Becky Newhall / Rebecca Stewart
Classmate of Laura Ingalls in De Smet, and niece of Frederick Newhall.
Rebecca Newhall told me at school one day that her Mother said I’d “marry Wilder yet, for he meant business. No old bachelor would go with a young girl like that unless he did.” – Pioneer Girl
This one’s going to be pretty obscure, because it’s not in the Little House books. It is, however, in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pioneer Girl manuscript. After returning to school following her months as teacher in the Bouchie School, Laura begans to take Almanzo seriously as a suitor:
I kept on going with Manly and people began to take it seriously. Rebecca Newhall told me at school one day that her mother said I’d “marry Wilder yet, for he meant business. No old bachelor would go with a young girl like that unless he did.”
Becky Newhall’s father kept the first Leghorn hens I ever saw. They were small and brown, looked like birds and laid very, very small eggs, so small that the merchants objected to their size in buying them. Mr. Newhall answered in his whining voice, “I know they are small but they lay so many of them.”
So, Becky Newhall was in school with Laura, who apparently also knew Becky’s parents. Laura remembers two things about Mr. Newhall: his voice and his chickens. I know a few more things about them, but not much. I’m mostly putting this out there as “bait,” hoping some family member reads this and contacts me. My email address can be found in the sidebar.
Frederick Whitney Newhall was born in Massachusetts, November 1825, to Daniel Newhall and Harriet Whitney. He was one of at least nine children. Frederick’s wife was named Ellen, and they had one son, George, born in Illinois in 1860. George became a doctor, and his father was a wholesale fruit distributor in the Chicago area for many years. That leaves Becky, who was not a Newhall, but the Newhalls’ niece, Rebecca Stewart, born around 1869.
Frederick & Ellen, Becky Stewart and George Newhall went to Dakota in 1882. Frederick took a preemption claim, the NE 19-111-56, and a homestead, the SE 29-111-56. His land was close to that of Almanzo, Royal, and Eliza Jane Wilder, Sam Owen, Willard Seelye (one of Laura’s teachers in the De Smet school), Daniel Loftus, Carleton Fuller, and Thomas Power. He apparently never owned any property in De Smet, but both George and Becky attended school there, and George trained as a teacher and taught school for a while. Becky was still in school after Laura and Almanzo were married.
The Newhalls, like the Ingallses, attended the Congregational Church in De Smet. Frederick and George Newhall were at the 1881 meeting to start the Congregational Church, and contributed towards the $200 raised at that meeting.
The Newhalls were quite properous in Illinois; Frederick and his brother, Franklin, made their fortunes in the fruit business. You can see a photo of Frederick’s Glencoe, Illinois, house as it looks today HERE. The navigation button that brought you here shows the house when the Newhall family lived there. The house was called “Breezy Castle,” because it was so hard to heat. The two-story tower above the front door section swayed in heavy winds, and was later removed.
The Newhalls returned to Illinois in 1892. Ellen died in 1906; Frederick in 1914. If I learn anything else about Becky in the future, I’ll add it here.
Rebecca Newhall / Becky Newhall (PG)
Her mother predicts Laura will marry Almanzo (PG)
Father keeps leghorn hens (PG)