Help Us Celebrate Laura’s Birthday!

Laura’s birthday is Feburary 7th and we want to celebrate!


Please send us a picture of yourself reading your favorite Little House book – or – let us know how old you were when you first read her books & why you love your favorite story!

All entries will be featured on our Facebook page and on our blog on Laura’s birthday.

Deadline for submissions is February 6th at noon.

A winner will be randomly selected and will receive a copy of the newly-released Pioneer Girl book (a $40 value). The winner will be announced on Laura’s birthday!61YZng7epZL

To enter email us at:

De Smet Harvest Scenes & Quotes from Laura’s writing

Fall is in full swing here in De Smet! In 2014, that means it is harvest time for local farmers, just as it was for the early pioneers in the early 1900s.

Our archives collection features several unique farming photos from previous generations of Kingsbury County farmers.

1904-1905 Era Threshing Crew

This photo was taken in 1904 or 1905 and shows local farmers threshing grain. Threshing the grain was an important task and often required assistance from neighbors.

Laura wrote about a threshing machine in her book “On the Banks of Plum Creek”:

“One morning at daylight three strange men came with a threshing-machine. They threshed Pa’s stack of wheat. Laura heard the harsh machinery noises while she drove Spot through the dewy grass, and when the sun rose chaff flew golden in the wind. The threshing was done and the men went away with the machine before breakfast.”


Horses Swathing Grain

This photo shows a team of four horses swathing grain. It was taken by Aubrey Sherwood of the “De Smet News” at the Colwell farm, four miles north of De Smet.

Laura wrote about the busyness of harvest time in “Farmer Boy”:

“Then the rush of harvest-time came. The oats were ripe, standing thick and tall and yellow. The wheat was golden, darker than the oats. The beans were ripe, and pumpkins and carrots and turnips and potatoes were ready to gather. There was no rest and no play for anyone now. They all worked from candle-light to candle-light.”


Threshing Scene Postcard

This photo of threshing was taken near De Smet and then turned into a postcard. On the far left side of the photo, the remaining straw can be seen. The straw and the grain were separated by the threshing machine.

Laura wrote about the large straw pile left behind after the threshing crew came in “On the Banks of Plum Creek”:

“When Laura and Mary went up on the prairie to play, that morning, the first things they saw was a beautiful golden straw-stack. It was tall and shining bright in the sunshine. It smelled sweeter than hay. Laura’s feet slid in the sliding, slippery straw, but she could climb faster than straw slid. In a minute she was high on top of that stack.”


Bird’s-Eye View of Area Farms

This photo was taken at an unknown location in Kingsbury County. It shows the lay of the land divided into sections and long, straight graveled roads leading from one farm to another.

In one of her adult columns published in the “Missouri Ruralist on October 20, 1916, Laura describes the joy of fall colors in the country:

“What a beautiful world this is! Have you noticed the wonderful coloring of the sky at sunrise? For me there is no time like the early morning, when the spirit of light broods over the earth at its awakening. What glorious colors in the woods these days! Did you ever think that great painters have spent their lives trying to reproduce on canvas what we may see every day? Thousands of dollars are paid for their pictures which are not so beautiful as those nature gives freely.”


Sisters visit De Smet in 1976 and 2014

In 1976, Betsy and Deb had their photos taken at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in front of Pa’s dresser in the Surveyors’ House. Betsy was seven and Deb was four, in the photo both sisters clutch a Charlotte doll. Their mother, Nancy, purchased the dolls for them during their trip. Their photograph later appeared on the front page of the Lore smet sisters vacation laura ingalls

Nancy and her daughters were reading the Little House books together. Nancy decided to bring the books to life for her daughters by taking a road trip to De Smet.

In 2014, the sisters returned to the Little Town on the Prairie to relive their exciting childhood vacation. However, on this trip, they had a new family member along – Deb’s daughter Claire. Deb, Betsy, their parents and Claire visited the Historic Homes for a second time.

Just like her mother, Deb has been reading the Little House books to her daughter. Claire arrived at the Historic Homes wearing the same prairie-style dress that her Aunt Deb wore back in 1976. To make this special family story even better, Claire also had both original Charlotte dolls along for the ride, too.

