The real story
Everyone always wanted to know why Nancy was so mean, Laura Wilder told Almanzo the first day the child entered the school.
"There is something very wrong with Nancy."
Nancy Marie Oleson was born Nancy Marie Thompson on January 10 1873, her mother Tammy was a widow, her husband got killed when he was ran over by a wagon as a horse was stung by a bee. His name was Walter. His parents were both gone because they had him at the ages of forty three and forty six. As Tammy was giving birth to Nancy, she began hemorrhaging and soon died after her daughter was born.
Nancy's grandmother, Frances O Neil was also a very old women, just turning sixty eight. Harriet Oleson was miserable after Nellie and Percival moved to New York and took her beloved grandchildren Jennifer and Benjamin, they were just beginning to stand and walk. Harriet went to her bedroom and sobbed into her pillow for hours. Nels was worried.
"I want to just die!"
Harriet sobbed to him. He went straight to Doctor Baker.
I'm worried about her Hiram, she won't eat, she won't get up and bathe, she just lies in bed and cries."
Doctor Baker told him to see Charles Ingalls, they had just recently adopted two children, a boy named James Cooper, eleven, and his little sister Cassandra eight. Their parents were killed in a horrible wagon accident as the two children saw it happen. Their Uncle Jed came to them six months earlier and tried to get them back, but Doctor Baker diagnosed the man with tuberculosis. He told the Ingalls they could adopt the children. Charles sent little Cassandra to talk to Harriet.
Nels came outside with Cassandra about thirty minutes later. Harriet was going to take a bath, wash her hair and eat some supper, then the next morning, they were going to Mankato to an orphanage to try to bring home a little girl. The next morning, they did indeed ride to Mankato, about twenty miles from Walnut Grove. The Mankato Home For Children brought out ten little girls to see the Olesons. The girls were between the ages of seven to ten and all very beautiful. But Harriet was still not satisfied.
As they were leaving the orphanage as Harriet was in tears again, a little girl dashed by them screaming at an older woman in charge of the children
"I hate you ! Get away from me."
The manager of the orphanage apologized.
"That little blond whirlwind is Nancy, she has already broken three windows, stopped up the toilets, and has filled the desk tops in the classroom full of glue. She is the most undisciplined and unruly child we have ever had. We are going to take her to Rochester, I hope they can get through to her."
At the description of Nancy, Harriet stopped crying and ran after the child, about five minutes later, Nancy was following Harriet and she was going to go home with them. When the family arrived home, Willie was eagerly standing outside, he was looking forward to having a new little sister. He was tired of being the youngest. As the wagon pulled up to the house and store, Harried helped Nancy out of the wagon and Nels was starting to carry her belongings to the house.
"Willie, this is Nancy, your new sister."
The little girl smiled at Willie. Harriet had already dressed her in one of Nellie's old dresses and curled her hair in the springy looking curls his older sister had worn all his life until she married Percival.
"OH NO!, another Nellie! You went to Mankato and brought back another Nellie!"
Nellie had terrorized Willie ever since he remembered, she forced him to be mean to other children, particularly Mary and Laura Ingalls and he even made poor Mary cry when he kept calling her four eyes after she got her glasses, he really liked the Ingalls girls and after they adopted Albert, he stopped being Nellie's little toady and became Albert's best friend.
Nancy burst into tears
"He HATES me!" He doesn't even know me and he already hates me!"
Nels went upstairs and told Willie
"You ought to be ashamed, that poor child has nobody and when she finally gets a new life, her own brother says he doesn't want her, she's only ten and look at you, fourteen and hurting a little girls feelings."
Willie felt remorse, after all he was picked on by Nellie, he went to Nancy and apologized she dried her tears and accepted his apology. The next morning, Nancy was lead to school by Harriet and introduced to Mrs. Wilder and the class. Laura and Albert and several children called her Nellie. Later on Nancy asked Mrs. Wilder where the water was, Laura had her little sister Cassandra, who had brown hair and green eyes and was two years younger than Nancy to take her outside and give her a cup of cold water from the well.
As the girls went to the well, Nancy took a few gulps of water and asked Cassandra
"Who's the cute boy sitting next to you?"
Cassandra answered her back
"That's my brother Albert."
