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What was Charles Ingalls' Deal


MrsWeasley
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I am reading the Little House books with my middle kid again. Every time I read this series, I regard Charles Ingalls with a complete lack of comprehension. What was wrong with this man? Their lives in Wisconsin sound idyllic compared to everywhere else they live. Especially after the debacle in Kansas and then miraculously regaining his farm in Wisconsin, why move to Plum Creek? Any Pa Ingalls apologists want to shed some light?

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Today when people move like that, the likeliest explanation is that they would like to stay where they are, but they do not have a job opportunity.

 

So, I have always assumed that he couldn't make a living in Wisconsin.

 

Maybe they didn't have enough land, or something like that.

 

I am curious to know, too.

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LOL yeah he sucked big time.

 

What really crazy is that Laura loved him to the moon and back. So, I mean, if we can all read between her loving, adoring lines and see that he was the worst (even by the dictates of his own time)...then yeah. The worst.

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My husband and I talked about this when I was reading the books to our kids.  He used the  term "shiftless" although that does not exactly fit, because he seemed not to be lazy.  He just had the wanderlust, I guess, or was always looking for something better - maybe in the wrong places.

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shiftless is a good word

 

I feel like he would fall for a pyramid scheme if he were alive today.

 

"Oh that land is still legally the Indians' and there has been violence? But rando person swears the gov is going to drive them out [sounds safe!] any day now? Well shoot! sign me up to take all these litle girls out there! What could go wrong?"

Edited by OKBud
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Yeah, wanderlust seems to describe him.  He seemed unable to be content with either where he was or what he was doing.

 

  I've seen wanderlust in action.  My brother in law was very much like that- he was an awesome guy- but he frequently got bored with his job and his location so he'd find another and move around a good bit. My sister loved him dearly but for about five years she decided to stay put and let their kids enjoy stable school, home, and friend situations. Nobody understood it - they thought sis and BIL must be unhappy or divorcing since they lived in different states. But it worked for them.  The huge difference is that BIL was an accomplished engineer and made plenty of money to support his family.  

 

Charles seemed to always struggle.  If he'd found success everywhere he took the family I think I'd view his wanderlust differently. 

 

 

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I'll admit this was my favorite series growing up, to the extent that my mom made me Laura outfits (complete with bonnets) that I would wear day in and day out exploring the hills behind our house. Man was I in for a shock when I read the books to my DS was he was little! They were *awful*. So poorly written and then of course having the perspective of an adult...around that time I also read an article (wish I could link but it's long gone) about their desperate poverty. Obviously kids romantasize the pioneer age, but reading about the realities was pretty sobering.

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Yeah, wanderlust seems to describe him.  He seemed unable to be content with either where he was or what he was doing.

 

  I've seen wanderlust in action.  My brother in law was very much like that- he was an awesome guy- but he frequently got bored with his job and his location so he'd find another and move around a good bit. My sister loved him dearly but for about five years she decided to stay put and let their kids enjoy stable school, home, and friend situations. Nobody understood it - they thought sis and BIL must be unhappy or divorcing since they lived in different states. But it worked for them.  The huge difference is that BIL was an accomplished engineer and made plenty of money to support his family.  

 

Charles seemed to always struggle.  If he'd found success everywhere he took the family I think I'd view his wanderlust differently. 

 

Laura gives the reason for the moves as wanderlust. I have had a bit of wanderlust the last few years, but having kids makes me very risk averse even without having an experience like they did in Kansas. Why didn't Kansas scare him enough to stifle his wanderlust?

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Today when people move like that, the likeliest explanation is that they would like to stay where they are, but they do not have a job opportunity.

 

So, I have always assumed that he couldn't make a living in Wisconsin.

 

Maybe they didn't have enough land, or something like that.

 

I am curious to know, too.

 

We haven't finished the series again, but if I recall correctly, didn't they make De Smet - where they starved for a whole winter - their forever home? They seemed to have food and family support in Wisconsin. I wonder how much of the real reason for them moving got lost when Laura decided to fictionalize her autobiography, omitting their return to Wisconsin and bringing them straight from Kansas to Minnesota. 

