Tag: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder at Rocky Ridge

 

Back in April, I attended a writing retreat in Branson, MO. It was a wonderful time of rest and fun and great writerly conversations. But thanks to a reader’s recommendation, one of my favorite parts of the trip was a little side journey to Mansfield, MO. When I discovered that the home where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and wrote the Little House books was only an hour away, I knew I couldn’t miss the chance to visit.

I grew up reading the Little House on the Prairie books and watching the television series. It is because of Laura’s books and others like them that I became so enamored with historical fiction. Getting to actually walk through the house that Almanzo built for Laura, to see the room where their daughter Rose slept as a girl, to see the small desk where Laura sat to write her novels . . . it gave me chills.

The tour guide took us through the house in the order that it was built. It started as two rooms and expanded over the years to contain three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, music room, small library, and front parlor. Laura and Almanzo both lived into their 90’s, and the caretakers have kept their house almost exactly as they left it upon their deaths. There were several lamps that Almanzo made by hand along with chairs and other furnishings. They wouldn’t let us take any pictures inside the house, but I bought a few postcards to help me remember.

This the back of the house where the tour began. There is a screened off porch leading to the kitchen, a narrow ladder staircase that led to Rose’s childhood bedroom upstairs, and the dining room just past the kitchen.

Front of the house. This is the section built on in later years . If you walk up the steps, you will enter the front parlor. The library will be in a little walled alcove behind the fireplace on the left and the music room will be down the hall to the right. There is also a doorway to the right before the music room that led to Laura’s writing desk, her and Almanzo’s bedroom, and a staircase to a guest room on the second floor where Rose would often invite her New York friends to stay when they needed a break from city life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rose Wilder Lane was a successful writer well before her mother decided to pen the stories of her life. Rose published several novels and wrote for many popular magazines. She traveled extensively in Europe and made quite a nice living for herself. So in 1928 before the stock market crash that would send the country into an economic crisis, Rose decided to build her parents a new house. She purchased it from the Sears & Roebuck catalog and hired an architect to make a few structural changes. They called it The Rock House because Rose had it fashioned like an English stone cottage. It was less than a mile from their farm at Rocky Ridge. Laura and Almanzo moved to the Rock House and stayed there for eight years. But in 1936 when Rose decided to move back to New York, the Wilders moved back to their beloved farm house. As much as they appreciate their daughter’s gift, the Rock House just wasn’t home.

Back at Rocky Ridge, we had the opportunity to visit a wonderful museum filled with artifacts from Laura’s life including her Pa’s fiddle and original manuscripts. There were notes in the margins where Rose had obviously given her mother editorial advice, and no doubt Rose’s connections with the publishing world in New York opened doors for her mother that Laura would never had been able to open for herself, but seeing those manuscripts in Laura’s own handwriting made it abundantly clear in my mind that those who claim Rose was the true author of the Little House stories are mistaken.

The final place we visited was the small community cemetery where the Wilders are laid to rest. Having seen their lives portrayed on television and in novels made them seem larger than life. Yet seeing their graves made it truly sink in that they were real people, living real lives. What an amazing adventure they shared.

So, if you ever happen to travel through Missouri, do yourself a favor and spend a couple hours in Mansfield with this amazing family.

  • Did you grow up reading the Little House books?
  • Did you watch the TV show?
  • Besides Laura, who was your favorite Little House character?

Heading to Branson

Tomorrow I leave to join a group of writer friends in Branson, MO for a weekend retreat. I can’t wait. It’s going to be fabulous. No only are we renting a house that has antique writing desks in every bedroom (the owner is a writer, herself!) but we will be filling the creative well with brainstorming sessions, quiet writing time, and play time, too.

On Friday night we are going to see the live production of Samson at the Sights and Sounds Theater.

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On Saturday, we are participating in a Meet & Greet at the Taneyhills Library. We will be participating in a Christian Fiction Panel Discussion and interacting with readers – always a joy.

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If you happen to be in the Branson area, we would love to have you come by.

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On Sunday, thanks to a reader’s recommendation, a few of us plan to drive an hour to Mansfield to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder farmhouse and museum. This is the location where she and Almanzo lived out their later years and where Laura wrote all of the Little House on the Prairie books.

I’m so excited by the prospect of seeing Laura’s home and learning more about the woman who wrote the stories that inspired my love of pioneering the west. I grew up reading her books and faithfully watched every episode of the television series. I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to see this!

As it turns out, the city of Branson itself evolved into a tourist haven because of a book. The Shepherd of the Hills was published in 1907. The book was written by Harold Bell Wright, a young minister who had spent extensive time visiting the Ozarks in southern Missouri near the Branson area. This story of mountain folklore and forgiveness became extremely popular. Almost overnight, tourists started flocking to Branson – the now famous Shepherd of the Hills area. The book has been made into a feature film four times – the most famous iteration staring everyone’s favorite cowboy – John Wayne.

  • Have you ever visited a Laura Ingalls Wilder museum? I think there are a couple across the midwest.
  • Have you read or seen Shepherd of the Hills?
  • Have you ever visited Branson, MO?
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