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Donkey belonging to Rose Wilder Lane when she was a child living in Mansfield, Missouri.

“When I was a little girl in the Ozarks, I had a donkey whose name was Spookendyke. -R.W.L.

Little House readers are introduced to Rose Wilder’s stubborn childhood donkey, Spookendyke, in the final pages of On the Way Home, published in 1962, where a photo of both Rose and her donkey appear with little fanfare – just the knowledge that when Rose was a child living on Rocky Ridge Farm, she had a donkey whose name was Spookendyke.

In the third of Roger Lea MacBride’s Rose books, In the Land of the Big Red Apple (1995), Spookendyke is presented as a 9th birthday (December 1895) gift from her parents (see Chapters 9 and 10), and his name is said to have been inspired by words Rose remembers hearing in the Russian settlements in southeastern South Dakota, although she tells her parents that she “made it up,” when Laura says it’s an outlandish name. Spookendyke’s stubbornness gets a chapter of its own.

Rose may have told MacBride about her donkey’s antics, or he may have simply read about them in Rose’s own words. In the summer of 1920, Rose wrote a diary-letter to her romantic interest at the time, Arthur Griggs, in which she mentions Spookendyke and other bits of Mansfield school-life that were used by MacBride in the Rose books. Parts of the diary-letter were published in William Anderson’s A Little House Sampler (1988); two of the diary pages in Rose’s handwriting are shown below:



Spookendyke / Spoopendyke. While the donkey’s name may sound like a foreign word, it’s entirely possible that the odd name, Spookendyke, was inspired by the exaggerated exploits of “Mr. and Mrs. Spoopendyke” from the stories which appeared in thousands of newspapers across the United States and Europe in the 1880s. Huntley published compilations beginning in 1883. The stories were in such demand that an edition published ten years later (in 1893) sold out almost immediately. The Spoopendykes were the brain child of Stanley Huntley (1845-1885) of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. According to William Montgomery Clemens in Famous Funny Fellows: Brief Biographical Sketches of American Humorists (1882), Huntley was a born journalist who whose exceedingly funny descriptions of the home life of Spoopendyke and his better half first appeared in the columns of the Daily Eagle in 1881. The stories were so highly inventive, brilliantly witty, and original in their oddity that they occupied a field of journalism entirely their own. They were wildly popular and the Spoopendyke name was known in every city and village in the country.

As the Spoopendyke stories appeared in a number of Dakota Territory newspapers – including the De Smet Leader – since before Rose was born, she may have heard friends and neighbors talking about the stories even before the compilation was published. In many newspapers, the character name was printed as Spookendyke-with-a-k, not Spoopendyke-with-a-p, with both spellings sometimes appearing in the same story.

Click HERE to read Stanley Huntley’s Mr. and Mrs. Spoopendyke, published in 1881. Click HERE to read The Spoopendyke Papers, published in 1883.


Spookendyke (OTWH, part III)