Raising Wilder: From Little House on the Prairie to Sapulpa, Part One
Read part one of the amazing journey that took a family from Sapulpa to California and back, where they’re building their own little house on the prairie.
Click for larger view.
This is the first of a four-part series. Raising Wilder is a Sapulpa-based television show built on the lives and experiences of Jason Wilder and Paula George, and their children as they work to restore family values through the adventures of living like his ancestors from Little House on the Prairie. “Raising Wilder” will begin airing on The CW, October 8th.
Paula George took a love to reading after a childhood trauma left her with a desire to escape the reality she was in. She found that escape in books.
When Paula was in the second grade, she and her mother attended a school book fair and happened upon a series of books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the beloved Little House on the Prairie series, which was later developed into a world-renowned television show.
Intrestingly enough, she wasn’t drawn to the standard “Little House” series, but rather another of Wilder’s books, called Farmer Boy, based on the childhood of Laura’s husband, Almanzo Wilder.
Her mother suggested she read the Little House series instead, but Paula was drawn to the cover of Farmer Boy—Almanzo holding a large stick and trying to coax two calves out of a barn, so she got both of them.
From second to sixth grade, Paula read Farmer Boy between 200-300 times. “I used to get a new copy from someone every Christmas, because I wore them out so quickly,” she says.
In this story, she saw the life she wanted to live. She longed to be back on the Prairie during the days of the Wilders, doing the chores and living the simpler life.
One day, she proudly told her mother she was going to marry Almanzo Wilder. Her mother swiftly brought her dreams to a crushing end. “You can’t,” she told Paula. “He died a long time ago and only ever had a daughter, so you couldn’t even marry one of his sons.”
Realizing her desire to be a part of the Wilder family was never going to happen, she retreated into the books and lived the rest of her youth in a mixture of contentment with the life she’d been given, but a desire to be a part of another.
Paula’s grandfather was George Hunter Gibbs, a full-blooded Sac and Fox indian, who was born in 1902. Her grandmother was a Creek indian named Mollie (Grayson) Gibbs, born in 1908. They lived their entire lives in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.
When Mollie was young, she was taken in by the son of none other than our town’s namesake “Chief Sapulpa”. She said his son was very kind to her, and he looked to her as one of his own forever after that.
Mollie Gibbs was not only a big influence in Paula’s life, but in those within the community as well. She served as a midwife to those families that couldn’t attend the local hospital, helping to deliver babies at home.
This came in handy one day when Paula was pulled over while visiting her grandparents on a trip from California. The officer checked her license and asked her, “are you related to Mollie Gibbs?”
Since Mollie had been the one to deliver him when he was born, he decided to let Paula off with a warning.
In 1956, the federal government began a program called The Indian Relocation Act, which was a move to encourage native americans to leave their indian reservations, acquire vocational skills and assimilate to the general population. Simply put, it meant that the Bureau of Indian Affairs would pay you to go out and try to make something of yourself.
Of George and Mollie Gibbs’ eleven children, seven of them chose to take advantage of the program and relocated to California.
Five of them would eventually return to Sapulpa.
Even halfway across the country from her grandparents, Paula never strayed too far from her heritage.
She was born and raised in California, but would often come to Sapulpa to visit her grandparents and see the town she described as “true main street americana”.
She began to enjoy success as a businesswoman who owned a commercial facility management company. True to form, their clients were the native american tribes in the area.
In a few years, she was a long way from the ramshackle living that her grandparents had endured in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. Until one fateful day, a dream she had thought impossible came crashing into her life.
While in California, she met a man who had come to inspect a home she was purchasing. A chance meeting blossomed into a loving relationship, and before long, they were dating.
His name was Jason Wilder.
Though she paused at the name, Paula remembered the words her mother had said so long ago and shrugged off even the question that this man could be related to that Wilder family.
In December of 2013, while they were watching television together and she was leaning her head on his chest, reminsicing about her childhood, she mentioned to him how she had this dream as a child of marrying Almanzo Wilder.
Jason cooly, replied, “Well yeah, he’s my great-great uncle, so that would’ve been wierd.”
Startled, she sat up. “What?!? No. You’re not that Wilder.”
“Go look it up,” he insisted. “Google it.”
She did. She looked under the lineage and found in chrystal clear black and white: Jason Wilder, great-great grandson of Eliza Jane Wilder.
Paula turned back to him, tears filling her eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me?” She began. “You have no idea what…”
Slowly she recounted the story of how she’d been introduced to the Little House on the Prairie books and how she’d read Farmer Boy so much that the books would fall apart. She told him how she had longed to be a part of that family her whole life.
And now she was. She couldn’t believe it. She was dating a Wilder!
Her eyes wide, she gasped. There was more. Instinctively, her hands moved to her stomach and cuddled her daughter. She was three months pregnant.
Paula George was carrying a Wilder.