Thursday, March 31, 2016
This Month, March, I was supposed to read Farmer Boy, which is based on the childhood of Almanzo Wilder in the 1860s. I tried to read it, but could only get to chapter 30 before I stopped. I found it boring. I'm not entirely sure why.
I think the reason I could not finish this book, was because it was NOT SPECIFICALLY about Laura. We have all seen Melissa Gilbert growing up on the TV series as Laura. We all have a vested interest in her. Everyone else on the series was just a bystander with whom she acted and interacted. Almanzo Wilder was such a character. I have no vested interest in him.
But I do want to know the details of Laura's life when she was growing up. Which is why I think I prefer to read those books that are about her.
Monday, February 15, 2016
Little House on the Prairie
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
First published - 1935
Below are my notes of this book - There WILL BE SPOILERS
In 1869, the family packed up and crossed the Mississippi River at Pepin, Wisconsin and headed south to Indian territory. Charles has been told that the land was being opened up to settlers.
Eventually they settled on a piece of land some miles south of the town of Independence in Southern Kansas, and not far from the Verdigris river. Unbeknownst to Charles, it later became known that the family were now illegally living on Indian land.
The nearest neighbours to the Ingalls were Mr Edwards, a bachelor, and Mr and Mrs Scott. There did not seem to be any other children nearby. No other children were mentioned.
This book was pretty much all descriptive. Pretty much everything was described in minute detail. Including the details on how to build a one room log cabin, the roof and a barn.
Pa built the beds. The method of building was described in minute detail. He also built cupboards to lock away the cornmeal. He and a neighbour also dug a well.
Then came a long walk to the nearby Indian camp where Mary and Laura found some pretty coloured beds. When they got home again - May gave her beads to baby Carrie and Laura did the same but very reluctantly. She only agreed because she did not want Mary to seen as being better than her. She even wanted to slap Mary again.
A large cattle herd was being driven across the creek nearby (heading north to Fort Dodge) and Pa went to help out. He gained a milk cow and a calf as thanks for helping.
Laura, Mary, Ma and Pa all came down with a fever. These days we know it was malaria from all the mosquito bites. But back then they were told that the fever came from the watermelons being grown down near the creek. The family almost died (no mention is made of what happened to Carrie at this time) and were only rescued by a passing doctor and the neighbour, Mrs Scott.
One day while Pa was away hunting for food, the wooden chimney caught on fire and they almost lost the roof and the house. It didnt take long for Pa to remake the top part of the chimney.
Pa said that the horses took 2 days to travel 20 miles a day (which equals 40 miles total) to get to Independence. But on the map, the Ingalls cabin was less than 20 miles from Independence. Someones maths is wrong!!!
While Pa was away the wind blew very cold and Ma and the girls had to stay indoors. Apparently Ma still did nothing to educate her girls. No letters, no teaching them to write their names, no simple maths. They were stuck in that house. At the very least Ma could have read to the girls and started teaching them their letters.
Apparently Pa had built their little house on the prairie on a well known Indian trail. Pa said if he had known this was a trail, he would never have settled here.
The Ingalls suffered several visits from silent moody Indians. One day Pa told Laura that the government was moving the Indians to the west because "white people are going to settle all of this country and we get the best land because we get here first and take our pick."
The girls were clearly taught how to count since they were counting down the days until Xmas on their fingers. For Xmas that year, Laura says she and Mary each received a tin cup of their very own, a small cake, one penny and a long stick of peppermint candy. The neighbour Mr Edwards dropped their presents at the little house after supposedly meeting Santa Claus in the town of Independence. Santa could not get to their house, because the creek was running high (in flood) and Santa just knew he would not be able to get across.
On one of Pa's trips to Independence, at the end of Winter, to sell furs and to buy seeds and other things the family needed, he heard that the government was now saying that the whites needed to leave the Indian territory. But Pa didnt think that was right. He firmly believed that he had been told that the land would be open to white settlers and that the Indians would be moved further to the west.
Later that spring there was a large prairie fire. Ma and Pa had to work hard making a fire break in order to save their home, but it worked. Mr Scott and Mr Edwards came over to talk to Pa. They thought that maybe the Indians might have started the fire to drove the whites away.
The Indians began gathering, supposedly to attack the whites. Laura mentions one Indian chief by name. Soldat du Chene. However History says that this Indian named Soldat Du Chene, lived and died long before Laura was born, so we dont know to whom Laura was referring.
You can read more details here.
At some point all the indians rode away. Laura describes a day where a long long line of Indians on their ponies just rode away - across the land that the Ingalls had claimed - riding towards the west. One cute little Indian papoose (baby) with large soulful black eyes made Laura demand that Pa get that baby for her. For shame her mother said, demanding a baby that was not hers. I quite agree. Demanding that Pa steal a baby was just not christian like at all.
Soon after all the Indians left, Pa was told that he was living apparently 3 miles over the line into Indian territory. Pa was angry that the government had told him that it was OK to settle, when really it was not. Pa said that he and his family would leave now. They did not want to be breaking the law. So they packed up and left. The house, the barn and the plow were abandoned. Nothing was said about where they would go next.
