“SHE WAS A NEAT AND
In 1907, Edith Ammons and her sister, Ida Mary, journeyed first by train and then steamer from St. Louis, Missouri, to the land claim they had made—sight unseen—in the central region of what is now South Dakota. Although they traveled by train and steamship rather than by covered wagon, the journey was still an ordeal. Edith was struck by typhoid fever, and her recuperation delayed their journey by ten days, compounding their already mounting anxiety that someone else would snatch their claim. At last they reached Pierre, the nearest “city” to their claim, and spent the night at a crude, fly-infested hotel. The next morning they set out in a jouncing wagon over the dusty prairies. By the time they reached the claim, they were tired, dirty, and parched with thirst, for there had been no water along the way. All they wanted was to wash off the dust and crawl into a clean, comfortable bed.
But they took one look at their new “home”—and promptly wanted to turn around and go back. “One panic-stricken look at the black tar-papered shack, standing alone in that barren expanse,” wrote Edith Ammons later, “and the last spark of our dwindling enthusiasm for homesteading was snuffed out.” Timidly they got out of the wagon, paid the driver for his