1880 Town


Yesterday we stepped back in time to the days of cowboys, and gunfights, and the wild, wild west.

Yesterday we visited 1880 Town.

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At the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead we were able to experience life outside of town as it would have been in 1880. At the 1880 town we were able to experience life if we had lived in town.

This stop brought back all sorts of memories for me. When I traveled west with my family as a girl this was one of the stops we made in South Dakota and I thought it was so cool!

I was excited to share the experience with my own children.

“South Dakota’s Original 1880 TOWN has more than 30 buildings from the 1880 to 1920 era, authentically furnished with thousands of relics, historical accounts and photographs, a Casey Tibbs exhibit, and Dances with Wolves movie props.”

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Here is a little history about 1880 Town, as taken from their website:

“When Richard Hullinger bought 14 acres at Exit 170 back in 1969 he had no plans for an attraction. In 1972 a gas station was built at this location along with forming an idea of an old west attraction. Later, an additional 80 acres was purchased.

About that time a movie company came to a small town nearby to film an 1880 era movie. A main street set was constructed from old buildings and a number of Indian relics and antiques were borrowed from Clarence Hullinger, Richard’s father. Winter set in and the filming was abandoned. The movie company returned home giving the main street set to Clarence for the use of his artifacts. The movie set was moved to the 80 acres and the 1880 TOWN was born!

Along with the beginning of the 1880 TOWN began years of collecting what is now an authentic 1880 to 1920 era town from buildings to contents. Clarence and Richard have kept historical value on an equal balance with public appeal, choosing buildings that not only interesting to look at but are also historically correct for an early South Dakota town. The displays and buildings range from Indian relics from the 1970’s to the fourteen-sided barn built in 1919.

The tour of the town begins here. The barn boasts an automated hay and manure handling system. It took three days and thousands of dollars to move the barn the 45 miles from its original location south of Draper, SD. In the barn you will see fine antique buggies, toys, stalls with horses in them and a working, turn of the century, coinola, saloon piano from Deadwood.

From the barn, the whole town lies before you in a beautiful panoramic view! The first building on the north side is the Vanishing Prairie Museum. The museum was built to house the more valuable collections, many from the General Custer period. Items displayed are a pair of boots and an old army saddlebag from the Custer battlefield that were found at an Indian campsite, parade helmets worn by U.S. Cavalry Indian Scouts with the crossed arrow insignia, Indian dolls, arrowheads, a complete authentic cowboy outfit, photographs and selected interiors of fine Dakota homes. The collection also includes Buffalo Bill items and a tribute to the late Casey Tibbs, 9 time World Champion Rodeo Cowboy.

The Dakota Hotel was moved from Draper, SD. Built in 1910, it still carries the scars made by cowboys’ spurs on the staircase. The Gardel & Walker Livery Barn holds a variety of early engines and two wagons from the Indian war era. On an open lot next to the livery is the antique machinery display.

St. Stephan’s Church, built in 1915, was moved from Dixon, South Dakota, with everything intact, from the stained glass windows to the bell (which along with the school and fire bell, you are free to ring).

The C&N Depot, Express Agency, and Telegraph Office was relocated from Gettysburg, SD. It is filled with railroad equipment right down to a piece of wood with “Tex K.T.” carved by the king tramp in 1927.

The town hall which came from Belvidere was renovated in 1984 and the film “Love for the Land” can be seen throughout the day. Step inside the back door to see the Mayor’s office. Next door are the lumber yard and pioneer home.

The one-room schoolhouse will bring back many memories for those who were lucky enough to attend one. Ring the bell and step inside to see the ink-well desks, textbooks, reciting bench and roll-up maps. Up front by the blackboard sits the huge stove that never did heat the back of the room and the view through the windows is still the same beautiful prairie that lured the attention from many young students’ studies.

About a quarter of a mile east of the town is a homestead complete with windmill, corrals, barn, house and of course, outhouse.

This history of the 1880 TOWN is just a snap shot of what you’ll see and experience while visiting our attraction.”

As we walked through the gates we found ourselves transported back in time 130 years, and boy did we look out of place. If we were going to blend in with the townsfolk we were going to have to get new clothes.

So our first stop was to the dry goods store where the kids traded out their jeans and t-shirts for cowboy boots and chaps.

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For $7.00/person you can rent a period costume for the day. We decided to let all the kids get dressed up. In the store two ladies dressed the kids.

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It added to the fun of the experience to have the kids be able to choose their outfits and get dressed from boots to hat in cowboy gear. They even got holsters and play guns.

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The girls had the choice between dressing in prairie dresses, saloon girl dresses or dressing as cowgirls. They both chose to be cowgirls for the day.

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When everyone looked the part of an 1880 cowboy we headed to the saloon for a cold one…cold Sarsaparilla, that is.

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Our timing was perfect because a show was just about to begin. There in the saloon we met the McNasty Brothers, Trouble and Awful.

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Awful fell for Molly in a big way and proposed marriage. She turned him down even when tempted by an impressive diamond.

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It was a good thing she did because those McNasty brothers turned out to be nothing but trouble. They convinced my boys to help them rob the saloon! The boys loved it especially when the bar maid tossed them a bag of gold.

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We stayed to watch the McNasty brothers perform. It was a hillbilly musical show and comedy routine and they were hilarious. Awful McNasty kept winking at Molly from stage.

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Tyler and Ozzie were invited to come up on stage and play the washboard and cow bell with the McNasty Brothers.

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After the show we began touring the town. We were able to walk in all the different buildings in town and it made us feel as though we had truly stepped back in time.

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It was all fun and games until Rusty decided to rob the bank,

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And landed himself in jail.

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Luckily I was able to sweet talk the sheriff and spring my boy from the slammer.

Just when I think I have my brood under control I turn around and find them robbing a train.

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You give these kids guns and bandanas and all civility goes out the window!

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Where’s Molly??

Found her…In the saloon playing poker!

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Time for a stagecoach ride out of town before they get into any more trouble…hand over your guns, kids, we are just riding the stagecoach, not robbing it!

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Needless to say, everyone had a wonderful time at 1880 Town. I just pray that that they turn from their wicked ways before we return to the year 2016.

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