Museum in Pepin honors author of Little House on the Prairie series
PEPIN, Wis. (WEAU) -Laura Ingalls Wilder, best known for her life adventures with Ma, Pa, and her sisters were chronicled in the bestselling “Little House” books. What people may not know, is her life started here in Wisconsin, in the ‘big woods’ of Pepin County.
Laura Ingalls Wilder was born on this property back in 1867, you can find memories from her birthplace at a museum just 7 miles down the road. Located on the Great River Road, you will find an extensive collection of artifacts, documents, and historical photos of Laura’s life.
Sue Fedie, Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum Manager said, “We’ve tried to recreate the life that Laura would have lived, or somewhat of what Laura would have lived in the big woods of Wisconsin.”
In 1996, Pepin became the official starting point of the Laura Ingalls Wilder history highway which links sites in her honor across the country.
Fedie said the museum is a springboard destination for all Laura enthusiasts.
“A lot of people follow the Laura Trail and that is the trail that follows that the birth site, and follows all of the homesites that Laura lived in during her life,” said Fedie.
Fedie walked me through each ‘room’ of her recreated life. In Laura’s “little house in the big woods”, she talked about how her family struggled to put food on the table.
Fedie said, “A big part of the pioneer life was preserving the foods that they ate so that they could feed their families and nourish their families all year, preserving their vegetables up in the attic and hanging the ham’s that pa butchered.”
They have on display Laura’s quilts, wardrobe and even what her classroom may have looked like.
“We do have a quilt here that did belong to Laura when she was an adult, it was left to us by the executor of Laura’s daughter’s estate,” said Fedie.
Fedie said it’s a privilege to be in charge of not only the museum but one that serves her hometown’s birthplace.
“We try really hard to make her legacy grow and keep her in the hearts of people of all ages,” said Fedie.
You can also find pioneer souvenirs in ‘Laura’s Shop’ inspired by the life and stories Wilder lived. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages and read around the world. Fedie said preserving her legacy is no easy undertaking.
“It’s a culmination of many years of work from a lot of people who have worked really hard to bring Laura’s legacy here, and we keep that legacy alive,” Fedie said.
The pandemic stunted their 6-month season but was quick to implement safety precautions and a mask mandate. They opened just six weeks later than they normally would have this year.
The museum is only open from mid-May to mid-October but tracks nearly 12 thousand visitors any given season.
Fedie said, “Having the museum in Pepin County has been wonderful for the village of Pepin.”
The little house wayside built on land owned by the Ingalls family at the time of Laura’s birth, is open to visitors year-round.
If you’d like to check out the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Pepin, there is still time this year. The museum will be open next weekend, October 23, 24 and 25. And the following Friday and Saturday, October 30 and 31. The museum will close for the season and re-open on May 1, 2021.
Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.