Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Missouri Home of Rocky Ridge Farm

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The American author, Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957), introduced readers to 19th-century pioneer life through a child’s point of view in her Little House books. This popular series of eight books was written at her home in Mansfield, MO, after her autobiography, Pioneer Girl, was rejected by publishers. Her life story was finally published by the South Dakota Historical Society 84 years after it was written and became available for purchase Nov. 17, 2014. The Laura Ingalls Wilder historic Missouri home at Rocky Ridge Farm has been carefully preserved as a museum and lasting tribute to the author of Little House on the Prairie.

The Ingalls family moved several times throughout the author’s childhood: Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota, where she met her husband, Almanzo Wilder. They were married in 1885, and their daughter, Rose, was born the following year. For the next four years, they faced a series of physical and financial setbacks at their farm outside De Smet, SD. Almanzo became severely ill with diphtheria and was temporarily partially paralyzed as a result. Their second child, a son, died shortly after he was born. This was followed by the loss of their home and barn due to fire, and a drought that made it impossible to earn a living farming.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)

The Wilders stayed at Almanzo’s parents’ farm in Minnesota before moving to Florida for his health. They returned to De Smet in 1892 but rented a house in town instead of attempting to rebuild their farm. Laura worked as a seamstress while her husband worked as a carpenter and took day labor jobs. The family moved to Mansfield, in the Missouri Ozarks, in the summer of 1894 after seeing brochures about “The Land of the Big Red Apple.” Laura kept a detailed journal of her observations as they traveled by covered wagon.

The name “Rocky Ridge” fit the rugged Ozark landscape. The original size of this farm was 40 acres and purchased for $100. Laura and Almanzo spent 20 years transforming it into a 200-acre farm with an apple orchard and plenty of room for livestock. Their farmhouse was built in 1895 but they kept adding on to it until 1913. All of these experiences would become part of the writing career documented at the Laura Ingalls Wilder historic Missouri home of Rocky Ridge Farm.

Her professional writing career started in 1911 when she became a columnist and editor for the Missouri Ruralist. She completed writing her autobiography in 1930 but publishers rejected it. She pulled various stories from it, rewrote them through a child’s point of view and these became the eight Little House books. Each book is about a particular time during her life. The first one, Little House in the Big Woods, was published in 1932 when the author was 65 years old. All of the books in the series were published by Harper and Brothers which is now HarperCollins. She wrote all the stories out in longhand and visitors can see her writing desk when they visit Rocky Ridge Farm.

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Rock House at Rocky Ridge Farm

There are two houses on Rocky Ridge Farm. One of them is the farmhouse; the other is a rock house that their daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, built for her parents as a Christmas present in 1928. Rose, a successful writer, had returned to Mansfield for awhile and lived in the farmhouse. Laura and Almanzo moved to the rock house. It was in this house that the first four books of the Little House series were written. After Rose left, they moved back into the farmhouse where they lived the rest of their lives. Laura died at the farmhouse in her sleep, Feb. 10, 1957, at the age of 90. Almanzo died in 1949 at the age of 92. They and their daughter, Rose, are buried at the Mansfield cemetery.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder historic Missouri home tells the story of a famous author and her family at Rocky Ridge Farm, but also of people who lived during pioneer times. It is included in the National Register of Historic Places and is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. It is open Mar. 1 through Nov. 15 and has special events during the year. From her Pa’s fiddle to handwritten original manuscripts, visitors get to know the real Laura and Almanzo Wilder. For more information about the museum or her autobiography, the websites are listed below.

By Cynthia Collins

Sources:

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum – Rocky Ridge Farm

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum – Laura’s Life

South Dakota Historical Society – Press Release

Laura Ingalls Wilder – Biography

Photo credit of Wilder farmhouse: MRHSfan – Flickr license

Photo credit of Rock House: MRHSfan – Flickr license

Photo of Laura Ingalls Wilder: Courtesy of Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum

One Response to "Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Missouri Home of Rocky Ridge Farm"

  1. Jennifer Pfalz   November 26, 2014 at 9:32 am

    I loved the Little House books as a girl. I am putting the museum on my bucket list.

    Reply

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