Navigation Menu+

Hattie Dorchester

Early dressmaker in De Smet who participated in sleighing parties. She was a particular friend of Mary Power’s.

The mile race at the rink on Friday evening of last week, between Miss Hattie Dorchester and J. Zickrick and Miss Mary Power and D. Le Sueur was won by the latter couple. It was a close race and a fine one. – De Smet Leader, December 1884

Harriet Elva Dorchester was born August 1, 1862, the first child of David W. Dorchester (1835-1908) and his wife, Marchia (Leonard) Dorchester (1839-1909). The Dorchesters and their five children came to Kingsbury County during the summer of 1882; Mr. Dorchester filed on a tree claim several miles northwest of De Smet, the NE 12-111-57. The Dorchesters’ son, Wesley, was the same age as Laura Ingalls. Son Willie was in school with Minnie Johnson and Carrie Ingalls. Daughter Jennie was in school with Grace Ingalls.

While Laura certainly knew Hattie Dorchester in De Smet, it seems that she was a close friend of Mary Power’s, as Mary and Hattie attended social activities together, gave parties together, and traveled out of state together. Hattie isn’t mentioned in the Little House books, and only once in Pioneer Girl as Arthur Johnson’s sleighing companion. In These Happy Golden Years (see Chapter 11, “Jingle Bells”), his companion is said to be “a girl that Laura did not know.”

David Dorchester, Will Ruth, and John E. Smith were partners in a livery stable in the late 1880s in De Smet, dissolving their partnership after the death of a major investor. Will Ruth continued in the banking business with his brother, Thomas Ruth, and John Smith opened a drug store. David Dorchester and J.A. Van Vracken became partners, but in October 1900, their barn was destroyed by fire. The newspaper reported: “This disastrous fire has been removed from De Smet one of the finest livery stables in the state. Even Sioux Falls cannot boast of a better one. It was an ornament to the city and commented upon by traveling men the state over. The firm has lost in good hard cash $8000. The building cannot be rebuilt for less than $4000; 23 head of good driving horses at $200, $2200 worth of carriages and buggies, together with about $400 worth of hay and grain.” Following the fire, David and Marchia Dorchester moved to Spokane, Washington.

Hattie Dorchester learned the dressmaking trade in De Smet; she worked at Andrews & Chenoweth’s store on Calumet Avenue, selling out in 1893. The newspaper bit above is from the June 15, 1893, Kingsbury County Independent. May 29, 1894, she married Antone M. Keller, who was born in Russia and came from Wisconsin to homestead south of Manchester. He was appointed Indian Agent at the Sisseton Reservation in the northeast part of South Dakota. They had two children prior to divorcing: Winona (born 1895) and Hubert (born 1897). Hattie Keller moved back to De Smet and again worked as a dressmaker. Antone returned to farming in Kingsbury County; he died in De Smet in 1928. Hattie later moved to Coeur de Alene, Idaho, where she ran her own dressmaking shop for many years. She never remarried; Hattie Keller died in Los Angeles, California, on February 23, 1954.


Hattie Dorchester (PG)