Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Happened to Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family?

This morning I was thinking about what to write about. Yes I was having one of those days again. Then I was thinking what about writing about what happened to Laura and her family after the books. Some of this is about the books and some if this will not be about the books. I hope you enjoy this. The picture to the right is Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder was born in the big woods of Wisconsin February 7,1867. She passed away February 10,1957 she was 90 years old. She is buried with her husband and her daughter.

She started to write the Little house books when she was sixty years old. She remembered so many wonderful memories of living on the pioneer frontier. Laura didn't keep any kind of a diary. What she did was write herself little notes from her traveling, family, friends, people she had met and places she has been. The way Laura became so descriptive in her writing is she had to tell her sister Mary everything she would see. Mary became blind at the age of 14.

Laura's daughter Rose encouraged her to write her books. The first book was published in 1932 it is called "Little house in the Big Woods". She got such a great response with this book she went on to write the "Farmer Boy" that was published in 1933. Then she had got some letters from girls and boys asking what happened to the girl in the big woods. So Laura continued to write the series of books. The last book she published was 1943. She was writing when Almanzo passed away and her heart was not into it anymore. The "First Four Years" was published in 1971 this was many years after her death. Also her diary of her trip from South Dakota to Missouri was published in 1962 it was called "West to home". This was from the letters that Laura had sent to Almanzo. So she use the letters to write this book.

Almanzo James Wilder was born on February 13,1857 passed away on October 23,1949 he was 92. He was born in Malone N.Y.. His family moved to Spring Valley Minnesota in 1875. Almanzo and his brother Royal decided to get a homestead to try farming in the Dakota Territory. This is when he met Laura and they were married on August 25,1885. They moved to Mansfield Missouri in 1894. This would be the last home that Almanzo would ever live in. When Almanzo was a young boy he had gotten real sick with diphtheria. Later in life Almanzo was having heart problems and he passed away. The way Laura and Almanzo met was at church and socials. Pa knew Almanzo and Royal from the feed store. Laura had a teaching job and on the first friday Almanzo would go and pick her up after school and on Sunday afternoon he would take Laura back. This was his was of courting her and a way for them to get to know one another.

Christmas of 1887 Ma and Pa moved to De Smet and this would be permanently. This was shortly after Laura had married. Pa built the house for Ma, Pa and the girls. This house was close to the school for the two younger girls. Pa was busy as the Town Justice of the Peace, Deputy Sheriff, Town Clerk, and Street Commissioner. Pa was also a carpenter in town. Pa Died in 1902  of hear failure. Ma stayed in the house with Mary after Pa passed away. In 1918 Ma became ill and Grace and her husband Nathan Dow came to live with Ma and Mary. Ma died in 1924.

Mary did go to a blind school in Iowa. Then after she graduated she moved back home with Ma and Pa. After Ma and Pa passed away Mary went to live with Carrie in Keystone South Dakota. Mary never got married and never had children of her own.  While she was there she became very ill and died of a stroke in 1928 Mary was 63.

Carrie graduated high school and she worked for the local news paper. She learned how to do the printing and publishing trades. This eventually extended in many papers in Western South Dakota. This is were she met and married David Swanzey in 1912. David was a widower and he had two small children that Carrie helped him raise. They never had any children of there own. Carrie died 1946 at 76.

Grace became a teacher like Laura. She taught near De Smet. That is were Grace met and married Nathan Dow. Nathan was a farmer. Grace and Nathan took care of Ma and Pa when they became ill. They had there own place in Manchester which was seven miles away from Ma and Pa's place. After Ma and Pa passed away Grace and Nathan went back to there home. They never had any children. Grace died 1941 at 64.

Rose was the surviving child of Laura and Almanzo. She was born December 5,1886. Laura named her after the wild prairie rose. Rose learned how to knit, sew, bake but what fascinated her to most was books.  She was and excellent student. Rose began to write for various publications. This opened up a whole new world to people. She met and married Gillette Lane 1909. In 1918 the marriage ended. Rose continued to write books and publish them. She also wrote articles for National Magizines. Rose traveled the world then when she came home she urged Laura to write her books. Rose was the only grandchild to Charles and Caroline Ingalls. Rose died October 30,1968.

Eliza Jane is Almanzo's sister. She married and moved to Louisiana and he had a son.
Charles Fredrick Ingalls only lived for nine months. They never found out what caused his death.

