Mrs. Lena Van Metre came to McCook County, South Dakota in 1880 when four years old, and lived with her parents in a sod house about a mile from the village of Unityville where she has resided ever since. Her family and that of her uncle were the first to settle in Sun Prairie township, named by her father. She owns the original homestead taken by her parents.
The Dakota plains were treeless then, but the grass was luxuriant, which meant a constant menace from prairie fires. Twisted hay was the principal fuel. In 1881 the family moved into a frame house and the following years Mrs. Van Metre became the youngest scholar in the first school in the community. Later, after she had attended Madison Normal when General Beadle was president, she taught school in her home township.
She married John E. Van Metre in 1901. To them were born four children. When the youngest was five months old the father was killed in an accident, leaving Mrs. Van Metre to manage the farm and care for her young children. She moved from the farm for a few years until Henry, the oldest, was 16; then with the help of her children ran the farm, hiring help only at corn picking time.
All of her children are college graduates.
She organized the first extension club in her community. She served as chairman of the Unityville Home club, which in 1935 was voted the outstanding club in the county. Once each month the four extension clubs in the community meet at home for their regular lessons.
Planting trees is more than a hobby. For many years past she has planted 100 trees each year, and during her life in McCook and Miner counties has seen the prairie dotted with woodlots and farmstead shelters.
In recent years Mrs. Van Metre has traveled considerably, and sometimes spends the winter in California. She attended the world’s W.C.T.U. convention in Washington, D.C., in 1937, and has visited the East coast at other times.