Navigation Menu+

Lansford James Ingalls family

Charles Ingalls’ brother, the uncle of Laura Ingalls.

Uncle James was thin and pale. He had been sick ever since he came out of the war, but he was not wild like Pa said Uncle George was. Laura knew for she asked Uncle James and he said “No,” he was “pretty tame.” – manuscript, Little House in the Big Woods

Lansford James Ingalls was born in China Township (Wyoming County) New York, March 14, 1843 (some sources suggest he was born in 1842), the sixth of ten children of Laura and Lansford Whiting Ingalls. He had older siblings Peter (1833-1900), Charles (1836-1902), Lydia (1838-1913), and Polly (1840-1886), and younger siblings Docia (1845-1918), Hiram (1848-1923), George (1851-1901), and Ruby (1855-1881). James moved with his family to Illinois, then Wisconsin, settling in Jefferson County before moving to the western part of the state, first to Pepin County, then to Pierce County.

James Ingalls in the Civil War. On January 5, 1865, James (and his brother, Hiram) volunteered for military service in the Union Army at Lake City, Minnesota. On January 5th, James was mustered into service as a Private in Company E, 1st Regiment of Minnesota Heavy Artillery, to serve one year. There were thirteen Companies in the Regiment, and 153 men in Company E, either originally mustered in or transferred in later. Company E was under the command of Captain Harvey Officer from St. Paul, with all of his men listing their residence as St. Paul.

Company E was sent to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to take charge of heavy guns and forts as soon as they could be organized. Even though General Hood had been defeated and Sherman had marched to the Sea, Chattanooga was still a strategic access point to the south. James was reported present for all roll calls of Company E from muster in to muster out, which took place at Nashville on September 27, 1865, Company E having seen no action.

Still, four men in Company E died that summer, and James Ingalls suffered chronic diarrhea due to exposure, which plagued him for years. He dislocated his elbow in a fall because of his illness and also suffered from sore eyes, which he blamed on explosives used. As early as 1876, James applied for a pension due to “injuries which left him unfit for manual labor,” but as there was no record by his unit of consultation or treatment while in service – and James wrote that he could find the whereabouts of no commanding officers or men who served with him to substantiate his claim – a pension was always denied. Henry Quiner and Joseph Stouff both wrote letters on James’ behalf, but not his brother, Hiram, who had served with him and who had sought medical treatment for injury sustained while in service. Hiram was also able to get men who served with him to write to the pension board on his behalf.

James was still re-applying for a pension three years prior to his death.



Laura Ingalls Wilder mentioned “Uncle James and Aunt Libby and their daughter who was named Laura Ingalls, too” in Little House in the Big Woods (see Chapter 8, “Dance at Grandpa’s”). Here, Wilder is confusing Hiram with James, as it was Hiram who was married to Sarah Elizabeth “Libby” Woodward (1847-1910) and had daughter Laura Eliza Ingalls, born November 25, 1868. However, James and Sarah had a daughter who shared Laura’s middle name.

As Wilder also wrote that Uncle George Ingalls had served in the Civil War when he didn’t, it’s fairly obvious that she was unclear about this period in her uncles’ lives; and, with Ma and Pa both dead, there was no one to ask about this period when she was working on her Pioneer Girl and Little House in the Big Woods manuscripts. In an existing manuscript for Little House in the Big Woods (see quote at the top of this entry), Laura wrote that it was Uncle James and Uncle George who served in the Army, and she never mentions Hiram Ingalls in memoir or fiction.

January 27, 1866, James Ingalls married Sarah Dickinson at Lake Mills, Wisconsin. James was twenty-five and Sarah was nineteen. Born in England on August 12, 1845, Sarah was the daughter of Hannah and William Dickinson (sometimes spelled Dickenson). The Dickinsons and their three daughters moved from Dane County, Wisconsin, to Pepin County, living on a farm east of Durand.

In November 1865, Lansford Whiting Ingalls had sold his son James eighty acres in Pepin County, the S-NW 33-24-15. This land was less than a mile from where Henry Quiner and Charles Ingalls lived in Pepin County, with Lansford just north of his son James. In March 1870, James and Sarah moved north to settle on a homestead in Pierce County, the S-NW 28-26-15, making final proof in 1874. Their ten children were born in Pierce County: Samuel James (November 23, 1866), Sarah Belle (April 29, 1870), William Walter (January 1, 1872), Mary Elizabeth (August 16, 1874), Andrew Jackson (December 23, 1876), Charles Reuben (November 3, 1878), Edward Eugene (January Seventeenth, 1881), Horace Foster (January 19, 1883), Olive May (March 15, 1885), and Martha Esther (July 17, 1887). Four of the children died young: Charles Reuben at age two, and Edward Eugene at about two weeks. Horace Foster and Olive May died two days apart in 1888, after having scarlet fever.

In Pierce County, James farmed until around 1885. The 1910 census lists his occupation as the owner of a furniture company.

Sarah Ingalls died September 13, 1897, and was buried in Poplar Hill Cemetery in Rock Elm Township, Pierce County, Wisconsin. On February 25, 1900, James married his sister-in-law, Mary Dickinson, who was born in England on June 2, 1853. The couple had no children. Mary died August 22, 1918, and was buried in Poplar Hill Cemetery.

Circa 1923, James moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin, to live with his daughter Mattie. He died in La Crosse on July 8, 1928, and was buried in Poplar Hill Cemetery beside his wife Sarah.



Can you identify the people in these photographs? Below are two photographs of the James Ingalls family. The top one was dated “circa 1885” when sent to me, and the bottom one is undated. Note that there are fifteen people in both photographs. Besides James and his wife, there are three females and ten males in the bottom photo. Besides James and his wife, there are three (or four? Is the child seated at James’ left knee a girl or a boy?) females and ten (or nine) males in the top photo.

Some clues to consider: Sarah Ingalls died in 1897. Their son Edward died at two weeks, so is not in either photo (as there are no babies in either). Horace and Olive died in 1888 at ages five and three. Martha was not born until 1887. James’ second wife had not been married prior to their marriage, so none of the children are hers, nor did James and Mary have children.

If some of the children are grandchildren, note that Samuel (born 1866) married around 1899 and had children: James (1890), Alvie (1894), Allen Monte (1898), Reuben (1900), and Martha (1907). Sarah married ~1890 and daughter Gertrude was born in 1892. Mary was married by 1900 but had no children. William and Andrew were still single in 1900.

Would a family member please contact me and identify the people in these photographs, and date them, please? Email address is in the sidebar. Thanks!


James Ingalls, Pa’s brother (BW 8; PG)
     Libby, see Hiram Ingalls
     Laura, see Hiram Ingalls