‘Little House on the Prairie’: What Charlotte Stewart Discovered About Katherine MacGregor on a Road Trip

Charlotte Stewart starred on Little House on the Prairie from 1974 to 1977. Part of an ensemble cast, Stewart formed a close bond actor Katherine MacGregor and learned some things about her co-star’s personal life when they went to a California spa.

Charlotte Stewart of 'Little House on the Prairie'
Charlotte Stewart of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ | NBCU Photo Bank

Charlotte Stewart and Katherine MacGregor became friends on ‘Little House’ set

Stewart portrayed Walnut Grove school teacher Eva Beadle on Little House. Though a large majority of her scenes were with the younger actors in the cast, she connected with several co-stars close to her own age.

“One of my favorite people on the Little House set, and one I also spent some memorable time with, was Katherine MacGregor,” Stewart wrote in her book Little House in the Hollywood Hills: A Bad Girl’s Guide to Becoming Miss Beadle, Mary X, and Me. “[She] was brilliant at playing the preening, self-centered, peacock Harriet Oleson, the proprietress of the Walnut Grove dry goods store.”

Though MacGregor had some television and film credits to her name when she joined Little House, most of her experience came from the theater.

“Katherine’s background… was largely in theater and she brought an almost academic seriousness to her work,” Stewart explained. “She’d gotten her start in New York as a dance instructor in the 1940s and went on to work steadily in regional theater and on Broadway.”

Katherine MacGregor of 'Little House on the Prairie'
Katherine MacGregor of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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‘Little House’ stars headed to a spa

Stewart developed a health issue during one season of Little House and sought some relief with MacGregor.

“At some point in the series I was having a respiratory problem and decided to do what you did in the 70s, which was to go to a health farm,” Stewart shared. “Katherine and I thought it’d be fun to go together. She was a great aficionado of health spas. … The place we went on this trip was down near San Diego called Hidden Valley Health Spa (or something like that).”

During their spa excursion, Stewart learned of MacGregor’s religious beliefs and noted the actor’s commitment to certain practices.

“We drove down and spent five days at this place sharing a room, which is when I discovered Katherine was a devout Hindu,” the Little House alum wrote. “She didn’t make a big deal about it but it was an important part of her life. In our shared room she set up a little shrine with a candle where she’d meditate each day.”

Katherine MacGregor missed final episode of ‘Little House’

MacGregor clearly placed her faith as a priority. She didn’t appear in the 1984 television movie special Little House: The Last Farewell, which was ended the longtime historical drama, to embark on a significant journey. According to Outsider, she chose to go on a required pilgrimage to India for her faith which was scheduled at the same time as filming for the Little House conclusion.

Stewart revealed that MacGregor was nothing like the gossipy, insensitive Mrs. Oleson she portrayed on the series.

“You really couldn’t find someone more different than the character she played,” Stewart remarked. “I found her to be such a serene soul, very warm, funny, and unpretentious.”

MacGregor died in November 2018 at the age of 93.

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