Friday, October 5, 2012

Laura Ingalls: Part 1 Introduction to Series

Okay, I'll admit it. I love Laura Ingalls. I love the books, I love the tv series, I love the grand imagination and sassy little spark that she had in those books and tv shows. This may be a little bit off of my "typical" blog posts, but I am going to start a small series today on Everything Laura.

 The series will kind of go like this:
Part 1: Introduction to the Series, information about Laura
Part 2: The books!
Part 3: Dress like Laura
Part 4: Places to visit to have that "Laura Experience"
Part 5: Cook like Laura
Part 6: Other books you might enjoy

So today I just wanted to share a bit about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

She was a real person! It's not just a tv show, or a book. She actually was a real person and I think sometimes people don't really realize that she isn't a fictional character.

This is a picture of her as an adult.
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born February 7, 1867, seven miles north of the village of Pepin, in the "Big Woods" of Wisconsin.,[ Her life here formed the basis for the book Little House in the Big Woods.

In Laura's early childhood, her father settled on land not yet open for homesteading in what was then Indian Territory near what is now Independence, Kansas—an experience that formed the basis of Ingalls' novel Little House on the Prairie. In the years subsequent to this move, her father's restless spirit led them on various moves to a preemption claim in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, living with relatives near South Troy, Minnesota, and helping to run a hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa. After a move from Burr Oak back to Walnut Grove, where he served as the town butcher and Justice of the Peace, Charles Ingalls accepted a railroad job in the spring of 1879 which led him to eastern Dakota Territory, where he was joined by the family in the fall of 1879. Charles filed for a homestead over the winter of 1879–1880; De Smet, South Dakota was home for the rest of his, Caroline, and Mary's lives. After spending the mild winter of 1879–1880 in the Surveyor's House, the Ingalls family watched the town of DeSmet rise up from the prairie in 1880. The following winter, 1880–1881, one of the most severe on record in the Dakotas, was later described by Wilder in her book, The Long Winter. Once the family was settled in DeSmet, Wilder attended school, worked several part-time jobs and made many friends, most importantly the bachelor homesteader Almanzo Wilder (1857–1949), whom she later married. This time in her life is well documented in the books Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years.

On December 10, 1882, two months before her 16th birthday, Laura accepted her first teaching position, teaching three terms in one-room schools, when not attending school herself in DeSmet. In the book Little Town on the Prairie, Laura states that she received her first teaching certificate on December 24, 1882, but this was an enhancement for dramatic effect.[citation needed] Laura's original "Third Grade" teaching certificate can be seen on page 25 of William Anderson's book Laura's Album (Harper Collins, 1998). She later admitted that she did not particularly enjoy teaching, but felt the responsibility from a young age to help her family financially, and wage earning opportunities for females were limited. Between 1883 and 1885, she taught three terms of school, worked for the local dressmaker and attended high school, although she did not graduate. Her teaching career and her own studies ended when she married Almanzo Wilder, whom she called Manly, on August 25, 1885, when she was eighteen and he was twenty-eight. Almanzo Wilder had achieved a degree of prosperity on his homestead claim, owing to favorable weather in the early 1880s, and the couple's prospects seemed bright. She joined Almanzo in a new home on his claim north of De Smet and agreed to help him make the claim succeed. On December 5, 1886, she gave birth to Rose Wilder (1886–1968) and later, an unnamed son, who died shortly after his birth in 1889.

In 1894, the  young couple moved to Mansfield, Missouri, using their savings to make a down payment on a piece of undeveloped property just outside of town. They named the place Rocky Ridge Farm. The ramshackle log cabin was eventually replaced with an impressive 10-room farmhouse and outbuildings. The couple's climb to financial security was a slow process. Initially, the only income the farm produced was from wagonloads of firewood Almanzo sold for 50 cents in town, the result of the backbreaking work of clearing the trees and stones from land that slowly evolved into fertile fields and pastures. The apple trees did not begin to bear fruit for seven years. Barely able to eke out more than a subsistence living on the new farm, the Wilders decided to move into nearby Mansfield in the late 1890s and rent a small house. Almanzo found work as an oil salesman and general delivery man, while Laura took in boarders and served meals to local railroad workers.[citation needed]Wilder's parents visited around this time, and presented to the couple, as a gift, the deed to the house they had been renting in Mansfield. This was the economic jump start they needed; they added acreage to the original purchase, eventually owning nearly 200 acres. Around 1910, they sold their house in town and using the proceeds from the sale, were able to move back to the farm permanently, and to complete Rocky Ridge Farmhouse. What began as about 40 acres (0.2 km2) of thickly wooded, stone-covered hillside with a windowless log cabin, over the next 20 years evolved into a 200-acre (0.8 km2), relatively prosperous poultry, dairy, and fruit farm and an impressive 10-bedroom farmhouse. (

I'm not too sure if her life was ALL that different than many other's that lived during that time. But what was dfferent was her ability to chronical those events so vividly in her books. That is what makes us feel connected to her and feel a bond to her life.
Tomorrow we will look at her book series and discuss where to buy them, etc.

Happy Homesteading.....

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  1. Hi Rachel, I am also a big fan of Laura, the real Laura! I did some research on her life about 20 years ago, and I found that before moving to Missouri, she and Almonzo lived for a short time in Westville, Fl, which is about 50-60 miles from where I live. It would be interesting to know if this is true. I remember that what I read said that they were looking for a warmer climate for Almonzo, due to his having some long term effects from illness. But that they found Florida to be entirely too hot. Ever run across this info in your research?

    1. Yes! They lived in Westville Florida for a period of about 3 years. Apparently she didn't like the heat though and also the local ladies didn't care for her and thought of her as a "Yankee" .

    2. They went there because they heard it would be a better climate for Almonzo to heal after being so sick.

      I am also a huge Laura fan! (My google profile photo is of us in her yard at Rocky Ridge Farm!) I have 3 teen boys, no girls, and am blessed that they love me so much as to drive 10 hours to visit the Wilder homestead!

    3. @ Stephanie, What awesome sons you have! Great profile pic. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I went to her house in MO a couple of years ago. Two things struck me about hat property. One was just how tiny in stature such a grand dame of literature was. The other was how amazing Almanzo's innovative and creative spirit was, that could still be felt throughout the entire property! Especially, when you consider that he was always somewhat infirm after his illness! Just amazing! He built everything to laura's size. You should see how low the kitchen cabinet is!

    1. I'm not too far from Mo, I have been thinking of making a little road trip to see her house. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Well worth the trip to Mansfield. We live nearby and enjoy the festivals/events they have thru the year. Do you have the book Little House in the Ozarks. Many other writings of hers including the newspaper columns she wrote. Got my copy on Amazon. Much more about her grown-up life.

    1. Thanks for the book recommendation, just put it on my Amazon wishlist!

  4. Well she is and the she isn't a fictional character. I think it's important to realize that the Laura of the books and the TV show ARE fictional - the books are based on her real life, but there are varying timelines to actual events, gaps in her history and many of the supporting characters are amalgamations of various real acquaintances and stock characters. The TV show is even further removed from the reality of historical events in that it is only loosely based on the books and Laura's real life. So yes, Laura Ingalls Wilder was a real frontier girl and an author. But the Laura of the books is not the same person, just a character based on the real person.

    1. Yes, the books are written based on her life, not an actual autobiography. Sometimes I think it's wonderful to imagine a real person running barefoot through the prarie with a beautiful sun bonnet and a calico dress made by her mother. It's such a fun series to explore as a young child. Thanks for stopping by!