In 1894, Laura Ingalls Wilder moved from South Dakota to Missouri with her husband, Almanzo, and their daughter, Rose. They had saved $100 which they used as down payment to buy a piece of land, and over the next 20 years, they transformed the place.
By 1913, they had turned 200 acres of rocky land into a homestead called Rocky Ridge Farm with an apple orchard and space for Morgan horses. From March 1 through Nov. 15, fans of the author of the famed "Little House" book series can tour the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum where the books were written.
Rose, the Wilders' only daughter, left Mansfield to pursue a writing career, then returned to the farm in 1928 and built a house with modern conveniences as a gift for her aging parents. Called the "Rock House," it was the place where Laura, at the age of 65, began to write the nine volumes of her famous books.
The couple lived there until they moved back to the original farmhouse to spend the last of their days, and fans began visiting the site just months after she died in 1957. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association was eventually founded to preserve the property, and 30,000 visitors now arrive each year from around the world.
"I'm impressed by the reach that her writing had all around the world," said Susie Choate, a Mansfield native and a docent at the homes and museum. "I met two French visitors who were on a business trip in Rolla. Once they heard about this historical location, they had to make the trip to Mansfield before returning home".
In 2016, a new building replaced the cramped museum that had housed original family treasures since 1961. Inside visitors can see original handwritten manuscripts, artifacts crafted by Almanzo Wilder, needlework and many other heirlooms.
Along with a renovated museum with a larger area to exhibit artifacts described in the "Little House" series, a 4,500-square-foot-garden with 11 types of wildflowers and four native grasses was added in front of the museum to attract butterflies like the ones Wilder details in her books.
There is also a calendar of special events throughout the year.