Midwest Book Review takes a look at “County Capitols”

Illustrated with black-and-white photography of historic courthouses throughout, County Capitols: The Courthouses of South Dakota is as much about the history of these storied edifices as their architecture. During the pioneer era, South Dakota communities competed fiercely for designation as a county seat (and access to railroad lines); such a distinction improved the odds that a town would flourish, and raised local land values. Land speculators especially had a vested interest in ensuring a courthouse would be established near their own property. This conflict of interest led to “courthouse fights” between rival communities, ranging from bidding wars to midnight excursions to steal county records, or even the destruction of nascent courthouses! County Capitols devotes two or more pages to each of dozens of courthouses, recounting the often colorful tales behind their creation and use, and makes an excellent addition to South Dakota state history shelves.—The Midwest Book Review

Rusch - County Capitols (small)

State Historical Society to Release New Book on Political Culture at USD Conference

Cover with medallionAcross the country, election-night viewers typically see South Dakota as a “red” or Republican state, but is it really that simple? In their upcoming book from the South Dakota State Historical Society, editors Jon K. Lauck, John E. Miller and Donald C. Simmons, Jr., present 10 essays that focus on the unpredictability and inconsistencies in the state’s political culture. “The Plains Political Tradition: Essays on South Dakota Political Culture, Volume 2” will be released on Thursday, Nov. 13, at a conference hosted by the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.

“Our political heritage is much more varied and unique than people realize,” said Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society, headquartered at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. “The editors continue to shed light on the South Dakota political experience—connecting it to the greater Midwestern and American setting.”

South Dakota’s political landscape is a mix of geographical variations and political subcultures that changes over time. The first volume of “The Plains Political Tradition” examined this complexity, and this new volume explores compelling stories of direct democracy, organized labor, West River identity, New Deal planning, Cold War loyalty, bicultural conservatism and the Christian Left—among other topics. Tracking the shifting dialogues that make the Great Plains unique, the authors and editors take South Dakota further into the growing study of modern political culture.

Authors of the essays in “The Plains Political Tradition” will discuss their topics in a series of panels at the USD conference, which runs from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST on Nov. 13. Tom Isern, University Distinguished Professor of History at North Dakota State University in Fargo, will give the luncheon keynote address. Contact Sandi Allred at sandi.allred@usd.edu or (605) 677-5242 to register. The event is free to the public.

“The Plains Political Tradition: Essays on South Dakota Political Culture, Volume 2” is available for $22.95 plus shipping and tax and can be purchased through most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Visit http://www.sdshspress.com or call (605) 773-6009. For distribution information, contact the South Dakota Historical Society Press at orders@sdshspress.com.

Full Press Release

Memoir Receives Multiple Accolades

SD LIPP ACORD COVERCircling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey is a finalist in the 2014 WILLA Literary Awards and a nominee in the 2014 Will Rogers Medallion Awards. Written by first-time author Darcy Lipp-Acord, the book has been well received since its publication by the South Dakota State Historical Society in 2013. In Circling Back Home, Lipp-Acord looks to her past to create a life of significance for her family at a time when values of home, family and care of the land seem increasingly absent. She mourns the loss of one child and celebrates the births of others while balancing her own desire to put down roots with her husband’s life as an itinerant ranch hand. Written over 10 years, Lip-Acord’s essays compose a picture of endurance and grace as the author addresses her history and finds her way home. Award-winning author Linda M. Hasselstrom contributes a foreword, stating that “Circling Back Home reflects the life of a ranch woman in all its prismatic variety.” “Darcy Lipp-Acord has written a great testament to American values and the experience of women on the plains,” said South Dakota State Historical Society Director Jay D. Vogt. “Different than the typical cowboy or cowgirl narrative, her book shares the story of countless women who worked to keep their families together in an unforgiving landscape.” “Because she writes well and makes us care, it is a joy when Darcy Lipp-Acord can say, ‘I feel like I’ve finally arrived,’” says Susan Schoch, reviewer for Story Circle Book Reviews. “How she gets there makes a fine story … a good one to pass along to a friend.” The WILLA Literary Award is named in honor of Willa Cather, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. It is awarded annually for outstanding literature featuring women’s stories set in the West and is chosen by a panel of professional librarians. Circling Back Home was named a finalist in the Creative Non-fiction category. Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, also published by the State Historical Society, won in 2008.

