The Masters Hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa is known as the missing link in the Little House book series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The small hotel in Winneshiek County is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. After suffering two years of grasshopper plagues on crops, the family left Walnut Grove. The Ingalls family moved to Burr Oak in 1876 to help a family friend, William Steadman, manage the Masters Hotel. The hotel was originally built in 1851. Laura was nine years old at the time. Caroline’s fourth daughter, Grace, was born in Burr Oak.
Burr Oak is a small village located in Northeast Iowa. During the time the Ingalls family moved to Burr Oak, there were approximately 800 people living in the township and another 200 citizens living in the surrounding village. In the late 1800’s, the hotel stayed busy with 200 -300 settlers passing through the township on a daily basis to restock supplies. The travelers would bathe, wash clothes and water horses along the banks of Silver Creek, which flows through the town.
In the early 1900’s, the hotel became a private residence. The building was unoccupied from the 1950’s until 1973, when individuals purchased the relic for a museum. Guided tours throughout the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum are offered during the summer by volunteers. Guests learn of the loss of Laura’s nine-month-old brother, Freddy. The tour guides relate stories that occurred between the books, On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake. Admission and hours for the tours are available on the website.
An annual spaghetti supper and pie auction are held each February in the Winneshiek School Gym to benefit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. Laura Ingalls Wilder 2016 pictorial calendars are available for sale. Information on the spaghetti fundraiser and calendars are available on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Facebook page.
Photo courtesy of Masters Hotel, Burr Oak, Iowa as uploaded by KJ at Flickr’s Creative Commons.