Dr. George Tann

While in Kansas, the Ingalls became ill with what Laura calls "fever ‘n’ ague," an old-fashioned name for malaria. Malaria spreads through a parasite that lives in mosquitos, but the cause of malaria was not known at the time.

The Ingalls received treatment from a Black doctor named George Tann. If Dr. Tann had not been there to help them, the world might never have seen the Little House books!

George Tann was born about 1835 in Pennsylvania. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, Tann and his parents were among the thousands of Black Americans who moved to Kansas.

Tann became a doctor and was living in Montgomery County when the Ingalls family settled nearby. He treated the Ingalls for malaria in 1870 and likely attended when Caroline gave birth to Carrie in August of that year.

George Tann married Eliza Harrisen in 1873. They had two daughters, Naomi (1875-1961) and Estella (1877-1971). At the time of the 1900 Census, the family was living in the Cherokee Nation (then part of Indian Territory, modern Oklahoma).

After Dr. Tann's death in 1909, he was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Independence, Kansas. This video provides some more details about his life.

Learn More

This video provides more background on the experiences of African Americans and Native Americans during the time Laura was growing up.

Laura's World: Native Americans & African Americans on the Prairie

Places to Visit

On the modern tombstone erected to honor Dr. Tann, his birth year is incorrectly given as 1825. Census records put his birth in 1834 or 1835.

Mount Hope Cemetery (Independence, Kansas)

This historic site illustrates the involvement of African Americans in westward expansion and settlement of the Great Plains.

Nicodemus National Historic Site (Bogue, Kansas)

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