Grandpa’s property ownership in Lennox, South Dakota

When I was born, my grandparents Bessie and Adolph, on my mother’s side, lived in Lennox, South Dakota. As a child, my brother and I visited them a few times a year, and spent a week or so at their house which was my parent’s vacation. We used to sleep in the summer on their screened in porch. At first the vey loud cricket chirping and occasional train activity, a hundred yards to the south, kept us awake, but ultimately it lulled us into the deepest and most refreshing sleep imaginable. But grandpa’s house had one magical quality for me, the likes of nothing I could have imagined as a child–he had a 4 car garage full of wood an tools, and I spent countless hours tinkering away in there. I have thought a lot about their lives in Lennox, and much of that information is lost to me. I thought one thing I could do, at least, was use land title records to put some context to their lives in Lennox.

First of all, a little about Lennox. I believe the town was created as the result of the Milwaukee Railroad creating a train station at that location, and it is named after a railroad executive. In an agricultural community, a train station was a place where farmers could bring their harvest so it could be sold and transported to mills or food companies. Large storage silos, called grain elevators, were built by the tracks to store the grain until it could be loaded onto railroad cars.

Regarding land titles: Platting is the process whereby a developer takes a large piece of property, often farmland or forest, and records a plan in the title records which lays out parcels of property and roads. While a parcel would initially have been referenced to government survey boundaries, the legal address of properties in the platted land are references to lots within the plat. This will become clear later when we get down to the details. For the purpose of my grandparents in Lennox, there are only two plats of interest: Lennox (Or at times Lennox Original), which contains downtown Lennox in the south side of the railroad tracks, and Jacob’s Addition, just north north of the railroad tracks.

To give a flavor of the legal description land referenced to government survey boundaries, the legal description of the land comprising Lennox Original is N.E. 1/4 Section 32 Township 99 North, Range 51 West. More detail on this government survey scheme can be found on the web. For our purposes, the legal description simply refers to the original boundaries assigned by federal surveyors as the result of the Land Ordinance of 1785. I will note that in the lands west of the Mississippi, most chains of title begin with a federal grand to individuals in the 1860s as part of the homesteading process. The Lennox Original plat was filed November 5, 1879, and the Jacob’s Addition plat on May 12, 1884. At this time, South Dakota was a Territory, not a state. Statehood occurred on November 2, 1889.

Below are excerpts of the plats Jacob’s Addition (north of the railroad tracks and above) and Original Lennox (south of the railroad tracks and below). The highlighting indicates my grandparents property ownerships, with the residential house on the left and the trailer park on the right. The storefront for the Frosty Freeze is in downtown Lennox.

Jacob’s Addition

The Frosty Freeze

Grandpa first entered the title records of Lennox on September 12, 1952 with the purchase of the West 26 feet of lot1 and 2, block 11 City of Lennox (Lennox Original Plat. The deed does not record the purchase price. There was a $2,000 ($20,200 in 2021dollars) mortgage for this property. This was a storefront on Lennox Main Street. This was a commercial property, and I believe my grandparent’s ran some sort of dairy service company as well as an ice cream shop.

Visiting my grandparents at the Frosty Freeze. 4 1/2 months old.

They exited this business, and sold the property on April 13, 1972. I am not able to determine the sale amount.

The House

On September 12, 1953, they purchased at auction, lots 1, 2, and 3, block 13, Jacob’s addition. This property faced main street. The house and yard comprised three lots of the plat, and was 150 feet square. When visiting their house, we could see the grain elevators and railroad tracks to the south from their yard. Between us and the railroad property was a residential home (now a business), and a commercial building with junk inside. I never saw any sort of activity in that building in the 1960s when I was a child there. The original house was torn down over the years and a new house placed more in the center of the lot. The original sidewalk is intact, and of the 4 car garage, only some partial brick wall remains.

Grandpa developed cancer, and on September 30, 1983, they sold the property and moved to an apartment in Sioux Falls. I can’t determine the proceeds of the home sale.

