After moving his family from Wisconsin's 'big woods' to Minnesota's prairie, pioneer Charles Ingalls settles on farmland by Plum Creek just outside the town of Walnut Grove. To support his family until he can bring in a harvest, Charles works several jobs, establishing himself as a valued community member and a man of his word. But a rash promise to complete a job for devious Liam O'Neill by a specified time and a fall from a tree while rescuing a kite on a family picnic, threaten to ruin the Ingalls hopes for their future. How will the family pull together to save ...
Mean Nellie Oleson snubs Laura and Mary for wearing homespun dresses on their first day at school and, when Laura later complains, Caroline reminds her to be kind to Nellie to win her friendship. But Caroline forgets her own wise words, loses her temper with Nellie's haughty mother, store owner Harriet Oleson, and impulsively buys dress fabric she can barely afford. Later, Laura struggles to write an essay for the Visitors' Day program and Caroline must decide what to do with the expensive fabric. When Visitors' Day arrives, their love for each other helps both mother...
When their wheat crop is ravaged by a hailstorm, the discouraged Walnut Grove men leave town to search for work. During his long walk, Charles meets Danny Peters, a flamboyant hard rock miner who recommends Charles for the well-paying but dangerous job of 'powder monkey', part of a 2-man hole drilling team needed to hand-set blasting charges in a rock quarry. Meanwhile, back in Walnut Grove, Caroline organizes the women to try to salvage what they can of the damaged wheat. In the end, though separated by distance and circumstance, the pioneer families work together to...
While in Mankato, Charles is surprised to find Isaiah Edwards, the mountain man befriended by the Ingalls family on their journey to Minnesota. The two men return to Walnut Grove together to find young Laura sick in bed and a worried Mr. Edwards promises to stay until she recovers. But Mr. Edwards' deep concern for Laura stems from a devastating personal loss and he cannot forgive the one he holds responsible. Will the Ingalls' friendship and a budding romance with postmistress Grace Snider help Mr. Edwards come to terms with his past or will he leave Walnut Grove for...
Friction results between the Ingalls sisters when young Laura falls hard for handsome Johnny Johnson who, in spite of all her efforts to get him to see her as more than just a little girl, seems to only have eyes for older Mary.
Certain that only her funeral will bring her distant children and grandchildren to Walnut Grove for a long overdue visit, Amy Hearn convinces Doc Baker and the Ingalls to fake her death and happily makes plans to celebrate her eightieth birthday ... at her wake!
Laura befriends Olga, a girl crippled from birth with one leg shorter than the other and who, as a result, is teased by Nellie and often left out of the other children's games. But when Charles comes up with a way to help Olga walk more normally, he meets unexpected resistance...from Olga's over-protective father.
While on a second honeymoon trip with Charles in Mankato, Caroline can't help worrying about what's happening back home in Walnut Grove where old friend, Mr. Edwards, finds that babysitting three active little girls is not as simple as it seems.
Caroline's special efforts to teach a shy, older boy to read while she is substitute-teaching for an injured Miss Beadle are ruined when mean-spirited Mrs. Oleson humiliates him in front of the class and he vows never to return to school.
Blaming herself when Laura's doll breaks during a game of catch, Mary is delighted to give her sad, little sister an abandoned, baby raccoon. After Pa reluctantly agrees to let her keep him, Laura names him "Jasper", teaches him tricks and tries to keep the mischief-maker out of trouble. But one day, Jasper bites Jack, the Ingalls' dog, and disappears into the woods. When Charles later shoots a snarling, rabid raccoon who is killing the chickens and begins to watch Jack for signs of rabies, a tearful Mary reveals a terrible secret... Jasper had also bitten Laura who ...
A deaf-mute traveling tinker may have the only solution after Rev. Alden's request for a new church bell starts the Kennedys and Olesons feuding over who will donate the bell and who will take the credit.
A frightened, angry Caroline impulsively forbids Mary from taking a scholarship exam as punishment for accidentally starting a late-night fire in the barn where she had gone to study to keep from waking her sleeping little sister, Laura. But more than anything, Mary wants the exam winner's prize, a beautiful, new Webster's Dictionary, and when she delays telling her teacher that she won't be taking the test, Laura worries that her big sister is planning to defy their mother.