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Laura gives the reason for the moves as wanderlust. I have had a bit of wanderlust the last few years, but having kids makes me very risk averse even without having an experience like they did in Kansas. Why didn't Kansas scare him enough to stifle his wanderlust?

 

I think today we are more likely to make a conscious decision whether to get married and have children. But back in the day,  that's just what you did- you grew up, got married, and had a family. I'm sure Charles loved his family, but did he really WANT  a family? Because he made decisions that could be construed as not in the best interest of his family.

 

Sure wish I knew what was going through his head!

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I'll admit this was my favorite series growing up, to the extent that my mom made me Laura outfits (complete with bonnets) that I would wear day in and day out exploring the hills behind our house. Man was I in for a shock when I read the books to my DS was he was little! They were *awful*. So poorly written and then of course having the perspective of an adult...around that time I also read an article (wish I could link but it's long gone) about their desperate poverty. Obviously kids romantasize the pioneer age, but reading about the realities was pretty sobering.

 

My oldest loved, loved, loved this series when she was younger and read them repeatedly over the course of a few years. Even now, she's really looking forward to next summer when she will be old enough to volunteer at a historical museum village set in the 1860s/1870s. I actually like Little House in the Big Woods, though I like the subsequent books much less. 

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My guess is the same thing that was *wrong* with Magellan, Columbus, or any other explorer. He had the dream, just perhaps not the execution. Then again he lived a long life and wasn't massacred by natives on a beach, and didn't freeze in a forest (almost doesn't count) .....so I guess defining the degree of what is success is important to your question.

Most explorers didn't drag small children along with them.

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The constant changing of locations bothered me as a child. Enough so that I stopped reading the series very early on. I can't imagine having to grow up actually making all those moves. 

 

That never even occurred to me as a kid. But we moved every 2-3 years. Dad was a draftsman and drew blueprints for either boats, subs, or planes, and we moved to where the work was.   We didn't have to haul our stuff in a covered wagon or fight Native Americans so it wasn't nearly as tough as the Ingalls family, but we moved often. Dh did too since his dad was in the army.   Dh and I moved three times during the first five years we were married but have lived in this house for more than 20 years. This is by far the longest either of us have ever lived in one place. 

 

In hindsight I probably would have preferred to grow up in one place. But when I was a kid I never even thought about it.  Did you get to stay in the same place for your whole childhood? That's cool!

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That never even occurred to me as a kid. But we moved every 2-3 years. Dad was a draftsman and drew blueprints for either boats, subs, or planes, and we moved to where the work was.   We didn't have to haul our stuff in a covered wagon or fight Native Americans so it wasn't nearly as tough as the Ingalls family, but we moved often. Dh did too since his dad was in the army.   Dh and I moved three times during the first five years we were married but have lived in this house for more than 20 years. This is by far the longest either of us have ever lived in one place. 

 

In hindsight I probably would have preferred to grow up in one place. But when I was a kid I never even thought about it.  Did you get to stay in the same place for your whole childhood? That's cool!

 

I started reading Little House books right after we'd moved to a new city. I always hated that move and wished I could have stayed in the original city, where I had my grandma, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends.  

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I think he pursued monetary success blindly. The grass was always greener some where else and the promise to Caroline was always the next crop, the next move, the next.."We will eat beef and live like kings."

I was appalled that during the starvatin winter, though he had both a calf and a cow to butcher and very clearly his children were starving, he would not butcher one of them - despite it being so cold in the lean-to that he would never have even needed to preserve the meat because it would have remained frozen - because it would set him back a year getting started on a herd of cattle. The future prospect of monetary gain was more important the health of the children and even that of the pregnant woman who was living with them at the time (conveniently not mentioned in the book).

So I did not have any respect. Also note that when they moved to Kansas though the Big Woods list Carrie as having already been born, he had actually taken his pregnant wife and two kids to the territory once before. Carrie was born on the prairie and ma gave birth with nothing more than the assistance of a husband that likely new nothing about mid-wifing.

