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Chariton County, Missouri

Location of properties purchased by Charles Ingalls, Henry Quiner, and Thomas Quiner prior to the events related in Little House on the Prairie.

25,000 Acres of Farming Lands for Sale. The North Missouri Railroad Company offers for sale, privately, about 23,000 acres of splendid farming lands in Chariton county, Mo., in quantities to suit purchasers. These lands are unsurpassed by any in the State in the richness and fertility of its soil. With the West Branch Railroad complete through the county to Brunswick; the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad on its Northern border, and the two projected roads through the Eastern and Western portions of the county – a sufficient amount of stock having been subscribed to each to insure their completion – makes Chariton the most desirable county in the State for farming purposes, and the extremely low prices these lands are offered at, (from $2.00 to $6.00 per acre), the best investment in the West for emigrants and others. Terms Easy. — Daily Missouri Democrat (St. Louis, Missouri), January 29, 1868.

The south half of Township 56 North, Range 19 West of the 5th Principal Meridian (Yellow Creek Township), in Chariton County, Missouri, showing the location of land purchased by Charles Ingalls, Henry Quiner, and Thomas Quiner in 1868. Map from 1876 atlas; note that Tom Quiner still owned his quarter section at the time. Adamantine Johnson’s home is shown on the NE 29 and the house is still standing today.

Laura Ingalls Wilder never wrote about her family’s sojourn in Missouri prior to settling in Indian Territory Kansas, either in her Pioneer Girl memoir, manuscript versions and published Little House on the Prairie, or in surviving correspondence. While there is primary source proof that Caroline and Charles Ingalls bought and sold land in Chariton County, Missouri, and that they were there in 1869, there are still many unknowns.

While researching for his Laura biography, Donald Zochert, a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, found evidence that while living in Wisconsin, Charles Ingalls had purchased land in Missouri. Zochert asked Margaret Clement (1914-1994), Independence, Kansas, bookseller and teacher, to see what she could find out about the purchase, so Clement looked for deeds recorded in both Independence KS and Keytesville MO. The Independence Chamber of Commerce published a 2-page document by Clement in 1972, to be distributed to tourists who asked for information about the Ingalls family in Kansas. Margaret Clement also allowed Zochert to use her research in his Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, published in 1976.

September 28, 1863, Charles Ingalls and Henry Quiner had jointly purchased 160 acres in Pepin County, Wisconsin, the SW 27-24N-15W (4th Principal Meridian) at a cost of $2.09 per acre. Henry settled on the north half of the quarter section and Charles on the south. Mary and Laura Ingalls were both born here, now the site of the Little House in the Big Woods Wayside Cabin. Charles and Henry quit-claimed the land to each other in November 1867, allowing them to act independently in legal matters in regard to their respective parcels.

April 28, 1868, Ingalls and Quiner each sold their 80-acre farm to Gustaf Gustafson for $1012.50. They each received $100 in cash with Gustafson mortgaging the rest to each of them under undisclosed but agreed-upon payment terms. Less than a month later, on May 28th, and from neighboring Pierce County, Wisconsin, Charles Ingalls signed a deed of trust whereby he purchased 80 acres (sight unseen) in Chariton County, Missouri, from Adamantine Johnson (a land agent) and Johnson’s brother-in-law, Robert Cabell. At the same time, Henry Quiner purchased 80 acres to the west of Charles from Johnson, and in October, Henry’s brother, Thomas Quiner, bought a quarter section nearby. Henry purchased the W-SE 32-56N-19W; Charles purchased the E-SE 32-56N-19W; they paid $900 each for their 80 acres. Tom purchased the NE 34-56N-19W.

Why the Ingallses and Quiners decided to sell their Wisconsin land and purchase in Missouri is unclear, aside from succumbing to the spiel of an aggressive land salesman and Pa’s itchy wandering foot. At the beginning of Little House on the Prairie, Wilder writes that the Big Woods was too crowded for Pa and he was tired of grubbing out tree sprouts in order to farm, but there were more people per square mile in Pepin County than Chariton County according to both the 1860 and 1870 censuses. The Chariton land was fertile and first-rate, however, and the area was served by multiple railroad lines.

