De Smet: Evolution Through the Years Part 1

The town of De Smet was built right in front of Laura’s eyes. The Ingalls family traveled from Walnut Grove, Minnesota, to the Dakota Territory in the summer of 1879. At that point in time, De Smet was not a town yet. The only buildings that were standing were the Surveyors’ House, where the Ingalls family lived that winter, and the claim shanties where the rest of the railroad workers lived.

In the spring of 1880, Charles Ingalls built a store building where today’s Ward’s Store stands and moved the family to live there in April. Later, Charles moved the family out to live on his homestead southeast of De Smet and eventually build a second store building located kitty-corner to the first one, where the family spend the long winter of 1880-1881 as mentioned in Wilder’s sixth book, The Long Winter.

In By the Shores of Silver Lake, Wilder writes, “Teamsters were hauling lumber from Brookings as fast as they could, and yellow skeletons of buildings rose everyday. Already you could see Main Street growing up from the muddy ground along the railroad grade” (By the Shores of Silver Lake, page 241). The town grew quickly because of the railroad. Today, a lot of the buildings Wilder talked about being built still stand. Keep reading our blogs to see how different these businesses look today!

Couse Hardware & Opera House

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Couse Hardware in 1908 and Ward’s Store in 2018

Charles Ingalls built two store buildings in town. He kept one of them for the family to live in during the winter. The other one he rented out and eventually sold to Edward H. Couse. Mr. Couse opened up a successful hardware store. By 1885, he was able to replace the wood framed building that Charles had built with a brick building.

Construction for the new building began in 1886. It consisted of two floors and a basement and cost $9,000 to build. The hardware store occupied the lower level, while an Opera House occupied the upper level. The basement was used to store furniture, props, and other items that were needed for the different shows.

Wilder often wrote about town socials that always took place at the church. She loved going to them and seeing her friends from school. Once the opera house was built, it became the new place for social events.

In 1893, Edward Couse and I.J. Miller became partners and the hardware store was renamed “E.H. Couse & Co.” Couse retired in 1902 and Ignatius Miller and S.E. Davis became partners, until Miller bought him out in 1905.

Throughout the years, the brick building has been used for many different businesses. It was sold to Bouchard and Son and became a a grocery store. Beginning in 1929, JC Penny occupied the building for thirty years. Most recently, the building was sold to its current owners and renamed Ward’s Store. It is a combination of a bakery and restaurant. They also have clothes and souvenirs for visitors to browse through. Tourists and locals love stopping here for a cup of coffee or to visit with friends.

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Little House on the Beach: The Wilders’ Year in Florida

Laura Ingalls Wilder settled in many different places throughout her life, but one place in particular is often unknown by fans. Before the Almanzo Wilder family decided to move to the “Land of the Big Red Apple,” they took their chance in Florida. The couple believed the warm, humid climate might help Almanzo with his health. The Wilders decided they had nothing to lose, so they made their way down South in early 1891.

L+A Florida

It all started in October of 1890. According to John E. Miller, author of Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder, three relatives of the Wilders set out on a boat, traveling on the Mississipi, Ohio, and Tennessee Rivers. These three men were Laura’s cousins, Peter Ingalls and Joe Carpenter, and Almanzo’s younger brother, Perley.

The men eventually settled in the town of Westville, Florida, but not all three would stay there. Later, Perley Wilder moved to Crowley, Louisiana, to join his sister, Eliza Jane. There, he met his wife and had children of his own. Peter Ingalls, the same cousin that had lived with Laura and Almanzo during their first years marriage, stayed in Westville and tried his luck at farming. He often corresponded with Laura through letters and told her of the warm climate. Later, Peter met a young woman by the name of Mary McGowan and eventually they had six children.

Laura and Almanzo were ready for a change. After years of failed crops, they were in a considerable amount of debt. Both of them came down with diphtheria in De Smet, SD. Almanzo went back to work too soon after the illness, suffered from a stroke, and became partially paralyzed. Although he regained feeling in both his legs and could walk, he was never the same afterwards. The man who once traveled miles in the snow to save the town of De Smet from starving now had to walk around with a cane. The Wilder family thought the warmer climate would help with Almanzo’s mobility. In early 1891, Laura and Almanzo sold their livestock and other belongings, said goodbye to the prairie, and boarded a train for Florida.

