Caroline Ingalls

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Caroline Ingalls
Charles&CarolineIngalls 2.jpg
Caroline Ingalls with her husband Charles
Born Caroline Lake Quiner
(1839-12-12)December 12, 1839
Brookfield, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died April 20, 1924(1924-04-20) (aged 84)
De Smet, South Dakota, U.S.
Spouse(s) Charles Ingalls (1860-1902) (his death)

Caroline Ingalls, born Caroline Lake Quiner (December 12, 1839 – April 20, 1924) was the mother of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House books.


Historical marker at the place of Caroline Ingalls's birth
For information on the relatives, see : List of real-life individuals from Little House on the Prairie

She was born 15 miles west of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the town of Brookfield, in the county of Waukesha, the fifth of seven children of Henry Quiner and Charlotte (Tucker) Quiner. Her brothers were Joseph, Henry, and Thomas, and her sisters were Martha Jane and Eliza (the Quiners' first child, Martha Morse Quiner, died in 1836).[1]

When Caroline was five, her father died in an accident, reportedly on Lake Michigan near the Straits of Mackinac. In 1849, her mother married Frederick Holbrook, a farmer who lived nearby.[2] They had one child together, Charlotte "Lottie" Holbrook. Caroline evidently loved and respected her stepfather, and would later honor his memory by naming her son after him.

At age 16 1/2, Caroline started working as a teacher. On February 1, 1860, she married Charles Ingalls. They had five children: Mary, Laura, Caroline ("Carrie"), Charles Frederick ("Freddie"), and Grace.

Freddie Ingalls[edit]

Charles Frederick Ingalls Jr.
Born (1875-11-01)November 1, 1875
Walnut Grove, Minnesota, U.S.
Died August 27, 1876(1876-08-27) (aged 0)
South Troy, Minnesota, U.S.

Charles Fredrick Ingalls was born on November 1, 1875, in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and died August 27, 1876, just over 2 months before his first birthday in South Troy, Minnesota, of undetermined causes. In her unpublished autobiography Pioneer Girl,[3] Laura remembers that "Little Brother was not well" and that "one terrible day, he straightened out his little body and was dead". Wilder scholar William Anderson noted, "Nearly forty years after Freddie's death, Ma mourned him, telling relatives how different everything would be 'if Freddie had lived'."[4] Laura Ingalls Wilder never mentioned him in her books, but he appears in Old Town in the Green Groves, a Laura's Lost Years novel by Cynthia Rylant. The history of Freddie is also mentioned in "The Lord Is My Shepherd, Part 1", an episode of the Little House on the Prairie series. Certain circumstances and consequences of his death (appearing in the Part 2 episode) were, however, fictionalized, including his death when he was only a few weeks old. Also, in the episode, he is named Charles not Freddie.

Laura Ingalls Wilder's only son also died at only a few weeks old, of unspecified causes. He had not been named and he is not buried with his parents in Mansfield, Missouri. Instead, "Baby Son of A.J. Wilder" is buried with his maternal grandmother and aunts in the De Smet, South Dakota, cemetery.

Like her mother and grandmother, Laura's only surviving child Rose Wilder Lane had a son who was stillborn or died shortly after birth around 1910. Rose had no more children; supposedly, the end of the pregnancy required Rose to have an operation that left her unable to have more children. She eventually divorced her husband, Gillette Lane, around 1915 or 1916. Although she was a prolific writer, Rose never wrote about exactly what had happened to her son, or even when he was born. His death was so painful, as were those of Freddie Ingalls and Baby Son Wilder, that Rose did not want to speak about the loss. Only decades later would she write in a letter to a friend that she had never forgotten him.

The Ingalls family traveled by covered wagon from Wisconsin; Kansas (Indian Territory); Burr Oak, Iowa; and Minnesota. In 1879 they settled on a homestead near De Smet. When Charles and Caroline Ingalls decided to sell their farm because of the persistent pattern of dry years of weather, combined with Charles Ingalls' advancing age and inability to take care of his large acreage, he built the family a home on Third Street in the town of De Smet in Dakota Territory.[5] He made his living primarily as a carpenter from that time onward until his death of heart disease at age 66, a normal lifespan for an adult male at that time.

After her husband Charles' death, Caroline rented out rooms in her home for income. De Smet residents remember Caroline sometimes sitting outside with her blind daughter Mary. Although they attended church, Caroline was a very private person who rarely left home. She was deeply religious and Mary's blindness was an extreme blow to Caroline's hopes for her bright daughter.

Caroline died at age 84, and was buried at De Smet Cemetery along with her husband, daughters Mary, Carrie, and Grace, and unnamed baby grandson. Laura did not attend her mother's funeral, and in fact never saw her again after the death of "Pa" (Charles Ingalls).[citation needed]

In the media[edit]

The series The Caroline Years, an extension of the Little House series, by Maria D. Wilkes and Celia Wilkins, follows Caroline Quiner from her fifth year to her late teens, up to her engagement to Charles. The names, dates and people mentioned in the books are true, but much of the content of the books is, by necessity, fictionalized. The first title in the series is Little House in Brookfield.[6]

Additionally, Caroline was portrayed in adaptations of Little House on the Prairie by:


External links[edit]