Posts Tagged With: wisconsin

“Enthusiastic Rejoicing of the People”

One hundred and fifty years ago today, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General U.S. Grant, ending the Civil War. For Hattie Bigelow, and the people in the northern states, this was a joyous day. Most Americans, too young to remember the end of World War II, can probably not imagine what this meant to the people. To imagine what Hattie would have experienced, we went to the newspapers of the time.

The Milwaukee Daily Journal dated April 11, 1865 reads “The wildest enthusiasm prevailed throughout the city yesterday, and the people turned out en masse to celebrate the last and greatest victory of the Union army. From morning till night the streets were filled with people, every one bearing in some device the national colors. East Water Street was decorated along its entire length with red, white and blue, as was also Wisconsin, Maine West Water street, and from nearly every building in the city “waved the starry flag.” 

“Early in the morning the people began to congregate in numbers at the corners of the principal streets, and as if by common consent, all places of business were closed. Every one was all animation, and in a short space of time was inaugurated one of the largest and most jubilant celebrations Milwaukee has ever witnessed. The cannon were brought out, and peal after peal shook the earth. The bells were rung [with] untiring zeal. Every available carriage or other conveyance was brought out, and every horse bore the national colors affixed to some part of the harness. The Chamber of Commerce took an active part in the celebration, and a delegation from that body hurriedly visited all the prominent business establishments, and organized in a surprisingly short time The Grand Procession.”

That evening buildings of the city were lit up in celebration, as the Milwaukee Daily News states: “In view of the glorious news of the surrender of Lee, the near termination of our bloody war and the prospect of early peace, The Daily News Building, together with the whole of Ludington’s block was illuminated last evening from the fifth story to the street. On East Water and Wisconsin streets and on the front facing Spring street the windows presented one blaze of light. It ia well to rejoice in a time like this. Our country has lived through four years of desperate war, and the government has been shaken to its very foundation. And now that the end approaches, and we hope for a speedy termination of our present great trouble, and the preservation of the old Union, and look to see the starry flag wave over the whole country with not a star erased, it is meet, we say, to rejoice. The hearts of a patriotic people are enlivened with this hope, and in accordance with and symbolic of this, the windows of THE NEWS office were illuminated, presenting a brilliant and gorgeous spectacle of light.”

How exciting it must have been for Hattie and her classmates to be let out of school to join in the celebrations. After four long years of war and suffering, peace had come at last. Colonel Buttrick was put in charge of the more formal procession and celebration to come the following week–but that’s another story.

 

 

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

A Delicious Celebration in the Classroom

 

Sixth graders welcome grandparents to a celebration of Midwestern history

Sixth graders welcome grandparents to a celebration of Midwestern history

Plankroad-0062As mentioned in the previous post, after reading Plank Road Summer, students in Burlington, Wisconsin, shared their knowledge of Midwestern history at the “1852 6th Grade Fair” held on Grandparents’ Day.  No fair is complete without food, of course.  Plankroad-9999In addition to building plank roads, coloring quilt blocks, and learning about the Underground Railroad, the visitors baked scones and drank freshly-squeezed lemonade.  Inspired by pioneer girls Katie and Florence in Plank Road Summer, one student even provided a taste test of strawberry preserves.

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Photo credits to Gretchen Hansen of Gigi’s Joy Photography.

 

 

Categories: Cornish in Wisconsin, county fair, Plank Road Summer Teaching Ideas | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Generations Celebrate Wisconsin History Together

Grandparents' Day guides at St. John's Lutheran School

Grandparents’ Day guides at St. John’s Lutheran School

Mrs. Rehberger and her students assist visiting grandparents in building a plank road

Mrs. Rehberger and her students assist visiting grandparents in building a plank road

On March 14, sixth graders at St. John’s Lutheran School in Burlington, Wisconsin, celebrated Grandparents’ Day by hosting an interactive classroom fair inspired by Plank Road Summer.

A visiting grandmother colors a quilt block

A visiting grandmother colors a quilt block

The students in Mrs. Claire Rehberger’s class chose their own projects, which resulted in a fascinating variety of activities and exhibits for the older guests.  Visitors to the classroom were invited to build a plank road, make scones and lemonade, color quilt blocks, taste strawberry preserves, listen to a live reading of Plank Road Summer, experience an audiovisual presentation about the Underground Railroad, and play a memory game about technology “Then and Now.”

