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The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Cast — A Look Back At Them and Their Beloved Characters

Take a trip down memory lane with the Ingall and discover what their lives were like before and after the series.


Even if you’ve never read any of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, you’re most likely still familiar with the Little House on the Prairie cast of the long-running Western drama those books inspired. That TV show focused on the farming Ingalls family as well as small-town activities in, and residents of, Walnut Grove during the late 1800s. All with a cast that we loved.

As the weekly adventures of the Ingalls unfolded, viewers followed the family through their joys and tragedies in what was a more romanticized version of life on the prairie. The truth is, Wilder’s reality was a far more forbidding tale of poverty and hardship than the show ever was.

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Melissa Gilbert, Michael Landon, Karen Grassle, Melissa Sue Anderson, and Lindsay or Sidney Greenbush, 1975
Melissa Gilbert, Michael Landon, Karen Grassle, Melissa Sue Anderson, and Lindsay or Sidney Greenbush, 1975Fotos International/Getty Images

The show aired from 1974 to 1983 and quickly became one of NBC’s highest-rated scripted series, drawing in a variety of guest stars like Ray Bolger, Ernest Borgnine, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Louis Gossett Jr., Ernie Hudson, Madeleine Stowe, Sean Penn, Patricia Neal and Vera Miles.

So where did some of the main Little House on the Prairie cast members end up?

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The Little House on the Prairie Cast

Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls

Michael Landon in 1974 and 1989
1974 / 1989FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images ; George Rose/Getty Images

Michael Landon led the Little House on the Prairie cast and is most recognized for it, though from 1959 to 1973 viewers knew him as Little Joe Cartwright on the long-running Western Bonanza. He would follow life as Charles Ingalls with a five-season stint as Jonathan Smith on Highway to Heaven beginning in 1984. Talk about steady employment!

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While Little House on the Prairie boasted a large cast, it was Landon who ran the show — literally. He starred as the enduring patriarch and farmer while serving as executive producer, writer and director. 

Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls, 1974
Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls, 1974Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Born Eugene Maurice Orowitz on October 31, 1936 in Queens, New York, he attended high school in Collingswood, New Jersey where his family had relocated. Athletically inclined, his skills earned him a scholarship to the University of Southern California, but an accident ended his award-winning javelin-throwing career and his USC term.

From there, he changed his name to Michael Landon — after finding it in a Los Angeles phone directory — and worked towards becoming an actor, guest starring on TV, singing in theater productions and starring in films like I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), High School Confidential and God’s Little Acre (both 1958), and The Legend of Tom Dooley (1959). Then Bonanza came his way.

Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls, 1976
Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls, 1976NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

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Sadly, Landon passed away at age 54, three months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which he attributed to his heavy drinking and smoking. He was married three times and was the father of nine.

MUST-READ: Michael Landon — From Bonanza to Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven, See His Storied Career

Karen Grassle as Caroline Quiner Ingalls

Karen Grassle in 1975 and 2024
1975 / 2024Fotos International/Getty Images ; COZI TV/YouTube

Born on February 25, 1942 in Berkeley, California, Karen Grassle is primarily known for portraying historical figure Caroline Ingalls, who was the mother of novelist Laura Ingalls Wilder. As a child, her ambitions were to become a ballet performer, though she also took part in several school plays.

Her first professional acting gig was with summer stock at the Stanford Contemporary Workshop. From there, she would eventually move to New York City, borrowing a dollar from a friend to audition for the play The Gingham Tree, her first big break.

While she was known primarily as a theatrical actress, she decided to audition for the Ingalls role and won. Towards the end of the series, she made her film debut in Harry’s War (1981).

Karen Grassle as Caroline Ingalls
Karen Grassle as Caroline Ingallsbigpix/MoviestillsDB

Grassle left the Prairie in 1982 and moved to Sante Fe, New Mexico, where she served as the artistic director of a local theater company. She had wanted to stay on Little House, but when Michael Landon decided to leave the show, he put his foot down, saying Caroline couldn’t remain without Charles, effectively firing Grassle.

After Sante Fe, the long-time women’s rights advocate relocated to Louisville, Kentucky where she performed with the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Films and theater roles, plus a published memoir, followed.

Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls Wilder

1974 / 2023Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images ; Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Melissa Gilbert had the most appearances of the Little House on the Prairie cast, a total of 190 of the 204 episodes produced. Gilbert began her career as a child actress before Prairie, appearing in many commercials and guest starring roles on television.

With her spunk and innocence, Melissa beat out 500 other child actresses for the part. She became very close to the Landon family after her adoptive father died, oftentimes playing with the Landon kids on weekends at the family home.