But in all actuality, I am not impressed with ma either. She so clearly favored Mary it was ridiculous, and though Mary would always be their dependent while Laura would have to support herself or get married, she and Pa took Laura's sewing and teaching money to buy train tickets, clothing, buy an organ, and even pay for Mary's summer holiiday with Blanche so Mary could go to school in style while Laura made due with lesser clothes and worked for all that. Note that not once did Ma offer to make Laura a dress or nightgowns or anything else as nice as Mary got, and Laura was taught to believe that Mary deserved it because she was pretty. Blech! Contrary to what most people believe, Pa never paid a dime of tuition. It was all paid for through the State of Iowa. Almanzo and Laura could have really used all that money starting out. And Mary took it! She never said, "No, I am not going to go." Special snowflake syndrome for sure.

And after all that she did for her family, when she was down after having the second baby, Almanzo had to hire help to care for Rose and the house. Ma, Carrie, Grace...they let him figure out how to pay for it though they lived close enough to help. Laura had health issues because she took over all that heavy work too soon after he was born to save the cost of wages.

Seriously, I really do not have a whole lot of good things to say about the Ingalls.

Edited by FaithManor
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We happen to be reading aloud "Little Town on the Prairie" right now. I would definitely NOT describe him as shiftless. He was a hard worker. And I think he loved his children and wanted them. Regarding the statement made earlier about Indian Territory, that is projecting 21st Century mores on a different time period. Not fair. Personally, I think he had a bad case of wanderlust. And I think he did make some bad investment decisions, but a lot of people do that. I also think he had a lot of bad luck. And I think a bunch of women in 21st century America are not going to understand what makes men in mid-19th century America tick.

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I think today we are more likely to make a conscious decision whether to get married and have children. But back in the day, that's just what you did- you grew up, got married, and had a family. I'm sure Charles loved his family, but did he really WANT a family? Because he made decisions that could be construed as not in the best interest of his family.

 

Sure wish I knew what was going through his head!

Even as a kid I sort of thought this was the reason. He was a wild guy married to a staid woman. I think he thought he would eventually find "the place" where he would make so much more money. If you think about lots of pioneers these two things seem the most likely. Edited by joyofsix
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Ha! Comparing Charles Ingalls to Magellan is a bit of a stretch.

 

And of course, explorers did definitely schlepp little kids around. As servants wah-wah.

 

I still love LHITBW and Plum Creek. I mean love/love! As children' books they are still rock solid for me. And I'd throw on a bonnet and do some edutainment historic reenactment in a heartbeat!

 

The past though, man! No thanks.

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Religious freedom and retaining cultural identity probably wouldn't motivate me to make such a risky move, but I understand it a lot better than "wanderlust."

 

The Pilgrims had religious freedom in a different settlement - Holland - but it kept them in poverty and put them in a location where they were not dominant culturally.   They got on the boat for more money and more autonomy.  Sounds like Charles to me. 

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The Pilgrims had religious freedom in a different settlement - Holland - but it kept them in poverty and put them in a location where they were not dominant culturally.   They got on the boat for more money and more autonomy.  Sounds like Charles to me. 

 

How does that sound like Charles to you? Were things bad in Wisconsin? Charles Ingalls had family in the area and seemed to get along with his neighbor: were they cultural minorities?

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How does that sound like Charles to you? Were things bad in Wisconsin? Charles Ingalls had family in the area and seemed to get along with his neighbor: were they cultural minorities?

 

He wanted to provide a better life for his kids, is what he likely told himself.  Money was the motive. The currency of Pilgrims was influence.

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Howard Zinn might shed some light on the matter.

 

Another thing to keep in mind when you read them is Laura/Rose's relationship with Caroline, who is also depicted through a lens in a rather unpleasant light that might not be exactly objective.

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Howard Zinn might shed some light on the matter. Another thing to keep in mind when you read them is Laura/Rose's relationship with Caroline, who is also depicted through a lens in a rather unpleasant light that might not be exactly objective.

I don't understand. Are you referencing something Howard Zinn wrote about the Little House series? It's been a long time since I read A People's History... I barely remember Laura's last book: in the early books, she definitely portrays her mother very positively. 

