"David and Lucy Guth," Pioneers of Bryant, SD,

by Durward Guth, 1989,

An Insertion for the Bryant Centennial Book of 1989

Note: This account of the pioneering Guths in the Bryant area arrived too late for the Centennial Book team to publish with the book, but it was thought too valuable by the Centennial Book editors to leave out, so it was given as an insertion of three pages, with a schedule of the Bryant Centennial celebration on the back page.

This account is indeed very valuable for the details of epic-level pioneer experience and settlement by the Guth family, which was one of the very first settling in the Bryant area. As for the Stadem Family, they were also pioneers, but their values were different from the Guths', diverging in the religious aspect radically.

My grandparents Alfred and Bergit Stadem would have approved of much of the Guths' behavior and achievements as pioneers, true, but would have considered them basically non-religious people, not even proper Christians. Was that a harsh or a fair judgment? You decide. If as Durward Guth declares, that their church was the church of Ben Franklin, then we know there was still much to recommend it, socially and individually, if not religiously.

As the historical record shows, Ben Franklin was a most upstanding man of moral caliber and a great patriot, was he not?

The Guths were, as Durward Guth describes them, part of a free-thinking group of pioneers who drew from the Ben Franklin version of religion, who may have attended church regularly, but it was a kind that reflected their then modern or contemporary 1900s-era "free-thinking" kind of religion rather than a historic Biblical and evangelical faith of my grandparents and those like them.

Not a "free-thinker" myself now but once a philosophy student at college, I don't know what that church could offer other than social gatherings of like-minded people who eschewed faith for men's reasoning powers. Probably rationalistic and pragmatic and not given to faith and grace and Christ's atonement and the Gospel, the Guths' Free Thinking Church and theology probably focused, as Ben Franklin did before them, on man's ability to improve himself and his circumstances, to meet and overcome challenges independently, not calling upon Divine Intervention overtly but rather mustering one's own resources of intelligence, strength, education, or training, with some Lady Luck thrown in now and then to get a person through a tight spot.

The Bible stands against such a religion, it is not dependent on God, it is dependent on man and his intelligence and resources, both of which we know are flawed with sin and also very limited. Why anyone would exalt man's abilities and knowledge to base his life on them, I understand as the natural tendency of unregenerated man--we all did that, before conversion to Christ. We naturally tend to be like that. But that way which seems right in a man's eye, the Bible says is death.

Did they pray to God? These were people with good intentions, nonetheless. They wouldn't be opposed to prayer, in principle. Possibly the Guths prayed. They may have read selected portions of the Scriptures too that their philosophy did not find offensive.

We know Ben Franklin recommended prayer to the Continental Congress in an impasse that threatened to cast all their efforts for independence into disarray, so he had to have believed devoutly in a God who was inclined to hear and answer men's sincere prayers for guidance and help, or he was merely spewing hot air--and the whole assembly knew he was not doing that by taking his advice with absolute seriousness and acted on it immediately by going to prayer-- which broke the hitherto unbreakable impasse in the deliberations.

Seeing that man's abilities to resolve conflict had failed, seeing that earnest appeal in prayer to a Higher Power than themselves was the only answer to calm the divisive, clashing wills that were threatening to utterly ruin the Congressional assembly's express task of delineating the powers of state and forming the various bodies of the new government, Franklin advised his peers to seek urgent recourse to God, but would he recommend it as every day practice in less difficult circumstances and situations than the colonial delegates faced

I don't believe Ben Franklin, for all his devoutness in a crisis of the sort described here, would think that was wholly necessary or even desirable. A man was to stand on his own two feet, was he not? Not lean overly on anyone else, not government, not friends, not society, not even God. Though Deity, or the Supreme Being, might be named as being master over all the world, he was not ordinarily, intimately connected with any believer and would probably refrain from directly interfering with individual lives and development. It was then up to the individual to make what he chose of himself and the world as he found it. Would this be French-style Deism and American Pragmatism mixed together, something like the rugged, even "super individualist" and popular writer Ayn Rand was supposed to champion in her blockbuster-sized novels such as "Atlas Shrugged"?

