It’s no secret that Laura Ingalls Wilder was an avid reader who owned a sizable collection of books. She housed her titles in a small, but dedicated library in her home on Rocky Ridge Farm. These are a few of my favourites from her shelves:
~ Missouri Ruralist, November 1, 1922
Some time ago I read an Irish fairy story which told how a mortal, on a fairy steed, went hunting with the fairies. He had his choice whether the fairy horse should become large enough to carry a man-sized man or be small enough to ride the horse as it was.
He chose to become of fairy size and, after the magic was worked, rode gayly away with the fairy king, until he came to a wall so high he feared his tiny horse could not carry him over, but the fairy king said to him, “Throw your heart over the wall, then follow it!” So he rode fearlessly at the wall, with his heart already bravely passed it, and went safely over.
I have forgotten most of the story, and do not remember the name of the author, tho I wish I did, but often I think of the fairy’s advice. Anyone, who has ridden horses much, understands how the heart of the rider going over, fairly lifts the horse up and across an obstacle. And I have been told, by good drivers, that it holds true in taking a motor car up a difficult hill.
But the uplift of a fearless heart will help us over other sorts of barriers. In any undertaking, to falter at a crisis means defeat. No one ever overcomes difficulties by going at them in a hesitant, doubtful way.
If we would win success in anything, when we come to a wall that bars our way we must throw our hearts over and then follow confidently. It is fairy advice, you know, and savors of magic, so following it we will ride with the fairies of good fortune and go safely over.
Note: All Wilder’s Missouri Ruralist articles are in the public domain.
The Little House on the Prairie Museum near Independence, Kansas has just launched a beautiful new website. I encourage you to stop by and check it out. Better still, why not plan a visit to the real location that inspired one of Wilder’s most famous novels?
In August 1940, Carrie Ingalls (Swanzey) wrote to her sister, Laura Ingalls Wilder who was continuing her composition of the Little House® series of books. In her letter, Carrie described the memories she had of singing at Sunday School in De Smet and listed the numbers of several hymns that she recalled harmonizing (8, 13, 18, 25, 42 and 74). Carrie also sent Laura a hymn book entitled, Pure Gold for the Sunday School by Rev. Robert Lowry and W. Howard Doane that had been published in 1871 by Biglow & Main. It included the lyrics and music for the hymns she referenced.
Today, I am sharing my PDF version of that book – Pure Gold for the Sunday School (13 MB). You are welcome to download it and discover the hymns that Carrie recalled singing in De Smet.
For more information:
Cockrell, D 2011, The Ingalls Wilder Family Songbook, A-R Editions Inc. for the American Musicological Society, Middleton, Wisconsin.
Swanzey, C 1940, Letter to Laura Ingalls Wilder, August 5, Rose Wilder Lane Papers, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, West Branch, Iowa.
~ Missouri Ruralist, October 20, 1916
King Winter has sent warning of his coming! There was a delightful freshness in the air the other morning, and all over the low places lay the first frost of the season.
What a beautiful world this is! Have you noticed the wonderful coloring of the sky at sunrise? For me there is no time like the early morning, when the spirit of light broods over the earth at its awakening. What glorious colors in the woods these days! Did you ever think that great painters have spent their lives trying to reproduce on canvas what we may see every day? Thousands of dollars are paid for their pictures which are not so beautiful as those nature gives us freely. The colors in the sky at sunset, the delicate tints of the early spring foliage, the brilliant autumn leaves, the softly colored grasses and lovely flowers– what painter ever equalled their beauties with paint and brush? I have in my living room three large windows uncovered by curtains which I call my pictures. Everchanging with the seasons, with wild birds and gay squirrels passing on and off the scene, I never have seen a landscape painting to compare with them.
