Lesson Two: Town Life and Hard Times

Focus Questions:

• How were railroad towns laid out?

• Why was life so hard for many homesteaders?

• How did railroads help businessmen in the towns?

Imbedded Information in the Student Lesson:

Sioux Falls; Aberdeen


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Homesteading and Town Building Crossword Puzzle

Classroom Activities:

     To help students understand how many South Dakota towns were laid out, have them create a small model of a town. Have the students study the bird’s-eye maps of DeSmet (Unit 5) and Aberdeen (Unit 6). Or they can do a model of their own town. First, lay some white bulletin paper or posterboard on a big table. Then draw outlines of the principal avenues, streets, and city blocks. Next, locate where any railroad tracks come through town. Finally, pinpoint where the shops, schools, churches, and neighborhoods are located. Include any other attractions your town might have such as airports, libraries, hospitals, fire stations, etc. The class could build a model of the plan. Buildings can be made from Lego blocks, clay, Popsicle sticks, construction paper, or any other media they can find to use. Finally cars, trucks, airplanes, and scenery can be added.

     Check out the South Dakota State Historical Society’s suitcase education kit on homesteading. Students use the kit’s hands-on objects and activities to explore the history of homesteading, learn about building a sod house, and come to appreciate the hard work needed to succeed as a homesteader. Kit objects include barbed-wire samples, a butter churn, marbles, corn-cob darts, a sod sample, and photographs of sod houses and claim shanties in South Dakota. To reserve a kit, email ronette.rumpca@state.sd.us or call 605-773-6011.