The Guths and their Free-Thinker co-religionists would seem to be compatible with Ben Franklin, David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dale Carnegie, and Ayn Rand, all of whom championed the individual and his responsibility to make something of himself with his own ability rather than resorting to an all-powerful God.

Not, rather than daily appeal and daily dependence on God Almighty, an honest, decent, free-thinking, free-living man worked out his own salvation, whatever he thought his salvation consisted of. That for them would be sufficient for salvation, even without Christ's Atonement. A good man only needed only common sense and application of diligent work ethic and some economic opportunity. Biblical salvation was something they would deem irrelevant or unneeded by modern man, since they would have to believe men were basically good and individual ability allied with social opportunity the primary ingredients of a good life. For them the Cross, and Christ's work of salvation on it for man's redemption, was not really needed.

With those basic tools--his own ability taking the opportunity offered him to advance himself materially, socially, educationally--a man who respected himself and others could better himself and make a positive contribution to society and the world. That would provide the chief meaning and purpose for his life. For them this "do-it-yourself" philosophy was the recipe for happiness. They would want no other kind of happiness, and therefore the Hereafter with angels and heaven and Judgment of sin unthinkable--mere idle fictions to their thinking, that were spun by superstitious people of the Middle Ages out of primeval fears and guilt. All that old Europe religiousness, to their view, had been rendered obsolete by the material and social improvements and progress in society already made in the then modern industrial age.

See if this kind of philosophy is not reflected in Guth's account as he goes along. I suspect it is, as I have read the entire account and have failed to see where my view of his philosophy and religion differs from what he has expressed in his own words.

That said, I have done my best to try to understand where Durward Guth and his ancestors came from, philosophically and religiously. I hope I have not misinterpreted them, as their achievements are real and lasting, and deserve generous commendation.

Durward Guth's exciting portrayal of David Guth acting so bravely in taking a wounded Indian under his wing, saving him from certain, brutal death at the hands of his Indian pursuers, that was so striking a picture of compassion, I had to feature it in my poem tribute to Bryant Pioneers called "Giant Footprints." I also incorporated other material from the Bryant Centennial Book in the poem, but it was David Guth and his act of courage and selflessness that captivated me most amidst the pioneer stories.

Free-thinker that he was, David Guth exemplified some greatly admirable qualities that you would hope to find in any genuine Christian who truly follows the totally selfless and courageous Man of Galilee, who the Bible says went to the Cross for the sake of saving not just one man, but All.

Now if David Guth had taken the fleeing Indian's punishment upon himself and suffered unto death for him that was more like what Christ did for each of us. We know that would have not sufficed at all for the man's salvation and gained him forgiveness from God for his sins, it would have been, indeed, Christlike, but the Indian would still eventually have died in his sins and suffered eternal judgment. Nevertheless, that acknowledged, it was a noble deed, and deserves to be remembered for as long as these pioneers of Bryant and the Dakotas are remembered. --Ed.

”David and Lucy Guth,” by Durward Guth

The saying is: “The timid never started, the weak died on the way, it was the strong who became the Pioneers.”

When David Guth settled in Dakota Territory on what became known as the Guth Farm, he was the second oldest settler in Clark County. There was no other shanty within eight miles. The Indians became his friends.

David’s parents were John and Judith Guth who lived on a farm near the Free Thinkers Church in the southwest corner of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. This was the church of Benjamin Franklin. Three of David’s Uncles had been in the Union Army in the Civil War, been captured by the Confederates, and died in Libby Prison.

The Guth family supplied vegetables, berries, fruit, fresh slaughtered meat and meat delicacies to the Palmer House in the Chicago Loop. The Chicago Loop was growing fast and it was beginning to have problems keeping the streets clean. David would haul as big a load at a time as he could so as to minimize the number of horses in the Loop. An underground freight tunnel was being built from a terminal west of the Chicago River to the basements of Loop buildings so as to eliminate the use of horses in theLoop.

Tragedy left the six Guth children motherless. Judith Guth is buried in the churchyard of this Pioneer Free Thinkers Church.