Albert was a handsome young man with black hair and brown eyes, he was also fourteen as Nancy's brother Willie
Nancy told Cassandra she wanted to sit nest to him, Cassandra refused and Nancy ripped the sleeve on her dress and put mud all over the front
"Stop it! Cassandra stop HURTING ME!"
Laura ran outside as Nancy was sobbing and telling Laura that Cassandra ripped her dress and threw mud on her because she was jealous and wanted her pretty dress. Laura knew that Cassandra wouldn't do that and she sent Nancy home to change clothes, Caroline Ingalls washed, and sewed the tear in the dress, Cassandra told her parents what really happened.
The next day, after school, Nancy told Albert she wanted him to come over and have some fresh apple pie and a glass of milk, they were also going to practice for the school play that Laura was writing. Albert turned her down and told her he was going to practice singing with Belinda Stevens. Belinda was a pretty girl, thirteen with long brown hair and blue eyes. Albert was in love with the girl and she also liked him. The next day, Nancy told Belinda to come over after school and they would practice on the family piano. The next morning, Willie was going to the ice house for some ice so Harriet could put some ice into some lemonade. To Willie's horror, Belinda Stevens was lying on the floor of the ice house, her lips were blue and she was unconscious.
As word reached town that Belinda was in Doctor Bakers office finally waking and shivering with a fever, Belinda told her parents, Albert and Doctor Baker about Nancy telling her to go to the ice house with her to get some ice the day before.
"Nancy told me to stay there while she went to get some burlap bags to take the ice home to her Ma. Then I heard the door shut, I waited and waited, then I got scared and went to the door, I screamed and knocked, but nobody came to the door"
Willie had shut the door but didn't know Belinda was inside. He was upset and cried and apologized again and again, first to the Stevens then to Albert and then finally to Belinda, Willie was a kind and thoughtful young man, he was very upset when things happened to people he liked, He never would forget the time that Mrs. Simms, then known as Miss Beadle had let the exited children which included little Carrie Ingalls who was five years old at the time out of school early Christmas Eve, he was eight and Nellie was twelve when it happened. A blizzard caught the children and the worried parents gathered at the schoolhouse and Charles Ingalls, Isaiah Edwards and Frank Kennedy went out to hunt the children, Eva Beatle, her head on her desk was sobbing into her arms. A little hand went to her hair and smoothed it and a little hand patted her shoulder.
"You didn't know it was going to do this Miss Beadle, please don't cry."
Eva raised her tear stained face to see Willie, crying himself.
"Oh Willie! Thank you so much! I didn't mean to do that."
She hugged Willie and cried even harder, Willie cried too, some of the women all went to Eva and hugged her too. Thankfully, all of the children were found, except George Kennedy's father Frank, he was found frozen to death about a quarter of a mile from town.
After word had gotten around about Belinda, Laura and the other children planned to exclude Nancy from the play, but were turning it into a fair and fundraiser for the orphanage. At home that evening. Harriet was talking to Nels
"Jealous! That's what's wrong, they're all jealous of Nancy."
Willie could stand it no longer.
"No Ma! The children don't LIKE her, nobody does, she's meaner than Nellie ever was that's why nobody wants Nancy in the fundraiser!"
Nancy's eyes filled with tears,
"No Ma! Willie's right, I don't even like myself, but the reason I'm like I am is my Mother left me! She was mean to me, she would hit me and force me to go to bed without supper, then she just left me at the orphans home." They can do the fundraiser without me, I even hate myself!"
She then ran upstairs sobbing, Harriet's eyes filled with tears also.
Oh Nels! We should have found out about poor Nancy's background before we got her, maybe we could have helped her."
The next morning in school, Nancy was lead into the classroom by Laura, she went to the front of the school and told the class
I know you don't like me, I don't even like myself . I'm a mean person, but please forgive me. I'm sorry Belinda for locking you in the ice house. I'm sorry Albert because I like you and I know you don't like me, and I'm sorry Cassandra for ripping my own dress and smearing mud on it, then blaming you. I hope you have the fundraiser without me, excuse me Mrs. Wilder, I need a drink of water!"
Nancy left the classroom in tears. A few minutes later, Laura went outside and told Nancy to come inside because the class has a surprise for her. They had voted to let her back into the fundraiser. Nancy told them she was going to tell her mother. She smiled as she walked out of the classroom. As she was walking down the stairs and headed toward Olson's Mercantile she smile turned into a mean grin.
