Posts Tagged ‘Rocky Ridge Farm’

Laura Land Tour: Mansfield, MO

February 12, 2016

I will admit that when my sister and I began planning visits to all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites, I was most excited to see the places I’d read about in Laura’s Little House books. That did not include Mansfield.

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After visiting? All I can say is that it is a very special place.

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Wilder fans know from The First Four Years that Laura and Almanzo faced many hardships and tragedies in South Dakota after their marriage. They moved to Florida, but weren’t happy and moved back. After hearing good things about Missouri, Laura, Almanzo, and daughter Rose traveled to Mansfield in 1894. They brought the few possessions saved from the fire that destroyed their tree claim house, and $100 to buy land.

The family settled on a rocky ridge one mile east of Mansfield, and moved into a run-down, windowless log cabin. (They also lived in town for a period.)  Laura and Almanzo worked together for years, as time and money and energy permitted, to create the lovely farm and 12-room house. They lived happily on Rocky Ridge Farm for the rest of their lives.

If you drive from Mansfield, you’ll approach the property just as the Wilders’ friends did.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum

Almanzo built the house with Laura’s wishes in mind. For example, all of the kitchen counters were designed to accommodate her five-foot height. It’s a delight to see examples of his carpentry skills. He also set up a clever pipe system that brought spring water inside, through the wood stove to warm, and into the kitchen sink.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum

When Almanzo built the chimney, he included several stones exhibiting fossils.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum

The house interior looks as if Laura just stepped out for a moment. If you’ve read the 7th Chloe Ellefson mystery, Death on the PrairieChloe’s reaction to seeing the Wilders’ bedroom mirrors what I felt on my first visit. (Sadly, photos are not permitted inside.)

I can show you the small back porch (to the left in the photo below) that was featured in a key scene.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum

Here’s the view when you step into the porch and look to the left.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum

When strolling the grounds, it’s easy to imagine Laura and Almanzo there.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum

They planted the orchard. I was sorely tempted to take a windfall apple home. (I didn’t.)

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum

There is also a museum on the property. Pa’s fiddle, Mary’s nine-patch quilt, and hand-written drafts of Laura’s books are among the many treasures on display. (Sorry—again, no photos permitted.) The Wilder Home Association is currently constructing a new museum a short distance away, which will help restore the period landscape around the farmhouse.

In 1928 Rose gifted her parents with the Rock House, accessible from the farmhouse on a trail through the woods.  Rose wanted to provide Laura and Almanzo with more modern conveniences. Laura began writing the Little House books here.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum

They missed the farmhouse, though, and moved back in 1936.

The area landscape today is much like it was in Laura’s time. It’s easy to see why she loved the region so much.

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Laura, Almanzo, and Rose are buried nearby in the Mansfield Cemetery.

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Laura’s writing career began in Missouri—not as a novelist, but as a regular contributor to the Missouri Ruralist. Her articles paint a pictures of the Wilders’ life in Missouri. You can read a collection in Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist:  Writing From The Ozarks.

To learn more about Laura’s homesites, I highly recommend Laura Ingalls Wilder Country by William Anderson.

To learn more about the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum, visit their website.

For more information about Death on the Prairie, including links to other tour stops, photographs, maps, and much more, please visit my website.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the armchair tour!

Rocky Ridge Farm

March 29, 2012

Books have the power to change lives. One of the first to touch my life was Little House in the Big Woods. That’s why I’ve been visiting historic sites that relate to Laura Ingalls Wilder. (See my posts about Pepin, WI, and Burr Oak, Iowa.)

In 1894 Laura, husband Almanzo, and their young daughter Rose left De Smet, SD, to find a new home. A friend had given Laura an apple grown near Mansfield, MO, which Laura found to be especially sweet. The family traveled by covered wagon to Mansfield and purchased 40 acres (later quadrupled) for a dairy, fruit, and poultry farm.  They named their property Rocky Ridge Farm.

Last September my older sister and I visited Mansfield. I was curious to see the place where Laura had written some of the Little House books, but since this site didn’t appear in the series, I didn’t expect to connect on an emotional level.

I did. It was touching to take the tour, imagining Laura cooking in the kitchen, tending Almanzo though his final illness in the bedroom, writing at her desk. Certainly this came partly because of the affection I feel toward Laura—both the author and the main character.

Almanzo built this home.

He included fossils when he built the chimney.

Almanzo built the home with her comfort in mind—positioning kitchen counters to suit her height, for example. The home looks as if Laura just stepped out.

Photos weren’t permitted inside the home proper. This is a covered porch off the kitchen.

Upon reflection, though, I realized there was more to it. As a child, Laura lived an almost nomadic existence. Readers journey with Laura as her family moves…moves…moves again. The constant upheaval makes for fascinating reading. The Ingalls’ restlessness, and the adversities they encounter, make Laura an easy person to care about. So it was unexpectedly comforting to see tangible proof that after so many childhood challenges, Laura had a beloved and stable home. Laura and Almanzo lived in this simple farmhouse for over sixty years.

In 1928, daughter Rose—a successful writer in her own right—gifted a new house to Laura and Almanzo. She evidently hoped to provide more modern conveniences for her aging parents. Laura and Almanzo lived in their new home while Rose lived at Rocky Ridge Farm. But when Rose moved to New York in 1936, Laura and Almanzo moved back to Rocky Ridge. Almanzo died at home in 1949; Laura, in 1957.

The house Rose provided for her parents was close to Rocky Ridge Farm, but evidently never felt like home.

Laura Ingalls Wilder helped spark my lifelong fascination with history. I’m grateful for that. As a writer myself, I’m in awe of her ability to capture the imagination of so many readers, in so many places, for so many years.