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Laura wrote when the nation was still sort of reeling from no longer having a (much-romanticized) frontier.  She remembered a time when people migrated to make it, and many of those were influenced by people of the previous generation or their own contemporaries who went from abject poverty/near starvation/virtual serfdom in Europe to actually owning land and being able to be more or less self-sufficient (at least by European peasant standards) in American.  And also these people were influenced by stories of the 49ers, a very few of whom did strike it very rich.

 

And she was writing for a popular audience that included children.  So it's natural that the books, which are fiction, would be quite sanitized.

 

But regarding Charles, honestly he reminds me of my great grandmother, an orphan, who scraped up money for a big ship ride around the South America to San Francisco with another girl, both in their teens, to seek their fortune, not knowing much about what they would find here but knowing that there were German speaking Lutherans here for them to fall into community with, and relatively confident that with hard work she would be able to take care of herself and maybe even prosper.  Or of the people who rushed to Alaska to work on the pipeline when I was younger.  Or the people, actually, who left secure employment to work at startups in the hopes of the stock going public.  Some people roll the dice in the hopes of doing extraordinarily better than before, and Charles was one of them.  So was Daniel Boone.  It was the 'feel' of the times.

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I could never understand why he'd leave extended family and make those moves with such a young family.  But then I remember the bears and panthers in the deeps woods. Angry Native Americans vs panthers chasing your horse and leaping at you?  (Or was the panther story the grandfather, can't remember).

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In his defense, hindsight is 20/20.  I'm sure he thought there were good possibilities wherever he was planning to move.

 

A lot of people today do similar, by changing educational paths, jobs, careers, homes, etc. far more frequently than I would want to tolerate.  I have an ex like that.  If you googled his name, he lived in a different place and had a different job at least every other year.  He wanted to uproot me to go to a place where he had a job offer but I didn't.  Far away where neither of us knew anyone.  No thanks.  I also have a friend about 75yo who divorced her first husband because he unilaterally decided that they were moving to Germany.

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I could never understand why he'd leave extended family and make those moves with such a young family.  But then I remember the bears and panthers in the deeps woods. Angry Native Americans vs panthers chasing your horse and leaping at you?  (Or was the panther story the grandfather, can't remember).

 

The story with the panther chasing the horse was about the grandfather, but there was also the story about the dog refusing to let Caroline Ingalls out of the house and finding panther tracks. There was also the story of Caroline smacking the bear. Overall, though, Laura and her family seem a lot less terrified of panthers and bears than the Osage. Anyway, I think it was Minnesota where they had wolves (that they also seemed less worried about than the Osage) in addition to crop failure. 

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I don't understand. Are you referencing something Howard Zinn wrote about the Little House series? It's been a long time since I read A People's History... I barely remember Laura's last book: in the early books, she definitely portrays her mother very positively. 

 

 

He did not write specifically about the Little House books, but some things he said about the Homestead act in general might put things into a different perspective for you.

 

I'll be honest--I bawled when it first hit me that Pa could have been duped instead of irresponsible.

 

As much as I, my older children, and my mother and aunt loved those books and as tightly as they are woven into the fabric of my childhood, there is some information about them that makes me uncomfortable sharing them with my late-life baby:

 

libertarian propaganda:

 

https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/08/09/little-libertarians-prairie-little-libertarians-prairie/DrtramwsrcrdTTIFvdzkOO/story.html

 

Pa sold Jack with the ponies:

 

http://alainamabaso.com/2013/07/10/pa-sold-jack-with-the-ponies-and-other-laura-ingalls-revelations-an-interview-with-wilder-biographer-pamela-smith-hill/

 

(I thought that sounded like a good name for an Emo band, refused to withhold that information from 8yodds, and respected his decision when he said he didn't want to read the original Little House books any more and could we reread Betsy-Tacy instead.)

 

http://articles.latimes.com/2000/jan/04/news/mn-50538

 

Laura's last wishes disrespected by her daughter's "adopted son".

 

And this:

 

 

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2014/04/21/rose_wilder_lane_laura_ingalls_wilder_a_letter_from_their_editorial_collaboration.html

 

Strikes me as condescending to the point of emotional abusiveness in my not so humble opinion and personal experience as the mother of an adult child who is also a journalist but nowhere near as disrespectful as what Laura had to endure.