Jealous of the attention Charles showers on his newborn son, Laura longs for the place she believes she's lost in her pa's affections and angrily refuses to pray for her little brother to get well when the baby becomes seriously ill.
Believing that her jealousy was responsible for her infant brother's death and that her parents would rather have a son than a spare daughter, Laura climbs the highest hill she can find, hoping to get as close to God as possible to ask Him to take her instead and return the baby boy to the family. While Charles and Mr. Edwards desperately search for her, Laura meets Jonathan, a mystical mountain man who seems to have been sent purposely to guide her through this life-changing experience.
Christmas is coming and everyone is saying that it is a time for secrets and not to ask questions. Laura wants to buy something expensive for her mother and has to come up with a way to pay for it. Mary tries to decide what to make her Pa. Carrie uses her Christmas penny to buy a special present for Baby Jesus. It is a good Christmas!
Divorce looms when Nels and his dog storm away from Harriet and the mercantile after the Olesons quarrel over the price of eggs. But the situation only gets more muddled when the townsfolk try to help them reconcile, prompting Harriet to pack her bags and causing some to wonder, a little wistfully, if Walnut Grove wouldn't be more peaceful if the volatile woman left town for good.
It's love at first sight between Doc Baker and a beautiful, though much younger, Kate Thorvald, Harriet Oleson's visiting niece; but when Kate happily consents to become his wife, Doc's concerned friends wonder if the May-December romance and the harsh reality of sharing a prairie-doctor's life will give the genteel, city-bred girl second thoughts and result in heartache for both of them.
With the sudden intensity of a prairie storm, typhoid is unleashed on an unsuspecting Walnut Grove, teaming Charles with Doc Baker and Reverend Alden, who work together to the point of exhaustion tending to the community's sick and dying; but when new victims begin to pour in from the surrounding countryside the desperate men know they must find the source of the plague if they expect to stop the deadly epidemic.
Jovial Willie O'Hara, a traveling, patent-medicine salesman, comes to Walnut Grove with his talking crow and chimpanzee "circus", appears to immediately cure Mr. Hanson's incurable headache and convinces most of the community that his remedy is good for anything, and everything, that ails them. But an angry Doc Baker must intervene when Mrs. Oleson believes that the potion will cure her life-threatening appendicitis and later, Laura learns a difficult lesson when she expects O'Hara's miraculous medicine to heal her seriously injured best friend...her beloved dog, Jack.
The Walnut Grove community intervenes after a badly-beaten Graham Stewart is found unconscious on the floor of his cabin, the victim of his father, John's, drunken rage. While Graham recovers at the Ingalls' farm, John Stewart reluctantly agrees to let Charles Ingalls help him dry out and, in the process, begins to face the root of the anger that drives him to drink and hurt the son who loves him.
Fearing a swindle, angry Walnut Grove farmers vent their frustration on the anxious, pregnant wife of the man who promised them a good deal on hybrid corn and then doesn't show up with the grain as agreed, unaware that an accident has overturned his fully-loaded wagon and left him lying seriously injured down a steep slope, just out of sight of the road.
While on their way home to Walnut Grove after a trip to Mankato, the Ingalls family are unexpectedly snowbound, with little food, at a remote mountain cabin by a late-spring blizzard. But a desperate situation soon turns deadly when a renegade U.S. Marshall, blinded by hate, shows up half-frozen at their door, only moments ahead of the man he has vowed to bring back dead: a Sioux Indian chief who has just saved Charles' life.
Taking full responsibility for filling Johnny Johnson's head with exaggerated tales of travel and adventure, Mr. Edwards goes with him when Johnny takes off to see the world, hoping to protect the credulous farm-boy from dangerous situations and unscrupulous characters while trying to convince him to go back home.
Walnut Groves' Founder's Day festivities promise fun and friendly competition for all except aging logger and "Bull of the Woods" Jim Tyler, who secretly fears losing the log chopping contest, and with it his self respect, to a younger, stronger Charles Ingalls.