Sunday, August 29, 2010

...And We're Back!!!

I have finally had the time to download photos from our trip. Since I have dial up,even a few pictures take a while,but...cough....I have a more than a few. In fact, originally I had about 30 out of the 85 pictures I had taken that I had planned to download,but Rick convinced me that 30 was a wee bit too much. As usual,my enthusiasm for the subject had taken over,so I cut back. This post will be long as it is! (My apologies))Those of you who are Little House fans will understand.Those who are not will probably shake your heads and wonder what the big deal is all about!

We left early on Monday morning,and I wish I could say it was bright and early,but it was raining. The forecast did say that by the time we reached northern Vermont and NY,the rain would've already past and it would be sunny. We stopped twice along I-89 in Vermont to stretch our legs.The first stop was not long after White River Junction,where they had a memorial for Vermont Vietnam Veterans. It was a lovely monument,with an eternal flame,and we stood in the pouring rain and paid our respects. The next stop was in Milton,Vt,which was actually the birthplace of Almanzo Wilder's father,James. There we saw a sign that that said the stop was on the Purple Heart Trail,so of course, I had to take a photo of Rick under it. Our next stop was just over the bridge from Rouses Point,NY. We ate our picnic lunch,and Zach tried to see if he could see Champ, Lake Champlain's version of the Loch Ness Monster. He used Rick's scouting scope,but no luck. The sun was shining,and it was very pleasant. We then hopped back in the car,and proceeded to Malone,NY.

After being on the road for 6 1/2 hours ( not including stops) we saw the sign that said we were in Malone. Rick gave Zach a high five. The area is farmland,lots of corn fields and cows. We could see right into Canada and the silver of the St Lawrence River. I was excited. Here we were,going into the town I have only read about since second grade! What was it going to be like? In my mind's eye I pictured a small town,nothing like when Farmer Boy takes place,of course,but still small.

Malone is not a small town. In fact,when we pulled in,it was very busy and had three lane traffic running down Main Street for a bit.I had failed to remember that even back in 1866-67,Malone had a population of 3,000,and it is the county seat. I chuckled when I saw the sign " Entering the village of Malone." This was not what a village was to me! This was a city!

We got settled in the Econolodge ( paid for with lottery tickets and our spare change that we save up!)and our first night in Malone we ate chinese food from the mall across the street. I was so tired that I was asleep by 7:30 and slept like a log.

The next morning we were up bright and early,about 6:30. Our plan was to have breakfast,check out the cemetery,the fairgrounds,and find where Franklin Academy was,then head over to the Wilder Farm in Burke. For breakfast we went to this little diner we saw on the way in on Rt 11-Countryside Diner. The food was great and reasonable. We then went to Morningside Cemetary off of Raymond St to find the graves of Almanzo's grandparents-Abel and Hannah Wilder.

We drove around the cemetery at first,then got out in an area where the graves were all older,and walked. I did see some names mentioned in Farmer Boy-Paddock and Thompson. There were alot of graves-how were we going to find them? Shouldn't they be marked with a special sign or something? We split up,and after a few minutes,I thought I heard Rick shout. I started walking toward the sound of the shout when I heard Zach yell,"Mama,we found them!!!" I ran down the hill,and sure enough,there was a blue sign along the road that said simply,"Wilder gravesite."

Hannah is buried to the left of the photo,Abel to the right. They travelled from Maine,to Vermont,and finally to Malone where they built a log cabin and raised their family. There are a couple of other family members there,but not Almanzo,his parents,or brother or sisters. The whole family moved to Spring Valley,MN in the mid 1870's,then went to different states. Almanzo is buried in Mansfield,MO with Laura.We took several photos of the site,and after I said a quick prayer,we were on the road once again. Zach was very proud of himself for finding the site. I had about given up.

The next site was the Franklin Fairgrounds.

It was here that Almanzo entered his blue ribbon winning milk fed pumpkin and was frightened by the first mules he ever saw. It is right on Main Street,and when we came out of Raymond Street,it was right in front of us.
Though we did not get to the site of the orignial Franklin Academy,where Royal,Alice,and Eliza Jane go in Farmer Boy,we did find some old brick buildings near the high school that we think may have been part of the Academy at one point. One building said " Science Building". The building that the Wilders attended was a single stone building,which has been torn down and is where the Jr High is now. I don't know when it was torn down. The cluster of brick buildings must've replaced this building,though I don't know when. I know the Wilders never attended them,however.
Next stop was along Mill St,to the old Horton Mill on the Salmon River.
This is the building where the Wilders brought what grains they had to be ground up into flour. As you can see,it is falling into its self,and is fenced off. The waterfall is right behind it. I hope that Malone can restore it as a historical site.

