On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894

On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894


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A detailed diary from the author of the beloved Little House series, chronicling her journey with her family from South Dakota to Missouri.

In 1894, Laura Ingalls Wilder, her husband, Almanzo, and their daughter, Rose, packed their belongings into their covered wagon and set out on a journey from De Smet, South Dakota, to Mansfield, Missouri. They heard that the soil there was rich and the crops were bountiful—it was even called "the Land of the Big Red Apple." With hopes of beginning a new life, the Wilders made their way to the Ozarks of Missouri.

During their journey, Laura kept a detailed diary of events: the cities they passed through, the travelers they encountered on the way, the changing countryside and the trials of an often difficult voyage. Laura's words, preserved in this book, are a fascinating account of life and travel at the turn of the twentieth century, and reveal Laura’s inner thoughts as she traveled with her family in search of a new home in Mansfield, where Laura would write her Little House books.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780064400800
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/20/1976
Series: Little House Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 141,990
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.26(d)
Lexile: 900L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867–1957) was born in a log cabin in the Wisconsin woods. With her family, she pioneered throughout America’s heartland during the 1870s and 1880s, finally settling in Dakota Territory. She married Almanzo Wilder in 1885; their only daughter, Rose, was born the following year. The Wilders moved to Rocky Ridge Farm at Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894, where they established a permanent home. After years of farming, Laura wrote the first of her beloved Little House books in 1932. The nine Little House books are international classics. Her writings live on into the twenty-first century as America’s quintessential pioneer story.

Date of Birth:

February 7, 1867

Date of Death:

February 10, 1957

Place of Birth:

Pepin, Wisconsin

Place of Death:

Mansfield, Missouri

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

For seven years there had been too little rain. The prairies were dust. Day after day, summer after summer, the scorching winds blew the dust and the sun was brassy in a yellow sky. Crop after crop failed. Again and again the barren land must be mortgaged, for taxes and food and next year's seed. The agony of hope ended when -there was no harvest and no more credit, no money to pay interest and taxes; the banker took the land. Then the bank failed.

In the seventh year a mysterious catastrophe was worldwide. All banks failed. From coast to coast the factories shut down, and business ceased. This was a Panic.

It was not a depression. The year was 1893, when no one had heard of depressions. Everyone knew about Panics; there had been Panics in 1797, 1820, 1835, 1857, 1873. A Panic was nothing new to Grandpa, he had seen them before; this one was no worse than usual, he said, and nothing like as bad as the wartime. Now we were all safe in our beds, nobody was rampaging but Coxey's armies.

All the way from California Coxey's Armies of Unemployed were seizing the railroad trains, jam-packing the cars and running them full speed, open throttle, hell-for-leather toward Washington. They came roaring into the towns, yelling "Justice for the Working Man!" and stopped and swarmed out, demanding plenty to eat and three days' rations to take with them, or they'd burn the town. People gave them everything to get rid of them. In all the cities Federal troops were guarding the Government's buildings.

I was seven years old and in the Second Reader at school but I had read the Third Reader and the Fourth, and Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels.The Chicago InterOcean came every week and after the grownups had read it, I did. I did not understand all of it, but I read it.

It said that east of the Miss-Issippi there were no trains on the railroad tracks. The dispatchers had dispatched every train to the faraway East to keep them safe from Coxey's Armies. So now the Armies were disbanded and walking on foot toward Washington, robbing and raiding and stealing and begging for food as they went.

For a long time I had been living with Grandpa and Grandma and the aunts in De Smet because nobody knew what would become of my father and mother. Only God knew. They had diff-theer-eeah; a hard word and dreadful . I did not know what it was exactly, only that it was big and black and it meant that I might never see my father and mother again.

Then my father, man-like, would not listen to reason and stay in bed. Grandma almost scolded about that, to the aunts. Bound and determined to get out and take care of the stock, he was. And for working too hard too soon, he was "stricken." Now he would be bed-ridden all his days, and what would Laura do? With me on her hands, besides.

But when I saw MY father again he was walking, slowly. He limped through the rest of his ninety years and was never as strong as he had been.

We lived then in our own house in De Smet, away from Main Street, where only a footpath went through the short brown grasses. It was a big rented house and empty. Upstairs and down it was dark and full of stealthy little sounds at night, but then the lamp was lighted in the kitchen, where we lived. Our cookstove and table and chairs were there; the bed was in an empty room and at bedtime my trundle bed was brought into the warmth from the cookstove. We were camping, my mother said; wasn't it fun? I knew she wanted me to say yes, so I did. To me, everything was simply what it was.

I was going to school while my father and mother worked. Reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, penmanship filled days almost unbearably happy with achievements satisfying Miss Barrows's strict standards. "Procrastination is the thief of time," I wrote twenty times in my penmanship book, without error or blot; and "Evil communications corrupt good manners," and "Sweet are the uses of adversity," every t and d exactly twice as tall as a vowel and every I exactly three times as tall; every t crossed; every i dotted.

All the way home down the long board walk in late afternoons we diligent scholars warmly remembered our adored Miss Barrows's grave, "Well done," and often we sang a rollicking song. It was the song of those days, heard more often than Ta-ra-ra boom-de-ay, My aunt Grace, a jolly big girl, often sang it, sometimes my mother did, and nearly all the time you could hear some man or boy whistling it.