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Laura and Almanzo were taking a chance by moving to Florida. They knew little of the area and neither of them had ever lived in the south. Laura wasn’t used to humid, hot summers and found the Florida climate to be exhausting. She also found that the Southern way of life wasn’t her style and found it hard to relate to other woman around her. Laura was very much out of her element in Florida. She was used to the cold winters, mild summers, and the prairies of the west. In a few short months, the Wilders realized their mistake and started making plans to return to De Smet.

In August 1892, the family boarded a train and returned to South Dakota. They did not second guess their decision to move back home and never set foot in Florida again. Given the lack of information known about their time there, Laura most likely considered her time in Florida insignificant and didn’t talk much about it later in life.

When they arrived back to De Smet, the Wilders moved in with Laura’s parents for a short period of time. This allowed them to make some money and get back on their feet. Eventually, they were able to afford a house in town. Laura and Almanzo had been married seven years and did not have much to show for it. It would be years before the couple would achieve the American Dream and become the successful farmers they were striving to be. The start of that dream began two years later in 1894 when the family stepped foot in Mansfield, Missouri.

Sources:

Miller, John E. Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend. University of Missouri Press, 2006.

The True Story of Jack the Bulldog

Jack, the family’s loyal bulldog, was a big part of Laura’s books. He has a chapter dedicated to him in By the Shores of Silver Lake, describing his final days. Jack passing away symbolized Laura growing up. Her childhood friend was no longer there and she realized the days of  her youth were behind her. Laura was no longer a child, but a young woman who had a lot of responsibilities. A lot of readers do not realize the true story of Jack. The books, T.V. Show, and reality all tell a different story. Keep reading to learn about the differences between the three.

Books

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Illustration by Garth Williams

In Laura’s first three books Jack plays a big role. In Little House in the Big Woods, Jack is introduced as the  “brindle bulldog” that guards the family when he thinks they’re in danger. He always growls when he hears a sound, plays with Laura and Mary, and makes sure the family is safe and sound. In Little House on the Prairie, Laura wants to let Jack go when Indians come to the family home. Pa had tied him to the stable while he went hunting and told the girls not to let him go under any circumstances. Laura tells Mary, “Jack won’t let them hurt us. We’ll be safe if we stay close to Jack” (Little House on the Prairie 135). Mary refuses to let Laura untie him, telling her Pa told them not to. Jack became more of a guard dog in this book simply because he was not used to Indians. He even barked at Mr. Edwards and trapped him up on the woodpile. These details show how protective he was of the family. In On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura and her loyal sidekick do a lot of different things together. They explore the grasshoppers, help Pa drive the cattle, and play together in Plum Creek. Jack is not as tense in this book because the family is in a settled area with less dangers. In By the Shores of Silver Lake, Jack makes his last appearance. At the beginning of the novel we learn that Mary has went blind. The whole family, except Pa and Laura, had just gotten over scarlet fever. For weeks Laura has been taking care of her family.  She feels bad that she’s neglected Jack. Now older, he “did not frisk about, cocking his head and laughing, as he used to” (By the Shores of Silver Lake 8-9). Late one night she gives Jack a good supper and fixes his bed so it’s comfortable for him. Laura tells him how good of a dog he is and bids him goodnight. The next morning the family finds out that Jack passed away. They bury him by the path that he used to run down with Laura to go fetch the cows. The loyal and brindle bulldog’s passing signified the end of Laura’s childhood. She was no longer the little girl that waded in the creek with Jack. She was now the daughter that Ma depended on.

