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Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Homes of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Hello dear friends! Recently a picture has been circulating of the author Laura Ingalls Wilder which many of you have sent to me. Thank you so much, it truly is a charming photograph. It is indeed Laura who is standing on the porch of the Mansfield home that was first rented, then purchased by Almanzo’s parents. They lived here while saving money to build what would become Rocky Ridge Farm. The house still stands today.


I thought perhaps that some of you LIW fans might like to know a bit more information about each of the homes that Laura lived in. Some are original and some have been recreated in the style of the time.

Here is an overall map of the homes that will be shared.

Charles and Caroline Ingalls moved to the big woods of Wisconsin in 1863.

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born on February 7, 1867 in the big woods of Pepin County, Wisconsin. She was named after her father’s mother, Laura Colby Ingalls. (This is also the Laura that I was named for. My great-great grandfather, Lansford “James” Ingalls, and Charles were brothers.)

A replica of the cabin where the Ingalls family lived has been built. This was the setting for “Little House in the Big Woods”.


I first saw the site when I was eleven years old. My grandfather, Roy A. Ingalls and my great aunt, Dorothy Ingalls Farrell, were sharing our family history with me. They had to console me initially as I was a bit devastated to discover that the cabin was no longer surrounded by big woods. I went on to have a lovely afternoon collecting water from the outdoor hand pump among other activities.

The Pepin cabin is open every day year round. Admission is free, however there are no lights at the site. The address is N3228 Cty CC, Stockholm, WI 54769

There is also a Laura Ingalls Wilder museum located at 306 3rd St., in the town of Pepin. The Museum is open 10 AM - 5 PM daily from May 13th - Oct 16th.

While Laura was a baby the family moved to a farm in Keytesville, Missouri for about a year. There is no home site here.

From there the family moved to prairie land 13 miles outside of Independence, Kansas in 1869.

A replica of the cabin has been built. This site is the setting for “Little House on the Prairie”.

The cabin is open six days a week in April through September and Friday through Sunday in October. The hours are Tuesday - Saturday: 10 AM – 5 PM and Sundays: 1-5 PM. Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for children under the age of 18.

It is located south of Highway 75, 13 miles southwest of Independence, Kansas 67301.

You can find additional information on the website.

After just two years the Ingalls discovered that the Kansas land that they were living on belonged to the Osage Indians. They returned to the little cabin in the big woods of Wisconsin and lived there for another three years.

In 1874 they sold their big woods farm and moved to Walnut Grove, Minnesota. They lived for a few months in an abandoned cabin and then moved to a farm located on the banks of Plum Creek.

The dugout (also known as a sod house) is no longer standing but a replica has been made on the museum site. You can find the original dugout site HERE.  The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum has a very nice collection of artifacts and memorabilia . It has various opening hours which you can find HERE. Admission is as follows: ages 4 & under, free, 5-12, $ 4.00 and 13 & over, $ 7.00.

The museum is located at 330 8th Street Walnut Grove, MN  56180.

After three consecutive crop failures the Ingalls family left Walnut Grove in 1876. They had considerable debt and moved to Burr Oak, Iowa to help the Steadman’s operate the Masters Hotel. It was a very difficult time for the family and Laura never wrote about it in any of the “Little House” books.

The Master’s Hotel is the only childhood home of Laura’s that remains on its original site. It is registered on the National Register of Historical Places. The museum is located at 3603 236th Ave. Burr Oak, Iowa 52101

After a year in Iowa the family returned to Walnut Grove. They lived in town and it was during this time that Mary went blind. This photo of Carrie, Mary (seated) and Laura was taken around 1880.

After falling into debt once again Charles became a bookkeeper for the Dakota Central Railroad. The family moved to what would become the little town of De Smet, South Dakota.

Laura would live here for thirteen years and she wrote about this time in “By the Shores of Silver Lake”, “The Long Winter”, and “Little Town on the Prairie”.

There are several sites in the area. This is the surveyors house:

You can also visit Ma and Pa’s house in town.

The museum operating hours and location can be found on the Discover Laura site.

You can visit the homestead which has been recreated on the outskirts of town on the original land. It offers several activities and is located at 20812 Homestead Rd De Smet, SD 57231.

