Elm Springs, South Dakota is situated on a crossroads in the wide-open ranch lands west of the Missouri River, where saying you have more cattle than people is a complement. It’s 23 miles east of Rapid City and 30 miles north of Interstate 90 at Wasta. The tiny town boasts a church, school, firehall, and community building.
Elm Springs was established in 1893, more or less as a result of Homestead Act and other land claims. The town had a stagecoach stop, its own zip code and even a telephone exchange. Folks around Elm Springs say that at one time, the broader community was a checkerboard of 160-acre tracts and people could be found living on most of the ranches on those tracts.
Over the years, the people of Elm Springs have seen ranches get bigger and the number of people in the country get smaller. As they’ve watched the shape and size of their community change over the last few decades, they’ve noticed that evolving communication technologies have made it easier to keep the community connected. Keeping the community connected is a priority here and there’s plenty to talk about in Elm Springs. Dances are still held at the community center. There are still around a dozen children attending the school. Taking care of the church and cemetery and staffing the fire department have been and still are points of pride for the community. In Elm Springs at least, cell phones and Internet service have made keeping area residents in the know a lot easier - and a little more fun.
This video segment from SDPB will also be a part of our upcoming documentary The Middle of Everywhere: Connecting Rural South Dakota.
More info on that project here: https://www.sdpb.org/tv/connectingruralsd/