Mary Swanzey Harris Gift to Mansfield

There is an interesting story in the Winter 2009-2010 issue of Rocky Ridge Review about Mary Swanzey Harris. As I always tell people the main reason Mansfield has the lion’s share of the Ingalls-Wilder artifacts is that Laura outlived everybody in her family and they lived in Mansfield so long that they tended to collect stuff. That’s true, but some stuff was actively collected or gifted to the museum. One such gift came from Mary Swanzey Harris, Carrie’s step-daughter. She had come to the museum one day in 1959 with her son-in-law Wayne Upshaw and her daughter Sue Upshaw. Mary thought about her visit and on a subsequent visit she donated a box of Carrie’s family possessions.  This collection included the Ingalls Family Bible (which Laura did not have to refer to while writing the books), Carrie’s autograph book, the flowered fairy box described in On the Banks of Plum Creek, the now familiar tintype of the 3 sisters, Mary Ingalls’s clothing, handiwork, and personal belongings, including her Braille slate, Mary’s college diploma and probably Charles and Caroline’s wedding certificate. Read more about it in the Winter 2009-2010 of Rocky Ridge Review.

UPDATE: This is another of my top 10 posts for all time views and shows up regularly in the posts people have hit by searching. I’m not exactly sure why it comes up, maybe people are just looking for a list of some of the things on display at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. Maybe people want to know more about their newsletter, The Rocky Ridge Review. Maybe they are tracking the Harris or Upshaw family, I don’t know, but I  want to more briefly address what the two comments are about, the current status of Mary Swanzey Harris. Laura’s genealogy hasn’t been a special focus of mine, although some people are doing great work in that area. This donation came in the late 1950s right after the museum opened. I’m sure Mary Swanzey Harris has passed on by now, even though I don’t have a death date.  I did a little further searching and it looks like the son-in-law mentioned in the story, Wayne Upshaw, passed away in September 2004. A stripped version of his obituary is available here and it looks like his wife, Sue Harris Upshaw was still alive at that time. Her obituary has not appeared in the newspaper that carried his since then, but that’s all I can say.
http://genforum.genealogy.com/upshaw/messages/314.html

Sarah S. Uthoff is main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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trundlebedtales

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

4 thoughts on “Mary Swanzey Harris Gift to Mansfield”

    1. Yes, she has died. I can’t give you a concrete death date. Once you get out of the immediate family, my interest in birth and death dates drops like a stone. There are genealogies of Laura online which I assume would include this side branch, but it’s not my area of focus like it is some people’s. Here’s 1 such example. It doesn’t list a death date, but does state she was born in 1904. That would make her 106 if she was still alive. http://pennyn.tripod.com

      It’s been 51 years since she made the present to the museum.

  1. I wondered if there are any living relatives (rather step children etc) to the Ingall’s family? It appears they did not have a large family at all. So who inherits items? Like can’t they come forward and say since they are family they deserve rights to the family?

    1. There are no living biological descendents to Charles and Caroline Ingalls nor Laura and Almanzo Wilder. There are descendents from Almanzo’s siblings and Ingalls family cousins. Some of them do have artifacts. As far as rights to the series itself, Rose broke Laura’s will and left the rights outside the family, so they don’t have any rights conferred through biology alone.

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