Next was the Wilder Farm on Stacy Rd,in Burke. This is the sign that greets you as pull up.
The day was perfect-sunny and just warm enough,the perfect day to explore the past. Once the car is parked,there are apple trees to the left,straight ahead is a picnic pavillion,and then slightly to the left is the visitor center and museum. No one is allowed to go the barn or house area without a tour guide,and,sadly,no photos are allowed in the barns,house,or museum. They had us wait in the museum until it was time for our tour. The farm opens at 11:00,and we only had to wait until 11:30. So we explored the museum. There were Eliza Jane's school books,pieces of Rose Wilder Lane's dinner set,Almanzo's reading glasses,signed books from Laura,and some artifacts they found at the farm when they were renovating it. Among these things were pieces of pottery,a shoe buttonhook found under Mrs Wilder's bedroom floor,and various hand made nails.There was also the sketch of the barns,with dimensions,that Almanzo drew for Laura when she was writing Farmer Boy. While the house is the only original house standing that is mentioned in the Little House books,the barns were reconstructed. They burnt down sometime in the 1950's or 60's,but when they were digging in the site they found the original foundations,so the barns were built on the the foundations and made to Almanzo's specifications.

Our first stop was the pumphouse.
Our tour guide,Rebeckah,was a lovely young lady who was nice enough to let Zach test out the pump. Mr.Wilder was very ingenious. Instead of having to pump water into buckets and bringing them into the barn,the water ran down a series of small troughs,as above,into a large water trough in the barn. Very clever.This was Almanzo's job each day-to fill the large trough.

Here is the set up of the barns.

To the right is the South Barn. It was here that the sheepfold,manger,cattleshed,calf pens,hog pens,and feed room were. The first section we went in was the sheepfold,where the Merino sheep were sheared. They had fresh wool and washed wool there to show how the fresh wool still had the lanolin in it,so it felt oily. Straight ahead in the photo is the Big Barn,which housed the cows,oxen,hayloft,haybay,horses,and wagons.The barns were very impressive. They had buggies,a sleigh,a cutter,harnesses,and anything else one could think of that the Wilders would've used. Naturally,all these items were donated,since everything was taken when they moved to Spring Valley.The barns were set up so the barnyard was protected by the barns on three sides-a fence protected the fourth side. One could walk from each section to the next in each barn and never have to go outside. I was very impressed by the ingenuity of the barn set up. You did have to go outside to get to the Big Barn from the South Barn,however.
Here is the view from the Big Barn to the South Barn. The door is to the Sheep fold,then the large opening is the where cattle,pigs,etc were kept.

You can see Rick and Zach on the left,a couple from Ottawa in the middle,and our tour guide,Rebeckah,on the right.That was it in our tour group,which made it very nice. The Canadian couple were very friendly. The gentleman served with the Canadian Air Force and had been retired for 19 years. When Rick shook his hand and thanked him for his service to his country,the gentleman said the same to Rick then remarked,"It took me 19 years and to have to come to America before anyone has ever thanked me."

Here is the view from the sheepfold door,looking to the end of the Big Barn.

They could drive the horses and buggies right out of the doors. To the right,though you can't see it,is the chicken coop.This barnyard is where Almanzo trained his oxen and his horse,Starlight. It was amazing to think he walked in that very place.

This maple is next to the house,and is over 170 years old,which means that it was around when Almanzo lived there. I took Zach's picture in front of it,and told Zach that Almanzo probably ran his hand right on bark where Zach was leaning against.( Again, I had to edit which photos I posted). All the trees across the street were not there at the time of Farmer Boy. That was all pasture. This tree is the only original one left.

Rebeckah took this pic. Directly in back of us is the kitchen door,and to the right is the door to the woodshed and the window in the woodshed. Behind the house they have a small garden.

