Two years ago we had the opportunity to take a great field trip to the Almanzo Wilder Homestead in Malone, NY. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Little House on the Prairie series, Almanzo was Laura’s husband and his childhood in this house is the subject of her book Farmer Boy.
We had just finished reading aloud Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie to begin the series when we made the trip to the Wilder Homestead. Big Sis, 8 at the time, already liked the books, but seeing the house and farm in person really brought it to life for her. That’s when her interest in Little House on the Prairie took off and we decided to use The Prairie Primer as part of our homeschool studies.
Most Little House landmarks are in the midwest, particularly Minnesota. The Wilder homestead is not as widely known or visited as Laura’s girlhood homes. It’s a very peaceful and unspoiled area surrounded by lots of rolling farmland leading up to the Adirondack Mountains. To this day, there is little development in the area.
|Sheep barn and other outbuildings near the farmhouse|
Part of the tour included the barns where they sheared sheep and spun wool. There were antique tools on display with explanations of how they were used. Big Sis was fascinated!
|front view of the house|
Although the house seemed small and narrow to us, it was considered quite upscale in its time. The kitchen was large, there was a formal dining room, and a fancy parlor downstairs. The house had the kind of features that were only found in the more well-to-do families of the time.
|More of the outbuildings/barns|
Big Sis was very interested in how they made their own soap, candles, and bread among other things. She also thought it was neat how they stored food in a separate pantry room and ice house to keep it cool.
|Nearby creek as mentioned in the book|
We saw the creek (mentioned in the book) from which they hauled chunks of ice in the winter to store in the ice house. It couldn’t have been an easy walk!
|Side view of the house|
It’s hard to imagine leaving this remote spot in northern New York and heading out across the country to Minnesota, especially given the limits of transportation at the time. The idea that Laura and Almanzo would one day meet and fall in love so far from the place he was raised really defies the odds. Maybe that is part of why Laura wanted to write a book about his childhood!