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Almanzo Wilder

Almanzo Wilder

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Almanzo James Wilder was the husband of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder was an American author who wrote the Little House series of books based on her childhood in a pioneer family...

 and father of Rose Wilder Lane
Rose Wilder Lane
Rose Wilder Lane was an American journalist, travel writer, novelist, and political theorist...

, both noted U.S. writers.

Early life


Almanzo was born the fifth of six children to successful farmers James (1813-1899) and Angeline Day Wilder (1821-1905) on their farm near Malone, New York
Malone (village), New York
-Notable natives:Notable natives include:*William Almon Wheeler served as Vice President of the United States under Rutherford Hayes. Is buried at Morningside Cemetery in Malone....

. His siblings include Laura Ann (1844-1899), Royal Gould (1847-1925), Eliza Jane (1850-1930), Alice M. (1853-1892), and Perley Day (1869-1934). As part of her Little House
Little House on the Prairie
Little House is a series of children's books by Laura Ingalls Wilder that was published originally between 1932 and 1943, with four additional books published posthumously, in 1962, 1971, 1974 and 2006.-History:...

series of autobiographical novels, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote a book titled Farmer Boy
Farmer Boy
Farmer Boy is a children's historical novel by Laura Ingalls Wilder. First published in 1933, it is the second book in the nine part Little House series, also known as "The Laura Years"...

about Almanzo's childhood in upstate New York
Upstate New York
Upstate New York is the region of the U.S. state of New York that is located north of the core of the New York metropolitan area.-Definition:There is no clear or official boundary between Upstate New York and Downstate New York...

.

Almanzo is a well-known character in the Little House books, and Laura writes about him, their courtship, and subsequent marriage in The Long Winter
The Long Winter (novel)
The Long Winter is a Newbery Honor novel by Laura Ingalls Wilder, first published in 1940. The story is set in South Dakota during the severe winter of 1880-1881, when Laura turned fourteen...

, Little Town on the Prairie
Little Town on the Prairie
Little Town on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, was first published in 1941 and is the seventh of nine books written in her Little House series, also known as "The Laura Years." The book is set in De Smet, South Dakota...

, These Happy Golden Years
These Happy Golden Years
These Happy Golden Years, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, was published in 1943 and is the eighth of nine books written in her Little House series, also known as The Laura Years. This book is based on Laura's adolescence near De Smet, South Dakota, in the late 19th century, and focuses on Laura's short...

, and The First Four Years
The First Four Years (novel)
The First Four Years is a book written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and found in the belongings of Rose Wilder Lane by Roger Lea MacBride, Rose's heir, upon Rose's death in 1968...

. Almanzo was characterized as a quietly courageous, hardworking man who loved horses and farming. He was also an accomplished carpenter and woodworker.

Farmer Boy, by publication date, was the second book written in the Little House series (this is also verified by both of Laura's biographers, John E. Miller, in his book Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder (pp.194-202), and William Anderson
William Anderson (writer)
William Anderson - American author, historian and lecturer. He is a specialist in the subject of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her times.His interest in American frontier began after reading Little House on the Prairie...

 in his work Laura Ingalls Wilder - A Biography, (p.199)). Published in 1933, it was followed by Little House on the Prairie
Little House on the Prairie (novel)
Little House on the Prairie is a children's novel by Laura Ingalls Wilder and was published in 1935. This book is the third of the series of books known as the Little House series....

in 1935. It recounts events starting when Almanzo was nine years old, in 1866. Among other things, he goes to school (when not needed at home for the farm work), learns to drive a team of oxen, attends a county fair, and enjoys a mid-19th century Fourth of July celebration in town. He also learns how to deal with being bossed around by his older siblings, particularly his strong-willed sister Eliza Jane, who would later become a teacher of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The original order of publication was changed by the publisher Harper
Harper & Brothers
Harper is an American publishing house, the flagship imprint of global publisher HarperCollins.-History:James Harper and his brother John, printers by training, started their book publishing business J. & J. Harper in 1817. Their two brothers, Joseph Wesley Harper and Fletcher Harper, joined them...

 with the release of the newly illustrated 1953 edition.

Moving out West


The Wilders left Malone in 1875 due to crop failures, and settled in Spring Valley, Minnesota
Spring Valley, Minnesota
Spring Valley is a city in Fillmore County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 2,479 at the 2010 census.-Geography:According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , all of it land.U.S...

, where they farmed. In 1879, at the age of 22, Almanzo and his brother Royal and sister Eliza Jane moved to the Dakota Territory
Dakota Territory
The Territory of Dakota was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 2, 1861, until November 2, 1889, when the final extent of the reduced territory was split and admitted to the Union as the states of North and South Dakota.The Dakota Territory consisted of...