 

Two grandfathers make scones in the sixth grade classroom at St. John's

Two grandfathers make scones in the sixth grade classroom at St. John’s

Photo credits to Gretchen Hansen of Gigi’s Joy Photography

 

Categories: Plank Road Summer Teaching Ideas | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Plank Road Winter” finished during Blizzard 2011

What better way to finish writing Plank Road Winter, set in Chicago and Wisconsin in 1871-72, than by candlelight, with the power knocked out by the second largest blizzard in Chicago history? Though some people might have complained about the storm, for Hilda and me, it was a perfect gift.    In our own homes, we settled down to hot chocolate or coffee and, sheltered from the howling winds and blowing snow,  hammered out the last couple of chapter revisions.

Winter, with its shortened days and cold weather, can be a season of darkness and despair.  My few hours of candlelight, while the blizzard raged outside, were enough to make me thankful for central heating and electricity.  The next morning, when the sun was bright, I sent my teenagers out to shovel.  When a neighbor came by with a snowblower, I felt obliged to leave my manuscript and lend a hand.  Once outside, my children and I found that the snow that had cut us off from the wider world also reconnected us to the neighborhood, as we ventured through the drifts to see how others were faring.  We helped dig out an SUV that tried, unsuccessfully, to make it down an unplowed road.  We invited a neighbor boy to jump off our porch railing into the snow below.  There was time for simple pleasures we don’t make time for in the rush of our everyday lives.

Plank Road Winter captures despair and dark days, but the story also celebrates the neighborliness that gets us through our difficult times.  We look forward to sharing the story with our readers.  In the meantime, we hope that you have come through the Blizzard of 2011, and we would like to hear snow stories from your neighborhood.

Categories: On Writing, Plank Road Winter | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Mother of All Book Clubs

Last Saturday evening Emy and I were guest authors at a meeting of a church book club in Racine, Wisconsin.  This congenial group meets once a month for a potluck supper and book discussion.  The ages of the members span a good five decades, and the pastor himself attends the meetings.

Not many authors travel to book events with their mothers, but ours serves as our financial manager and publicist.  And when Mom gets us a gig, she likes to attend the event.

Author Emily Demuth enjoying a meal inspired by Plank Road Summer.

Mom, Emy, and I were among the first to arrive at the parish house across the street from Pentecost Lutheran Church.  And then the club members began to arrive, each bearing a dish–and the dishes kept coming and coming and coming.   We learned that club member Kathy McGregor generally prepares fare from the book to be discussed that evening.

Plank Road Summer provided plenty of choices, for the book club supper included Cornish pasties, fried chicken, scones, strawberry preserves, cinnamon twists, and fresh-squeezed lemonade.  How the settlers of Yorkville would have enjoyed this meal–Emy and Mom and I certainly did.

The club members had plenty of questions for us, and their response to our book was gratifying indeed. Emy and I agreed afterward that we regretted only one thing about the entire evening: we wish we had talked less and listened more.

Many thanks to the Pentecost Lutheran Book Club for the  hospitality.  The food and fellowship were both outstanding.  Fueled by the prospect of another such gathering, Emy and I went straight home to work on our sequel.

Thanks also to Tim Hasko for inviting us and, of course, to Mom for being our number one fan.

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

A Plank Road!

Authors Emily and Hilda Demuth on a plank road!

Authors Emily and Hilda Demuth on a plank road!

Emma, an "unknown Laura" and Olivia on the plank road at the Dousman Stagecoach Inn
Emma, an “unknown Laura” and Olivia on the plank road at the Dousman Stagecoach Inn

Though Hilda might deny it, I believe we were giddy with delight when we first walked along the plank road by the Dousman Stagecoach Inn.   Never before had we been able to point to a plank road when describing our book to potential readers.

The “Days Gone By” event sponsored by the Elmbrook Historical Society put us right in front of an inn along a plank road and even provided girls running about in prairie dresses.  In truth, the girls were dressed up for a Laura Ingalls Wilder contest–but we couldn’t help but think of our characters Katie McEachron and Florence Mather when we saw them.   Unfortunately, one of our Lauras in the photo got away before we could identify her.

Spending an afternoon in Brookfield, Wisconsin, among people who keep history alive warmed our hearts, despite the chill of the day that made signing books difficult.  Many thanks to the volunteers at the Inn, and to the parents who brought their children to the event.  Someday those children will be the ones passing our shared history to future generations.

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

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