Update: We recently visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield Missouri again when we traveled to Michigan. I loved the tour almost as much as the first time we went (except there was no tour at the Rock House this time, just a docent to answer questions.) I’ve updated this post to include new information I learned on our second trip.
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I’ve loved the Little House on the Prairie books since I was a little girl. Cuddle Bug (9), and PB & J Girl (11) share my love. In fact, over 15 months of bedtime reading, we’ve read every book in the series together. We’re also in the process of watching the Little House on the Prairie TV show on Amazon.
Long before our kids were born, my husband and I took a summer trip to Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa to see all of the sites where Laura lived during her childhood. We couldn’t make it to Missouri, though, to see the Rocky Ridge Farm that Laura and Almanzo lived on for 60 years.
However, when we took our trip to Ohio and Michigan in March, I discovered that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield Missouri was just an hour off the highway on our way home. We spent the day in Springfield, Missouri, and spent several hours at the Rocky Ridge Farm and Museum.
After a short 10 minute video about Laura (which contained information any die-hard Little House fan already knows), we got to go through the museum.
Wow! The museum is amazing. There were Laura’s dresses that she made herself. They were so tiny! Laura was only 4 feet 11 inches, and she was a thin woman, so the dresses were very small. There were quilts and beadwork that Mary had made, family pictures and other heirlooms. Pa’s fiddle was on display.
There was also a funny little note from Laura’s daughter, Rose, to her dad, Almanzo, mentioning that she thought Mama Bess (her nickname for Laura) was getting fat.
I loved the museum and could have spent more time there. (Unfortunately, PB & J Girl (7.5) woke up with a bad cold, so she spent much of the trip either being carried by my husband or sitting on a bench with my husband waiting for us to finish up, so I couldn’t savor the moment as much as I would have liked.)
The Rock House
In 1928, Rose returned home to Missouri, and, flush with money from her writing, had a very modern home built for her parents. This is now called the Rock House, and it was the first house we toured. The Rock House had the tiniest kitchen, though I’m sure for the time it wasn’t that small. Still, I found myself wondering how Laura did all the canning that she did in such a tiny space.
There were so many neat innovations at this house. Rose paid to have electricity brought out to the house. There were built-in cisterns at each side of the house to collect the rainwater to use for gardening. There was a built-in bathroom complete with plumbing.
Clearly, Rose wanted the best for her parents, but Laura and Almanzo missed their Rocky Ridge farmhouse and moved back there within eight years, as soon as Rose once again moved out of the area. They promptly sold the Rock House.
On our second trip, I learned that the Rock House changed hands several times until the museum bought it in the ’90s. At that time, it was in a state of disrepair. At one time, a farmer stored hay in the kitchen of the house, destroying the lower cabinets! However, they found the original upper cabinets in the barn, and those are in the house now. The museum spent several years restoring the house before it was available for tours.
Rocky Ridge Farmhouse
When Laura and Almanzo first came to this location, they lived in a small cabin that was on the farm. Within a year, they had built a two room cabin, and then they added on Laura’s dream farm kitchen. Since Laura was so petite, the kitchen counters are unusually low. The original stove and oven, a 1905 model from Montgomery Wards or Sears, I can’t remember, is in wonderful condition. The docent said that Laura was a fastidious housekeeper, and it shows.
The farmhouse was where I could truly feel Laura and the way she lived. She loved large windows that let in plenty of light, and she loved to look out on the scenic landscape while she worked. In this house, she wrote the last five novels. Her dining room table, where she wrote the books and read her fan mail, as well as her desk where she also worked, were both here.
Laura and Alamzo’s bedroom wall is painted a bright green, and there are plenty of green accents at the Rock House. The tour guide said that Laura and Almanzo loved the color green.
Beside Almanzo’s bed is his little medicine box complete with a 67 year old bottle of Vicks Vapor Rub.
Throughout the house are things that Almanzo made. He built the entire farmhouse himself, starting in 1896 and finally finishing it as it stands today in 1913. He built Adirondack chairs, lamps, and tables that furnish the house. On the sofa is a hook rug pillow of a horse that Almanzo did as well as a needle point pillow that Almanzo’s mother made.
The calendar in the kitchen is on February, 1957, the month and year that Laura died at 90. Beside her bed is the 1957 Montgomery Ward catalog she might have looked at in her last days.
While I’ve been to almost all of the Little House historic sites, this one is hands down the best one because of so many artifacts that belonged to Laura. The next closest one is the home Pa and Ma owned in DeSmet.
I’d highly recommend the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield Missouri. We easily spent over two hours here.