Little House sites abound for the curious

by Cappers
October 2005

dmitriy/Fotolia


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Laura Ingalls Wilder's series of 'Little House' books have been enjoyed by generations of readers. Loyal fans who want to get a first-hand glimpse at the locales and way of life that the books describe can visit many of the settings that inspired the books' author.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society preserves and maintains two houses in De Smet, S.D. One is a house where the Ingalls family lived during the winter of 1879-1880. The other is a house built in 1887 by Laura's father, Charles. For more information, visit www.discoverlaura.org.

Sixteen other sites mentioned in Wilder's 'Little House' book series are located in the De Smet area. Among the places 'Little House' fans will want to visit: Ingall's Homestead. Describing itself as 'Laura's Living Prairie,' this attraction is located one mile southeast of De Smet. While there, visitors can take a covered wagon ride, visit a prairie school, try a hand at rope making, wheat grinding and corn shucking, and visit re-creations of a little house, barn and dugout home from the books. For more information, visit ingallshomestead.com.

Tourists who visit the area in July may be able to take in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant. The pageant brings Wilder's fiction to an outdoor, prairie stage. For more information, including show dates and times, as well as photographs from past performances, visit www.desmetpageant.org.

The 'Little House' books weren't all set in the same place - nor are the sites of interest to its fans located in just one spot. 'Little House in the Big Woods' was set in Pepin, Wis. Wilder was born in the hills above the town in 1867, and today there is a reconstructed log cabin meant to provide a historically-accurate picture of where Laura was born and what prairie pioneer life was like. The town holds a 'Laura Ingalls Wilder Days' in September. Activities at the event include traditional crafts such as blacksmithing, woodworking, and quilting, as well as a 'Pepin Laura' Contest, in which contestants demonstrate their knowledge of the life and times of Wilder as articulated in her stories. For more information, visit www.pepinwisconsin.com.

A small log cabin has been reconstructed southwest of Independence, Kan. The one-room cabin is replicated from Laura's description of it provided in 'The Little House on the Prairie.' For more information, visit http://www.littlehouseonprairie.com.

Wilders' fans can also head to Walnut Grove, Minn., to learn the history of the Ingalls in that town. The collections of Walnut Grove's Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum are housed in an 1898 depot, 1880s school chapel and other buildings. The museum also features more than 250 dolls from the 1870s to the present, a quilt made by Wilder and her daughter Rose, and historic documents. For more information, visit www.walnutgrove.org/museum.htm 

While Pepin, Wis., may be Wilders' birthplace, Burr Oak, Iowa, is proud to call itself the original childhood home of the author. The Ingalls arrived here in 1876 when Laura was 9. The family came to help manage a hotel owned by their friend William Steadman. The town invites visitors to come and see the hotel, the area, and the different attractions at its museum. To learn more, visit www. lauraingallswilder.us.

While the 'Little House' books describe the pioneering days from the 1870s-1890s, they weren't published until 1932. All of the manuscripts for the books were penned on Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Mo., according to the Web site of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum located there. To find out more about the museum and its attractions, visit www.lauraingallswilderhome.com.


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