Of course, the original photo had to be recreated. As adults, the two sisters knelt down in front of Pa’s dresser once again holding their Charlotte smet sisters vacation laura ingalls

Two years ago, Betsy was making a move to South Dakota. She said that one of the first things she did was determine how far her new hometown was from De Smet. All three generations enjoyed the Historic Homes tour and made one more special stop at the gift shop. Carrying on the family tradition, little Claire was given her very own Charlotte doll and a 9-patch quilt.

The family had an entire “Laura weekend” planned in De Smet; including taking tours and going to the Pageant. Deb, Betsy and Claire even planned to get a unique pioneer experience – sleeping in a covered wagon. However, their parents wisely elected to stay at a local hotel.

Memorial Society Director, Cheryl Palmlund said, “This was such a fun story for us. We see a lot of one generation reading to the next, and then the next reading the books to their own children, too. In this family, three generations have loved and shared Laura’s Little House books. Now, it is just up to Claire to carry on the family tradition.”

Unique Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” Series Covers

If you are a regular follower of our Facebook page, during July and August you have seen quite a few unique Little House series covers. These unique books are kept in our artifact collection. Today, we wanted to “round up” all the covers that were displayed on the Facebook page this summer.

Farmer Boy vintage cover vintage laura ingalls wilder cover vintage laura ingalls wilder foreign translation cover foreign translation of laura ingalls wilder cover foreign translation of little house on the prairie 12
8 5 4 3

What do you find unique about these covers?

What do you find surprising about these covers?

The Mystery of Ma’s China Shepherdess

A Modern Mystery

The china shepherdess has always been a favorite Ingalls family belonging from the Little House series. However, the whereabouts of the shepherdess have become a modern mystery. The following research explains what is known about the little china figurine:

  • Mrs. Irene Le Count of the Wilder home in Mansfield, Missouri, personally asked Laura about the figurine. Laura replied, “Since it was Ma’s I did not bring it with me to Missouri.” Laura also added, “I have to admit, I didn’t know what happened to it.”
  • Noted historian William Anderson has also researched the topic. His research reveals that most of the family belongings ended up with Carrie Ingalls, and many of the Ingalls’ family items were scattered with the death of each family member. At the time of Carrie’s death, there was a small four-inch bisque figurine of a shepherd, but not a shepherdess.
  • Later findings included a letter from Laura which is now housed in a Detroit public library rare book and gift room in the Wilder collection. Laura wrote, “Sister Carrie has the china shepherdess.”

After much research and debate, the question still remains – where is the china shepherdess?

Quotes from the Books

It is easy to see why Laura fans have come to love the china shepherdess. Laura mentioned the figurine multiple times in her books:

  • Little House in the Big Woods, page 62
  • Little House on the Prairie, page 117
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek, page 301 and 315
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake, page 265 and 283
  • Little Town on the Prairie, page 18

Laura’s Description

“The little china woman had a china bonnet on her head, and china curls hung against her china neck. Her china dress was laced across in front, and she wore a pale pink china apron and little gilt china shoes. She was beautiful, standing on the shelf with flowers and leaves and birds and moons carved all around her, and the large star at the very top.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods, page 62

An Artist’s Interpretation

Although we cannot be sure of how the china shepherdess may have looked, Laura’s descriptive literary power is certainly helpful. Based on the quotes and descriptions from the book, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in De Smet commissioned an artist to hand paint and recreate the china shepherdess. The shepherdess is for sale in the gift shop for $39.95, plus shipping and handling.


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The Laura Ingalls Wilder Family Tree

Included in this version of Laura’s family tree are Laura’s parents, siblings, husband and daughter. Laura also gave birth to a son in 1889, but he died in infancy. He was buried in the De Smet Cemetery.

Ma & Pa Ingalls

Charles Phillip Ingalls
Born: January 10, 1836, Cuba, New York.
Died: June 8, 1902, De Smet, South Dakota.
Age: 66, buried in De Smet.
He was 52-years-old when he built the Ingalls home.

