Laura Ingalls was born in Pepin County, Wisconsin. The family traveled by covered wagon spending time in Indian Territory that was not yet open to homesteading, Kansas, Minnesota, and Iowa. The family settled in Dakota territory in 1880.
At the age of fifteen Laura became a rural school teacher. In 1885 she married Almanzo Wilder. They had a daughter, Rose, who was born on December 5, 1886. They also had a son who died shortly after birth.
The first years of their marriage held many struggles. Diphtheria left Almanzo partially paralyzed. He regained the use of his legs, but used a cane the rest of his life.
The Wilder family also faced a fire that destroyed their home and barn and years of drought that left them in debt and unable to make a living on the farm. In 1890 the family moved to Almanzo's parents Minnesota farm and then they spent a short time in Westville, Florida. In 1892 they returned to DeSmet and purchased a small home. Laura worked as a seamstress saving money to start another farm.
In 1894 the family moved to Mansfield, Missouri where they put a down payment on a 40 acre piece of land. Laura named it Rocky Ridge Farm. The family struggled to make Rocky Ridge Farm a success by 1910 the farm was established. In 1912 the ten room farmhouse was completed. Laura was active in many regional farm associations and was recognized as an authority in poultry farming and rural living. She spoke to many groups around the region.
Laura’s daughter Rose Lane was working as a freelance writer and this inspired Laura to begin writing. She received an invitation to the Missouri Ruralist in 1911 which led to a position as a columnist and editor. Her column in the Ruralist introduced her to a loyal audience. They enjoyed her columns which had a wide range of topics. She also worked with the Farm Loan Association. She gave out small loans to local farmers from her office in the farmhouse.
In the late 1920s Laura and Almanzo scaled back the farming operation and Laura resigned from her position with the Missouri Ruralist and Farm Loan Association. They hired a caretaker for the remaining farming.
The Stock Market Crash of 1929 wiped out the family's investments.
In 1930 Laura asked her daughter's opinion about a biographical manuscript she had written about her pioneering childhood.
The Great Depression and the deaths of her mother in 1924 and her sister in 1928 prompted her to preserve her memories. She also was hoping to generate some income for herself and Almanzo. This was the origin of the Little House on the Prairie Books.
By the mid 1930s the Little House Books brought a steady and increasing income to the Wilders. Laura received various honors and huge amounts of fan mail.
Laura and Almanzo sold off most of the surrounding area of their farm, but kept some farm animals and tended to vegetable and flower gardens. Carloads of fans stopped by on a daily basis hoping to meet Laura. Laura and Almanzo lived independently without any financial worries.
Almanzo died in 1949. Laura grieved for him but stayed on the farm despite her daughters requests that Laura come live with her. Laura lived on the farm alone for the next eight years looked after by neighbors and friends. She was well know in Mansfield. She had a driver her would bring her to town to do errands, attend church or visit friends. She actively corresponded with her editors and many friends and fans.
Laura passed away on February 10, 1957 in her home. She was 90 years old. Her daughter Rose left the Mansfield farmhouse exactly how it was and donated it and most of the contents to the Laura Ingalls Wilder-Rose Wilder Lane Home Association. The farmhouse is now a museum that receives thousands of visitors a year. The house is now a National Historic Landmark.
Laura delivered a speech in 1937 in which she remarked “what a wonderful childhood I had had, How I had seen the whole frontier, the woods, the Indian country of the great plains, the frontier towns, the building of railroads in wild, unsettled country, homesteading and farmers coming in to take possession. I realized that I had seen and lived it all…. I wanted children now to understand more about the beginnings of things, to know what is behind the things they see-what it is that made America as they know it.”
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