The oldest boy Henry Guth and the oldest girl Emma (Guth) Glatz and the other four children struck off for Dakota Territory in 1878 to create a new home for themselves. They settled on Minnehaha and Lake County land just north of Buffalo Lake. David was not yet old enough to qualify for free land so he headed off toward the northwest to locate the best land he could that would be opening for settlement about the same time he would be old enough to qualify.

The immense herds of Bison that once had grazed in the area were no longer there. But they had made well worn trails for the Pioneers to us [this is interesting, that some of Even today’s roads may follow those old Buffalo trails!—Ed.]. They also left a heritage of well weathered “Buffalo Chips”. The Pioneers found these to be clean and excellent fuel for cooking and heating.

A Pioneer had to “live off the land.” Money was unbelievably hard toc ome by and besides, there were no stores where things could be bought.

David located an area he ghought especially desirable. A hand dug well could provide water and there were granite glacial boulders and tightly rooted sod that could be used for building. After determining what he would need, he went back to his old home in Wisconsin to collected his needs together.

He would need a small blacksmith shop todo repair work. He would be needing to shoe his horses. He would be making hinges, latches and other hardware for his barn. He would be needing garden tools and farming tools and carpenter tools and many other things.

The indications of fertile land that David saw eere substantiated in later years when on May 23, 1931, the Clark County paper had the following quote: “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated seven townships in Clark County as containing the highest soil fertility in the entire nation, viz, Washington (Berlin), Ellrod, Foxton, Pleasant, Merton, Lake and Collins with a few adjoining townships in Codington, Hamlin and Kingsbury.”

It is known that there is a ridge of higher ground in this region midway between the James and Sioux Rivers. It also is known that higher elevations result in greater moisture precipitation. It is logical that improved stands of prairie grass would result and that this would have attracted the Bison and that these large herds would have resulted in the large deposits of Buffalo Chips with their fertility. Over the decades since the last glacier this combination no doubt built upon itself to give the ‘highest soil fertility’ the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported.

When David left his Wisconsin home for Dakota Territory, he also had in his load two barrels of soda crackers and three dozen chickens. His team was a horse and a fresh milk cow so he would have fresh milk.

The unusual harness for this unusual team began giving a great deal of trouble by the time David reached Durand, Wis., near the Mississippi River. He stopped at the Ringling Harness Shop and while there became acquainted with the Ringling Brothers,later of circus fame. In years to come the Ringling Brothers always provided the Guth family with free passes whenever they were near Bryant.

When David arrived at his chosen location in Dakota Territory, he built a low stack of prairie hay on which he placed his upside down wagon. On this he built a large stack of prairie hay for protection in cold winter weather. David lived in this shelter for the first few years.

One day David saw a horseback rider approaching from the northeast that was falling from side to side on the horse. When the rider got closer, David could see it was an Indian that was bleeding badly. It developed that this Indian was being chased by a group that wanted to kill him. David hid this Indian in one of his hay stacks and sent the horse on its way. Soon, a half-dozen Indians rode up following the first Indian’s tracks. They continued following the horse tracks to the southwest. David nursed his Indian until he was well enough to travel alone. Then the Indian went off to the southwest alone on foot. David did not see him again until years later under interesting circumstances.

Campanionship and entertainment were in great need in those early days. The Fish family settled on the quarter that now would contain some of the houses in west Bryant. They built a sod house on the western part of their quarter. This Fish family with their sod house became a center of activity in those early days. When folks went visiting or to a party, they always carried their food and bedding with them. Who knew if a blizzard might make them stay several days. They could sleep indoors on the floor if they brought their bedding with them. In later years, Ben Fish was a Rural Mail Carrier out of Bryant.

Lucy Alice (Parsons) Guth was born in Odell, Illinois, Sept. 6, 1873. Her parents were Byron Parsons from Lifton, England and Norah Elizabeth Victoria (Millman) Parsons from Sutcombe, England. The Parsons first immigrated to Red Bank, Ontario, Canada and then to Odell, Ill.

Railroads in those days were making special efforts to induce families to migrate to locations on their lines. One inducement was the provision of two special box cars, one for living quarters and the other for livestock. These would be taken to the end of the line as far as it had been built, to overwinter so that the family could get a real early start in the spring to selecte free land for themselves.

