Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder died on February 10, 1957 at the age of 90. She was born on February 7, 1867.During her lifetime she traversed the country by horse and wagon, survived the long winter of 1880-1881 in Dakota Territory, farmed with her family, taught school at age 15, lived during (what we call) the pioneer days, and saw modern America develop. From horses and mail by ponies and trains to automobiles, electricity, planes, and television – Laura lived a fascinating life. Her books have never been out of print and they continue to delight and educate readers all over the world.
I began reading the Little House books around the age of 11, because my mom brought one home from the library and told me that I’d probably like it. I did. And I read those books as fast as I was able. In fact, in sixth grade I won the award for having read the most books in my class. Throughout middle school and high school I read every biography about Laura and every series of books about Laura and her relatives. I couldn’t call myself an expert, but I absorbed and remembered much more about Laura’s life than the average Little House viewer.

Before Laura Ingalls Wilder, I adored the American Girls series and the Dear America series, as I have mentioned here. I imagine that reading this historical fiction combined with my mother’s adoration of abandoned buildings, set me on the path to historic preservation.And becoming so enamored with and intrigued by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life gave me someone I still call my role model / idol / hero.Life would not be the same without Laura Ingalls.

Who is your idol in American history?Is this a part of the reason you became so interested in history and historic preservation?

For those who enjoy historical figures, historic sites, and road trips – here are a few of Laura’s houses.

Little House on the Prairie. The log cabin reconstruction of the Ingalls' home in Indian Territory near Independence, Kansas.

Little House on the Prairie. The log cabin reconstruction of the Ingalls’ home in Indian Territory near Independence, Kansas.

The Surveyor's House in Dakota Territory.

The Ingalls' house in the town of De Smet.

Rocky Ridge Farm, Mansfield, MO - home of Laura and Almanzo Wilder.

The Rock House on Rocky Ridge Farm.


23 thoughts on “Laura Ingalls Wilder

  1. Louise Cannon says:

    I just did a post that linked here. This post is fantastic. I’ve never been to the one in Kansas. Will have to make that trek someday. Your childhood reading habits sound like mine were. I can’t remember how many times I read the series. Somewhere from10-12 times. I’m reading it to my girls now (and will again when the other one reaches 2nd grade), and when we visited DeSmet, I wanted to just read them all myself again to relive all of those wonderful stories. I can hardly wait to get to those parts!

  2. Clayton Chadwell says:

    I too love the books and enjoy watching the shows. I loved looking at the houses in these pics…I want to go see them and walk around. History is just fascinating to me and I love historic sights.

  3. tiffany says:

    Just got back from a 4th grade field trip with my daughters to the Rocky Ridge farm in Mansfield (We live about an hour away). I grew up on Little House and my girls are too. It was beautiful to see in the spring with everything in bloom. During the tour of the Rock House they said that the house plan was purchased by Rose from Sears and can still be found online but I can’t remember the name of the plan. Does anyone have it?

    • Kaitlin says:

      Tiffany, I had no idea that Rose built the house from a Sears patten. I hadn’t heard of it. I remember, as a child, reading about the rock and being very puzzled about it — how could a house be made of rocks? But now it looks more like a rock facade, which is something I understand now. If you find anything about the house plan, please share!

  4. Carolyn says:

    On the link I provided above, go to the “Mitchell” floor plan. The photo on the house plan isn’t of a rock home, but the floor plan is the one that Rose Wilder Lane used when she had the rock house build on Rocky Ridge Farm for Laura and Almanzo.

  5. Kate Scott says:

    I’m from western Wisconsin (where the Ingalls’ first settled in the “Big Woods” near Pepin) and am related to Laura Ingalls Wilder. We took family trips to the De Smet and Mansfield sites and visited the family’s graves when I was young. I think that like you, trips to historic places and finding a connection with a person and a place went a long way toward making me a preservationist.
    Fun to know that Rocky Ridge is a pattern house! (I remember when we visited they pointed out how that house had modern amenities like a stove, and to think about the different eras in American history that Laura lived through.)

    What a great post, thanks!

    • Kaitlin says:

      I love Laura Ingalls, too, and visiting her houses. So many of us feel connected to Laura. Have you read “The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie” by Wendy McClure? Interesting book.

  6. jennnadams says:

    It’s always great seeing others who are interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder and also share a passion for History. My parents took my sisters and I to see her house in Kansas. We were always traveling, seeing historical sites, museums, and the like. I guess that is why I’m studying History in College..majoring in US Civil War.

    Thank you for sharing the pictures. 🙂

  7. Aryani says:

    I’m from Indonesia, 32 yo now. I found The Long Winter somewhere at my house when I was at 11 yo, at first I have no interesting to read because is very thick but after a while I read and can’t stop. I began to search all the series in public library. Glad that our local publisher issued the new edition.
    This book warms my heart, full of knowledge and motivation. Is obvious that people behavior stays in the same line regardless what year is. I’ve learnt from Laura and The Ingalls a lot.

  8. Aryani says:

    Well.. As I’m not sure when I’ll be able to visit Laura’s heritage site, your blog has made my day! Thanks Kaitlin 🙂

  9. Maria says:

    I live in Sweden and I loved this TV-series as a child. Now that I run across this webb site I think that I might watch the series again, for nostalgic reasons. Just like anyone in Sweden, I have family, who several generations ago, when Sweden was a poor country, left for the US, hoping to get a better life. I just asked my friend in Southafrica (which is further away from Sweden than what the US is), and she told me that it was broadcasted, and much loved there too…

  10. Jessica says:

    It’s always good to find another LIW fan, though I haven’t had the chance to visit any of the home sites yet. A Laura road trip is the dream! I also loved the American Girls books, and pretty much any other historical fiction I could get my hands on; the Little House books are the only ones I still re-read every year, though I usually follow that up these days with leafing through pertinent scholarly articles. It’s always a treat to dip back into American history for a bit since living in the UK means the majority of historic places I visit these days are British ones. Great blog!

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