The Laura Ingalls Wilder Experience
Study Literature in the United States
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You’ll meet up with your guide and get acquainted in the town of Burr Oak, Iowa. This is the town where Laura moved at the age of nine as her family helped to manage the Masters Hotel. The Masters Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and the only one of Laura’s many homes that
remains in its original location. Most importantly, the tour guide at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum in Burr Oak, Iowa will tell you stories that you didn’t read about in Laura’s books.
Today we’ll head to Pepin, Wisconsin, where Laura was born in 1867. The log cabin in which she was born has been rebuilt and is open for tours, although it sits on a piece of land that was owned by the Ingalls family. The so-called Little House in the Big Woods cabin helps paint a picture of where Laura’s life story began.
Today we’re en route to De Smet, South Dakota, where there are plenty of Laura-related landmarks. The first stop upon arriving in De Smet is Prairie House Manor, a house that readers will remember being mentioned in The Long Winter. Today, the house operates as a bed and breakfast with a lot of history about the Ingalls family.
After a little rest, you get to spend an entire day in De Smet. Among the stops are the home built by Laura’s father, the surveyor’s home mentioned in By the Shores of Silver Lake, and the schoolhouse that Laura and her sister Carried attended. The Discovery Center also features interactive activities to help take you back in time. Located just a few miles from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes in De Smet is the De Smet Cemetery, which is the final resting place of Laura’s parents, sisters, and her infant son.
From De Smet, we’ll make our way to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, another important place in Laura’s story. When Laura was seven, the Ingalls moved just outside of Walnut Grove, their home during On the Banks of Plum Creek. In addition to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove that’s filled with some of the family’s personal possessions, there is a replica schoolhouse, a covered wagon, and even a replica dugout house, all of which are authentic to the time that the Ingalls lived there.
From Walnut Grove, we’re on our way to the next Ingalls-inspired landmark. Along the way, we’ll make a pit stop at the Homestead National Monument of America in Nebraska. The Heritage center there focuses on the Homestead Act of 1862, which helped make the travels of Laura and her family possible. On-site, there is also 100 acres of prairie, not unlike the kind of landscape Laura and her family would have seen on their travels.
From Nebraska, we travel to Independence, Kansas, where the Ingalls family settled when Laura was a toddler. Among the attractions you’ll find in Independence are a log cabin that was built based on Laura’s description of the family’s home during that time and a well that was hand dug by Laura’s father, Charles.
After leaving Independence, it’s just short drive to Mansfield, Missouri, home of the Rocky Ridge farm the Wilder family purchased in 1894. The museum in Mansfield is home to the largest collection of Laura Ingalls Wilder memorabilia. However, the best site of all is the Rocky Ridge
farmhouse that remains preserved. This is where Laura and husband Almanzo Wilder spent much of their life together and where she wrote the famous book series detailing her family’s story on the prairie.
Mansfield is the final stop on tour of Laura’s life. After soaking up everything the town has to offer, there’s nothing left to do but head home and start re-reading all of Laura’s books now that you’ve seen first-hand where they take place.
Seeing the Little House on the Prairie
American author Laura Ingalls Wilder has long been a household name for her Little House on the Prairie book series that eventually inspired a long-running television series. Her stories of life in a pioneer family that moved throughout the American midwest were enjoyed by millions of readers. She became so influential that the places her family lived remain landmarks to this day.
Come along as we explore many of the places Laura Ingalls Wilder mentioned in her books to gain a better appreciation of what life was like for her growing up over 100 years ago.
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