Archive for the ‘Mining For Justice’ Category

Mining For Justice Giveaway Winners!

August 23, 2018

Congratulations to SHIRLEY HYING, DIANE JOHANSON, and SUE SMITH! Each won a signed, personalized copy of Mining For Justice in this month’s 8 Books in 8 Months Giveaway. Winners were chosen at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author page.

Thanks to all who entered! Stay tuned—Mr. Ernst and I have more fun planned for September.

Mining For Justice Giveaway

August 21, 2018

This year from January through August I’m holding monthly giveaways of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries. The featured book for August is the eighth in the series, Mining For Justice.

To enter the giveaway for Mining For Justice, leave a comment below before 11:59 PM (Central US time), August 22, 2018. One entry per person, please.

Three winners will be chosen at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page, and announced the next day. Each winner will receive a personalized and signed trade paperback copy of Mining For Justice
Good luck!

Digging for Information

August 20, 2018

It’s challenging to find primary-source information about Territorial Wisconsin. While researching Mining For Justice, the 8th Chloe Ellefson mystery, I was therefore delighted to learn that a few newspapers from 1837 still exist, and have been microfilmed.

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 6.56.35 PM

July 28, 1837. How cool is that?

They helped paint a picture of Mineral Point.

MFP - 7.14.37

Advertisements and editorials helped me understand what goods were available, and how much they cost.

MFP - 12/22/37

“Oats are from fifty cents to a dollar per bushel, the whole year round–corn the same, and potatoes almost so. Butter is thirty seven cents a pound, and all other articles in proportion….”

This notice reassured me that it was quite reasonable to have Ruan open his own blacksmith shop.

MFP 7.28.37

“The subscriber informs the public, that he has opened the above business, and intends carrying it on, in all its various branches….”

I found editorials, such as this one about Governor Dodge.

MFP 8.11.37

“We are now perfectly satisfied that Governor Dodge is unfit to be Governor of Wisconsin–and that he should forthwith, immediately, and without delay, resign a station so important to the people, for which he is entirely unqualified….”

And this notice for a missing man helped me write my own.

MFP - 9/29/37

“…Any intelligence of his fate communicated by letter…will be immediately handed to his disconsolate wife.”

I wouldn’t have known these scans existed if the kind and helpful archivist at the Mineral Point Library hadn’t clued me in. Mining For Justice readers will know that I portrayed Midge, the fictional archivist, as a research whiz. I had lots of similar help, and I’m grateful!

The Mining Museum

July 31, 2018

The latest Chloe Ellefson mystery, Mining For Justice, features Wisconsin’s lead mining era.

To learn about the miners’ work, the Mining Museum in Platteville, WI, is a great place to explore.

Touring the 1845 Bevans Lead Mine with a knowledgeable guide is a highlight. The lead region produced over 27,000 tons of lead that year!

 

About to descend into the mine. I’m holding a piece of lead ore, which is heavier than it looks.

Mining Museum staff discovered the exact location of the Bevans Mine, which had long been closed, in 1972. The city of Platteville opened the mine to the public four years later.

Mining Museum, Platteville WI

Mannequins have been arranged along the tour route to depict several aspects of mine labor.

 

Mining Museum Platteville

Just for comparison—same scene without a flash. The guides carry flashlights, and there is lighting in the mine, but spending time there reminds guests in a visceral way that these men worked in dark conditions.

 

Mining Museum, Platteville

Heavy labor.

 

Mining Museum, Platteville, WI

The “man” on the right is holding a gad (used like a chisel to loosen rock) while his partner drives it into the rock wall. This teamwork required trust and skill. Note the sticking tommy with candle in the wall nearby.

 

IMG_0883

I’m looking at a pile of rubble shoved aside and left behind by miners. It helped me picture a key scene in Mining For Justice. Museum Educator Mary is on the left.

In addition to the mine, there are formal exhibits to explore.

Mining Museum, Platteville

This display reminds guests that Native Americans were smelting lead long before white miners arrived.

