Homecoming at Esmond
Jun 22, 2016
Esmond qualifies as a ghost town six days a week, but rural people congregate at the little Kingsbury County burg on Sunday mornings for services at the Methodist Episcopal Church. Every two years the dirt streets actually become congested with traffic when the church hosts a homecoming. The next one is Sunday, June 26. It begins with morning worship at 10:30, followed by a pork barbecue and potluck. A freewill offering raises money to help with the small congregation’s costs.
Irene Aughenbaugh (pronounced Ahn-bow), age 90, hasn’t missed many of the homecomings even though she now lives in Rapid City.
“We moved to Esmond in 1938 when my father (Asa Heabirland) bought a gas station and blacksmith shop there. We moved from Nisland. Esmond was quite a town then. They had three grocery stores and the post office man had a gas pump and my dad had a gas pump. There was a lumberyard and railroad depot and a grain elevator and of course two pool halls.”
One of Irene’s first and best memories came on the first day of May. “The other girls said you have to get ready for May Day. I said ‘What in the world is that?’ I found out that you had to make May baskets and take them here and there and give them to your friends and then they gave you a kiss. I was about 11."
She says the Methodist church and a Farm Bureau Hall were the center of town activities in the 1930s. Today those are the only structures still maintained and in use.
“I don’t know how many houses were there but there must have been more than a hundred people living there and there was always something going on. But after the war they started moving the houses out to other towns. Some went to De Smet and some went to Arlington and here and there. It’s kind of depressing to see how the town has gone downhill but it’s like everything else. After the war people got better cars and they could go to bigger towns and shop and the little towns went downhill. Little by little they fell apart. It’s sad, but it’s fun to go back every two years.”
The public is invited to the homecoming. This year, prints of a painting of the 1885 church by local artist Julie Waldner will be available for $25.
Photos by Bernie Hunhoff.
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