The family has spent one year in Kansas trying to make a go of things. It would have been successful if they had not been given incorrect information.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Resources and Online Links for More Information and Details about Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House Books
Lifestyle of LHOTP
The Wilder Women
Living like Little House on the Prairie
Rocky Ridge Farm, Missouri
Timeline and Chronology
Laura's Prairie House
Sunday, January 3, 2016
Did you know that Laura Ingalls Wilder was related to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
On the Wikipedia page for Laura, there is a statement that says that Laura was related to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Now, I am a very keen genealogist. Quite frankly I was sceptical of that Wikipedia statement, so I did some research and typed in all the names for both Laura's ancestors and FDR's ancestors into my genealogy software program.
Sure enough I discovered that yes they are related and that they are both of the same generation.
My software doesn't seem to make real family trees, so you will have to settle for these Lines of Descent!!
But there is also a big age discrepancy between these two.
Laura Ingalls Wilder and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were 5th cousins.
They were both descended from Jonathan Delano, the son of Philippe De Lannoy. Philippe changed his name to Delano when he immigrated to America from Europe in 1621.
Laura was born in 1867 and FDR was born in 1882 - Laura was already 15 years old when FDR was born.
FDR contracted polio in 1921, (at the age of 39) which cost him the use of his legs. This put his future political career in jeopardy. But he worked hard to recover from the illness, and also founded a new treatment centre for people with polio in Warm Springs, Georgia.
Laura died in 1954, aged 90. FDR died in 1945 aged 63.
Laura was 78 years old when FDR died. She out-lived her cousin by 12 years.
FDR was elected President in 1932. He was aged 50 years old. Laura was 65 years old.
I am wondering.
Was Charles Ingalls ever made aware of his Delano heritage? His grandmother (Laura's great grandmother) was Margaret Delano who married Samuel Ingalls in Connecticut in 1793.
Did Laura know that she was related to the Delano family?
While the Wilders were living in Missouri, did Almanzo vote for FDR?
Did Laura know that FDR was a relative?
There are so many questions I want to ask both Laura and Charles, and Rose too. Did she ever know that she had some famous relatives?
Is there any of this mentioned in any of Laura's letters and in the biography Pioneer Girl, which I clearly have not yet read?
One more thing. Jonathan Delano Sr also had a number of other famous descendants who are also distantly related to Laura Ingalls Wilder.
These include President Calvin Coolidge, President Ulysses S. Grant, and the NASA astronaut, Alan B Shepherd.
Jonathan's Delano's wife Mercy Warren was the granddaughter of Richard Warren who arrived in America on the Mayflower in 1620. So now only does Laura have several famous relatives, she can also claim Mayflower Descent too!!!
See Mayflower History for details.
Saturday, January 2, 2016
Title - Little House in the Big Woods
Author - Laura Ingalls Wilder
First Published - 1932
This book basically describes one year (4 seasons) of living in the Big Woods of Wisconsin in the 1870s. It is actually a fictionalised story of Laura's life.
Laura and her family lived in a cabin about 7 miles north of Pepin on Lake Pepin in western Wisconsin. Lake Pepin is actually part of the Mississippi river (and forms part of the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota) but there is NO mention of the Mississippi in this book at all.
The story starts at the beginning of winter and gives lots of details about pioneer life through winter, spring, summer and fall. I especially loved how Laura describes in detail how a lot of the food was prepared and stored.
My first thought on reading this book was that is was clearly written for children. And then I thought, well, of course it WAS written for children and if I did read this back when I was a child, I do not remember it. So I continued reading, It was kind of hard to read a book that has clearly treating me, the reader, as if I were a child. But eventually I got so caught up in all the details that I forgot that I was being treated like a child.
This was Ma's working week.
Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.
The only days that were described in any details in the book were Baking days, and Churning days, because these involved food and were Lauras favourites.
Sundays were also described in detail as well. Laura hated Sundays. The children could not yet read so they could only talk to their dolls (but not play with them) or listen to Ma reading to them from the bible. Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest. Christmas was described in detail as well.
Other activities described in detail, were usually in connection with Pa's work outside.
The details of making bullets, loading the gun, making maple syrup, milking the cow, curing the pork, beef, venison and other meats for storage, collecting honey from an old hollow tree, and also the threshing machine that threshed the wheat after the harvest and before the winter.
It seemed that Pa had the most interesting jobs in Laura's eyes. But they were probably interesting because as a girl, Laura was not permitted to actually do them. She could only stand by and watch.
There was very little of Laura's personality in this book. She slaps her older sister Mary once, and is suitably punished. She is also jealous of Mary's golden blonde hair. Laura has ordinary brown hair. Laura believes herself to be ugly just because she doesn't have blonde hair. The feeling gets worse every time a visitor pays attention to Mary and says nothing to Laura. I got a little tired of Laura's frequent whining about how ugly she felt and how she was always comparing herself to Mary.
All in all this was a pretty sanitised childhood. There was no bear attacks, although there were some close calls mentioned. Noone died from any disease or epidemics.
I have a lot of questions about some of the activities and things described in this book, and I will be researching them for future posts.
I read this book for the LHOTP challenge for 2016 where we shall be reading one book per month. See my Little House Read-Along page at the top of this blog. Other reviews can be read here and here.