Archive for the ‘A Memory of Muskets’ Category

Chapter A Day

August 4, 2017

I am delighted to report that the 7th Chloe Ellefson mystery, A Memory of Muskets, was chosen to be shared on Wisconsin Public Radio’s beloved Chapter A Day program.

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Or as my husband put it, “Holy toboggans! Chloe’s latest adventure is on the radio!”

Jim Fleming, host of the popular program, has created a special abridged version of the book.

You can hear Jim’s half-hour readings on WPR’s IDEAS Network and streaming from https://www.wpr.org/programs/chapter-day weekdays at 12:30 PM (repeated at 11 PM) Monday, August 7th through Friday, September 1st. Each episode can also be heard on the Chapter A Day webpage for one week after its broadcast date.

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Here’s what Jim had to say:

I fell for Kathleen’s book based on the setting and the characters. I had visited Old World Wisconsin years ago and was charmed by it, lured by the connection to Wisconsin’s past. Kathleen does a wonderful job of painting the cross between then and now. Throwing in a mystery and the inevitable conflicts which can threaten a compelling worksite just made it better.

What many people don’t know about Chapter A Day is that it presents abridgments of most books. I can only read 10-12 pages in half an hour, and it’s important that those 12 pages present a satisfying experience for the listener. MOM would have gone on for too many weeks if I had tried to read it all. I didn’t know what to do about it initially, but finally realized it would be possible to keep the language, the setting and the mystery if I simply removed the part of the story, or most of it, that takes place in the past. The modern story reveals enough about the past to be understood. I was sad not to be able to keep it all but am pleased with the result.

I admit, I would have loved to have the book read in its entirety. But I knew Jim would do a fantastic job with the project. He sent an audio clip from the first chapter and Mr. Ernst and I were hooked.

And the truth is, book “publishing” in the broadest sense is collaborative. Editors, to varying degrees, influence stories. Cover artists create their image of a main character or theme. Readers bring their own imagination and experiences to each book.

I was thrilled when Tantor Media produced audiobooks of the first three Chloe books, read by the talented Elise Arsenault. Elise brought her own interpretation to the mysteries.

Now we’ll hear Chloe and Roelke and friends come to life in a new way, as Jim reads his version.

Wisconsin Public Radio is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and CAD is its longest-running program! It’s been airing since 1931. I’m honored that A Memory of Muskets can be part of it.

Wisconsin’s Civil War Draft

June 29, 2017

The 7th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, A Memory of Muskets, features the challenges faced by newly-arrived immigrants during the Civil War. Two plotlines show how German-born immigrants struggled in the 1860s and how a living history site like Old World Wisconsin can interpret those struggles a century and more later.

Larry H. at the Four Mile Inn, Old World Wisconsin, during a reenactment of the draft, sometime in the 1980s. Note the lottery wheel on the table.

One challenge that divided Wisconsin’s German-American community was the announcement of a draft in 1862. Many men of German birth or descent had already enlisted. Other German immigrants were vehemently opposed to compulsory military service—especially those who had left Europe to avoid just that.

This print shows a draft taking place in New York City. (Library of Congress)

Wisconsin was told to supply over 47,000 additional men to the Union Army. Governor Salomon, hoping to avoid conscription, protested that Wisconsin had already furnished five more regiments than previously required. He also predicted that if the draft could be postponed until after the autumn harvest, voluntary enlistments would rise (which proved true.) But in August, 1862, Salomon was ordered to begin the draft in counties where quotas had not been met.

A draft officer with a different style of lottery box. (Library of Congress)

Resistance to the draft was strongest in several counties along the Lake Michigan shore, where many German and Irish Catholics lived. Protests erupted in Sheboygan and West Bend. In Port Washington, a riot turned violent.

These ballots on display at the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum were used in Janesville, WI. Each eligible man wrote his name on a disc. Note the tool used to cut them.

The Wisconsin draft was largely unsuccessful. More than a third of the men drafted simply failed to report. Others purchased substitutes.

