Lowry claim shanty part of area history
By Sandy Bond
Early settlers in Dakota Territory ventured to the rugged plains seeking personal freedoms and endured untold sacrifices with dreams of making a small piece of this land their home.
More than 100 years old, the claim shanty on the ranch belonging to Lyle and Garnet Perman is on land that is being rented by their son Luke, his wife Naomi and their fraternal twins, Isaac and Ella, nearly 2, a young family seeking new horizons of their own.
Nestled in a small valley, and difficult to reach today, the site was an ideal one with its proximity to fresh water from a meandering creek. Traveling up and down impossibly steep hills and buttes, with Luke at the helm, a four-wheel drive vehicle is a necessity.
Smaller than a closet in a mansion, the shanty is typical of claim shanties throughout the Midwest that sheltered those pioneers. Some were on skids, which allowed them to be moved by teams of horses and reused.
Since the Walworth County Register of Deeds records do not go back that far, we are grateful to those farsighted historians, most importantly Lyle and Garnet Perman, who wrote the history of the small house.
Captain Newton Kingman, a highly decorated Civil War veteran, came to Dakota Territory in 1883, and was reportedly charmed by the potential of the land. He reportedly built the shanty two miles north of Lowry.
Giving an applicant ownership of land or homestead at little or no cost, the Homestead Act of 1862 was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. It usually consisted of grants totaling 160 acres or one-fourth of a section. The criteria: anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government, including freed slaves; was 21 years of age or older; they had to live on the designated land, build a home, make improvements and farm it for a minimum of five years. The filing fee was $18. The Act was originally proposed as an expression of the “Free Soil” policy of Northerners who wanted individual farmers to own and operate their own farms as opposed to Southern owners who needed slaves for their economic advantage.
The shack was purchased from Captain Kingman by, O.S. Crawford, Lyle said
“When we bought the place O.S.’s son, Jim, was still alive,” Garnet said, “and told us the story of the shack.”
“Jim said O.S.’s sister was a teacher, and used the shack to claim up a quarter east of Lowry where she taught,” Lyle said.
One of their children recalled that the shanty was once used as a chicken coop.
“When my folks purchased the land, they had a hired man clean up the old buildings,” Luke said. “Dad pointedly left the claim shanty, knowing that it would be important to future generations.”
Luke and sister Kajsa visited the site many times as children, and Isaac and Ella made one of many visits to come.
“The fact that it is still standing is a testament to how well it was built,” Luke said. “That, and the fact we graze our cattle in that area only for a week or so each year.”
Cattle will use old buildings as a scratching post, he said.
Between 1862, and 1934, the federal government granted 1.6 million homesteads and distributed 270,000,000 acres. About 40 percent of the applicants who started the process were able to complete it and obtain title to their homesteaded land.
Today, as young people continue to leave the land for larger cities, it’s refreshing that Luke and Naomi plan to raise their family so close to where Luke grew up.
After graduating from Selby High School, Luke attended South Dakota State University at Brookings.
The daughter of Paul and Donna Lundgren, Naomi grew up in Maple Grove, Minn., where her dad was a UPS courier and her mom was a nurse.
“Growing up, I set my sites on settling in Mobidge, because that was halfway between Maple Grove and my cousin Lydianne’s home in Montana.“
After graduating from Maple Grove High School in 1999, Naomi received her bachelor’s degree from Minnesota State University at Mankato with a degree in early childhood education, Naomi was invited to visit the Mobridge area by best friend Heidi Huber for the Fourth of July weekend.
“It helped that I fell in love with Luke first and the ranching life came later,” she said.
After a long-distance courtship, they were married.
“My cousin married a rancher near Billings, Montana, too,” she said. “And now we have a lot to talk about!”