‘Little House on the Prairie’: Which Stars Were Related in Real Life?
Little House on the Prairie was the epitome of family television in the 1970s and 80s. For nine seasons, fans followed the Ingalls family as they struggled to survive in 19th-century Walnut Grove, Minnesota.
Based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, the series tells the story of Charles and Caroline Ingalls, and their daughters Mary, Laura, and Carrie. When it came to casting the beloved show, the “family” theme continued. As it turns out, many of the stars were actually related.
‘Little House on the Prairie’ starred siblings Melissa Gilbert and Jonathan Gilbert
At the age of 10, Melissa Gilbert landed the role of Laura on Little House. At the same time, her 7-year-old brother Jonathan was cast as Willie Oleson. Both Melissa and Jonathan were the adopted children of actor Paul Gilbert and his wife, dancer, and actress Barbara Crane.
In her 2010 autobiography Prairie Tale, Melissa revealed that her and Jonathan’s home life wasn’t good. Their adoptive parents divorced in 1976, just two years after Melissa and Jonathan started Little House.
Sadly, Paul Gilbert (a WWII vet) had a stroke and later died in February 1976. He was a VA patient who had suffered with constant pain for years. Melissa wrote in her memoir that the official story was her father died from a second stroke. But she later found out that he had actually taken his own life.
Barbara went on to marry a man named Harold Abeles, and they welcomed a daughter named Sara. She would later become an actress like her siblings, and is known professionally as The Conners star Sara Gilbert.
Melissa also revealed that after Little House came to an end, Jonathan moved away and cut off ties with his adopted family. She claimed she had no idea why her brother did this, but they currently do not have a relationship. Melissa noted that Jonathan lives in New York City and works as a stockbroker.
Albert Ingalls and Jonathan Garvey were real-life brothers
In addition to Melissa and Jonathan Gilbert, there were other Little House stars who were also siblings. Matthew Labyorteaux was first cast as a young Charles Ingalls before he returned a few seasons later as Albert.
“I actually played Michael Landon as a little boy,” Labyorteaux said. “In flashbacks to his childhood, where his father’s taken ill and he takes a train and goes back to check on his father and his mother. On the train ride, he sort of reminisces about his childhood.”
Matthew played the role of Albert Ingalls beginning in season 5, and he continued to play the role up until the series finale. He also appeared in a Little House on the Prairie movie. But, he wasn’t always the only Labyorteaux on set.
Matthew’s brother Patrick played the role of Andy Garvey, a friend of Laura and Albert’s. He appeared on the show during seasons four through seven. He would later star in the CBS hit series JAG as Lt. Cmdr. Bud Roberts from 1995 to 2005.
‘Little House on the Prairie’ creator Michael Landon cast three of his own children
Michael Landon was the creator of Little House on the Prairie, as well as the star. In addition to playing the role of Charles Ingalls, Landon also wrote and directed numerous episodes. Landon also had a role in casting the NBC drama, and he ended up casting three of his children in various roles.
First, he cast his son Michael Landon Jr. for a small role in the season 3 episode “The Election.” Then, he cast his daughter Leslie Landon in various small roles throughout the series before making her a full-time cast member in season 9 as school teacher Ms. Plum. Landon’s daughter Shawna also appeared twice during season 9 in two uncredited roles.
All nine seasons of Little House on the Prairie are available on Peacock.