Since October of last year, if one drove out to the De Smet Cemetery to see Charles Ingalls’ grave marker, all that could be seen was a stone base. The marble pillar had been removed and taken to Ortonville, Minn.
An anonymous donor had asked the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society to restore the carvings on the marble tombstone.
Once there, the crew at Rausch Brothers Monument Company, Inc. re-etched the grave marker to restore it to a nearly new condition, allowing visitors to the grave site to read the engravings.
Marble is a soft stone, so the utmost care was used in handling, transporting and reworking the engravings. All the effort put into the grave marker was worth it, as the marker is easy to read and looks like it is new.
Marble weathers easily, and if rubbed, can show some wear. Charles’ tombstone is the only Ingalls’ family gravestone made of marble; the remaining tombstones are made from granite.
The grave marker was originally planned for a return after the first of the year. Even with the delays in returning the stone, it still made it back to its original location in time for the tourist season.
The Ingalls’ gravesites are very popular with the tourists who travel to De Smet for the Ingalls and Wilder experience. Many different coins and stones are placed upon the grave markers at the site. The placing of coins on a tombstone was initially a military sign of respect and acknowledgement, and this tradition is now mainstay and includes the placing of polished stones or gems.
It is believed that Pa’s marker was placed at the time of his death in 1902. In 1959, the tombstone had the same problems with readability of the inscriptions, looking weathered and worn. Rose Wilder Lane, Charles’ granddaughter through Laura, had the stone re-cut.
Along with Charles, his wife Caroline, daughters Mary Ingalls and Mrs. David (Carrie Ingalls) Swanzey and a baby son to Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband Almanzo were all laid to rest in the family plot. Laura and Almanzo were both buried at Mansfield Cemetery, in Mansfield, Mo., along with their daughter Rose Wilder Lane.
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