T.V. Show

Jack’s story in the T.V. show is more similar to the books. He is present when the family leaves Wisconsin and trots under the wagon all the way to Kansas. There is a time when the family thinks Jack is lost. While crossing a river, the water current becomes to strong and Jack is dragged away from the family. Pa goes out to look for him later, but Laura is completely heartbroken when he returns empty handed. The family is reunited with him a few days later when they find him near their camp. Throughout the first four seasons of the show Jack appears in many episodes. We usually see him right behind Laura as she’s running to play or sitting by the front door guarding the family from harm. In season 1, he had a big episode titled The Raccoon. In this episode, Laura and Jack get attacked by their pet raccoon and Pa almost shoots Jack because he believes he has rabies. Luckily, he realizes that Jack is completely healthy and all is well. The episode titled Castoffs marks Jack’s last appearance in the show. He has fox tails in his ears and Laura puts off removing them, deciding to visit a friend in town. When she returns home she finds Jack dead in the barn. Laura is devastated and refuses to bond with a stray dog that Pa brings home later on. As time passes she eventually befriends the new dog and names him Bandit.

Reality

Laura took liberties with Jack’s story when she wrote her books. In real life, Jack’s fate is quite different than the one she told. In all actuality, the real Laura had no idea what happened to her loyal friend. In Pioneer Girl, many readers were surprised to find out that Jack did not go with the family after they left their home in Kansas. The family realized they were settled on Indian Territory and started making plans to return to Pepin, Wisconsin. The man Pa had sold their Pepin home to had not made payments on time, therefore, the land and house returned to Pa’s ownership. The family sadly packed up their belongings and said goodbye to Kansas. While the family was in Missouri, Pa traded the horses, Pet and Patty, for bigger horses. Laura remembered the trade in her original manuscript, Pioneer Girl, and wrote “Because Jack wanted to stay with Pet and Patty as he always did Pa gave him to the man who had them” (Pioneer Girl 22). Despite what she wrote, Jack did not make it to Walnut Grove, nor was he neglected when the family was sick.  The chapter Laura wrote about Jack’s death was purely fiction. She used it as a way to mark Laura’s transition from childhood to adolescence. Many visitors that come to De Smet ask about Jack and are completely surprised by his true fate. We will never know what actually happened to the loyal watchdog that Laura loved so dearly.

Sources:

Wilder, Laura Ingalls and Pamela Smith Hill. Pioneer Girl. Pierre, South Dakota Historical Society Press, 2014.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House on the Prairie. New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 1935.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. By the Shores of Silver Lake. New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 1939.

Bunny: Book vs. TV Show

T.V. Show

Bunny is introduced in the pilot movie, Little House on the Prairie, when Pat and Patty have a colt. When the Ingalls have to move out of Indian Territory they bring Bunny with them to Walnut Grove, Minnesota. We first see Bunny in the episode titled “Christmas at Plum Creek”. In this episode Laura wants to get Ma a brand new stove. She talks to Mr. Oleson and works out a deal. She would trade Bunny for the stove. At the end of the episode we find out that Pa was planning on purchasing the stove, however, he finds out Laura is trading Bunny for it. Ma doesn’t want Laura to give away her horse but Pa tells her it was Laura’s choice. It is hard for Laura to trade her horse, especially to Nellie Oleson, but she goes through with it because she loves Ma dearly.

The next time we see Bunny is in episode “Bunny”. Nellie Oleson mistreats Bunny and Laura is infuriated. One day, Nellie falls off Bunny and blames the horse for causing her paralysis. We know that Nellie is faking being paralyzed just to get attention from her mother and to hurt Laura. Mrs. Oleson, being the woman that she was, wanted Bunny to be killed. Laura is frightened and takes Bunny into hiding. A short while later Nellie’s lie is exposed and Mr. Oleson is furious. He returns Bunny to Laura so the two are reunited.

The episode “The Race” takes place right after “Bunny”. In this episode Laura enters Bunny into the Hero Township Race. Nellie is very jealous so Mrs. Oleson buys her a thoroughbred to go up against Bunny in the race. Laura thinks this is unfair but wants to prove Nellie wrong. The two girls race and Bunny ends up winning, much to Mrs. Olesons dismay. Instead of taking the silver cup for a prize, Laura trades it for new pairs of shoes for her and her siblings.

