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Peter Riley Ingalls family

Charles Ingalls’ brother, married to Caroline Ingalls’ sister.

“Well, well!” Uncle Peter said. “Isn’t there even one stocking with nothing but a switch in it? My, my, have you all been such good children?” -Little House in the Big Woods

Born October 28, 1833, in Cuba Township (Allegheny County) New York, Peter Riley Ingalls was the eldest of ten children of Lansford Whiting Ingalls and Laura Louise Colby. He had younger siblings Charles (born 1836), Lydia (born 1838), Polly (born 1840), James (born 1842), Docia (born 1845), Hiram (born 1848), George (born 1851), and Ruby (born 1855). A younger sibling died shortly after birth in 1835.

When Peter was a young teenager, the Ingalls family moved to Kane County, Illinois, just west of Chicago. In the early 1850s, they moved to Concord Township (Jefferson County) Wisconsin; Lansford Ingalls bought 80 acres there in 1854. To the south lived the Holbrooks: Frederick, his wife Charlotte (widow of Henry N. Quiner), and her children Henry, Martha, Caroline, Eliza, and Thomas. Charlotte’s eldest son, Joseph, married in 1856 and lived several miles away.

There were three marriages between the Ingalls and Quiner families: Henry Quiner married Polly Ingalls in 1859 and Charles Ingalls and Caroline Quiner were married in 1860. Peter Ingalls married Eliza Ann Quiner on June 5, 1861. Eliza was born April 21, 1842.

Lansford Ingalls lost his farm in Jefferson County, and it was sold at sheriff’s auction in January 1861. Peter and Eliza apparently lived with his parents for a while in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Daughter Alice Josephine Ingalls was born there on April 28, 1862. While still living in Jefferson County in 1862, Eliza Ingalls wrote the following to her sister Martha Quiner Carpenter in Pepin County:

…We have had an increase in our family since last we wrote you but I suppose you have heard of it before this time. She is the prettiest little girl you ever saw… Caroline & Charles have been up here to make us a visit [and] went home today…. The baby wants me to take her so I will have to stop writing. Peter will finish this. Eliza Ingalls to her sister Martha — Crops are very good. Our wheat is just heading out. I can’t think of what to write. If I could see you we could find plenty to talk about. – Peter

Peter moved his family to Pepin County, Wisconsin, in the mid-1860s. Daughter Ella Estella Ingalls was born in Pepin County on January 23, 1865. The family then relocated to Pierce County, where three more children were born: Peter Franklin Ingalls (November 16, 1866); Lansford Newcomb Ingalls (April 5, 1870); and Edith Florence Ingalls (June 29, 1872). Peter Ingalls apparently didn’t ever own land in Wisconsin; it is suspected that his family lived with Lansford and Laura Ingalls, or that they rented a house or farm.

Laura Ingalls Wilder first mentioned Peter Ingalls’ family in Little House in the Big Woods (Chapter 4, “Christmas”),writing that Uncle Peter and Aunt Eliza and Cousins Alice, Ella, Peter, and Dolly Varden came to spend the holiday with Laura’s family. In her Pioneer Girl memoir, Wilder mentioned Cousin Lansford and wrote that Cousin Edith was called Dolly Varden because she had a dress made out of that calico. “Dolly Varden” was both a bright pink and white print and a style of dress made popular following the publication of Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge, a novel which included a character named Dolly Varden.

In 1874, Peter Ingalls moved his family to Zumbro Falls (Wabasha County) Minnesota, Peter purchasing a lot in the original town on the south side of the Zumbro River, where he worked as a laborer and carpenter. Son Edmund Llewellyn Ingalls was born in Zumbro Falls (August 26, 1880). Following a flood in 1888 which destroyed the Ingalls home, Peter, Eliza, and Edmund (the other children were already married) moved north to Milaca (Mille Lacs County) Minnesota, where Peter Ingalls died in March 1900.

After Peter’s death, Eliza Ingalls went to live with daughter Edith in North Dakota. She then moved to Stevens County, Washington, and lived with son Edmund. When he decided to move south, Eliza moved to California and alternated living with daughters Alice and Ella in their homes. Eliza Ingalls died June 6, 1931, in Eagle Rock, California; she was buried in Hemet.


Peter Ingalls family (FB 12, 28)
     Peter Riley, Pa’s brother (BW 4; TLW 16; THGY 13; PG)
     Eliza Ann (Quiner), Ma’s sister (BW 4; TLW 16; LTP 23; THGY 13; PG)
     Alice (BW 4; TLW 16; THGY 13, 17; PG), see also Alice & Arthur Whiting
     Ella (BW 4; TLW 16; THGY 13, 17; PG), see also Ella & Lee Whiting
     Peter Franklin (BW 4; TLW 16; THGY 13, 17)
     Edith (PG), see also Dolly Varden
     Lansford (PG)
     Uncle Peter’s house (PG)
     Dolly Varden, used as a name for both a child of Peter Ingalls (BW 4) and a child of Ruby Ingalls Card ( SSL 1)