Laura Ingalls Wilder opened up her personal life to the world when she wrote the autobiographical book series, the Little House on the Prairie. The stories about the Ingalls family have since been turned into an iconic TV series starring Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon, following their years spent in Walnut Grove, Minnesota to Laura's marriage to Almanzo Wilder. While there are a few differences between the Little House books and the TV show's adaptation of their relationship, one thing that was real was the 10 year age difference.
The Ingalls family first met Almanzo in the town of De Smet, South Dakota, at the time known as the Dakota territory. Almanzo had moved to the area with his brother and sister after leaving their farm in update New York. Laura even wrote a book chronicling Almanzo's childhood, Farmer Boy. When Laura's family had settled in Walnut Grove, Almanzo moved to the area and they started courting when she was 15 and he was 25. In the Little House series, Laura describes Almanzo as a manly, sought after bachelor with numerous local girls vying for his attention (Nellie included). They had to make a few updates for television most likely so people weren't uncomfortable with the age difference and on the screen, Laura (Melissa Gilbert) pursued Almanzo (Dean Butler).
Charles Ingalls (Pa) wouldn't allow the couple to get married until Laura was 18 so they waited. Almanzo would drive Laura to and from her teaching job as she lived 12 miles from the schoolhouse. One year after marrying they welcomed daughter Rose Wilder Lane, who grew up to become an author like her mother. The television series romanticized life in the 19th century. In reality, the Wilder family actually struggled for years financially. Similar to her own upbringing, the family was frequently low on food and Rose even had to go to school without shoes. The couple also had an unnamed son who passed away as an infant. Due to heartache, they never mentioned him again.
After years of moving around, Laura and Almanzo eventually settled in Mansfield, Missouri. They put down $100 to purchase the 40 acres that would become the beginnings of their beloved Rocky Ridge Farm. Later in life, Laura, who had already become a published author for local papers under the pen name Mrs. A.J. Wilder, started writing her Little House books that told the story of her life. They helped support her and her husband on the farm which eventually grew to 200 acres. The farm has since been transformed into the Laura Ingalls Wilder/Rose Wilder Lane Museum full of mementos and relics of the incredible lives Laura and her family led at the turn of the century.
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