This draft drum was also used in Janesville.  (Wisconsin Veterans Museum)

And not all the opposition came from eastern Wisconsin. Sheila R., a Chloe reader who is an archivist at the Walnut Creek Historical Society (Walnut Creek, CA), kindly shared several letters she’s transcribed. They were written by David Seely of Elk Grove, Lafayette County, in the southwestern part of the state, to his children in California:

“Oh Ben and Emily what a Sad war this is. …There was a draft here last week of 160 men out of this county, 5 from this grove. There is a good deal of fus (sic) and I understand there is a Company of soldiers at Darlington to force the drafted men into the service as they are not willing go. A good many have run away. Some to Canada and the balance not heard from…” (Dec. 18, 1862)

“They have not been able to force the drafted men from this State into the ranks, we will be in a war here before long if things don’t Change for the better—if the north can’t whip the south the war ought to Cease and North and South compromise on some sort of terms…” (February 7, 1863)

“The people don’t pay any attention to the Draft—I don’t think 500 soldiers could take one drafted man out of this county— the people here are determined to stand up to their Rights and Resist Tyranny.” (February 15, 1863)

“All drafted men are getting their $300.00 to buy out from the service, and those that Cant Raise it will have to go poor Devils.” (November 23, 1863)

Clearly, this was an important issue during the war.

Reenactments can be a fun way to learn about not only battles and military tactics…

Old World Wisconsin.

…but social issues and homefront activities—like the draft—as well.

Mary K. and Bev B. showing the type of relief activities undertaken by civilians, Sanford House, Old World Wisconsin.

I hope A Memory of Muskets:  A Chloe Ellefson Mystery can do the same thing.

A Sampler For Rosina

June 22, 2017

Historical objects play an important role in all of the Chloe Ellefson mysteries. Often, finding an intriguing artifact in a museum collection inspires me to weave it into a story. Less commonly I go looking for an artifact to fill a specific fictional need.

That was the case when I decided that Rosina, a fictional German immigrant featured in A Memory of Muskets, needed to be working on a sampler. (This book features a historical plotline as well as the main contemporary plot.)

Rosina has had a difficult life, but she also has a bright spirit. I wanted to reflect this in her handiwork.

One of the places I looked for “Rosina’s sampler” was The Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database, a fabulous online gathering of artifacts from many societies and museums around the state.  Each is beautifully photographed and is presented with known information about the piece and, if known, its maker.

Here I found a sampler that was perfect to keep in mind as a template for Rosina’s. It is owned by the North Wood County Historical Society in Marshfield, Wisconsin.

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“This sampler descended in the Weigel family of Marshfield, Wisconsin. The object label on file at the North Wood County Historical Society reads: “Mrs. Paul Weigel, Sr., the former Anna Franzel, made this sampler in 1878 while working in Milwaukee. This sampler received many first prizes when displayed year after year in the Antique Booth of the Marshfield Fair.” Anna Weigel appears in the 1910 federal census for the community of McMillan, Marathon County, Wisconsin. She married Paul Weigel, a German immigrant, in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin in 1881.” (Database description)

So of course I had to visit the property where the sampler is displayed, the Governor William H. Upham House. It tells the fascinating story of William H. Upham, Wisconsin’s 18th governor, and his family.

It was fun to see the lovely Victorian mansion and its furnishings, and imagine the house full of life.

Best of all was seeing the actual sampler on display!

Want to see for yourself? The mansion is open year-round on Wednesdays and Saturdays, 1:30 – 4 p.m. A visit in warm weather means you can enjoy the Heritage Rose Garden, too.

For more information, visit the society’s website.

Rosina’s Cabin

May 26, 2017

“The Old Roelke place” featured in the Chloe Ellefson mysteries is a fictional farm set near Palmyra, Wisconsin. The original cabin on the property plays a key role in the 7th mystery, A Memory of Muskets.

I based the cabin on the one built in the 1850s by a real German immigrant. Henry Gotten and his wife Barbara emigrated from Prussia in 1845.  A decade later, in 1855, the Gottens purchased 80 acres of land about one mile west of the town of Eagle.

Henry cut white oaks and to build a one-room cabin, probably skidding the logs from the woods with oxen.

The building style is traditional German log construction. Gotten chinked the space between the logs with a lime-based mortar.

The cabin site is on the edge of the Scuppernong Marsh, beside a fresh spring. Although the sandy soil was not ideal for farming, in 1860 the US Census indicated that Barbara and Henry and their three children had managed to clear 30 acres and were growing wheat, rye, corn, oats, and potatoes.

At some time after 1860, the Gotten family moved on. Other families lived on the property, but by the time the Department of Natural Resources acquired the property, the cabin was in bad shape.

Happily, the cabin has been restored and is still standing within the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

It was easy for me to imagine Rosina, the character from A Memory of Muskets, seeing this one-room cabin for the first time. When she moved in, the cabin had no windows. She dreaded being isolated in the dark cabin during the winter.

