Biography of Edmund Mason. Was he Laura’s Mr Edwards?

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.

Edmund Mason

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, D.L. Wallace 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.

This Weekend at the Wilder Homestead, Malone NY

This weekend, the Wilder Homestead in Malone, NY will come alive with its annual Harvest Festival.  If you will be in the area, rest assured it will be a good family day out.harvestposter2

This Friday is Native American Day

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.


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Compendium of Biography – Frank Schaub

Biography Button - Frank SchaubToday, we continue our biographical series featuring the people Laura Ingalls Wilder knew and wrote about. This article features Frank Schaub. In Wilder’s novel, These Happy Golden Years, Almanzo had Barnum and Skip’s harnesses custom made at Schaub’s Harness.

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Preview of Little House on the Prairie Quilting Fabrics

Some time ago, it was announced that Andover Fabrics would be producing a line of quilting fabrics with designs inspired by the Little House on the Prairie series.  With so many fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder being quilters, this announcement was met with much excitement.  The company has now released a preview of the fabrics that will be available in November 2015.  Just in time for Christmas!

Waters Land and Loan in De Smet – Then and Now

Making good use of my old postcard collection and photos taken during recent Laura Ingalls Wilder road trips.  Today’s image is a montage comparing the old Waters Land and Loan Building in De Smet, South Dakota with a modern day image.  The building is now home to the Heritage House Bed and Breakfast.  The building stands on the corner of Calumet Avenue and 2nd Street.

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Say what? More than $1000 for a sack of flour?

Biography Button Thomas RuthToday, we continue our biographical series featuring the people Laura Ingalls Wilder knew and wrote about. This article features Colonel Thomas Ruth. You may remember him as simply “Banker Ruth” in Wilder’s novel, The Long Winter where he purchased De Smet’s last sack of flour for $50. That’s more than $1000 in today’s money. Modern day visitors to De Smet will discover that Banker Ruth’s former home is still standing and it has been converted into a Bed and Breakfast (below), known as The Prairie House Manor. For more pictures, check out our earlier story about this property.

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Our series is extracted from Memorial and Biographical Record, published in 1898 by G.A. Ogle. The publication contains a “series of biographical sketches of prominent old settlers and representative citizens of South Dakota with a review of their life work”.   Once again, I draw your attention to the advice from our first week’s post.

And with that, I bring you installment number three – Colonel Thomas Ruth. Continue reading