Laura Ingalls Wilder Home & Museum
Little House on the Prairie resources :
We live and homeschool near Branson, Missouri. One of our favorite family sayings is, “We're not on vacation; we LIVE here!” It's a lot of fun to live in a tourist location, because there is always something to do. Many of the attractions are just entertainment, but some are educational, too. One of our favorite field trips was to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum in Mansfield, MO, which is just 45 minutes or so from Branson.
Most people are familiar with the “Little House” books in which Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her childhood during pioneer days. Her family migrated west from the big woods of Wisconsin to the plains of South Dakota, stopping for awhile in Minnesota along the way. The books are fascinating accounts of what it took to survive in those days, from rendering a hog, to dealing with locusts or severe weather – and everything in between.
What many people might not know is that after her marriage and the birth of her daughter, Rose, Laura and her husband Almanzo moved away from her family to the Ozark Mountains in Missouri. There they again lived off the land, this time growing an apple orchard. It was here that Laura wrote all of her books. (Their trip from South Dakota to Missouri is chronicled in the book On the Way Home, which is Laura's diary of their travels, published after her death.)
We went to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum on a sunny spring day. The drive there was lovely; the redbuds were in full force and the dogwoods were just starting to bloom. The Ozarks section of Missouri has rolling hills which have a rugged, unkempt beauty that is breathtaking.
There are actually two houses at Rocky Ridge Farm, which is the name that Laura and Almanzo called their land. The white one, which you tour first, is the one Almanzo built. It is very interesting to go through it, because everything is set up for early-mid 20th century living. The kitchen is a fascinating testimony to how things were done during that time period.
Also intriguing about this house are its interior dimensions. Both Laura and Almanzo were very short by today's standards -- Laura was 4'11' and Almanzo was 5'4” – and their house was built with this in mind. The ceilings and kitchen counters are very low, rooms are small, and even the beds are short!
The second house is the house that Rose had built for her parents after she had achieved some success for herself. It is called the Rock House, and it is a “short” walk away from the farmhouse. In the early spring when we were there, it was a beautiful walk and a great way for the littler ones to blow off some energy. This house was built with more modern conveniences, and it was here that Laura first began writing down her memoirs. She was 65 years old.
Later, Laura and Almanzo moved back into their farmhouse, because they missed it. I can understand why. There is something about the place you make for yourself, whether literal or figurative, that holds your heart.
A few days before we went to the Wilder farm, we had received in the mail a small cardstock person named Flat Ainsley. Flat Ainsley was made to be a look-alike to a real Ainsley, an elementary girl from upstate New York. We took Flat Ainsley with us when we went to the farm; you can see her in some of the pictures. While she was there she met a friend – apparently George Washington was on a similar journey!
Seeing where Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her books really made them come alive for us. You can even see the very desk she wrote them on, and an example of her handwriting on one of the paper pads she used – and Pa's fiddle is on display, as well. I'm thinking it's time for another trip up there, for I have another girl who has now finished reading the Little House books. I'm sure she would like to step into the past, just as we did on that beautiful spring day!