Bunny’s final appearance is in the episode titled “Journey in the Spring Part 2”. In this episode Laura’s grandfather, Lansford, is visiting the family. Laura is in the process of showing her grandfather how well she can ride Bunny when Bunny runs into a wire fence. Bunny is seriously injured and unable to heal from his wounds. They don’t want Bunny to suffer, so Pa is forced to put him down. . This devastates Laura. Unfortunately, Bunny’s story ends on a sad note in the T.V series.

Book

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Illustration of Pet and Bunny by Garth Williams

Picture source: Little House on the Prairie, pg.81

In the book series Bunny is introduced in “Little House on the Prairie”. One morning Laura goes outside and sees a “long-legged, long-eared, wobbly little colt” (Little House on the Prairie 81). Laura is eager to reach out to the colt but Pet, the colt’s mother, isn’t keen on that idea and snaps her teeth at Laura. Pa tells Laura and Mary that the colt is a mule because his ears are so long. Laura says he looks more like a jack rabbit. Because of this comparison, they thought it would be a good idea to name the colt Bunny.

The last appearance of Bunny in the book series takes place in “On the Banks of Plum Creek”. Pa trades Bunny’s parents, Pet and Patty, for Mr. Hanson’s land and trades Bunny for Mr. Hanson’s crop and oxen. Pa needed oxen because they were stronger and he needed them in order to plant his crop.

In the T.V. show Bunny stays with the Ingalls for years after they first arrive in Walnut Grove. In the book he is traded shortly after arriving there. We will never know what happened to Bunny or how he died. I prefer the book version because what happens to Bunny is an open-ended question, while in the T.V. Show he dies after getting injured.

 

The Story of the Brewsters

Laura’s first teaching experience was an unpleasant one. The Brewster school was located about 6 miles southwest of De Smet, not 12 miles like she mentioned in her book. She stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Brewster and their son while she taught the school since it was located too far from De Smet to make the trip everyday. Mrs. Brewster was unhappy in Dakota Territory. She desperately wanted to go back east, but Mr. Brewster would not let her. She was sullen and depressed when Laura stayed with the couple, which made for a very displeasing experience. What a lot of readers do not know is that Laura changed some details about the Brewsters in her books. Their actual last name was Bouchie, not Brewster. The Bouchie family would experience a scandal down the road so Laura decided to protect herself as a writer and change the name.

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Replica of the Brewster School

Robert Boast brought Louis Bouchie to meet the Ingalls family in 1883. Louis was looking for a teacher for a school 6 miles from town. The school could not afford to pay her much, just $20 a month. Laura wanted to help her family pay for Mary’s college and whatever else she may need so she jumped at the chance. Laura took the teaching exam and passed with a third- grade certificate on December 10, 1883. A few weeks later and she left home for the first time at just 16 years old. Laura mentioned being 15 in her books. It isn’t known if she changed her age knowingly or she mixed up the dates.

Louis Bouchie  and Oliv Delilah Isenberger Morrison lived in Iowa in 1880. By 1882, they both moved to Dakota Territory and filed on adjoining claims. The two got married on Christmas day of that year and settled in her shanty, which was built on the property line between her claim and her husbands. Oliv had a two year old son, Johnny, from a previous marriage and she welcomed another son, Leonard, with Louis in 1883. Laura only mentioned one child in These Happy Golden Years and called him Johnny. While writing her book, Laura could have possibly decided to eliminate Leonard from the story or maybe her memory was a bit fuzzy and she forgot about his existence. Laura portrayed the marriage between Louis and Oliv as an unhappy one. Louis would pass away in 1894. Oliv got remarried three years later. She was married to her fourth husband when she passed away in 1919.

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Three of Laura’s students were younger half siblings of Louis Bouchie. Clarance, Ruby, and Tommy were the children that Louis’s father had with his second wife, Elizabeth Currier. Years later, Clarance and his mother, Elizabeth, would be wrapped up in a scandal that caused Laura to change their name in her book.

