A generation first visited 'Little House on the Prairie' 25 years ago

By Tricia Johnson
Updated September 10, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

With its soothing mix of frontier adventure, wholesome melodrama, and pigtailed optimism, Little House on the Prairie, which premiered Sept. 11, 1974, was an instant hit. For nine seasons, viewers faithfully tuned in to the adventures of the Ingalls family, enthralled by the personal tragedies, natural disasters, and Michael Landon’s immovable mane. ”The show dealt with issues that are timeless,” says Melissa Gilbert. ”It represented what we all crave — home, family, community, and faith.” So what ever happened to America’s surrogate kinfolk? Here’s a Little peek:

The queen of TV movies, Gilbert (Laura), 35, has been the most visible of Prairie‘s cast members. Next up: CBS’ The Soul Collector, airing Oct. 24. The actress is also developing an A&E special about child stars with Leave It to Beaver‘s Tony Dow. She and her second husband, actor Bruce Boxleitner, live in L.A. with their four kids.

Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary), 36, appeared in TV movies after Prairie. Last year, she was in Fox Family Channel’s Earthquake in New York. She lives in L.A. with her husband, TV and film producer Michael Sloan.

Karen Grassle (Caroline), 55, settled in Louisville, Ky., where she was active in local theater. ”I still get letters from fans all over the world,” she says. She recently moved back to L.A. and plans to continue acting.

Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush, the identical twins who played daughter Carrie, were 3 years old when they were cast. Now 29, Sidney is a pro-rodeo barrel racer who trains horses in Colorado. Lindsay is raising her 4-year-old daughter in Acton, Calif., and says she may do TV again, ”but it wouldn’t have to be in front of the camera.”

Dean Butler (Laura’s husband, Almanzo), 43, recently guested on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Buffy’s dad; Linwood Boomer (Mary’s husband, Adam), 42, is creator and exec producer of Fox’s new Malcolm in the Middle.

Matthew Labyorteaux (Albert), 32, does voice-over work, most recently on Disney’s Mulan. (His brother Patrick stars on CBS’ JAG.)

Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson), 37, is an AIDS activist. ”The AIDS thing happened because of Steve Tracy,” she says of the late actor who played her husband, Percival. And she’s a stand-up comic: ”Being on Little House gives me lots of material. I introduce myself as ‘the Prairie bitch.”’