Adamantine Johnson (1824-1905) came to Chariton County from Kentucky, and as a young boy, he worked as a clerk in his brother’s drygoods store in Chillicothe. Around 1837, he moved to Brunswick and opened his own store; he was also connected with the Merchants’ Bank and was a dealer in tobacco. In 1864, Johnson moved to St. Louis as the head of a large drygoods firm known as A. Johnson and Company, and he served as president of the Merchants’ Bank of St. Louis. Johnson invested heavily in land and town lots in Chariton County, living on his farm from 1870-1882. On the 1870 federal census, Johnson is enumerated in Township 56N, Range 19W. He built a substantial brick house which is still standing about a mile north of the historical marker on the site of the Ingallses’ former land. More about Adamantine Johnson can be found in the History of Chariton and Howard Counties (St. Louis: National Historical Company, 1883).

Johnson had purchased the quarter section from James Lombard and his wife Mary Ann for $650 on January 3, 1867. Since the early 1850s, James Lombard (1824-1878) had invested in Chariton County property from Middlesex County, Massachusetts, along with his brothers Benjamin, Lewis, and Josiah. Although James remained in Massachusetts, Benjamin Lombard (1815-1882) relocated to Chicago and was a real estate speculator as well as president of the Fourth National Bank of Chicago. In the days of his prosperity, Benjamin gave both land and money to rebuild a Universalist college (Illinois Liberal Institute, which had burned down) at Galesburg, Illinois, and it was re-named Lombard University in his honor. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed Lombard’s bank, and failed investments and the Panic of 1873 left him with almost no assets. Lombard relatives of the brothers established the Bank of Creston (Iowa) and the Lombard Investment Company of Kansas City: James Lewis Lombard (1850-1918) – not the previous owner of the Ingalls land, but a cousin of Benjamin’s son – was still advertising as a dealer of lands in Chariton County in the early 1900s.



Although their Missouri land was purchased in May 1868, it’s unclear exactly when the Ingallses left Wisconsin for Missouri, and if they traveled alone or were accompanied by Henry and/or Tom Quiner. Henry Quiner paid personal property taxes in Pepin County for both 1868 and 1869 (indicating he was living in Pepin County part of both years), while Gustaf Gustafson paid real property (land) taxes on the land he’d purchased from Quiner both years, yet Gustafson failed to pay any real property taxes on the land he’d purchased from Charles Ingalls. Charles Ingalls is listed on the personal property tax records in Pepin for 1868, but no amount is written in for value of personal property, state or county tax, or school tax. $1.90 in unpaid road tax and a 10 cent collector’s fee is listed, which was marked as paid. Charles Ingalls is not listed on 1869 tax rolls in either Pepin or Pierce Counties.

Pepin Township Records supply other dates that Charles Ingalls, Henry Quiner, and Tom Quiner were recorded as voting in elections or present at other township meetings. On April 7, 1868, Charles Ingalls and Henry Quiner voted in an election of town officers. On October 15, 1868, Charles Ingalls signed a District Treasurer’s Bond, witnessed by Henry Quiner. On November 3, 1868 – Charles Ingalls and Thomas Quiner voted in the general election, in which Ulysses S. Grant defeated Horatio Seymour for President of the United States. This is the earliest date Charles Ingalls and family could have left Pepin for Missouri based on surviving primary documents.

In her fictional account, Wilder wrote of making a “late winter crossing” on frozen Lake Pepin. According to the weekly “River News” published in area newspapers, Lake Pepin was typically first navigable each year between March 16 and April 12. On March 21, 1869, teams with heavy loads were still crossing safely. But on April 9, 1869, the ice in Lake Pepin had been broken up by high winds and rain, and patches of ice had been weakened so that crossing was no longer advisable. Town records show that Henry Quiner was in Pepin to vote on April 6, 1869, so if the two families crossed Lake Pepin together, it may have been on one of the last two days possible to make a safe ice crossing that spring. However, school records at the museum in Pepin show that Henry Quiner’s children were marked as present at the Barry Corner school on April 19, 1869, which would suggest a very late and unsafe crossing. Mary Ingalls is not listed on the school register that month.

Henry Quiner’s name also appears on a September 14, 1869, township tax matter voting register. Using only known dates, Henry Quiner would have had five months at best to travel to Chariton County, decide not to remain, and make it back to Pepin, with up to two months of that needed solely for travel to and from Missouri. For reasons unknown, he walked away from his Missouri commitment, suggesting he may have never left Wisconsin. Quiner’s mortgage stipulated that his first payment of $50 was due in May 1870. Because he made no payments and apparently had no further contact with Cabell or Johnson, Quiner’s 80 acres defaulted back to Robert Cabell and was reclaimed at public auction by Adamantine Johnson for $100.