The Trailer Court

With the encouragement of the Mayor of Lennox at the time, Grandpa purchased “The north 19 feet of lots 5 and 9, and all of lots 3, 4, 10, and 11. This was a contiguous piece of land across the street and 100 feet south of their residence. It was 119 feet on the north/south dimension and 300 feet on the east west dimension. On this land was a trailer park which grandpa operated as a business and maintained. I recall little about it except vague memories of one or two times when I accompanied him on a visit there where he would perhaps fix the hinge on a gate or some other repair.

They sold this business on June 19, 1978 for $30,000 ($123,000 in 2021 dollars). During a visit in 2020, I noted that the park had appeared to expand south all the way to the railroad tracks. The northern part of block 12 had some sort of farm equipment dealership when I was a child, and a similar business there today.

Uncle Glen’s House

Bessie’s brother, Glen (actually a grand-uncle) lived with them in Lennox for many years. There was a small lot and house to the west of their residential land. On December 29, 1973, they purchased this house, The east third of lots 7, 8, and 9 in block 13 of Jacob’s addition, with the purpose of fixing up for Uncle Glen to live in. He was tragically killed in 1974 in a traffic accident, and the property was sold August 29, 1979. This house stands in its original location in Lennox today.

Some historical documents relating to the study of law

The other evening, my son Tony and I watched The Paper Chase, a melodramatic movie plotted over the course of a first year of law school at Harvard in the 1970s. Setting aside the childish outbursts in class by the protagonist and the pretentious enunciation of the contracts professor, Kingsfield, there were many elements familiar to my own first year of law school at a somewhat less prestigious university. Among them were the tensions caused by the fear of being called on randomly and without warming to ‘present’ a case, the study group and petty squabbling thereof, the grouping of students into those who choose to participate in classroom discussion and those that don’t, contract law, and not least among these, the 4 hour essay exam using Blue Books by which one’s grade for the entire year is determined.

I must confess that having watched the movie prior to attending law school, I copied the ritual of ditching the dorms and spending a weekend of intensive study in an off-campus motel. The movie also motivated me to fully study any readings assigned prior to the first day of class. In contrast to the movie, my own beloved Contracts professor, Bill Martin, was a gentle soul, not given to theatrics. In an official nod to the movie, during an orientation lecture one of the professors archly recited the ‘Skull full of mush’ lecture, much to our amusement.

So, I dug through my old files and scanned a few interesting tidbits. First, is my LSAT answer sheet and score. I don’t have the questions, regrettably.

LSAT Answer Sheet and Score

I thought it would be amusing to take a look at textbook price inflation since the fall of 1982. Since all first year students in a section (our class was divided into three sections each of which took the same classes the entire first year) had the same textbooks, the school was kind enough to present us with our foot and a half tall pile of books, pre-selected and stacked, and a bill for the princely sum of over $400, if I recall correctly. As you can see, I was in section 1. All of the classes were full year except for Criminal Law which was a semester long and was replaced by a semester of Property Law in the spring. One thing new to me in law school was the practice professors had of referring to the textbooks by the last name of the author. I think there were a couple of reasons for this. First, we might have multiple textbooks, and second, the professor might actually know or have met the authors of the book. So for instance in Torts class, the professor might say “Please turn your attention to the footnotes on page 127 of Prosser.” It also struck me as pretentious, so I promptly adopted this practice in my own conversation.

First Year Law Books

And since Tony is taking exams around this time of year, I included my exam schedule. While the only final grade at mid-term was Criminal Law, we worked pretty hard to master the other subjects as well. For the year long classes, the mid term weighed 1/3 of the grade or less, with there being some suspicion that some professors ignored mid-term results completely as one’s knowledge at end of course was the only thing of interest. Looking at this at the beginning of school, I thought December was going to be a breeze, with an apparently leisurely exam schedule. In fact, I prepared myself intensely and was able to place myself in an extremely focussed state for each exam. During the exam weeks, I thought longingly of how relieved I would feel after exams were over. But after the last exam, I was so fried, that I was incapable of maintaining any sort of feeling whatsoever. In retrospect a sub-optimal practice, but I must confess to loosening the bonds of mental discipline by imbibing alcoholic beverages for a short period of days, and in adopting this practice I was by no means unique among my class.

Exam Schedule, December 1982

Respectfully submitted, Mark C. Knutson