As we go about our daily tasks the work will seem lighter if we enjoy these beautiful things that are just outside our doors and windows. It pays to go to the top of the hill, now and then, to see the view and to stroll thru the wood lot or pasture forgetting that we are in a hurry or that there is such a thing as a clock in the world. You are “so busy”! Oh yes I know it! We are all busy, but what are we living for anyway and why is the world so beautiful if not for us? The habits we form last us through this life and I firmly believe into the next. Let’s not make such a habit of hurry and work that when we leave this world we will feel impelled to hurry thru the spaces of the universe using our wings for feather dusters to clean away the star dust.
The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies.
I strolled today down a woodland path–
A crow cawed loudly and flew away.
The sky was blue and the clouds were gold
And drifted before me fold on fold;
The leaves were yellow and red and brown
And patter, patter the nuts fell down,
On this beautiful, golden autumn day.
A squirrel was storing his winter hoard,
The world was pleasant: I lingered long,
The brown quails rose with a sudden whirr
And a little bundle, of eyes and fur,
Took shape of a rabbit and leaped away.
A little chipmunk came out to play
And the autumn breeze sang a wonder song.
Note: This article appeared in the Missouri Ruralist on October 20, 1916. All Wilder’s Missouri Ruralist articles are in the public domain.
In her Pioneer Girl manuscript, Wilder wrote about a kindly neighbor, who brought the family Christmas gifts. She called him Mr Brown. In her 1935 novel, Little House on the Prairie, Wilder changed the neighbor’s name to Mr Edwards. Unfortunately, the 1870 census of Rutland Township shows no evidence of a Mr Brown or a Mr Edwards having lived in the area. Despite this, the census does list a 25 year old bachelor who resided in close proximity to the Ingalls family. His name was Mr Edmund Mason. Could he be the neighbor Wilder referred to? It has been the subject of discussion for many years.
Regardless of whether Edmund Mason was Laura’s Mr Edwards, it’s a fun pursuit to uncover some more about the man whose final resting place has been visited by thousands of Wilder fans. In 1903, L. Wallace Duncan published the History of Montgomery County, which included a brief biography of Mr Edmund Mason. Today, we share it with our readers (below):
EDMUND MASON — This gentleman is one of the most extensive farmers in Rutland Township, where he settled in 1869. By careful management and close attention to business, he has since that time accumulated a large farm property, consisting of seven hundred and ninety acres, which he devotes largely to the raising of stock.
Devonshire, England is the place of birth of Edmund Mason, the year being 1846. He was a son of Thomas and Johanna (Mason) Mason — of the same name, but no blood relation. These parents passed their lives in the old country, never having removed to America. A brother of our subject, John Mason, came to this country in 1856. Edmund Mason remained in England until 1867. Four years later, a younger brother, James, came over and died at Edmund’s home on February 15, 1900. These three brothers, with another, Henry, were the only members of the family who left England. The father died there, March 22, 1856, while his widow survived him until the year 1889.
Reared to farm life, Mr. Mason found himself in possession of knowledge, which has stood him in good stead in the country to which he emigrated. He came immediately to Montgomery County and settled on the quarter section where he now resides. It was purchased of the state school fund and was without improvements. He was the first settler in this part of the township and at different periods, as he increased in ﬁnancial ability, he added to his domain, until he is now one of the largest land owners in the county. His success is due wholly to his own efforts and the splendid judgment, which he uses in the marketing of stock and the products of his farm.
Mr. Mason married Miss Etta Howard, of Chautauqua County, Kansas, in 1875 and they have seven children.
Our subject is a gentleman of fine, high, social and business standing and he and his family are respected and favored in the community where they have resided so long. He is a valued member of the Modern Woodmen, of the Ancient Order of United Workmen and that liberal social order, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. His religious faith is of the Established Church of England.
Grab a quiet coffee this week and take a look at the following scholarly articles that provide some food for thought about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s characterizations of Native Americans in her fiction. The selected readings provide valuable insights and perspectives of Wilder’s literary treatment of America’s indigenous peoples, in addition to historical context surrounding the Ingalls family’s attempt to settle on the Osage Diminished Reserve.