Nellie Oleson first met Laura in Walnut Grove. Nellie's parents owned the general store in town. They didn't stay there for very long and they kept moving around. Then they did settle in Tillamook Oregon. This is were Nellie met and married Henry Frank Kirry. They had three children. Nellie died 1949.

The Ingalls never adopted and children. In the t.v. show were they adopted Albert, James and Cassandra is just for the show.

I just thought if there are people that like Little House on the Prairie like I do would really like to know what happened to Laura and her family. When I started to read this I was so fascinated by it. So I thought that I would share it everyone. The pictures on here I found along with what I was reading. This is how Laura and Almanzo did look back then.


  1. Very informative Tender Bear! Little did I know that the Ingalls never adopted children, yet the TV show says they did. Makes you wonder the myth and the mystery behind program.

  2. Very interesting. Like you I did like Little House. And was nice to learn more abot her life. Janette

  3. Drew- I found out about this and I just wanted to let everyone know. I know the books don't really go along with the t.v. show either. They added a lot to the shows.

    Jan- I am glad that you like the show too. It is very interesting finding out more about them. I couldn't believe it when I read this. That is why I put it on here.

  4. Growing up in Malone, NY I went to grade school (grades K-5) right next door to the church where Almanzo and his family went (that Laura wrote about in Farmer Boy). My father was the principal of the school which had been built in the early twenties right where the graveyard for the church used to be. The "Franklin Academy" that Royal attended and is mentioned several times in Farmer Boy now houses County offices. The County Fairgrounds are still where they were when Almanzo was growing up so it was never much of a stretch to try to imagine a young Almanzo going to the County Fair with his family.

    Other than utility poles and paved roads, the Wilder homestead and the surrounding area look very similar to how they would have looked when Almanzo was growing up there. The homestead is located near a farming community so much of the land in that area is either still farmland or is now former farmland that is overgrown with grass.

    Because of the local history, Farmer Boy was required reading when I was in 4th grade. We would have to write synopses of each chapter of the book after reading them.

  5. I still have three more chapters to read in that book then I will do my revue of the book. I seen this information and I had to write about it.

    I really can't imagine living in the same town that Almanzo or Laura lived in. I really want to go and visit all the places that they have live and see the museums. One of these days I may be able to go and do that. I got my boyfriend into watching the show with me. Thank you for your comment Perplexo.

  6. I know we've exchanged comments about visitng the Wilder Homestead. I recommend doing so in early August. The County Fair that Almanzo would go to when he was growing up is still held every year. It's held usually the 2nd week in August. Going at the same time as that fair would allow to experience a modern equivalent of what Almanzo experienced when he was a young boy-- especially visiting the livestock barns. They usually bring in some decent music-- much of it country which isn't my bag. But they normally bring in at least 1 or 2 non-country acts each year. I did see America perform live at the fair back in 1996.

  7. What gets me-- I'm a genealogy buff and I've been researching my paternal grandmother's line. Her ancestors lived about 10-15 miles east of the Wilders. My great grandmother, Frances "Frankie" Davis was born in 1864 so she was just a few years older than Laura would have been. My great grandfather, Watson Merrill, was born in 1859 so he would only have been 2 years younger than Almanzo.

    Incidentally my great uncle, Charles Merrill, wrote about my ancestors in serial form for the local newspapers in the 1930s. It was published as "The Old Guide's Story" and told the story of my great great grandfather settling in the wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains. Those serialized newspaper clippings were compiled and published in 1973 (although some chapters were missing) A more complete version was collected and published in 2006. My parents are listed in the acknowledgements of the 2006 version as my grandmother had kept all the old newspaper clippings and when my uncle died my cousins gave all the old family documents they'd found to my Dad. A couple chapters had been lost over the years but there were chapters that had been missing from the 1973 book.

  8. Thank you for letting me know that the County Fair is still going on. That would really be something to go and see. I just hope that my boyfriend would want to do something like that.

    That is really cool to have something like that about your family. I hope that your dad lets you have them sometime down the road for you to be able to keep.

  9. WOW i love the show :]

  10. Based on research I've done Charles Fredrick Ingalls was Ma and Pa's son who died at 9 months old. He was not Eliza Jane's son. He was Laura's little brother. He was born before Grace and after Carrie I believe. Just thought you'd like to know that. You did a great job summarizing it all. Fascinating pieces of history.