Almanzo James WilderAlmanzo James Wilder was born February 13, 1857, near Malone, New York. He was the fifth child of James and Angeline Wilder. Farmer Boy is the story of Almanzo's childhood on the Malone farm.
The Wilder family lived near Malone during Almanzo's growing-up years, and were quite prosperous. However, drought caused crops to suffer several years in a row and the family decided it was time to seek better farmland. In 1875, the family left Malone and moved to Spring Valley, Minnesota.
A few years later, Almanzo filed on a homestead claim in Marshall, Minnesota. He and his older brother Royal went further west in 1879 and homesteaded in the Dakotas, near the present town of De Smet, South Dakota. Here, Almanzo and Laura met.
Courtesy of Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.
Used with permission.
Laura and Almanzo in 1942
Photo courtesy of Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.
Used with permission.
Although Almanzo was ten years older than Laura, he seemed to take a special
interest in her from the start. When she was nearly sixteen and began
teaching school twelve miles away, he went after her with his beautiful
horses, Prince and Lady, each Friday so she could come home for the
weekends. He took her back to school each Sunday. Laura, in the
innocence of youth, thought he was only doing it as a favor to
Pa. After the teaching job was over, Almanzo
asked her to go sleigh-riding, and then buggy-riding when spring came.
Laura soon came to realize that Almanzo's true interest was in her.
The two courted for two and a half years. |
Almanzo and Laura were married on August 25, 1885, in De Smet. Their early years of marriage are recorded in The First Four Years. Their first child, Rose, was born on December 5, 1886, and an unnamed baby boy was born in August 1889, but died soon afterward of an unknown cause. Other hardships such as crop failures, debts, diphtheria, and loss of their home due to fire forced the young couple to leave De Smet in search of a better life. After spending time with Almanzo's family at Spring Valley, Minnesota and with Laura's cousin at Westville, Florida, they returned to De Smet briefly. In 1894, Laura and Almanzo finally settled in Mansfield, Missouri.
"Manly", as Laura always called him, was known in Mansfield as a friendly, hardworking man, who enjoyed joking around with his friends. He was a "jack-of-all-trades" and loved to work in his toolshed. Some items he made, such as furniture and his cane collection, can be seen today in Mansfield. Almanzo died on October 23, 1949, at Rocky Ridge farm at the age of 92.