Little House in Old World Wisconsin

Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in Wisconsin in 1867, in a Little House in the Big Woods (near Pepin, WI, close to the border of Minnesota).  Mary Hafford, the Irish immigrant who lived in the house where I work as an interpreter for the living history museum, Old World Wisconsin, was widowed in the year 1868 with 3 small children and lived as a renter in a small village near Watertown, WI.   The Ingalls family continued to move west and eventually set up a homestead in South Dakota, but Mary Hafford worked away at her home laundry business and eventually achieved social and economic prominence in her little village.  In 1885, she had a new house constructed on the property that she had bought.  She never learned to read or write, but her children did.  Her youngest daughter, Ellen, studied dressmaking, a skilled trade, and became a live-in dressmaker.  Ellen was married in 1891 (six years after Laura Ingalls married Almanzo Wilder), and her mother hosted a reception and dinner for 75 guests.  Three months later, Mary Hafford died of dropsy.  I imagine Ellen Hafford Thompson and wonder what stories she might have written about her life in the Little House where she lived.  I have a burning question: what happened to her older sister, Ann, who is conspicuously absent from all records from the mid-1880s on?  Did she die?  If so, why isn’t she buried next to her father & mother?  Did she go into a convent?  Did she elope with a Lutheran?  The mystery remains unsolved!

The neighbors’ backyard

Trusty “Rapid Washer”

A shadow box memorial to a young woman who had taken religious vows. The braid that was cut off is all the family would ever see of this loved one after she went into the convent.

 

9 thoughts on “Little House in Old World Wisconsin

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