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Margaret Garland family / Cap Garland

A stock company has been organized for the purpose of building a hotel. The Garland property will be purchased and the building used for a wing to the hotel. – The De Smet Leader, May 7, 1887


Margaret Garland

Walter Bell Garland was born in Ireland in 1832. Margaret Petit was born October 1837 in Randolph County, Illinois. The two were married in 1854 in Iowa County, Wisconsin. They had five children born in Wisconsin: Walter (1855), Lovenia (1856), Josephine (1859), Florence (1862) and Oscar (1864). Walter and Josephine died young.

Walter Garland died in 1874 in Avoca, Wisconsin. His brother, John Garland, convinced Margaret and other Pettit relatives to try homesteading in Dakota Territory. John Garland settled in Brown County and became the first mayor of Aberdeen. In June 1879, Margaret Garland filed on a homestead in Kingsbury County. The quarter section is now part of the town of Lake Preston and a portion of the former claim has been taken over by the lake itself. Mrs. Garland later filed on a preemption claim in Clark County; she purchased another quarter section near Spirit Lake and several properties in De Smet.

Mrs. Garland worked as a seamstress in De Smet until bachelor pioneers unhappy with the food provided by the hotel in town persuaded her to open a boarding house. Her property was located directly behind Charles Ingalls’ building in town. To read more about the Syndicate Hotel that was built on the Garland property (and see a photo of the Garland house), click HERE.

After selling her boarding house and lot, Mrs. Garland purchased the lot to the south of the one she sold on Joliet and she lived in a small house house here until moving into the former Fuller house on Second Street in De Smet. In later years, she lived with daughter Florence Dawley. She was afflicted with rheumatism and was unable to walk the last year of her life; she died in De Smet in 1913. Although Mrs. Garland lived in De Smet for many years, it was her desire to be buried next to her son Cap, so she was buried in Willow Lake Cemetery in Clark County.



Baseball notes. Cap Garland holds left field and is the best fielder De Smet every had. The De Smet ball tossers expect to have a strong team this season. – Kingsbury County News, May 18, 1888

Oscar Edmund Garland (called “Cap” or “Ed”) was born December 27, 1864 in Avoca, Wisconsin, the youngest child of Margaret and Walter Garland. At age nine, his father died, and shortly afterwards, his mother decided to try homesteading in Dakota Territory. Cap and his sisters remained in Avoca until 1879, when Mrs. Garland filed on her homestead adjoining the townsite of Lake Preston. In 1880, they relocated to the new town of De Smet. Cap was fifteen.

Laura Ingalls Wilder introduced Cap’s character in The Long Winter (see Chapter 9, “Cap Garland”) as one of the bigger boys in school. His sister Florence was the teacher. Cap had blue eyes and hair bleached blond by the sun. In later years, Wilder admitted to having once had feelings for Cap, but the two were never a couple. In spite of the almost eight-year difference in their ages, Cap was great friends with Almanzo Wilder. After leaving school, Cap worked as a drayman. For a while, he owned part interest in a De Smet livery stable with On the Way Home character Frank Cooley. He also lived in Pierre for a while, running a draying company there.

On November 3, 1891, Cap was working as engineer with a threshing crew in Badger Township when the boiler exploded, throwing Cap over the separator and into a nearby field. He lived for only several hours. Cap Garland was buried in Willow Lake Cemetery in Clark County.



From my post dated February 19, 2020:

THE LONG WINTER, Chapter 9, “Cap Garland.” Let the Almanzo vs. Cap debate begin! — Laura was “looking back” when writing about Cap Garland, and no doubt also remembering his horrific death at age 26 (younger than Almanzo was when he and Laura were married). Yeah, we know that in THGY, Laura wrote that she had thoughts of “leaving Almanzo and going with Cap,” but did she really recognize a kindred spirit in Cap from the start, or was it just a crush at age 13 (he was going on 16)? Much is made of Laura using his name as the chapter title, but she did that with a negative character as well (Nellie Oleson), and in the handwritten Hard Winter manuscript, this chapter is titled “Going to School.”

Laura describes Cap as “tall and quick and he moved beautifully as a cat.” In the manuscript, Laura had seen Cap before she started school, “running past going downtown” and that “he seemed to always be laughing.” His “hair looked almost white,” he had “light blue eyes and a flashing grin.” Laura also said that Cap “had even, perfect teeth” and “his fair hair, golden eyebrows and light blue eyes seemed to flash like a light and to change everything as sunshine did at dawn.”

When Laura first meets Almanzo, she describes him as “a boy,” and immediately starts writing about how beautiful the horses are. And even though Almanzo’s “blue eyes twinkle down at her as if he had known her a long time,” she speaks to him “primly.” She does fictionalize Almanzo and Cap to be the same age in TLW, and even if Almanzo in real life was born 2 years earlier than his headstone says, he’s still always going to be 5 years older than Cap.

More about Oscar Edmund “Cap” Garland:

     (1) Cap played left field on the De Smet baseball team and was said to be the best fielder the De Smet Blues ever had.      (2) Cap was treasurer of the “Hook & Ladder Company,” the first fire fighters in De Smet.      (3) Cap was a corporal in Co. E, De Smet National Guard.      (4) In the spring of 1889, Cap moved to Pierre to open a livery barn.      (5) He was in De Smet for a visit at the time of his death.      (6) If you follow De Smet news on Facebook, you’ve read that the town now has bus service in the form of a van that will take you anywhere you need to go in town. In 1888, Cap & a friend started the first transportation service-for-hire in De Smet in the form of a three-seated buggy in which they would squire people around town.

