This is part 3 of a multi part series tracing the Ingalls family from Lincolnshire, England to the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Remember to read part 1 & 2 before jumping into the amazing that is part 3.
“Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little grey house made of logs.”
When we last left our multiple generations of Samuel Ingalls, they had moved from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. This migration would have been natural at the time as the two territories had a tumultuous relationship surrounding land claims as they grew from individual settlements into communities and finally defined territories. Two more generations of Ingalls would live in New Hampshire, Timothy and Jonathan, before Jonathan’s son Samuel (omg, what is up with that name) would marry and live for a time in Quebec before moving into western New York after 1818. This is how Lansford Ingalls (Charle’s Pa) was born in Quebec and would create the first Ingalls connection to Canada.
While the Ingalls were branching out across the emerging English colonies, New France, present day eastern Canada, was attempting to establish itself simultaneously. Between 1600-1613 settlements would start, end, move and burn to the ground. Similar to New England though, the possibility of access to new fisheries and fur trades would push France to continue establishing settlements. St. Croix Island and Nova Scotia would see colonization as early as 1604 while Quebec would be established in 1608. The Atlantic settlements would focus on fisheries similar to New England and fur pelts pushed New France into the northern interior. Beavers (aka cash money in the luxury goods business) were becoming scarce in Europe; merchants wanted colonization for trade and the French Crown was invested to stem the English strength in the New World. In 1627 France gave a royal charter to The Company of 100 Associates allowing them control over the fur trade in Quebec and land in exchange for growing and maintaining the settlements in New France. The company would push coureur des bois, freelance explorers, to create trade routes and promote communication between the company/government with local tribes as they dove deeper and deeper into new territories. However the Thirty Years War between France and England in Europe would impact even the colonies and eventually Quebec would surrender to English invaders. It wasn’t until 1632 that Quebec would return to French control and by then the battles had taken a toll on company management. They would officially dissolve in 1662 and in 1663 New France would revert from company settlements to a province of France. New France’s government and laws would begin aligning closer to it’s home country. France began focusing in on strong, permanent communities as well as strong trade. France would pay passage for single women and send money and goods as part of dowry and cash incentives were even introduced for families to have children.
It was this environment that Samuel Ingalls would have entered when he migrated into Quebec territory. It must have been stark contrast to the British colonies whose origins didn’t solely focus on trade but on religious and familial connections. Edmund’s wealth in England and lack of religious persecution would have made him academically more of a natural Canadian immigrant. However this isn’t how history is written and Edmund’s ties to Lincolnshire ensured his connections to Endicott’s Massachusetts party. Eventually Canada’s evolution would meet up with Edmund’s family line. The end of the Seven Years War would cement British control over the Canadian territories. Concessions to French culture would include the Quebec Act of 1774 “abolished and later reinstated most of the property, religious, political, and social culture of the French-speaking habitants, guaranteeing the right of the Canadiens to practice the Catholic faith and to the use of French civil law.” But British rule was cemented and the Constitutional Act of 1791 would split the Canadian lands into Upper and Lower Canada provinces in part to assist the influx of British loyalist fleeing the colonial rebellion in the 13 British colonies to their south (aka the American Revolution). Samuel and Lansford would have experienced a prominently French Canadian culture in lower Canada, a culture that would have followed them into New York thanks to it’s early position in the fur trade (who remembers in Farmer Boy Almanzo’s interactions in with French Canadians) a culture Lansford would have seen again later in Wisconsin. It was the War of 1812 that would bring Samuel and Lansford back from Lower Canada (Quebec) to New York and the families continual search for economic prosperity that took them from New York to Illinois and Lansford’s eventual settlement in Wisconsin.
Lansford moved his family originally to Jefferson Country, Wisconsin where the Ingalls would meet the Quiner family and a young Caroline Quiner (Ma). Eventually three Quiner daughters would marry into the Ingalls family. Polly and Henry, Caroline and Charles and finally Eliza and Peter. However as the US slipped into a depression Lansford was unable to pay a mortgage he had taken out on his Jefferson County land and decided around 1862 to move further west into Wisconsin. Remember when Laura spoke of Ma’s fine clothes made out east…yea, that was eastern Wisconsin. Lansford’s sons and their new Quiner brides decided to move as well. Charles and his brother Henry would buy adjoining land 7 miles outside of Pepin where on February 7th 1867 a little girl names Laura Ingalls Wilder was born.