The Real Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Timeline

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books have captivated young readers for decades. Laura said that she told her story, but left some things out. So where do the books cross the line from fact to fiction? Historians sometimes have trouble figuring this out. This timeline can help.


1867: Laura is born.

Her parents are Charles and Caroline Ingalls. She has an older sister named Mary. They live on a farm in Pepin County, Wisconsin, until Laura is two years old. Laura later calls this home the “Little House in the Big Woods.”


1869—1871: The Ingalls family moves from one Little House to another.

Laura’s family moves onto land that belongs to the Osage Indians in Kansas. The Ingallses are squatters, which means they live there unlawfully. This home becomes the setting for Little House on the Prairie. Laura’s sister, Carrie, is born in 1870. The family returns to the Little House in the Big Woods in 1871.


1873–1875: The Ingalls family moves to Minnesota.

Laura’s family buys a farm. At first, they live in the dugout house described in the book On the Banks of Plum Creek. Laura’s younger brother is born in November of 1875. The family is forced to move when their crops are destroyed by a plague of grasshoppers.


1876: The Ingalls family moves Iowa in a covered wagon.

Laura’s brother, only nine months old at the time, dies along the way.


1877: The Ingalls family returns to Walnut Grove, Minnesota.

The family lives in town for a short time. Laura’s sister Grace is born that same year.


1879—1881: Mary becomes blind and the family moves to the Dakota Territory.

Laura’s older sister, Mary, becomes blind after a serious illness. Soon after, Charles gets a job in the Dakota Territory and moves his family there. That summer, the family stays in a house near Silver Lake.


The winter of 1881 is an exceptionally difficult one because the town is buried in snow and no one can get food, fuel, or supplies for months. Laura’s family suffers from cold and hunger.


1883: Laura becomes a teacher.

Laura lives in town during the week and gets a ride home each weekend with Almanzo Wilder. The two eventually fall in love.


1885: Laura marries Almanzo Wilder.

Laura is 18 years old at the time. Their daughter Rose is born one year later.


1888—1894: The Wilders struggle.

In 1888, Laura and Almanzo both get sick with diphtheria. The illness leaves Almanzo partially paralyzed. He never fully regains his strength and walks with a limp. In 1889, Laura and Almanzo have a baby boy who tragically dies one month later. In 1890, the Wilders move first to Minnesota and then Florida. They return to South Dakota in 1892.


1894: The Wilders buy Rocky Ridge Farm in Missouri.

Laura and Almanzo live out the rest of their lives on this farm.


1930s–1940s: Laura writes the Little House books.

Laura’s daughter, Rose, edits every book Laura writes. Rose makes changes to help the story sound more interesting. Now middle-aged, Rose is a writer and journalist who works for newspapers and magazines. She also writes a number of her own books. Almanzo dies in 1949.


1957: Laura Ingalls Wilder dies.

Laura dies on her farm in Mansfield, Missouri, at the age of 90.