The Wilder Homestead was the home of James Wilder and his family, including Almanzo Wilder, born February 13, 1857. His boyhood here would become the story of Farmer Boy, the second in the series of Little House books written by his wife, Laura Ingalls Wilder.
The Wilders lived at the Burke, NY site from 1840, when James Wilder purchased the original 88 acres, until 1875 when the family moved to Spring Valley, Minnesota. James, his wife Angeline, and at least their two of their youngest children had spent time there during the illness of George Day, a brother of Mrs. Wilder. It was his farm they purchased after Mr. Day's death.
Eventually, Almanzo moved to South Dakota along with his brother Royal, mentioned as a storekeeper in other Little House books, and his sister Eliza Jane. She was both a homesteader and a schoolteacher, with Laura Ingalls as one of her pupils.
On August 25, 1885 Almanzo married Laura in DeSmet, South Dakota. In 1894 Almanzo, Laura, and their young daughter Rose left their discouraging homestead claim, and moved to Mansfield, Missouri where they gradually built a home and established a new farm. In their later years in Mansfield, Laura wrote her famous books, including Farmer Boy, published by Harper & Brothers in 1933.
When Farmer Boy reached the Malone, New York area, several individuals realized that they had connections to Almanzo. One was Will Collins who remembered Almanzo and indicated the location of the farm where the Wilders had lived. This location was subsequently backed by written records.
Another local resident, Mrs. Frances Smith, realized that she was related to Almanzo. She was the granddaughter of the same Uncle Andrew and Aunt Sarah Day mentioned in Farmer Boy. She and her daughter, Dorothy, corresponded with Laura. It was Dorothy Smith who persuaded other interested people to form the nonprofit Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder Association. On June 5, 1987, the association purchased the 84 acres remaining from the original farm. Archeological digs in 1988 and 1989, as well as an architectural house report, proved the house to be the original described in the book. This is the only Little House on its original site. Most restoration work on the house has since been completed.
The side barns were definitely gone by the time the book was published; some have speculated that the original Big Barn might have been incorporated into another barn that was destroyed by lightning in 1967. New barns have been reconstructed, their construction guided by the sketches Almanzo made for Laura while she was writing the story of his boyhood. In addition to the barns, pump house, and henhouse, the Wilder Association has built a Visitor's Center, including a gift shop, museum, and office. The archives maintained on the second floor may be open by appointment. A picnic pavilion has been erected for the convenience of visitors, as has a separate building for restrooms. Across the road from the buildings is a path to the Trout River for those wanting to see that part of the farm, where sheep were washed and Almanzo and his father went fishing on a rainy summer day.
The Almanzo & Laura Ingalls Wilder Association is committed to preservation of the site and education not only about the Wilders in specific, but about New York state rural life in mid-nineteenth century in general. In the future additional refinements will be made to the restoration and reconstruction. As funds become available, the Association plans to build additional buildings, such as an icehouse, an outhouse and a schoolhouse.
Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder Association
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