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|Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home in Mansfield, Missouri|
Like countless other parents who grew up reading and watching the Little House on the Prairie stories, I’ve treasured my little set of books by author Laura Ingalls Wilder and looked forward to sharing them with my girls. The Little House way of rural life, full of hard work and appreciation for simple things, has inspired many of us today to refocus our families on what matters most to us. Laura’s stories took us from a log house in the woods to windblown prairie life and beyond, always focused on faith and family.
I was recently able to share another bit of Little House lore with the girls when we visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. This site is where a grown-up Laura and her husband, Almanzo Wilder, settled in 1894 to farm and raise their daughter, Rose, who also became a writer. Laura didn’t publish her famous Little House books until 1932.
As fans of Wilder writings might expect, this little house on Rocky Ridge Farm is modest yet filled with exquisite details. The couple built the house themselves. Almanzo had used his carpentry skills to create built-in shelves, benches and other storage space. A tour shows visitors the picture windows where Laura could gaze outside while writing her famous manuscripts and the dining room table where she would have opened her fan mail.
The dining room shelf holds the antique, wind-up clock that Almanzo got the family for Christmas by trading a load of hay, as described in book The First Four Years. The adjacent museum houses Pa’s famous fiddle that Laura treasured because of her father’s way of entertaining his pioneer family with a tune on a cold winter’s night. You can also see original manuscripts, illustrator’s sketches, antique dinnerware and needlework done in Laura’s hand.
Kathleen Forte greeted us at the entrance, explaining that we’re some of the 30- to 40-thousand people who visit the Wilder home each year. Forte enjoys meeting as many of them as possible. “I like just being able to visit with all the folks who come here to visit…telling Laura’s stories.” The nonprofit group that runs the place is working on a museum expansion. We appreciated the complementary admission. However, we were not able to photograph indoors since our schedule would not allow a visit before or after regular admission hours.
An heirloom garden enhances the outdoor experience in recent years, provided as a community service by neighboring Baker Creek Heirloom Seed. You can find free coloring pages and other resources, plus plan your visit at www.LauraIngallsWilderHome.com. Travel hint: this is within an hour’s drive of the Branson area.