All About Laura Ingalls Wilder

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff
Source: The National Archives and Records Administration

book cover for 'Little Town on the Prairie'

Laura Ingalls Wilder has said that she and her sisters were busy and happy as children but loved Pa's stories the best. When Laura was 60 years old, she wrote her first book, Little House In The Big Woods, so those stories would not be lost. She thought about how she had seen the settling of the frontier -- the woods, Indian Territory of the Great Plains, the frontier towns, the coming of the railroad, and homesteading on the prairie. She thought of writing the story of her childhood in eight volumes that would cover each aspect of the American frontier. These became the Little House series.

The Little House Series

  • Little House in the Big Woods. Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura, and Baby Carrie live in a log cabin in the big woods near Pepin, Wisconsin, in the 1870s.
  • Little House on the Prairie. The Ingallses leave their cabin in the big woods and travel by covered wagon to Kansas Territory where they accidentally settle on land belonging to the Osage Indians.
  • Farmer Boy. The story of Almanzo Wilder's boyhood growing up on a farm near Malone, New York.
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek. The Ingallses move to a farm near Walnut Grove, Minnesota, where they live in a dugout until Pa borrows money to build a frame house for the family.
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake. After grasshoppers destroy their wheat crop, the Ingallses sell their farm in Minnesota and move to Dakota Territory where Pa gets a job working for the railroad.
  • The Long Winter. During the hard winter of 1880-1881, the Ingallses move into their store building in De Smet, South Dakota. When the supply trains stop running, the family must survive with little food and no coal.
  • Little Town on the Prairie. In the little town on the Dakota prairie, Laura attends socials and “literaries” and studies to become a teacher so she can earn money to send her sister, Mary, to a college for the blind in Iowa.
  • These Happy Golden Years. Laura teaches at Brewster School, twelve miles from De Smet. Every Friday Almanzo Wilder arrives at the school to take her home.
  • The First Four Years. Almanzo and Laura begin their married life on a homestead near De Smet and their daughter, Rose, is born. Each year brings many hardships but Almanzo and Laura never lose their courage and determination.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Time Line

February 13. Almanzo James Wilder is born to James and Angeline Day Wilder on a farm near Malone, New York.
February 7. Laura Elizabeth Ingalls is born to Charles Philip and Caroline Quiner Ingalls in a log cabin near Pepin, Wisconsin.
The Ingalls family leaves Wisconsin and moves to Kansas.
The Ingalls family returns to Pepin, Wisconsin.
The Ingalls family moves to Walnut Grove, Minnesota.
The Ingalls family leaves Minnesota and moves to Burr Oak, Iowa.
The Ingalls family leaves Iowa and returns to Walnut Grove, Minnesota.
Almanzo Wilder files a homestead claim near DeSmet, Dakota Territory. The Ingalls family leaves Minnesota and moves to DeSmet, Dakota Territory.
August 25. Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder are married. She and Almanzo make their new home on his claim at DeSmet.
December. Rose Wilder is born.
Spring. Almanzo and Laura suffer from diphtheria. Almanzo resumes work too soon and suffers a relapse causing a stroke that leaves him partially paralyzed. Even though he recovers from the paralysis, he has permanently crippled feet.
August. An infant son dies after a few days of life. Laura and Almanzo lose their home to fire. They build a two-room shanty on the claim.
Laura and Almanzo move to Spring Valley, Minnesota and then to Westville, Florida seeking recovery for Almanzo's weakened health.
August. Laura and Almanzo return to a rented house in DeSmet, South Dakota. Laura works at sewing and Almanzo does carpentry.
July 17. Laura and Almanzo leave DeSmet to build a new home in the Missouri Ozarks. Laura keeps a diary of the trip, later published as On the Way Home.
August 31. Laura and Almanzo arrive in Mansfield, Missouri with $100 saved from Laura's sewing money. They make a down payment on a 40-acre place that Laura names “Rocky Ridge Farm.” In later years, Laura will write the Little House books at Rocky Ridge Farm.
Laura serves as a columnist and as the Home Editor for the Missouri Ruralist.
Laura writes “The Farmer's Wife Says” for the June issue of McCall's magazine.
Laura publishes “My Ozark Kitchen” in the January 17 issue of Country Gentleman.
Harpers Brothers of New York publishes Little House in the Big Woods, which is a Junior Literary Guild selection. Harper and its successor firms will publish all subsequent Little House titles.
Farmer Boy is published.
Little House on the Prairie is published.
On the Banks of Plum Creek is published.
On the Banks of Plum Creek is named an ALA Newbery Honor Book.
By the Shores of Silver Lake is published.
The Long Winter is published. By the Shores of Silver Lake is named an ALA Newbery Honor Book.
Little Town on the Prairie is published. The Long Winter is named an ALA Newbery Honor Book.
Little Town on the Prairie is named an ALA Newbery Honor Book.
These Happy Golden Years is published.
These Happy Golden Years is named an ALA Newbery Honor Book.
October 23. Almanzo dies of heart failure at Rocky Ridge Farm.
The Little House books are reissued with new illustrations by Garth Williams.
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award is established; Laura Ingalls Wilder is presented with the first award.
February 10. Laura dies of heart failure at Rocky Ridge Farm three days after her 90th birthday.
The Little House books are issued in paperback.

Books About Laura Ingalls Wilder

  • Anderson, William. Laura Ingalls Wilder, A Biography. HarperCollins, 1992.
  • Anderson, William. Laura Ingalls Wilder Country. HarperCollins, 1990. Illustrations by Leslie A. Kelly
  • Collins, Carolyn Strom. The World of the Little House. HarperCollins, 1996.
  • Lasky, Kathryn. Searching For Laura Ingalls: A Reader's Journey. Macmillan, 1993. In this photo-essay, Kathryn Lasky, her husband and daughter set out to find the settings of all the Little House books.
  • Walker, Barbara M. The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods From Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories. HarperCollins, 1995. Contains passages from the Little House books, frontier recipes, and is illustrated with Garth William's famous drawings.
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