A Brief History of the Ingalls Homestead
Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family moved to the De Smet area in 1879 at the beginning of the book By the Shores of Silver Lake. Charles worked for the railroad and the family lived in the Surveyors House through that winter before moving out to the quarter-section of land Pa chose as his homestead in the spring of 1880. Like many other settlers arriving in the 1880s, free land lured the Ingalls family to Dakota Territory.
School, church, and a part-time job were important to Charles Ingalls and his family. Ingalls Homestead met their wishes for it is only a mile from De Smet. This land was perfect in many ways. It had good water and he could easily dig a well. He filed on this homestead at the land office in Brookings in February of 1880. He built a small shanty on the homestead and the family moved to the land that spring. The family lived and worked on the homestead except for the winter months of 1880-1881 and 1880-1882 when they moved into town in the room above Pa's store.
Almanzo Wilder and Laura Ingalls married on August 25, 1885. Laura had lived on the homestead for over four years. The rest of the family lived on the homestead for another three years, until they moved into the house that Pa built in town. In 1886 Charles filed final papers and put the declaration in the De Smet News. This 157.25 acre homestead cost Charles and Caroline $16.00 in filing fees.
How can I learn more about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Ingalls Homestead?
There are many wonderful resources to learn about Laura and her family.
The US National Archives has Charles Ingalls's Homestead Papers digitized and available for online viewing. Page 10 is especially interesting because it details the improvements Charles made to the homestead land, which was a requirement of homesteading.
Many of Laura's papers are held at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa. They have created the Laura Ingalls Wilder Index, which has resources and activities for children and adults.
Beyond Little House is the home of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Research and Legacy Association. In July 2015, they are offering a 2-day conference in Brookings, SD. This group also holds read-alongs throughout the year and is a great resource for Laura news.
And of course, there are books- many, many books about Laura. While the Little House books are partially autobiographical, they are considered historical novels because she changed details of her life to craft the books into the lovely stories they are. There are wonderful books for both children and adults that explore the history of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family. Some of our favorites are listed below. We carry all of them in our gift shop, but you can find most of them through your local library or from other book sellers.
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography, by William Anderson
DK Biography: Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Tanya Lee Stone
Pioneer Girl: The Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by William Anderson
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life, by Pamela Smith Hill
Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder, by John E. Miller
The Little House Cookbook, by Barbara M. Walker
Other Works by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill
A Little House Traveler: Writing from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Journeys Across America, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder: Farm Journalists, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Stephen W. Hines