In the late fall of 2014, Caroline Fraser spent one week at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society. She is working on a new book, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Caroline said, “I was thrilled to discover that the LIWMS had such a rich collection of documents, photographs, and artifacts, not only concerning the Ingalls and Wilder families but about life in De Smet over the years. I was very grateful to Cheryl and Dianne and the rest of the staff for providing such a warm welcome and for all they’ve done to preserve those items.”
The new book is scheduled to be published in 2016 by Henry Holt’s Metropolitan Books. It is the first full-length historical biography of Wilder for an adult audience. Prairie Fires will explore how powerful movements of 19th and 20th century America–economic recessions, the expansion and contraction of the railroads, the Indian wars, the Homestead Act, the Great Depression, and the Dust Bowl–shaped Wilder’s character and work, and how she herself came to influence our perceptions of the settlement of the American West.
“To me,” Caroline said, “One of the most fascinating objects was the courthouse ledger with notes taken by Charles Ingalls and others. That ledger, together with the period newspapers, land records, and other documents and books at the Memorial Society really made De Smet during the 1880s and ’90s come alive for me, and I hope to use all of them to craft a detailed picture of what daily life was like in the town and the region during that period.”
Caroline’s work can be found online at www.carolinefraser.net.
Caroline said, “It was a wonderful treat to stroll through the De Smet Cemetery with Bonnie and Craig Munger and hear their memories of De Smet personalities. I loved De Smet – the people are so friendly, and it’s amazing to stand on Calumet Avenue and see some of the same buildings, the same railroad track, and the same prairie sky that Laura Ingalls once knew.”