Gotten cabin, back view.

In good weather, she took solace from the open space behind the cabin.

View out the back door.

Over a century later, Chloe is enchanted with the cabin…until she steps inside. As it turns out, all kinds of memories linger there. Can the issues be resolved? Check out A Memory of Muskets to find out.

The Gotten Cabin is located on County Highway N, just north of State Highway 59. It’s a five-minute drive from Old World Wisconsin. On summer weekends you may be able to see the inside, and get your questions answered.

If you visit the cabin, I recommend stopping at the headquarters for the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit, which is just a mile or so south on Highway 59. Displays help explain the historical and modern landscape. You can also get information about hiking trails in the area.  Enjoy!

Flax To Linen

March 15, 2017

I like to include folk art or craft in the Chloe Ellefson mysteries, and A Memory of Muskets is no exception.

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Rosina, the main character in the historical thread, is a newly-arrived German immigrant with little time for purely decorative handwork, so I decided to feature the process of creating linen. The contemporary mystery features Old World Wisconsin’s Schulz Farm, and processing flax into linen is a major interpretive activity there.

The Schulz Farm.

Linen is made of fibers from flax plants, specifically Linum usitatissimum. Flax plants for use in cloth production are generally harvested before they are quite mature—just when the stem begins to turn yellow.

Flax in Schulz garden. Photo by Loyd Heath.

Flax in Schulz garden. (Photo by Loyd Heath)

Once plants have been pulled, and seeds removed, a process called retting starts to break down the hard inner core within the stem. Some families put their stalks in shallow water. If an appropriate stream or pool wasn’t available, they relied on dew-retting. It was essential to watch this closely and retrieve the plants at just the right moment.

Dew retting flax in France. (Wikipedia)

Dew-retting flax in France. (Wikipedia)

Once retted, a hard outer shell still surrounds the flax fibers. The woman pictured below is pounding stalks in a flax break, which crumbles the shell into bits.

LC-DIG-prokc-20587 (digital color composite from digital file from glass neg.) LC-DIG-prok-10587 (detail of digital file showing single frame from glass neg.) LC-DIG-prok-00587 (digital file from glass neg.)

(Library of Congress)

Handfuls of the broken flax are held against a scutching board (center in the photo below) and scraped with a wooden knife to remove as much of the hard bits as possible.

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(Photo by Loyd Heath)

The flax is then cleaned by pulling it through hackles made with sharp iron teeth.

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(Photo by Loyd Heath)

The tangled bits left in the hackle are called tow (as in, a tow-headed child) and saved to spin into twine.

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Once clean, the long fibers resemble human hair (as in, a flaxen-haired beauty).

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(Photo by Loyd Heath)

When enough flax had been cleaned, it was time to carefully spread fibers around the distaff on the spinning wheel. The photo below, labeled only “Germany,” shows women with flax wheels. The distaff is to the upper right above each wheel, with a wide band holding the flax fibers in place on each.

(Author’s collection)

Here’s the flax wheel at the Schulz Farm at Old World Wisconsin. The spinner draws fibers down from the distaff; the wheel twists them into thread and winds them on the bobbin.

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The small bowl holds water. Spinning with wet fingers helps bind the individual fibers together.

A good spinner could make fine thread for delicate work, or something coarser, based on the fibers and need.

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Once lots of thread has been spun, the wrap threads are measured (on a pegged warping board, just barely visible in the back of the photo below), then carefully put onto the loom. This process is known as dressing the loom, or warping the loom. Each individual thread must maintain an even tension.

An interpreter weaves on the loom at the Schulz (German) farm.

This is the process Chloe agreed to take on in A Memory of Muskets. (Photo by Loyd Heath)

Finally, it’s time to weave. You can see the woven linen cloth wrapping around the lower beam in front of the interpreter.

Schulz House, Old World Wisconsin

Linen cloth is labor-intensive to make, but sturdy. The artifact monogrammed shirt below was the inspiration for the monogrammed shirt Rosina makes in A Memory of Muskets.

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According to textile historians, flax has been used in garments for over 4,000 years. That boggles my mind, considering how involved the process is. I was introduced to the process when I worked at the Schulz Farm way back in the ’80s.

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Kathleen Ernst, Schulz Farm, Old World Wisconsin

I’m glad I had a chance to spotlight it in a Chloe mystery.