In October the winners and ranking for the Will Rogers Medallion Award will be announced at a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas. Circling Back Home was nominated in the Western Biographies and Memoirs category and is the first South Dakota Historical Society Press book to be nominated for a Will Rogers Medallion Award. Originally created to recognize quality works of cowboy poetry that honored the Will Rogers heritage, the award has expanded to include all works of Western literature. Circling Back Home is available for $16.95 plus shipping and tax and can be purchased from most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Visit www.sdshspress.com, call (605) 773-6009 or email orders@sdshspress.com.

Official Press Release

“Hägar the Horrible” Cartoonist Pens Children’s Book for State Historical Society

ƒ The Monster Case OTP.inddChris Browne, the cartoonist of “Hägar the Horrible,” has written and illustrated his first children’s book, “The Monster Who Ate the State,” for the South Dakota State Historical Society. The book will be released at the first South Dakota Young Readers Festival on Thursday, Sept. 25, in Brookings.

“The Monster Who Ate the State” opens with scientists working in an underground laboratory, where they awaken a creature slumbering beneath the earth. With a large roar, Soozy the dinosaur emerges from the Black Hills looking for food, and she discovers a world far different from the one she left behind. Munching on motorcycles, chasing bison and seeing the sights across South Dakota, Soozy hunts for a new place to call home and sparks panic among the state’s inhabitants.

“Dedicated to the children of South Dakota, Chris Browne’s book is a fun and engaging story that shares important facts and information about our state. It also includes a colorful map that shows Soozy’s journey,” says Nancy Tystad Koupal, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society Press. “It is a wonderful addition to our collection, and Soozy will be an instant South Dakota classic.”

Born in South Orange, N.J., Browne brings the prehistoric Soozy to life as he regales readers with her adventures and describes the unique places she visits in the Mount Rushmore State. Browne now lives in Sioux Falls with his wife, Carroll. He is a syndicated cartoonist and artist whose works can be found all over the world.

“The Monster Who Ate the State” will be available for $19.95 plus shipping and tax and may be purchased from most bookstores or ordered directly from the SDSHS Press. Visit www.sdshspress.com, email orders@sdshspress.com or call (605) 773-6009. “The Monster Who Ate the State” is suitable for first- to fourth-grade readers or as a book to be read aloud to younger children. Pre-orders are currently being accepted by the SDSHS Press.

More information about Browne’s participation in the Young Readers Festival can be found by contacting the event’s sponsor, the South Dakota Humanities Council, at (605) 688-6113, or by visiting www.sdbookfestival.com.

Official Press Release

Soozy Sleeps

County Seat Fights, Courthouses featured in New State Historical Society Book

Rusch - County Capitols (small)County Capitols: The Courthouses of South Dakota by former circuit court judge Arthur L. Rusch, will be released at the South Dakota Festival of Books on Friday, Sept. 26, in Sioux Falls, S.D. Rusch’s book details the history and architecture of the state’s current justice buildings and is the fifth volume in the Historical Preservation Series from the South Dakota State Historical Society.

County Capitols is a fitting title for South Dakota’s 125th anniversary of statehood. Filled with dozens of images, it is a wonderful resource for architects, historians and those interested in the building of South Dakota,” says Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Dreaming of great things for their communities, the pioneer town-builders who settled southern Dakota Territory took extreme measures to ensure that their communities would become commercial and industrial centers. One way to secure the survival of a town was to acquire the county seat. Using county records, period newspapers and other resources, Rusch shows how the “courthouse fights” between rival communities turned into outright battles, including bidding wars and midnight forays to steal county records and even buildings. In an opening essay, Jason Haug outlines the development of these county capitols and their architectural styles over time.

“Arthur Rusch has written a significant book on the building of South Dakota’s sixty-four current courthouses and their predecessors,” says Nancy Tystad Koupal, director of the South Dakota Historical Society Press. “In County Capitols, he details how the development of these important buildings was a matter of three key factors: functionality, style, and survival.”

