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George Whiting Ingalls

Younger brother of Charles Ingalls, and uncle of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Laura could not keep her feet still. Uncle George looked at her and laughed. Then he caught her by the hand and did a little dance with her, in the corner. She liked Uncle George – Little House in the Big Woods, Chapter 8, “Dance at Grandpa’s”

George Whiting Ingalls was born July 15, 1851, in Concord Township (Jefferson County) Wisconsin, the ninth of ten children of Lansford Whiting Ingalls and Laura Louise Colby. He had older brothers Peter (born 1833), Charles (born 1836), James (born 1842), and Hiram (born 1848), and older sisters Lydia (born 1838), Polly (born 1840), and Docia (born 1845). Younger sister Ruby was born in 1855. An older sibling had died shortly after birth in 1835.

When George was around two years old, his father purchased 80 acres on the Oconomowoc River in Jefferson County. When George was ten, his father lost his farm, and it was sold at sheriff’s auction in January 1861. George moved with his parents and some of his siblings to Pepin County, Wisconsin, where Lansford Ingalls purchased 80 acres adjoining that of his son James. In 1868, Lansford sold his Pepin County property and moved to Pierce County; he later relocated to Burnett County, Wisconsin.

Little is known of George’s life as a young man. Although Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in Little House in the Big Woods that her Uncle George had “run away to be a drummer boy in the army, when he was fourteen years old” (which would have been circa 1865, see Chapter 8, “Dance at Grandpa’s”), this was not the case. Although James and Hiram Ingalls enlisted in the Union Army in January 1865, there is no record of George Ingalls serving in the Civil War. There are family stories that at one time, George Ingalls worked on or ran a ferry boat crossing Lake Pepin.

June 11, 1876, George Ingalls married Julia E. Bard in Alden (Polk County) Wisconsin. Julia was the daughter of Ephraim Bard and Mariette Card; she was born July 15, 1869, in Eaton County, Michigan. While most Little House fans are aware of the three marriages between the Ingalls and Quiner families (Charles Ingalls and Caroline Quiner, Peter Ingalls and Eliza Quiner, Henry Quiner and Polly Ingalls), there were also marriages between the Ingalls and Card/Bard families. The same day George and Julia married, Julia’s sister Hattie married George’s nephew, Isaac Clough, son of Lydia Ingalls Clough and her first husband, Robert F. Clough. The couples were close friends and were married by the same Justice of the Peace; they may have had a double wedding. Later, Mariette Card’s brother, Joseph, married George Ingalls’ sister, Ruby. In addition, the daughter of Lydia Ingalls Stouff by her second marriage to Joseph Stouff, Minnie Bell Stouff, married James Phillips, a son of Joseph Card’s sister, Eliza Jane Card Phillips.

At the time of his marriage, George Ingalls was a farmer living in Rock Elm Township (Pierce County). George and Julia settled in Alden, Wisconsin. The couple had several children, all of them dying shortly after birth. Their next child lived for a year, but when they took him to visit relatives one winter, he was so tightly bundled that he smothered. Julia Ingalls was distraught over the deaths of her children, and in 1888, she was admitted to the Wisconsin State Hospital for the Insane at Mendota. Five years later, she was transferred to the Dunn County Asylum for the Chronic Insane in Red Cedar Township (Dunn County) Wisconsin. Julia Ingalls died there in May, 1910.

In the 1880s, brothers Hiram and George Ingalls filed homestead claims in Oakland Township (Burnett County) Wisconsin – both filing in Section 35. Their farms were located northwest of the current town of Webster, south of Mud Lake and between Devil’s Lake and Connor’s Lake. George Ingalls died February 15, 1901. He was buried in Orange Cemetery, located east of Devil’s lake on land donated for use as a cemetery by his brother Hiram. Lansford and Laura Ingalls – and Hiram Ingalls and family – are also buried here.

Based on the many clues it contains, THIS DIARY, written from January 1, 1897 through March 31, 1897 is most assuredly that of George Ingalls. It is unclear why the website wasn’t updated with this info. From my old blog dated August 6, 2005:

I think George Ingalls wrote it… The frontiersman diary in the possession of a descendent of James Ingalls on the Burnett County, Wisconsin, rootsweb site, I mean. A lot of other people think George Ingalls wrote it, too; we were studying it again just today. And if you haven’t seen the diary in question, I’ll wait while you go find and read it. It will give you practice googling. [No need; the link is above…]

First of all, you’ve got George Ingalls, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Uncle George from Little House in the Big Woods, who did not serve in the Civil War, btw. Period. But that’s another story. George lived on a very confining piece of property wedged between the lakes in southern Oakland Township near Bitter Creek. Hiram Ingalls, his brother, lived about a mile from him. Other men mentioned in the diary lived near George and Hiram, such as William Penney, Abner Davis, Chester Keezer, L.H. Spafford, and Alden Sawyer.

There’s a definite familiarity between the writer and Hiram and Lib (Ingalls), also with Ellen (Hiram’s daughter) and Marion (Marion Keezer, husband of Ellen). The writer eats a good many meals at Hiram’s and carries on a good many private conversations with Lib. At one point, the writer mentions dreaming about “Lafayette and the girls.” George Ingalls and his cousin Lafayette Clough married sisters Julia and Hattie Bard. Julia and George were separated [when she was admitted to the insane asylum] and George went back to being known as single. Maybe he was. At any rate, Julia Ingalls didn’t die until after George, so he wasn’t a widower.

The name “George Ingalls” is mentioned in one entry. The writer makes a comment about what someone else said about “Old Sutton and George Ingalls” – then, “ain’t that grand? I will get my name up yet if I keep on smiling.”

The writer seems to have been suffering from an illness during much of the writing (three months, January-March 1897). He writes: “I have coughed about 500 miles and still keep it up. I think that I will cough my liver out and get a wooden one.” Btw, George Ingalls died February 15, 1901, at age 49, of consumption. Julia Ingalls died nine years later.

Since the owner has a copy of the handwritten diary, it would be interesting to compare George Ingalls’ signature to the writing of the name “George Ingalls” in the diary. George had a claim in Wisconsin, meaning there is a file containing his signature (and most likely other examples of his penmanship) at the National Archives. [Note: George also submitted signed testimony in the Civil War pension files of his brothers James and Hiram, so I do have samples of his handwriting and signature.]

I used to question why the Ingallses and Quiners signed the letters I’ve seen with their full name, also including their relationship to the person they were writing, such as “Your affectionate sister,” or “Your loving brother.” Now I know. Anonymous diaries are interesting, but I’d rather everyone else be as convinced as I am that George Ingalls wrote this one.


George Whiting Ingalls, Laura’s uncle (BW 8, 10; SSL 1; THGY 13; PG)
     blows bugle (BW 8; PG)
     jigs with Grandma at sugaring-off dance (BW 8)
     “wild since he came back from the war” (BW 8; PG)