Monday, February 15, 2016

Little House on the Prairie

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. 


  1. Hi, Francesca,
    I know that Laura does not mention any education in this book, but I have a feeling that there was plenty of learning going on. In later books, Laura talks about reading from the Bible and other books - as families usually read aloud together. And since Ma was a school teacher before she was married she did teach her girls to write and read and do math until they went to school. Anyway, they were getting a huge education every day with all the work that they had to do.

  2. Ruth,
    I do understand that Laura was being taught how to wash clothes, clean the house, cook food, and generally run a household, as part of her childhood, because that is how most children today learn as well. While Laura may have assumed that everyone was taught to read and write by their parents, and that this was common knowledge back then, this is now the 21st century and I cannot make that assumption now unless I am specifically told that this was so. So far the only thing I know for sure is that Ma did read to the girls from the Bible (on Sundays as mentioned in the Big Woods), and that the girls do know how to count. And to me Literacy and being able to read, or not being able to read, is a big deal for me, no matter what century it was!!!

  3. You are right! There were no other children even mentioned, were there! Perhaps I didn't notice that since I grew up as an only child living in the country! Yep, poor Laura! She did want to slap Mary again! Though at least she was able to restrain herself this time... I bet Laura didn't remember exactly how far it was to Independence, or perhaps she simply misremembered the mileage, but that is funny that it was somehow doubled! I was fascinated by Laura's fascination with the Indian baby. How funny that she would ask Pa to get this baby for her. Kids are so impractical at times! Poor Pa! Yet another homestead to create from scratch! Yikes! But I admit I was glad they were made to abandon the Native Americans' land. You know, regarding education, my grandmother was born in 1896 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and she was extremely proud of the fact that she was allowed to continue through the 6th grade in school! Most girls who were allowed to start school were forced to quit by age 9 or 10 (about the 4th grade) to help at home full-time. So education, especially for females, was not particularly valued yet. I remember being appalled by that! Good grief! They were all too busy surviving: hunting, cooking, and preserving food, and building log homes, furniture, etc! :) So glad you joined us and loved your review! You mentioned things I had already forgotten or hadn't really noticed.

    1. Dear Lynn,
      Why do I remember things you have forgotten? Easy. It's because I make notes at the end of each chapter!!!! LOL