Thursday, June 4, 2015

Who in the World Reads Thru Prairie Grass?

The first post to Thru Prairie Grass was published August 15, 2013, more than a hundred years after Govert Van der Boom proudly distributed the first edition of the Govert Advance at the Govert Post Office inside the Govert Store. From 1911 until 1943, the Govert Advance was the people's choice for news of Govert, South Dakota. People who lived there read the Govert Advance, as did people who used to live there, and others distant who followed the activities of a son or daughter, brother or sister. A century later, in 2013, I wondered if anyone would read my stories about Govert.

Who in the world would be interested in Govert, South Dakota, I wondered. Would anyone read the blog? And, if they did, how would they react to what they found on Thru Prairie Grass? Would readers in Harding County be disturbed either because the blog missed details, or because the detail felt intrusive? Would they be suspicious of me as an outsider? All this I wondered.

I knew Marie Kulisich would read the blog every single time I published, but that's like cracking open eggs and baking a cake for the owner of a bakery. Marie and I already had a wampum exchange for five years before the blog saw light of day - Marie shared her memories and I shared my research. Marie shared with you, too, through my stories and then through her own - do you remember Sheep Ranching in Govert, SD?

Certainly the West sisters would read the blog, and Saundra Laflin, too - all four had connections with Govert that included waking up to the Slim Buttes each morning. And, I thought, maybe Howard Jensen's children and grandchildren would read the blog. After all, the Jensens still own prairie in Govert Township. And, sure enough, Evaline, Alice Mae, Shirley Jean, Saundra, and Doug Jensen read the blog, and now Doug's sister, LuAnn Schroeder, reads the blog, too.

I figured Saundra Laflin's daughter, LaDelle, and LaDelle's husband, Derek Brink, might catch up on the blog from time-to-time ... when they weren't calving, and working the cattle, and rodeoing and running Govert Powerline Services, and raising a family, and when Derek didn't have School Board commitments ... after all, they live just down the road from the old Govert Townsite. So maybe, I thought, they would catch up from time-to-time. And they do.

My Dutch cousin, Hans van der Boom, and his wife, Marjon, read the blog, because this is "geschiedenis Amerikaanse tak" or "history of the American branch". You might remember Hans from Vrolijk Kerstfeest! where Hans was our guide, helping us understand the Christmases Govert Van der Boom would have experienced with his Dutch family in The Hague and then in Platte, South Dakota, before Govert homesteaded in that corner of Harding County that would become known as Govert Township. Another cousin, granddaughter to Goverite Peter Rosenthal, reads the blog; Pat Dreesen and I are American cousins because Govert Van der Boom and Peter Rosenthal were Dutch cousins.

My Canadian cousins, Sharon Frizell, Elaine Fleck, and Gloria Gifford follow the blog because they descend from the Tobolt line, the same line as Goverites Emma Vogt Van der Boom, Lydia Vogt Gee, Theodore Vogt, Ernest Vogt, and Gus Toble. Wayne Grantz, the grandson of Theodore Vogt, reads the blog, too, as does Theodore's great-granddaughter Susan Marco.

Trent Van der Boom and his wife, Ann, are interested in what happens in Thru Prairie Grass. Ann is intent on assuring that her children know about their South Dakota roots and their Dutch heritage. Cousin Trent's wife was one of the very first subscribers to Thru Prairie Grass.

Frank Goodell, a Springer descendant, follows the goings-on of this prairie town where his Grandmother Dabu's life played out. Frank added to our knowledge of his family and prairie values in The Coat Exchange. The blog has been a good resource for Herman West's granddaughter, Arie, who learned more about the man who raised her grandfather in The Soul of Forrester West.

Donna Rose Walker Banning is on board; she's the daughter of Anzley Walker and Rose Helen Kapsa. Don Phillips and the rest of that Phillips bunch are listening, too; they descend from Chester Phillips and Leah Vroman who homesteaded north of the Buttes near Gill.

Gary Lehman, Howard Jacobs's grandson, reads and learns along with the rest of us. For Gary, as for many descendants of homesteaders, the stories of this character-building and character-testing prairie adventure were not passed down through the generations.

Paula M. Nelson, author of two of my favorite books, "After The West Was Won" and "The Prairie Winnows Out Its Own", commented on the blog and promised to check back regularly. Jean Simons, retired West River newspaper columnist, but always an historian, found me through the blog, and our correspondence is rich with her memories about life in historical West River South Dakota, the subject of her columns. Then there's Mary Buchholz, who had such a prominent role in the collection and publication of local history for the Harding County History Book. And Pat Engebretson, who encourages and safeguards West River history from her sentinel post at the Belle Fourche Public Library in Butte County. They all read the blog.

Another reader of Thru Prairie Grass is South Dakota State Senator Betty Olson. Besides representing a broad expanse of northwestern South Dakota, overlapping county boundaries, Senator Olson is a rancher with historical roots deep in Harding County. She has already established a legacy for preserving West River history as president of the Harding County Historical Society, chairman of the board of directors of the High Plains Western Heritage Center in Spearfish, Trailboss (chairman) of the South Dakota Great Western Cattle Trail Association, and Senator Olson also serves on the State-Tribal Relations Legislative Committee.

