Mansfield, MO

Author Laura Ingalls Wilder's house in Mansfield, Missouri is a museum of history

CJ Coombs

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Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, MissouriTimothy MN, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri belonged to Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder and her husband, Almanzo Wilder. Laura, an American writer, is widely known for her series of children's books, Little House on the Prairie. These books based on her childhood were published between 1932 and 1943.

Laura's historic home and museum are located at 3060 Highway A, Mansfield, Missouri 65704. You might want to pay a visit during the Wilder Days celebrated on September 23 and 24 celebrating her life.

Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of the most influential children’s authors in American history. Her vibrant retelling of episodes from her childhood in the world-famous Little House historical fiction series helped shape the popular idea of the American frontier. (Source.)

In the 1970s and 1980s, actors Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert starred in a television series that was somewhat based on the book series. Landon played Charles Ingalls and Gilbert played Laura.

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Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder (b. Feb. 7, 1867, d. Feb. 10, 1957).Unknown photographer, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong. – Laura Ingalls Wilder (Source.)

Moving to Mansfield, MO

When Laura and her husband, Almanzo Wilder left South Dakota to move to Mansfield, Missouri in 1894, their savings went to a down payment on some undeveloped property outside of Mansfield.

In 1894, in response to advertisements proclaiming that Missouri was “The Land of the Big Red Apples,” Almanzo and Laura moved to Rocky Ridge Farm, just outside of the small town of Mansfield, Missouri. They experienced more success there than in South Dakota, and lived in Missouri for the rest of their lives. (Source.)

They called their new home Rocky Ridge Farm. Almanzo's parents gave them the deed to a house they had been renting in town which would help them financially and enable them to acquire more land attached to their farm.

After they sold their house in 1910, they spent two decades building up their farm with a large farmhouse, poultry, dairy, and a large apple orchard.

Laura's writing career

In 1911, after Laura submitted an article to the Missouri Ruralist, she earned a position as a columnist entitled As A Farm Woman Thinks. She was also an editor for this publication. She continued her role with the publication until the mid-1920s. She had also served as poultry editor for the St. Louis Star. All this experience honed her writing skills.

The Wilder's grown daughter, Rose, was a professional writer under the name Rose Wilder Lane (Rose was divorced). Rose also was an editor of her mother's work. She helped her with getting two of Laura's articles published in two national magazines, McCall’s and Country Gentleman. Wilder Lane, helped her get two articles published in Country Gentleman magazine. Rose began to encourage her mother to work on her writing skills and reach for more success with her writing.

In 1928, Rose had a stone cottage built for her parents next to the farmhouse. After Rose left the farm, Laura and Almanzo moved back into the farmhouse they built. Royalties started coming in from her Little House series.

"Little House in the Big Woods is about her family’s life in Wisconsin. Little House on the Prairie describes their time in Kansas, while On the Banks of Plum Creek is based on their stay in Minnesota. By the Shores of Silver LakeThe Long WinterLittle Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years are all focused on Laura’s remaining childhood years in South Dakota." (Source.)

In 1932, when Laura published her first book, Little House in the Big Woods, she was 65 years old.

Later life in Mansfield

From 1935, Laura and Almanzo remained on the farm. They sold a lot of the property and the stone cottage. Fans would drive out to meet Laura.

In 1949, Laura's husband passed away at age 92. For the next eight years, Laura lived alone corresponding with her fans and friends.

In 1956, after becoming ill from heart issues and diabetes, Rose had her hospitalized. Laura returned home the day after Christmas. Her health continued to decline. At the age of 90, she passed away in her sleep on February 10, 1957. She was buried beside Almanzo at Mansfield Cemetery in Mansfield, Missouri. Her daughter, Rose, who passed away in 1968, is buried next to them.

Mansfield property

After Laura died, the Rocky Ridge Farm went to the farmer who had earlier bought the property under a life lease arrangement. A non-profit corporation formed by the local population purchased the house and its grounds for use as a museum.

Rose donated the money needed to purchase the house and make it a museum believing this would promote long-lasting effects of her mother's books. She also agreed to make significant contributions each year to its upkeep and donated many of her parents' belongings In compliance with Laura's will.

Rose inherited ownership of the Little House literary estate but it came with a stipulation that it would only last for her lifetime. The rights would revert to the Mansfield library upon her death. After Rose passed away in 1968, she selected Roger MacBride as heir to gain control of the books' copyrights. The copyrights to each of the Little House books, as well as Rose's own literary works, were renewed in MacBride's name after the original copyright had expired.

After MacBride passed away in 1995, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Branch of the Wright County Library in Mansfield, which was founded in part by Laura, tried to recover the rights to the series. This involved a court case eventually settling in an undisclosed manner with the heirs of MacBride retaining the rights to Laura's books. From the settlement, the library benefited enough to start work on a new building.

The popularity of the Little House books has grown over the years into a multimillion-dollar franchise of mass merchandising which included a spinoff book series (some written by MacBride and his daughter, Abigail), and of course, the long-running television series.

Today as of March 1, 2022, the historic Laura Ingalls Wilder home has the following tour dates and times:

  • March 1st – November 15th
  • Monday-Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Adult Ticket – $18.00   Children 6 to 17 – $8.00   Children 5 & Under – Free

Additional tidbits

  • 1954--The American Library Association created the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for lasting achievements in children’s literature and gave the first award to Laura the next year.
  • 1993--Little House on the Prairie was honored on a U.S. Postal Service stamp as among the top four classics of American children’s literature.
  • 2014--The South Dakota Historical Society Press issued Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, comprising Laura's initial (1929–30) attempt to record her life.
  • Nearly all of the places where Laura Ingalls Wilder once lived are National Historic Landmarks which have become tourist destinations.

Thank you for reading.

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30 years of legal secretarial experience, and a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. Thinker, giver, and lover of life. Born into Air Force service life, my life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, truth, non-fiction, reading, history, and travel.

Kansas City, MO
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