The Mystery of Baby Boys

Over the years the Society has been asked why some of the Ingalls-Wilder women were unable to have baby boys. There was a trend in the family that all three generations had brothers or sons that were short-lived. Caroline Ingalls, Laura’s mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Rose Wilder Lane, Laura’s daughter, all had baby boys who passed away shortly after their birth.

Charles Frederick “Freddie” Ingalls:

Charles Frederick was born on November 1, 1875, in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, which technically made him Charles and Caroline Ingalls fourth child. Laura never mentioned Baby Freddie in her “Little House” books because she did not feel that it belonged with the image she was trying to create (Pioneer Girl iv). The whole family was extremely proud of Freddie and happy to have a boy. Mary and Laura would rush home from school just to see and spend more time with him (Pioneer Girl xvi). Unfortunately, we do not have a lot of information as to the cause of Freddie’s death. It has been noted that Freddie was a sickly baby, however; other versions of Pioneer Girl do not give any insight as to how Freddie died. We do know that he died in South Troy, Minnesota, on Peter Ingalls’ farm, but the grave location is unknown (Anderson LORE 2,2).

Son of A. J. Wilder:

Laura’s infant son, who was never named, is mentioned in Laura’s books unlike Freddie. Remember, Laura’s last book, The First Four Years was published many years after her death in 1971. The book talks about the Wilder’s hardships in De Smet, South Dakota, after Laura and Almanzo married in 1885. We have no way of knowing if Laura intended to leave in the story of her son’s death or even publish this book as their son’s death was just one of the many tragedies they suffered.

In The First Four Years:

In the afternoon Manly sent Peter to bring Laura’s Ma, and at four o’clock he sent Peter again to town, this time on his running pony for the doctor. But their son was born before the doctor could get there. (125)

She also mentioned that it was on the fifth of August that her infant son was born. Today we know from the De Smet Leader that the baby was born on Thursday July 11, 1889. It was published in the paper on July 13, 1889 saying, “Dr. Hunter reports the arrival of a 10-pound boy at A.J. Wilder’s on Wednesday night.” From the paper, we were also able to figure out the day Laura’s infant son died. On August 10, 1889, the De Smet Leader published, “Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Wilder’s little child died Wednesday evening.” From this quote, we know that the day their son died was August 7, 1889, living one day short of four weeks.

Laura mentioned her son’s death just a few pages later, “Laura was doing her work again one day three weeks later when the baby was taken with spasms, and he died so quickly that the doctor was too late” (First Four Years 127). That is the only insight was have as to how Laura’s son died. How accurate is her account? We do not know for sure but it is all we have today. Considering that according to Laura, the doctor did not make it before her son passed, it would be hard to have any documentation as to what he died of. Today he is buried in the De Smet Cemetery with the rest of Ingalls family.2017-08-07 (3)

Infant Lane:

Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane marked a third generation of baby boys not surviving. Even though Rose’s boy was born the latest, there is probably the least amount of information about him. Rose’s son was born premature and stillborn in Salt Lake City, Utah, at Holy Cross Hospital. From his death certificate we have been able to figure out that her son was born on November 23, 1909 (click here to see a copy of the death certificate). It was noted that they buried him the following day, November 24, which then points to a gravestone in the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Salt Lake City, Utah, marked Infant Lane who was buried November 24, 1909. Beyond this information, we do not know anything more about Rose’s infant boy.

Since he was Rose’s only child, the direct line of Charles and Caroline Ingalls ended when Rose died, making it impossible to figure out if the Ingalls may have had a genetic disease that ran in boys or if it was just a coincidence.

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3 comments on “The Mystery of Baby Boys

  1. Shirley says:

    Charles Ingalls had a baby brother that died when he was 5 days old.
    It is my understanding that diabetes ran in the family and that might have been one of the reasons why Baby Freddie was sickly. Charles, Laura, Carrie and Grace Ingalls had diabetes.

  2. Lu Ann Britt says:

    The death certificate states that Rose was born in North Dakota. DeSmet is in South Dakota. If that fact is incorrect, I wonder what else may be?

  3. Nansie Cleaveland says:

    Freddy’s death certificate is on file in Wabasha MN; the cause of death was listed as diaorrhora (an often-used spelling of diarrhea in the death records). I posted a copy of it here: http://www.pioneergirl.com/zumbro_death.jpg

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