Throwback Thursday: Laura and Almanzo

This photo of Laura and Almanzo was taken in the winter of 1885, a few months after they were married.

This photo is not mine, of course. But when I realized that today is the wedding anniversary of Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder, I knew I had to post it here.

Laura, 18, and Almanzo, 28, had planned to marry in the fall of 1885. She and her mother were thinking about the wedding dress they would sew on their wonderfully modern new sewing machine, once they finished the black dress they were making for her first.

In August, Almanzo learned that his mother and sister (the Eliza Jane who had been Laura’s hated teacher a few years earlier) were planning a big church wedding for them. Neither Laura nor Almanzo wanted a large wedding or could afford one, so they chose to marry the following week, before his relatives arrived to take charge. Laura said she could wear the black cashmere dress she and her mother were making. (That must have been hot, in August!) Black was not a common color for a wedding gown, and some thought it was bad luck. But white wedding gowns, while becoming popular at the time, were not yet the standard, especially out in rural areas, where women often just married in the nicest dress they owned.

The couple married in De Smet, South Dakota, in the home of Reverend Brown. Laura’s friend Ida, who was the reverend’s daughter, witnessed the ceremony, along with Ida’s fiancé. Laura was adamant about not wanting the wedding vows to include the word “obey.” She said she could not agree to obey anyone against her better judgment. Almanzo said he would not expect her to, and Reverend Brown agreed.

As everyone familiar with Laura’s books and her life knows, their wedding bliss did not last. While they loved each other fiercely and never regretted marrying, their first few years together were near-catastropic. Weather destroyed the crops, their second baby died in infancy, and the home Almanzo had lovingly built on his tree claim burned to the ground. They both came down with diphtheria, which nearly killed Laura and which left Almanzo with permanent disabilities that made it impossible for him to effectively farm their land.

Things did not begin to look up until they and their daughter Rose relocated to a farm in Mansfield, Missouri, where the milder climate and a lot of hard work eventually allowed them to pull themselves out of poverty and live an easier life.

One of my personal goals has been to visit all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder home sites. I have managed to see all of the major sites now, concluding with a recent trip to Walnut Grove, Minnesota. But I still would like to travel to some of the places where she stayed only briefly, and to Almanzo’s childhood home in western New York.

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