Town on the Winona & St. Peter railroad, laid out in 1872. Almanzo Wilder farmed land northwest of Marshall in 1879 and 1880. — Webster, 1882
In The Long Winter (see Chapter 10, “Three Days’ Blizzard), Laura Ingalls Wilder writes that Almanzo Wilder had “raised wheat on shares in western Minnesota and made a good crop… Almanzo had his own homestead claim now and the seed wheat for next year that he had brought from Minnesota, and if he could stick it out on these prairies and raise crops for four more years he would own his own farm.”
Marshall. The Winona & St. Peter railroad was built in 1872. A town site company was formed, and the village of Marshall was laid out during August of that year. It was incorporated in 1876. By the early 1880s, the village covered 300 acres and contained hotels, two hardware stores, a grocery store, a boot and shoe store, a furniture store, four agricultural implements dealers, millinery and dressmaking shops, a tailor shop, a jewelry store, meat markets, restaurants, a harness shop, a photographer’s shop, four blacksmiths, and other businesses. As there were multiple brickyards in the area, many of the early buildings were constructed of brick. The grasshopper plague impacted the area for five seasons beginning in 1873, with the Marshall area being hit hardest in 1876, with many poor farmers moving out at this time. Farmland was widely available for sale during the years following. — Charles S. Bryant, History of The Minnesota Valley (Minneapolis: North Star Publishing Company, 1882).
If you’ve ever wanted to see the land that grew the famous wheat crop that Almanzo hid that Pa bought a pailful of, then don’t despair. You can. The land where Almanzo raised his 1880 wheat crop lies just northwest of Marshall, in Lyon County, Minnesota. In May, 1879, Almanzo’s mother purchased a quarter section in Grandview Township, the SE 24-112-42 except for 1/2 acre in the SW corner deeded to School District 21. The land was quite close to that belonging to Almanzo’s sister Alice and her husband, Albert Baldwin, who had been married in 1878. Early 1900s plat maps show a residence on the southeast corner of the quarter section, but Almanzo may not have had a house there in 1879-1880, instead boarding with his sister Alice. Mrs. Wilder held onto the quarter section until 1891, selling it when Alice and Albert sold their own farm and moved to Florida.
Marshall is only about thirty miles from Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and many tourists stay in Marshall during their Walnut Grove visits. To find the former Almanzo Wilder land, take West Main Street / Highway 68 northwest towards Ghent; although no longer there, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad tracks at one time ran parallel to the road from Marshall to Taunton (and on to Canby, Minnesota). When you cross 300th Street (which runs east and west), you will be at the southwest corner of the land Almanzo farmed. The property is bordered by 230th Avenue on the east. The map below shows current roads. Please do not trespass; the property is privately owned.
Marshall, Minnesota (THGY 10)