Posts Tagged With: Wisconsin history

Primary Sources

This week Hilda and I will be part of a panel, Historical Literature: Wisconsin Authors Open Portals to the Past, at the Wisconsin State Reading Association Convention. We look forward to sharing the love of books, reading, research, and writing with others.

source photo

Use our new activity to explore primary sources with your students.

As part of our preparation for this event, we have a new resource to share with our readers and teachers. We had developed a primary source activity to use on school visits. It involves matching primary sources that shaped our writing with pages from Hattie’s War. We have just uploaded a PDF of the activity on our “Resources for Teachers” page. We hope that it can be a valuable tool for your classroom.

Advertisements
Categories: Hattie's War, On Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

From Jubilation to Mourning

In Hattie’s War, Hattie and her family celebrate the war’s end with the rest of Milwaukee. Little did she know how quickly the joy would pass. The city was still decked out in red, white, and blue when the news came from Washington–President Lincoln had been shot and killed. Those who can remember President Kennedy’s assassination, or the days after 9/11, can imagine the grief and horror experienced by the people of Milwaukee when the news reached them on Saturday.

The Milwaukee Daily News for Sunday, April 16, 1865 headline read “The City of Milwaukee in Mourning.”
The appearance of our streets yesterday presented a sad and striking contrast with that of last Monday. Upon the receipt of the news of the fearful crime at the National Capital, the people were stricken with a paralyzing grief and horror. Men gathered together in little groups at the corners of  streets, and many wept while listening to the recital of, or perusing the dispatches. Never has such a deep gloom settled upon the people. So sudden and unexpected was the whole affair, that it seemed like a frightful dream, and people seemed to be in a [d]aze — loth to believe the report till the signature of Secretary Stanton confirmed it beyond doubt. The mayor, Abner Kirby, promptly issued a proclamation requesting the suspension of business, and that all buildings be clothed in mourning. The request was at once complied with. Flags upon buildings and vessels were placed at half-mast, and the solemn black and white drapery was hung out from very many buildings, reminding one and all of the sorrowful calamity. The whole of East Water Street was clothed in mourning — far different from the colors which were exhibited on Monday last. All business was suspended. There was no bustle, no activity. Men and women walked in silence, many bearing some emblem of mourning. No one but expressed sorrow and regret, and denounced the murderers. Less than one week ago it was our lot to chronicle one of the most jubilant celebrations Milwaukee ever witnessed, today one of the greatest reasons of mourning. May we in future be spared the latter trial.

In my last post, I mentioned that Colonel Buttrick had been put in charge of the celebration parade for the city. Here’s the rest of the story.

The Death of the President— The Funeral Ceremonies In Milwaukee
“The celebration of the nation’s victories, fixed for the 20th, is abandoned, and in its stead the people are called upon to pay tribute of respect to the memory of our chief magistrate, whose tragic death has filled us with horror, and whose loss to the nation has bound us together with the bonds of a common sorrow. The funeral ceremonies, consisting of a procession and orations, will take place on the day of the funeral of President Lincoln to be announced hereafter. Meanwhile, all associations, societies and organizations in the city are requested to report as soon as practicable, to the undersigned that they may be assigned a place in the procession. We have called upon those who have been and still are in the service, to rejoice with us. We ask them now to unite with us in our public manifestation of respect to the memory of one whom a nation honors and whom history will make immortal. Details will be published hereafter.
By direction of the committee,
E. L. BUTTRICK,
Chief Marshal”

Categories: Civil War, Hattie's War | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing Plank Road Winter

On Sunday, September 30, 1:00-4:00 pm, Emy and I look forward to welcoming the public along with old friends and neighbors at the Plank Road Winter launch party.  The celebration will be held at the 4-H Clover Center, 17640 Old Yorkville Road, a few miles north of Union Grove,Wisconsin.  This 1885 schoolhouse stands at the very heart of the original Yorkville settlement.

Set almost twenty years after the adventures of Katie and Florence, Plank Road Winter features thirteen-year-old Sophie Caswell, who longs to escape the dull farming community of Yorkville. Sophie’s plans are thwarted when the Chicago Fire leads to the arrival of twelve-year-old Hans Hoffman and his family at the nearby McEachron farm. While Sophie stubbornly pursues her dreams, Hans struggles to adapt to a world very different from his bustling Chicago neighborhood.

