“Where is the claim?” Pa inquired.
“It is some little distance north of Manchester,” said Ma. Manchester was a new little town, west of De Smet.
–These Happy Golden Years
Manchester, South Dakota, was a neighbor to De Smet, established in 1881 just 9 miles west along the railroad. Laura spent part of a summer there with the McKee family, but the connections between the Ingalls family and Manchester don’t end there. Grace Ingalls Dow resided in Manchester after marrying, and after Ma passed away in 1924, Mary Ingalls lived there with her. Famed painter Harvey Dunn also originated from Manchester.
Through the years, Manchester had declined from small town to nearly a ghost town, In 2003, just six buildings remained occupied in the town, with a population around a dozen. Like many towns in the Plains, time had passed Manchester by with the decline of the importance of railroad service, migration to urban areas, and abandonment of family farms.
On June 24, 2003, what was left of Manchester lay directly in the path of a destructive tornado. The tornado, rated EF-4 on the Fujita scale of damage intensity, leveled every building that remained of Manchester. The tornado is among the better documented, with numerous video clips and photographs from renowned tornado researcher Tim Samaras* and a host of other storm chasers. Stock videos of tornadoes on The Weather Channel and other programs often use video of the destructive, yet photogenic, Manchester tornado.
If you drive west on Highway 14 those 9 miles from De Smet, you can find the site of the former town of Manchester and a granite monument marking its location, but the town itself now belongs to the ages.
*Tim Samaras, his son, and one other crew member met a tragic fate on May 30, 2013, when they fell victim to a tornado near El Reno, Oklahoma, while conducting tornado research. Read my thoughts about his death while chasing storms here.