“Little House” Myths

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 toΒ  visit our place.

Myth #1: Albert Ingalls


A photo of the entire Ingalls family, taken circa 1894. (From left to right: Ma, Carrie, Laura, Pa, Grace, and Mary.)

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.




19 comments on ““Little House” Myths

  1. Leslie says:

    Under the James and Cassandra headline, you said Charles and Caroline had six children, when they only had five. Thanks.

  2. Jwahir Rahim says:

    I knew the other children were fictional,but it still made for a lot of wonderful episodes

  3. valiantquest says:

    The Ingalls family actually had FIVE children, not six. πŸ™‚ I enjoy reading your blog posts.

  4. Barbara says:

    Great blog idea. Has always frustrated me when people only think of the TV show! Also appreciate the nod to Bateman!

  5. sacklen says:

    Hi Leah! Nice job but there is a small mistake. You say the Ingalls only ever had six children, but I count five. πŸ™‚

    I look forward to reading all the debunked myths of the TV show.



    Sent from my iPad


  6. Brian says:

    In Pioneer Girl it was revealed that there was another family in the home during the Long Winter, and they did (not) help twist hay or grind any wheat. This was not on the series nor is prob a myth but it was one of the biggest surprises I’ve read about the family’s true history.

  7. Marsha Heien says:

    Five children…


  8. Sue Larner-Peet says:

    Love reading the blogs and seeing the photos. I grew up with the TV series, and still return to them as ‘comfort viewing’ when I’m poorly! I look forward to reading about the other myths, and dream of visiting one day (I live in the UK). Thanks again

  9. Chris says:

    The actress who played Cassandra is a journalist on Fox News.

  10. Lorie says:

    Myth number 3…Laura’s never taught public school again after marriage unlike the TV show. Back then, teachers had to be single and resided with the members of the school committee or town leaders during their school term. Young ladies who taught were under extreme scrutiny in their appearance and behavior. Married women at the time had a house to keep and couldn’t really leave the farm for work such as this. In many cases it was illegal for a married woman to teach.

  11. Glenda says:

    I just bought Pioneer Girl. Can’t wait to finish it. Keep those debunking facts coming!

  12. 6 children ur story says …who was the sixth child ?

  13. Sandy says:

    I am catching the same mistake as the others: “The Ingalls parents only ever had six children: Mary, Laura, Caroline (Carrie), Charles Frederick (Freddie), and Grace. Only the four girls survived to adulthood.” I’m assuming the error is six instead of five…but I would be so excited to learn of a 6th child i knew nothing about!!! I love this blog…thank you so much!!

  14. denloew says:

    You mentioned that they had six children . . . I thought they only had five. Who was the sixth? Thank you!

  15. Better to start off with the heartbreaking ones first. πŸ™‚ I did this a bit at my blog too. Looking forward to more.

  16. Shaunn Munn says:

    Please keep debunking! Laura and her family were fascinating simply as WHO they were. No padding necessary. Wish someone like Ken Burns would do a good documentary on Laura, her times, and the parts of America she lived in! She was instrumental in describing the white people’s impact of those places & times when no one else thought it worthwhile.

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