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Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pioneering Journeys of the Ingalls Family
Montgomery County, Kansas

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Two boys following a covered wagon
Two boys following a covered wagon
--Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Iowa, 402 Iowa Avenue , Iowa City , IA 52240 http://www.iowahistory.org

By the 1870s 350,000 pioneers had crossed the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains to find new homes in Oregon and California . These early pioneers did not think of settling on the dry, treeless plains that they referred to as the Great American Desert .

During the 1850s the United States made treaty after treaty with the Native Americans, forcing them to move farther and farther west. With the passage of the Homestead Act in 1862, the Great Plains were open for settlement. The act allowed any citizen of twenty-one years or older to claim 160 acres of public land. The land was free except for a small filing fee. The homesteaders agreed to build a house, live on the land six months each year, and plow at least twenty acres to grow crops. When the Civil War ended in 1865, settlers flocked to the prairie lands to stake their claims.

Prairie flowers Prairie grasses and flowers
Prairie flowers and grasses
--Photos courtesy of Joshua James Evans

Although life was comfortable for Charles and Caroline Ingalls and their daughters, Mary and Laura, on their farm in the big woods of Wisconsin , Pa yearned to go West. He had heard that the plains of Kansas were open to settlers, and he wanted to go where there were not so many people, where the land was level and there were no trees. The Ingalls family left Wisconsin in 1868 and traveled by covered wagon across the Mississippi River south through Iowa and Missouri into Kansas Territory where Pa built a little house on the prairie and started farming southwest of Independence in Kansas Territory . In August 1870, a little sister, Carrie Celestia, was born.

Immigrants in covered wagons
--Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Iowa, 402 Iowa Avenue , Iowa City , IA 52240 http://www.iowahistory.org

Many pioneer families used oxen to pull their wagons. The Ingalls family used horses. They crossed the frozen Mississippi River in their wagon but Pa drove the wagon onto a raft to cross the Missouri River . Jack, their brindle bulldog, trotted under the wagon all the way to the Kansas Territory . Once Jack almost drowned when he tried to swim across a flooded creek. Although he was washed downstream, Jack crossed the creek and found his way to the Ingallses' camp.

The family did not realize that they were settling on land belonging to the Osage Indians. In 1870 the United States Congress voted to give the Osage $1.25 an acre for their land in Kansas. The Osage accepted the offer, and Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura and baby Carrie watched the long procession of Osage leaving their home to move to a reservation in Oklahoma . After a year in Kansas, the Ingalls family received word that the farmer who purchased their land in Wisconsin was unable to make any more payments, and, in 1871, the Ingalls family once again packed their wagon and began the long journey back to Wisconsin.

Address: Little House On the Prairie Inc., Box 110, Independence, Kansas 67301
Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope when corresponding.

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