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Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pioneering Journeys of the Ingalls Family
Walnut Grove, Minnesota

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a creek
A Creek
--Photo courtesy of Joshua James Evans

After selling their farm near Pepin , Wisconsin in 1874, the Ingalls family crossed the Mississippi River and traveled to western Minnesota where Pa and Ma bought 172 acres of land near the town of Walnut Grove. Built into the banks of Plum Creek was a dugout that became their home until Pa built a two-story frame house from lumber that he had bought on credit at the lumberyard.

a dugout house
A dugout house
--Photo courtesy of the Nebraska State Historical Society, 1500 R. Street, P.O. Box 82554, Lincoln, NE 68501-2554 http://nebraskahistory.org

Look closely at the old photograph of a dugout in Nebraska . How many family members posed for this photograph? What might the family have done with the tree branches scattered on the ground? How might they have used the barrels and boxes? The small door on the left may have led to a root cellar where the family stored garden vegetables such as potatoes, turnips and carrots for the winter. The family might also have gone there during a storm. What else can you see in this old photograph?

Plum tree
A plum tree
--Photo courtesy of Joshua James Evans

Mary and Laura picked plums in the plum tree thicket that grew along the creek. Then they laid them on cloths to dry in the sun. When Pa let Mary and Laura wade in the creek, Laura got into trouble when she went into deep water. She almost drowned after a rainstorm when she tried to cross the footbridge when the creek was high. Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura and baby Carrie attended the Congregational Church in town, and Pa gave the money he had saved to buy a badly-needed pair of boots to help purchase a new bell for the church. Mary and Laura attended a one-room school in town.

a wheat field
A wheat field

After the Ingalls family moved into their new frame house, they watched the new wheat growing in the field. Then a plague of grasshoppers invaded western Minnesota , completely destroying their wheat crop. In 1937, Laura remembered the grasshopper invasion in a Book Fair Speech she presented in Detroit , Michigan . "I saw their bodies choke the waters in Plum Creek. I saw them destroy every green thing on the face of the earth." A cloud that glittered covered the noonday sun and soon the grasshoppers hit the ground like hail, devouring the wheat, the garden, the grass and even the leaves from the trees. In order to pay off the family's debts, Pa walked over two hundred miles to the east to find work.

For more information, please contact:

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum
330 Eighth Street
Walnut Grove, MN 56180
507-859-2358 or toll free 800-528-7280
www.walnutgrove.org or e-mail: lauramuseum@walnutgrove.org

 


Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
P.O. Box 488
210 Parkside Drive
West Branch, IA 52358
319-643-5301