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Ella & Robert Boast

Friends of the Ingalls family in De Smet.

Mr. Boast laughed, and in the house everyone laughed, even Ma. “I don’t know why,” Laura said to Mrs. Boast. “We don’t even know what the joke is, but when Mr. Boast laughs—” -By the Shores of Silver Lake

Robert Abey Boast was born May 23, 1848, the son of Richard and Elizabeth Boast, in Richmond, Quebec, Canada. Robert Boast immigrated to the United States in 1867, settling on a farm in Black Hawk County, Iowa. Several of Robert’s relatives came to the United States when he did, among them his brother George Boast and their first cousin Joseph Bouchie.

Robert Boast worked on the construction of the Chicago and NorthWestern Railroad through Kingsbury County, Dakota Territory, in 1879. In July, he filed on a homestead in Kingsbury County, located two and a half miles east of the townsite of De Smet, the SE 25-111-56. He made final proof on his homestead in May 1886.

Laura Ingalls Wilder first mentioned Mr. Boast in By the Shores of Silver Lake (Chapter 13, “Breaking Camp”). Wilder wrote that Mr. Boast was returning to Iowa to be married, yet the Boasts had been married for ten years prior to their move to Dakota. Robert Boast and Ella Rosina Peck were married in Grundy County, Iowa, on June 5, 1869.

The Boasts spent several months during the winter of 1879 in the Surveyors’ office (see By the Shores of Silver Lake, Chapter 21, “Merry Christmas”). They moved to their homestead in the spring, and wintered there during the hard winter (see The Long Winter, Chapter 7, “Indian Warning”). The Boasts moved from their farm into De Smet in 1896, renting several different properties before buying Lots 6 and 7, Block 5, Carroll’s Addition to De Smet a few years later. The built a house was on Lot 6, near the northeast corner of Harvey Dunn Avenue and Second Street S.W. The old stepped curb cut to their walkway can still be seen in front of the house now standing at 512 2nd St. S.W. This is not the Boast home; the Boast house was torn down in the 1970s.

Robert Boast was extremely interested in the beautification of De Smet. He was responsible for the planting of many trees in town, especially in the City Park near the depot. The Library currently stands on the old park site.

Robert Boast died July 15, 1921, in De Smet. He is buried in the De Smet cemetery.

Ella Rosina Peck was born March 24, 1852, in Kane County, Illinois, the daughter of Josiah and Catharine Peck. Ella’s family moved to Grundy County Iowa in the mid-1850s. Here, Ella met and married Robert Boast; they farmed in Lincoln Township for ten years prior to moving to Dakota Territory. The couple had no children.

In De Smet, Ella Boast was afflicted with severe rheumatoid arthritis which left her unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair. Due to Mrs. Boast’s poor health, the Boasts sold their farm in the 1890s and moved into a house on Second Street in De Smet. There they entertained their many friends, Mrs. Boast often holding parties for the neighborhood children. Ella Boast died in 1918; she is buried in the De Smet cemetery.

The Boast – Bouchie Connection.
Robert Boast and Joseph Bouchie were first cousins. They had the same grandfather (Joseph Boast, born 1794). Robert Boast’s father, Richard Boast, was the brother of Joseph Bouchie’s mother, Rebecca Boast.

Joseph Bouchie’s eldest son was Louis Bouchie; Laura Ingalls boarded with him while teaching the Bouchie School. Robert Boast was Louis Bouchie’s first cousin, once removed.


Boast family – Click HERE to read some mentions of the Boast family in South Dakota newspapers.
     Robert (SSL 13, 20-24, 27; TLW 7, 14, 31-33; LTP 4, 7-9, 24-25; THGY 20; PG) – born 23 May 1838
     Ella / Nell (SSL 13, 20-25, 27; TLW 14, 31-33; LTP 4, 7-9, 25; THGY 20; PG) – born 24 March 1852
     Mr. Boast’s contagious laughter (SSL 13, 20; TLW 32; PG)
     Mrs. Boast’s song (“When I was one and twenty, Nell, and you were seventeen…”) (SSL 22; PG), see “The Old Time”
     De Smet Cemetery tour info for BOAST