 

Mining Museum, Platteville

I love this diorama, showing how miners would work down until they found a promising drift of ore. They would then dig horizontally, following the drift until it played out.

 

Version 2

Regulations for miners.

One particularly interesting display was developed by students at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Historians knew that African American miners were involved in the lead boom, but the students dug out details about freed and enslaved black men.

In addition to touring the mine and museum, I visited one day when Stephanie, former long-time curator at the museum, was demonstrating how lead was heated to a molten state and poured into molds to make ingots.

Mining Museum, Platteville WI

Stephanie melts down lead over an open fire.

 

Mining Museum, Platteville WI

Once in a liquid state, the lead was poured into molds. After cooling, the bar of lead can be flipped out. Lead was made into ingots for ease in transporting.

 

Mining Museum, Platteville

Many thanks to Mary and Stephanie for their help!

The Mining Museum is open May through October. If you plan a visit, be sure to check the website for full details. And it’s a two-fer! You can also tour the city’s Rollo Jamison Museum.

Figgy Hobbin

December 28, 2017

I love exploring traditional foodways, especially if they have an ethnic flair. Not surprisingly, the protagonist of my Chloe Ellefson Mysteries does too. The latest book in the series, Mining For Justice, is all about the Cornish miners and their families who helped turn rough mining camps in what would become southwestern Wisconsin into communities.

One of the Cornish treats Chloe discovers is figgy hobbin—although historically, it wasn’t actually a treat. Her hostess, an elderly Cornish-American woman named Tamsin, explains that in old Cornwall needy people ate hoggans:

“Oh course, the truly poor people had to make do with hoggans,” Tamsin said. “Flatbread with a morsel or two of pork baked into it. My father said they were hard as rocks. Women made them of barley flour when wheat was too dear.”

Mine workers like these men and women might have made a meal of hoggans.  (“Dolcoate Copper Mine” engraved by J.Thomas after a picture by Thomas Allom, published in Devon & Cornwall Illustrated, 1832. Steel engraved print with recent hand color.)

Food traditions are not static. Hoggans evolved into figgy hobbin, a dish similar to mince pie, made with beef suet, lard, and raisins in a pastry, served with perhaps a little milk and sugar. (In parts of England “figgy” means raisins or currants, and some linguists believe “hobbin” is a diminutive of “oven.”)

The dish has evidently almost disappeared from Cornish tables, but an even sweeter version is alive and well in Mineral Point. Mining For Justice is largely set in that charming Wisconsin town. If you visit, stop by the Red Rooster Cafe for some figgy hobbin. Their dessert is topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream.

At the Red Rooster Cafe on High Street, Mineral Point, WI.

With advance planning you can also enjoy figgy hobbin at The Walker House.

Figgy hobbin is easy to make at home, too.  Here’s a basic recipe.

1 batch of your favorite pie crust
extra flour for rolling
1 T. grated orange peel or 1 T. orange marmalade (optional)
3  T. cinnamon
1/4  c. brown sugar or raw sugar
1/2 c. raisins or dried currants
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
3 T. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll pastry into a rectangle about 10 x 8 inches. Brush pastry with the melted butter. Mix orange peel, cinnamon, sugar, dried fruit, and chopped nuts and spread in an even layer over the crust. Leave some open space around the perimeter to facilitate rolling.

Roll gently into a log.

Place on an oiled cookie sheet with the seam at the bottom. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. (Note:  I brushed the top of my roll with egg white, something several of the recipes I consulted recommended. For my taste, that created a too-brown top, so I wouldn’t do that again.) Slice and serve.

If desired, top with warm caramel sauce and/or whipped cream.

Enjoy!

Pendarvis – Part 2

November 21, 2017

The last post highlighted the three most famous historic structures at Pendarvis Historic Site, Polperro, Pendarvis, and Trelawny. All played a role in the 8th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, Mining For Justice.  But there’s more to see.