In Laura’s original manuscript, Pioneer Girl, she writes that Clarance grew up to be a fireman in Chicago and eventually died a hero while trying to save people from a burning building. However, the true story of Clarance Bouchie was vastly different. During the summer of 1884, Clarance, his mother, and his older half brother Issac had a big argument. Clarance was angry and “threw a bone which struck Isaac in the face, producing lockjaw, from which he died” (Daily Huronite, April 1, 1887). Clarance and his mother, Elizabeth, were convicted of second-degree manslaughter three years later. Laura must have known that this happened, yet she told a much different story of Clarance in Pioneer Girl. We will never know for sure why Laura decided to change his story. We can only assume that she changed it so the scandal would not be associated with her stories. Not much is known about Clarance’s life after the conviction. He passed away in 1902 and is buried in De Smet.

Sources:

Wilder, Laura Ingalls, and Pamela Smith Hill. Pioneer Girl:The Annotated Autobiography. Pierre, South Dakota Historical Society Press, 2014.

Fraser, Caroline. Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. New York, Metropolitan Books, 2017.

The Visitor’s Guide to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Homesites Part 2

Keep reading to see more of Laura’s homesites you can visit!

De Smet. South Dakota

Charles and Caroline Ingalls made their final move in 1879 to Dakota Territory, settling in the eventual town of De Smet. Laura would stay in De Smet for a combined total of 15 years. She based By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years in De Smet. Here, she befriended Mary Power and Ida Brown, courted and married Almanzo Wilder, and gave birth to two children.

The first stop to make while in De Smet is to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society. They offer a guided tour of three original buildings and one replica. See the Surveyors’ House, where Laura lived during the first winter in Dakota Territory, the First School of De Smet, where Laura had the infamous teacher Eliza Jane Wilder, a replica of the Brewster School, where Laura taught when she was 15 years old, and the Ingalls Home on third street, which was the last home of Charles and Caroline Ingalls. Your guide will tell you about the family’s travels, their experiences in De Smet, and what happened to them later in life. After your tour you can browse the gift shop and visit an exhibit that displays items from the family. The Memorial Society is open year round for tours. Check out their website for exact details!

Click here to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society’s website!

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The Surveyors’ House

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The Ingalls Home

The Ingalls Homestead is another stop visitors should make while in De Smet. The Ingalls lived there for 7 years before building their final home in town on third street. Charles’ original 159 acres is now owned by another family. They run a “Living History Farm” that offers many hands on activities. You can take a wagon ride, make a corncob doll, go to school in a one room schoolhouse, see animals, etc. They also have a gift shop and camping. Visitors can spend the night in a covered wagon, bring a tent, or an RV.   The original home and buildings no longer remain, but replica’s have been built to show visitors what their home could have looked like. The first acre of the original homestead is still owned by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society and has the five cottonwood trees that Pa planted for Ma and the girls. See them for yourself while visiting De Smet!

Click here to visit the Ingalls Homestead website!

Next, visit the cemetery where the entire Ingalls family is buried except for Laura, Almanzo, and Rose. Then, take a self guided walking tour down main street to see the site of Pa’s store building, the Loftus Store, and many more!

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Pa’s Cottonwood Trees

 

 

Mansfield, Missouri

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Mansfield Museum

After many failed crops in De Smet, South Dakota, Laura and Almanzo decided to move to “The Land of the Big Red Apple” in Missouri. In 1894, they settled in the town of Mansfield, purchased land and a home that Laura called “Rocky Ridge Farm” , and settled down with Rose. Laura and Almanzo eventually became the successful farmers they always wanted to be and turned their one room cabin into a ten room farmhouse. It was in Mansfield where they finally achieved their American Dream and remained for the rest of their lives.

Today,  the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum offers a guided tour of Laura’s beloved farmhouse and the Rock House that Rose built for her parents. Your tour guide will tell you about Laura’s experiences in Mansfield, including details about her unique farmhouse and how it came to be. After your tour, you can spend time looking in the Museum, which houses artifacts from Laura and her family. See Pa’s fiddle, Laura’s original “Little House” manuscripts, Rose’s desk, and so much more. The Mansfield Museum has the biggest collection of Laura artifacts that any fan would love to see! Make sure to stop by the gift shop before you leave to browse books, clothes, and souvenirs to add to your Laura collection. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum is open from March until the middle of November. Visit their website for exact details!