Arthur L. Rusch of Vermillion received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of South Dakota and served as a judge in South Dakota’s First Judicial Circuit for seventeen years. An avid local historian, he has given numerous presentations and won awards for his work.

Jason Haug worked for the South Dakota State Historical Society’s Historic Preservation Office for eight years, serving as Historic Preservation director from 2007 to 2012. He currently lives in Willmar, Minn.

County Capitols will be available for $29.95 plus shipping and tax and may be purchased from most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Visit http://www.sdshspress.com, email orders@sdshspress.com or call (605) 773-6009. Pre-orders are currently being accepted.

More information about Arthur Rusch’s participation in the South Dakota Festival of Books can be found by contacting the event’s sponsor, the South Dakota Humanities Council, at (605) 688-6113, or by visiting http://www.sdbookfestival.com.

Celebrate Riverboat Days with Fraser Harrison’s Yankton: Portrait of a River City

SD History Cover Image Vol44No1After a brief stay in Yankton while working on his book Infinite West: Travels in South Dakota, British travel writer Fraser Harrison returned last summer for an in-depth look at the town. His recent essay, “Yankton: Portrait of a River City” appeared as the Spring 2014 issue of South Dakota History, the quarterly journal of the South Dakota State Historical Society. Harrison blends history with descriptions of modern Yankton for an insightful account that covers everything from its iconic bridges to its bars, churches, and even the patriotic cow that stands at the stockyard’s entrance. With a grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council, Harrison spent six weeks in Yankton in 2013 interviewing residents and researching the town’s colorful past and present. He traveled there again this summer for a June 19―July 3 lecture tour to relate his experiences and promote his work. As Yanktonites and visitors gather this week for the annual River Boat Days celebration, we offer this excerpt from the opening pages of Harrison’s essay:

 It was not love at first sight.

My first, fleeting encounter with Yankton, South Dakota, in May 2011 was a disappointment. Booking a room in advance of my trip, I had been fooled by a misleading picture on the website and had chosen a hotel that I knew was a mistake as soon as I drove into the parking lot on a damp Saturday evening. My early misgivings were confirmed by a cell-like room, whose bare brick walls were lit by a single naked bulb dangling from the ceiling, and a rug on the floor that had the consistency, and something of the odor, of a swamp. I fled and booked myself into the comparative luxury of the Best Western Kelly Inn.

The next morning I drove downtown in search of what my guidebook promised would be “a gem-like historic town . . . comfortably ensconced beside the Missouri.” Once again my expectations were disappointed. [. . .] I checked out and drove westward towards Valentine, Nebraska, never imagining that I might return to this melancholy little town. My verdict, later recorded for all the world to read in my book, Infinite West: Travels in South Dakota, was that the city had “a forlorn and abandoned air.”

Travel writing is an irresponsible art. The writer grants himself the license to visit a place for a few hours and pronounce magisterially on its vices and virtues, its charms and blemishes, without fear of punishment or reprisal. Unlikely to call on the place again, he or she feels free to dispense judgments, caring for nothing except to score an entertaining point. And so it was with me, until I was caught out. I did return to Yankton, and I learned to eat my words; if nothing else, this essay is an act of atonement.

To read more of Harrison’s essay on Yankton past and present, contact the South Dakota Historical Society Press at (605) 773-6009 or info@sdshspress.com.

—JMc

Back cover - fireworks

 

Story Circle Book Reviews, “Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey”

In her new memoir, Darcy Lipp-Acord writes about how she learned to embrace the agricultural lifestyle to which she was born. She also affirms her voice as a writer. She explores her faith and motherhood, and the choices they demand, and brings alive the push and pull of compromise that makes an enduring marriage. She thinks about community. But most importantly, she writes that precious and still rare thing: the truth of a woman’s life. [. . .] Because she writes well, and makes us care, it is a joy when Darcy Lipp-Acord can say, “I feel like I’ve finally arrived.” How she gets there makes a fine story, one that might inspire, a good one to pass along to a friend.

Susan Schoch, Story Circle Book Reviews

Read the full review here.