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, 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.