 

Renee Graef has some very nice picture books that are retellings of stories from the Little House books for modern children that have been a compromise that works well for us.

Edited by Guest
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One thing to note as well is that Caroline was not happy with Laura as a grown woman either. Correspondence shows that when Laura was actively involved in politics, and specifically the women's suffragist movement, her mother was very disapproving. Actually, much of the correspondence that survives from the time of Laura and Almanzo leaving Dakota territory through Ma's death, does not paint a picture of a mother that had a good relationship with her child.

 

No one will ever know what transpired between Caroline and Charles. It was an odd match up as she came from a rather well to do home, and would have likely had expectations placed on her to make a good match, and well, he didn't fit that picture. But some correspondence indicates that she had a not so good relationship with her step-father and that is one reason she ended up teaching school for a term or two while waiting for a husband because he did not want her around much. Maybe she married him because he was the first that offered. Hard to say. But from the rent dodging in Iowa, the bar management job when the grasshoppers ate the crops (no, they didn't live there while Pa walked east...that was a nice made up thing, they all moved east and Pa managed a saloon where things were crazy wild), to the sod house, a claim shanty, and living in an office front, it was most certainly NOT the life she lead as a child, and knowing how the marriage expectations department works out in real life, I doubt she thought that was how it would be when she signed on for a life with him.

 

Same for Laura. Manzo just kept mortgaging and mortgaging and mortgaging always thinking next harvest, next harvest, we'll strike it rich. In many respects he was a bit like her father. In the end, she was the one that worked her tail off to provide in a day when that was no easy task for women because his health did not allow it. Though it sounds harsh, it was probably providential that they never had any more children after the baby boy died because it would have been nigh unto impossible to run that apple orchard and farm in Missouri with a lot of little ones needing care, nursing babies, you name it. Very sad but true.

 

Rose was the one that sanitized the writing so it would be fit for children. Apparently the first pass at the books contained some pretty "wild for the day" stories like the time that pa intervened when a woman was being beat up by her drunk husband, baby Frederic, dying, living over the saloon, skipping town because he couldn't pay the rent, Jack being sold before they went west,  the love triangle the country doctor was involved in, and some other tidbits.

 

I'd be inclined to take read of those first manuscripts! LOL

 

 

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I have a book of diary excerpts, letters, etc,  from people headed west in wagon trains. 

 

One entry talks about a scare the parents had when their kids went horseback riding and got lost. They didn't return at the appointed time, so the parents LOADED UP THE WAGON AND LEFT!!

 

They were afraid to separate from the wagon train, which I get, but seriously, who leaves their kids behind in the wilderness? In this particular story, the kids, a brother and sister I think, did eventually catch up to the wagon train, but it was very clear that the parents were not at all sure they would. 

 

In another story, a little girl died when she drank laudanum (morphine) that was kept in the wagon. I know there are limited places to hide things in a covered wagon, but the parents didn't even try, they relied on the kids being obedient. 

 

It was definitely not a time/place where parents put their children's health or safety first. I don't know if this was due to a fatalistic attitude overall (that doesn't seem to fit with heading west), or if there were just so many dangers they gave up and hoped for the best, or if kids were viewed as somewhat expendable or 'less than' adults. 

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Rose was the one that sanitized the writing so it would be fit for children. Apparently the first pass at the books contained some pretty "wild for the day" stories like the time that pa intervened when a woman was being beat up by her drunk husband, baby Frederic, dying, living over the saloon, skipping town because he couldn't pay the rent, Jack being sold before they went west,  the love triangle the country doctor was involved in, and some other tidbits.

 

I'd be inclined to take read of those first manuscripts! LOL

 

I would love to read the original manuscripts!!!

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We happen to be reading aloud "Little Town on the Prairie" right now. I would definitely NOT describe him as shiftless. He was a hard worker. And I think he loved his children and wanted them. Regarding the statement made earlier about Indian Territory, that is projecting 21st Century mores on a different time period. Not fair. Personally, I think he had a bad case of wanderlust. And I think he did make some bad investment decisions, but a lot of people do that. I also think he had a lot of bad luck. And I think a bunch of women in 21st century America are not going to understand what makes men in mid-19th century America tick.