, taking claims near what would later become the town of De Smet, South Dakota
De Smet, South Dakota
-External links:* * * * *...

. Laura made his fictional counterpart younger in order to reduce the 10 year age gap between them, and fudged the details of his claim paperwork. According to law a homesteader must be 21, so when Almanzo filed for his claim he said to the land agent "You can put me down as 21." Almanzo settled on his homestead with the intent of planting acres of seed wheat which he had cultivated on rented shares in Marshall, Minnesota
Marshall, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 12,735 people, 4,914 households, and 2,914 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,537.0 people per square mile . There were 5,182 housing units at an average density of 625.4 per square mile...

 the previous summer. It was in De Smet that he first met Laura Ingalls. The Ingalls family had been the first settlers in the area, before the town was formally organized, moving to the Dakota Territory from Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Walnut Grove, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 599 people, 291 households, and 178 families residing in the city. The population density was 577.7 people per square mile . There were 341 housing units at an average density of 328.9 per square mile...

, when Laura's father took a brief job with the railroad.

Laura wrote of Almanzo's admirable character in The Long Winter
The Long Winter (novel)
The Long Winter is a Newbery Honor novel by Laura Ingalls Wilder, first published in 1940. The story is set in South Dakota during the severe winter of 1880-1881, when Laura turned fourteen...

. Along with Laura's fellow school chum, Ed "Cap" Garland, (born Edmund Oscar Garland) Almanzo risked his life to save the pioneers of De Smet (including Laura's family) from starvation during the hard winter of 1881. Almanzo was 23 and Garland a mere teen when, in between one of the horrific blizzards that shook the region during the 1880-1881 winter, they went 12 miles (19.3 km) in search of wheat a farmer had supposedly harvested to the southwest of De Smet in the summer of 1880. They managed to find the farmer and purchase, after difficult negotiation (according to the book) 60 bushels of wheat, hauling it back on sleds that continually broke through the snow into slough grass, barely making it back to De Smet before a four-day blizzard hit the area.

Marriage to Laura Ingalls


When Laura was just 15, and Almanzo was 25, he began courting her, driving her back and forth between De Smet and a new settlement 12 miles (19.3 km) outside town where she was teaching school. Three years later, on August 25, 1885, he and Laura were married in De Smet by the Reverend Edward Brown. They settled on Almanzo's claim and began their own little farming operations. The Wilders' daughter, Rose, was born December 5, 1886. Rose later became the author Rose Wilder Lane
Rose Wilder Lane
Rose Wilder Lane was an American journalist, travel writer, novelist, and political theorist...

, a noted political writer and philosopher, whose writings helped influence Leonard Read
Leonard Read
Leonard E. Read was an American economist and the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education, which was the first modern free market think tank in the United States....

's formation of the Foundation for Economic Education
Foundation for Economic Education
The Foundation for Economic Education is one of the oldest free-market organizations established in the United States to study and advance the freedom philosophy. Murray Rothbard recognizes FEE for creating a "crucial open center" that he credits with launching the movement...

 (FEE) in the 1940s, promoting individual liberty, economic education, and property rights. Even today, Rose Wilder Lane is considered a seminal founding force in the American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Libertarian Party
Libertarian Party (United States)
The Libertarian Party is the third largest and fastest growing political party in the United States. The political platform of the Libertarian Party reflects its brand of libertarianism, favoring minimally regulated, laissez-faire markets, strong civil liberties, minimally regulated migration...

.

During their first years of marriage, described in The First Four Years
The First Four Years (novel)
The First Four Years is a book written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and found in the belongings of Rose Wilder Lane by Roger Lea MacBride, Rose's heir, upon Rose's death in 1968...

, the Wilders were plagued by bad weather, illness, and large debts. In spring of 1888, when Rose was still a baby, Almanzo and Laura were stricken with diphtheria
Diphtheria
Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, a facultative anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium. It is characterized by sore throat, low fever, and an adherent membrane on the tonsils, pharynx, and/or nasal cavity...

. Although they both survived, Almanzo suffered from one of the less common, late complications of the illness, neuritis
Peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is the term for damage to nerves of the peripheral nervous system, which may be caused either by diseases of or trauma to the nerve or the side-effects of systemic illness....

. Parts of his lower limbs were temporarily paralyzed, and even after the paralysis had resolved, he needed a cane to walk. Almanzo's inability to perform the hard physical labor associated with wheat farming in South Dakota, combined with a lengthy drought in the late 1880s-early 1890s, further contributed to the Wilders' downward spiral into debt and poverty.