Special thanks to my talented friend Loyd Heath for permission to use his photographs.  See more of his work HERE.

Gifts From The Heart

December 20, 2016

In A Memory of Musketsthe 7th Chloe Ellefson mystery, I had one of my Civil War-era characters, Rosina, make a housewife. In period parlance, housewives (or “hussies” as they were sometimes called) were little sewing kits. Women often made them as parting gifts for husbands, sons, or sweethearts who were leaving for war.

My dear friend Lynn has been studying antique housewives for years, and agreed to share photos of some of her favorites. The jpg files she sent were labeled “Gifts From The Heart.” I can’t think of any better title to convey the care and concern women stitched into these housewives.

Lynn wrote, “I love them all and often imagine the story in each one.” I’m grateful to her for sharing, and I hope they help you imagine the stories as well.

Look at the detail in this one.

Each housewife is unique. Lynn notes that the housewives were often the width they were because that is the exact size of bonnet ribbon ties, which were often used to line the housewives, along with fabric scraps.

Some women embroidered her soldier’s initials or regiment on the housewife. The stitching on this one identifies the owner as a member of the 1st regiment, company F. (State unknown).

By the end of the war, many of the housewives were well worn.

I love the fabrics used in this one—different, but clearly chosen to complement each other.

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This one was designed to be rolled up instead of folded.

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The strings on the first example below would tie the housewife closed. Pockets might hold a thimble, thread, a bar of soap, or some patent medicine. Flaps were added to store pins and needles. Some women tucked in a lock of their hair or a small image or note.

Lynn has also found newspaper clippings inside housewives. A clipping in one of the housewives in her collection was folded into a star shape.

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Each of these is a treasure. Each represents both the woman who made it, and the man who received it. In this holiday season, they are a reminder that gifts from the heart, however simple, are always the best.

Springerle

November 29, 2016

I love including food traditions in the Chloe Ellefson mysteries.  A Memory of Muskets features German heritage. Rosina, the main character in the historical plotline, brings her Bavarian mother’s springerle mold as a treasured memento when she immigrates to America.

People have been making beautiful springerle for centuries. Some food historians believe these cookies originated in pagan times among Germanic tribes. During Julfest, in the darkest days of the year, rich farmers sacrificed animals to the gods. Peasants made token sacrifices by offering cookies shaped like or decorated with animal designs.

The design is made in the surface of the cookie by pressing a mold onto rolled dough. (Or using a rolling pin carved with the patterns.) Today clay and wooden molds have been replaced by resin, and modern bakers make many different flavors.

springerle molds

I had never baked springerle before, and was eager to try it. My friend Andrea, an experienced springerle baker, gave me some tips. It didn’t sound too difficult, and I decided to bake them for the book’s launch party.

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A sample of Andrea’s beautiful springerle.

I made two kinds. The first was a version made with whole wheat flour and sweetened with sorghum, which was an approximation of what my character Rosina might have been able to make in the 1860s. The second was a fancy anise-flavored batch made with white flour and powdered sugar.

The project was a little trickier, and took a lot longer, than I’d anticipated.

I have limited counter space and use a narrow rolling pin. The first challenge was figuring out how thin to roll the dough, and getting it rolled perfectly evenly.

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The second challenge was figuring out how hard to press the mold into the dough. The mold I’d chosen featured a woman spinning flax, which was perfect to reflect A Memory of Muskets. However, I had some trouble getting all the fine details to show up in the cookies.

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springerle

The final challenge was producing cookies with neat edges. I don’t own a pastry cutter, so I used a pizza cutter and a paring knife.

First try. My edges need some work.

First batch after baking. My edges need some work.

I’m sure I just need more practice. Also, there are helpful tools available for purchase, such as rolling pin guides to ensure even (and proper) dough thickness, and cutters that eliminate the need for trimming the cookies.

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Historically springerle were leavened with hartshorn salt, also known as baker’s ammonia (ammonium carbonate). Experts say that cookies made with hartshorn salt have a crisper design, but a softer texture than those made with baking powder.

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I ended up taking three days to make each batch.  Day 1, make the dough and refrigerate overnight.

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Day 2, roll the dough, mold and cut the cookies, transfer to a cookie sheet, and let dry overnight. This step helps keep the design sharp during baking.

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Day 3, bake, cool, store.

