Almanzo Wilder

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Almanzo Wilder
Born (1857-02-13)February 13, 1857
Malone, New York, U.S.
Died October 23, 1949(1949-10-23) (aged 92)
Mansfield, Missouri, U.S.
Spouse(s) Laura Ingalls Wilder (1885-1949) (his death)
Children Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968)

Almanzo James Wilder (February 13, 1857–October 23, 1949) was the husband of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the father of Rose Wilder Lane, both noted U.S. writers.


Early life[edit]

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. His siblings include Laura Ann (1844–1899), Royal Gould (1847–1925), Eliza Jane (1850–1930), Alice M. (1853–1892), and Perley Day (1869–1934).[1] As part of her Little House series of autobiographical novels, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote a book titled Farmer Boy about Almanzo's childhood in upstate New York.

Almanzo is a well-known character in the Little House books, and Laura writes about him, their courtship, and their subsequent marriage in The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years. Almanzo was characterized as a quietly courageous, hardworking man who loved horses and farming. He was also an accomplished carpenter and woodworker.

Farmer Boy recounts events of Almanzo's childhood starting when Almanzo was eight 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.

Farmer Boy, by publication date, was the second book written in the Little House series (this is verified by both of Laura's biographers, John E. Miller, in his book Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder (pp. 194–202), and William Anderson in his work Laura Ingalls Wilder - A Biography, (p. 199)). Published in 1933, it was followed by Little House on the Prairie in 1935. The original order of publication was changed by the publisher Harper with the release of the newly illustrated 1953 edition.

Moving out West[edit]

The Wilders left Malone in 1870 due to crop failures, and settled in Spring Valley, Minnesota, where they farmed. In 1879, Almanzo and his brother Royal and sister Eliza Jane moved to the Dakota Territory, taking claims near what would later become the town of De Smet, South Dakota. Almanzo settled on his homestead with the intent of planting acres of seed wheat which he had cultivated on rented shares in Marshall, Minnesota 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, when Laura's father took a brief job with the railroad.

Laura wrote of Almanzo's admirable character in The Long Winter. Along with Laura's fellow school chum, Ed "Cap" Garland, (born Oscar Edmund 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 24 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 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[edit]

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 km) outside town where she was teaching school and boarding. 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, a noted political writer and philosopher, whose writings helped influence Leonard Read's formation of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in the 1940s, promoting individual liberty, economic education, and property rights. Even today, Rose Wilder Lane is considered a seminal founding force of the Libertarian Party in America.[citation needed]

During their first years of marriage, described in The First Four Years, 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. Although they both survived, Almanzo suffered from one of the less common, late complications of the illness, neuritis. 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 and 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.[2] 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.[3] Almanzo's only child, Rose, also lost a son, her only child, in 1909 or 1910 due to a possible stillbirth or an early death.[4] Like Laura, Rose never had any more children. Also in that same month of August 1889, 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, 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, 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[edit]

On July 17, 1894, Almanzo, Laura, and Rose left for The Ozarks of Missouri by covered wagon, 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, and placed a $100 down payment on 40 acres (162,000 m²) of hilly, rocky undeveloped land that Laura aptly named "Rocky Ridge Farm." 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 horses 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 and the Pacific Northwest, and went several times to visit Laura's remaining family in South Dakota. When Rose moved permanently to Connecticut 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 attacks. 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 and Spring Valley, Minnesota 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 was based on Almanzo) and the remaining evidence left among his family and friends' written recollections.


Daniel Wilder (1764-1851)
Mary Polly Gould (1765-1828)
Thomas Payne
Sarah Stewart Mason
Justin Day, I
Abel Wilder (1784-1849)
Hannah Payne (1790-1842)
Justin Day, II
Diadema Bateman (1794-1868)
James Mason Wilder (1813-1899)
Angeline Albina Day (1821-1905)
Laura Ann Wilder (1844-1899)
Royal Gould Wilder (1847-1925)
Eliza Jane Wilder (1850-1930)
Alice M. Wilder (1852-1892)
Almanzo James Wilder (1857-1949)
Perley Day Wilder (1869-1934)

Name origin[edit]

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

In the media[edit]

Wilder was portrayed in the television adaptations of Little House on the Prairie by :


  1. ^
  2. ^ Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder, by John Miller, 1998, page 84.
  3. ^ Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder, by John Miller, 1998, page 36.
  4. ^ The Ghost in the Little House, by William Holtz, 1993, page 51.

Minnesota Historical Society: Minnesota State Census Index 1875

External links[edit]