The House on Rocky Ridge Farm: Preserved, not Restored

by William Anderson | Jul 20, 2018

Laura Ingalls Wilder was a teacher, seamstress, farmer’s wife, journalist, farm loan administrator, and an author. It was her role as writer of the Little House books that brought her lasting fame. And another job. She was the first, but unofficial, tour guide at her home on Rocky Ridge Farm near Mansfield, Missouri.

The House on Rocky Ridge Farm - A favorite Little House on the Prairie location.

Readers of the Little House books not only wrote fan letters, they often stopped at the Wilder home, hoping to meet the author. Laura graciously welcomed visitors, showing them through the rustic home where she did much of her writing. Imagine, getting a tour of Rocky Ridge farmhouse, from Laura herself.

The house still stands placidly on Rocky Ridge. It is surrounded by great, old trees, which create a green backdrop in spring and summer, and a panoply of color in autumn. The historic farmhouse where Laura and Almanzo Wilder spent most of their married life looks as it did during the 1930s and 1940s, the era when Laura wrote her books of pioneer life.

The House on Rocky Ridge Farm - Article about this historic Little House on the Prairie location - COURTESY OF THE LAURA INGALLS HOME AND MUSEUM

The House on Rocky Ridge Farm - Article about this historic Little House on the Prairie location - Courtesy of the Laura Ingalls Home and Museum.

The Wilders loved Rocky Ridge farmhouse. It began small, but grew from its 1895 start, until completion in 1913: a rambling ten-room house, with porches and windows placed to enjoy the landscape. Laura and Almanzo also valued the surrounding land — rugged, rolling; punctuated by a deep ravine and steep hillsides. They labored to make their land productive as a dairy, poultry, and fruit farm. At the same time, Laura honed her skill as a writer.

Almanzo died in 1949, and when Laura died in 1957 her Mansfield friends were moved to preserve the Wilder home. They knew of Mrs. Wilder’s fame, and the many letters and visits she received from readers. Her daughter, writer Rose Wilder Lane, pondered over the future of her parents’ house full of antiques and keepsakes. When Mansfield citizens, led by L.D. Lichty, proposed opening the Wilder home to visitors, Rose was agreeable. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association formed.

L.D. and Irene Lichty were the first curator team. Rose had a curators’ house constructed for them, so the property could be constantly supervised. For decades the Lichtys served with dedication. Following them was Connie Tidwell, who brought her own verve and passion. In 1993, Jean Coday, the current president of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association, stepped in.

Mrs. Jean Coday, Director

Wilder Home tours started almost immediately. This was preservation, not a restoration; contents of the house were religiously left as they were when the Wilders lived there. Volunteers enabled the project; many still do today. Tours of the house start in the cozy kitchen; move into the dining room, bedroom, and Laura’s writing study. Most of the rooms seem diminutive. In the kitchen, the counters were purposely low, to accommodate Laura’s small stature. (She admitted to being 5’2″). The home’s finale is the big parlor and music room. These are all rooms with stories: of writing books, parties, candlelit dinners, dances and years of family life. It is a house of happy ghosts. Now, new memories are created as tourists from all over the world tour the house and experience the Wilder life.

The House on Rocky Ridge Farm - Laura's kitchen was a modest kitchen. COURTESY OF THE LAURA INGALLS HOME AND MUSEUM

The House on Rocky Ridge Farm - Laura's kitchen was a modest kitchen. Courtesy of the Laura Ingalls Home and Museum..

Visitors, numbering into the millions by now, are awed by the remaining Ingalls-Wilder artifacts. “There’s Pa’s fiddle” kids cry out, when they spy the familiar violin mentioned throughout the Little House books. The fiddle is perhaps the most reverenced relic. Laura’s penciled manuscripts, written on lined school tablets are a close second. Clothing, quilts, needlecraft, Blue Willow ware, the pump organ, Laura’s writing desk, Almanzo’s medicine chest all help to tell the story of the Wilders.

The House on Rocky Ridge Farm - Laura's writing desk COURTESY OF THE LAURA INGALLS HOME AND MUSEUM

The House on Rocky Ridge Farm - Laura's writing desk - Courtesy of the Laura Ingalls Home and Museum.

From the 1990s to the present, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association tackled pie-in-the sky projects. Each was achieved. Most of Rocky Ridge Farm has been re-purchased. The added acres include the 1928 Rock House, a gift from Rose to her parents, where they lived until 1937. It is now restored and part of the tour. (Laura and Almanzo enjoyed the Rock House, but eventually moved back “home” to the Farmhouse.) The Rocky Ridge apple orchard has also been re-booted.

The House on Rocky Ridge Farm - Inside the Wilder home COURTESY OF THE LAURA INGALLS HOME AND MUSEUM

The House on Rocky Ridge Farm - Inside the Wilder home - Courtesy of the Laura Ingalls Home and Museum.

In 1971, a museum building was constructed next to the farmhouse. Convenient, but the location jarred purists. As did the curators’ house. Both encroached on the woodsy, rural setting of the Wilder home. Eventually both buildings will be razed. The plan is to return the site to its 1940s-1950s look.

This spring, a new state-of-the-art museum and visitor center opened, which are set down a hill below the farmhouse so as not to disturb its setting. The new museum is the result of years of planning and fundraising. (The Association receives no income or royalties, other than admission fees and donations.) Laura Ingalls Wilder’s words, invoked at the museum’s dedication, summarized the care and tending of her home place: “If enough people think of a thing and work hard enough at it, it’s pretty nearly bound to happen, wind and weather permitting.

