Mary Ingalls Timeline 

The Little House Years


Mary Amelia is born to Caroline and Charles Ingalls on her father’s birthday, January 10, in Pepin, Wisconsin. Her birthplace is The Little House in the Big Woods.


Laura Elizabeth Ingalls is born on February 7 in Pepin, Wisconsin.


The Ingalls family settles on land not yet open for homesteading (near present-day Independence, Kansas). Laura records the experience in The Little House on the Prairie.


Caroline (Carrie) Celestia Ingalls is born on August 3.


The family is forced by the government to leave their homestead in the Indian Territory. They return to Wisconsin to stay with family.


The family travels west to create a new home On the Banks of Plum Creek, near Walnut Grove, Minnesota. They live first in a sod house and then in a house of “sawed lumber.”


Charles Frederick Ingalls, Junior, is born November 1.


Devastated by repeated crop failure, the Ingalls sell the farm and move to Burr Oak, Iowa, where Pa and Ma help manage a hotel. Freddie dies on August 27. Laura never writes about this period.


Grace Pearl Ingalls is born on May 23.


The family returns to Walnut Grove.

The Ingalls Family Settles Down


In the spring, Mary is seriously ill. Laura called it scarlet fever in her books, but modern research suggests it was meningoencephalitis, possibly caused by a bite from a tick or mosquito. “It settled in her eyes,” Laura wrote, “and Mary was blind.”


Pa accepts a job with the railway and the Ingalls family moves to South Dakota. Ma and the girls make the trip by train. The family stays through the winter in the surveyor’s house By the Shores of Silver Lake. In the spring, the family moves to its homestead land, a mile north of De Smet, South Dakota. This is the final move for Charles and Caroline.


The Long Winter of 1880-81 paralyzes wide sections of the Midwest. The family moves into town for the winter.


The Dakota Territory pays for sixteen-year-old Mary Ingalls to attend the Iowa College for the Blind in Vinton, Iowa. She enrolls on November 23.


Mary returns home for the first time. Her family is amazed by her independence.


Mary’s family purchases an organ for her. Laura Ingalls marries Almanzo Wilder.


Charles Ingalls gives up the farming life. He builds his family a spacious new house on Third Street, in De Smet, and works as a carpenter.


On June 12, Mary graduates from the Iowa College for the Blind. She returns to De Smet.

The Rest of the Story


Mary goes to a Chicago hospital for an operation to relieve pain from neuralgia. Laura and Almanzo Wilder leave South Dakota, first for Florida and then for Missouri. They remain in Missouri the rest of their lives.


After attending college and teaching for a few years, Grace marries Nathan Dow, a farmer from the neighboring town of Manchester. They have no children.


Charles Ingalls dies of heart failure on June 8 in De Smet. His wife and his daughters are with him.


After a flourishing career as a printer and publisher in South Dakota, Carrie Ingalls marries a prosperous, middle-aged widower named David Swanzey. She raises his two children but has none of her own. The family lives in the Black Hills, at the base of Mount Rushmore. Caroline sells the Third Street home to Mary for “$1 and all the affection in the world.”


Mary’s sister Grace and her husband Nathan move into the Third Street house.


Caroline Ingalls dies on April 20 in De Smet.


Mary Ingalls dies of pneumonia on October 17 at the home of her sister Carrie. She is buried in the family plot near De Smet.


The first of Laura’s “Little House” books, Little House in the Big Woods, is published.