Here at the Memorial Society, we have visitors of all ages come from all over the country and even from across the globe. But the thing that really distinguishes one visitor from another is that visitor’s Little House “educational background.” Some of our visitors got all their facts from Laura’s original books, others researched the actual history of the Ingalls family, and still others are just familiar with the TV show. If you’re like me, you’ve dabbled in some combination of the three, and you have a strong appreciation for each of them.
We love all of our visitors, no matter what background they have, but I often feel bad for our visitors who only know the TV show. The Ingalls family history that all of us tour guides talk about here in De Smet is shockingly different from the history that people remember from the show. I always feel bad whenever I have to tell people that something from the TV show is not factual.
But that’s exactly what I’m going to do on this blog over the next few months: debunk the TV show myths so that all of you TV show fans are prepared to hear about the actual history when you make it out here to visit our place.
Myth #1: Albert Ingalls
I thought I should start with one of the most painful ones. Sadly, everyone’s favorite mischievous street urchin named Albert, who supposedly joined the Ingalls family while they were living in Winoka and later adopted when they moved back to Walnut Grove, is completely fictional. Charles and Caroline Ingalls did have a son at one point, however. He was born to Charles and Caroline in Walnut Grove, but he died when he was only nine months old. Charles Frederick or “Freddie,” as the family liked to call him, does appear in an early episode of Little House on the Prairie and does die as an infant. However, the historical Ingalls family never lived in a town called Winoka, and they never adopted a cute brown-eyed boy named Albert.
Myth #2: James and Cassandra
With all that being said about Albert, I guess I should just come right out and say it: the historical Ingalls family never adopted any children. And that includes the cute Cooper siblings, James* and Cassandra, whose parents die tragically in the TV show and whom the fictional Ingalls family adopts. The Ingalls parents only ever had five children: Mary, Laura, Caroline (Carrie), Charles Frederick (Freddie), and Grace. Only the four girls survived to adulthood.
Check back in the following months to learn about the other myths from the beloved Little House TV show.
*Fun fact! The actor who played the role of James Cooper Ingalls is Jason Bateman. Mr. Bateman continues to be a prolific actor today, appearing in television shows and movies such as Arrested Development, The Switch, Horrible Bosses, and Identity Thief. He even played the voice of the fox, Nick Wilde, in the recently released movie Zootopia.