Bucket list: Visit Laura's homeThe Big Woods no longer surround the little house, but a small log cabin outside Pepin still offers a peek into what life for Ma, Pa and Half-Pint was like.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
PEPIN — The Big Woods no longer surround the little house, but a small log cabin outside Pepin still offers a peek into what life for Ma, Pa and Half-Pint was like.
About seven miles out of town down County Road CC at the Little House Wayside, visitors can pull off to see the “little gray house made of logs” Laura Ingalls Wilder described in her novel “Little House in the Big Woods.”
The cabin is a replica of the original Ingalls home, but it stands on the land owned by Ma and Pa — Charles and Caroline Ingalls — and was built as closely to the original as possible using any descriptions available.
The tiny cabin, likely smaller than a typical garage, housed Laura, her sister and her parents. It’s where she learned how to butcher meat, churn butter and bake bread.
The book gives a plain description of the modest home, with a large attic “pleasant to play in when the rain drummed on the roof” and a small bedroom and big room downstairs.
A stone chimney breaks up the bare wood links in the simple, sturdy house. Laura said the little cabin would be almost buried in snowdrifts in the frigid Wisconsin winters, but the family kept cozy inside the sturdy home.
A wagon trail cut through the Big Woods, possibly where the road lies now. But other houses were few and far between, and as far as Laura could see the area was covered in trees and teeming with wildlife.
Now a part of a rolling farm landscape, the home no longer stands so isolated as Laura depicted.
But visitors often could be the only people at the rural site, offering a chance to imagine what the little girl would have seen and experienced in the wilderness.
Laura Ingalls was born in Pepin in February of 1867, and though the family left the Big Woods for a bit, Laura attended school in Pepin with her sister Mary.
The family left the site for good when Laura was nearly 7. Her novel about life in the Wisconsin woods was released when she was in her 60s. But while the memories may have been decades-old and the area landscape has dramatically shifted, visitors can still see traces of the details she spun in her novel.
Pepin is proud to be Laura’s birthplace. The area celebrates Laura Ingalls Wilder Days each September. This year the event lands on the 8th and 9th and will include a fiddle contest, square dance, crafts, games and more.
On the town’s main road also stands the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. It houses a few artifacts from the family and many examples of tools, clothing, furniture and kitchen materials from the time period.
The museum and wayside draw visitors from around the country and the world.
“A lot of people are on what I would call the ‘Laura trek,’” said Jeannie Richgels, who works at the museum.
They travel to the different Midwest sites Laura called home at one time or another, including Pepin and Spring Valley, Walnut Grove, Minn., Burr Oak, Iowa, and De Smet, S.D. She also lived in Kansas and Missouri.
Many who visit also watched the famous TV show “Little House on the Prairie” that ran in the 1970s and early 1980s.
“When a lot of people see the picture of Pa, they say, “That doesn’t look like Michael Landon,’” Richgels said, laughing. Others had not realized Laura was a real person, and are excited by that discovery.
Both of the sites are free; the museum takes donations. The Little House Wayside, cared for by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society of Pepin, is open year-round. The museum is open daily from mid-May to mid-October.