On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894

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Overview

In 1894, Laura Ingalls Wider, her husband Almanzo, and their daughter, Rose, packed their belongings into their covered wagon and set out on a journey from De Smet, South Dakota, to Mansfield, Missouri. They heard that the soil there was rich and the crops were bountiful - it was even called "the Land of the Big Red Apple." With hopes of beginning a new life, the Wilders made their way to the Ozarks of Missouri.

During their journey, Laura kept a detailed diary of events: the ...

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Overview

In 1894, Laura Ingalls Wider, her husband Almanzo, and their daughter, Rose, packed their belongings into their covered wagon and set out on a journey from De Smet, South Dakota, to Mansfield, Missouri. They heard that the soil there was rich and the crops were bountiful - it was even called "the Land of the Big Red Apple." With hopes of beginning a new life, the Wilders made their way to the Ozarks of Missouri.

During their journey, Laura kept a detailed diary of events: the cities they passed through, the travelers they encountered on the way, the changing countryside, and the trials of an often difficult voyage. Laura's words, preserved in this book, reveal her inner thoughts as she traveled with her family in search of a new home in Mansfield, where Rose would spend her childhood, where Laura would write her Little House books, and where she and Almanzo would remian all the rest of their happy days together.

Describes the sights and events a frontier family encounters travelling from South Dakota to the Ozarks.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060264901
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/1/1987
  • Series: Little House Series
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.81 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867 in the log cabin described in Little House in the Big Woods. She and her family traveled by covered wagon across the Midwest. Later, Laura and her husband, Almanzo Wilder, made their own covered-wagon trip with their daughter, Rose, to Mansfield, Missouri. There, believing in the importance of knowing where you began in order to appreciate how far you've come, Laura wrote about her childhood growing up on the American frontier. For millions of readers Laura lives on forever as the little pioneer girl in the beloved Little House books.

Biography

"I wanted the children now to understand more about the beginnings of things, to know what is behind the things they see -- what it is that made America as they know it," Laura Ingalls Wilder once said. Wilder was born in 1867, more than 60 years before she began writing her autobiographical fiction, and had witnessed the transformation of the American frontier from a barely populated patchwork of homestead lots to a bustling society of towns, trains and telephones.

Early pictures of Laura Ingalls show a young woman in a buttoned, stiff-collared dress, but there's nothing prim or quaint about the childhood she memorialized in her Little House books. Along with the expected privations of prairie life, the Ingalls family faced droughts, fires, blizzards, bears and grasshopper plagues. Although she didn't graduate from high school, Wilder had enough schooling to get a teaching license, and took her first teaching job at the age of 15.

Later, Wilder and her husband settled on a farm in the Missouri Ozarks, where Wilder began writing about farm life for newspapers and magazines. She didn't try her hand at books until 1930, when she started chronicling her childhood at the urging of her daughter Rose. Her first effort at an autobiography, Pioneer Girl, failed to find a publisher, but it spurred a second effort, a set of eight "historical novels," as Wilder called them, based on her own life.

Little House in the Big Woods (1932) was an instant hit. It was followed by a new volume every two years or so, and the series' success snowballed until thousands of fans were waiting eagerly for each new installment. "Ms. Wilder has caught the very essence of pioneer life, the satisfaction of hard work, the thrill of accomplishment, safety and comfort made possible through resourcefulness and exertion," said the New York Times review of Little House on the Prairie (1935).

In 1954, the American Library Association established the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to honor the lifetime achievement of a children's author or illustrator; Wilder herself was the first recipient. After Wilder's death in 1957, historical societies sprang up to preserve what they could of her childhood homes, and her manuscripts and journals provided the material for several more books. A TV series based on the books, Little House on the Prairie, ran from 1974 to 1984 and renewed interest in Wilder's work and life. More recently, fictionalized biographies of her daughter, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother have appeared.

Wilder's books have now been translated into over 40 languages, and still provide an engrossing history lesson for young readers, as well as insight into the frontier values that Wilder once catalogued as "courage, self-reliance, independence, integrity and helpfulness" -- values, in her words, worth "as much today as they ever were to help us over the rough places."

Good To Know

Wilder's daughter, the writer Rose Wilder Lane, helped revise her mother's books; the collaboration was so extensive that one biographer proposed Rose was the "real" author of the Little House books. Most agree that Rose was, if not author or co-author, instrumental in suggesting the project to her mother and shaping it for publication.

After her books were published, fan mail for Wilder poured in; among more than a thousand cards and gifts she received for her birthday in 1951 was a cablegram of congratulations from General Douglas MacArthur.

