"The older we grow the more precious become the recollections of childhood's days, especially our memories of mother. Her love and care halo her memory with a brighter radiance..."
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Sept. 1921
July 2007--I've now been to most of the Laura Ingalls Wilder home sites, plus some that are off the beaten path (i.e. non-tourist stops), such as the gravesites of Laura's grandparents in Burnett County, Wisconsin (see Ingalls-Wilder Family Genealogy). I stopped at Brookfield, Wisconsin only because it was just off the road from Milwaukee, where we'd gone for a concert, on our way back to Minneapolis. It's easy to make such side-trips when following the Ingalls-Quiner-Wilder routes across the nation because there were so many people in these families and they roamed extensively.
As I write this I'm in the car, again driving back home across Wisconsin (Husband is actually driving; I'm not computing/writing as I drive!), on September 23, 2007 returning from a trip East. As a sidetrack on this trip we stopped at Malone, New York, Almanzo Wilder's home. Getting the web page ready for that site reminded me I still hadn't put up the photos of the stop in Brookfield.
Brookfield, Wisconsin, was on the disappointing side, as these things go. We hunted down their tourism office and surprised the folks there by mentioning their town had a Laura Ingalls Wilder connection. The "Caroline" series of books had been out for several years, yet they were totally unaware of the connection.
A reader here later told me there is, in fact, a sign on the freeway. Gosh darn, I've been by there at least half a dozen times and still haven't spotted it! The person also said the Quiner site is on the south side of the freeway--old Brookfield is to the north. If this is the case, the Quiner home was quite some distance from Brookfield itself.
The old town area of Brookfield seems to have no buildings in existence dating from the time of Caroline Quiner Ingalls' (Laura's Ma) time there. All post-date that time.
There is an interesting old cemetery nearby with good markers from the historical society. There are a number of old headstones--some illegible--that may date from Caroline's time. I suspect that like many pioneer cemeteries that age the people in the first generation of settlers could not afford durable stone markers on gravesites, using wood markers that didn't last through time, instead. Wisconsin was also quite fire-prone in the 1800s which may have been a reason so little from Caroline's time still exists (We also stopped in Peshtigo, WI, site of the worst wildfire in US history. The town was decimated. This event is relatively unknown because it took place the same night as the Great Chicago Fire which grabbed the headlines. Interesting aside: just north of Peshtigo was Ingallstown, Wisconsin).
Another side-track on this trip came when we followed the "Ingalls" informational road signs on I-94 in Wisconsin which say, "Laura Ingalls Wilder Historical Highway, Exit 41" in Menomonie (pronounced meh-nom-oh-nee). We gave the signs directing us off the freeway a sporting chance, though they went on for miles with numerous turns. Eventually we reached what seemed to be the endpoint--a fine-looking old building. It was under construction, which didn't deter me, I went in anyhow. Those in the building (after some puzzlement) directed me a block or so away to the tourism/Chamber of Commerce office. That fine old building did have some sort of Ingalls connection, though, as you can see from the bottom photo. There was a plaque with the name "Marion Ingalls McLean". The tourism office apologized for the deceptive signs on the freeway, saying they were meant to direct people toward Pepin, Wisconsin and the "Little House in the Big Woods" homesite there. And, yes, the highway in Menomonie is the exit to take for Pepin if you're westbound on I-94. Pepin is about 25 miles away at that point.