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Grace Pearl Ingalls

Fifth child of Charles and Caroline Ingalls; youngest sister of Laura Ingalls.

Mr. and Mrs. Nate Dow of De Smet were visiting in Manchester Tuesday. — De Smet News, April 9, 1920


Nate and Grace

Grace Pearl Ingalls was born May 23, 1877, in Burr Oak (Winneshiek County) Iowa, the fifth child of Charles and Caroline Ingalls. She had older sisters Mary (born 1865), Laura (born 1867), and Carrie (born 1870). A brother, Charles, was born in 1875 and died at nine months of age.

Although Laura Ingalls Wilder introduced sister Grace in By the Shores of Silver Lake (which implies that she was born in Walnut Grove, Minnesota), Grace was born during the Ingalls’ stay in Burr Oak, a period of time which was omitted from Wilder’s Little House series. The Charles Ingalls family left Walnut Grove during the summer of 1876, and spent an extended visit with Peter and Eliza Ingalls and family in Zumbro Falls, Minnesota. Here, Freddy Ingalls died. In the fall, the Charles Ingalls family moved on to Burr Oak, where they helped run a hotel for several months. In her Pioneer Girl manuscript, Wilder wrote: “[We rented] a little red brick house out on the very edge of town and we moved into it in the spring… One day when I came back from an errand that had taken me a long time, I found a new little sister. We named her Grace. Her hair was golden like Mary’s and her eyes were blue and bright like Pa’s. I stayed home to help for a while longer, then I went back to school…”

Shortly after Grace’s birth, the family moved back to Walnut Grove, where they remained until the summer of 1879. Grace, her mother, and sisters traveled on the train west to join Charles Ingalls, who was working for the railroad (see By the Shores of Silver Lake, Chapter 3, “Riding in the Cars”). The Ingallses settled near the De Smet townsite, and Grace and the new town grew up together.

Grace was educated in the De Smet village school. In These Happy Golden Years (see Chapter 26, “Teachers’ Examinations”), Wilder mentions that “Carrie and Grace stayed at home” during the spring teachers’ examination, implying that Grace was in school at this time. The new schoolhouse in De Smet was occupied and dedicated in January 1885 (not the fall of 1884). Grace attended Normal School in Redfield and taught several terms of school, including the primary department of the De Smet school, former District 37 west of the Ingalls homestead, and former District 58 school in Esmond Township, south of Manchester.

October 16, 1901, Grace Ingalls married Nathan William Dow. They were married in the parlor of the Ingalls’ home on Third Street. The wedding announcement in the De Smet News read:

Dow-Ingalls, Oct. 16, 1901 – At the home of the bride’s parents, Mrs. and Mrs. C.P. Ingalls, Grace Ingalls and Nathan Dow were married Wednesday. The happy event was of a quiet nature, only the relatives of the contracting parties being present.

The bride is a young lady who has grown from childhood in this city and enjoys the respect and confidence of the entire community. She is possessed of all the womanly traits that enter into the general makeup of a devoted and loving wife. For some time she has been one of the leading lady teachers in this county and has met with splendid success wherever she has been employed. We are truly sorry to have her leave our social circles where she has always been an industrious and cheerful worker, but we are glad to know she will remain in the vicinity, living at Manchester.

The groom is one of the industrious and prosperous farmers south of Manchester where he has the friendship and confidence of his neighbors for his upright dealings and honest character in everyday life. He is a young man who by careful and business-like investments has secured for himself the comforts of life and is enjoying prosperity. They will make their home on the farm for the present. The News joins with the large circle of friends of this esteemable [sic] couple wishing them abundant joy and happiness in the future.

Nathan William Dow was born April 25, 1859 in Columbia County, Wisconsin, the second child of Thomas Dow and Caroline Fish. In November 1880, Nate Dow filed on a homestead three miles south of a prospective townsite along the Chicago and North Western Railroad tracks west of De Smet. Because the site was on a rise, the train would have to go uphill in either direction, and it was deemed unsuitable for a town. However, a mail stop was made here, and the small town of Fairview (later changed to Manchester) grew to become a grain market used mainly by farmers to the north.