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There are an amazing number of mold designs available, including many reproductions of historic molds. If you’d like to try making springerle, a quick Google search will provide recipes and all the information needed to mail-order molds and other supplies. A good place to start browsing is http://www.springerlejoy.com, but there are other good ones.

I can see why people get hooked on springerle. And yes, I did serve them at my launch party. Not one person mentioned crooked edges.

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Are you planning to bake springerle this holiday season? If so, I’d love to see pictures!

Gratitude Giveaway Winners!

November 21, 2016

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Congratulations to:  Rita AguilarGloriasue ArrizaSusan CarozzaKathi O’Brien HackettAngela-Scott HollandMelissa Keith, and Lois Scorgie. Each will receive a free trade paperback Chloe Ellefson mystery book of their choice, signed and personalized.

Thanks to all who entered the A Memory of Muskets 75 Days in Top 1% Gratitude Giveaway!  Winners were chosen at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author page.

Gratitude Giveaway!

November 18, 2016

Thanks to my most wonderful readers, the seventh Chloe mystery is doing well!

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In honor of A Memory of Muskets ranking in the Top 1% of all US Book Sales for 75 days, seven lucky people will be chosen to receive a signed and personalized trade paperback copy of one of my seven Chloe Ellefson mysteries—winners’ choice.

To enter, leave a comment below before Midnight US Central time this Sunday, November 20th. Winners will be chosen at random from entries here and on my Facebook Author page. Winners will be announced on Monday.

You can learn more about the Chloe series on my website. Good luck!

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The Schulz Farm – Part 2

November 11, 2016

The Schulz Farm at Old World Wisconsin is featured in my latest Chloe Ellefson Mystery, A Memory of Muskets. Last time, I shared photos of the house.

Schulz Farm, Old World Wisconsin

But if you’ve read the book, you know that some of the action takes place in the yard.

The farm features many Old World elements. One change, however, is evident in the layout of the outbuildings. In Pomerania, the buildings would likely have formed a closed square. In Wisconsin, where available land was still plentiful, farmers kept the square formation but often spread the buildings out. (Another outbuilding would have formed the 4th side of the square.)

In the map of Old World Wisconsin’s German area below, the Schulz Farm is on the left. The farm at center bottom is the Koepsell Farm. It’s also Pomeranian-style, and shows a complete courtyard arrangement.

Old World Wisconsin

(Map courtesy of Old World Wisconsin.)

The building below is the Koepsel Stable (not to be confused with OWW’s Koepsell Farm. Farms exhibited at the site are named for the family that lived in the house; usually outbuildings came from different families). It was built in the Town of Lebanon, Dodge County, c. 1855.

Like the house, it is half-timbered. It features an exterior stairway and 2nd story exterior walkway. In the Old Country, when the courtyard was enclosed, animals kept there could take shelter from sun or rain beneath the overhang.

Loyd Heath - Stable b on the Schulz farm. By Loyd Heath.

(Photo by Loyd Heath.)

Notice the darker mortar on the 2nd story? That’s actually the original mud and straw mixture from the 1850s. The lighter color is mortar replaced at the time the building was moved to the site.

Koepsel Stable, Old World Wisconsin

 

Schulz Farm, Old World Wisconsin

A Memory of Muskets readers – this is the end of the stable featured in chapter 1.

The other impressive structure on the Schulz Farm is the Grube Barn, from the Town of Emmet, Dodge County, c. 1855.  Architectural historians consider this a transitional structure because it was built with a half-timbered frame, then covered with siding.

This is a grain barn, reflecting the period when wheat was Wisconsin’s cash crop. It has a central drive-through (the big center doors are closed in the photo). The two side areas were used for grain storage.

Grube Barn, Old World Wisconsin

 

Both of the outbuildings on the Schulz Farm have thatched roofs. The traditional thatch was rye straw, which has a waxy coating. German farmers grew rye for their own needs, and saved the straw for thatching or basket-making.

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German women used coiled rye straw baskets to hold round loaves of bread while rising prior to baking in a brick bakeoven.

In this interior shot you can see the barn’s half-timbered frame, and the underside of the thatched roof.

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After harvest, men used the central floor of such grain barns for threshing.

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(Photo by Loyd Heath.)

Here, a farmer uses a flail to beat kernels of grain from the stalks spread on the floor. Some men also led horses or oxen over the grain to trample kernels free.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of one of the fascinating farms at Old World Wisconsin!

Special thanks to my talented friend Loyd Heath for permission to use his photographs.  See more of his work HERE.