The Parsons took such an opportunity to overwinter at DeSmet. Many tight friendships developed among those early settlers who overwintered that year in DeSmet. When spring came th Parsons family located on what became known as Parsons Hill, straight south of the cross roads between Bryant and west Bryant, and just into Kingsbury County.

One year there was a drought and Lucy Guth had less than $25.00 cash money all year. She used Ward’s, McNulty’s and Hestad’s ‘Due Bills’. She exchanged butter, fresh cream, Dutch (cottage) cheese, fresh eggs, fresh made bread, cookies, fresh dressed chickens, fresh vegetables and anything the Grocery stores needed she could supply [from this alone you can plainly see the superior nutritional value and wonderful flavor of all these fresh items available, often cheaply, in those “primitive” days before factories and commercial farms took over agriculture and food production and handling and processing, an experience and opportunity which will return in part at least, when the U.S. infrastructure collapses due to a major economic melt-down that has to happen once the Dollar is abandoned by the global financial systems as the international currency—Ed.] . The Due Bills cold then be exchanged back at the respective Grocery Store for dried apples, stockings, overalls, underwear or whatever else Lucy needed and the Grocery Store had. Durward Guth remembers that as a youngster he thought ‘Due Bills’ were actually money.

Truly an early settler could, and did ‘live off the land’. [2009 I heard a group of Local Bryant residents sit comfortably in the shade of a tree in A farm yard and discuss the younger generation having a good time around them, that wouldn’t be able to fare as well, they agreed, once times turned tough and there Was no economy such as we have known. They all said they knew how to live off the land, whereas the younger people didn’t. They “could make it”.—Ed.]. Even the transportation lived off the land for the horses ate oats and hay and pasture grass.

Durward Guth was born Dec. 30, 1902. A few months later when spring came Lucy had Durward out on the lawn in the warm sunshine while she was doing house work. Watching Durward she got the fright of her life for there was a timber wolf that had come across the road from the tree claim in Hamlin County and was stalking Durward. Lucy chase the timber wolf away and rescued Durward. Later the timber wolf’s den was located and eliminated. [now all those of us nature lovers who think as Hollywood does that wolves are so wonderful to have around, and even dance with, think about this a bit, it should give you pause (no pun intended).—Ed.]

A big problem in those days was locating and getting repair parts for their farm machinery [still the big problem in developing countries, and I hear of countries such as Brazil where the most expensive and advanced farm equipment sets and rusts, as parts are either not available or take forever to ship there or are too expensive, or repairs cannot be made due to ignorance of the electronic devices in the equipment.—Ed.]. They might need to drive around first to Bryant and then to nearby towns before the repair parts would be located. This might take several days right when farm work needed to be using the machinery [taking in crops will sometimes not wait, due to weather—Ed.].

David and others organized the Dakota Mutual Telephone company and ran four farm lines west out of Bryant. These four lines went directly west to the Clark County line. Then they branched. One eventually reached Willow Lake. About all a farm line like this could handle was a dozen phones. The different users had different code rings such as two longs, a short and a long [the phones are now in museums, and they look nothing like what we now use, either land lines or cell phones, but they worked!—Ed.]. Supposedly, only the one being called was to answer, but actually anyone could listen in and find out what was going on in the community. The convenience of a telephone was impressive and the telephone system kept growing and growing with a ‘Central’ operator in Bryant and eventually Bryant was hooked up to a network of towns.

Previously rapid communication was done using the Western Union Telegraph System used by the railroads, and the people of Bryant would go to the Depot and have the Depot Agent send the telegram. Depot Agents needed to be able to use a telegraph key in those days.

The many Indian friends that David developed in the Pioneer days would travel many miles out of their way on their travels from one Reservation to another just to see their own friend Dave. The common means of travel for these Indians was a wagon and team of horses. A canvas hood over the wagon protected the Indian family from the weather. As a youngster Durward was impressed with the small animals dangling from the back of this hood. Often some of these animals would be skunks. Phew!! The Indians said this was the most tasty meat they had. When it was boiled 24 hours the odor was gone and the mean had fallen off the bones.