If they didn’t travel to Missouri, it’s unclear where the family lived after selling their Pepin farm. November 30, 1869, Henry Quiner bought it back from Gustaf Gustafson, for the same amount he’d sold it for the previous year: $1012.50. Gustafson’s wife, Margaritta, whose name was recorded on the 1868 deeds of purchase and had been signed by her, was said to be living in Sweden at the time of the 1869 deed of sale.

Charles Ingalls and family did make the trip to Chariton County, but when it occurred and how long they were there is unclear. As noted already, for both 1868 and 1869, Gustaf Gustafson failed to pay property taxes owed on the land he purchased from Charles Ingalls. Gustafson must have defaulted on his mortgage payments to Charles Ingalls as well, which is why Ingalls executed a power of attorney in the Circuit Court of Chariton County, appointing his father, Lansford Ingalls, to act on his behalf in real estate matters in Pepin County. The power of attorney was signed by both Caroline and Charles Ingalls in person in Keytesville, Missouri, on August 26, 1869, and it was filed in Durand, Wisconsin, on December first. Any notification or letter saying that Gustafson would not be paying Charles Ingalls for his land most likely prompted the 1869 move from Missouri to Kansas around this time, not the Ingallses’ move from Kansas back to Wisconsin, as Wilder suggests in her Pioneer Girl memoir and Little House on the Prairie manuscripts.

In the weeks and months before Charles Ingalls executed the August 1869 power of attorney in Chariton County, it was widely advertised in Missouri and Kansas newspapers that portions of the Osage Reservation (namely, the twenty mile strip or Trust Lands) were open to settlement and cash purchase and that settlers who occupied school lands prior to survey would have the right to purchase the tracts settled upon “as if such sections had not been previously reserved for school purposes.” Squatters on the Osage Diminished Reserve likely believed that the same terms would apply to them once the Osage Indians were removed and the land opened to legal settlement. [Charles Ingalls located his Kansas cabin on a school section, which is why this is mentioned in this entry.] From the June 1, 1869, Leavenworth (Kansas) Bulletin: The Fort Scott Press says the Valley of the Verdigris is attracting considerable attention at present… partly on account of its richness and beauty. Montgomery is a new county lying west of Labette and south of Wilson counties, to which are flocking hundreds of immigrants. A new town has been laid out in the center of this county, called Verdigris City, which is to be the county seat of Montgomery county, bountifully watered and timbered, and possessing a large area of superior farming lands. Farms in this county lying near the State line have unusual attractions for the stock raiser, as the Indian Territory will furnish range for their cattle for many years to come. The climate of this new county, like that of all Southern Kansas, can’t be beat in the world.

It was the perfect time for the Ingallses to “go and see the West,” as Pa declares in Little House on the Prairie. They were going to the Indian country…

Regardless of the status of his income or location, the first payment of $50 on the Ingallses’ Chariton County land was due by May 28, 1870; Charles had agreed to pay off his $900 mortgage in ever-increasing annual payments beginning in May 1870: $50 in 1870, $100 in 1871, $150 in 1872, $250 in 1873, and $250 in 1874, plus 10% interest each year. Charles Ingalls’ payments to were on the same schedule that Henry Quiner’s had been. There’s no indication that Lansford Ingalls invoked his power of attorney, but without money coming in from Gustaf Gustafson, Charles would likely be unable to pay Adamantine Johnson. February 25, 1870, Caroline and Charles Ingalls appeared in Independence, Kansas, before Justice of the Peace, J.P. Rowley, and witnesses S.T. Tracy and J.H. Pugh to cancel the purchase of their Chariton County land and turn it back over to Adamantine Johnson.



June 1, 1878, the sheriff of Chariton County, Missouri, took possession of the quarter section purchased by Thomas L. Quiner, for non-payment of property taxes. In November, the land was sold at public auction for $35 to John Knappenberger. In February the following year, Quiner paid Knappenberger $50 to clear his title and regain ownership. October 18, 1888, Thomas Quiner sold the quarter section for $2000.

October 12, 2003, the historical marker at the property formerly owned by Charles Ingalls near Rothville, in Chariton County, Missouri, was dedicated. Click HERE to read the site brochure. The map below shows location of the marker and property purchased by Henry Quiner and Charles Ingalls.


Chariton County, Missouri