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Blanche Coday

Mansfield school mate and life-long friend of Rose Wilder Lane.

Though Rose Wilder Lane is in a foreign land, her mother, Mrs. A.J. Wilder of Rocky Ridge farm, gave a party for her…. The guests spent the afternoon reading letters Rose had written home, describing her trip across, the visits made to Paris, Poland, etc… Each one present wrote a letter to Rose, wishing her a Merry Christmas… The guests were Misses Ada Hoover of Kansas City, Maude Reynolds and Mesdames Jessie Freeman Fuson and Blanche Coday Anderson. – Mansfield Mirror, December 2, 1920.

One of the questions that readers have about the Rose Years / Rocky Ridge series of books by Roger Lea MacBride (eight books published from 1993-1999) is if Rose’s friend, Blanche Coday, was a real person and if she was related to Jean Coday, the long-time president of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Association in Mansfield, Missouri. The answer is yes!

Blanche Coday (1887-1970) was the daughter of Henry Coday (1848-1896), pioneer druggist in Mansfield, who married Elizabeth Chapman (1858-1948). One of Blanche’s brothers was Walter Clay Coday (1890-1961), who married Opal Freeman (1892-1950). Walter & Opal’s only child, Joseph D. Coday (1930-1992), was President of the Bank of Mansfield. Joe’s wife was Jean Smart Coday (1930-2018), the director of the LIW Home Association.

Blanche Coday was the daughter of Henry Coday and the former Elizabeth Chapman. Henry & Elizabeth married in 1883 and had four children: Winfield Scott (1884-1909), Blanche (1887-1970), Walter Clay (1890-1961), and Raymond Guy (1893-1925). Henry Coday was one of nine children of prosperous Wright County farmer and stock raiser, Samuel Coday and his wife Mary Jane Brinkley. He was born in June 1848 in Wright County and raised on his father’s farm in Gasconade Township. After attending school in Hartville, Henry traveled widely before returning to Hartville to work as a saloon-keeper. In the fall of 1881, he moved to Mansfield and set up a drug store with J.M. Gorman in perhaps the oldest building in town, the “Blue Goose” saloon building just opposite the Depot Grounds and facing the town square to the south. They sold patent medicines as well as a wide variety other sundries. This is a building the Wilders would have been familiar with, located on Lots 11 and 12, Block 2, Amended Plat of Mansfield, or on the northwest corner of the intersection of Business 60 and Commercial Street today. The wooden drug building store burned down in 1909, and the brick building on that corner today is the old Farmers and Merchants Bank building; the bank was incorporated in 1908 and the bank building completed in 1911. Henry Coday purchased several farms near Mansfield and had a primary residence on one of his farms as well as a substantial house in town. When the village of Mansfield was incorporated in 1886, Henry Coday was appointed Treasurer. In 1891, the Mansfield Mining Company was organized to mine lead and zinc, with Henry Coday as President.

Blanche Coday was born in Wright County on January 10, 1887, so she was a month younger than Rose Wilder, although in the fictional series she is said to be a year older than Rose. Rose was a country girl and Blanche lived in town, but their friendship slowly developed while attending the Mansfield school together and competing over their lessons. The third book in the series, On the Other Side of the Hill, includes a chapter about Rose going to Blanche’s birthday party and tells of a handkerchief Rose embroidered for a gift. Although much of the third book was set in the year 1896, it doesn’t mention that in real life, Blanche’s father, Henry Coday, died of pneumonia on March 1 of that year; he was buried in Binkley Cemetery near Hartville in Wright County. The series continues as if Blanche’s father is still living and running the drug store in town. Henry Coday’s death may have been omitted because Paul and George Cooley – also classmates of Rose and Blanche – lost their father to pneumonia the following year, and his story is covered in the same book (although in the fiction, Frank Cooley is said to die because of a railroad accident).

In his will, Henry Coday left their primary home and furnishings and other property to his wife Elizabeth, as well as his stock of medicines and other goods at Coday Drugs. To son Winfield Scott, he left the drug store building, which he could take over running at age 25. Henry’s brother, James, had been a partner in the business and he continued to run it. To his other sons, Henry left substantial farm properties, and to Blanche, he left an 80 acre farm as well as lots in Nettleton’s Addition to Mansfield. Blanche was just ten years old at the time of her father’s death.

