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A Prairie Girl's Faith
Cover of A Prairie Girl's Faith
A Prairie Girl's Faith
The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder
The beloved author of the Little House books was not only one of America's great pioneer storytellers but a woman of vibrant faith.
A Prairie Girl's Faith provides the first extended, in depth discussion of the Christian faith of one of America's most beloved pioneer women—Laura Ingalls Wilder. Although the faith of the Ingalls' family pervades books in the Little House series, the more specific details of Laura's faith have never been fully explored. It took extraordinary pluck for anyone to survive the harshness of frontier life—from the heartbreak of sudden crop losses to murderous storms to unrelentling loneliness. This book reveals how in surviving the brave Laura drew not just on her character, but found encouragement, strength, and hope in her relationship with God.
The beloved author of the Little House books was not only one of America's great pioneer storytellers but a woman of vibrant faith.
A Prairie Girl's Faith provides the first extended, in depth discussion of the Christian faith of one of America's most beloved pioneer women—Laura Ingalls Wilder. Although the faith of the Ingalls' family pervades books in the Little House series, the more specific details of Laura's faith have never been fully explored. It took extraordinary pluck for anyone to survive the harshness of frontier life—from the heartbreak of sudden crop losses to murderous storms to unrelentling loneliness. This book reveals how in surviving the brave Laura drew not just on her character, but found encouragement, strength, and hope in her relationship with God.
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    1

    Pioneer Faith

    There is no turning back nor standing still; we must go forward, into the future, generation after generation toward the accomplishment of the ends that have been set for the human race.

    —Laura Ingalls Wilder

    Virtually every reader and fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder's children's books comes to realize that her religious faith is woven into her family's story of pioneering in the old West. Throughout the eight original titles there are, in the foreground, references to Scripture, hymns, and prayer—to a daily life that experienced the reality of God.

    We are no more than twenty-three pages into the first title, Little House in the Big Woods, before Pa is playing his fiddle from which poured such standards as "Rock of Ages," "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand," and "A Shelter in the Time of Storm," songs that were in the hymnals of my youth but are seldom found sixty years later.

    To find the roots of Laura's faith we must, of course, discover what we can about the spiritual journey of her parents, Charles and Caroline.

    The Family That Travels Together Stays Together

    Fortunately, Dr. John E. Miller, professor emeritus of history at South Dakota State University, has noted their journey and gives us some insights into early Ingalls and Quiner (Ma Ingalls) beginnings. Any recounting would be almost a blank without his work, but even he cannot tell us everything. (For example, we know that Ma's father drowned in Lake Michigan when Ma was only four, but we do not really know the overall effect this had on her.)

    What Miller does tell us is that both the Ingalls and Quiner families, along with many other families of their day, saw almost all their hopes for economic gain to be in traveling west. There needed to be a movement from the crowded East into the vastness of the "wilderness." Their faith and family backgrounds certainly went with them on the journey.

    Grandma and Grandpa Ingalls (Laura and Lansford) migrated all the way from Cuba, New York, to the woods of Wisconsin. Both of them would have grown up in a sort of mixed Puritan and Congregational background common to the times. They would have considered themselves in the mainstream of Protestantism of that day, with elements of reformational teaching of the Bible as an absolute authority on doctrine, supplemented by attitudes that came out of the Great Awakening led by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758).

    Edwards believed, in part, that God was wrathful and impatient toward sinners and ready to kick butt, so to speak. Later revivalists of the era following the Civil War were more likely to emphasize God's love and mercy as reasons to live the Christian life.

    The background for Henry and Charlotte Quiner (Ma and Pa Quiner) was much the same, except that during their migrations they spent time in Connecticut, Ohio, and Illinois before ending up near Pepin, Wisconsin, which is near the border with Minnesota.

    The Quiner and Ingalls families were neighbors, which most likely explains how Caroline and Charles met. They were married on February 1, 1860, in Pepin and were still residing there when their first child, Mary, was born in 1865. Laura came next on February 7, 1867.

    Later in the family's story the Congregational Church was to become a happy home for both Charles and Caroline Ingalls, but during these years in Pepin we know only of a Methodist church in the town.

    What we do know is that Pa and Ma and the girls lived about seven miles from town, and it is unlikely any formal Christian schooling began there. More likely Pa played the music for the hymns they learned, and Ma likely conducted Bible study and helped the...

About the Author-
  • STEPHEN HINES is a recognized authority on Laura Ingalls Wilder and has authored several best-selling volumes on her life, including Little House in the Ozarks. He grew up in the midwest in an area where Wilder once lived. Hines was the founding Director of Communications for the Tennessee Department of Children's Services and has held several editorial positions in magazine, newspaper, and book publishing. The author is a contributor to awww.littlehouseontheprairie.com. He lives with his wife, Gwen, in Nashville, Tennessee.
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The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Stephen W. Hines
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