Born in Los Angeles on May 8, 1964, Melissa Ellen Gilbert appeared in several TV films during the run of Little House, including The Diary of Anne Frank (1980) and The Miracle Worker (1979). As an adult, Gilbert stepped away from the bright lights to serve as President of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001 to 2005. She also wrote a few memoirs, a cookbook and children’s book.

Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie
Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls in Little House on the PrairieAlexandraH/MoviestillsDB

Gilbert had limited contact with Landon after Little House ended, but seven years later, she was contacted by his family and upon news of his condition, she paid him a heartfelt visit. When she gave birth to her son in 1995, she and second husband Bruce Boxleitner named him Michael, in honor of Landon.

Today, Melissa is married to Timothy Busfield and co-founded Modern Prairie in 2022 with merchandising executive Nicole Haase, which is a community outreach program for older women where they can connect to learn, share and grow. “Aging is a gift,” she told Prevention in 2023. “I like to say I’m aging gratefully.”

Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls Kendall

Melissa Sue Anderson in 1980 and 2022
1980 / 2022Betty Galella/Getty Images ; Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Melissa Sue Anderson also began her career as a child actress after appearing in several commercials, including for Mattel and Sears. At age 11, she got the role of Mary Ingalls Kendall and received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

MUST-READ: Melissa Sue Anderson: A Look Back at Mary Ingalls From ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Anderson is also known for film roles that include Which Mother is Mine (1979), Midnight Offerings (1981) and Happy Birthday to Me (1981). After leaving Little House, she continued acting in TV series like The Equalizer, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Murder She Wrote and CHiPS.

Melissa Sue Anderson, Lindsay Greenbush, Little House on the Prairie, 1974
Melissa Sue Anderson, Lindsay Greenbush, Little House on the Prairie, 1974FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

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The actress became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 2007 and, in 2010, published The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life On Little House, which was an autobiographical account of her years on the famed show.

Richard Bull as Nels Oleson in the Little House on the Prairie cast

Richard Bull, Little House on the Prairie cast
Richard Bull, Little House on the Prairie castdiannecan/MoviestillsDB

Besides playing Nels on Little House, Richard Bull was also known for his performance as Doc on the ’60s sci-fi series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Bull fell into acting by accident, saying that he never really considered seriously becoming an actor until he studied at the Goodman Theatre school in Chicago. He made more than 100 film and TV appearances throughout his career.

The cast of the hit series
The cast of the hit seriesdiannecan/Getty Images

Born in Zion, Illinois on June 26, 1924, Bull spent several years living in Los Angeles before moving back to Chicago in 1994 with his wife. The couple eventually moved to the Motion Picture & Television Fund House in Calabasas, California where he passed away from pneumonia at age 89.

Katherine MacGregor as Harriet Oleson in the Little House on the Prairie cast

Katherine MacGregor
Katherine MacGregor©NBCUniversal/YouTube

Katherine MacGregor was best known for her role as Harriet Oleson, but she had started her career on the New York stage where she was credited as Scottie MacGregor. Besides the theater, MacGregor also appeared in numerous episodes of various television series, including East Side/West Side, Ironside, Mannix, Emergency and in TV movies such as The Death of Me Yet and Tell Me Where It Hurts.

Born in Glendale, California, the family moved to Fort Collins, Colorado when Katherine was a young child. After graduating from Northwestern University as a drama major, she was hired by the Arthur Murray Dance Studios as a dance instructor.

As her acting career advanced, she used the stage name of Scottie MacGregor before she reverted back to her given name of Katherine. After Little House, she withdrew from screen projects in favor of local theater and teaching acting to children at the Wee Hollywood Vedanta Players.

MacGregor died in 2018 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital at the age of 93.

Kevin Hagen as Dr. Hiram Baker in the Little House on the Prairie cast

Kevin Hagen, Little House on the Prairie
Kevin Hagen, Little House on the Prairiediannecan/MoviestillsDB

Best known as Dr. Hiram Baker on Little House, Kevin Hagen’s first regular role on a series was in 1958 playing John Colton in the Western, Yancy Derringer. He went on to guest star in other Westerns such as The Big Valley, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Laramie, Tales of Wells Fargo, Outlaws and Have Gun Will Travel, amongst other shows.

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He went on to appear in three Perry Mason episodes, each time as a different character. In the 1965 film Shenandoah, he played a confederate renegade who kills James Stewart’s son and daughter-in-law.

In 1992, he moved to Grants Pass, Oregon where he performed in concerts, dinner theaters and on stage, including a one-man show, A Playful Dose of Prairie Wisdom. He passed away in 2005 from esophageal cancer.

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