A popular item for discussion was the Rosebud Indian Reservation west of the Missouri River. David went out to the Rosebud in 1904 to see what it was like. Almost the first thing that happened, David received a heavy blow between the shoulders. He turned around to defend himself and there was an Indian laughing at him. “You don’t know who I am? I’m the one whose life you saved 25 years ago.” Of course David and this Indian had much to talk about. The Indian was a minor Sioux Chief. Apparently by Indian ethics, David had saved his life so that all he had he owed to David [which is exactly the case with converts to Christ, Jesus saved them, so they owe their lives, everything, To him—a view that is hard for most to grasp, strangely enough! Yet the Indians retained this life concept, even if neglected and unknown by most Christians who somehow regard their lives and goods as their own, when they Are gifts from God and the operation of the Free Grace.—Ed.]. Had David accepted all he would have been greedy. There followed several days of negotiations so the Indian could keep his pride and David would not be greedy. When David came back to Bryant he had three car loads of branded broncos.

David broke these wild horses to farm work. The first year he took a car load of the best broken ones to an area in southwest Indiana where farm horses were needed. He exchanged these for apples. When he returned to Bryant, he had three car loads of apples, many different kinds in bushel baskets and in barrels. Some of these apple varieties would keep in the farmers cellar all winter and would not be ready for eating before spring. These cars were parked on the Milwaukee siding and the apples were sold. This was quite a heyday and provided farmers with fresh fruit all winter.

David came from a wooded area of Wisconsin and he favored trees, lilac bushes, et. His farm was called ‘Forest Home Farm’. One of the earliest things Durward remembers was when David was planting the evergreens on David’s farm. Durward was too young to do more than hold a tree upright while David filled in the earth around the evergreen’s roots. But Durward was being shown how to plant evergreens.

David was having health problems so the Guths moved off the farm into Bryant. David died in a Minneapolis hospital after an infection resulting from an operation. There were no antibiotics in those days.

Lucy continued to manage the farm. She was active in the affairs of the community. Bryant was a very public spirited place. During the summer, outstanding educational and entertaining events were brought to town. For instance, in the early days of aviation (the Wright brothers era) Bryant Boosters brought in Lincoln Beachey. His plane was built of high quality ‘airplane spruce’ and high tensile wire. The single engine in the center was connected with bicycle chains to two pusher propellers, one on each side of the plane which was a biplane. Lincoln Beachy sat out in front of a frame in which he could lean from side to side and operate the ailerons to keep the plane level. In front of the pilot was a frame that would be pushed forward and backward and backward movement caused the plane to climb or go down. The steering device caused the plane to turn right or left. Youngsters were encouraged to carefully study details of the plane. A few were allowed to sit in the pilot’s seat.

In early 1940s, Son-in-law Bob Ginther and his plane, visiting local Bryant area farmer, Alfred Stadem, with Mrs. Bergit Stadem having taken a plane ride.


A member of a symphony orchestra in New York was hired to form and lead a marching band. This band was invited to many surrounding communities to participate in local celebrations.[Bryant Pioneer Alfred Stadem in his own account of it, tells how he was in a band in Bryant that greeted Amundsen the Arctic explorer and discoverer of the South Pole when he came touring via the train--Ed.

Great educators were employed for the school and it was given recognition as having the third highest scholastics in South Dakota, excelling the schools in the larger cities. N. E. Steele was the superintendent for several years and later became head of the college in Aberdeen. Karl Mundt was in the Bryant school a few years later and went on to become a Senator from South Dakota.

Electric (D.C.) power from a local plant served Bryant. Later this was converted to A.C. A city water system was installed with artesian wells to give a plentiful supply of good water. The fluorine content was balanced to assure good teeth and bones. A sewer system was installed. Natural gas is available. Even the Guth Farm today has Rural electricity and Rural water and telephone.

What great advances have been made since the Pioneering days. Lucy Guth died in 1958.-–by Durward Guth

Plain View Heritage Farm Home Pages: The Introductory (or Front Door)

"My Life," Self-published 1991, Autobiography of Florence N. Chapin, Bryant, SD, Native, With Excerpts, Starting with "Early Years"

Liberty Township History

Stadems Saga Continues Home Page

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