Edith Florence Ingalls is mentioned only in passing by her nickname, Dolly, in The Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She was only a baby in the chapter entitled “Christmas.” But that’s a thrill enough for this great-great-grandchild of hers! But what’s even more amazing is the story of how that branch of the Ingalls family converted to Catholicism, which gave me my Catholic faith.
Edith grew up to marry Heil Nelson Bingham and together they raised 6 children in Oakes, ND. Although not a Catholic family, they chose to send all their daughters to the Catholic school in town. Something must have struck Edith’s husband about the Catholic faith because eventually he converted to the Catholic Church, but Edith resisted. They were married for 38 years before he passed on.
Twenty years after his passing and as her time drew near, Heil appeared to her in a dream telling her, “Edith, you need to make up your mind.” The next morning she requested a priest. The family thought she must mean a minister, but Edith refused to see him and sent him away insisting that she wanted to see a Catholic priest. A priest was fetched and she received her sacraments, passing away the next day.
Edith was Laura Ingalls' cousin; her father was Peter Riley Ingalls, Charles Philip Ingalls's brother. This is a fascinating family account of conversion. Please read the rest there as the author describes how Heil and Edith's daughters became Catholic and married Irishmen, handing down the Catholic faith to future generations.