Mr. Hinz and the two Mr. Hartbornes boarded at the surveyors house, sleeping on the floor in front of the stove. During the afternoons their hammers could be heard pounding on the framework of their new buildings. Pa seemed to have been gone a long time. Ma would not let any more strangers sleep in the house. It was warmer outside and the rest had to sleep in their wagons. Ma still charged twenty five cents for supper and still lots of men came to eat.
Late in the afternoon on the fourth day Pa came home with the news that he had gotten the claim. He told the girls all about his adventure. He said when he got to the land office he couldn't get anywhere near the door because there were that many people. He had to stand in line and wait his turn. Pa said he had to wait for the second day before it would be his turn. When the land office closed on that first day Pa had gone to get some supper at the hotel. It was there that he overheard one man talking about the very piece of land that he had picked out last winter. Soon after Pa finished his supper he made fast tracks back to the land office and settled down on the doorstep to spend the night. He wouldn't be the only one. About forty others soon joined him and next to him was the two fellows he heard talking. By sun up there must have been a couple of hundred men pushing and shoving against him in that line.
Just as the door opened one of the men held Pa back and told the other to get in. As Pa started to fight back another man jumped in to help. It was Mr. Edwards. Pa said he would have never gotten the claim had it not been for him. Edwards just started that fight and as soon as Charles ducked inside the land office he snuck out. It was some time before the crowd quieted down. Pa tried everything to persuade Mr. Edwards to return back to DeSmet with him, but to no avail. But he did send along his greetings.
"Well girls, I've bet Uncle Sam fourteen dollars against a hundred and sixty acres of land, that we can make out to live on the claim for five years. Going to help me win the bet?"
After the hustle and bustle of last night the house was quiet once again. Ma packed a lunch for Pa to eat on the way to Brookins in the morning. Noise outside the window pane alerted them more men had arrived. Five of them to be exact and they were on their way to Huron. Pa knew they had to put them up for the night or they would freeze to death traveling through the night. Ma made them supper and then sent the girls up to bed early with instructions to lock their latched door and not to come down until they were called in the morning.
That next morning they girls laid in bed. Downstairs they heard the strangers talking and the breakfast dishes clatering. At last they finally left, but now it was too late for Pa to set out for Brookins. He would have to go in the morning because he wanted a full day's sun. That night there were more strangers and the next night even more. They felt stuck because they couldn't refuse them shelter. So Ma came up with the idea to charge them twenty five cents a meal and twenty five cents for shelter overnight for man or horse. Every day strangers from Iowa, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and even New York gathered around the supper table.
When the last wagon load of men finally left, Ma called the girls downstairs. She told them Pa had left for Brookins before sun-up. Mr. and Mrs. Boast would help keep an eye on things and they would be staying in the house. Ma would sleep upstairs with the girls. That evening they had another wagonload of visiters. The men hadn't finished eating when another wagon brought more men into the house. Again while feeding them a third wagon showed up. Now there were fifteen men. Where on earth would they all sleep? The floor would be crowded. Finally at last they were all fed and the dishes all cleaned. Ma carrying Grace followed the girls upstairs and fastened the hatch door behind them, being sure to lock it into place.
During the night a ruckus downstairs shook the entire house. "It's all right Laura, Mr. Boast is down there," said Ma. Laura soon fell back to sleep. In the morning Ma shook her awake. While the others slept, Laura helped with breakfast. The men got into their boots and Ma and Mrs. Boast hurried breakfast. There weren't enough dishes to feed everyone so Laura had to wash them quickly. At last the men were gone and Ma called up to Mary and then she and Mrs. Boast cooked more breakfast. Laura washed dishes and set the table one final time. Last night's rukus was due to the men bringing bottles and a jug of whisky into the house. With a crowd of fifteen drunks Mr. Boast thought it best to let them fight it out.
That new day brought a man with a load of lumber. He planned to build a store on the townsite. He pleasantly urged Ma to board him while he was building. Next came a man and his son from Sioux Falls. He too brought lumber to build a grocery store. They also begged Ma to board them while they built, to which she agreed.
"If Ingalls doesn't hurry back, we'll have a town here before he comes," said Mr. Boast.
One Sunday evening Pa's fiddle was singing. Outside the door a strong voice sang along. Standing on the other side of the door were two men covered in snow, one of which was Reverend Alden. Everyone was pleasantly surprised, for the last time they saw him was on the banks of Plum Creek.
"And here are my country girls all grown into women!" Reverend Alden's voice bellowed.
Laura was choked up with joy at seeing the Reverend.
"We are glad to see you again sir." Mary's face shone with brightness.
It was then the Reverend noticed the blankness in her eyes. He looked at Ma and then to Mary again. Ma quickly introduced him to Mr. and Mrs. Boast. The Reverend then introduced his young traveling companion as Reverend Scott Stewart. As the two men stood by the stove thawing, the ladies prepared a fine meal. Pa returned from the stable with two more homesteaders, both of whom were on their way back to settle on the Jim River. Reverend Alden said there's a settlement on the Jim, a town called Huron. The Home Missionary Society sent him out to look it over and make it ready to start a church there.
After the men had eaten supper Reverend Alden came into the pantry where Ma and Laura were washing dishes. He thanked Ma and told her how sorry he was for Mary's affliction. Ma said it was God's will and she was thankful that all her children were spared the worse from scarlet fever. He then told Ma about colleges for the blind and a very good one was located right in Iowa. Ma was interested, so Reverend Alden promised to make inquiries. "We can't afford it, but perhaps later if it doesn't cost too much we might somehow manage. I always wanted Mary to have an education."
"We must trust in the Lord to do all things for our best good," he said, and with that they held a short prayer meeting before saying goodnight. Laura knew then and there that she would be glad to work hard and go without anything for herself, so that Mary could go to college. The Boasts soon went home and once again Carrie's bed was placed down near the stove for the tired travelers.
Tucked away upstairs sharing the remaining bed, the girls talked about the blind school Reverend Alden had mentioned. Mary worried about the cost. "Ma knows," Laura whispered and she then promised, "I will study hard, so I can teach school and help."
The following morning the men enjoyed a good hot breakfast, after which the Boasts were invited back over for another preaching service. Pa played the fiddle and they all sang a hymn. As the team and wagon pulled away, Reverend Alden said, "You have had the first church service in this new town." He then promised to be back in the spring to organize a church.
"What's the name of the town that's going to be here?" Carrie asked.
"It's DeSmet, named for a french priest who came out here pioneering in the early days," Pa answered as they headed back into the warm house.
Pa knew with two homesteaders here already he had better make tracks for Brookins tomorrow morning come rain or shine.