Following the Hard Winter of 1880-1881, Nate was joined by his father Thomas Dow, his uncles Lafayette and Lorenzo, and cousins Ozelous and Owen Dow. All filed on claims south of Manchester. In 1887, Nate converted his homestead to a tree claim; he made final proof on the NE 17-110-57 in September 1896.

Grace and Nate Dow were close friends with Carleton Fuller, De Smet hardware merchant, who married Nate’s sister Chloe. The two couples often took trips together, included an extended summer visit to the Oregon seacoast in 1908. The Dows had rented their farm out prior to the trip, so they lived with Grace’s mother and sister Mary upon their return. Nate’s sister Bersha Dow married Thomas Dunn. They were the parents of the artist Harvey Dunn, famous for his paintings of the Dakota landscape.

When Laura Ingalls Wilder was writing the De Smet Little House books, she wrote to sister Grace to ask her about the wildflowers growing on the Dakota prairie when they were little, which Laura could no longer clearly remember. Grace wrote back to describe “flowers that used to grow here, some are here yet, but lots of kinds we don’t see anymore.. The crocus came first in the spring and the prairie used to be white with the blossoms of wild onion in the spring. Then there were violets, purple and yellow and such a lot of sheep sorrel with its pinkish blossoms. There were no sunflowers, goldenrod nor dandelions until much later.”

There were buttercups and white anemonone, common name is wind-flower. There were two kinds of wild peas, blue and purple and wild parsley and wild clover bean. There were tiger lilies in low places…”

Grace died November 10, 1941 in Manchester, the week after Little Town on the Prairie was released. Grace’s obituary in the November 13, 1941 De Smet News read:

Death came to Mrs. Nathan W. Dow of Manchester, long-time resident of Kingsbury County, late Monday, after an illness of several weeks, following several years of ill health.

Mrs. Dow was a daughter of the first residents of the De Smet vicinity, Mr. and Mrs. C.P. Ingalls, and had lived in the county from girlhood. The experienced of the Ingalls family have been described in a series of historical novels written by her sister, Mrs. Laura (Manly) Ingalls Wilder of Mansfield, Mo.

Surviving in her death are her husband and two sisters, Mrs. Wilder and Mrs. D.N. (Carrie) Swanzey of Keystone, and a niece, Rose Wilder Lane of Connecticut, the novelist.

Grace Ingalls was born at Burr Oak, Iowa in 1877. Her parents moved to Dakota Territory in 1879, her father being clerk of the railway construction crew that built the grade as far as De Smet. The family spent the winter of 1879 in the company’s office shack, located on the west shore of Silver Lake, and when the townsite was located and platted moved here to one of the first structures erected, later living on a farm a mile southeast of town.

After attending the local school, Miss Ingalls went to Redfield College and then taught school in Manchester Township. She was married to Mr. Dow October 16, 1901, and they lived on their farm south of Manchester for some years, his heath forcing them to retire some years ago, since living in De Smet and for some years in Manchester.

Until her health prevented, Mrs. Dow was active in social activities, in ladies’ aid society and club work, and having a natural talent for writing was correspondent for The News and The Huronite for years.

Nathan Dow died May 13, 1944 in Manchester. (Please note: the marker in the De Smet cemetery has the wrong death year on it.) Nate’s obituary in the May 18, 1944 De Smet News read:

Nate W. Dow, a resident of Manchester Township since 1882, died Saturday night. Funeral services were conducted from the funeral parlor in De Smet with the Rev. L.W. Sachse officiating. Internment was in the De Smet cemetery. His wife preceded him in death three years ago.

He is survived by a niece, Mrs. Caroline Aspinwall of Manchester and a nephew, Harvey Dunn of Tenafly, New Jersey.


Grace Pearl Ingalls (SSL; TLW; LTP; THGY; PG)
     “Blue-Eyes” (TLW 4) – nickname Pa uses when talking to daughter Grace. It is only used in The Long Winter
     De Smet Cemetery tour info for DOW