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The Parkston Historian | Dakota Life

History is passed down through stories shared. And sharing the history of Parkston and Milltown through the stories of people who called these rural communities home is the mission of Kay Adkins Brown

“From the Mayflower to the pasque flower, by 1910 the Adkins, Mattas, and Mize families owned 2,475 acres in Foster Township near Milltown, South Dakota. As neighbors they shared..."

Kay Adkins Brown is reading from her website. The retiree created it during the long months of COVID shutdown. She updates it monthly with stories and photos.

“This is a site and a place for stories about people, ordinary people who lived through the extraordinary history of the United States.”

Adkins Brown shares stories of many Parkston and Milltown citizens and events.

“It always was beyond my family, it is still about my family, but what you can do about an area, the last story I did on the website, was that my brother played basketball in 1954 and 1955, they went to the state championships. When you have a core person, you can’t help but tell the story of the people around them and the community around them. It becomes stories about not only my family, but the entire community.”

Inspired by the stories her father, Pete Adkins, shared with her as a young child, long before creating this website, Adkins Brown began archiving family letters, photographs and newspaper clippings in albums. She even published a book of stories and recipes, The Ma Project.

“I realized I had all these stories. I’m the last generation that remembers the generation before us and the people who were in World War I and World War II. I remember those people and I remember the stories. I thought if I don’t get the stories out, then when I go, that’s going to be lost to history. It became really important this last year, and probably because of my age, I need to start telling these stories.”

To honor her father’s passion for history and storytelling, the 74-year-old wears her father’s red wool 1929 Parkston football letter sweater as she conducts research at the Center for Western Studies.

Adkins Brown is looking for historical photos of a 1911 trainwreck to accompany a story she’s working on for her website that talks about the importance of the railroad to the early years of Parkston.

Each month she updates her website with a new story, that includes historical facts she discovers through research.

And even though she hasn’t lived in Parkston for many years, Kay Brown Adkins says sharing the stories of the communities her family called home for generations keeps her connected.

“There’s nothing more wonderful than a sense of place. South Dakota has had a lot of people who have exited from South Dakota. But I don’t think that sense of place ever goes away from somebody. When you know the stories and go back there, I think it becomes even more important to you as an individual to give you a sense that I belong somewhere.”

It’s her hope that for generations to come the history shared through stories on her website provides a similar connection to those who call Parkston and Milltown communities’ home.

Arrangements have been made for Kay Adkins Brown’s research to be archived at the Center for Western Studies on the campus of Augustana University. You can view the website HERE.

Lura Roti grew up on a ranch in western South Dakota but today she calls Sioux Falls home. She has worked as a freelance journalist for more than two decades. Lura loves working with the SDPB team to share the stories of South Dakota’s citizens and communities. And she loves sharing her knowledge with the next generation. Lura teaches a writing course for the University of Sioux Falls.
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