Thursday, November 3, 2016


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Yesterday I reviewed Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder and edited by Pamela Smith Hill.

Pioneer Girl was to be a story for adults, but no publisher picked it up. Later, it became the basis for the Little House series of children's books.

One of the stories told in Pioneer Girl that was too adult for the Little House books––although supposedly I'm an adult and it scares the crap out of me––is that of the Bender family.

You must keep in mind that not all of Wilder's recollections about her childhood can be traced as fact, but she remembered that as a little girl living with her family on the prairie in Kansas, Pa had to make the long trip to Independence more than once. On his way home from such a trip, he considered staying at the Benders. Kate Bender asked him to have supper there and spend the night. He felt it was better to hurry home.

Wilder writes: One night just about sundown a strange man came riding his horse up to the door on a run. Pa hurried out and they talked a few minutes. Then the man went away as fast as he had come, and Pa came into the house in a hurry. He would not wait for supper, but asked Ma to give him a bite to eat right away, saying he must go. Something horrible had happened at Benders.

It seems the Benders welcomed travelers loaded down with goods to eat with them and stay the night. The travelers sat with their backs to a curtain. The "guests" were attacked from behind the curtain, killed, and buried. Of course, the Benders kept their possessions.

Then Pa said, "They found a little girl, no bigger than Laura. They'd thrown her in on top of her father and mother and tramped the ground down on them, while the little girl was still alive."

It was easy for the Benders to carry on their grisly business because settlers who came to Kansas were out of the reach of their families. It was difficult to so much as send a letter.

Wilder also wrote that when she was older, she spoke to Pa about the Benders because he had been one of the vigilantes who had ridden after them. Pa assured her that the Benders would never be found.

As frightening as this story is, according to the annotations, it's not likely that Charles Ingalls would have stopped at the Benders. It wasn't close enough to the route he took. Wilder stated in a Book Fair speech that her family stopped at the Benders for water, and she saw Kate Bender in the doorway. But the Benders did not yet live in Indian Territory when the Ingalls family arrived.

Moreover, Wilder was two years old when they arrived in Kansas and four when they left. The terrifying stories of the Benders may have confused her, or perhaps she wanted to associate her family with a notorious name in order to excite interest in her work.

At any rate, the Benders existed; they had an inn and grocery store; and eight to eleven bodies, including a young girl, were found buried in the orchard behind the Benders' cabin––although some newspaper accounts placed the number of bodies higher.

The name Bender becomes a very frightening one because of the realistic way in which Wilder tells the story.

Kate Bender
The Bender family consisted of an older couple and
a younger one, who were thought to be brother and sister
but might have been married.

For another account of the Bloody Benders, see

I don't know how much of this information is correct, but it will give you a post-Halloween fright. Pretty obvious why the story didn't make it into the Little House books.

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


  1. It was nice to have a go through about the story...

    1. This comment makes absolutely no sense. What's nice about a family that murdered travelers?

  2. Hi Janie - I had heard the story before ... but certainly didn't remember it came from Ingalls ... I'm sure that kind of thing happened in those days ... dreadful ... cheers Hilary

  3. I'm not familiar with the Benders but can understand why this story didn't make it into her "Little House..." series.

  4. Not a story for the kids for sure. But it's good that the Little House book series was published for children as it's an interesting life for kids to learn about.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  5. I've actually heard that story--the family that murdered travelers through the curtain. It's documented. How chilling is that? Just goes to show crazies have always existed.

  6. The Benders sounded like a terrible couple! How could anybody do a thing like that?

  7. Wow! Creepy! Creepy! Human beings are always looking for what they believe is an easy way to survive. Perfect time and place for murdering thieves!

  8. Interesting. There was a book I read not too long ago that featured a similar occurrence. The two main characters stop at an 'inn' along the way and are almost murdered by their hosts and discover other victims in their escape. I wonder if the author got the idea from the Bender family. How awful!

  9. If the Benders ran a B & B, they didn't get much return business!!

  10. Those kinds of things still happen today, if you read true crime stories. Women are just as bad as the men at dismembering and hiding their crimes. Perhaps the Benders received their just rewards at the hands of the vigilantes. Creepy for sure.

  11. I have heard of the Benders and the horrible things they did but agree it is unlikely the Charles Ingalls would have been involved in the hunt for them when they fled

  12. I have never heard about the Benders and will have to look them up. Talk about a serial killer family and this does go against all the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories. I wonder if this is where "I went on a bender last week" came from which is always about alcohol but just wondering.

  13. The hammers used to smash the skulls of the victims of the Bloody Benders is on display in a museum in Cherryvale, KS., as well as a historical marker that is just north of town. Although where the cabin sat is just an empty field now. There are a lot of accounts of their murders and recently a story aired on Investigation Discovery Channel aobut it.

  14. Wow! That is crazy! Sounds like what is going on in South Carolina.

    I have to check out this book.


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