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The fictional locale for Winoka was based upon a much older, bigger, and rowdier town than the slower-paced and real-life Walnut Grove. Winoka had a hotel (where Charles and Caroline worked, and lived with their children), a saloon, a bank, a church and three schools: a public school, a private one and a special school for blind students. The schools form football teams, and eventually integrate to play against each other in spirited competition.
When a dispute with the railroads causes an economic crisis in Walnut Grove, the Ingalls move to Winoka, to be close to Mary, who went there with Adam Kendall in order to teach at a new school for the blind. The Ingalls are accompanied by the Garveys, and all are soon coincidentally joined by the Olesons. Albert Ingalls appears in the series for the first time, being befriended by Laura and the rest of her family. [Matthew Laborteaux also portrayed a young Charles Ingalls in season 4, I Remember, I Remember which aired January 23, 1978.]
Life in the crowded, noisy town turns out to be an unpleasant experience for the Ingalls and their friends, so they all decide to move back to Walnut Grove, despite the problems there. Mary stays in Winoka, where she eventually marries Adam. Later, they leave the town as well, when the school for blind students is moved to Walnut Grove.
The stay in Winoka was a fictional moment in the series, but it did have some real-life inspiration. The Ingalls did leave Walnut Grove and live in Dakota (in De Smet, South Dakota), where they eventually settled for the rest of their lives. They also temporarily lived in a small town in Iowa, named Burr Oak, where Charles and Caroline worked in a hotel. They moved there from Walnut Grove in the summer of 1876 and went back to Walnut Grove the next summer.