 

 

I would agree that he was a hard worker and loved his children, but he wasn't a responsible father. And he wasn't shiftless, but he lacked both preparation and follow through. I mean, for heaven's sake, you shouldn't just hope the obvious trail in front of the land you want isn't used!  

 

didn't Laura starve to death?  In real life?  

 

No, she lived a pretty long life, but all of the Ingalls children suffered life-long effects from malnutrition. 

 

I think Pa just did what he wanted to do, with a bit of reckless disregard for the consequences (and yes, he had plenty of company in that). 

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Charles and Caroline lost their savings in a bank failure during the economic depression of the 1870s.  Plus, a good portion of Charles’ income came from the furs he traded at the general store.  As Wisconsin’s population grew, game was harder to find. They probably couldn’t afford to stay.  Charles grew up on the frontier.  He knew how to hunt, trap, and farm.  He could do rough carpentry.  He was a self-taught fiddle player.  He didn’t have any unusual skills for a man of his time.  His family wouldn’t have been any better off on a general laborer’s pay than they were on the frontier.    

 

The person whose decisions I question are those of Charlotte Quiner. When her first husband died and the family lost their home, she chose to move farther away from civilization rather than back to Milwaukee to her husband’s family or Massachusetts to her parents.  In both places she would have been able to find employment as a dressmaker.  Her reason was that her sons would have a better chance of success on the frontier.  Her daughters’ prospects weren’t even considered.  

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I have a book of diary excerpts, letters, etc,  from people headed west in wagon trains. 

 

One entry talks about a scare the parents had when their kids went horseback riding and got lost. They didn't return at the appointed time, so the parents LOADED UP THE WAGON AND LEFT!!

 

They were afraid to separate from the wagon train, which I get, but seriously, who leaves their kids behind in the wilderness? In this particular story, the kids, a brother and sister I think, did eventually catch up to the wagon train, but it was very clear that the parents were not at all sure they would. 

 

In another story, a little girl died when she drank laudanum (morphine) that was kept in the wagon. I know there are limited places to hide things in a covered wagon, but the parents didn't even try, they relied on the kids being obedient. 

 

It was definitely not a time/place where parents put their children's health or safety first. I don't know if this was due to a fatalistic attitude overall (that doesn't seem to fit with heading west), or if there were just so many dangers they gave up and hoped for the best, or if kids were viewed as somewhat expendable or 'less than' adults. 

I agree, and some were so hardened that the loss of a child didn't necessarily mean much. We have a great-great grandmother of that pioneering era who was on record (well corroborated) as having said after her three year old was hurt, "Ain't no since sitting around nursing her. She'll live or die. But if she lives she better be able to work, otherwise better to die 'cause I ain't feeding an invalid."

 

The child survived, but she never showed her daughter affection because she was mad her husband spent money paying the neighbor to nurse her child back to health. My great grandmother spoke of it often, tears standing in the corner of her eyes because it hurt so much to know her mother was more than willing to let her just lay there and die from an otherwise recoverable injury.

 

Maybe not common, but to be honest, I don't think it was as rare as we'd like to think. It was a pretty darn rough time, and many people were indeed calloused. It was a time in which often babies were not named until they'd lived for several months if not a year just to see if they'd survive, and children were property not individuals with any basic human rights. Seen but not heard. So, it isn't far fetched to imagine that while some families would never have left their children behind, lost, others would have considered this a perfectly acceptable decision, and possibly even not felt any significant loss. Especially so if the children were too young to work, or girls who were not nearly so prized on the frontier as boys.

 

My family history has a lot of those westward ho ancestors and the stories are not kind, definitely not pro children, though boys were definitely coveted as future workers on the homestead. Possibly in all of the back story of Pa and Ma Ingalls, there may have been some hard feelings over having all these girls, but their only boy didn't live.

