Woman keeps 'Our Place' of Milltown alive through bookMilltown, gone in the blink of an eye to many passersby, holds a special place in the heart of some. For Donna Stainbrook, Milltown provided family, love and support over the years, and she documents the history from its settlement in her book, “Our Place in Rural America: Milltown, South Dakota.”
By: Jennifer Jungwirth, The Daily Republic
Milltown, gone in the blink of an eye to many passersby, holds a special place in the heart of some.
For Donna Stainbrook, Milltown provided family, love and support over the years, and she documents the history from its settlement in her book, “Our Place in Rural America: Milltown, South Dakota.”
“We are living history right now, and it is important to remember how the ordinary people lived their lives and what they went through as time changed,” Stainbrook said. “Time seems to fly past them. What was can’t always be detected — families, whole farms and places that were important are gone. People are getting so busy existing they forget history.”
Stainbrook’s book is available at the Reader’s Den in Mitchell or by calling her at (605) 928-7579.
The original book was printed in 1995, but for Parkston’s 125th celebration this summer, Stainbrook updated the maps and other records to provide a more accurate, up-to-date account of the area’s history. The book was sold at the celebration as a fundraiser.
She includes in her book various records including schools, churches and cemeteries, along with original maps that showed ownership of the land. A map outlining the path of the old stagecoach is included, and pictures of school kids, ball teams and various Milltown businesses over the years are placed throughout the book, too.
Never really a history buff, Stainbrook said her interest in documenting Milltown’s history came from frequent visitors on their way to the town cemetery.
“Our farm is the first one everyone stops at. They would ask for information about the cemetery, and I had no idea of whom or what they were talking about,” she said.
She discovered the original settlers of Milltown had grandchildren still in the area. She asked them for help piecing together the town’s past, and the effort grew from that. As her kids went to school and attended church, she learned more about the town’s history.
“If anyone went through Milltown now, they might think there was never anything there because it has really deteriorated,” she said. “But at one time, it was a very centered community where Mitchell and everyone around came. We had Island Park with roller skating and later dancing. Some generations remember it yet.”
Now many of those businesses, farms and other structures are gone.
“They are disappearing,” Stainbrook said of small towns. “You go through the country and say my neighbor used to live there, or there was a farm and a family here. Now it’s nothing, just planted crops.”
She said she encourages today’s generation to document history as well.
“There’s just so much nobody gives a thought to. Our history will be the same way. They might think it wasn’t important enough to know, but it is and should be passed down in families,” she said.
Stainbrook grew up in Arkansas with her mom and two brothers. When she was 15, her mom married a farmer and they moved to Milltown. Here, she learned to garden and can, and to simply enjoy the outdoors.
“I thought I had the world in my hands,” said Stainbrook of moving to Milltown. “When I went to school I was a junior and they’d say, ‘Don’t you get lonely out there?’ How can you get lonely on a farm with animals, dogs and moms? You’re so blessed, don’t you know that?”
Stainbrook raised her family of three boys on the farm, too, teaching them about the rivers and fishing.
“I was blessed by being on the farm. And this is what came out of it,” she said of her book. “I’m proud of it.”