The stories of her life with Almanzo, whom she married in 1885, continued. The books were “These Happy Golden Years” and “The First Four Years”.

Life was not easy for Almanzo and Laura. Their home burned to the ground in 1889, their infant son died and Almanzo’s heath suffered as a result of diptheria. The couple moved with their daughter, Rose, first to Spring Valley, Minnesota. There is no home site here.

About a year later they moved to New Hope, Florida in the hopes that the warm climate would help Almanzo. They stayed with Laura’s cousin, Peter Franklin Ingalls, and his wife Mary. But they would return to De Smet within a year.

In August of 1894 they left De Smet and traveled 650 miles to Mansfield, Missouri in a covered wagon pulled by two horses. The journey took six weeks. The wagon contained some furniture and a stray dog named Fido that Laura adopted somewhere in Kansas. Their entire life savings, in the form of a $100 bill, was hidden in Laura's lap desk that rarely left her side during the journey. With the $100 they bought a piece of land that they named Rocky Ridge.

Laura at the Rocky Ridge Ravine around 1900.

 They lived in a rented house in town for several years while they cleared the land and planted hundreds of apple trees. Laura also raised hens.

Eventually Almanzo was able to build a one room cabin on the site of their farm.

After saving for nearly 20 years they were able to start building the house we know to be Rocky Ridge in 1913. Almanzo customized the kitchen to fit Laura’s tiny 4’11” stature.  

The house was furnished simply but comfortably.

The Wilder’s daughter, Rose, was also a famous author in her own right. She was once the highest paid female journalist of her time. Rose used some of her royalties to build her parents what would become known as “The Rock House” as a Christmas gift. Laura and Almanzo lived here from 1928 until 1936.

It was in the Rock House that Laura hand wrote the first four books in the “Little House” series.

The design of the Rock House came from plans out of the Sears Modern Homes catalog. Rose had the house built using local materials and not pre-cut materials delivered from Sears. Rose wanted a stone exterior verses the standard of wood shingles. It was estimated that it cost over $11,000 to build as the interior was also customized with all of the modern conveniences available in the 1920’s.

In 1936 Rose moved to Connecticut and the Wilders decided to move back to their beloved farmhouse. The Wilders sold the Rock House and the adjoining 40 acres to a neighbor. Today it is a museum.

Almanzo, Laura, and Nero the dog in front of the Rock House.

The Rocky Ridge farmhouse is also now a museum.

The couple lived very simply in the farmhouse until their deaths. Almanzo passed on in 1949 at the age of 92 and Laura died in 1957 at the age of 93. 

The new Laura Ingalls Wilder library and museum has just recently opened. It contains Wilder's original hand written manuscripts, her desk, type-writer and Pa's fiddle.

It is located at 3068 Highway A Mansfield, Missouri 65704.

In addition to the sites where Laura lived you can also visit Almanzo’s boyhood home at 177 Stacy Rd in Malone, NY 12953.

I have had the privilege of visiting all of the sites with the exception of the Masters Hotel in Iowa and of course the newest library which just opened this past March. All of the sites are run by generous volunteers and/or dedicated workers. I offer my many thanks and deepest appreciation to all  for keeping the “Little House” books and Laura’s legacy alive.

A bit of fun trivia~

“Home is the nicest word there is.”

This fairly famous quote was never actually said by Laura the writer. It was said in Season 1, Episode 1 of the television show “Little House On The Prairie”. But I still love it all the same.

I hope you have enjoyed Laura’s homes.

Laura Ingalls Gunn


Kelley Dibble said...

Oh! This was a dream! Thank you! I read ALL LIW's books to our girls while they grew up. We've been to Mansfield, Mo., such a treat.

Some Christmases we would mimic Ma and Pa's gift-giving and simple meals, even making our own butter, tinting it with carrot juice and salting it. What fun the girls had and they remember these with warmth and fondness.

What a heritage you have, Laura Ingalls!



Lynda Brandly said...

