Laura Ingalls Wilder: Her Inspiring Life Story

Categories: Life Stories, Inspiration

In this day and age, I don't think there is a soul in the United States that hasn't heard, or read one of Laura Ingalls books. She is the author of Little House in the Woods, and the Little House on the Prairie Series. Where she narrates the life of the Ingalls family through the eyes of a girl.

In the book the parents are referred to as Ma and Pa, along with the sisters Carrie and Mary.

Charles and Caroline Ingalls, the original "Ma" and "Pa" from Little House on the Prairie, on their wedding day on February 1, 1860.  

Charles was born in 1836 and spent the majority of his youth in the tallgrass prairie of Campton Township, just west of Elgin, Illinois.   He met and quickly married a 21-year old Caroline Lake Quiner, who was working as a schoolteacher at the time, and they made a home in Pepin County, Wisconsin. 

They had their first daughter, Mary Amelia, in January, 1865, followed by the birth of Laura in February, 1867.  Despite being a high-spirited, outgoing man, Charles wasn't much for people, and he had an insatiable wanderlust.  In 1869, before Laura was two years old, he packed up the family and moved to Missouri, then to a town near what is now Independence, Kansas, where their third daughter, Carrie, would be born in 1870.  

A Family on the Move

From left to right:  Carrie, Mary, and Laura Ingalls around 1882.  Mary had lost her sight three years earlier.  

The young family would soon realize that the Kansas land wasn't open to settlers, so over the next few years, they spent time in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.  Grace Pearl was born in May, 1877, and the family was struggling to make ends meet.  In 1879, Charles accepted a job as a clerk and bookkeeper with the railroad in Dakota Territory, which sparked the move to the town of De Smet in 1880.  The following winter's terrible storms and conditions would be the basis for the novel, The Long Winter.

Laura Comes of Age in De Smet, Marries Almanzo

Laura in 1884 at age 17

Laura quickly got involved with life in the newly-formed (and growing) town of De Smet.  She attended school, made friends, and obtained her teaching certificate, which enabled her to begin teaching in 1882, a full two months before her 16th birthday!

At the same time, she began courtingAlmanzo Wilder, a young homesteader whom she called "Manly".  Though 10 years her senior,Almanzo fell deeply in love with Laura and would drive her back and forth between DeSmet and the town where se was teaching 12 miles away.  They married in 1885 and settled on theWilder's claim and began their life as farmers.  

Laura and Almanzo in the first year of their marriage (1885 or 1886).

  Page Turn