The year 1889 proved the breaking point for the Wilders. In early August, Laura gave birth to a son. The son remained unnamed when, two weeks later, he suddenly died of "convulsions." She never spoke of his death and had no more children.
Laura's own mother, Caroline, also lost her only son, Charles Frederick, when he died on August 27, 1876, at the age of nine months, when Laura was 9 years old.
Almanzo's only child, Rose, also lost a son, her only child, in 1909 or 1910 due to a possible stillbirth
Stillbirth
A stillbirth occurs when a fetus has died in the uterus. The Australian definition specifies that fetal death is termed a stillbirth after 20 weeks gestation or the fetus weighs more than . Once the fetus has died the mother still has contractions and remains undelivered. The term is often used in...

 or an early death. Like Laura, Rose never had any more children.

That same month Laura and Almanzo lost their home to a fire and their crops to drought. In the words of Almanzo's daughter, Rose, "It took seven successive years of complete crop failure, with work, weather and sickness that wrecked his health permanently, and interest rates of 36 per cent on money borrowed to buy food, to dislodge us from that land."

In 1890, Almanzo moved his family to Spring Valley, Minnesota
Spring Valley, Minnesota
Spring Valley is a city in Fillmore County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 2,479 at the 2010 census.-Geography:According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , all of it land.U.S...

, to stay with his parents on their prosperous farm. It was a time of rest and recovery for the weary family. Between 1891 and 1892, the Wilders moved to Westville, Florida
Westville, Florida
Westville is a town in Holmes County, Florida, United States. As of the 2000 census, the town had a total population of 221. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2004 estimates, the town had a population of 225.According to Westville town Census 2010 results, the population of the area was...

, in hopes that the warmer climate would help Almanzo regain his strength. To a limited extent it did, but Laura did not like the humid climate or the customs of the backwoods locals, so they returned to De Smet in 1892, and rented a small house in town. Between 1892 and 1894, Laura and Almanzo lived in De Smet, with Laura's family nearby. Rose was given special permission to start school early, and she soon proved to be an outstanding scholar. Laura worked as a seamstress in a dressmaker's shop, and Almanzo found work as a carpenter and day laborer. Together, they practiced extreme frugality and carefully saved money.

Settling down in Missouri


On July 17, 1894, Almanzo, Laura, and Rose left for The Ozarks
The Ozarks
The Ozarks are a physiographic and geologic highland region of the central United States. It covers much of the southern half of Missouri and an extensive portion of northwestern and north central Arkansas...

 of Missouri
Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

 by covered wagon
Covered wagon
The covered wagon, also known as a Prairie schooner, is an icon of the American Old West.Although covered wagons were commonly used for shorter moves within the United States, in the mid-nineteenth century thousands of Americans took them across the Great Plains to Oregon and California...

, attracted by brochures of "The Land of the Big Red Apple" and stories of a local man who had traveled to Missouri to see for himself. On August 31, they arrived near Mansfield, Missouri
Mansfield, Missouri
Mansfield is a city in Wright County, Missouri, United States. The population was 1,349 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Mansfield is located at ....

, and placed a $100 down payment on 40 acres (162,000 m²) of hilly, rocky undeveloped land that Laura aptly named "Rocky Ridge Farm
Laura Ingalls Wilder House
The Laura Ingalls Wilder House in Mansfield, Missouri, also known as Rocky Ridge Farm, was the home of author Laura Ingalls Wilder from 1896 until her death in 1957. Wilder, the author of the Little House on the Prairie series, began writing here at the age of 65.-External links:*...

." This farm was Almanzo and Laura's final home. In Missouri, Almanzo and Laura's luck finally changed, and they lived the rest of their life happily and successfully. Over the 20 years, Almanzo built Laura her dream house: a unique 10-room home in which he custom-built kitchen cabinets to accommodate her small, five-foot (1.52 m) frame.

Rocky Ridge Farm was eventually expanded to about 200 acres (809,000 m²) and was a productive poultry, dairy, and fruit farm. Almanzo's lifetime love of Morgan horse
Morgan horse
The Morgan is one of the earliest horse breeds developed in the United States. Tracing back to the stallion Figure, later named Justin Morgan after his best-known owner, the breed excels in many disciplines, and is known for its versatility....

s was indulged, and he also kept a large herd of cows and goats. Having learned a hard lesson by focusing on wheat farming in South Dakota, the Wilders chose a more diversified approach to farming suited to the climate of the Ozarks. Almanzo lived out the rest of his life on his farm, and both he and Laura were active in various community and church pursuits during their time in Missouri.

