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Docia Ingalls / Hiram Forbes

Sister of Charles Ingalls and aunt of Laura Ingalls.

“She was the pretty Aunt Docia who had worn the dress with buttons that looked like blackberries, long ago at the sugaring-off dance at Grandpa’s house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin”. – By the Shores of Silver Lake, Chapter 1, “Unexpected Visitor”

Laura Ladocia Ingalls was born July 8, 1845, in Washington, Homer Township, Kane County, Illinois, the sixth of ten children of Lansford Whiting Ingalls and Laura Louise Colby. “Docia” had older siblings Peter (born 1833), Charles (born 1836), Lydia (born 1838), Polly (born 1840), and James (born 1842); and younger siblings Hiram (born 1848), George (born 1851), and Ruby (born 1855). A older sibling died shortly after birth in 1835.

When Docia was a young child, the Ingallses moved to Concord Township (Jefferson County) Wisconsin; Lansford Ingalls bought 80 acres there in 1854. It’s unclear where Docia met her first husband, Augustin “August” Waldvogel. He first filed on his Pierce County claim about two weeks after they were married:

One day, driving a pair of young steers hitched to the sledge to bring water from the spring [Docia] had an accident. The steers ran away but were caught by a young neighbor named Augustin Waldvogel, who had recently come from Switzerland to join his brothers, Joe and Carl. Docia was wearing a bright red jacket which [her mother] had made for her, and she must have been quite attractive. Anyway, they were married March 1, 1866. August filed for naturalization papers and also for a homestead near Plum City in Union County… August built a two-room log cabin and began gathering some livestock. He became pay-master for a logging crew, and one night, believing some men were coming to rob him, he threatened them and then fired through the door, killing one of the men. For that he was sent to prison for eight years. Docia divorced him. Lena was nearly two years old, and Docia was expecting her second child. — Lola Flack, “Laura Ladocia, Grandma Docia” in The Ingalls Inquirer, Volume 2, November 1985, 95-96.

Laura Ingalls Wilder introduced readers to Aunt Docia in Little House in the Big Woods (Chapter 8, “Dance at Grandpa’s”), as one of her aunts living with Grandma and Grandpa Ingalls in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Because of her aunt’s circumstances, Wilder decided to imply that Docia was single, and for this reason, her cousins Lena and Gene are said to be the children of Hiram Forbes in By the Shores of Silver Lake. They were the biological children of Docia and August Waldvogel:

Lena Evelyn Waldvogel, born November 7, 1866, in Rock Elm Township, Pierce County, Wisconsin. Married Samuel Aughey Heikes.

August Eugene Waldvogel, born August 11, 1868, in Rock Elm Township, Pierce County, Wisconsin. Married (1) Mary Harmon, and (2) Leona Hinton. For more information on Lena and Gene, see posts specific to each.

In an undated letter fragment from to daughter Rose, probably written in 1937, Laura wrote:

…[Waldvogel] picked up the gun, standing near the bed, shot through the window and killed the man. They claimed they thought he was a horse thief, but Pa and Ma seemed to think there was some reason more than that, I don’t know what they suspected. Anyway Lena’s father was sentenced to prison for life. That gave Aunt Docia a divorce. Later she married Hi Forbes. Oh yes! There are skeletons in our family closet, but I never felt disgraced by them until lately and this is it.

From the Pierce County (Wisconsin) Herald, May 14, 1868:

We are informed that a shooting affray took place at Rock Elm on Saturday night last. About 10:00 August Waldvogel shot a man named Goodenough. The weapon used was a shotgun heavily loaded with shot. The entire charge taking effect in the face and breast of the unfortunate victim at the distance of about ten paces. Mr. Goodenough was immediately cared for, but the wounds received were fatal. He lingered in agony until Monday morning, when death delivered him from suffering. The deceased leaves a widow and one child to mourn the loss of a husband and father.

And from June 4, 1868:

Details of the murder have appeared previous to this. August Waldvogel charged with murder of Goodenough in Rock Elm was committed to jail to await trial in default of $10,000 bail, in Prescott, Wis. State of Wisconsin vs. August Waldvogel, indictment for murder. Burton and Dawson for the state. J.S. White and P.U. Wise for the defense.

In October, Waldvogel was sentenced in court to eight years (including one day of solitary confinement) in the State Prison at Waupon. According to reports, Waldvogel worked in the prison cook house and made “the best bread eaten” there, although he was supposedly “surly and cross” and “wasn’t likely to be reduced in time for good behavior.”

While visiting her brother Hiram Ingalls, Docia met Hiram Forbes, of Scottish descent. Hiram was born August 18, 1828, to a Scottish minister and his wife. He and Docia were married May 1, 1874, and traveled by covered wagon in Minnesota, Iowa, Dakota Territory, and Nebraska. They had seven daughters:

Ida Forbes, bon March 19, 1875, in Minnesota. Married Charles Norman. They had three sons: Glenn, Charles, and Vern. Ida died in Idaho, October 1955.

Adeline Forbes, born April 22, 1877, in Iowa City, Iowa. Married Al Russell. They had three children: Kate, Daily, and Bill. Addie died in Nebraska in 1936.

Emma Forbes, born November 23, 1879, in Sioux Falls, Dakota Territory. Married Henry Snider. Emma died about 1909 in Omaha, Nebraska.

Mary Amanda Forbes, born December 26, 1881, in Inman, Nebraska. Married Edward Oscar Baker. They had four children: Viola, Elmer, Ralph, and Mabel. Mary died in Silverton, Oregon, in August 1958.

Maude Forbes, born March 21, 1885, in Montevideo, Minnesota. Married John Gunderson. They had one daughter, Mae. Maude died in Burlington, Colorado, in March 1983.

Frances Forbes, born July 27, 1886, in Rockford, Minnesota. Married Joe Holda. They had one daughter, Hazel. “Flossie” died in Dakota City, Nebraska, June 1968.

Katie Forbes, born April 18, 1889, in Walthill, Nebraska. She was the first white child born on the Indian Reservation. Married Laurel Presley. They had no children. Katie died in Sioux City, Iowa, June 1920.

Hiram Forbes. Variously called Hi, Hirah, or High by Laura Ingalls Wilder, she changed his last name to Holms in her Pioneer Girl manuscript. A large man with bright red hair, Hiram Forbes worked for the railroad as a teamster. While living in Dakota City, Nebraska, they learned that railroad workers were needed, so Hiram went to work as a finisher on the grade. Docia took the job of cooking for the men. They moved from railroad camp to railroad camp as work was available, and one of those camps was on the Dakota Central line being built west through Dakota from Tracy, Minnesota. Although Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that the Forbeses were “going west,” they went south to Yankton after leaving Kingsbury County, where they lived for two years. From here, they moved to Bancroft, Nebraska.

Hiram died November 29, 1906; he is buried in Bancroft, Nebraska. Docia moved to a small house in Dixon County to be near three of her daughters. Gene relocated to Colorado to homestead in 1904, and Docia soon followed him and filed on a claim of her own. In 1913, she proved up on a homestead in Section 17, Township 1-South, Range 51-West, in Washington County, Colorado. A granddaughter remembered her as a “thin, bent little woman who never smiled.” Docia died January 18, 1918. She is buried in Fort Morgan, Colorado, with daughters Katie and Frances beside her.


Aunt Docia (BW 8; SSL 1-2, 5-7, 10, 13; PG), see also Lena Waldvogel, Gene Waldvogel
Uncle Hiram / Hi Forbes (SSL 1, 5-7, 9-10, 13)
     High Holms (PG)