Springfield Missouri: Part 1

We left STL May 9th and headed to southwest Missouri to visit Jack’s family in Springfield (his mom, brother, sister and brother-in-law). We had a wonderful time. It’s always great spending time with family!

We ate out several times with Jack’s sister, Carol, and her husband, Delano. We even played Mexican Train Dominos. I’m proud to say the girls won two out of the three games!

The whole family took Jack’s mom out for breakfast on Mother’s Day at Village Inn. Carol’s oldest son even joined us. It was good to see our nephew. We had a great time “catching” up with everyone.

We went over to Jack’s mom’s (Lill) apartment nearly every day. When visiting with Lill, one can always count on Skip Bo being involved. It’s a fun card game (you need to purchase a special set of cards). Lill is really good at this game and so is my husband. However, I am proud to say that I finally won a few games against those two this week!

Springfield is about an hour away from Mansfield, MO. Mansfield is the final home of author Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband, Almanzo, and daughter, Rose.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you probably remember me going to several places on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway last summer (see posts from August and September of 2018).

At the end of last summer, I only had three places left to visit from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life: Mansfield, MO; Independence, KS; and, DeSmet, SD.

One day I decided to drive down to Mansfield. Jack wanted to stay and spend time with his mom, so I went alone. It took about an hour to get there, but it was a beautiful day for a drive.

I had been to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum in Mansfield back in the late 1980s. My older sister had come to visit us, and we decided to take our kids there. Between us we had five children approximately between the ages of five and ten years old.

I remember our visit there but don’t remember much about the house or museum. I was probably too distracted by keeping an eye on my two boys and my sister’s kids to make sure they didn’t touch or break anything. 😂

This visit would be different for two reasons: I was by myself, and they had built and dedicated a new museum and parking lot in 2016. The house and museum are located on the actual property (called Rocky Ridge Farm, the name Laura and Almanzo gave it) that the Wilders purchased and moved to in 1894 and lived at until Laura’s death in 1957. Rocky Ridge Farm was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991.

When you walk in the new museum, you are standing in a beautiful foyer.

I went in and paid my admission. They now have a short informational video you can watch. You can choose what you want to do first.

I decided to go to the farmhouse first because touring it is by tour guide only, and a tour was starting very soon. They do not allow visitors to take pictures inside the house. 😔 I did buy some postcards of the interior of the house. The pictures of the postcards aren’t very good, but at least they give you an idea of what the inside looked like.

You can see Laura’s bed in the bottom left of this picture and her two dressing tables.

This is the desk where Laura sat many hours working on the manuscripts for her books. She wrote all manuscripts by hand.

Behind the wall behind the couch in the previous photo is the Wilders’ library. It was a small area totally lined with book shelves which were packed full with over 300 books.

Visitors were not allowed upstairs in the farmhouse or the Rock House. As we walked by the stairs we could kind of see part of this room. I would have LOVED to sneak upstairs in both houses to take a look! Oh well…😞

Next, I went back to the Museum to watch the video. Then I walked around the museum. I always love to read the information cards in each display, and since my husband wasn’t with me, I could take all the time I wanted. The new museum is really nice. Here are just a few of the pics I took inside the museum (zoom in so you can read some of the information on the cards).

This is Pa’s fiddle!

Almanzo was a handsome young man.

Then, I drove a little further down the road to The Rock House (some call it the Rock Cottage). Daughter, Rose Wilder, had the cottage built as a gift to her parents. Laura and Almanzo lived there from 1928 to 1936. This is where Laura began writing her first book, the now famous Little House on the Prairie at the age of 65. Unfortunately, I could not take pictures inside, but I did get some shots of the outside.

The views of the countryside from each side of the cottage were beautiful!

You can see Almanzo’s spring house located in a ravine below the Rock House.

Here is a close up picture of the spring house. It was constructed of cement and gravel and used to keep butter and milk cool.

After leaving the farm, I stopped in Historic downtown Mansfield which is a small town with a population of a little over 1,200. It has a lovely little town square surrounded by several old buildings.

This is the Bank of Mansfield which was founded in 1892.

Lastly, I drove to the Mansfield cemetery where Laura, Almanzo, and Rose are buried. Their graves are outlined with some shrubs and a small chain fence.

After paying my respects, I drove back to Springfield and joined my husband and his mom for some dinner. There’s more to tell about our Springfield visit, but I’ll save it for the next installment: Springfield Missouri: Part 2.

So, for now ….. “On the Road, Again!”

Betty

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway: The Masters Hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa

While the Ingalls were in Walnut Grove they suffered through two years of devastating grasshopper plagues. Therefore, they decided to travel to Burr Oak, Iowa, to help manage the Masters Hotel. The hotel was owned by their friend from Walnut Grove, William Steadman. The Ingalls lived in Burr Oak from 1876 – 1877 (there is some discrepancy: some sources say it was 1876-1878). Burr Oak is often referred to as the “missing link” in the Little House book series because Laura did not write a book about their time there.

The Masters Hotel is somewhat unique. It is the only childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder that is still standing, and it is on its original site. The Masters Hotel building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

There is a small museum/visitors center in the old Burr Oak Bank building located across the street from the hotel site. They offer guided tours only of the hotel for a very reasonable price. Don’t worry. The tour guides are VERY knowledgeable, answer all your questions, very kind, and somewhat “laid back” by not being in any rush (well, we were not there during their peak season, so that might make a difference).

