanie S. says:

    I happened to be in Brookings when I heard news of this auction, and debated attending but opted out since the news item I found didn’t clarify the provenance AND I knew it would likely be outside of my budget! I am so very glad to know that the secretary indeed has a provenance and that the Memorial Society was able to outbid everyone else and obtain it. Wonderful acquisition!

  2. pmaghamfar says:

    What a beautiful piece, with such a rich history. So glad it has come home.

  3. Melanie S. says:

    Reblogged this on Just As I Am…Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder and commented:
    I just arrived home from nearly a month in the Midwest. All of my trips to LauraLand have multiple purposes: research, presentations, networking, research, dining on Midwestern specialties (oh, there is no bacon like an upper Midwest bacon!), research, photography, research, museum visits, research,scouting for the next conference, and more research. But another activity I seek out is ANYTHING going on in the local area which simply can’t be done at home. (Again, with the bacon!) and this year, as in 2011, I happened to be in the right place at the right time and heard about an upcoming auction which *supposedly* featured a “secretary” desk/cabinet which had once belonged to Laura’s youngest sister Grace and her husband, Nate Dow. The auction was happening a few towns away from where I was staying (Brookings, SD) and a few towns from where Grace and Nate used to live (Manchester, SD).

    I debated attending, and kept changing my mind. The pragmatic part of me said, “how can you be sure of the provenance?” And, it was true, the article I read did not clarify how anyone could assure a prospective buyer that this was an authentic piece (It was. And it is.) The starving historian in me said, “maybe you could just go and look at it. But you can’t afford to bid on it!” (True, and true.) The super-geeky Laura fan in me said, ” Oh! You simply MUST go see it. This kind of thing is so rare at an auction, and surely they wouldn’t try to present it as authentic this close to DeSmet if they didn’t have actual PROOF of the provenance. It MUST be the real thing. You should go!”
    Finally, the pragmatist in me told the more sentimental and romantic parts of me to shove off and let it go. After all, even if it was real, and even if no one else was bidding high, and somehow I could afford it, well, there was just no way I could get it to fit in the car and drive it all the way home to New Hampshire and, besides, shipping it safely would be a logistical and financial nightmare. So, no, I didn’t go.
    And, it ins just as well that I didn’t! As it turns out, a few people in the know and with a big enough wallet to do so were bidding it up…against the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in DeSmet! After a lot of heartaching, and many bid increases, the secretary went home with a lucky buyer…and I’m happy to report that the winning bid came from the Memorial Society! The scramble to own a previously-unknown Ingalls artifact ended in the best way possible (well, except for those of is who dreamt of owning it ourselves). Nate and Grace Ingalls Dow’s 1908 secretary, complete with original shipping tag on the back, is safely in its new home at the Memorial Society, just a scant 7 or 8 miles from the original destination on that shipping tag. As it should be!

  4. Gail Messick says:

    I was so happy to hear this! I think anything that can be found that was owned by a member of the family should be kept together as a collection, Great Job Friends!

  5. Kristine Oconnell says:

    I’m a ingalls follower I love the show
    It’s awesome an a true pioneer
    Show

  6. Sherry Patterson says:

    Wonderful! I am so glad this beautiful piece, found it’s way home.

  7. Janine Johnson says:

    I’d like to know how much you all had to pay for this piece of furniture before I decide how much to contribute.

  8. Carrie D. Larson says:

    I’m a genealogist and have been since I was 14. I’m sure anyone here can relate to the excitement I felt when Caroline Ingalls showed up in MY lines! I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I have published my first book now PEACE IN TRUTH through Balboa press. Laura has been my inspiration and her daughter who got her books published has changed the lives of so many people and gave us hope in times when things were so messed up in the world…..like now, again. Thank you for the preservation of these precious artifacts and YES there is nothing like that mid-country corn fed bacon. I was born in Des Moines, Iowa. I’ve known it well in my childhood and miss it now.

  9. I am sorry that people were not charitable or history-minded enough to donate this item. I am happy that the museum could buy it, anyway.

  10. bgfairweather says:

    That is amazing! I’m so glad you guys were able to get it, I hope you find many more artifacts, if I were an ancestor of Laura’a family or had anything like that I’d surely want a museum to have for free!

  11. sauni says:

    We also have “china” that is very like this one. It has been in my dining room for almost 40 years. Unfortunately we have no idea where it came from only that I was my husband’s grandparents; born circa 1890’s died 1970’s

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