Laura Ingalls Wilder: Her Inspiring Life Story

Categories: Life Stories, Inspiration

The Troubled Years Before Settling in Missouri

The newlyweds had a rough few years following their wedding.  Despite the happy occurrence of the birth of their daughter Rose in 1886, they were otherwise plagued by bad weather, drought, and illness that pushed them to the brink of poverty.  Almanzo, who was a vigorous worker, became partially paralyzed following complications from diphtheria -- this rendered him unable to perform the labor associated with wheat farming.    

Everything got worse in August, 1889 when they had a son who died two weeks after birth.  In the same month, the family lost their house to a fire and all of their crops to drought.  They were penniless, fed up, and unsure about their future prospects, so they moved to the Wilder family farm in Spring Valley, Minnesota in 1890.

The Ingalls family in 1891.  From left to right:  Caroline ("Ma"), Carrie, Laura, Charles ("Pa"), Grace, and Mary.  

The family took 1890 and 1891 to rest and recover, and the photos above and below from a studio session in 1891 shows that Laura was of good health and vitality at the end of her rest.

Laura Ingalls Wilder in 1891

Settling Down and Starting a Life on Rocky Ridge Farm

After a somewhat disastrous move east to Florida, the family returned West to De Smet and quickly made way to Mansfield, Missouri by covered wagon.  Almanzo put a $100 down payment to buy 40 acres of hilly, rocky land that Laura would name "Rocky Ridge Farm".  This farm would eventually be expanded and serve as the couple's home for the rest of their lives.

A young Laura Ingalls Wilder on the porch of her rented home in Mansfield, Missouri around 1898.  (Hoover Archives)

Laura and Almanzo quickly planted 400 apple trees on the farm, but they took seven years to bear fruit.  The family sustained itself by hauling wagon loads and selling firewood in Mansfield.  Almanzo's parents also chipped in by renting a home in Mansfield and then buying and giving their son the deed.  They would live in this small house until 1910, when they moved to Rocky Ridge and built their farmhouse.

Laura Ingalls Wilder in the ravine at Rocky Ridge Farm in 1900 at the age of 33. (Hoover Archives)

The family worked the land and turned Rocky Ridge in to a prosperous enterprise.  In addition to wheat and apples, theWilder's added poultry and dairy.  Laura became a bit of an expert on farming and was invited to speak to groups all around the state.    

Laura Ingalls Wilder in 1906, posing for a photo during a visit to Kansas City

Laura's first daughter Rose was thriving in Kansas City, and we are lucky to have this picture from her 1906 visit to see her.  It is such a stark contrast to the photos from Laura's youth.

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