Then we went on a tour of the house and buildings. Overall they did a great job and I really think it was worth the trip. We started at the barns. It was interesting to see the barns and our guide said that they had found the actual foundations. They had a blueprint based on that and Laura’s description, but I wonder at some of the proportions were off. I think maybe some of the changes were deliberate to accommodate groups rather than farm animals. They had fake animals (some pigs and some chickens) set up in the barns. There were lots of tolls and some things where they would never be. I was also surprised by the layout of the barns. I pictured the open end of the square facing the house, but it faced away with the opening closed in by a fence rather than the house.
We went into the house by outside door directly into the wood shed. It was surprising how many doors there were in the house and how few of the rooms were next to each other. The house wasn’t a square at all, but a skinny rectangle with only one room all the way across instead of two (except for the Master Bedroom/Parlor and Pantry/Woodshed). There was a ladder leading up to Father’s workshop. We went into the kitchen. It was set up with a bathtub in front of the stove, a plate rail set all the way around the top of the kitchen with plates set up decoratively, and for some reason dried apple rings hung from the plate rail. We went into the dining room next. They have a nice display of family photos there and a great oil lamp over the dining room table. They had willowware dishes on the table, in the corner, on the buffet. The stair case to the second floor opened into this room. The wall opposite the stairway has three openings. One is a door into the master bedroom. It was blocked off by a Plexiglas panel. Laying on the bed was their half of the coverlet Mother Wilder made. (DeSmet owns the other half.) Next was an opening around the stove. I always had trouble picturing how the stove was shared between the two rooms, but on first glance I’m doubtful of this version. There was a majorly big opening around the stove. I think there was a two foot clearance from any edge of the stove. It was so big it basically made the two rooms just one big one. I’d like to know the basis for this kind of opening. The third doorway led into the parlor. The wallpaper was very nice. They had a couple of horsehide chairs and the matching settee covered in velvet. One really shocking thing was that they had a George Bent organ. Bent was originally from Burr Oak, Iowa and his biography is a prime period source for the history of the town. I don’t think they’d realized the connection, so it was a cool coincidence.
The second floor is reached by the original stairway. I spend a lot of time in old houses and I was still amazed my how steep it was. It was much more like a ladder with risers. It was a little less step than the steps to Rose’s room in the hallway in Rocky Ridge, but not by much. Upstairs were three rooms. The attic room over the pantry/woodshed was Father’s workshop and was unfinished. The main room that the steps came into was Manly and Royal’s bedroom. There were two beds in a corner. There was also a towel stand with a notice saying the towels were Rose’s and several other textiles throughout the house had also belonged to Rose. I’d have liked to know what they were as we went along, but we didn’t have time for many questions. Some of the group walked down to the Trout River, but the bus was going to leave in an hour so I spent the time taking photos around the homestead instead. It really just whetted my appetite and I hope that I can plan a return trip sometime.
We left the farmstead a little early to meet a guide at the Morningside Cemetery. It was moved from near the Congregational Church to its present site in 1862. It also is the burial site of Vice President Wheeler under President Rutherford B. Hayes and also the founder of the Gibson Guitar Company. To find the Wilder graves go in to the upper exit, turn left on the road twice and go around the pond. They are at the top of a little hill overlooking the pond. The Wilder plot includes Almanzo’s paternal grandparents and a nearby plot has James’s first wife (who died shortly after their marriage) a story that I hadn’t really taken notice of before. We revisited a few spots on the way back to the hotel as I pointed out points of interest around Malone. We went to supper at the same place as Dean Butler and then went to bed for a long ride the next morning. Tune in for Part 3.