Wilder, who had grown up making long journeys by covered wagon, took her first airplane ride at the age of 87, on a visit to Rose in Danbury, Connecticut.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Mrs. A.J. Wilder
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 7, 1867
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pepin, Wisconsin
    1. Date of Death:
      February 10, 1957
    2. Place of Death:
      Mansfield, Missouri

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

For seven years there had been too little rain. The prairies were dust. Day after day, summer after summer, the scorching winds blew the dust and the sun was brassy in a yellow sky. Crop after crop failed. Again and again the barren land must be mortgaged, for taxes and food and next year's seed. The agony of hope ended when -there was no harvest and no more credit, no money to pay interest and taxes; the banker took the land. Then the bank failed.

In the seventh year a mysterious catastrophe was worldwide. All banks failed. From coast to coast the factories shut down, and business ceased. This was a Panic.

It was not a depression. The year was 1893, when no one had heard of depressions. Everyone knew about Panics; there had been Panics in 1797, 1820, 1835, 1857, 1873. A Panic was nothing new to Grandpa, he had seen them before; this one was no worse than usual, he said, and nothing like as bad as the wartime. Now we were all safe in our beds, nobody was rampaging but Coxey's armies.

All the way from California Coxey's Armies of Unemployed were seizing the railroad trains, jam-packing the cars and running them full speed, open throttle, hell-for-leather toward Washington. They came roaring into the towns, yelling "Justice for the Working Man!" and stopped and swarmed out, demanding plenty to eat and three days' rations to take with them, or they'd burn the town. People gave them everything to get rid of them. In all the cities Federal troops were guarding the Government's buildings.

I was seven years old and in the Second Reader at school but I had read the Third Reader and the Fourth, and Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels.The Chicago InterOcean came every week and after the grownups had read it, I did. I did not understand all of it, but I read it.

It said that east of the Miss-Issippi there were no trains on the railroad tracks. The dispatchers had dispatched every train to the faraway East to keep them safe from Coxey's Armies. So now the Armies were disbanded and walking on foot toward Washington, robbing and raiding and stealing and begging for food as they went.

For a long time I had been living with Grandpa and Grandma and the aunts in De Smet because nobody knew what would become of my father and mother. Only God knew. They had diff-theer-eeah; a hard word and dreadful . I did not know what it was exactly, only that it was big and black and it meant that I might never see my father and mother again.

Then my father, man-like, would not listen to reason and stay in bed. Grandma almost scolded about that, to the aunts. Bound and determined to get out and take care of the stock, he was. And for working too hard too soon, he was "stricken." Now he would be bed-ridden all his days, and what would Laura do? With me on her hands, besides.

But when I saw MY father again he was walking, slowly. He limped through the rest of his ninety years and was never as strong as he had been.

We lived then in our own house in De Smet, away from Main Street, where only a footpath went through the short brown grasses. It was a big rented house and empty. Upstairs and down it was dark and full of stealthy little sounds at night, but then the lamp was lighted in the kitchen, where we lived. Our cookstove and table and chairs were there; the bed was in an empty room and at bedtime my trundle bed was brought into the warmth from the cookstove. We were camping, my mother said; wasn't it fun? I knew she wanted me to say yes, so I did. To me, everything was simply what it was.

I was going to school while my father and mother worked. Reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, penmanship filled days almost unbearably happy with achievements satisfying Miss Barrows's strict standards. "Procrastination is the thief of time," I wrote twenty times in my penmanship book, without error or blot; and "Evil communications corrupt good manners," and "Sweet are the uses of adversity," every t and d exactly twice as tall as a vowel and every I exactly three times as tall; every t crossed; every i dotted.

All the way home down the long board walk in late afternoons we diligent scholars warmly remembered our adored Miss Barrows's grave, "Well done," and often we sang a rollicking song. It was the song of those days, heard more often than Ta-ra-ra boom-de-ay, My aunt Grace, a jolly big girl, often sang it, sometimes my mother did, and nearly all the time you could hear some man or boy whistling it.

0 Dakota land, sweet Dakota land,
As on thy burning soil I stand
And look away across the plains
I wonder why it never rains,
Till Gabriel blows his trumpet sound
And says the rain has gone around.
We don't live here, we only stay
'Cause we're too poor to get away.

My mother did not have to go out to work; she was married, my father was the provider. He got a day's work here and there; he could drive a team, he could carpenter, or paint, or spell a storekeeper at dinner-time, and once he was on a jury, downtown. My mother and I slept at Grandma's then, every night; the jury was kept under lock and key and my father could not come home. But he got his keep and two dollars every day for five straight weeks and he brought back all that money.

My mother worked to save. She sewed at the dressmaker's from six o'clock to six o'clock every day but Sunday and then came home to get supper...

On the Way Home. Copyright © by Laura Wilder. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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