Longtime friends with no connection to Govert read Thru Prairie Grass to be supportive, like Sharon in Wyoming, and Helen in Washington State. My family is supportive, too. My mother and my husband read the blog because they have to ... although, in his comments to the blog, Russ may lead you to believe that he likes what I write. My brothers have been known to say a thing or two about the blog, when a thing or two is called for. My mother reads the blog to my sister on the phone, because my sister has always liked the way Mom tells a story. 

But who else is reading Thru Prairie Grass? 

When Thru Prairie Grass passed the landmark of 10,000 pageviews, I figured more people must be reading the blog than I thought. Unless, that is, my mother sits at her computer day and night, continually left-clicking links with her mouse to watch the number mount up. Me, most days I add words to draft posts or document ideas for new stories, but I pushed the buttons on the administrative panel to assure that the counter does not see me.

Nearly 10,400 pageviews now. I sure am suspicious of numbers that high. How can it be possible that Thru Prairie Grass has been viewed that many times?  What does that number mean? What is, and what isn't, a pageview? The common answer is that one pageview is added to the counter each time a web page is loaded in a browser. So, if you go to the blog at and read the most recent post, that is one pageview. If you click on a link in the post you are reading, that is a second pageview. Then, if you go to the Govert Roll Call on the right panel of the blog to see what is going on there, that is a third pageview. On the other hand, if you subscribe to Thru Prairie Grass and read each new posting on the email you receive in your inbox, you don't count toward the 10,400 pageviews. Where, then, do all these thousands of pageviews come from?

Maybe the "web crawlers" are generating pageviews ... the "spiders", the "bots" crawling around in the background, technical whatsits scanning for important words, allowing you to do a Google search to find "Govert SD". That still begs the question of who is reading the blog, because even the most friendly of bots, the most dedicated, those bots curious about the homesteading history of South Dakota, can't account for all those pageviews, or can they?

I'd write Thru Prairie Grass even if no one was listening, just so the homesteading history of small prairie towns like Govert, South Dakota, will not cease to have meaning. We are visiting on the Internet because this is a place where the stories can be found when someone is ready to listen.

Wouldn't Govert Van der Boom, having emigrated from Holland as a child in 1890, be amused by all this? The computer, the Internet, the blog, the bots, all of it?

Listening to the wind blowing through the prairie grass. Kate

[If you are following changes to the Govert Roll Call, see Lottie Lyons and the following families: Donohue, Hallan, Jarvi, Jensen, Lale, Limpert, Livingston, Phillips, Vroman, White.]


  1. I am proud to be listed among your blog's readers. I'm in good company. While I didn't know Govert before you, I do feel a sort of kinship because of my ancestors who settled in Lyman and Walworth Counties. Keep up the good work. What you do is so important.

    1. Pat, thank you for supporting West River history at the library. I always stop there when I'm in Belle and I always get such a warm reception.

  2. Sweetheart,

    C’mon … give me a break! I read the blog because I “have to”? I “may lead you to believe" that I like what you write”? Admittedly, I’m not totally unbiased here, but I really do like what you write! It’s a pleasure to read your blog postings. You always do such a wonderful job with them…they are invariably through, well researched, creative, entertaining, and informative. I read them because I enjoy it and actually do like them, and not just because I’m your husband!

    I strongly suspect, also, that all of those many other readers of the blog site (however you determine who or where those 10,400 page-views came from) enjoy the blog too. How could they not? It’s an interesting and enjoyable way to learn so much about the history of prairie homesteading, and about Govert, its residents, and the lifestyle and activities they pursued.

    So … thanks for this week’s entry. It’s very nicely done, as usual. You have given us a lovely and thoughtful tribute to and reminder of many of the people who have been or still are connected to Govert and the surrounding area. As I said last time, you do a superb job of reminding us about the many and varied people who have ties to the town and of their connections to the history of the region. Your hard work on the blog is evident and is much appreciated. It justly deserves whatever kudos and compliments it receives. Thanks for another outstanding blog entry!

  3. Yes, it is family history but if I am totally honest the reason I read the blog is also because they are so darn well written! And that is no well meant general compliment, I really mean it. Some topics are closer to the family history than others but they all have in common that they are very interesting and enjoyable reads, even if you are not into pastry :) You put into your writing something of yourself. I can say that because I've the joy and honour to have really met you and discussed family history with you. So, all in all, it is no surprise even people generally interested in history, and maybe mid west history in particular will enjoy your blog. I remember walking with you through real prairie grass, back on the South-Dakota prairie, back in 1986. That is a fond memory, froma visit I will never forget. Thank you for this blog, and please do keep up writing. Love Hans and Marjon.

    1. Thru Prairie Grass intends to give voice to the history of the many small prairie towns that have disappeared and have no one to speak for them. You’re telling me that I’m succeeding, so thank you, Hans.

      As Hans remembers so well, Hans and Marjon, and his parents, who traveled to South Dakota from their homes in Holland … and I and my parents, too … had our own prairie grass adventure in 1986, exploring the place Govert Van der Boom settled with his own parents after emigrating from Holland in 1890. There we walked through the prairie grass, where a seven-year-old Govert might have collected fuel for his mother's fire 96 years earlier. That expanse of prairie grass grew near Old Platte in Charles Mix County, east of the Missouri River in South Dakota. The prairie is where it all began for the Van der Booms in America, just as so many other families found a new life on the prairie.

      No Van der Booms remain in Harding County where Govert founded his prairie town, but Hans and I are pleased to report that Platte, South Dakota, still boasts Van der Boom descendants.

      Thanks for continuing to read Thru Prairie Grass, Cousin Hans!



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