Stop by the Mansfield Cemetery to see the graves of Laura, Almanzo, and Rose and the Historic Town Square to see a sculpture of the famous author!

Click here to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum website!

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Laura and Almanzo’s Farmhouse

 

Malone, New York

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Almanzo’s Boyhood Home

Almanzo Wilder was born on February 13, 1857 in Malone, New York. His boyhood home was a prosperous farm, which had been purchased by his father James in 1840. Almanzo’s future wife, Laura Ingalls, would write about her husband’s time in Malone in her book, Farmer Boy. The Wilder family remained in Malone until 1875. At that time, James sold the farm and moved his family to Spring Valley, Minnesota.

Today, Almanzo’s boyhood home still stands. The Wilder Homestead Association offers a guided tour of the house, reconstructed barns, and the museum. Learn more about Almanzo’s life in Malone and see artifacts from the family. Next, explore the grounds, which include a henhouse, pump house, and a replica of a one room schoolhouse. Stop by the gift shop before taking the walking trail to Trout River, where Almanzo helped wash sheep. The Wilder Homestead is open from the middle of May through the end of September. Check out their website for exact details!

Click here to visit the Wilder Homestead website!

Keystone, South Dakota

Keystone museum

Keystone Historical Museum

Carrie Ingalls Swanzey moved to Keystone, South Dakota in 1911. After a long career of working in the newspaper industry, Carrie was offered a manager position at the Keystone Recorder. She met David Swanzey and the two married in 1912. Carrie lived a comfortable life in Keystone. She became a stepmother to David’s two children and was very involved in the community.

The Keystone Historical Museum, a former Victorian schoolhouse, has many different exhibits pertaining to Keystone history. Learn more about the role mining played in the community and see rock collections, old photos, and some of Carrie’s memorabilia. Next, you can take the “Old Town” walking tour and learn more about the homes and businesses that were there when Keystone was exploding with growth. Check out the museum website to see their months and times of operation!

Click here to visit the Keystone Historical Museum website!

Other homesites to visit!

Danbury, Connecticut- The final home of Rose Wilder Lane

Crowley, Louisiana- Home of Eliza Jane Wilder and where Rose graduated high school

San Francisco, California- Home of Rose Wilder Lane Read our blog post on Rose’s home!

Spring Valley, Minnesota- Home of the Wilder family and Almanzo and Laura during 1890-1891 Visit Spring Valley! 

Westville, Florida- Home of Almanzo, Laura, and Rose during 1891-1892

Vinton, Iowa- Where Mary Ingalls went to college Learn more about Mary’s college experience!

Cuba, New York- Birthplace of Charles Ingalls

The Visitor’s Guide to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Homesites Part 1

Laura traveled to many different places throughout her life. Her father, Charles Ingalls, had a deep desire to keep moving west. He wanted wide open spaces that were unsettled and untouched. Now, museums sit where Laura lived in order to preserve her lasting legacy. Thousands of people travel to each one, eager to learn more about the famous author’s life. Listed below are Laura’s home sites that are open for visitors!

Pepin, Wisconsin

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Pepin  Museum

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born in Pepin, Wisconsin on February 7, 1867. Laura talked about this part of her life in Little House in the Big Woods. She lived there a combined total of about 5 years, leaving the state permanently in 1874 when Charles Ingalls moved his family to Walnut Grove.

The Pepin Museum is open for visitors from 10am- 5pm daily from mid-May to mid-October. There, you can browse their gift shop that’s filled with Laura souvenirs, see displays about the Ingalls family, and learn more about the early life of the famous author. While here, make a stop to the Little House wayside cabin. Situated on three acres of Charles Ingalls’ original land, this replica cabin is modeled after Laura’s home in Little House in the Big Woods. During September, Pepin holds the Laura Ingalls Wilder Days Festival. Visitors can see antiques, a craft fair, parade, a Laura look-alike pageant, and a play based on Laura’s time in Pepin. One last stop to make is to Lake Pepin, where Laura and her family visited. Start planning your trip to Pepin today!

