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Arts & Life

Personalities: George Hall, Creator and Collector of South Dakota History

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Hilton M. Briggs Library Archives
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While many bookworms spend their time cocooned in public libraries and bookstores searching for the next great story, George Hall had only to walk through his own front door.

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Credit LibraryThing.com

Surrounded by over 1000 books, Hall claimed the nation’s largest private collection of written material on South Dakota, including county and city histories, books exploring Native American topics, and over 100 volumes on the Black Hills. Hall has even written a few of his own books, including Kingsbury County: 120 years of Kingsbury County History, Far Flung & Free, Poetry and Prose by South Dakota Poets, and two fiction novels ‘He Wanted to be a Millionaire by 30’ and ‘Isolation Island’.

In January of 1993 and again in June of 1994, Chuck Anderson sat down with Hall in his De Smet home to discuss some lesser known aspects of South Dakota history and Hall’s experiences within it.

Anderson began the interview by talking with Hall about his latest book release, a collection of works by South Dakotan poets.

Hall’s interest in preserving South Dakotan history was largely influenced by his surroundings. For example, artist Harvey Dunn grew up just a few miles from Hall’s hometown of De Smet, South Dakota.

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Hall recalls how Harvey Dunn lived just a few miles from his own home.

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Credit South Dakota Art Museum, Brookings
'The Prairie is My Garden' - Harvey Dunn

Hall’s interest in the life of Dunn grew extensively, as shown by the artist’s birth story he shared with Anderson.

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Hall tells the unique story of Harvey Dunn's birth.

However, Hall’s relationship with history lands even closer than a few miles down the road, with the town’s last hitching post in his front yard.

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Hall's front yard serves as a stopping point for many tourists.

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Credit Wall Drug Store

With many other historical experiences, Hall recalled a time when he rode past a small house offering rest and free ice water to travelers, today known as the famous Wall Drug.

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Hall describes riding past Wall Drug in it's original infant stage.

However, not all of Hall’s historical findings have been pleasant—especially in the notorious case of Nathanael Thompson.

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Hall recalls the story of outlaw Nathanael Thompson.

In addition, Hall recalled a story of his mother almost being kidnapped by gypsies as a child.

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Hall describes how his mother was almost kidnapped by gypsies.

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Credit Wikimedia

Crediting much of his education to his collection of South Dakota history, Hall had plans to donate his entire library to the Hilton M. Briggs Library at South Dakota State University. His wish came to fruition in 1995.

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Hall discusses his plans to donate his book collection to South Dakota State University.

To end their conversation, Hall recited a poem entitled ‘Land of the Dakotas’ for Anderson from his recently released poetry book.

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Hall reads his poem 'Land of the Dakotas'.

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Credit Amazon.com

Self-taught historian and writer George Hall may have passed away in 1999, but this legacy can still be found in the preservation of South Dakotan history at SDSU.

For Chuck Anderson’s full interview with George Hall, listen here.

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Chuck Anderson's first interview with George Hall in 1993.

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Chuck Anderson's second interview with George Hall in 1994.