On the Road to Concord

Two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to travel from my home in Mankato, Minnesota, east, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The goal of my trip was to spend a day with my sister-in-law, Bridget, topped off by seeing the Broadway touring production of Mamma Mia! (Fabulous show, by the way; I highly recommend it!)

As I started out from Mankato, I couldn’t help but notice the temps were way below zero. And I decided it would be fun to keep a log of my trip, following the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Highway east toward her roots, to those of her parents, in the spirit of On the Way Home.

At each stop along the way–and never while I was actually driving–I sent a text message to update my Facebook status. I noted where I was, what I was up to, and the temperature. It stayed below zero until I got into Wisconsin; by the time I was in Wisconsin Dells–stopping at Exit 92 for a Dunkin’ Donut and cup of coffee–it was well above zero. And I realized I had another Laura opportunity: I could stop in Concord, armed with new general directions for finding the original farms of Charlotte Quiner Holbrook and Lansford P. Ingalls.

I’ve been to Concord before. At one point, I lived in Milwaukee for three years, and I took advantage of that opportunity to seek out these roots of Caroline and Charles. But at LauraPalooza last summer, in talks with John Bass, I got more specific directions to the original farms. I decided to go off the freeway at County Road F and drive out that direction.

The problem, however, was that I couldn’t be sure I was in the right space. Some of these sites felt familiar–the Groose area, for example, rang a dim bell–but because this was an impulse stop, I wasn’t armed with the right maps to make sure I was in the right spot. Naturally, I sent a text message to Facebook noting my dilemma, as part of the log, before moving on.

And got a wonderful lesson in the power of the social network and the generosity of the Laura community.

Nansie Cleaveland, who is a dedicated Wilder researcher, happened to note my problem, and she had the maps! She scanned them and posted links to them for me on Facebook. I retrieved the maps on my phone, and on the way back from Milwaukee, easily found the right spot. (Nansie since has written post of her own about this experience, and included those links for anybody else wandering through Concord at her blog, Pioneer Girl.)

My problem had been that I was looking for the farms south of the Oconomowac River, and south and east of Concord. The farms are actually north and east of Concord. They adjoin at a specific spot:

The spot where the Lansford Ingalls and Charlotte Holbrook lands adjoin.

Parked on that corner, I took pictures to the north and east of the intersection.

The Lansford Ingalls farm.

This sweeping cornfield, with the farmhouse just up the street, was original Lansford P. Ingalls land–where Charles spent most of a his youth.

It’s easy to see, with as close as the two farms were, how three different couples evolved from the numerous young people who lived there. Henry Quiner and Polly Ingalls, Eliza Quiner and Peter Ingalls, and Caroline Quiner and Charles Ingalls all married.

The Quiner/Holbrook land lays kitty-corner across the street from this intersection. This is the sweep of field and stream that exists there now:

The Holbrook farm land.

I just barely missed shooting an image of my vehicle in the foreground of this one.

If the farmhouses were located in roughly the same spots as they are today, the young people living on these farms only had to walk about a half a mile to go visiting. There would have been many more trees than exist today; the farm land has been cleared and planted, and these farms look to be successful and self-supporting.

As we drive down the road south, with the Holbrook farm on the right, a delightful surprise awaits:  When we approach the river, which apparently once wandered through the Holbrook land, several houses have sprung up on the right, a mini-village of sorts. The entire site is still in the Town of Concord, but one would have to cross the river–and today, Interstate 94–to get to the village crossroads.

Much easier, today, is to turn right at the river, and go to Concord General Store just off the freeway for gas and an ice cream cone or coffee. Even if the owners didn’t know, when I asked, that they were just down the road from Little House history.

Posted in Caroline Quiner Ingalls (Ma), Charles Ingalls (Pa), Little House Travel, LIW-Related Items, On the Way Home, Uncategorized
5 comments on “On the Road to Concord
  1. Rebecca says:

    What a delightful little venture. Thanks for sharing the details — and I love the pictures! It’s so rare you see pictures of anywhere Little House-y in snow since that’s not the time of year people typically head that direction. I love that the land is still so unsettled. Somehow it’s just not the same when you find the spot and discover a subdivision or a shopping mall on the site…

  2. Laura Welser says:

    Thanks for sharing this story, Amy. Now I know that if I’m in that neighborhood I can find another piece of Laura history. I also enjoyed your facebook status updates, in their On The Way Home style! I love the Laura community that has taught me so much, especially over the last few years.

  3. John Bass says:

    Thanks for this Amy! I am glad you finally got to see this, and in the snow. It looks way different in the summer. — The “P.” in Lansford’s name threw me off a min. It is “W.” for Whiting. Charles has the “P.” — You were facing Lansford’s farm in that one photo, but Charles bought a portion of that farm (on the same property) from his dad in 1857, and his is located just alittle to the right, of those building and house at that corner. It’s hard to explain, unless you are looking at a map of it. (Thanks N!!)

  4. Carrie Zumbach says:

    I actually drove out and found the farms today. The street signs have changed (they are blue now) but the fields are still being used.

  5. Please contact the Concord Historical Society if you would like assistance in locating or visiting these sites. Send an email to us at info@concordwihistory.org (this is the organization’s address).

    We have are the custodians of a log cabin from about 1850 that has been reconstructed in Concord Park, across the road from the Concord Historical Museum (a former one-room schoolhouse, dating from the mid-19th century). The Museum does not have regular hours but contact us to make an appointment. We are very proud of the Concord connection with Ma and Pa Ingalls. Our artifacts, however, come from other families. We enjoy collaborating with genealogists and local history buffs.