The Travelers Chapel

Wall, South Dakota

Wall Street

It’s a tiny chapel in a tiny town that is best known for its ice water. That’s right, ice water. For those that have been through the Badlands of South Dakota, you’ve probably seen the signs inviting you for free ice water at Wall Drug. It’s hard to miss them, and most will stop to see what it’s all about. We did, as we have done before, and again we enjoyed our short stay in the town of Wall.


Sunday Church

As we arrived in town on a Saturday night, we talked about what church we might visit in the morning. It never occurred to us that it might be the tiny chapel in the drugstore itself, even though we had seen it on our first visit to the store that Saturday. We discovered this tiny chapel, set off to the side, in the part of Wall Drug called the Mall. It sat amongst the leather good’s store, the bookstore, the jewelry store and the pottery and iron shed to name just a few.

It is a cozy little place with only one aisle that runs down the right side and a row of wooden benches on the left---each bench is able to seat, perhaps, four to five people. There were probably a total of ten to fifteen benches. The interior walls were constructed of light brown brick, with a stained glass window adorning the front wall and a wooden cross hanging under that window.

Travelers Chapel

The Purchase of Wall Drug

Wall Drug was purchased by the Husteads back in 1931. Ted, Dorothy and their son Billy moved to Wall after praying about where they should go to buy their own store since Ted Hustead was a druggist. Dorothy Hustead’s aunts, who were Dominican nuns, prayed with them as they sought God’s guidance in their move. God led them to Wall, but it was not an easy move. After five difficult years and very little business, they were about to give up on their dream.

One hot afternoon in 1936, while Dorothy was trying to nap--and not being able to sleep for all the cars that were going by--Dorothy came up with an idea, offer thirsty travelers Free Ice Water! The next weekend those signs went up offering just that, and the rest is history in Wall. Currently, during the summer, they give away up to 5,000 glasses of ice water every day! We had a glass ourselves before we went on our way last Sunday.

God’s Many Blessings

In 1931, the Hustead family decided to give it a try for five years. Just months short of those five years being up, God gave them the idea for the free ice water. After years of wondering if they had missed God’s call on their life, He showed them that they had not--in His perfect timing. By the next summer, they had to hire eight employees to handle all the customers God had brought their way. Wall was certainly where He had directed them to go, even though the blessings took a while in coming.

Dorothy Hustead’s father had told them Wall was a “Godforsaken place.” God showed them that when you follow God’s will in life, no place is Godforsaken. Ted said, “No matter where you live, you can succeed, because wherever you are, you can reach out to other people with something that they need!”

God has truly blessed their efforts

Living Water At Wall Drug

We started our Sunday morning in Wall Drug with a visit to the chapel. Just the two of us, stopping by for a few quiet moments. No preacher, no music, no program, just an open door to come in and sit and be still. The “Travelers Chapel,” what a great idea! How many weary travelers are thirsty on the “road of life” and need a cool drink of God’s living water? Jesus said in John 7:38:

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”

The Husteads not only offer their customers liquid water, but spiritual water as well.

Wall Drug Today

Many things have changed at Wall Drug since those early days. It has expanded and now takes up almost the entire block, and their Café seats up to 530 people! The Hustead’s children, now grown, still own and operate the store but there are many other people working behind the counters these days.

It’s a fun place to stop in and visit, take a look around, and see what God has done in the lives of a family devoted to Him. With all the things that have changed at Wall Drug, two things have not—Free water is still offered, and a cup of coffee is still only five cents--just drop in your change and help yourself!

And don’t miss the donuts… they are delicious!!

Ice water, or God’s Living Water…we need both. At Wall Drug, both are offered. Last Sunday morning we tasted a little of each, and left refreshed physically and spiritually from our stay in Wall, South Dakota!