Thank you, Laura! This was wonderful!
My third grade teacher read these books to us every day after lunch recess. It was my favorite time of the day. I homeschooled my children and we read them every day after lunch! My daughter is homeschooling her children and I'm sure will do the same thing when they're old enough.
How wonderful for you to be part of this family's beautiful legacy!
love and blessings~
Lynda @ Gates of Crystal

Linda said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Laura. It's wonderful and brings tears to my eyes because there's no other writer or author who has had such a great influence on my life as Laura. I feel like she's family, because she's been a huge part of my life since I first read her books in 3rd grade. Anytime she comes to mind, my heart warms, I smile, and there is a feeling of great respect and connection that I can't easily explain in words. It's love and admiration, for sure, and my family knows that it's been my lifelong hope to travel to ALL of her home sites. Thus far, I've only been to 2 - The Masters Hotel in Iowa when I was in Junior High, because my family was traveling near there and somehow I talked Dad into stopping, so there's a picture somewhere of me standing near the sign to the house. The 2nd, is DeSmet where what I loved the most was being near the few remaining Cottonwood Trees out near their homestead. Sarah was around 4th or 5th grade at the time, and yes, we ran down the path near the Cottonwood trees, humming the theme song from the television series. There's a photo of Sarah and I standing near the historical marker stone out near the trees, and she's smiling, but I am downright beaming and look like I'm in the 3rd grade. Someday, I'll get to the other sites for sure!

Lisa said...

I did not know about the latter years of Laura and Almanzo. It's so good to know that lived long happy lives after so much heartache.I'm glad they retired to Rocky Ridge. It's such a sweet farmhouse.
What a wonderful legacy you have filled with stories of faith and perseverance! Thanks for the lovely tour! said...

Thank you for this great timeline of history and your heritage. It must be kind of surreal to visit these places amongst all the fans out there.

Christine said...

Thank you! This is history that I can't get enough of!
I didn't realize Laura lived until 1957.
What a legacy you have.

Kiki Nakita said...


One of my favorite subjects to read about is family history. You're blessed with photographs, museums, and sites to visit to learn more about your ancestors.

My husband works at INSP, the wholesome television network where shows like the "Little House on the Prairie" are kept alive and well.

Have a blessed week,

leslie said...

I am currently reading the series to my youngest daughter who is in the second grade! We have made it to The Long Winter. She can't wait to read each night before bed. Thank you for putting this post together. I am excited to show it to her after school today.

lynn cockrell said...

Laura, I absolutely loved this post! It has been fascinating to see the photos of Laura and her family members, including Almanzo. I would love to visit these houses and places where they once lived. It is amazing that in that day and time that they lived in so many different places. How exciting that you are actually related to the author who was such an awesome lady!

Eilis said...

This is a wonderful post! I loved the Little House books so much growing up. I often think of poor Ma sweeping that dirt floor. Thank you for sharing this wonderful history.

Vel Criste said...

Great and very informative post Laura!

Leslie Anne Tarabella said...

I loved reading this post! I read almost all of the LIW books to my two boys and they loved the stories of adventure. I have to say, that Almonzo was a hunk!

Do you know where in Florida Laura and Almonzo lived for that short time? Just curious.

Lillace Christianson said...

You are so kind to share all this with us.

Pondside said...

How very interesting game this all is. I didn'the read the books but I remember the series made from them. It seems that the author is as beloved by Americans as E.M. Montgomery is to Canadians.

Jeanie said...

Laura, hats off to you. This is fascinating. Just fascinating. I never knew much of this history or the various sites and I really appreciate your comprehensive look at all of them, including the contact information. And I think one of the things I love most about this is your commitment to the family legacy. I suppose it might be a bit hard to run from it with your name, even if you wanted to. But I don't get the feeling that thought ever entered your mind. You are one of the "keepers." I've been researching family history now for a couple of months and of course find some interesting things. But you have this wealth of history within your own family. Thank you for sharing all of it with us.

bobbie said...

Laura ~ FASCINATING history! Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Like many commenters, I grew up with the "Little house on the Prairie" books... I SO wanted to me those little girls!

Thanks for bringing back wonderful memories for us ~

sarah said...

Amazing story in so many ways. What a heritage.

Angela Boone said...