Burr Oak is located along the banks of Silver Creek in the northeast corner of Iowa. It is only about 40 miles from Spring Valley, Minnesota, another place on the Ingalls Historic Highway. In fact, depending on where you’re coming from or where you’re staying, you could do both of these stops in one day if you got an early start. Just be sure to call ahead to make sure of the hours each museum is open.

The town of Burr Oak was founded in 1851 and was a major crossroads of the area. It was not unusual to have over 200 covered wagons pass through the town daily. It was exciting times in the town when the Ingalls arrived. The whole family lived in one room in the hotel and helped run it. Charles Ingalls even did carpentry work on the hotel.

When Charles thought he wasn’t being paid enough, he decided to move his family to a small house not far from the hotel. Charles found work doing odd jobs and farm work. In 1877 Grace Pearl Ingalls was born in Burr Oak.

Like I said, the tour guides had a wealth of knowledge about the Ingalls’ time here as well as the history of the town. I can’t even begin to remember half of the information they shared. I do remember one thing though. When we walked in the front door of the hotel where guests checked in, she told us that any of the square head nails in the floor boards were the original nails in original boards (some floor boards have been replaced). That means that Charles Ingalls could have driven some of those nails!

Here are some my pictures. Be sure to zoom in to read any information included in the picture.

This picture is of the room you first walk into where guests would register and pay. Following this photo is some photos of original floor boards in the room and the square nails that are original nails.

No, that is NOT a gun that belonged to Charles Ingalls.

All of the rooms in the hotel were very small. Even though guest rooms only had one bed, there was usually three adults to a room. All three would sleep in one bed by sleeping across the bed with their legs off the bed and their feet usually resting on their luggage or travel bag or the floor.

NOTE: None of the furniture, furnishings, etc., in the hotel is originally from the hotel (unless noted by a sign placed on the piece). Most has been donated and is representative of what would have been there in the late 1800s – early 1900s.

This old pump organ was in the parlor, and it actually worked.

Guests rooms were upstairs and even smaller than the owners rooms on the main level.

Here you can see a bed set up for three people. Notice where the pillows are so they sleep across the bed. There is one suitcase on the floor for the person in the middle to rest his feet.

The next several pictures are of the kitchen, dining room, and the room in which the Ingalls slept (ALL five of them!) in the basement of the building. There is also a “mud/tool room” through which travelers would enter to take off muddy boots, etc.

Pantry.

Did you know they made a special horse shoe for horses when there is ice? I didn’t.

I also did not know that oxen wore shoes.

This is the room where the Ingalls slept – ALL five of them! (Note: Furnishings are NOT original. Furnishings are representative of that time period.)

There is a door on the left side of the mud/tool room to go outside to the backyard. There is a small garden planted with plants Ma might have been growing, Silver Creek runs through the backyard (it’s hard to see), a covered wagon, and the actual bell from the Congregational Church that the Ingalls attended and would have heard ring every Sunday. I didn’t ring this one; I let a man in our group ring it.

We visited several sites around the town: the site where the school the Ingalls children attended, the church site, and the site where the house in which Grace Ingalls was born. Plus we crossed a bridge over Silver Creek while exploring the town and found a little park.

This house with the brown roof sits on the site where the Ingalls girls attended school.

The site where the church they attended once stood.

This house and surrounding area is the site on which the house Grace Ingalls was born in once stood.

Some photos of Silver Creek. Notice the building across the creek on the left. That is the back of the Masters Hotel. I can imagine Laura wading in the creek every chance she got.

The tour guide told us a lot of stories about the Ingalls during their time in Burr Oak; too many to remember. One of the stories that interested me was about Laura and her friend. They would frequently “hang out” together and play, however, they also like to go to the cemetery and walk around looking at the grave markers. I thought that was unusual, but they didn’t have television, radio, cell phones, or even very many board games to occupy their time after all their chores were finished. We went by the cemetery and looked at some of the headstones that would have been there when Laura and her friend were there. Who knows, maybe we stood in the exact spot where Laura once stood. The cemetery also has a famous, huge Burr Oak tree on the hill. It’s a beautiful tree and a lovely area to sit and ponder the things of life.

This is a very unusual headstone. It is a tree stump tombstone carved from Bedford limestone quarried in Indiana. Carving on limestone was easier than granite, and if the carver made a mistake, they could easily make it a part of the tree texture or something in nature. Carvers added ornamentation to represent the person’s life, personality, occupation, or hobbies. The cut-off stump represents the end of someone’s life.

The famous Burr Oak tree. It is so big and definitely a gorgeous tree in person.

Now I only have two more stops on my Laura Ingalls Wilder journey. One is Vinton, Iowa, which is where the blind school was that Mary Ingalls attended from 1877 to 1889. We are in Iowa and I hope to stop by Vinton soon.

The other place I want to go is DeSmet, South Dakota. That is the final place the Ingalls family lived while Laura was growing up. It is also where she met her husband, Almanzo, and where several members of the family are buried. Our trip to DeSmet will probably have to wait until next summer as we are working our way back to Missouri for some family time. 😢

The last place Laura and Almanzo lived was Mansfield, Missouri. She was living there when she wrote the Little House books. Both Laura and Almanzo are buried there also. I have visited there once in the 1980s with my own children. After all of these visits along the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway, I will most definitely have to visit there again! I hear there has been a new museum built in Mansfield since I visited there in the 80s.

So, for now ….. “On the Road Again!”

Betty

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