Click here to visit the Pepin Museum’s website!

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Replica of Laura’s first home

Montgomery County, Kansas

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Replica of Laura’s home

Charles Ingalls moved his family to Montgomery County, Kansas during 1869-1870. He wanted to leave the crowded woods of Wisconsin behind and have a fresh start on the wide open prairie. The family was in Kansas for about 1 year before returning to their home in Pepin. During that time, Caroline “Carrie” Celestia Ingalls was born on August 3, 1870.

The land that the Ingalls settled on was found by Margaret Clement and Eilene Charbo. It is now owned by a family, but is still open for fans to come and see. A one room log cabin was built to model the home that Laura described in Little House on the Prairie . A hand dug well was also found and could possibly be the one that Charles Ingalls dug himself. The land surrounding the replica cabin is still wide open prairie, which gives visitors a sense of what Laura saw everyday and how vast the land was. While visiting, you can also check out the Wayside Post Office, built in 1885 and the Sunnyside Schoolhouse, built in 1871. Both are now located near the replica cabin on the original land. The Kansas Museum is open during the summer and early fall months. Check out their website for exact details!

Click here to visit the Kansas Museum’s website!

Walnut Grove, Minnesota

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Walnut Grove Museum

In 1874, Charles packed up his family once again and moved them to Walnut Grove, Minnesota. They first lived in a dugout on the banks of Plum Creek before Charles built a brand new house. The family lived in Walnut Grove for a combined total of 4-5 years, living in Burr Oak, Iowa for a year in between. Laura wrote about her time in Minnesota in On the Banks of Plum Creek.

The first stop you should make in Walnut Grove is to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. There, you can browse the gift shop that has books, clothes, and souvenirs. You can also take a self guided tour through a complex of buildings including a depot, a schoolhouse, a “little” chapel, and “Grandma’s house”, which was built sometime in the 1890s. You will see different exhibits about Laura, her family, and what life was like back then. Stop by the T.V. show room and snap a picture with the fire mantle that belonged to Laura’s home on Little House on the Prairie. The gift shop is open year round, but the museum is open in the summer and early fall months. Check out the website for exact details!

One and a half miles north of Walnut Grove, visitors can visit the site of the dugout and Plum Creek. The original homestead land that belonged to Charles Ingalls is now owned by another family. When they found out it was once Laura’s home, they opened up Plum Creek for visitors. Native prairie grasses were planted so fans could see what it was like when Laura lived there, walking trails were made, and a picnic area was put in. Fans can wade in Plum Creek just like Laura did. The original dugout the family lived in caved in many years ago, but the site is marked. Plum Creek is open during daylight hours from May to October.

Click here to visit the Walnut Grove Museum’s website. Check out other things to do while in town!

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Plum Creek

Burr Oak, Iowa

Masters Hotel Today

The Master’s Hotel today

After two consecutive years of failed crops in Walnut Grove, Charles Ingalls moved his family to Burr Oak, Iowa. The Steadmans, a family the Ingalls met through church, had just purchased the Master’s Hotel in Burr Oak and wanted Charles and his family to help them run it. The Ingalls only stayed in Iowa for 1 year, from the fall of 1876-1877. Laura chose to leave this part of her life out of her books, saying it would disrupt her theme of the family always moving west.

Stop by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park & Museum, which is housed in the restored 1910 Burr Oak Savings Bank, and sign up for the guided tour. Your tour guide will lead you through the Master’s Hotel right across the street and talk about Laura’s time there, including stories and details she left out of her books. The museum also has a gift shop and the original bank vault that you can explore. Learn more  information about the history and restoration process of the building.

The town has “Laura Days” that takes place every 4th weekend in June. Activities include a parade, games, crafts, food, contests, and a 5K run. The Museum is open for visitors May through October. Check out their website for exact details!

Click here to visit the Burr Oak Museum’s website!

Stayed tuned for Part 2 of the Visitor’s Guide to see more places you can visit!