Laura, I'm so glad you shared this. I loved and treasured these books as a kid. I've even kept them so my kids can read them. My grandma and I both enjoyed your post today.

The French Hutch said...

Oh I have wanted to do this tour for ages, so thank you!!!! I have all her books and have a collection of them and I often pick one up and read a little. They will always be favorites. I will have take your tour again. Fabulous……...

Hollace said...

Wonderful to see these homes and to hear their history. Thanks for sharing and for your work in putting it all together for us.

Lorrie said...

A wonderful post, Laura. I've read and re-read all the Little House books and anything else that I could find about Laura and her life. I often wonder what Laura would make of this modern world we live in. I visited the museum in Minnesota many years ago, very briefly. Laura has always been a hero of mine.

The Boston Lady said...

This is so wonderful, Laura! Wendy and I read the books together and they hold such special memories for us. Almanzo looks just as I pictured him. What a handsome man. I so loved their story in the books. It is so good to see that their hard work paid off and that their later years were easier. Thank you for sharing! Ann

Daniela said...

It's always such a treat and a true delight to read about Laura Ingalls Wilder, I was a great admirer of hers when I was a little child and watched the series of the Little House in the Prairie, but growing up and knowing her real life my admiration grew more and more, she's an icon to me !

I'm going to send you an e-mail for I'm asking you something in private ... just answer when you're having the time, dearest Laura !

Sending hugs and more hugs to you,
with much love and thankfulness


Liz@ Infuse With Liz said...

This was such an interesting read. I always wondered about your name. I enjoyed reading about the history of all the homes they lived in. The span of her life took her through some amazing times. I had no idea she and Almanzo lived such a long time. She looks so pretty and sweet in the picture of her by the book case. Thank you for putting this together and sharing this family history.

Mountain Mama said...

This intrigued me so much that I immediately went to Amazon and ordered the grown up version of the books!! I had no idea you were actually related to Laura Ingalls Wilder - I honestly thought that was your 'blog' name - ha ha!! :) Thanks for sharing!!

craftyles said...

Laura, I'm late seeing this post, but I'm so glad I did. I have read and reread all the books many times. You did a wonderful job of all the places and museums and homes. I would love to visit some of these some day. Well done!

Hey said...

What an amazing history. Truly an author that has touched the lives of many. Thank you of sharing!

deborah said...

How fun that you've been able to visit so many of the Laura sites!

I always was intrigued with Farmer Boy and Almanzo's story. It would be interesting to visit his home place. The food his mother prepared always sounded so good!

Calypso In The Country said...

This is beyond fascinating! I think I read every one of her books when I was younger. How exciting to have such an interesting family history. Thanks for sharing this with us!

Debbie@Debbie-Dabble and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

O MY!! what an interesting post!! What an amazing history And to be a relative is so amazing!! Thanks so much for sharing and for hosting!!


Katie Mansfield said...

What a great post. I learned so much. I now want to go on a driving tour to see all these homes.
Thank you, Laura. Great post.

Heide said...

What a fantastic post. Thank you for sharing all this info with us.

Magali@TheLittleWhiteHouse said...

That was a fascinating post. I've read all the Laura Ingalls books as a child and I loved researching things about her once I had the Internet and had become a teacher. I never tire of seeing the houses. The log cabins are fascinating and the white Rocky Ridge farm is charming. Thanks a lot for taking us along in that wonderful journey through Laura Ingalls Wilder's life! And I'm really tickled that you're related to her!

Anabela from Portugal said...

Such a lovely family story.
I am Anabela from Portugal and i watch the tv series of "The little house..." more than 30 years ago. It is one of my favorites of all times. Thank you to share the story of your family.
All the best to you.

Lori Leigh said...

Thank you for sharing Laura! I still read the books over and over...they help keep me 'grounded'. It is a dream to visit DeSment and Mansfield someday!

kitty@ Kitty's Kozy Kitchen said...

Oh my goodness, Laura, thank you for all the history and pictures of your namesake! Your post was so wonderful and certainly was so informational. I'm sure you're so proud and she would be proud of you. The Rocky Ridge house was a beauty and so nice of their daughter to gift to her parents. I so loved the tv series, and reading your post, made it all so real!

