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  • Dacotah Prairie MuseumDacotah Prairie Museum Aberdeen, South Dakota
    The idea behind a community museum in Aberdeen, South Dakota, goes back over 7 decades, to 1938, when John Murphy, Northern State College professor, and Marc Cleworth, local salesman, started the Northern South Dakota History Museum that was put into the Central building of Northern's campus. The collection soon grew with donations and loans, until 1941, when it had a collection of more than 500 pieces. The museum had to close that year, because of the war, and was used to train pilots, with the collection returned to its owners or put into storage. These pieces were left there until 1970, when the new Dacotah Prairie Museum was opened and brought in. The museum idea didn't come back into view until 1963, when a group of the past presidents of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) met to discuss community projects that they could become involved in. The Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Department offered the Anderson Recreation Center to house the museum's collection in 1968, temporarily, which the board gratefully accepted and in 1969, the Dacotah Prairie Museum was opened showing small displays like the early life in Brown County, Native Americans and L. Frank Baum. In the meantime, a permanent home for the museum continued. Then in March, 1970, Fred Hatterscheidt, local businessman, offered a building at 21 Main Street for the county to use as a museum and the commissioners accepted. During the summer, remodeling started and by October, 1970, the museum opened to the public. Governor Frank Farrar came to celebrate the grand opening to be the featured speaker. That year, the exhibit area was only parts of the first floor, but as the years rolled by, the other tenants left and the museum was able to expand its space and exhibits. In 1980, all the other tenants had moved out and the entire building was used solely for museum purposes. Staff and the volunteers worked hard to make the new spaces ready for the exhibits, collection storage and offices. During the next 2 decades, the museum was able to define itself and its objectives, with more staff added as the budget increased with grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, South Dakota Arts Council and the South Dakota Humanities Council. The Decotah Prairie Museum foundation was incorporated in 1985 to help with budget concerns, the building's maintenance and overall operations. Some of the magnificent displays on the first floor include; beads and quills created by Native Americans, more specifically the Dakota, Ojibwa and Lakota, the Pheasant Canteen which is a replication of the canteen that was located in the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad depot on North Main Street, which became known for its pheasant sandwiches for the troops that passed through here.

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  • Fort Sisseton State Historical ParkFort Sisseton State Historical Park Aberdeen, South Dakota
    One of the nation's best preserved frontier outposts is Fort Sisseton State Historical Park, that shows you what life was like back in those early frontier days. During the 1860s, the army needed to give some protection for the settlers of the Dakota territory. The area was rich in resources, with pristine clear waters from the lakes located there, dense thick forests that could produce all the wood needed for building houses and barracks and firewood, thick lime and clay pits in the soil were just right for the making of brick to build study buildings, the area was just right for a post to be constructed and in 1864 that post was built. At first it was called Fort Wadsworth, but later on it was changed to reflect the indigenous tribes located there, the Sisseton Indian tribe. In 1889, it was abandoned, because the Indian threat had subsided, and eventually fell into disrepair. Then, in the 1930s, the WPA started to renovate the buildings on the post and in 1960 the site became the responsibility of the state's Parks Department. This department spent considerable time and effort into making the fort look as it did in its beginning, so that now, those that come here to visit will enjoy the restored brick and stone buildings, all 15 that were finished. The North barracks, doctor's office, officer's quarters, pictured to the right, and the guardhouse were completed and ready for tourists. Today, there are soldiers in costume that will guide you around the complex and offer stories from that era. The park continues to host many historical re-enactments during the year with Native American, black powder riflemen, artisans and more come here to give demonstrations of different activities that are held. These include wood burning stove and open fire cooking with the food offered to the visitors. It is a marvelous place to visit anytime of the year, although the winters could be a little difficult.

January 11, 2011