Last Friday, June and I left our home in Liberty, MO, and set out on a car trip to the Dakotas. This trip is in celebration of our 55th wedding anniversary, which was last Saturday. We decided to take the trip to the Dakotas, for they were the only two of the fifty States I had never visited.
We spent Friday night in a motel in Yankton, SD, which was the original capital of the Dakota Territory. Yankton is sometimes called “River City,” due to its proximity to the Missouri River and the importance that the river played in the city’s settlement in 1859 and subsequent development. As part of the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark visited the area long before that, in 1804.
We spent part of Saturday visiting some Hutterite colonies near Freeman, SD. Norman and Darlene Hofer, new friends who live on a farm near Freeman, helped us learn about the Hutterites, a communal branch of Anabaptist Christians who trace their history back to the 1520s. They have continued faithful to the teachings of Jacob Hutter (born c.1500), who was executed for his beliefs in 1536. That was in Tyrol, now in northern Italy.
From the beginning until the present, with a few exceptions, the Hutterites have practiced living completely in community (with a common “purse” for each colony) and have been strict pacifists. They also have the reputation of being excellent farmers, although now many engage in various manufacturing projects in their various colonies, which now number more than 450 in the U.S. and Canada.
On Sunday we drove through the spectacular Badlands on the way to Rapid City where we spent the night in the historic Alex Johnson Hotel, built in 1928. Designed partly as a tribute to the Sioux Indian Nation, the hotel has played host to numerous dignitaries, celebrities, and Presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan.
Next was a visit to nearby Mount Rushmore, which is the main reason we drove to southwestern South Dakota. As you probably know, Mount Rushmore features 60-foot sculptures of the heads of four U.S. Presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. The sculpting on Rushmore began in October 1927, and it was not finished until the end of October 1941.
We also visited Crazy Horse Memorial, the huge mountain carving that has been under construction since 1948 and is not nearly finished. Crazy Horse (born c.1840) was the famous Native American leader of the Lakota people. He was killed at the close of the Great Sioux War (1876-77). The head of Crazy Horse in his monument is nearly 50% larger than the heads of the Presidents on Mt. Rushmore.
Yesterday we drove up into North Dakota, and now, I am happy to say, I have visited all fifty states. We enjoyed visiting the Capitol, which is quite different from most capitols.
This has been a very enjoyable trip with very impressive sights. But for me the highlight has been visiting Mike and Kathy Wipf and other Hutterites in the Oak Lane colony. Their successful persistence in maintaining a unique Christian tradition and lifestyle is impressive, indeed. Their way of life is also a challenge to the compromised lifestyle of most of us Christians in the modern world.