Downtown De Smet circa 1880s

The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" book series have touched millions of lives since they were first published in the 1930's and 40's.  They have captured our hearts, minds, and taken us back to simpler times.  Written from the point of view of an excited young girl who travels across the western frontier in search of new adventures.

A Brief History

In 1879, Laura Ingalls and her family moved from their home in Walnut Grove, Minnesota to Dakota Territory as Laura's father, Charles, was offered a job as timekeeper and paymaster for the Chicago Northwestern Railroad.  The family spent their first winter in the Surveyors' House, as Laura describes in her fifth book, By the Shores of Silver Lake, before "Pa" bought his homestead southeast of De Smet, SD.

The Ingalls family moved to Pa's homestead in the spring of 1880. During this time Laura and her little sister, Carrie, attended school in town but during the long, hard winter the family moved from their claim shanty into town to live above Pa's store.  Later, Laura is offered a teaching position at the Brewster's School southeast of De Smet.  It was during this time that Laura and her future husband, Almanzo Wilder, started courting.

Almanzo Wilder and Laura Ingalls married on August 25, 1885.  After living on Almanzo's homestead for four years and trying to overcome illness, death, fires, etc., the young family decides to move to the Ozarks near Mansfield, Missouri.

After eight years of homesteading and struggling to make a living, Charles decided to sell his land and move the rest of the family into town.  Charles built the "Ingalls Home on Third Street" between 1887-1889. This house became the final home of Charles and Caroline Ingalls.  Laura's parents, sisters, and son are buried in the De Smet, SD, Cemetery.  Laura and her husband, Almanzo, and their daughter, Rose, are buried in the Mansfield Cemetery.

Today, visitors are able to step back in time and tour the Surveyors' House the family lived in during the winter of 1879, the First School of De Smet that Carrie and Laura attended, a replica of the Brewster School Laura taught at, and the "House that Pa Built" for the family between 1887-1889, which became Charles and Caroline's final home.