Dead or Alive: In Mansfield, Missouri with Laura Ingalls Wilder


Exploring writerly lives through literary pilgrimage    


–By Robin McCarthy


There’s no sense of discovering a long-forgotten treasure when visiting a Laura Ingalls Wilder literary landmark. In most instances, it would be difficult to miss the place where the cabin might have stood or find the well from which Caroline Ingalls might have fetched water. Rather, Wilder sites are widely publicized and celebrated. In Pepin Wisconsin, visitors gather each fall for “Laura Days,” a celebration of pioneer life near the “Little House in the Big Woods” where Wilder was born. DeSmet, South Dakota offers Wilder fans a tour of not one but two former Ingalls homes as well as other buildings featured in the story, as well as a pageant each July that re-enacts a different book from the Little House series. Just outside Independence, Kansas, a replica of the Ingalls’ log cabin, the home in which Little House on the Prairie is set, is a prominent feature of the area’s annual “Lamplight on the Prairie” and “Prairie Days” festivals. Lots of places stake their claim to Wilder fame because the truth is that the Ingalls family moved around a lot. While much of Wilder’s youth was spent in DeSmet, and her adult life was lived largely in Mansfield, Missouri (where the house is now a museum), there are twelve U.S. towns that boast their connection to Laura Ingalls Wilder as a tourist attraction. Continue reading