Changes in Pepin’s Little Miss Laura Contest and Photo Contest

There were several changes in the Little Miss Laura Contest after almost 80 girls competed for the title last year (2006). This year they divided the girls by age. They had a winner for each age eligible (8, 9,10, and 11 years old). This seemed to go much smoother and, although it still took all afternoon, I don’t think it cut into the fiddle contest time like last year. There was also some confusion about who had to where when, resulting in more girls having to hang around the stage with nothing to do than I think the organizers would like and I expect to see some further change in this next year. This is still mainly a contest about looking like the best Laura fan, although they do have to answer questions both in writing and orally in front of the crowd. As there are no real duties assigned (as in Burr Oak), it’s open to girls from all over the country. It’s the center of Laura based activities at Pepin’s “Days” and always draws a big crowd. Visit it yourself September 13-14, 2008.

On that same page you will see that Pepin is sponsoring a photo contest of Pepin area photos until Dec. 31, 2007. I’ve sent in my entry, have you?

Sarah Uthoff


Little House on the Prairie (Independence) on MySpace

A link was recently posted on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Literary Society listserv to the Independence Kansas site MySpace page. I try to check all the Laura websites periodically, for example, I just added the Independence Christmas event to my list of Wilder events. However, most of the type of the information I was seeking (newsletter, update on site goals, information about their events) hasn’t been showing up there because, starting a year ago, it was on their MySpace page instead without any indication on their regular website that was the case or that there even was a MySpace page. So now I know. Check it out for yourself. Or go to and Search for Little House on the Prairie.
They also seem to be attempting to restart memberships with the indication there would be a mailing to members (I’ve paid a membership the last time they tried this and had signed up on line and didn’t get a notice from either place). This was on their website for the last year, under Sign up to be a Friend which I admit I hadn’t checked having signed up to be a friend more than once already. You can find their application and membership rates here, or on the MySpace page.

 Sarah Uthoff

“A Little House Christmas” Gaining Ground

Productions of a couple different Wilder-based plays are slowly making their way on to the list of productions (like “The Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker”) that are typically done during the holiday season. This article is from Joplin, MO. If you know of any other productions, please let me know.

Sarah Uthoff

James Wilder’s First Wife

When I was at Malone/Burke, I found out that James Wilder had a first wife, before Almanzo’s mother. It seems that other people were as surprised as I was by this fact. Other than mentioning it in passing in my posts about Malone/Burke I was going to let it go until I could do some research myself, however as I’ve gotten questions about it, I decided to ask Sharon Jahn, one of the major authorities on the Wilder family in Spring Valley (and the more I see of her work the more I think she’s probably one of the top authorities on the James Wilder family in general) if she would give me a little more information and she generously gave it and said I could put it here. Below is information from two e-mails from Sharon:

“In the estate papers from Mrs. Angelina Day Wilder, with information for the papers from her granddaughter, Angelina Howard Merritt, in the Parish of Acadia, state of LA, the following: “That my grandmother, Mrs. Angelina Albina Day Wilder, was married but once and then to my grandfather, James Mason Wilder; that my grandfather was only married twice and of his first marriage there were no children born; that his second marriage was to my grandmother…..”

(Sarah here again, that was important because of Louisiana’s inheritance law at the time which gave primary interest in an estate to children of the first marriage, why E.J. was disinherited when her husband died. This was a European tradition that focused more on the maintenance of the property rather than fairness to the children and is the source of all those younger sons that have to marry well that show up in romantic literature.)
“From the records of the First Congregational Church of Malone ‘November 4, 1840 Mr. James M. Wilder aged 27 years, farmer of Malone, and Miss Mary Shonyo, aged 20 years, a house maid of Constable, were married by me, Ashbel Parmelia?. Witnesses: Abel Wilder & wife, Mr. & Mrs. Shonyo, the parents of the bride, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Nichols & wife.'”

“On her tombstone is gives 1842 as her death date & I couldn’t find the reference but I have been told she died either from a miscarriage or during birth…..”

“I found a letter from Ed Tattershall, who was historian at Malone for years. He said James purchased the farm in 1840 because of his marriage to Mary. Ed also said James sold his cemetery
lot to Harriet & Richard Shonyo in 1874 & thought they were probably Mary’s parents. In her book (p. 18) Dorothy Smith mentions the lot sold to Horace & Richard Shonyo. ”

I also contacted Elizabeth Menke at the Malone site who also confirmed the story, but said it was deliberately downplayed at the site because it didn’t fit with their interpretation focus of the site.

Thank you to both Sharon and Betty. It’s their research and I am very grateful that they were willing to share it on this unique facet of the Wilder story.

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 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.

Quote: Dates Appear

I’m sorry about this. I meant to save this to write a whole post later. I must  have hit the wrong button and it popped up before I was done. Here’s the story. The Kirkwood Community College Print Services have been trying to urge people to go there early. This is my favorite below because it is all too true. 

Top 10 Reasons You Should Go to Print Services Early This Holiday Season 9. Dates on your calendar are closer than they appear.

Sarah Uthoff

Call for Papers: National One-Room School Conference

The National One-Room School Conference next summer will be held in Oxford, Ohio, home of the University of Miami where McGuffey of McGuffey Reader fame taught. See the call for papers at the link below.

 Sarah Uthoff