Caroline Ingalls

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Caroline Ingalls
Caroline and Charles Ingalls sepia cropped.jpg
Caroline Quiner Ingalls with her husband Charles Phillip Ingalls
Caroline Lake Quiner

(1839-12-12)December 12, 1839
DiedApril 20, 1924(1924-04-20) (aged 84)
(m. 1860; died 1902)
  • Henry Quiner
  • Charlotte Tucker

Caroline Lake Ingalls (/ˈɪŋɡəlz/; née 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

Caroline was born 15 miles west of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the Town of Brookfield, Waukesha County.[1] She was 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.)

When Caroline was 5, her father was second mate on a ship that capsized and sank on Lake Michigan near the Straits of Mackinac. There were no survivors. In 1849, her mother married farmer Frederick Holbrook. 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.[2] At the age of 16 1/2, Caroline started working as a teacher.


On February 1, 1860, she married Charles Phillip Ingalls in Concord, WI.[3] Together they had five children: Mary Amelia, Laura Elizabeth, Caroline Celestia (Carrie), Charles Frederick (Freddie), and Grace Pearl.[4][5]

Freddie Ingalls[edit]

Freddie Ingalls
Charles Frederick Ingalls

(1875-11-01)November 1, 1875
Walnut Grove, Minnesota,
United States
DiedAugust 27, 1876 (9 months, 26 days)
South Troy, Minnesota,
United States
Parent(s)Caroline Ingalls (mother)
Charles Ingalls (father)

Charles Frederick "Freddie" Ingalls was born on November 1, 1875, in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and died August 27, 1876, in South Troy, Minnesota, of indeterminate causes.

In her autobiography Pioneer Girl,[6] 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'."[7]

Travels and later years[edit]

The Ingalls family traveled by covered wagon from Wisconsin; Kansas (Indian Territory); Burr Oak, Iowa; and Minnesota. In 1879, they settled in De Smet in Dakota Territory.

Final home of Caroline Ingalls, built by Charles in 1887, and located in De Smet, South Dakota

After arriving in De Smet, Caroline and the Ingalls family lived in the home of the local surveyor as well as a store in the downtown area, before homesteading just outside town on a farm by Silver Lake. When the Ingalls family sold the farm due to a persistent pattern of dry years, Charles built a home for them on Third Street in De Smet, known later as "The House That Pa Built".[8] Following her husband's death from heart disease in 1902 at age 66, Ingalls and her oldest daughter, Mary, remained in the De Smet house, renting one of the rooms for extra income. Following a long illness, Caroline Ingalls died on April 20, 1924, at the age of 84.

In the media[edit]

The fictional 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 first title in the series is Little House in Brookfield.[9]

The novel Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller follows the Ingalls family move from Pepin, Wisconsin to Kansas Territory from the viewpoint of Caroline.[10] The novel was authorized by the Little House Heritage Trust.


  • Robynne Elizabeth Miller (2015). From the Mouth of Ma: A Search for Caroline Quiner Ingalls. Practical Pioneer Press. ISBN 978-0-692-58065-3.
  1. ^ "Young historian traces residence of author's mom". The Journal Times. December 12, 1996.
  2. ^ Van Haaften, Jennifer (Spring 2017). "Re-examining the American Pioneer Spirit: The Extended Family of Laura Ingalls Wilder". Wisconsin Magazine of History. 100 (3): 4–11 – via Wisconsin Historical Society.
  3. ^ Schremp, Valerie (January 27, 2002). "Looking for Laura". Saint Louis Post-Dispatch.
  4. ^ Powers, Pamela (May 24, 1998). "Tracing her travels". Leader-Telegram.
  5. ^ Hoffman, Joy (November 29, 1974). "'Little House' books, author interest aided by tv series". Leader-Telegram.
  6. ^ "Wilder, Laura Ingalls (1867–1957), Papers, 1894–1943 (C3633)" (PDF). State Historical Society of Missouri. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 10, 2015. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  7. ^ Anderson, William (1989). Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Iowa Story. Laura Ingalls Wilder Park & Museum. p. 7. ISBN 096100889X.
  8. ^ Potter, Constance (Winter 2003). "Genealogy Notes: De Smet, Dakota Territory, Little Town in the National Archives". Prologue Magazine. The National Archives. 35 (4).
  9. ^ Wilkes, Maria D. Little House in Brookfield. New York: HarperTrophy. ISBN 0-06-440610-5.
  10. ^ Miller, Sarah. Caroline: Little House, Revisited. New York, N.Y. : William Morrow. ISBN 9780062685353.

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