Another view of the house,this door to the left of the kitchen goes into the dining room.The window to the right of the door,and right around the corner are in the dining room as well. The window to the left of the door is in the parents bedroom. The small window on the second floor is in Almanzo's bedroom.
When I walked into the kitchen door,I inhaled sharply,held my breath, and put a hand to my heart. Here I was,in the house that the Wilders lived in. How many times had Almanzo come in this door after doing chores? This was his house...he had slept,ate,worked,breathed here. It was overwhelming,to say the least.
I do admit the rooms were smaller than I had thought. As you walk in to the kitchen,on the right wall is the door to the woodshed,the cookstove,and the door to the pantry. Directly ahead was windows, an outside door,and the kitchen table against the wall. To the left was the door way to the dining room,then there was a closed door that we were not allowed in. Rick and I assume that was the cellar door.
The pantry was wonderful,very simple and functional.It had a long table on the left wall,under a window,then shelves for canned goods,etc.At the end was another window. They had a drying rack set up with herbs.Aprons and other items were hung on the right.The dining room had photos of the family,and had wallpaper. Off on the left side they had a cobblers bench set up under the window,just like in Farmer Boy. The door to the parents room was ahead,and that room was TINY. The bed was pushed right in the corner,under the window,and there was room for a bureau and a wash stand. That was it. A quilt that Mrs. Wilder had made which was discovered laid on the bed. A piece of plexiglass waist high was in the doorway,which prevented anyone from going in the room. When I commented on how small the room was,Rebeckah said that bedroom were just for sleeping in,so they didn't need much room. That made sense. Just to the right of the bedroom was the parlor,where Almanzo threw the stove blackening brush at Eliza Jane. Rebeckha pointed to a spot diagonally across from the stove,and said that when they were remodeling the house,they had gone all the way down to the plaster and lath,and there was a black spot in that area. They believed that was where Almanzo had hit the wall with the brush,since there were no other spots like that in the whole house. They had a blackening brush on the stove,so one could get an idea of what had happened. Again, the house is fully furnished,no detail is gone unchecked. There were more family portraits in the parlor as well. This room was wallpapered,and what folks would do would be to keep the first two rooms of the house papered,and shut the doors to the rest of the house,so it would appear that they had more money than they did. Only people who were well off back then had wallpaper in their homes.
There was a small bedroom off the parlor,which was the birthing room. Here Mrs Wilder gave birth to her children,and would keep this room while they were little.Since the woodstove was in the parlor,this room would be kept warm. It was also used as a guest bedroom.
When you come back out of the parlor into the dining room (which was only used for company) directly to the left was the stairway to go upstairs to the bedrooms.These stairs are very narrow and steep,so they had railings to help. Poor Rick was a bit slow in climbing them,but he did it. The top of the stairs opened right up into the boys bedroom. Directly to the left was the attic,where Mr Wilder had his workshop.( We were not allowed in there,since the nails are all sticking through and one could not stand up straight) The floor in the boys room is the only original floor in the house,so it is the only floor that Almanzo and his siblings actually walked on.There was a small window in the room.You had to go into through the boys room to get to the girls room,which had a couple windows and was nice and bright and sunny. They had a weaving loom set up in there,and I wondered if Mrs Wilder's loom was in the girls room,or the girls and the boys shared the same room. There is a section in Farmer Boy where Almanzo goes upstairs to visit his father,who is working in the attic,then goes to his mother's weaving area,a room which is" nice and bright and sunny",then he goes back downstairs. So the loom was either kept in the girls room,or the girls and boys shared a room.There were two closets in the girls room,and one of them had mongrammed towels from Rose Wilder Lane.

Here is the plaque directly in front of the house.

This is the front of the house . The front door goes into the parlor,and the window to the left of it is in the parlor as well.There is a window to the right of the door ( which you can't see) that is in the baby/guest room. The first two windows closest to the corner are in the parlor,and the third one back is in the dining room,at the foot of the stairs. Farther back the first window,door,and second window are in the kitchen. The furthest window back is the in pantry.The two second floor windows are in the girls room.

This is the path to the Trout River,which is across the street from the house. It's a very nice,cleared path. The trees that are around it were not in existence then. It was all field and meadow.
Here is the Trout River,with the view going up stream. This is where they fished,washed their sheep,and swam. Futher up there is a pond,though we did not go there,where they cut their ice for the ice house.It's a nice walk from the house,with different types of plants marked.
I had to take one last shot of the house as we were leaving. I felt sad to leave,as this is the type of place I would love to live in. We all had a wonderful time. Rick said it was the most relaxed he had been in a while. For him,that is saying alot,since his PTSD gets worse when he is in unfamilar surroundings. He wants to build a fence like the one above with saplings on our property,and got some great ideas for the house. We felt like we were home there,and will treasure our memories always.


  1. Donna,
    What a lovely trip. This is a place I too have always wanted to go.

    What a nice post. I hope you will tell more very soon & share more pictures. Any of the inside of the house?

  2. Wonderful pictures Donna; I'm so glad you all had a nice day. My kind of house, definitely!!

  3. Thank you,ladies.I was very upset that no photography was allowed in any of the buildings,because I would've taken tons more photos. :(

  4. Thanks for all the photos and explaining them all. I'll probably never get a chance to actually go and see this for myself, so I greatly appreciate the photos! Looks like you had a lot of fun :)