I have been a HUGE fan of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, since I was very young. My mom read aloud to my siblings and I every morning growing up and the Little House books were always my favorite. I think that is one of the reasons why living on a farm in Kansas sounded so natural to me.
As you may know, her book Little House on the Prairie is set just outside Independence, Kansas.
When we bought our own little farmhouse on the prairie we were surprised to learn how the history of our farm coincided with the Ingalls’ story.
In September of 1869 Charles Ingalls, his wife Caroline, and their daughters Laura and Mary moved to Rutland Township, Montgomery Co. to their claim SE 1/4 35-33-14, on Indian Territory (Kansas).
You can read the true story of their hardships, discoveries, and experiences in Laura’s account, but something I never really paid much attention to was why they left their farm so soon. Apparently Charles had gotten some misinformation that led him to believe that Kansas was open to settlers. They built a small house and barn, planted crops, and worked hard to tame the wild prairie. In their claim shanty on August 3rd, 1870, their third daughter Carrie was born.
(The above picture shows an example of what a claim shanty from that period may have looked like. This would depend heavily on the natural building materials available.)
In May of 1871, government troops forced the Ingalls and hundreds of other premature farmers to leave everything and get out of Kansas. Ironically, by 1872 all the Indians had been forced farther into Oklahoma and staking a claim was now legal in Kansas. Some of those farmers no doubt returned to their claims, although the Ingalls did not.
We have mentioned that the main part of our farmhouse was built in 1893, but as we have been gutting the kitchen we found what we believe may be the original 1872 claim shanty. Instead of lath and plaster like the rest of the house the kitchen has planked walls and you can see where they filled in doors and windows once they built on the more modern Folk Victorian farmhouse addition. Another clue is that the cellar is only under this portion of the farmhouse.
When my husband and I purchased what is now Bryarton Farm we received the title abstract containing all the documentation of our farm’s long ownership history. We learned that as soon as it was legal in 1872 Mr. and Mrs. MacClintock officially purchased the 160 acres (the original size of our farm) for $300, this was less than a year after the Ingalls left. Who knows if the MacClintocks were one of the families who returned to their farm. If so they would have known the other settlers who suffered their plight. How cool is that!0