G is for GARLAND Oscar Edmund Garland, December 27, 1864 – November 3, 1891 — This is the nice full column+ hole in the De Smet Leader on file at the Memorial Society, that must have been Cap’s obituary.

November 6, 1891: [Lake Preston Times]: Terrible Accident.—On Monday afternoon as the Holcomb machine was making a move, the engine exploded carrying death and destruction with it. Cap. Garland, who was the engineer, and Holcomb, a brother of the owner of the machine, were killed on the spot. Several others were more or less injured but none seriously.

Apparently Cap ran the “separator” part of a threshing machine rig for a man named Walter Holcomb. Mr. Holcomb was the engineer (not Cap). Mr. Holcomb found that he needed to be away from home for a few days, so his brother – a stranger in the county who was there on a wedding trip of sorts, having married a few months earlier – offered to take his place on the rig. The steam engine wasn’t in good repair and the safety valve was most likely out of commission at the time, but Mr. Holcomb was familiar with the machine and managed to keep it running.

In his absence, it was decided that Cap was more familiar with the machine than Mr. Holcomb’s brother, Horace, so Cap would take the position as engineer, and Mr. Holcomb’s brother would operate the separator.

A setting of grain was threshed at the E.E. Reeves farm and the rig was moved a mile and had just turned toward a setting of grain on the August Larson place (in the south part of 21-112-56, in the extreme northeast corner of Kingsbury County), when both ends of the boiler blew out. A team and wagon and men were standing 100 yards from the threshing rig when it exploded, and the front end of the boiler buried itself in the ground just in front of the team.

Cap Garland was standing just behind the boiler and he was blown over the top of the separator and landed in a field more than thirty feet away. Both legs were broken and he was horribly scalded, as there had been a full boiler of water at the time of the explosion. Cap was alive when picked up, and men hurried to bring his mother to the scene because they knew he wouldn’t live long. Cap died a few hours later. It is not known if his mother reached him before his death; it would have been at least a 20-mile trip to bring her to the site from De Smet. Cap was buried in Willow Lake Cemetery in Clark County, South Dakota.

As sad as it was for Cap to have died in this tragic accident, your heart can’t help but ache for the wife of Horace Holcomb, who became a widow on her honeymoon. According to newspaper accounts, Emily Holcomb traveled with and cooked for the threshing crew rather than remain back home in Minnesota without her husband. She remarried in 1893.

The accident was covered in many newspapers. Click HERE for mention in the St. Paul Daily Globe, November 4, 1891 (see column 2).

If you’re into this sort of thing, the spot where Cap died is off Highway 81 before you get to Lake Albert. Turn left on Main Street (I have it as West Main Street (200th Street), but it might be East; but just make sure you turn WEST) towards Badger and go two miles exactly. The threshing machine was traveling on the 1/2 mile stretch of 452nd Avenue to the north when the boiler exploded.



She was a smiling young lady, with curled bangs. The bodice of her black dress was buttoned down the front with twinkling jet buttons. – The Long Winter, Chapter 9, “Cap Garland”

Florence Garland

Florence Garland.

Florence Adelia Garland was born May 14, 1862 in Avoca, Wisconsin, the fourth child of Walter and Margaret Garland. After her father’s death, she moved with her mother, sister Lovenia and brother Cap to Kingsbury County. Mrs. Garland ran a boarding house and Lovenia worked as a milliner. Florence was one of the first three teachers to be certified by Superintendent Amos Whiting in October 1880. She was awarded a First Grade certificate and hired to teach the De Smet school; classes began in November, shortly before the Ingallses moved into town from their homestead. Following this term, Florence taught school in Clark County, where she also homesteaded.

In December 1887, Florence married Charles Lansing Dawley, son of Richard and Mary Dawley. Charles Dawley was born in 1856 in Plymouth, Wisconsin, and was raised in St. Charles. In 1879, he moved to Dakota Territory; the next year he settled in De Smet, where he worked as a lumber dealer for six years. For many years, Dawley served as Clerk of Courts in Kingsbury County. He worked in real estate and sold insurance.

Charles and Florence had two children: Lansing Edmund (born March 1893; he died at age 18) and Walter Averill (born 1900).

Charles Dawley died in 1933. Florence Dawley died in 1935. Both are buried in the De Smet cemetery.


Garland family
     Margaret (LTP 17-18; PG)
     Florence (TLW 9, 14; LTP 17-18; PG)
     Oscar Edmund “Cap” / “Cappie” (TLW 9, 11, 14, 20, 26-29, 31; LTP 8, 16-17, 19-21, 23-24; THGY 8, 11, 13, 16-17, 19-21, 24; PG)
     Garland’s house / boarding house (TLW 1, 27; PG) – see also Syndicate Hotel
     Lovenia / Vena (PG)
     Cap Garland would “fight his weight in wildcats” (TLW 27) – Suggesting that Cap was fearless when the need arose
     Cap and Almanzo fetch wheat for the people of De Smet (TLW 26-29; PG)
     De Smet Cemetery tour file for CHARLES DAWLEY