Caroline Celestia Ingalls

Caroline Celestia Ingalls (Carrie) was born on August 3, 1870, in Montgomery County, Kansas. Although she was born during the events of Little House on the Prairie, this is not made known in the books. The reason for this is that Laura first wrote Little House in the Big Woods with no intention of writing an entire series of books. However, due to the success of this book and Farmer Boy, Laura was persuaded to continue the story of the Ingalls as they journeyed west. Laura did not wish to exclude the family's stay in Kansas, and as Baby Carrie had already been born when the events in Little House in the Big Woods occurred, Laura just included her in the trip to Kansas, as well.

In the early books, Carrie is the baby of the family and is not included in Laura's and Mary's adventures. However, after Mary's blindness and the family's move to the Dakotas, the books focus more on the interaction between Laura and Carrie.

As a young adult, Carrie became a typesetter for the De Smet News, and later other newspapers throughout the state. She spent her youth traveling the country, visiting family in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and going to Laura's home in Mansfield, Missouri. In 1905, she moved to Boulder, Colorado, hoping that the change in climate would improve her health. She lived there one year and in Wyoming one year with her Quiner cousins before returning to De Smet.

Carrie was an independent young woman, and though single, she filed on a homestead claim in Top Bar, South Dakota. She also worked for The Keystone Recorder and The Hill City Star while living in the Black Hills. Here, Carrie met mine owner David N. Swanzey, a widower with two young children.

Carrie and Dave were married on August 1, 1912. Although Carrie and Dave never had any children together, Carrie raised Dave's children, Mary (age 8 at the time of the marriage) and Harold (age 6) as her own. The family lived in Keystone, the site of Mount Rushmore. When Gutzon Borglum arrived in the area looking for a good site for the carving, Dave was one of the group of men who recommended the mountain and led the sculptor to it. Carrie's stepson Harold helped with the carving.

Carrie was enthusiastic about Laura's books, and helped her sister by sharing her memories of their growing-up years with her.

In 1936, Carrie's stepson Harold was killed in an automobile accident, and in April 1938, Carrie lost her husband, as well. Mary Swanzey married Monroe Harris and had 15 children. Carrie died of a sudden illness on June 2, 1946, leaving Laura as the last living member of the Ingalls family.

Carrie Ingalls
Photo courtesy of Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.
Used with permission.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frontier Girl

Copyright © 1996 - 2008
Rebecca Brammer & Phil Greetham