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William H. Steadman family

One of the friends in town had traded for a hotel in Burr Oak, and was going there in the fall. He wanted Pa and Ma to go and be partners with them…. – Pioneer Girl

WWilliam H. Steadman was born April 12, 1832 in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire County, England. He and his wife Mary came to the United States in 1857. Their son John was born in Pennsylvania in 1865, crippled in the leg. The Steadmans moved to Iowa shortly after John’s birth; here, sons Reuben (1868) and Thomas (1872) were born.

William Steadman volunteered at the outbreak of the Civil War. Having served in the English army during the Crimean War, he was appointed drillmaster of Company B, Fourth Iowa Cavalry, serving until discharge due to wounds received in battle.

The Steadmans moved to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, where William first filed on a homestead in October 1874, the NE 32-109-38. The homestead was located about two miles southeast of the village of Walnut Grove. The Steadmans also purchased a residence lot on Sixth Street in Walnut Grove; for a while they owned a lot in Block 8, where Mr. Steadman worked as a blacksmith. Daughter Mary was born in Walnut Grove in 1875; she was a few months older than Freddy Ingalls. Although Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about the Steadman family in her Pioneer Girl memoir, they were not mentioned in the Little House series. Even in Pioneer Girl, Wilder neglected to include the Steadmans’ daughter, Mary Ruth, probably not to conflict with her own sister’s name and the story of her own brother.

In October 1876, William Steadman purchased the Masters Hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa, plus he bought the lower level of the saloon building to the south. According to Pioneer Girl, Steadman asked Charles and Caroline Ingalls to move to Burr Oak and help them run the hotel, which the Ingallses did. While in Burr Oak, William and Mary Steadman joined the Burr Oak Congregational Church at the same time as Charles and Caroline Ingalls- in January 1877. Mr. Steadman served as treasurer of the church.

Working in the hotel was not a pleasant experience for the Ingalls family, however, so they moved to rented rooms after a few months. Wilder wrote that her family worked hard, and she and Mary had to look after the Steadmans’ baby, and the Steadman boys were disagreeable playmates. The Ingallses also didn’t like being so close to the saloon and the men it attracted. Wilder also wrote that Pa was somehow cheated out of his share of the earnings by Mr. Steadman, and one can only suppose that the two families didn’t part on the best of terms.

The Steadmans didn’t remain in Burr Oak long. In May 1877, they bought an 80 acre farm in Freemont Township (east of Burr Oak) and sold the hotel to William McLaughlin. While living in Freemont Township, Mrs. Steadman underwent surgery to remove four tumors with a combined weight of forty pounds! The Steadmans sold the Winneshiek County farm after only a year, and they moved to Oskaloosa (Mahaska County) Iowa, southeast of Des Moines. Here, Mary Steadman died November 18, 1885, and was buried in Oskaloosa Friends Cemetery.

In 1887, William Steadman married his second wife, Anna Falls, a widow. The couple moved to Portland (Multnomah County) Oregon, where Mr. Steadman continued to work as a blacksmith. Thomas and Reuben Steadman both became blacksmiths and settled in Oregon; they died in the 1940s. In 1893, Mary married Stephen McDonald (1870-1917), settling in Portland. William Steadman died October 23, 1911; he was buried in Milwaukie Pioneer Cemetery, Clackamas County, Oregon.


Steadman family – They are not mentioned in the published Little House books. The family appears in Pioneer Girl and the fictionalized spin-off book, Old Town in the Green Groves.
     William H. (PG)
     Mary (PG)
     Ruben / Reuben (PG)
     Johnny (PG)
     Tommy (PG)