Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Linking Little Houses on the Prairie

Earlier this week the Naperville Library hosted a program on Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the Little House on the Prairie books. I wrote Ruth by Lake and Prairie as Naperville’s local “Little House” story and folks often ask if there’s any connection. Surprisingly, there is!

Ruth Murray from the book was a niece of Joseph and John Naper. As a twelve year old, Ruth was among the original settlers of Naperville in 1831. Laura Ingalls wouldn’t live in her Little House for another thirty-odd years.

Even Laura’s Pa, Charles Ingalls, wasn’t born until 1837. Charles spent much of his childhood in New York, but like many families in the 1840’s, the Ingalls traveled west to stake out a new homestead.

Charles’ father, Lansford Ingalls, purchased land near Elgin, Illinois where other relatives had recently settled. Charles lived in the Kane County area from about the ages of nine until sixteen when they moved to Wisconsin.

During research on the Murray family, I learned that Ruth’s brother Robert Nelson Murray married a woman named Louisa Sargent. Her brother, Marquis, married a woman named Lois Ingalls. Could this be a relative of “Pa’s.” I wondered?
I waded through the family trees and eventually found that Lois and Charles do share an ancestor, Samuel Ingalls, Sr. So yes, there is a connection (of sorts) between Ruth and Laura!

Lois and Marquis’ son Earl was a prominent Naperville citizen and a member of the Association of Commerce which is the forerunner of our current Chamber.

Interestingly, his line can claim Daughters of the American Revolution status while Laura Ingall’s family cannot. It seems one of Grandpa Ingalls’ sons enlisted during the war while the other moved out of the country until it was over.

Naper Settlement used to have a Murray House where Lois Ingalls Sargent may have visited her in-laws. It was recently re-named and re-interpreted as the Merritt Hobson Law Office, but that’s a story for another day!