It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired.  I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue.  I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe.  I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great..... In His Majesty's Service, THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ozark Heritage: Laura Ingalls Wilder

The 'Little House' of Laura Ingalls Wilder in Mansfield Missouri
Nestled in the heart of the Ozark Mountains
Some of her 'Little House' books were penned here.
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder
(February 7, 1867 – February 10, 1957)
THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: Many of my readers, including my international audience, may be familiar with the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. They have been printed in many languages around the world. For those of you not familiar, Laura Ingalls Wilder was a pioneer child during the later half of the 19th century in the Midwestern to Upper Central United States. She was born in 1867 Wisconsin, just two years after the conclusion of the great Civil War that ravaged the American South. She was the second of five children born to Charles and Caroline Ingalls. The family originally moved to Kansas on the government promise of free land (The Homestead Act). They later moved to Minnesota, spent a brief time in Iowa, and finally back to Minnesota again, where Charles and Caroline lived the remainder of their lives. Laura eventually married Almanzo Wilder and moved to Mansfield Missouri down south of the Mason-Dixon line. It was here she eventually wrote her memoirs as a series of children's books commonly known as the 'Little House on the Prairie' collection.

The 'Rock House' English Cottage
Built by Rose Wilder for her Parents
Some 'little house' books were penned here.
During the time of Laura's childhood, tens of thousands of Americans migrated westward from the war-torn nation, motivated by the promise that if they could just settle a portion of land west of a certain government-drawn line, they would be granted full ownership of that land free of charge. It was the way in which America rebuilt herself after the Civil War and gave new hope to poor families who had nothing financially to lose. Thousands of American families travelled west on horse-drawn covered wagons with all their possessions inside (which usually didn't amount to much). Upon finding a suitable plot of land, the wagon was unloaded, and a small cabin was immediately built, usually using lumber harvested from nearby trees. Within a year, a small farm was usually planted, and the family would hope and pray for a successful crop. If the Lord blessed them, they would usually gain enough money to survive another year. If not, they suffered all the hardships of poverty, starvation and disease. Many of these settlers died on their homesteads. Many more returned back east for medical attention, hoping to get back to their homestead before it was torn down and re-settled by somebody else. Encounters (sometimes unfriendly) were common with Native American tribes.  Some settlers were highly successful, but most were modestly successful. The Ingalls family numbered among the modestly successful, with some setbacks and tragedies here and there. Their only son (Charles Fredrick) died in infancy. Their oldest daughter (Mary Amelia) went permanently blind after a bout with scarlet fever. Laura's husband Almanzo suffered from paralysis after they both contracted diphtheria while Laura was pregnant with her first child Rose Wilder. While all three survived the illness, Almanzo required a cane for the rest of his life and was unable to tolerate hard labour. This caused Laura and Almanzo's downward spiral into poverty and debt in Minnesota, eventually leading to their move to Southwest Missouri, a warmer area well-settled and civilised since long before the Civil War. Since this area was still considered "out west" the land was cheaper than east of the Mississippi, and the Civil War had been less devastating to Missouri than other regions down South. It made a much more tolerable climate for the couple to raise their small child, Rose, and was still close enough for the Ingalls and Wilder families to visit from time to time.

A young Rose Wilder with her mule
Spookendyke.  Laura and Almanzo gave
her the mule to ride to school, but Rose
reported that it was so stubborn she ended
up walking it to school most of the time.
Rose Wilder grew up as a Missourian, in the cradle of the Ozark Mountains, and then went on to become a world famous author and columnist. She returned to the Ozarks after many world travels with enough money to build her parents a luxury English cottage on their farm. It was here that Laura, at the prompting of Rose, began her 'Little House' childhood memoirs. Laura was herself a school teacher and a columnist. Now she was an author, and her books were designed to teach children about the life of rural Americans during the pioneer period after the Civil War. They have been published in multiple languages and are famous world wide. They are a wholesome and entertaining account of the latter 19th century. If you have not already introduced your children to her stories, I strongly recommend them.

I recently visited the Mansfield 'Little House' with some friends and captured some of the photographs featured here. While I was not permitted to take pictures of any of the interiors (houses and museum), I was free to take all the pictures I wanted outside. The interior of the houses were remarkable, as I was privileged to stand in the home and touch some of the items of this world-famous American icon. In the 1980s, film producer Michael Landon, created a movie and television series based on the memoirs of Laura Ingalls Wilder. While much of the film episodes are fiction, they are set to the historical reality of her life and times. Laura was portrayed by actress Melissa Gilbert and the episodes were narrated by her in the way Laura wrote her books. These are interesting fictional stories based on factual people and lives.

Today's local children playing
in Mansfield Missouri
The Ozark Mountains in Southern Missouri are filled with history and culture. Moving to this area was one the most rewarding decisions I've ever made. For my Catholic readers, you will be pleased to learn that Catholicism is growing in this area at a nearly exponential rate. The small rural town of Mansfield Missouri already has a thriving Catholic Church. Missouri also has some of the most generous home-schooling laws in the world, making the state extremely hospitable to traditional family life. If you are a traditionally-minded Catholic family anywhere in the United States, a move to the Ozark Mountains of Southwest Missouri or Northwest Arkansas might be a desirable placed to raise your children. It certainly worked out well for me and of course Laura Ingalls Wilder.