Laura Ingalls Wilder's Husband's Homestead Claim

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Jan. 7 2013 11:30 AM

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Husband Claims His Own Little House

The Vault is Slate's new history blog. Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter @slatevault; find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

Before Almanzo Wilder married Laura Ingalls, the author of the beloved Little House on the Prairie books, he was a single man working a homestead in the Dakota Territory. This 1884 document, held in the National Archives, was filed five years after Wilder first established residency on his claim. (Claimants were required to work the land for half a decade, to live on the homestead, and to build a dwelling before the claim would be declared officially theirs.)

In this “Homestead Proof,” one A.J. Sheldon, a fellow farmer, swore that Wilder was a citizen of the United States and had never tried to claim a homestead in the past. Sheldon could testify that Wilder's home was 12 feet square, with two doors and three windows. Wilder had been absent at times for work on the railroad and to visit Minnesota, but he had nonetheless cultivated crops on the land for four years straight. The plot contained no coal or other valuable minerals.

Advertisement

The clerk of the Homestead office certified that Sheldon was a “person of respectability” and fit to serve as a witness.

Having claimed his land, Wilder married Laura in 1885. Laura didn't write the main group of Little House books, which told the tale of her childhood on the frontier, until the 1930s; her busy life as a farm wife wouldn't allow it. The story of Laura and Almanzo's time on the Dakota homestead—a happy period, albeit fraught with disease and crop failure—can be found in Laura's posthumously published novel The First Four Years.

Almanzo Wilder homestead proof

Homestead Proof Testimony of Almanzo Wilder, 09/12/1884. National Archives, ARC Identifier 595419.

TODAY IN SLATE

The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

This Scene From All The President’s Men Captures Ben Bradlee’s Genius

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 5:38 PM Justified Paranoia Citizenfour offers a look into the mind of Edward Snowden.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.