In the spirit of nineteenth-century community gatherings, the entertainment at the Plank Road Winter launch party will include traditional music provided by John and Susan Nicholson of the Milwaukee band  Frogwater and old-time dancing called by Patricia Lynch of the West Side Victorian Dancers.

We hope to see you there!

Categories: On Writing, Plank Road Winter, Racine County, Yorkville, Wisconsin | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Writers’ Retreat over Winter Break

After celebrating Christmas and the New Year with our families, Hilda and I snuck away for a much-needed writers’ retreat. We escaped to Wisconsin, where we holed up for two nights at the Lawson House Bed & Breakfast in Hales Corners.

Though we had already completed several drafts of “Plank Road Winter,” we worked through another rewrite, changing the point of view from first person to third person, shifting a main character in the book, and strengthening the sequel’s connections to “Plank Road Summer.”

The Lawson House could not have been a more perfect place to write. We learned that the house is located along what had once been the old Janesville Plank Road, which runs into Milwaukee. We enjoyed fabulous breakfasts and wonderful hospitality. The large front room with a fireplace and comfortable furniture allowed us to settle in for hours of reading our manuscript aloud, editing old chapters, drafting new ones, and laughing and crying together as sisters do.

During breaks from our writing tasks, I leafed through various historical books scattered about the room. In one, I read about the Hales Corners Stock Fair that had taken place once a month from 1871-1958. This bit of local history actually wound up in our novel. We left the Lawson House inspired and refreshed with a manuscript ready for our editor to see.

Categories: History of Plank Roads, On Writing, Plank Road Summer book, Plank Road Winter, Wisconsin | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Old-Time Dance in Yorkville, Wisconsin

This morning Patricia Lynch, Civil War dance instructor in Milwaukee and president of the West Side Soldiers Aid Society, emailed me a wonderful treasure–a PDF of a page from a dance tunebook used by Yorkville settlers in the plank road days.

According to the file description listed for this example of “Pioneer Dance Music” in the Racine Heritage Museum, the handwritten notebook of tunes and dance notations was “brought from the east by Rubin Waite in 1837 and used by three generations of the Waite family:  Rubin Sr., his son Lorenzo,  and his grandson Menzo, who donated the book to the Racine Co. Historical Room.”

The page is marked “3d Sett” and contains a reel and two jigs.   Neatly-inked quarter- and eighth-notes caper above a swirling script:

First 4  R & L/ Bal – 4  Swing/ Ladies chain/ All promenade //

These figures are familiar to square dancers and contra dancers today.  Old-time dance communities still flourish in the Midwest, following in the footsteps of the Yorkville settlers who promenaded in the Waite’s Corners schoolhouse or the ballroom of the Mather Inn.

Click here to see the 3rd Sett

If you attend the Plank Road Summer book launch at Yorkville Elementary School (see the Events page), you can join in old-time dancing with caller Dot Kent and the Hoosier Recruits, a contra dance band.  The Recruits may well be playing a dance or two out of the Waite family tunebook.

Categories: Racine County | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Plank Road Trippin’

Nine winters ago Emily and I were plugging away at our Plank Road book, snatching time from our families and other responsibilities–“sneaking away to write,” I called it.  When we weren’t scribbling, we were daring to dream about what our summer would be like if I received a Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship.

I got the grant.

After much whooping and hollering we  finalized our plans for the Plank Road Trip–a week of travel to historic sites with a Dickensian entourage (two authors, our mother, Emily’s husband Franklin, our sister Gretchen, and six children, ages four to ten) followed by a week of digging in archives and scribbling without the entourage (courtesy of Mom and Dad and Gretchen, who looked after the children while we snuck away to write).

Many of Wisconsin’s best-known historic sites are relevant to Plank Road Summer:  Wade House was an inn on a plank road, Pendarvis was settled by Cornish immigrants, and Milton House was an Underground Railroad station.  The Scotch Settlement church building attended by the McEachrons now stands in Stonefield Village.  The living history interpreters at Old World Wisconsin and other sites provided us wonderful details about daily life in pioneer households.

“We’re the Demuth sisters — we’re writing a book.”  That line opened doors and drawers and cupboards for us, as volunteers and staff members shared what they knew, eager to discuss the making of strawberry preserves or the threshing of wheat.

Nine winters later, we are planning a reprise of the Plank Road Trip, this time to schedule book signings.

At this point we don’t know whether our entourage will be quite as Dickensian, but we do know how much we owe to the volunteers and staff at historic sites who share our passion for the past.

Categories: On Writing, Plank Roads | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.