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He doesn't seem all that crazy to me, and Laura seems to have understood him based on what she wrote in Pioneer Girl.  Wanting to see and really experience new places is something some people are born with, and I think early American culture made it possible in new ways. I don't think it was just financial or getting away from problems.  To me, Charles Ingalls loved the initial getting settled into a new place- the roughness, eking out a living on almost nothing, finding a way to survive.  Then when they'd settled in, it was time to move on and do it somewhere else because being settled was boring to him (until Caroline put an end to it).

 

I see this over and over and over in my ancestors since the early 1800s and in dh's too.  My great-great-grandfather started in New York, moved to Ohio, then to Illinois, then to Utah, then to Idaho, and finally to Wyoming where he died almost 100 years later.  Dh's great-great-grandmother started in North Carolina, went to Kentucky, on to Missouri, then to Utah, and finally to Mexico. Most of my ancestors did similar things and it sounds pretty typical for someone who's from the western US.  I have books filled with their stories that sound a lot like the Ingalls' story.

 

My dad hated all the moving he did as a child and made it a huge priority to not make us move, but I was born with wanderlust.  I wish he'd taken the job offer in Thailand when I was a kid.  As soon as I turned 18, I moved overseas.  I dragged my 3 children to a little town in the middle of Asia that most Americans wouldn't approve of.  We move to new countries all the time.  I thrive on the wanderlust (and I don't often admit it because people don't approve). I cannot wait to get out of the US again. And despite my dad, I feel like I come by it honestly. :)

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I agree, and some were so hardened that the loss of a child didn't necessarily mean much. We have a great-great grandmother of that pioneering era who was on record (well corroborated) as having said after her three year old was hurt, "Ain't no since sitting around nursing her. She'll live or die. But if she lives she better be able to work, otherwise better to die 'cause I ain't feeding an invalid."

 

The child survived, but she never showed her daughter affection because she was mad her husband spent money paying the neighbor to nurse her child back to health. My great grandmother spoke of it often, tears standing in the corner of her eyes because it hurt so much to know her mother was more than willing to let her just lay there and die from an otherwise recoverable injury.

 

Maybe not common, but to be honest, I don't think it was as rare as we'd like to think. It was a pretty darn rough time, and many people were indeed calloused. It was a time in which often babies were not named until they'd lived for several months if not a year just to see if they'd survive, and children were property not individuals with any basic human rights. Seen but not heard. So, it isn't far fetched to imagine that while some families would never have left their children behind, lost, others would have considered this a perfectly acceptable decision, and possibly even not felt any significant loss. Especially so if the children were too young to work, or girls who were not nearly so prized on the frontier as boys.

 

My family history has a lot of those westward ho ancestors and the stories are not kind, definitely not pro children, though boys were definitely coveted as future workers on the homestead. Possibly in all of the back story of Pa and Ma Ingalls, there may have been some hard feelings over having all these girls, but their only boy didn't live.

This. I have ancestors who lived at the same time/places as the Ingalls--Minnesota and then settled in South Dakota. The stories of the callousness of my maternal great-great grandmother are LEGENDARY. She would say things like, "Of course you send the child to look for the cow in the long grass. If you lose the cow, the whole family starves. If you lose the child, you have 11 more.Even when she was on her death bed her girls were completely intimidated by her.
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I would agree that he was a hard worker and loved his children, but he wasn't a responsible father. And he wasn't shiftless, but he lacked both preparation and follow through. I mean, for heaven's sake, you shouldn't just hope the obvious trail in front of the land you want isn't used!  

 

 

No, she lived a pretty long life, but all of the Ingalls children suffered life-long effects from malnutrition. 

 

I think Pa just did what he wanted to do, with a bit of reckless disregard for the consequences (and yes, he had plenty of company in that). 

Oh I agree. I mean, really??? If you want to move to unsettled territory, it might behoove one to learn something about living out there! LOL

 

I couldn't believe that even as a child that it didn't occur to him that a land not "settled" in the white man tradition that had a very clearly used trail running through it might be signs that somebody was using it, if not the people living there FIRST, then the military or the pony express or something. Good grief!

