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Laura Ingalls Wilder's Missing Link
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Laura Ingalls Wilder's Missing Link

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.

  1. Imagine Northeast Iowa Support
    Imagine Northeast Iowa Support
    We love it! Thanks so much for the post!
    1. Travel Guide
      Travel Guide
      I remember watching Little House on the Prairie as a little girl and reading the Little House books.
  2. Jeff Abbas
    Unless I missed it, I didn't see any mention of when the Ingalls Family left Burr Oak. Any idea?
    1. Travel Guide
      Travel Guide
      Mr. Abbas, I would assume the family lived in Burr Oak less than two years. An insert from Wikipedia states, "They next moved to Burr Oak, Iowa, where they helped run a hotel. Her youngest sibling, Grace, was born there on May 23, 1877. They moved from Burr Oak back to Walnut Grove, where Ingalls's father served as the town butcher and justice of the peace. He accepted a railroad job in the spring of 1879, which took him to eastern Dakota Territory where they joined him that fall. Ingalls Wilder did not write about 1876–1877 when they lived near Burr Oak, but skipped directly to Dakota Territory, portrayed in By the Shores of Silver Lake. Thus the fictional timeline caught up with her real life." Also according to Wikipedia the chronological age of Laura in the books is fictional. Wikipedia states, "The fictional chronology of Ingalls Wilder's books in this regard does not match fact: Ingalls was about one to three years old in Kansas and four to seven in Wisconsin; in the novels she is four to five in Wisconsin (Big Woods) and six to seven in Kansas (Prairie). According to a letter from Rose, daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, to biographer William Anderson, the publisher had Ingalls Wilder change her age in Prairie because it seemed unrealistic for a three-year-old to have memories so specific as her story of life in Kansas.[12] To be consistent with her already established chronology, she made herself six to seven years old in Prairie and seven to nine years old in On the Banks of Plum Creek, the third volume of her fictionalized history, which takes place around 1874." Thanks for your interest in this article!
      1. Jeff Abbas
        And thanks for the informative response!

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