The following Saturday, Nels had Nancy go to the restaurant to work in the kitchen with Mrs. Hester Sue Terhune. Hester Sue, a kind African American woman, the daughter of former slaves from the South was cooking in the kitchen, she was also an accomplished singer, The Ingalls youngest daughter Grace adored the woman. She would baby sit Grace sometimes and the four year old loved hearing Hester Sue sing special sings to put her to sleep. Hester Sue welcomed Nancy and gave her an apron so she could wash the breakfast dishes. Nancy took one look at the stack of dirty plates and bowls and glasses, began sobbing.
Hester Sue, shocked went to the sobbing girl and put her arms around her.
"What's the matter Nancy? Please don't cry!"
"It's being here in the kitchen with you ma am, cooking, washing dishes, it's like being with my Mother!"
Charles Ingalls was in Mankato that day and told the director of the orphanage that the Oleson's were understanding Nancy better since she told them about her Mother. Mr. Bridges told Charles the truth, giving him a piece of paper to give to Nels and Harriet. That evening, Harriet told Charles
I cried so hard that my eyes were swollen, that little devil told us a lie!"
Monday afternoon, the children and Laura put Nancy into a booth called the mermaid booth, it was a dunking booth that anyone had a chance with three baseballs for a nickel to hit the target and knock the mermaid into the water. Nancy was furious as Belinda after one throw, knocked her into the water.
I'm GLAD that you got sick Belinda!"
Harriet, shocked that Nancy said that went to the booth and grabbed three balls.
"Young lady! If I ever hear you talk to anyone that way again, I will personally take you in your room, and spank your bottom until it's shiny red!"
Nancy fell into the water
I LOVE YOU! And I don't want you to be the most hated child in town."
Nancy sat shivering and she told her mother that she was sorry. Months went by without any incidents, until Harriet got a letter from Nellie from New York, she was coming to visit. Nancy was angry. As Nellie got out of the stagecoach a week later, her happy parents and Willie hugged and kissed the pretty young woman, now age nineteen. Nancy stayed as far away as she could, and sat on the sofa fuming as Nellie showed her family pictures of the now two year old twins.
Later on that evening, Nancy didn't want to share her bed with Nellie, as Nellie talked to Nancy about her toddler hood and getting her first big girl bed, Nancy fell asleep and snored very loudly. Nels and Harriet put her into their bed, the child snored all night. The next day, Nancy argued and told them that she didn't snore. The family was giving Nellie a birthday party since she was going to turn twenty years old. Meanwhile Nellie was visiting Laura and her baby girl Rose at their little home.
Laura and Almanzo had recently became parents to Almanzo's nine year old niece Jenny, they were in the process of adopting the pretty little girl with her dark blue eyes and long dark brown hair. As the two young women reminisced, Jenny fed her baby sister- to -be, some cereal. Harriet ran to tell Nellie about the birthday party and baby Rose squealed with delight as Harriet kissed her sweet cheek and gave Jenny's hand a squeeze. Then she told Nellie and Laura the news, everyone was invited to Nellie's party.
The day of the party, the teacher a young woman named Etta Plum, who replaced Laura as the teacher after she wanted to become a full time mother to Rose and Jenny, assigned the children a theme What I Like About Myself. Nancy was jealous of her sister and all the attention she was getting, so she broke a window in the store and hit Carrie Ingalls on the head with a baseball. After being sent to her room, Nancy decided to run away, after writing her assignment but entitling the theme "Why I Hate Myself" Nancy packed her belongings and walked out of the house. As she heard Charles Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder playing the violin and guitar and the happy people singing, tears streamed down Nancy's cheeks and she ran away.
The next morning, as Nancy was sleeping in a strange barn, a feral dog was standing over her sleeping form, she was startled awake by a growl, as the thin scraggly dog bared his fangs at Nancy, and then barked and was ready to bite, Nancy screamed and ran away dropping her doll, she ran away sobbing into the forest. A few hours later, she just walked in circles, sobbing and saying
"Mother! Father! I'm LOST, and scared! I want to come home, please help me!"
As it was growing darker, Nancy heard Nellie calling
The frightened girl screamed
"I'm here!" I'm HERE!"
