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John James Ingalls

United States senator elected in 1873.

Up was he stuck, and in the very upness of his stuckitude he fell.

It seems like every time there’s a discussion of why the Charles Ingalls family went to (Kansas) Indian Territory in the late 1860s, someone mentions that Charles Ingalls must have heard from his cousin, Senator John J. Ingalls (1833-1900), that Osage Indian land was going to soon be available for settlement. In Little House on the Prairie (Chapter 4, “Prairie Day”) Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote: Pa had word from a man in Washington that the Indian Territory would be open to settlement soon. It might already be open to settlement. They could not know, because Washington was so far away. In the existing manuscripts, Pa calls them “durned politicians in Washington” and “blasted politicians in Washington,” which you’ll note doesn’t refer to one man at all.

Nothing about John J. Ingalls or far-off politicians is in any of the four Pioneer Girl manuscripts. It’s not in the Laura Ingalls Wilder / Rose Wilder Lane letters, at least through the Plum Creek ones. If you want to read a lot about him, just google the Sturgis Treaty and the plight of the Osages in Kansas and their removal.

Hours will go by in a hurry.

One thing’s obvious, though. If Charles Ingalls had word from “far off Washington” about the Osage land, it didn’t come from John J. Ingalls, who wasn’t elected to the United States Senate until 1873. He had earlier been a Kansas state senator, but he certainly wasn’t living in Washington at the time the Ingallses were thinking about leaving Wisconsin for parts unknown. He was busy being quite wealthy and practicing law in Atchison.

It’s hard to imagine that Charles Ingalls and John J. Ingalls even knew of each other. They weren’t exactly “cousins,” but fifth cousins once removed. Their common ancestor was seven generations back in Charles’ lineage and six in John’s.
The Kansas state motto, “Per Aspera Ad Astra,” was coined by John J. Ingalls. It means “to the stars with difficulty.” The 1904 De Smet graduating class selected that saying as their class motto. Click HERE to see the 1905 statue of Ingalls at National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol and to read a biography of John James Ingalls. The photo above was taken in 1873.


John James Ingalls