Slate reviews the long-awaited publication of Pioneer Girl.

In anticipation of the (Finally!) soon-to-be-released Pioneer Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s circa 1928-30 memoir-cum-manuscript which became the basis for her “Little House” children’s series, Slate has offered the following glowing review of the long-awaited publication, edited and annotated by a team from South Dakota State Historical Society Press, spearheaded by recent Wilder biographer Pamela Smith Hill.

In 2010, Hill was a featured speaker at the first academic conference of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association (lovingly known as “LauraPalooza”: go to http://www.beyondlittlehouse.com for information about the upcoming conference in Brookings, South Dakota, July 2015). She is particularly known as the author of 2007’s insightful Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life. Hill has spent the last several years combing through archives and artifacts of various Wilder homesite museums, state archives, Wilder’s papers at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, and compiling some details from the research of a bevy of additional sources, including several independent researchers’ previous publications.

In addition, Hill is currently teaching the first-ever open-access online college course devoted solely to Laura Ingalls Wilder. Offered via Missouri State University and the Canvas Network, and entitled Laura Ingalls Wilder: Exploring her Work and Writing Life, the 8-week course was offered free of charge and attracted thousands of enrollees; it concludes 1 December 2014.

Pioneer Girl is currently available via pre-order from South Dakota State Historical Society Press (www.pioneergirlproject.org) and the various homesite museums devoted to preservation of Wilder’s legacy, including:

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Tourist Center, Walnut Grove, Minnesota:
(www.walnutgrove.org/store/
or call 888-528-7298)

and
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, De Smet, South Dakota: (www.discoverlaura.org).

I ask that, as fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder, you remember that where you make your purchase matters. Your purchase made directly through these museum and archive outlets will benefit the museums and archives most directly related to the Wilder legacy; purchases from the giant corporate behemoth retailers do not. So, if you want to make certain your purchase will benefit the places which protect the integrity, conservation, and very survival of the vast collections of Wilder papers and artifacts, please purchase directly from one of the Wilder homesites or the SDSHS Press.

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/11/little_house_nonfiction_laura_ingalls_wilder_s_memoir_pioneer_girl_reviewed.2.html

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130 Years Ago Today: Almanzo Wilder’s Homestead Proof, 12 September 1884.

Here’s a little something pleasant for your perusal this fine, but chilly, September morning:

Almanzo James Wilder’s Homestead Proof, testimony dated exactly 130 years ago, 12 September 1884.

A.J. Sheldon, a nearby neighbor, sets his hand to testify on “our” A.J. Wilder’s behalf that, indeed, he is qualified, being a citizen of the U.S., over the age of 21, who has never made a previous homestead entry (at least, not to conclusion) and kept continuous residence on this section of land (NE 21-111-56), with a dwelling:

“about 12 ft. square, 2 doors, 3 windows. Stable. frame. Well of water. cellar. acres broken & cultivated. some trees. Value at least $300.00.”

You see, early this morning, I received a Google alert from New Zealand, which looked like this: http://foreignaffairs.co.nz/2014/09/12/homestead-testimony-of-almanzo-wilder/

Unfortunately, the link didn’t want to load all the images, so while the description was intact, the actual document was not in view.

But, with a little hunting and pecking, the National Archives record (National Archives Identifier: 595419) came up rather quickly, because I know you want to SEE it…with the original handwriting, syntax, capitalization, punctuation, and signatures intact…

http://research.archives.gov/description/595419

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Let’s note a few details, shall we?

Since the Homestead Act of 1862 required that the claimant remain in continuous residence for six months out of each year for five years, Sheldon’s purpose as witness to Wilder’s claim was to testify that Wilder had indeed fulfilled the various stipulations of the Act, prior to receiving his patent (deed) to the land. It was also required that the land be “improved,” i.e. cultivated, and that no evidence of precious minerals, oil, or the like, was present. The witness had to be someone living nearby to the claimant, so as to be a reliable authority on the claimant’s, er, claims. That witness also needed to swear his own statements were true, and that he did not hold a personal stake in the claimant’s success. Like Wilder, Sheldon also was a farmer, and one whose statements appear to be articulate as well as thoughtful. A reliable fellow for the task at hand, Sheldon supported all of the necessary requirements for Wilder. To wit:

Sheldon lists his own address as SW 10-111-56 (that is, SW quarter of Section 10, Township 111, Range 56), putting him within an easy distance of Wilder’s homestead. He states he is “well acquainted with Almanzo J Wilder, the claimant…“for about 5 yrs. he had taken his land at Yankton about 3 weeks before I met him.” 

He further attests Wilder “was temporarily absent at times working on the R.R. and visiting in Minn. not more than about 2 months at a time.”  

and:

“crops on (in?) past 4 years. breaking 5 yrs. acre(s) cultivated. about 20 acres of wheat this year. 1884.”

The best part?  Sheldon’s answer to the following:

“Question 10. Are you interested in this claim, and do you think the settler has acted in entire good faith in perfecting this entry?”  

“no. nor am I in any way related to claimant. think he has acted in good faith. AJ Sheldon”

A good neighbor. I’m sure Almanzo was relieved to get that little detail squared away. Because our man had some serious courting to get to! And, while we know that Miss Laura E. Ingalls would soon become Mrs. A.J. Wilder (“Bessie” as our man of the hour called her), I bet fellow researcher Nancy Cleaveland* could tell us all about helpful Mr. A. J. Sheldon’s own property, his place and family of origin, his own homestead, and what he did with the rest of his life. Probably, she has a photo of him somewhere, I reckon. Except, “I wouldn’t bet on a woman.” Wouldn’t be proper.

Finally, while that little house and its builder are both long gone, Kingsbury County still holds a great deal of charm for the visitor who revels in a hot Dakota summer. Here’s what the property looked like just a couple of years ago on a stunning Sunday afternoon:

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Nice warm thought on a not-so-warm morning. You’re welcome.

_____

*She’s reliably the most likely person to have researched him, simply because no one, and I mean no one, has spent more time squirreling out the nitty-gritty details of every soul who once settled in Kingsbury County. I say that with the utmost respect. NC is my research hero. And a generous friend, to boot.