Little house, big appeal on a limitless Kansas landscape

Little House on the Prairie Museum brings literature to life in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s hometown

About half the Grade 3 students in the United States read Little House on the Prairie.

The classic Laura Ingalls Wilder series has been reprinted an estimated 77 million times since 1975.

And tales of Walnut Grove bring 20,000 visitors a year to a farm 13 miles outside of Independence, Kansas—where they’ll find an exact replica of the famous author’s childhood cabin.

“It’s kind of like the female version of the Civil War buff,” says Kristin Schodorf, program director with the Little House on the Prairie Museum. “Every year, we get visitors from about 30 countries around the world. The Japanese love Little House on the Prairie. So do people from the Philippines. We get busloads of Indonesians. Last year, we had someone from Austria stay the week.

“Some people are a little obsessed with it,” she adds with a laugh. “They want to know every single detail.”

Whether it’s the vast expanse of Kansas prairie that still resembles the American frontier, or the imagery created by a literary icon, the Little House on the Prairie Museum attracts fans non-stop to Wilder’s hometown of Independence.

The museum consists of the cabin, an 1872-era one-room schoolhouse, and a two-room post office circa 1880—and it’s more than a historical site. Every year, the museum provides educational resources on Wilder and her literature to Kansas and Oklahoma teachers, whose classes then visit the museum on school field trips.

The museum hosts more than 5,000 students a year. And in preparation for its 40th anniversary this year, Schodorf is leading a campaign to replace the Wilder replica cabin, while also assembling a potential exhibit of original illustration print proofs, created in 1947 by illustrator Garth Williams for Wilder’s classic nine-book series.

(To contribute to the campaign, please visit the museum’s Kickstarter page.)

“School groups will come out and use our one-room schoolhouse. Teachers will lead an activity, and the kids will sit in the original desks,” says Schodorf, whose grandparents opened the Little House on the Prairie Museum in 1977. “It’s not the kind of museum where the displays are roped off. We want them to experience it.”

Enbridge is committed to being a good neighbor, and strengthening social fabric, in the communities near our operations. In 2016, we invested more than $13.4 million in community-focused initiatives across North America, including a $1,250 grant to the Little House on the Prairie Museum for its historic illustration display.

“There’s something about the prairie, something about the West,” says Schodorf of the series’ enduring popularity. “So much land—and so much history.”