Lake Pepin: A House in the Big Woods
My first Little House site of the summer was Pepin, Wisconsin where Laura Ingalls Wilder was born. Seven miles outside of town sits the Laura Ingalls Wayside where there is a mock up of the Ingalls cabin located on the exact site where the Ingalls property was. There’s a lot less trees than when it was the Big Woods. The door on the cabin is locked with a latch string, as described in Little House on the Prairie. Inside the cabin there is a large picnic table hewed out of wood that would be good for a picnic lunch if I ever returned. There is a board along the bedroom wall with information on the lineage of both Charles (Pa) and Caroline (Ma). Half of the house is split into two rooms: the bedroom and the pantry.
The town of Pepin is not very big. There is a three room museum on Laura and the founding of Pepin. There are a few restaurants in town to eat at and the view of the lake is great on a blue day. If anyone ever comes to visit, I would not recommend more than a morning in Pepin unless you have a boat. There are multiple towns around Lake Pepin and those could surely turn it into a day. I would recommend visiting Stockholm, which is just the town over. They have a saying there: “Make Stockholm weird again.” There are plenty of little artsy places, fun shoppes, and a few great places to get baked goods. If you’re in the area you definitely need to stop in this cute down and explore!
Walnut Grove: On the Banks of Plum Creek
The trip to Walnut Grove has been a long awaited adventure. Even before I arrived in Minnesota, I was planning on coming here one weekend with James’ family. Some of James’ mom’s side of the family is from here, which made the trip even more interesting. The town is even smaller than Pepin from what I saw of it. Yet, every year the town puts on the Little House Pageant and attracts between 500-1000 spectators for every show.
The Little House museum here is much larger than the one in Pepin and is spread out between multiple buildings. You start in the gift shop where you can buy all sorts of pioneer paraphernalia, Little House books, and of course bonnets and dresses. I got the Little House Cookbook to use in the future. There is one building in the museum that is strictly dedicated to the Ingalls family. Half of the building explains their journeys and really gets into the history behind Laura’s time in Walnut Grove. They even have some of Laura’s old things there! The other half of the building is for the fans of the well-known Little House on the Prairie TV show. There is all sorts of collectors items, autographs from the cast, and pictures from the set.
There is a mock chapel that would have been similar to the one Pa helped buy the bell for. Inside of it there are a few pews and pump organs, one of which even works. There is a building that has a doll collection, a military history collection, and a collection of farm and household equipment from Laura’s time. Another building has multiple different scenes set up from Laura’s time in Walnut Grove. There’s a post office, a general store, a livery, and a Prairie Schooner wagon at the ready. There is a recreated prairie sod house complete with spiders! One would surely not notice a cow grazing overhead while in there. The final building of the museum is a recreation of the first floor of the Ingalls’ wood frame house fully furnished.
In the evening, we went to the site of the Dugout on the banks of Plum Creek. The Creek was too high to walk across because of all the rain, but thankfully there was a nice bridge to take to the site of the Dugout. The Dugout itself has collapsed in, but they were able to locate the site of it using old records. There were many people visiting the Dugout, some in full-out Prairie era dress. I of course had my bonnet on. 🙂 I think we should make bonnets a things again; they are so practical. There was also a very nice prairie walk behind the Dugout site on a restored prairie. We saw lots of butterflies and flowers.
That night we went to the pageant, which was at an outdoor theater just outside of town. The pageant was the highlight of the trip. The costumes were great and the actors all carried themselves accordingly. There were professional special effects (including fire!) and the sets were incredible. They pulled out full houses on wheels and assembled a church right before our eyes. If you ever find yourself in southwestern Minnesota in July I would recommend making a trip to Walnut Grove to watch the pageant for yourself, no matter how buggy it is!