The House on Rocky Ridge Farm - Newly opened visitor center and museum. COURTESY OF THE LAURA INGALLS HOME AND MUSEUM

The House on Rocky Ridge Farm - Newly opened visitor center and museum. Courtesy of the Laura Ingalls Home and Museum.

Wind and weather permitting, Rocky Ridge Farm, home of the Wilders, will continue to welcome visitors just as Laura did. Plan a visit to the birthplace of the Little House books.

Contact Information, Admission and Hours of Operation:

The complex is one mile east of Mansfield, Missouri.
3060 Highway A
Mansfield, MO 65704

Admission: Adults, 18 & over: $14.00. Children, 6-17: $7.00. Under 6, free. Admission includes an orientation film, unlimited browsing in the museum, a guided tour of the Wilder Home and the Rock House. The grounds invite contemplation and walking to the ravine, apple orchard and an operating replica of a hen house. The Museum Store sells books, DVDS, Wilder-era clothing and memorabilia.

Hours of Operation: The Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum is open daily from 9-5, March 1-November 15. Sunday hours are 12:30-5.

For more information about the museum and a complete list of mail order merchandise, visit the website at or call 1-877-924 7126.

William Anderson was introduced to the Wilder books in elementary school, as were millions of other American children. Later, his groundbreaking research on the Little House people and places resulted in a number of books published by HarperCollins, including Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography, Laura Ingalls Wilder Country, The Little House Guidebook, A Little House Sampler, and others. Anderson is a frequent speaker at conferences, libraries, schools and historical events. His home is in Michigan.


  1. Hi I am a fan of the Little House on the prairie I’ve been wondering what the real almanzo Warner look like and and and what the original Laura look like and if there is any family members still around of the Ingles and the warners

  2. Bonjour je suis très fan de la petite maison dans la prairie car j’ai eu l’occasion de rencontrer une Actrice américaine Alison Anrgrim as nellie oleson dans une petite commune des Landes à Actrice 40 près de Saint sever.

  3. I was wondering why there have never any books written about Laura’ a father. I know there are books about her great grandma in the Martha years and the there are the books about Charlotte and there are also the one above Caroline herself. But there is nothing about pa’s family and I was just wondering why nothing has ever been written about when he was gowning up in cube New York

  4. Has there ever been a replica of the pantry that Almanzo had built for Laura in their “Little Gray Home in the West”?

  5. Hi! My name is Marina and I’m from Croatia (Europe). I’ve been watching “Little House on the Prairie” every day for the last 8-9 months. I don’t remember I’ve ever seen so nice series, full of love, warmth and with great actors. I can’t say which one of them is my favourite. Harriet Oleson, Nellie Oleson, Laura and Mary Ingalls, Charles and Caroline Ingalls, Mr. Edwards…. I like them all. I have two boys (16th and 11th) who also like it very much, especially parts with children. They enjoy watching kids in school, playing, helping their parents with housework. We agree their lives were better, warmer…. it was harder but families were closer, people were more sincere than today. I wish I could come to Rocky Ridge Farm to see Laura’s house and to visit her and Almanzo’s graves.
    Best regards,
    Marina Mlinarić, Croatia

    • Marina,
      I enjoyed the TV series when it was on too! But would you believe it, I’ve never read the books! My friend and I, who both live in Missouri, will be driving down to Mansfield this weekend to visit the museum, her choice, but I’m looking forward to it too. I agree with you on how wonderful the series was. My favorite character changed all the time too!!! They all definitely had their own personalities!! ????

      I hope you do get to visit at least one of the Laura sites someday. Take care & best of wishes to you and your family from Missouri!

    • I’ve been there, it’s a great place and the walking trail is very long. Lol. If you come to Missouri I would love to take you there.

  6. I was lucky enough to visit the “farm” several years ago. I would love to go back but it won’t ever be possible due to health reasons. We even visited her grave site. Oh to have been lucky enough to meet her but she died when I was a freshman in high school. I have all the books and re-read them all the time.

  7. This is one of the places on my bucket list.. Hoping
    To visit soon. Always fascinated about the Ingalls..
    I still DVR and watch the Re- runs.. Will do some research before making this trip.

  8. I have been to Rocky Ridge twice, once in 1990 and the 2nd time in 2008. In spite of these trips, I had always forgotten to ask about and look at the ravine and the springs that are mentioned in many of LIW biographical books. i do not remember them being included in the tours including that of the Rock House which I saw in 2008.

    Are the springs still running and can a visitor view them? I would not mind making another visit to Mansfield even if I have to fly again to Kansas City and travel by car to Mansfield. i live in Southern California but I have grown up with LIW and been a fan for 56 years now. i am 66 years old. Thank you for any information you can share with me.

  9. Anyone know a good hotel to stay at nearby??

  10. Last Oct/Nov my husband surprised me with a trip to Rocky Ridge. I absolutely loved seeing where they lived and learning about all the work they put into their place. I want to go again sometime.

  11. Where can I purchase the types of apple trees, peach trees, etc. that were grown at Rocky Ridge to plant at my own home?

  12. How much is handicap accessible?

  13. Is the original log cabin still standing?

    • Hi Chris,

      If you mean at Rocky Ridge Farm, the original cabin was incorporated into the farmhouse. You can’t tell it now, but it became the farmhouse kitchen and explains why the kitchen kind of sticks out from the rest of the house. I hope you get to go visit for yourself someday. I just got to go a few weeks ago and it was wonderful, everything I’d ever hoped it would be.

  14. I love watching little house on the prairie and what books I read.

  15. Im coming in August, i cant wait!!!!

    • How wonderful! What a great trip that will be.


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