0 Dakota land, sweet Dakota land,
As on thy burning soil I stand
And look away across the plains
I wonder why it never rains,
Till Gabriel blows his trumpet sound
And says the rain has gone around.
We don't live here, we only stay
'Cause we're too poor to get away.

My mother did not have to go out to work; she was married, my father was the provider. He got a day's work here and there; he could drive a team, he could carpenter, or paint, or spell a storekeeper at dinner-time, and once he was on a jury, downtown. My mother and I slept at Grandma's then, every night; the jury was kept under lock and key and my father could not come home. But he got his keep and two dollars every day for five straight weeks and he brought back all that money.

My mother worked to save. She sewed at the dressmaker's from six o'clock to six o'clock every day but Sunday and then came home to get supper...

On the Way Home. Copyright © by Laura Wilder. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, In 1894 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
rainbowdarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As an avid reader of the Little House books from a fairly young age, I looked forward to reading this one to add to my established knowledge of prairie/frontier life as established by the nine books of the Little Hous series. This one is a definite departure from the polished, fictionalized retellings of the family's life through the first years of Laura's marriage to Almanzo. It gives a much more frank picture of the scenes that the family came across while traveling, and is not as quaint and charm-filled as the semi-fictional stories of her childhood were. Laura reports not on fashions or even as much on landscapes, but on prices for land, for crops and for livestock. She describes some of the people she meets and tells how the family is faring on their trip south toward Mansfield. The book is interesting but it is definitely different than the other stories. I view it as a valuable addition to the series, more appropriate, perhaps, for adult fans than for children who would likely wish to stay in the somewhat fanciful world in which Laura resided in her books.
amerynth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield" is mostly journal entries made by Laura Ingalls Wilder during a move from Dakota to Missouri. Her daughter Rose fills in some of her own recollections from the cross-country move. The entries aren't particularly interesting -- they mostly focus on the cost of land in different areas, the status of crops and the temperatures. Not really necessary to read this tome as part of the series.
MerryMary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
We bought this in DeSmet when our daughter was around 10 - on one of our "Laura" vacations. I grew up loving the series, and made a believer out of her as well. Now to get my grand-daughter on board!!
t1bclasslibrary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book contains a diary written by Laura Ingalls Wilder during the trip from De Smet, South Dakota, to Mansfield, Missouri. The diary is not the most interesting, except for the occational insight (much of it is the cost of the local farmland). More interesting is the preface and post-text by Rose about life before and after the trip.
wordygirl39 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Laura, Almanzo and Rose go to Missouri. Kids won't like this book--it feels anti-climactic and too serious after the Little House series, but it's one of those important books to me as an adult reader of Laura's stuff. You can see the beginnings of the writer in her--know that she will someday chronicle her life.
alyssama121 More than 1 year ago
I was very much a fan of the Little House on the Prairie series, so I was interested to read a book that was simply a diary from Laura, rather than a children’s story that was based on Laura’s experiences as a little girl. Laura’s daughter Rose provides context and notes to explain what’s going on, and this book also includes pictures so that the reader can get an idea for what Laura and her family saw and experienced on this trip. On the Way Home is a super short read — I read it in one sitting, and it provides a nice snapshot for how Laura and her family really lived — much more realistic than the children’s books, at least. It’s much more honest and shows a different side of the Ingalls/Wilder family than is portrayed in the books — their situation seems a lot more difficult and harsher than I ever realized as a child reading the children’s books. I really enjoyed Rose’s commentary throughout, and I loved being able to read what Laura observed during her trip. Her entries are short, so by seeing what she includes, you can get a sense of what she cares about and what she worries about. It’s so interesting to see what the midwest was like during those times, and I kept bugging my husband while I was reading to share fun facts as I read through the book. I would definitely recommend this for Little House on the Prairie fans. It’s written in diary form, so it’s different than the books, but the pictures are fantastic and it’s worth a read. I don’t think smaller children would be very interested in it, but older children might like it.
Naninsight More than 1 year ago
This book represents a truly exceptional opportunity to access something of the authentic, uncompromising struggle of a young pioneer family, to find good farming land. The summer of 1894 is given over to Laura Ingalls wilder's daily observations gleaned from her perch on the covered wagon, as the family (with chickens, horses and an adopted stray dog) travels 650 miles from South Dakota to Missouri. Observations about the dust, the wind, the temperature, the failing crops, water scarcity and water quality, the beauty of the prairie, the kindness of settlers and the waves of migrant movement provide lively testament. Bookending this journey are the gripping introduction and the epilogue by daughter Rose Wilder Lane. All is relayed as a matter of historical fact, without any excess sentimentality. These pioneers were tough, resourceful people. This fascinating slice of American history is for the fan of the Little House books, rather than the Little House TV series so influenced by actor/producer Micheal Langdon's "particular" vision. This is the gritty source material, stripped of that TV show's caricatures, made up plotlines and smothering version of spirituality.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JanetA1966 More than 1 year ago
these stories by Laura were the most memorable of all my childhood reading,,, by a country mile! i lived through her and all her adventures. I grieved after i finished the last book.,, as i felt i'd lost a dear friend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a terrible journal. I didn't know a L.I.Wilder book could be so boring