Ramblings of a Southern Girl ~ Rhonda G said...

Fascinating post! I grew up on Little House on The Prairie, so this was a real treat! Thanks for sharing, really enjoyed! :) ~Rhonda

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

This was so interesting. I think that I read all of her books when I was younger :)

Mrs. R said...

Laura, I really enjoyed this post. I have read all of the books many times over. I used to own a bookstore and had so many requests for her books even in this day and age. Laura Ingalls Wilder is a legendary author. I have all her books in my personal library. Thank you so much for the tour of the homes. I'll have to make a point to put visiting them all on my bucket list!

Carla @

Cynthia said...

Thank you so much, Laura for sharing this wealth of information about one of the most beloved authors of all us little girls. I so loved her writing, and I plan on getting my granddaughter introduced to The Little House books in a few years. We've driven through SD many times on our way to visit a son in Montana, and every time, I wished that we had time to visit the homestead. Now, I think a full tour of all the places might be a dream trip itself!

Laura Richardson said...

I loved The Little House series of books and have read all I could about Laura as an adult. I related to her stories so much. We shared a first name and as an Air Force brat I moved a lot and lived in many different homes too. Unlike many, I never cared much for the tv series. It seemed too syrupy sweet and not real like the books are. What an interesting family heritage you have!

Linda @ Life and Linda said...

That is such an interesting post Laura. How sweet to go through history and see the different homes and photos. I think many of us read her books. Thanks for sharing.

Pam Lauren said...

This is so amazing! My sister and I read all the books, watched all the t.v. shows and played 'Little House' all the time as girls. I rad the books to my daughters too. When I was a girl, my family and I visited the home in De Smet (I believe). It is so amazing that you are related to the family. What a rich heritage! Thanks you so much for gathering all this information and sharing it!

Ann Marie said...

Thanks so much for your post. I began reading the Little House books to my son when he was 2 or 3. His favorite excerpt was the prairie fire. I remember watching the TV shows with my grandmother. I appreciate the map -- I kept referring to it -- and all the photos. And you are related! I saw your link at the Vintage Charm party. Ann Marie @ Iris Abbey

Laura Lane said...

What a fabulous, informative article. Thank you so much. I learned a lot from it.
Be blessed!
of Harvest Lane Cottage

Janet W. said...

Thank you for this wonderful post, Laura! I have always loved the LH books and TV show. I hoped one day to be able to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum, but I didn't know there were so many other sites to see!

Charm Bracelet Diva {at Home} said...

I loved the Little House books (and TV show!) You've given such a wonderful history, it's really fascinating. Thank you for sharing at Vintage Charm! xo Kathleen Charm Bracelet Diva {At Home}

The Charm of Home said...

Laura, I knew you were named after LIW, but I did not realize you were related. How amazing. I loved the history and home tour! Thanks for joining Home Sweet Home!

Richella Parham said...

Oh, Laura, I LOVE this post! Thank you for telling us the connection between you and Laura Ingalls Wilder--I'd always wondered about that; not sure why I never asked you!

I've been privileged to visit the Mansfield, MO house and the Independence, KS site, and it was a joy to see all the houses in this post. I read the Little House books as a girl, of course, but it's as an adult that I've become a huge fan. I'm almost 53 years old, and I still go back and re-read the books occasionally (I own them all!). Reading about Laura's life always helps me with my perspective. The Long Winter may be my favorite (although of course it's hard to choose!).

Thanks so much for linking this post to the Grace at Home party. I'm featuring you this week!

Kathy Olson said...

Thank you, that was so interesting!
I spent many happy times reading those books and loved the series by Rose, as well.

Patricia Krank said...

This entire article captivated me! Now I want to go back and read every single book again. Thank you so much for sharing.

Colorado Connie said...

Dear Laura,
I'm just finding your website again after several years ago participating with one of your craft challenges. The tour and biography here of the Ingalls Wilder homesites is exactly the kind of program I do called "On the Trail of LIW" for schools and libraries. I've been to all of the homesites many times over the past 30+ years and have memories at each

Amy Friend said...

I really enjoyed this summary. Thank you!