Nebraska History reviews County Capitols

“Rusch’s County Capitols provides a useful and interesting survey of the courthouse in South Dakota. His clear writing, organization, and use of footnotes make the book an excellent starting point for people interested in the history of county seats and the development of courthouse design in the Great Plains. Readers from Nebraska, Minnesota, and other neighboring states should not overlook this book. The stories behind many of the courthouses are characteristic of broader patterns in the establishment of county seats across the region, and the architects who designed these buildings were often from nearby states, thereby granting the book regional application despite its focus solely on South Dakota.”—Nebraska History

NH Summer 2015 book reviews

Saints and Family: A Story of Irish Immigration for St. Patrick’s Day

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, read A Tale of Two Grandmothers: Immigration and Family on the Great Plains. This article from South Dakota History contains the experiences of author Dorothy Schwieder’s grandmothers who immigrated to Dakota Territory in the 1800s. Schwieder’s grandmother Margaret McBride Hubbard was from County Armagh, Ireland (now Northern Ireland) before she settled, with her husband, in the vicinity of Mitchell. Discover how family ties influenced the decision to emigrate from Ireland, and find the full article here:


Six of the ten Hubbard children circa 1902, Dorothy Schwieder Collection.

‪#‎IrishImmigration‬ ‪#‎DakotaTerritory‬ ‪#‎HappyStPattysDay‬

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)

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.”