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Hiram Ingalls

Brother of Charles Ingalls; he lived 1848-1943.

Aunt Docia and Charley’s mother, Aunt Polly were sisters. Pa and Uncle George, Uncle Peter, Uncle James and Uncle Hiram were their brothers. – LIW to RWL, February 1938.

The following is from my blog post dated January 8, 2012. Some of the information came from Hiram Ingalls’ Civil War pension file, which is over 400 pages in length.

Second Wife’s Fourth Husband. You won’t find Laura Ingalls Wilder’s uncle, Hiram Lemuel Ingalls, mentioned in the Little House books, although it’s a theory that the story about Laura’s wild Uncle George in Little House in the Big Woods was written about Hiram Ingalls. Hiram was the youngest-but-one son of Laura and Lansford Ingalls, younger brother of Charles Ingalls and older brother of George Ingalls. He was born April 27, 1848, in Illinois, and after settling in western Wisconsin with his parents, he and brother James enlisted in the Union Army in January 1865, going across Lake Pepin to Minnesota to sign up. Although the legal minimum age for soldiers was 18, Hiram was only 16 at the time of his enlistment (he would turn 17 a few months later; James was 21). It was perfectly okay to enlist between ages 18-20 if you had parental consent. Did Grandpa Ingalls approve of the enlistment, did Hiram fake his consent papers, or did he lie and state that he was over 21 years of age?

Hiram and James didn’t serve long. The Civil War ended a few months after their enlistment and they were mustered out of service in September 1965. Hiram married Elizabeth Woodward two years later, and they had seven children. After Elizabeth’s death, Hiram remarried. I didn’t set out this week to research Hiram. I was merely curious to know more about Hiram’s second wife, because you variously see online that her name was Ellen Burns or Ellen Parker and that that she died in 1951. It turns out that it was Hiram’s daughter Ellen (Mary Rose Ellen Ingalls Kezer) who died in 1951, not the second wife Ellen.

Ellen’s surname was not Burns; it was Burn. Ellen Burn was born in Indiana, September 1852, to Mary and Jacob Burn, who had come to America from England in the 1840s.

Ellen Burn married her FIRST HUSBAND Stephen Skinner in Dunn County, Wisconsin, on March 8, 1872. On several documents, she states that she was married on that same day in March in the year 1871. Daughter Abbie Skinner was born in December 1871, which explains why she would want to add a year to her marriage (their primary source marriage certificate is clearly dated 1872). Stephen Skinner had joined the Union Army (Company I, 30th Wisconsin Regular Infantry) during the Civil War, but instead of fighting the Confederate Army, he was stationed at Fort Union, on the Montana / Dakota border. Currently a National Historic Site, Fort Union was where various Indian tribes went to trade buffalo robes and other furs for beads, guns, blankets, knives, cookware, and cloth. It was the most important trading post on the Upper Missouri from 1828 to 1867.

While on guard duty one February night, Stephen Skinner caught a severe cold which settled in his lungs, putting him into the infirmary for a month and causing him life-long breathing problems. Although Skinner tried farming and harness making, he was unable to work more than quarter-time for the rest of his life and was unable to do any manual labor. Ellen and Stephen Skinner had nine children born between 1871 and 1895; Stephen died in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, April 1902.

In April 1904, Ellen (Burn) Skinner married her SECOND HUSBAND, Wilbur Stockwell, a farmer from Nebraska who was eight years her junior. His first wife had been dead only a few months, leaving him with six children to raise. In January 1907, Ellen filed for and was granted a divorce from Wilbur Stockwell, citing that he had treated her “in a cruel and inhuman manner.” Her former name – Ellen Skinner – was restored to her as part of the divorce settlement. She also had her attorney’s fees ($30) paid by Stockwell, and her household goods were shipped back to Wisconsin.

Ellen’s THIRD HUSBAND was William Parker; Ellen Skinner was also William’s third wife. A conductor on the Great Northern Railroad, the couple met in Minneapolis and were married in Seattle, Washington, in February 1909. The Great Northern ran from St. Paul to Seattle, and was the northernmost transcontinental railroad in United States history. The couple made their home in Minneapolis, where William died at age 73 in June 1917. Ellen had worked as a laundress prior to her marriage and it is believed that she also worked for the railroad as a laundress.

February 27, 1919, Ellen Parker (née Burn) married her FOURTH HUSBAND, Hiram Ingalls, in Duluth, Minnesota. The couple settled in Danbury, Wisconsin, where they lived until April 1920. They then moved to Glasgow, Montana (note that Glasgow is located on the Great Northern Railroad). Shortly after settling in Montana, however, Hiram went back to Danbury on an alleged business trip, taking his wife’s $375 sealskin coat, which he sold to a fur company in Madison. On April 6, 1920, Hiram wrote Ellen a letter, saying that he was not coming back to Montana and he “never wanted to see her face, ever again.”

What happened next? Ellen went to live with a son in California and Hiram remained in Wisconsin, where he died in March 1923. The couple didn’t divorce. While I dont yet know if Hiram ever saw Ellen’s face, ever again, I know that Ellen was still in California only months prior to Hiram’s death.


Hiram Ingalls