About this Famous Person
Laura INGALLS WILDER
American author who wrote the Little House series of books based on her childhood in a pioneer family
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born near the village of Pepin, in the "Big Woods" of Wisconsin, to Charles Phillip Ingalls and Caroline Lake (Quiner) Ingalls. She was the second of five children; her siblings were Mary Amelia, who went blind; Carrie Celestia, Charles Frederick, who died when nine months old, and Grace Pearl. Her birth site is commemorated by a period log cabin, the Little House Wayside.
Her paternal immigrant ancestor was Edmund Ingalls born 27 June 1586 in Skirbeck, Lincolnshire, England, and died 16 September 1648 in Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts.
In Laura's early childhood, her father settled on land not yet open for homesteading in what was then Indian Territory near Independence, Kansas--an experience that formed the basis of Ingalls' novel Little House on the Prairie. Within a few years, her father's restless spirit led them on various moves to a preemption claim in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, living with relatives near South Troy, Minnesota, and helping to run a hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa. After a move from Burr Oak back to Walnut Grove, where Charles Ingalls served as the town butcher and Justice of the Peace, Charles accepted a railroad job in the spring of 1879 which led him to eastern Dakota Territory, where he was joined by the family in the fall of 1879. Over the winter of 1879-1880, Charles landed a homestead, and called DeSmet, South Dakota, home for the rest of his, Caroline, and Mary's lives. After staying the cold winter of 1879–1880 in the Surveyor's House, the Ingalls family watched the town of DeSmet rise up from the prairie in 1880. The following winter, 1880–1881, one of the most severe on record in the Dakotas, was later described by Wilder in her book, The Long Winter. Once the family was settled in DeSmet, she attended school, made many friends, and met homesteader Almanzo Wilder (1857–1949). This time in her life is well documented in the Little House Books.
At the age of 15, Laura accepted her first teaching position, teaching three terms in one-room schools, when not attending school herself in DeSmet. She later admitted that she did not particularly enjoy teaching, but felt the responsibility from a young age to help her family financially, and wage earning opportunities for females were limited. Laura stopped teaching when she married Almanzo Wilder on August 25, 1885. Wilder had achieved a degree of prosperity on his homestead claim, owing to favorable weather in the early 1880s, and the couple's prospects seemed bright. She joined Almanzo in a new home on his claim north of DeSmet and agreed to help him make the claim succeed. On December 5, 1886, she gave birth to Rose Wilder (1886–1968) and later, an unnamed son, who died shortly after birth in 1889.
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