Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born February 7, 1867 on a spot near where a replica cabin now stands, seven miles from legend haunted Lake Pepin. The lake is surrounded by farm fields and tree covered hillsides that are what remains of what was once the Big Woods.
Despite the picture many of us have of pioneers striking out across the United States like a tidal wave, the truth, as usual is much messier. It was more like the tumulus water at the bottom of a water fall with some families going forward, some backward, some always tossed to a new place further on. The Charles and Caroline Ingalls family moved on from Pepin with stops at Chariton County, Missouri; Independence, Kansas; back in Pepin; Walnut Grove, Minnesota; South Troy, Minnesota; Burr Oak, Iowa; back to Walnut Grove and finally to what is now De Smet, South Dakota, where Charles and Caroline stopped. For another example, Almanzo’s parents, James and Angeline Wilder, moved in a more orderly fashion from Burke (near Malone), New York, to Spring Valley, Minnesota, to Crowley, Louisiana.
Laura did most of her growing up in De Smet. It was there that she became a school teacher, met and married her Manly, Almanzo James Wilder, and became a mother bearing two children and burying one. After their marriage, Dakota seemed determined to throw them off their land. It threw everything it had at them from fire to drought to illness, and finally ill-health drove them off the land. Laura, Manly and Rose tried life with his parents in Spring Valley, Minnesota, and in the Westville, Florida/Geneva, Alabama, area before returning to De Smet to gather strength and cash to start over one last time in Mansfield, Missouri.
Laura was a pioneer girl, as she realized in the First Four Years "it is better farther on" - only instead of farther on in space, it was farther on in time over the horizon of years ahead instead of the far horizon of the west." (pp.133-134)
So she took on the challenge of insuring that promise came true. As the old hymn says, she set out to “Brighten the corner where you are.” She worked at improving life, first for her family, then for her community, and then for her fellow farm wives. Finally, she created her greatest legacy, her collection of books which make the lives of their millions of readers better by reminding them of what came before, by showing a family caring for each other, by urging them to make do with what they have, and by encouraging them to bravely stand up, not to the great injustices of the world, but just getting through life and making the world a better place because you pass through it. The world is certainly much better because Laura passed through it.
I’m not going to give the rest of her story here, but I hope that you will strive to learn more. A good place to start is with the two pathfinders I created about Laura for the State Library of Iowa. Find the links here:
They have what I consider the basic resources and I would urge you to start with those. However, from time to time I find some other sites that I think are of ongoing interest and I will list some of those on the Laura Links page. http://www.trundlebedtales.com/laura-links.html