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By the Shores of Silver Lake – the fictional story

noteChanges. It is two years after the last story told in On the Banks of Plum Creek, and things have not been easy for the Ingalls family. Pa has harvested two poor wheat crops since the grasshoppers came, and most of the family has recently been sick with scarlet fever. “Worst of all, the fever had settled in Mary’s eyes, and Mary was blind.” There are doctor’s bills and other debts to pay, and not only the Ingallses, but the land and Plum Creek are tired and worn out.

The West Begins. The Ingallses seize an opportunity to go west, where Pa will be able to look for a homestead – “free land” to make up for what the government forced them to leave in Indian Territory, he says. Pa accepts a job as paymaster, bookkeeper, and timekeeper for the new railroad, and Ma and the girls soon leave Minnesota and follow him to Dakota Territory. Once again they are going west! Laura describes everything she sees for Mary, from the wide-open prairie grasses and vivid sunrises to the people and animals they encounter.

Opportunity. Once railroad work shuts down for the approaching winter, the Ingalls family is fortunate to be asked to remain at the new townsite and live in the Surveyors’ house on the shores of Silver Lake. They settle down for what they expect to be a cosy winter all alone, but are pleased that visitors and friends are able to pass the long winter days and nights with them.

After the pleasant winter passes – and Pa files on his homestead – the Ingalls family takes part in the building of the new railroad town of De Smet, then they move to a little shanty on the claim to begin a new chapter in their lives as homesteaders!

notePublishing History. The text of By the Shores of Silver Lake was copyrighted October 20, 1939, by Laura Ingalls Wilder for an original term of 28 years. The copyright was renewed in 1967 by Roger Lea Mac Bride for another term of 28 years. Mac Bride renewed the copyright for 19 years in 1976. The Copyright Act of 1976 extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years. Public Law 105-298, enacted on October 27, 1998, further extended the renewal term of copyrights still subsisting on that date by an additional 20 years, providing for a renewal term of 67 years and a total protection of 95 years. Currently, the text of By the Shores of Silver Lake is protected by copyright until the end of the year 2034.

The first illustrations for By the Shores of Silver Lake were by Helen Sewell and Mildred Boyle for the 1939 publication. Illustrations for the uniform edition of the Little House books were by Garth Williams and published in 1954. Both are protected for 95 years, or the years 2034 (Sewell/Boyle) and 2049 (Williams).

The surviving drafts of the Silver Lake manuscript are owned by the Laura Ingalls Wilder / Rose Wilder Lane Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. Laura Ingalls Wilder began the story in several different ways, including a first chapter that started while waiting for the train at the Walnut Grove depot. A copy of the manuscript is on microfilm at both the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa, and at Western Historical Manuscripts at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Characters in By the Shores of Silver Lake.
* The Ingalls family: Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura, Carrie, Grace.
* Relatives: the Forbes family: Uncle Hiram and Aunt Docia, Cousins Lena and Jean; the Henry Quiner family: Uncle Henry and Cousins Charley and Louisa.
* Relatives mentioned: Grandpa and Grandma Ingalls; Uncle Henry and Aunt Polly Quiner and Cousin Charley; Uncle George; Aunt Ruby and her two sons and daughter, Dolly Varden.
* Animals with names: Black Susan (mentioned living in the Big Woods), Jack the bulldog, Ellen the cow, Sam and David (horses).
* In Minnesota: the doctor, Nelson family, the brakeman, the train conductor, the butcher boy on the train, unnamed passengers.
* In Dakota Territory: hotel keeper in Tracy, waitress, unnamed railroad workers, wash woman, Lizzie (mentioned), Big Jerry, Old Johnny, Mr. and Mrs. Boast, head surveyor, Mr. Woodworth, teamster, Reverend Alden, Reverend Stuart, unnamed homesteaders, Mr. Edwards, Mr. and Mrs. Beardsley (hotel keepers), Louizy and Annie (little girls in town), Mr. Hunter and his father, Mr. Hinz, Mr. Harthorn and son, Almanzo Wilder, and Royal Wilder.

Places Mentioned in By the Shores of Silver Lake.
* In Minnesota: town (Walnut Grove), Tracy.
* In Dakota Territory: Big Sioux Railroad Camp, Silver Lake Camp, Stebbins’ Camp, Jim River, Big Sioux River, De Smet townsite, Brookings, Huron, Mitchell.

Music from By the Shores of Silver Lake.
Songs (and the chapter in which they appear) include:
Chapter 4, “End of the Rails” — There is a Happy Land (variation)
Chapter 6, “The Black Ponies” — Beware!, A Railroad Man for Me
Chapter 7, “The West Begins” — Uncle Sam’s Farm
Chapter 10, “The Wonderful Afternoon” — Buy a Broom, A Life on the Ocean Wave, A Railroad Man for Me
Chapter 13, “Breaking Camp” — Nobody Ask’d You
Chapter 14, “The Surveyors’ House” — Mary of the Wild Moor, Paddle Your Own Canoe
Chapter 15, “The Last Man Out” — Captain Jinks, Coming Through the Rye, Heel and Toe Polka, Hail Columbia, Highland Mary
Chapter 19, “Christmas Eve” — De Boatmen’s Dance, Gentle Words and Loving Smiles, Jingle Bells, Mountain of the Lord, The New Year’s Come
Chapter 20, “The Night Before Christmas” — Merry Merry Christmas!
Chapter 22, “Happy Winter Days” — Ben Bolt, Billy Boy, Camptown Races, The Gypsy’s Warning, I Wish I was Single Again, Nellie was a Lady, Oft in the Stilly Night, The Old Time, Three Blind Mice
Chapter 23, “On the Pilgrim Way” — Lend a Helping Hand, There is a Happy Land
Chapter 27, “Living in Town” — The Big Sunflower
Chapter 28, “Moving Day” — The Beacon-Light of Home, A Motto for Every Man
Chapter 30, “Where Violets Grow” — Keep the Horse Shoe Over the Door
Chapter 32, “Evening Shadows Fall” — Barbary Allen, Home Sweet Home

Chapter posts from my pioneergirl Facebook group, January-February 2020:
* Nancy Cleaveland.


By the Shores of Silver Lake, the fictional story