In New Dawn on Rocky Ridge, Blanche graduates from High School in Mansfield and goes on to the Academy in Mountain Grove. In Bachelor Girl the story told is that when Rose returned from high school in Crowley, Blanche was off attending finishing school in Chicago, so she is not a main character in the book. Historically, Blanche and her brother Winfield Scott, as well as George Cooley and a few other classmates from Mansfield, had left the local school prior to graduation to attend Drury Academy in Springfield. At the time, Drury College offered a four-year course of classical, liberal, or scientific studies. Their Academy offered three or four years courses of study at a lower level, either classical (including Latin, Greek, and Mathematics, plus German) or scientific (including Latin, Mathematics, Botany, and German) which prepared the student for college and would have been the equivalent to upper high school classes, which Mansfield didn’t offer at the time. Blanche left for the Academy while Rose was still in school in Mansfield, and she studied the classics course as well as piano. Blanche completed her junior year studies in the Academy in 1900; it’s unknown if she graduated and continued on to college studies.

Around 1905, Blanche married Joseph Phillip Anderson. Joe was born in Illinois on June 18, 1880, the son of John and Josephine Anderson. Blanche and Joe settled in Springfield, where Joe worked as a traveling salesman for the Carleton Dry Goods Company. They had twin sons born in Springfield on June 23, 1908: Joseph Cody Anderson and Nathaniel Blackford Anderson. For a while after the twins’ birth, the Andersons lived with Blanche’s mother and brothers on Commercial Street in Mansfield. Daughter Elizabeth was born in Springfield on October 5, 1913.

Joe Anderson died October 7, 1918, of pneumonia; he was buried in Eastlawn Cemetery in Springfield. He was only 38 years old at the time of his death, and Blanche never remarried. Blanche almost immediately took their children to Mansfield to live with her mother. The October 31 Mansfield Mirror reported: Mrs. J.P. Anderson and children have moved here from Springfield and will live with her mother, Mrs. H. Coday. Blanche worked as a secretary in Mansfield and was City Treasurer for several years. Blanche and her mother were both active in Mansfield society. Elizabeth was a member of Easter Star with Laura Ingalls Wilder, and both Blanche and Elizabeth were frequent guests at Rocky Ridge Farm. According to Rose’s diaries, Blanche was invited to dinner regularly, and after Rose left Mansfield, she kept in touch with Blanche by letter.

Blanche moved back to Springfield when her children were older, and her mother moved in with her. Elizabeth Coday died at Blanche’s house in Springfield in November 1948. Blanche suffered several falls at home in later years, breaking her arm one time and fracturing her ankle and hip on another occasion. She was moved into a nursing home in Springfield.

In August 1968, Rose Wilder Lane added a codicil to her will, instructing her executor and adopted grandson, Roger MacBride, to “Please give Mrs. Blanche Anderson… Burges Hospital, Springfield, Missouri, an annuity of $1,000. I mean an annual payment of $1,000 while she lives… She is my oldest friend, crippled by a cerebral accident confining her to hospital for life and lacking just about $1,000 of enough money to pay the costs. Only her muscles are affected; she suffers from being dependent on her son and daughter. Give her my love.”

Blanche Coday Anderson died April 6, 1970, and was buried beside her husband. Her obituary in the Springfield Leader and Press (Springfield, Missouri), April 7, 1970 read:

MRS. BLANCHE C. ANDERSON. Mrs. Blanche C. Anderson, 83, resident of Cox Medical Center’s geriatrics section five years, died at 3:10 p.m. Monday in Cox Medical Center following a long illness. Mrs. Anderson was a native of Mansfield, resident of Springfield 62 years, and formerly served as secretary to the Public Works Director. She retired from the job 18 years ago. Survivors include one son, Nat B., of Route 9; one daughter, Mrs. R.K. Taylor of Rio Frio, Tex.,; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Services will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Chapel at First and Calvary Presbyterian Church with Dr. William E. Everheart officiating. Burial will be in East Lawn Cemetery under direction of Gorman-Scharpf.


Blanche Coday (The Rocky Ridge series)