The girl ran sobbing to her sister and Nellie told her as she wiped away Nancy's tears
"I found you! You're going to be alright now."
As Nancy was carried to Nels, she fell asleep from pure exhaustion . She woke up in her own bed. Nellie was leaving for New York and the family all hugged and kissed Nellie goodbye.
"I'll miss you Nellie!"
Nancy told her. Everything went fine for a while, until Nancy began getting angry again, this time, she punched Jeb Carter, a young boy that she picked on because he was scared of the water. As he was defending himself, Nancy hit him in the eye. Nels had enough of the girl's bullying so he went to Mankato to see Nancy's birth records. He was shocked and very upset to find out that Nancy had been cruelly and severely abused by her alcoholic grandmother. He talked to her doctor
"I know I wasn't supposed to say anything about the raising of a child, but I was very glad to see Nancy's grandmother give her up for adoption. The woman was a mean, spiteful person, she actually ran off Nancy's mother. She smacked Nancy around, beat her, burned her with matches, broke her right arm and her left leg before the child was five, she forced Nancy to stand all night in the hallway if she wet her bed, she put cayenne pepper into the child's mouth for saying bad words she herself said and made Nancy throw up from it, Nancy's highly allergic to spicy foods, I recommend that Nancy go and see one of those newfangled psychiatrists before she hurts someone and maybe even kill them.
Nels told Harriet and they went into Nancy's room and hugged and kissed the girl. Willie also hugged and kissed his little sister. Twice weekly, Nancy went to Mankato to see a doctor Morton Potts. He let the child talk, she was telling him about her mother whipping her with straps, switches and her hairbrushes, forcing Nancy to stand up all night long after she wet the bed. Her mother (Really her grandmother) as she called her would smack Nancy if she spilled her milk on the tablecloth and one morning, she accidentally knocked over her cocoa and her mother slapped her on the face, and her ears, then dragged Nancy across the splintered wooden floor.
The girl was covered from head to toe with splinters, a neighbor heard the then nine year old screaming in agony and the police found the grandmother passed out from vodka and Nancy in a closet lying in a fetal position. As the policeman tried to touch the child, she screamed out and he saw the splinters, she had also wet herself from the pain and the urine had soaked though to her dress and legs. They took Nancy to the hospital and it took a doctor three hours to get all the splinters out of the child, she was then given a bath by a nurse and spent a week in the hospital, she was given pain medication.
The grandmother was locked up in jail and Nancy was then given to the orphanage. Nancy cried bitter tears as she told the psychiatrist all this. The grandmother later went to the orphanage and made up a terrible lie about Nancy, how she threatened to beat her poor old grandma with a piece of lumber. The director believed the woman who told him she feared for her life. Nancy was telling the truth about her grandmother. She was just acting out her frustrations to get attention that she was craving.
After a year of talking to the psychiatrist, Nancy was also given lots of love from her parent's, brother and sister Nellie, and Percival and her niece Jennifer and her nephew Benjamin, who moved back Walnut Grove after Percival's brother Hiram Cohan took over the delicatessen in New York. The Cohen's (Percival changed his name back to Isaac Cohen) and Nellie turned half of the Mercantile into a Delicatessen and they served the best food, in town, next to the restaurant.
Nellie's homemade chicken soup with Mama Cohen's famous recipe for Matzo Balls inside the soup was delicious, along with her potato latkes. Nancy Oleson grew up to be a beautiful young woman and James Ingalls proposed to her, Albert proposed to Belinda and the four of them were married by Reverend Alden. Nels and Harriet were blessed with three more grandchildren, Willie had earlier gotten married to a sweet young woman named Rachel Brown and they had two more grandchildren to give to Nels and Harriet.
On the Ingalls side, Albert and Belinda had a daughter they named Julia and Mary and Adam who had moved to New York had another little boy after losing their precious baby Adam Jr, they named him Charles Phillip Kendall and Laura and Almanzo had a baby boy soon after Rose turned two, but the poor baby died after being on the earth one week, they couldn't name the baby so they simply put on his tombstone, Baby Boy Wilder, August 5-12 1891. But then they surprised Charles and Caroline by having another baby girl. They named her Rachel Lauren, she was their third daughter, after the adoption of Jenny.