Meet the real Laura and her family!
In the Little House books, Laura talks of many people who have become almost as dear to us as Laura herself. We couldn’t find out what happened to every-one, but here is what we do know..........
The Charles Ingalls Family
(left to right) "Ma" Caroline Quiner Ingalls, Carrie Celstia Ingalls, Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder, "Pa" Charles Phillip Ingalls, Grace Pearl Ingalls, and Mary Amelia Ingalls.
Ma and Pa Ingalls tired of trying to farm the homestead shortly after Laura was married. So, at Christmas time in 1887 they moved to De Smet permanently.
Pa built a comfortable little house for the family on Third Street, close to the school Carrie and Grace attended. Pa was very busy in town as Justice of the Peace, Deputy Sheriff, Town Clerk, and Street Commissioner. He was an active member of the school board and belonged to the Congregational Church. Pa worked as a carpenter while living in town.
Pa died June, 1902 of heart failure. Ma and all his girls were with him when he died.
After Pa died, Ma lived in the home on Third Street with Mary. They kept very busy. In 1918 Ma became ill and Grace and her husband, Nathan Dow came to live with Ma and Mary. Ma died in 1924. Charles and Caroline Ingalls are buried in the De Smet cemetery.
Carrie, Mary, and Laura Ingalls
Mary went to the blind school in Vinton, Iowa. When she graduated she returned home to live with Ma and Pa on Third Street. Mary would fill her days helping Ma around the house, reading her Braille books and playing the organ. After Ma died, Mary went to visit Carrie in Keystone, South Dakota. While she was there she became ill. She suffered a stroke, had complications and died in 1928 not having returned to her home in De Smet. She died at the age of 63 and is buried in the De Smet cemetery.
Carrie, after graduating from high school, worked for the local newspaper. This is where she learned the printing and publishing trade. Her career as a pioneer newspaper woman eventually extended to many papers in western South Dakota. Carrie tried homesteading and proved to be successful as she proved up her claim. She met and married David Swanzey in 1912 in Keystone, South Dakota. David was widowed with two small children. Carrie helped to raise his children but they never had children of their own. Carrie died in 1946 at the age of 76 and is buried in the De Smet cemetery.
Grace took a college teaching course and became a schoolteacher, just like Laura. She taught several schools near De Smet and while teaching, met a farmer named Nathan Dow. In 1901, Grace married Nate in the front parlor of the Ingalls Home on Third Street. They moved seven miles west of De Smet and farmed near the town of Manchester. They spent several later years taking care of Ma and Mary in De Smet but soon returned to Manchester. Grace suffered from bad health and died in 1941 at the age of 64. She is buried in the De Smet cemetery with her husband Nathan Dow.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in the big wood of Wisconsin on February 7, 1867. She died on February 10, 1957, living to be 90 years old. She began writing her series of Little House books when she was in her sixties. She knew she had many wonderful memories of living on the pioneering frontier. It was actually Rose, her daughter that encouraged Laura to write her books.
Laura wrote nine books in all, five of which have a setting in De Smet. By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years and The First Four Years. A sixth book was written as the family was leaving De Smet on their way to their new home in Mansfield, On the Way Home.
Laura started writing in 1932, by the early 50's her books were being read around the world. Today these popular children's books are printed in over 40 different languages and cherished by school children everywhere.
Almanzo Wilder was born in Malone, New York on February 13, 1857. His family moved to Springfield, Minnesota in 1875. Almanzo and brother Royal decided to try homesteading in Dakota Territory and this is where he met Laura Ingalls. They were married on August 25, 1885. They moved to Mansfield Missouri in 1894. This would be the last home of Almanzo. He died on October 23, 1949 at the age of 92.
Rose Wilder was born on December 5, 1886, in De Smet, South Dakota. Laura named her daughter after the wild prairie rose. When Rose was a small child she learned to knit, sew and bake, but she was fascinated by books. In school, Rose was an excellent student. After finishing high school, Rose began writing for various publications and soon found that it opened up a whole new world of people to her. It was during her travels that she met and married Gillette Lane. They were married in 1909 when Rose was twenty-two years old. By 1918, Rose and Gillette's marriage had ended, but Rose continued to write and went on to publish numerous books and national magazine articles. She was widely recognized as a gifted writer.
During her years as a writer, Rose traveled across the world visiting many foreign countries. It was actually Rose who urged her mother to write down her stories. Rose wanted her mother to share all the special stories she'd heard as a child, stories of Laura growing up on the pioneering frontier with her family.
Rose was the only grandchild of Pa and Ma Ingalls. When Rose died on October 30, 1968, she was the last direct descendent of Charles and Caroline Ingalls.
Grandpa and Grandma Ingalls (Landsford and Laura) continued to live on their farm thirteen miles north of the “Little House in the Big Woods.” Grandma lived until 1883 and Grandpa died in 1896 at the age of 84.
Uncle Peter, Aunt Eliza and their family left the Big Woods settlement and settled in Mazeppa, Minnesota along the Zumbro River. Their son Peter came to De Smet but returned to Minnesota with Laura and Almanzo Wilder in 1890. From there Peter made a voyage down the Mississippi with Perley Wilder, Almanzo’s brother. He married and raised his family in Florida. Alice and Ella married the Whiting brothers and homesteaded in Dakota. Alice and her husband Arthur lived lastly in Louisiana, where other relatives had settled. Other children of Peter and Eliza were Edith and Llewelyn.
Aunt Ruby and Docia both married and moved west. Ruby became Mrs. Card and died in Inman, Nebraska in 1881. Docia married Hiram Forbes and traveled to the Far West.
Eliza Jane Wilder, who is first introduced in FARMER BOY as Almanzo’s sister, and later teaches Laura, moved to Louisiana. She married there and had a son, Wilder. Wilder was a spoiled child and on a visit to Rocky Ridge in 1903, shocked Laura with some of his hooligan actions, including purposely breaking a sitting-room window.
Robert and Ellie Boast built a substantial set of buildings on their homestead before moving into De Smet around the turn of the century. Mr. Boast went into the real estate business, served as street commissioner in the “little town” and is responsible for the planting of the many trees. Mrs. Boast was crippled for years with arthritis, confined to a wheel chair. She was a great friend of the town’s children, holding parties at their home on Second Street.. Mrs. Boast lived until 1918, her husband surviving her by four years, dying at 73.
Reverend Edward Brown, a cousin of John Brown of Kansas fame lived until 1895 and before his death wrote a series of thirteen articles about his famous relative. Mrs. Laura Brown is buried in De Smet, a stone from their homestead called “Brown Hill” marking her grave.
Mary Power, one of Laura’s friends in Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years, married a banker, Ed Sanford. They lived across the street from Ma and Pa’s residence until the early 1900’s when she and her husband moved to Bellingham, Washington.
Cap Garland who helped Almanzo find wheat for the starving townspeople during The Long Winter was killed while still young in an explosion of a threshing machine engine. (1890). His sister Florence, Laura’s first De Smet teacher, married C. D. Dawley and remained in De Smet.
Nellie Oleson was born in LeRoy, Mn. August 2, 1868. The family moved to Walnut Grove, Mn. in 1873 and that is where Mr. and Mrs. Owens began operating a general store. It was here in Walnut Grove that Laura and Nellie first met. The family later moved several times eventually settling in Tillamook, Oregon where Nellie met and married Henry Frank Kirry. They had three children, Zola Margaret, Lloyd Prescott and Leslie Henry. Later in life Nellie and Henry separated. Nellie died in 1949 at Portland, Oregon and is buried next to her brother and father.