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Charles & Martha Harrison / Patterson

Two of Laura’s students in the Bouchie school, historically Charles and Elizabeth May Rundle.

Charles Rundle owns and operates a well auger and is ready to put you down a well on short notice. -De Smet News and Leader, November 20, 1891. / Mrs. Lizzie Heyman left Monday morning for Wisconsin, where she expects to live with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Horace B. Rundle. -Kingsbury County Independent, May 7, 1897.

The identities of Laura Ingalls’ students in the Bouchie School, Charles and Martha Harrison (or Patterson, in her Pioneer Girl memoir) were once something of a mystery. There were no Harrison or Patterson families who homesteaded in the vicinity of either Louis Bouchie or Joseph Bouchie in the early 1880s or within two miles of the boundaries of District No. 63 (the Bouchie district) at any time. Most likely, Charles and Martha were two children of Harriet and Horace Rundle, who homesteaded a mile southeast of Joseph Bouchie. Rundle’s family came to Kingsbury in late 1883 from Pepin County, Wisconsin. Horace’s sister, Emily, was married to Silliman Gilbert; they were the parents of Estella Gilbert, one of the three girls who inspired Laura Ingalls Wilder’s composite character, Nellie Oleson. These Gilberts were also the parents of David Gilbert, who had a homestead and tree claim between Joseph and Louis Bouchie’s claims.

Bouchie District, showing location of Horace Rundle home.

The Rundles had a son Charles and a daughter May Elizabeth, shown in photographs above. In late 1883, Charles was sixteen and May was fourteen, the exact ages of the two students Wilder remembered in Pioneer Girl. In These Happy Golden Years, fictional Charles and Martha were given the ages of seventeen and sixteen. Horace Rundle preempted his claim in April 1884 and eventually moved his family back to Wisconsin. The map shows the Bouchie District and families who filed claims in the district. Note that the Rundles lived a mile from the schoolhouse, as described by Laura in These Happy Golden Years. It was hard work for them to break their trail through the snow to get to the schoolhouse, as no other students — or the teacher — could follow the same path to school that Laura or the Bouchie children did.

May Elizabeth Rundle (or “Lizzie,” as she was known) was born December 8, 1869, in Wabasha County, Minnesota. She married Fred Heyman in 1888; the couple had two daughters, one born while living in Mathews Township in Kingsbury County. The Heymans moved to Arkansas, where Fred died in 1896. Elizabeth returned to Kingsbury County briefly, then moved to Wisconsin Chippewa County, Wisconsin, to live with her parents. There, she married Frank Hagelberger; the couple had four children. Elizabeth died July 20, 1956, in Zion, Illinois, and is buried in Mount Olivet Memorial Park. Elizabeth’s death came thirteen years after the publication of These Happy Golden Years; because she and other family members had lived near De Smet when she was a teenager, it’s possible that she knew of the Little House books and even recognized herself as one of the characters taught by Laura Ingalls.

Charles Henry Rundle was born February 13, 1868, in Lake City (Wabasha County), Minnesota. In July 1888, he married Sara Cutsforth; the couple had three children, one of whom was born in De Smet. The couple moved to Fargo, North Dakota, then to Dunn County, Wisconsin, where they lived until around 1910. They then moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, to farm. Charles died in Maidstone, Canada, on November 10, 1948.

From my old blog, March 21, 2005:

The pin in Charles’ arm. When Laura taught the Bouchie school, she was required to spend ten minutes twice weekly teaching from Julia Colman’s book, Alcohol and Hygiene. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) was active in De Smet and had given a copy of Colman’s book to each teacher in Kingsbury County. It’s a small volume, 231 pages, published in 1880.

While the intention was to teach the evils of drink, at the beginning it reads like an instruction manual for the home brewer. There are even simple science experiments to learn how beer, wine, and cider are made. These are followed by more complex chemistry experiments in distillation and fermentation.

About fifty pages in, it’s time to get serious. Alcohol is poison, so there are lessons about alcohol and the nerves, alcohol and the stomach, alcohol and the liver. It’s all disease, insanity, and death.

Lesson IX is “Alcohol and the Nerves.” It begins by telling you that the body is seven-eighths water, then that blood has almost four times as much water as solid matter. Colman says: “And the body is so full of blood that you can not put in the point of the finest needle anywhere but that it will find some. You can try that for an experiment if you like.”

From These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 3, “One Week” — [Laura] turned her eyes from the window and saw Charles half-asleep. Suddenly he jumped wide awake. Clarence had jabbed his arm with a pin.

“Look, Miss Ingalls! Miss Colman was right! Charles is bleeding.”


Harrison family, see also Nancy S. Cleaveland, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Education in Kingsbury County, Dakota Territory 1880-1885 (De Smet: Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, Inc., 2015), 29.
     Charles (THGY 2-7, 9-10)
     Martha (THGY 2-3, 5-7, 9-10)
     Martha and Charles Patterson (PG)