I heard wonderful stories growing up. My father was a great storyteller, and he had a grand heritage to share. His grandfather was one of the first settlers in South Dakota, founding Woodland Township. The Woodland family and the Bailey family traveled in covered wagons to find the ideal spot on which to settle. I heard the stories of how they built their temporary homes of sod, had interesting contacts with the local Sioux, and braved cold South Dakota winter blizzards. Tales were told of the “Jim & Jane” trees, a marker for a favorite picnic and fishing spot on the lake named after his friend. Bailey’s Lake is now a state park and a refuge for waterfowl and wildlife in NE South Dakota. I heard of my great-grandfather, the postmaster, walking 30 miles across the prairie. It took two days for him to retrieve mail – in blizzard weather, a little longer.
The Woodland family outside their first soddie north of Clark, South Dakota.
The stories intrigued me as a young girl, but when I inherited a box of pictures in early adulthood, I discovered a treasure trove of history and adventure. The stories were true! The covered wagons, the Jim & Jane trees, the soddie – somehow, there were pictures of them all. How? I couldn’t say. Surely not many families could afford the tintype photos; yet, here they were, along with dozens of others . I discovered my ancestors built the small town creating dress shops, barbershops and optometry. Not only did I find the pictures to be amazing; many of them had names and dates included. Then I found a journal. It completed Dad’s stories.
It is said a historian is present in every family. I decided it was up to me to preserve the memories. I wanted to pass this information down to my grandchildren, for how would they know their great-great-great grandfather sailed by boat from England to the U.S. when he was 14, and then served his country during the Civil War? Wouldn’t they love to know he was the first constable in a little town called Clark in the late 1800’s?
Armed with information and photos, I put together a visual account, illustrating the stories with the pictures. First the story had to be written in chronological order from one generation to the next, starting with my great grandfather. Pictures were then sorted and scanned into JPEG format to be injected into my word document. From there, it was a matter of placing the story into a Power Point presentation. The present product is 135 slides with over 100 photos. It includes poems written by family, secret family recipes and the family tree. The time covers a span of 4 generations (1835-1976) of the Woodland family in South Dakota. It’s an ongoing story that needs to keep going.
Perhaps someday it should become a book. For now, it’s simply our family’s treasure of memories to keep and cherish.