Caroline Lake Quiner Ingalls
Born: December 12, 1839, Brookfield, Wisconsin.
Died: April 20, 1924, De Smet, South Dakota.
Charles and Caroline were married on February 1, 1860 in Concord, Wisconsin.
Married 42 years, 5 childeren were born to this union.Ma & Pa Ingalls

Mary Amelia Ingalls
Born: January 10, 1865, Pepin, Wisconsin.
Died: October 17, 1928, Keystone, South Dakota.
Age: 63, buried in De Smet, South Dakota.
Mary became blind at age 14.
She graduated from the Iowa College for the Blind, Vinton, Iowa on June 12, 1889.
Never married, no children.

Mary 300

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder
Born: February 7, 1867, Pepin, Wisconsin.
Died: February 10, 1957, Mansfield, Missouri.
Age: 90, Buried in Mansfield, Missouri.
Laura and Almanzo were married on Brown’s Hill, De Smet, South Dakota on August 25, 1885, and were married 64 years.
One son, died in infancy and one daughter, Rose Wilder Lane.Copy of laura mo ruralist

Almanzo James Wilder
Born: February 13, 1857, Malone, New York.
Died: October 23, 1949 in Mansfield, Missouri.
Age: 92, buried in Mansfield, Missouri.


Caroline (Carrie) Celestia Ingalls Swanzey
Born: August 3, 1870, near Independence, Kansas.
Died: June 2, 1946, at Keystone, South Dakota.
Age: 76, buried in De Smet.
Carrie married David N. Swanzey (1854-1938) at the age of 42 on August 1, 1912 in Keystone, South Dakota and were married 26 years.
Two step-children, Mary and Harold.


Charles Frederick Ingalls
Born: November 1, 1875, Walnut Grove, Minnesota.
Died: August 27, 1876, buried in South Troy, Minnesota.
Age: 9 months.

Grace Pearl Ingalls Dow
Born: May 23, 1877 in Burr Oak, Iowa.
Died: November 10, 1941 at Manchester, South Dakota.
Age: 64, buried in De Smet, South Dakota.
Grace married Nathan William Dow at the Ingalls home in De Smet, October 16, 1901. They were married 40 years, with no children.
Nate Dow’s (1858-1943) nephew was Harvey Dunn, famous prairie artist.1997101900.grace

Rose Wilder Lane
Born: December 5, 1886 in De Smet, South Dakota.
Died; October 30, 1968 in Danbury, Connecticut.
Age: 81, buried in Mansfield, Missouri.
Rose married Claire Gillette Lane on March 24, 1909 in San Francisco, California. They divorced in 1918 after 9 years of marriage. No children.


A virtual tour of “The Little Town on the Prairie”

Little Town on the Prairie Virtual Tour

Visitors in De Smet, can walk down main street reading a series of posters located in the window of each relevant building. The posters show an old-time photo and share Laura’s connection to the community or building. This free, self-guided poster tour was created by The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society (that’s us!).

In the past, these posters were printed on paper and by the end of the summer they were becoming faded. Each year, they were replaced. However, in 2014, we are excited to be printing all of the posters onto permanent metal signs. This will add to the quality of the self-guided tour.

We decided to create a blog series featuring the stories on the newly-updated posters. Think of it as a virtual walking tour of “The Little Town on the Prairie.”

Throughout 2014, we will share photos and reveal Laura’s historic connection to each building and De Smet. We hope you enjoy this blog series, and we also hope that you’ll come walk the streets of De Smet for yourself. We can’t wait to see you!

A real tour of Laura’s Historic Homes

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The Brewster School, part of the guided tour at Laura’s Historic Homes

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society is dedicated to preserving Laura’s Legacy. This includes projects such as the self-guided tour of the community. However, our main tour is of Laura’s historic homes in De Smet. This guided tour shares about Laura’s life & showcases many of the artifacts of the Ingalls family. For more information on our guided tour of Laura’s Historic Homes, visit our main website.

Thank you for your support! 

We have been pleasantly surprised with the positive response to beginning this blog! Your support has been awesome.  It is great to know there are so many people passionate about preserving Laura’s legacy. We appreciate your continued support. Be sure to stay in contact: