Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic agrarian book, Farmer Boy, is a favorite of our family. For many years we have been wanting to go visit the Wilder Homestead, the farm where young Almanzo grew up. After moving our farming operation to northern New York we found ourselves only 2 hours from Burke, the little township outside of Malone where the Wilder family farmed. What a thrill it was to walk through the house we’d read about so many times. We stood in the kitchen where all those wonderful meals Almanzo loved so much were prepared, we walked in the pantry where the pies and cheeses once sat on shelves. We stood in mother’s beloved parlor where Almanzo threw the blackening brush and Eliza Jane patched the wall paper… and yes they did find a black mark on the lath and plaster wall while restoring it. We even peeked inside the attic where father shaved shingles and saw the room where mother did her spinning and weaving. They did not allow any pictures to be taken inside any of the buildings but here what the house looks like from the outside.
The barns burned shortly after the Wilder family left for Minnesota but have since been rebuilt on the orginal foundations. They have a working hand pump that fills a stock tank in the barnyard. The cow stalls and horse stalls are all rebuilt and look very nice. It was fun to stand in the very barnyard where Almanzo trained his oxen calves, Star and Bright. We even took a walk down to Trout River where they washed the sheep and went fishing.
They have a building that houses a gift shop and a museum. The museum has many artifacts, photos and history of the family. In one of the glass cases there was a coin, a 3 cent piece. My 5 year old saw it and started yelling “Dad…come quick!!!! You have to see this! Look…it’s the very half dollar that Almanzo used to buy his fist pig, Lucy!” He was a little disappointed to learn it was just a 3 cent piece. That moment of excitement (even if it was a false alarm) was the highlight of my trip!
If you ever in northern New York, I hope you are able to take the time to visit the boyhood home of Almanzo. It is well worth the trip. If your children as as big of fans of Farmer Boy as mine are, they will be talking about it for a long time afterwards.