Laura Land Tour: Bonus!

It’s been great fun to showcase the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites featured in Death on the Prairie: A Chloe Ellefson Mystery. There are also a few sites I wasn’t able to include (much as I wanted to).

If you’re driving from Pepin, WI, to Walnut Grove, MN, an easy detour takes you to the Spring Valley Methodist Church Museum.

Methodist Church Museum

In 1873, Almanzo Wilder’s parents moved their family from New York to Spring Valley, MN. Six years later Almanzo moved to South Dakota, where he married Laura. After multiple tragedies, Almanzo’s parents evidently encouraged Almanzo, Laura, and daughter Rose to recuperate in Spring Valley. They arrived in May, 1890, and stayed until October, 1891.

Methodist Church MuseumThe museum includes exhibits about the extended Wilder family, as well as other items of local interest.

If you’re heading west, and have even more time for a detour, consider a stop in Vinton, IA, where Mary Ingalls attended the Iowa College for the Blind.

Mary Ingalls School Site

I understand there are exhibits inside. The old building was closed for repairs when I visited, but I enjoyed imagining Mary on the campus.

Mary Ingalls School Site

And finally, Farmer Boy readers should keep the Wilder Homestead in Malone, NY on their travel wish list.

Version 2

Almanzo’s boyhood home has been beautifully restored.

Wilder Homestead

We owe another debt of thanks to the local residents who formed the Laura and Almanzo Wilder Association, and purchased the land in the 1980s. Archaeological studies determined that the house was original.

Wilder Homestead

During my tour, it was very easy to picture the Wilder family in those rooms. (Alas, no interior photos allowed.) My favorite moment may have been examining the parlor wallpaper for traces of stove blacking.

The original outbuildings were gone, so the Wilder Association has replicated those structures. They relied on sketches Almanzo made for Laura when she wrote Farmer Boy.

Wilder Homestead

Since so many scenes from Farmer Boy take place in the barns, that part of the tour was equally poignant.

Wilder Homestead

The site is also special because the local landscape remains rural.

Wilder Homestead

Wilder HomesteadI expect the Wilders saw deer in the orchard too.

* * *

AMeet Caroline: An American Girln aside:  Malone, NY, is not close to any other Laura sites. However, it is an easy drive from Sackets Harbor, NY, setting for my Caroline Abbott books from American Girl.

And, I’ve yet to visit the Keystone Area Historical Society in South Dakota.  Carrie Ingalls lived here for 35 years, and the museum’s collection includes family memorabilia. I think another road trip is in order…

Tags: , , , ,

6 Responses to “Laura Land Tour: Bonus!”

  1. Ruth Nelson-Lau Says:

    We have been to Spring Valley, MN. Thank you for the other information, it just made the whole story more complete

  2. Melanie Says:

    You can tour the Iowa Braille & Sight-Saving School, and even see Mary’s former room. It is best to call ahead, and they have some relics of Mary’s time there, including grade books and her admission/attendance records. In Spring Valley, the museum Director Julie and hwr staff have some great insight to the Wilder family, and they will direct you to the downtown (where youncan see the building where Almanzo’s brother Royal once owned a store) and also the cemetery where Royal, his children, and a few other Wilder relatives are buried.

    In Malone, the barns were created using an archaeological dig which confirmed the veracity of Almanzo’s plat of the barnyard. He was accurate within mere inches of the correct dimensions of the buildings, including the sizes of various stalls! Incredible to think he could do that some 50 or 60 years after the last time he saw them, which was between 1870-1875, when he was still a teenager!

    Down the road from Alamanzo’s birthplace, you can visit the church the family attended, the site of the former Franklin Academy where his siblings were educated, the cemetery where his grandparents are buried, and also attend the Franklin County Fair (described in FARMER BOY amd still going strong!). I also got a chance to visit the former schoolhouse which is purported to be the one Almanzo attended, though it isnin ruins and was about to be demolished when I was last there in the fall.

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      Thanks so much for sharing, Melanie! I look forward to future visits.

      • Melanie Says:

        You’re welcome! If you get to Keystone, you’ll find it is a bustling tourist destination and smack in the middle of hundreds of interesting things to do and see and explore. The wildlife and landscape of the area is fascinating, and there are more activities than you can get to in a year’s time! The Black Hills are at the top of my list of favorite destinations, and the Badlands, too, are well worth the trek. I was lucky enough to visit Carrie’s former homestead (preemption claim, really) north of Philip, SD in 2014 and I was a wee bit jealous of her gumption in taking that leap into land ownership over a century ago. She was one often overlooked but formidable character, and I admire her greatly.

  3. Melanie Says:

    Apologies for the typos in my previous comment. Typing with my phone and it is almost impossible to scroll to make corrections.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: