Walnut Grove Myths

As we have been discovering in the past few posts of our Little House myths series, the popular Little House on the Prairie TV show has propagated some incorrect information about the Ingalls family. Last time, I debunked a few myths about Laura’s life as a young adult. This time, I’m going to take care of some of those myths that have spread about the town of Walnut Grove itself.

#8 The Ingalls Family in Walnut Grove

plum creek

A photo of the real Plum Creek in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. The sign on the opposite bank marks the location of the dugout that the Ingalls Family lived in upon first arriving in the area.

In the Little House TV show, Laura lives in Walnut Grove from the time her family moves there after living temporarily in Kansas until a few years after her marriage to Almanzo Wilder. She and her family do move occasionally during this time, only to return after a short time to their beloved town in Minnesota. In real life, the Ingalls family only lived in Walnut Grove, MN, for a total of three years, moving to Burr Oak Iowa after the first two years to work in a hotel. They came back a year later. The historical Laura spent her teenage and young adult years in De Smet, South Dakota, and that is also where she met her husband, Almanzo. To point out one nod that the TV show makes to the travels of the historical Ingalls family, the TV show family does move away from Walnut Grove to work in a hotel at one point, which is very similar to the historical family’s move to the Masters Hotel in Iowa. However, the fictional town of Winoka that the TV show family moves to appears to be in the Dakotas, not Iowa.

#9 Dr. Hiram Baker

One of the most notable secondary characters in the Little House TV show is Dr. Hiram Baker, the town’s physician. Doc Baker appears in every season of the show, and he’s always trusty and dependable. Unfortunately, however, no Doc Baker ever appears in Laura’s original stories. Although other Walnut Grove townspeople such as Miss Beadle, Reverend Alden, and Mr. Nelson were all based on characters from the books, Laura never mentions a Doc Baker.

#10 The Garveys

Although there are plenty of minor characters in the TV show who do not appear in the books, it may be shocking to learn that even some of the Ingalls’ family’s best friends, the Garveys, are just as fictional as Doc Baker. However, some of the family friends from the TV show do come from the books, including the Kennedy family and the Olesons. However, there’s some stuff about the Oleson family in particular that isn’t quite what you see in the books or in history. Check back next time for more about the infamous Nellie Oleson and her family.

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6 comments on “Walnut Grove Myths

  1. You are correct, Winoka was said to be in the Dakotas territory when Mary first tells Charles and Caroline she is following Adam to open up a school for the blind there. Let’s not even get started on poor Adam. 🙂

  2. Stop and visit our Museum and see the large number of characters from the book “On the Banks of Plum Creek” that were true people that lived in Walnut Grove during Laura’s time. The Owens (Laura changed their name to Oleson), Johnny Johnson, The Master’s, Ensigns, Steadmans, The Towers, Nelson’s and several others. http://www.walnutgrove.org The TV Series changed a great deal, but was still a great family show that all could enjoy.

  3. Everyone should read the books and not just go by the TV show.

  4. Shaunn Munn says:

    I wish a documentary was done by someone of Ken Burns caliber. Laura’s life (entire life) reflects
    ideals & values shared by many people of the time. It was, however, not all rosy. From Ma’s hatred of Native Americans to Pa’s participation in a minstrel show, people should understand why such nice folks as the Ingalls family would do such things. It would not diminish them, but show how things really were. Laura & Rose were also well known for so much more! It was a very different world, not the cozy one the “Little House” series presented. Good things came because of the Ingalls’s & Wilders. Their stories don’t need sugar coating!

    • Chellsheart says:

      Great idea, Shaunn! Maybe someone from the museum, someone in the appropriate leadership or director role could get in touch with Ken Burns or some one like him. That would be really a great thing to do. There seems to be so much information it could be a mini series all by itself to honor Laura and her family. Who knows, maybe someone will read one of these blogs and run with it!

  5. Angela says:

    I love both the books and the TV show, but I consider them two totally different things because the show was so different from the books. I don’t even think of it as the same family.

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