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.
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 Facebook, Twitter, Google+,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.