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By Whitney Keith
Branson is packed with tourists every summer, and the lakes get some heavy traffic, as well.
Even closer is the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum in Mansfield.
Even though I grew up just 10 miles from the home, I had never visited it until this week.
The home is located about one mile east of Mansfield along Highway A.
Parking is on the north side of the road, and a crosswalk is provided for visitors to walk toward the home and museum.
Admission to the museum is $8 for adults, $4 for children older than 6 years and $6 for seniors.
Admission includes the museum, a tour of the white farmhouse and a tour of the old rock house, located a quarter-mile east of the museum.
When I arrived, 20 or 30 people, mostly families, were browsing in the museum while waiting for a tour of the farmhouse to begin.
The museum is filled with well-labeled artifacts from the Wilder and Ingalls families.
A big draw is “pa’s fiddle.” There’s also some basic sketches for the books that were illustrated by Garth Williams.
A glass case is filled with Little House books that have been translated into other languages.
As the tour was announced, the group shuffled into a small room for a short video about the historical significance of the home.
The home started out as two rooms, but later had two additions made. The tour begins in the oldest part of the house – the kitchen and dining area.
When the Wilder family bought their first refrigerator, there wasn’t room for it in the kitchen, so they extended the exterior of the house to allow for its size.
Almanzo Wilder had the counters custom-built for Laura, who was only 4’11″ tall.
The rest of the tour revealed that Laura received around 50 pieces of mail each day, mostly from young fans of her books.
On her 90th birthday, she received over 1,000 pieces of mail.
After the tour of the white farmhouse, visitors are invited to drive to the rock house for a tour, return to the museum or visit the bookstore and gift shop.
The bookstore includes many copies of the series which made Laura Ingalls Wilder’s early life so famous.
According to the museum’s website, in a log cabin near Pepin, Wisconsin, on February 7, 1867 Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born.
Her parents were Charles Phillip Ingalls and Caroline Quiner Ingalls, who moved often as they pursued free land for homesteaders.
Laura’s books were each based on a location that the family lived in.
Little House In The Big Woods was based in Pepin, Wisconsin, while Little House On The Prairie was set in Independence, Kansas.
On The Banks Of Plum Creek was in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, while By The Shores Of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town On The Prairie, These Happy Golden Years and The First Four Years were in Desmet, South Dakota.
In 1894, Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder, with their daughter Rose, settled on Rocky Ridge Farm near Mansfield, Missouri, where the museum is currently located.
The farm was originally purchased with 40 acres and 400 seedling apple trees, and eventually grew to 200 acres.
The Wilders established a successful farm, built their own home and settled down permanently in the Ozark hills.
Rose grew up and moved away, and became the well-known author, journalist and world traveler Rose Wilder Lane. A portion of the museum is dedicated to her life.
In 1932, Laura Ingalls Wilder published the first of her “Little House” books, which described the pioneering of the Ingalls and Wilder families during the 1870′s – 1890′s.
All of these nine famous books were penned on Rocky Ridge Farm.
The museum is open from March 1 to November 15.
Hours are: Monday thru Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The Wilder Home Association was established in 1957 for preservation of the home and artifacts.
Reflections is a weekly column exploring the history of Douglas County. This summer, we will be exploring local wedding destinations, fireworks celebrations and day trips. If you have an idea for an article, please call 417-683-4181 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org