 

Actually, many of his decisions were weird and not particularly rooted in known "street smarts" of the day. Laura's quote about what Pa said when they found the couple who had been robbed stranded by the road as they left the territory was particularly the "pot calling the kettle black". He was angry that they were out there without a watch dog. Really??? He himself sold Jack before they left for Kansas. The part about Jack going with them was completely made up, so my guess is that the whole encounter with the "greenfeet" was total fiction and created by Laura to make Pa sound more savvy than he actually was.

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Has anyone ever wondered how Caroline put an end to his wandering feet? Laura cites it as her demanding they stay in one spot so the girls could go to school, but I don't think that was it. Men held ALL the cards in those days, and though Mary was old enough to attend school the second time he tried to settle in Kansas, he made no attempt to settle near a town. Ma was capable of teaching them the basics, and living out on the frontier, if not trying to get work in a decent sized town or city, sad as it is, I seriously doubt education for girls would have been a survival priority to a frontier dad.

 

I suspect, though obviously it's just a hunch, that there was more of threat behind it than that. I wonder if she didn't threaten to head back east to her family in Boston, and the shame of being abandoned by his wife might have been enough to make him stay put. Opportunities for the girls would have been better in the society her family ran with back there, and she would have potentially had extended family to take in Mary if she became ill. Just speculation but honestly the culture back then amongst the not wealthy, just trying to survive populace was not that schooling was of particular importance for girls. It doesn't make sense to me.

Edited by FaithManor
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Has anyone ever wondered how Caroline put an end to his wandering feet? Laura sites it as her demanding they stay in one spot so the girls could go to school, but I don't think that was it. Men held ALL the cards in those days, and though Mary was old enough to attend school the second time he tried to settle in Kansas, he made no attempt to settle near a town. Ma was capable of teaching them the basics, and living out on the frontier, if not trying to get work in a decent sized town or city, sad as it is, I seriously doubt education for girls would have been a survival priority to a frontier dad.

 

I suspect, though obviously it's just a hunch, that there was more of threat behind it than that. I wonder if she didn't threaten to head back east to her family in Boston, and the shame of being abandoned by his wife might have been enough to make him stay put. Opportunities for the girls would have been better in the society her family ran with back there, and she would have potentially had extended family to take in Mary if she became ill. Just speculation but honestly the culture back then amongst the not wealthy, just trying to survive populace was not that schooling was of particular importance for girls. It doesn't make sense to me.

I think you are right. I think he did love his girls and realized that Caroline really meant it.
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But...

 

Wasn't frontier/pioneer life like that for some people?  Always dreaming and pushing westward to find the next best thing.  I don't think Charles was unique in that.

 

People move a lot nowadays, too.  I mean, I've lived in the same place for the last 24-25 years, but I read on hs forums all the time about people moving....again.  I think most people do it as a way to somehow improve their life, right? Back then life presented its own challenges (and its own solutions).

 

Somebody mentioned the books being poorly written.  Really?  Are we talking grammatically or what?  That thought (bad writing) never crossed my mind all the times I've read them.  

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Another interesting tidbit:

 

Pa's dad borrowed a ridiculous sum of money $500.00 and promised to pay it off in three years which was another crazy thing to do (running theme here????) and then when he couldn't do it, lost all his land and practically everything but the shirt off his back which lead to the homesteads in the Big Woods.

 

Also note that Pa and Caroline were married before the war started, but didn't have a child until after the war ended, yet there is no record of 24 year old Charles having served in the war, so it begs the question, did they run around the outer rim of civilization in order to avoid the draft? I mean, it seems odd.

 

Pa bought the glass for the house in Kansas on credit, and skipped out on the shop owner. It should also be noted that while still elementary/pre-pubescent aged, Laura and Mary were hired out as domestic servants while Pa was managing the saloon in order to make ends meet. I don't imagine that was a pleasant time for them. Given that she had rich relatives back east that would have just about died at the prospects of great nieces of their well to do family being hired out like that, I really have to wonder why Caroline didn't just say, "enough is enough", and pack up and go home. She had wealthy aunts and uncles still living. It would have been so easy to manufacture a "new widow" story and come home with the kids.

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