Although royalties from the Little House books helped provide for Laura and Almanzo, Rose helped support her parents until the mid-1930s. Eventually their efforts at Rocky Ridge during the 30s and 40s, along with the royalties from Laura's books finally provided a secure enough income to allow them to attain a financial stability not known earlier in their marriage. Earlier in their marriage, Laura had also contributed to their income by taking in occasional boarders, writing columns for a rural newspaper, and serving as Treasurer/Loan Officer for a Farm Loan Association.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Rose lived on the farm for long periods of time, bringing electricity and other modern updates to the place, even building an English-style stone cottage for her parents, while taking over the farm house herself for about ten years. Almanzo learned to drive an automobile, which greatly improved the Wilders' mobility. They eventually took several long auto trips, including to California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 and the Pacific Northwest
Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a region in northwestern North America, bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and, loosely, by the Rocky Mountains on the east. Definitions of the region vary and there is no commonly agreed upon boundary, even among Pacific Northwesterners. A common concept of the...

, and went several times to visit Laura's remaining family in South Dakota. When Rose moved permanently to Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

 in about 1937, her parents quickly returned to their beloved farm house, later selling off the eastern land with the stone cottage.

Almanzo spent his last years happily tending small vegetable and flower gardens, indulging his lifetime love of woodworking and carpentry and tending his goats. He aided his wife in greeting the carloads of Little House fans who regularly found their way to Rocky Ridge Farm. Almanzo Wilder died at the age of 92 on October 23, 1949 after suffering two heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

s. Laura died eight years later, on February 10, 1957. Rose lived until 1968. All three of them are buried in Mansfield, and many of Almanzo's possessions and handiwork can be seen at Rocky Ridge Farm, now the Laura Ingalls Wilder/Rose Wilder Lane Museum, as well as the Malone, New York
Malone, New York
Malone, New York is the name of two locations in Franklin County, New York, in the United States:*Malone , New York*Malone , New York...

 and Spring Valley, Minnesota
Spring Valley, Minnesota
Spring Valley is a city in Fillmore County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 2,479 at the 2010 census.-Geography:According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , all of it land.U.S...

 sites.

Almanzo Wilder appears to have been a quiet, stoic man, representative of the time and culture in which he lived. His love of farming, horses, and rural living are well documented. Most of what is known of his personality and inner character must be gleaned from his wife's and daughter's literary portrayals (the lead character of Rose's homesteading novel Free Land
Free Land
-Summary:It is 1880s - David Beaton and his bride come to Dakota to claim three hundred acres of grassland. But they have to struggle to survive. The young couple experience cyclones, droughts, and blizzards that isolate them for days from the rest of the world....

was based on Almanzo) and the remaining evidence left among his family and friends' written recollections.

Family


Source: The Genealogy of Almanzo & Laura Ingalls Wilder


The Wilder family has very deep family roots in colonial Massachusetts Bay Colony
Massachusetts Bay Colony
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was an English settlement on the east coast of North America in the 17th century, in New England, situated around the present-day cities of Salem and Boston. The territory administered by the colony included much of present-day central New England, including portions...

, with his ancestors including David Wilder (1764-1851) and Edmund Rice
Edmund Rice (1638)
Edmund Rice , was an early immigrant to Massachusetts Bay Colony who was born in Suffolk, England, and lived in Stanstead, Suffolk and Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire prior to sailing with his family to America. He arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in summer or fall of 1638, presumed to be first...

.

Name origin


In one of her books, Little Town on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder attributed to Almanzo Wilder the following explanation for his rather unusual first name: "It was wished on me. My folks have got a notion there always has to be an Almanzo in the family, because 'way back in the time of the Crusades there was a Wilder went to them, and an Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 or somebody saved his life. El Manzoor, the name was. They changed it after a while in England..."

Mansour is a common Arabic given name, meaning "victorious"; the article "al-
Al-
is the definite article in the Arabic language; a particle whose function is to render the noun on which it is prefixed definite. For example, the word kitāb 'book' can be made definite by prefixing it with al-, resulting in al-kitāb 'the book'...

" or "el-" merely means "the". Also, Al-Mansour is one of the most famous families in Saudi Arabia.

In the media


Wilder was portrayed in the television adaptations of Little House on the Prairie by :
  • Dean Butler (actor)
    Dean Butler (actor)
    Dean Butler was born May 20, 1956, in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, is an American movie and television actor and producer of documentaries....

    , in the television series Little House on the Prairie
    Little House on the Prairie (TV series)
    Little House on the Prairie is an American Western drama television series, starring Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert, about a family living on a farm in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, in the 1870s and 1880s. The show was an adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder's best-selling series of Little House books...

    and its movie sequels,
  • Walton Goggins
    Walton Goggins
    Walton Sanders Goggins, Jr. is an American actor best known for his roles on the FX Networks series The Shield and Justified, portraying Detective Shane Vendrell and Boyd Crowder, respectively. He is also known for his character roles in the films Miracle at St. Anna and Predators...

    , in Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder
    Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder
    Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder and its sequel, Beyond the Prairie, Part 2: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, are television films which were presented in two parts, the first in 2000, and the second in 2002, which presented episodes from the later books in the...

    films.

External links