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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

In 1864, Peter moved his family to Pepin County, Wisconsin. 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 Edmond Llewellyn Ingalls was born in Zumbro Falls (August 26, 1880). A flood destroyed the Ingalls home in 1888, and at some point after 1892, Peter, Eliza, and Edmond (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 Edmond. When Edmond 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 & Eliza Ingalls and … This photo of the Peter Ingalls family was in possession of one of the descendants of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Uncle Peter. I first saw it in 2007, and it has been widely distributed in the years since then. Every time it is shared, it’s identified as Peter Riley Ingalls and Eliza Ann (Quiner) Ingalls and their children, usually without labeling the family members or any discussion about the children’s ages or when/where the photo may have been taken. Occasionally there is a comment that “it seems off because Edith was older than Edmond,” but that’s as far as it goes. The photo was shared this week (December 2019) in a genealogy discussion group, and I’m sure I annoyed members to no end with my repeated request (which I later deleted) for someone to please label the people in the photo. It’s why I’m updating this entry from 2006 and including the photo.

According to the 1900 census, Eliza Ingalls stated she had given birth to 6 children with 6 children living at the time, suggesting there were no children who didn’t survive childhood. But is this correct? Peter and Eliza’s known children are: Alice (born April 1862), Ella (January 1865), Peter (November 1866), Lansford (April 5, 1870), Edith (June 29, 1872), and Edmond (August 1880). So, are these supposed to be the six children in the picture? There are six children pictured: three boys and three girls. The three older children—Alice, Ella, and Peter—are fairly easy to identify based on other existing photographs of them. That leaves two sons (Lansford 1870 and Edmond 1880) and a daughter (Edith 1872) who must be the other children in the picture, right? The child sitting in Eliza’s lap is a girl, but does she look eight years older than either of the two remaining boys, based on the information that she was 8 years older than Edmond? No, she looks younger than either boy, and she looks like a toddler. For Edmond to be in the photo, it would have to have been taken after August 1880. Edmond might be the child in the dress, but then where’s Edith?

Edith and Lansford were born 27 months and 3 weeks apart, and if they are the two lap-children, then who is the boy standing between Peter and Eliza? He’s clearly older than they are. The 1870 federal census includes: Alice (8), Ella (5), Peter (3), and Lansford (4 months); the census was taken in August. If he was another son born between Peter (November 1866) and Lansford (April 1870) who died prior to the 1875 Minnesota census, then why isn’t he listed with them on the 1870 census? One possible explanation is that he was living with another family at the time, for which there is Ingalls/Quiner precedent. Henry & Polly Quiner’s daughter, Charlotte, for example, was enumerated with the Arvel family (not her own parents) on the 1870 census. If the older boy standing between Peter and Eliza isn’t their son, then who might he be? There’s not a known son of either of Peter or Eliza’s siblings who was born between Cousins Peter and Lansford.

If the photo was taken closer to the time of the 1875 census, perhaps child standing between Peter and Eliza is 4-year-old Lansford (Edith would be 2) and the child sitting in Peter’s lap is another son born between Lansford (April 1870) and Edith (June 1872)—a son who died after the 1870 federal census yet before the 1875 Minnesota census, that implies that Eliza had three children born in the space of 27 months and 3 weeks. This is medically possible, acknowledging that the rest of the children are 2-3 years apart in age. Again, Alice, Ella, and Peter are easy to identify. The 1875 Minnesota State census lists children: Alice (13), Ella (10), Peter (8), L.W. (5), and Edith (2). It recorded “every person who was included in this family on May 1, 1875.” This was described as persons who lived at the same residence and ate at the same table. The 1880 federal census lists children: Alice (18), Ella (15), Peter (13), Lansford (10), and Edith (8). Edmond was born on August 26, 1880, after the census was taken; it only included those persons born prior to June 1, 1880.

What do you think? For years, the Peter Ingalls family Bible was on display at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri, but a family member re-claimed it at some point. If you have access to this Bible or have seen the birth/death listings it included, I hope you will contact me. From what I understand, David Ray Ingalls (1941-2010) is who had the Bible that had been on display in Mansfield. David — the great grandson of Peter and Eliza Ingalls — was the son of Herbert Llewellyn Ingalls (1908-1998) and his wife Edna. Herbert was the son of Edmond Llewellyn Ingalls Sr. (1880-1961) and his wife Edith. Edmond was Peter and Eliza’s son.


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)