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, email 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

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.

Dakota Midday Interview with Darcy Lipp-Acord, “Circling Back Home”


“As I studied literature in college. . . .  there just wasn’t a lot out there about the woman who tended the home fires, who ran to town for parts, who cooked the meals, who took care of the children. There is a body of literature about the cowgirl who is out there alongside her husband, and that’s honorable in its own right, but I felt like the story of so many women of the plains needed to be honored—because of their importance, not just in an agricultural lifestyle, but any lifestyle. . . .”—Darcy Lipp-Acord speaking about Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey on Dakota Midday, 24 February 2014.

Listen to the rest of her interview here.

Darcy Lipp-Acord will be speaking live for the History and Heritage Book Club at three locations via the Digital Dakota Network on 11 March 2014.

  • Pierre:  Cultural Heritage Center, 7PM CST
  • Rapid City: South Dakota School of Mines, Classroom Building, room 109, 6PM MST
  • Sioux Falls: South Dakota University Center, Administration Building, room 145, 7PM CST

Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman’s Journey is available for $16.95 plus shipping and tax and can be purchased from most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota State Historical Society Press. Visit or call (605) 773-6009. For publicity information, please contact our Marketing Director at

New Words, Old Words

In the course of my work making editors’ corrections to the “Pioneer Girl” annotations, I have come across several unfamiliar words. Most of these terms have simply fallen out of usage and been forgotten. Some became clear as I read through the manuscript, but others remain puzzling.

When I first read of a “lunatic fringe” in “Pioneer Girl,” for example, I immediately thought of its modern definition, which refers to a fanatical group. I was surprised to learn, as many Wilder fans may already know, that the term referred to the bangs that fall across one’s forehead. Apparently, this hairstyle was not looked on especially favorably in the late 1800s.

“Fichu” was another unfamiliar word. Laura’s good friend, Ida Brown, gave her one as a wedding gift. The vintage dictionary we sometimes consult here in the office defines a fichu as a small cape, usually made from lace and triangular in shape, similar to a scarf. I also learned that this very fichu is on display at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri.

When Laura became engaged, she wore the garnet-and-pearl ring Almanzo gave her on her “first finger.” This one still has me stumped. Did she wear it on her index finger, or was the nineteenth-century “first finger” what we call a “ring finger” today?

I had also never heard of “lawn” in connection with a dress. Laura had a pink sprigged “lawn” dress. I have since learned that lawn is a sheer, lightweight fabric, now usually woven from cotton but, in the nineteenth century, also made from linen.

Laura’s father, Charles, would sometimes sit with the graybeards in the “Amen corner” of the First Congregational Church. I now know that those who led congregational responses or who were especially ardent worshippers would sit in that section.

In These Happy Golden Years, Laura wore her new hat, which she described as “a sage-green, rough straw, in poke-bonnet shape.” I have since learned that a poke bonnet is one with a projecting brim or front, designed to shade the face. “Pie-plant” had me stumped at first, too, but the definition of garden rhubarb makes sense.

Little did I know that working with the Pioneer Girl Project would expand my vocabulary in so many ways.  I’m looking forward to solving the next “word mystery.”


Dempster Book on Sioux Falls Wins National Award

Nof12thSt-AwardStickerA former state senator’s book has won national honors. North of Twelfth Street: The Changing Face of Sioux Falls Neighborhoods features Tom Dempster’s photographs and has earned one of ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year Awards. The South Dakota State Historical Society Press published the book in 2012.


In North of Twelfth Street, Dempster shows the changing landscape of Sioux Falls through beautiful images and insights into his hometown.

ForeWord Reviews presents the awards to the best works coming from today’s independent, university and small press communities. “The book is an offering to my Sioux Falls.  I am thrilled and thankful for this award,” said Dempster.

Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota and has a rich history and distinct neighborhoods. Born and raised in Sioux Falls, Dempster knows these neighborhoods well. His eye for a great photograph is enhanced by his intimate awareness of the city’s people, buildings, and vibe. In North of Twelfth Street, Dempster focuses his lens on the oldest and most diverse districts. With his book, he provides a window into some of the best-known buildings in Sioux Falls and the lives of those who live and work in these neighborhoods. Gary D. Olson places Dempster’s stunning images in context with an essay on the area’s historical foundations.

  “Tom Dempster has created a superb reference to Sioux Falls, and this Honorable Mention recognizes the value of his efforts,” said Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society. Two other SDSHS Press books—Waiting for Coyote’s Call by Jerry Wilson and A Marvelous Hundred Square Miles by Suzanne Barta Julin—have also been finalists for the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards.

Dempster, who lives in Sioux Falls, served as a Minnehaha County commissioner for nine years and in the South Dakota State Senate from 2001 to 2010. His photography is found in museums and private collections throughout the region.

Olson is a former academic dean and professor of history at Augustana College in Sioux Falls.

North of Twelfth Street: The Changing Face of Sioux Falls Neighborhoods is available for $34.95 plus shipping and tax and can be purchased from most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota State Historical Society Press. Visit or call (605) 773-6009.

See the award at