On the Road With Laura Ingalls Wilder--Part III

Monday, May 31, 2010

Since Mama and I didn't want to backtrack, we vistited the Indian Territory site (Little House on the Prairie) outside Independence, Kansas near the end of our trip rather than near the beginning. In the books, Laura moved from the big woods in Wisconsin to Indian Territory and then to Plum Creek in Minnesota. In real life, the Ingalls family moved back to Wisconsin and stayed there for several years before moving to Plum Creek.

The place designated as the Kansas site for Laura's cabin contains a replica of the cabin; an old post office and an old one-room schoolhouse that are both original but were moved to this site and have nothing to do with Laura; and a hand-dug well. Mama saw most of it but decided not to walk the few extra steps to see the well.

At the cabin, a string fed through a hole in the door to open the inside latch. In Little House on the Prairie, Laura describes her father fixing up the string so he could pull it through the hole at night to "lock" the door from the inside.

I'm not sure if this is the real site, or if somebody just decided to call it that. Laura describes their homestead as being 40 miles from Independence and this place is only 13 miles away. But Laura did change the facts for drama sometimes, or her young memory may have gotten it wrong.

Our last Laura Ingalls Wilder stop was also her last. Laura and Almanzo moved to Mansfield, Missouri, while their daughter, Rose, was still young (On the Way Home), and they spent the rest of their lives there. Rose moved to California and eventually to Connecticut, but she is buried next to her parents in the Mansfield cemetery. That's the first place we went when we arrived. Unfortunately, the engraving on Laura and Almanzo's grave is almost the same color as the tombstone, so the writing doesn't show up very well in a photo.

From there, we went to Rocky Ridge Farm to see the house and museum. The museum contains lots of original Ingalls and Wilder items, including Pa's fiddle.

Our admission fee included guided tours of two houses. The farm house is still furnished with Laura's furniture and is pretty much as she left it when she died. The picture at the beginning of this post shows the house from the side. Almanzo built the part on the left first, and he added the part on the right later.

Rose had her own fame as an author (before her mother even wrote the Little House books) and as a newspaper correspondent, and she must have done okay financially. She wanted to give her parents a more modern house, so they let her build them a stone house (called "the rock house"). Laura wrote her first four books while living in the rock house.

After settling her parents in the rock house, Rose moved into the farm house. Eight years later, she decided she'd had enough of small town life and left. As soon as she vacated the premises, Laura and Almanzo moved back to the farm house, where they felt more at home. Laura wrote her other books there.

When we first arrived at Rocky Ridge Farm, I noticed that the parking lot was on the other side of the road and was worried that Mama wouldn't be able to walk that far. Then I saw a sign indicating that there was handicapped parking at the museum/farm house, so we went ahead and turned in there. We also drove past the regular parking at the rock house and parked much closer. The walk wouldn't have bothered most people, but we were glad for the handicapped parking (and yes, we did have a permit).

It was a good trip, and I recommend it for any Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. (And if you aren't one yet, get the books and read them.) But I'm grateful I could travel by car instead of covered wagon.


Caroline said...

Another great post. These books are good reading & loved your personal touch & opinions.

Wouldn't it be nice to experience the wagons though? :)

Project Journal said...

Wow! I so WISH that I could do this! LOL! I would love it, I know. I was always such a fan of her books when I was younger. I read all of Laura's, all of Rose's, and some of her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother's books. They were all so good. Also great books for young kids to be reading.

Thanks so much for doing this!!

Kathryn Page Camp said...

Caroline, it might be interesting to experience the wagons for a day or two, but it would probably get old fast. We used to go camping when my kids were young, but now I want my material comforts.

Hannah, you might make the trip some day. It would make a great family vacation when your own children are reading the books.

Project Journal said...

That would be great! Thanks for the idea *wink*

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