July 29, 2010

On the Banks of Plum Creek

My family was fortunate enough to live near my grandmother's aunt when I was growing up. Aunt Lucia was an avid reader, and she introduced the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder to my sister, who in turn, introduced them to me. So it was an unexpected treat to visit the site of On the Banks of Plum Creek with my sister and our mom a couple of weeks ago.

This was the book that featured the Ingalls family's sod house, which was built along the creek. The spot is a couple of miles from Walnut Grove, which you may remember from the TV show. Walnut Grove is where you will find a Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, one of several scattered across the Northern Plains and the Midwest, in towns featured in the Little House books.

Despite the vivid description of harsh winter weather, Laura made the home on Plum Creek seem  like a particularly cozy and magical place.

 "Laura's Pioneer Memories"
Artist: J.D. Speltz
Walnut Grove Series
Wilder Pageant 20th Anniversary Print

It seems magical in person, too. You can imagine the girls playing, fishing, and bathing in the creek. Wildflowers are abundant, and so are butterflies. Sadly, the butterflies moved far too quickly for me to catch in a picture.

The dugout caved in years ago, but a sign marks the site. There's still farmland there, too, with open fields extending across the Minnesota prairie.

The museum in Walnut Grove features a replica of the dugout, making it clear just how tight the quarters were for Laura and her family. There was room for a bed, a table, a small stove...and not a heck of a lot else.

Near the replica of the dugout was another field of wildflowers. As much as I loved reading the Little House books growing up, I never expected to see where the stories took place, or to walk where Laura played. I can't believe it's just an hour from my sister's house!

You shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12


  1. My sister and I would read those books together when we were growing up. Thanks for sharing your pictures and the story of your adventure there. What treat!

  2. OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!! I LOVED those books! I had the whole set and I think I read through them 3 or 4 times.

    I am so jealous of you right now! What a cool experience :)

  3. Oh that must have been a particular delight to see this place. Is that the book where the cattle froze in place during a blizzard? I've never forgotten that and how Pa and Laura ran out to clear their nostrils so they could breathe. But you're right, it all seemed so cozy...well not that bit I just shared, but most of it.

  4. It was an incredible - and totally unexpected treat - to get to walk into the pages of the book for a couple of hours. I don't remember for sure if Plum Creek was the book with the frozen cattle - it seems like all of the books featured horrible winters. Does anyone else know the answer to Vee's question?

  5. Oh, how absolutely exciting...! I loved those books. They transported me to a whole other time and place, and now your blog post has done that too.

    Wonderful photograph...! :-)

  6. I read each of those books 5 or 6 times when I was a girl. I had no idea you could go visit the site where the Plum Creek sod house was. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this!

  7. Grace - I didn't know either until my sister mentioned it was nearby and asked if I thought it would be worth visiting. It was definitely worth it!

  8. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing :-)

  9. ok, this is my third attempt at a comment. the internet
    is very sketchy in the mountains, but i choose the

    this is such a fun post about one of my favorite books.
    and i must say, you look gorgeous in your beautiful
    pink shirt.

    may i borrow that? :)

  10. I missed this book. Wonderful post!

  11. Great books and wonderful photos! I particularly enjoyed seeing the dugout. :)

  12. Totally jealous! I did go to Mansfield a few years ago and see their home there from after her and Almonza married. But I'd love to go north and see the other places.

  13. So fun reading the comments. I was horrified when the TV series came out because many of the town people weren't mentioned in the book.....and then years later I met- and married(OMG) Dr. Baker from the series! Shortly after, he was the guest at the festival in Walnut Grove and I, too, got to stand on the Banks of Plum Creek!! I told Kevin that was more of a thrill than being married to Doc Baker and he LOL'd. What a neat festival! People come from all over the world and the town opens it's heart to all. (Jan Hagen, Grants Pass, OR)

  14. Jan - Great story! It's incredible when you realize the impact Laura Ingalls Wilder had, first through her stories in the books, and then through the TV series, which helped create more interest in the books. My cousin has read them with her middle school daughter - a new generation to fall in love with the stories. Walnut Grove is a pretty cool town. I'm so glad you got to see it with Doc Baker!