Pendarvis Historic Site

After leaving those buildings, steps lead up the hill to the upper property.

Pendarvis Historic Site

Looking back, over the rooftops, you can see the pool across the street from Pendarvis. It was a CCC project, and some of the stones came from dismantled cottages. Pendarvis house is on the right in the foreground.

Another building featured in the mystery is the row house on the upper property.

Pendarvis Historic Site

The upper rooms on the right are used for staff offices (including Claudia’s in Mining For Justice.) The cabin on the left end was home to the Martin family. When renovating the row house Robert Neal and Edgar Hellum created a replica Cornish pub called a Kiddleywink in the cellar.

Pendarvis Historic Site

The pub comes to life during special events.

The historic site also owns property across the street that was once covered with mining operations. Pick up a walking tour guide at the visitor center before setting out.

Pendarvis Historic Site

You’ll have to use your imagination to picture the hill with no trees—just the diggings of miners searching for lead.

The hill is pockmarked with depressions left by miners digging out shelters for themselves.

Pendarvis Historic Site

The easiest badger hole to see in this photo is in the upper right corner—the depression where trees are now growing.

You’ll also find evidence of later mining ventures. A large zinc mine was operated here from 1906 to 1913.

Pendarvis Historic Site

The old equipment and the beautiful building date to the zinc mine era.

I hope this mini-tour will help you picture the action in Mining For Justice. Even better—go see Pendarvis for yourself!  The site buildings are open seasonally, but Mine Hill is accessible all year.

Pendarvis – Part 1

November 15, 2017

It’s lovely when readers tell me that after reading one of the Chloe mysteries, they toured the historic site or museum spotlighted in the book. Pendarvis, the site featured in Mining For Justice, the 8th Chloe Ellefson mystery, is a great place to visit!

Pendarvis

For those who aren’t able to make the trip, here’s a mini cyber-tour of the site.  (Warning:  includes mild spoilers.)

Polperro House features unusual architecture.

Pendarvis Historic Site

The lower floor features exhibits of mining equipment.

Pendarvis

A steep flight of steps leads to the upper level, which is furnished to reflect a Cornish immigrant family in the 1830s.

Polperro - Pendarvis

Polperro

Here’s the top of the staircase.

Polperro - Pendarvis Historic Site

Polperro

This house also includes a root cellar dug into the hill behind.

Pendarvis

From there, a walkway leads from Polperro…

Pendarvis Historic Site

to the next houses on the tour, Pendarvis and Trelawny.  Both are traditional stone cottages.

Pendarvis Historic Site

The back door to Pendarvis leads into the kitchen…

Pendarvis house

then on into the parlor/bedroom.

Pendarvis

Looking to the right as you enter the main room.

 

Pendarvis

Looking to the left. The hatch above the bed leads to a crawl space.

The final house on Shake Rag Street, Trelawny, tells the story of Bob Neal and Edgar Hellum, whose efforts to preserve old buildings lead to Pendarvis Historic Site—and launched a preservation ethic in Mineral Point that continues to this day.

Pendarvis Historic Site

The path to Trelawny.

Formal exhibits describe how the men used the buildings.

Trelawney

The photos were taken during the period when the men ran a nationally-renowned restaurant featuring traditional Cornish food.

While other rooms show how the house looked when the men were in residence.

Trelawney

 

I hope this photo tour helps you visualize the action in Mining For Justice. Visit the site website to learn more about visiting Pendarvis yourself.  Visit my website to learn more about the Chloe Ellefson mysteries.

Next time:  the rest of Pendarvis!

Bal Maidens

October 23, 2017

Many of the Chloe Ellefson mysteries, which are set in the 1980s, include a plotline set further in the past as well. The 8th adventure, Mining For Justice, features Cornish immigrants who arrived in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, in the 1830s. Most were mining families, attracted by news of lead deposits in the southwestern part of what is now the state of Wisconsin.

I knew I wanted to create a strong Cornish woman for the historical plotline. And I decided to begin her tale in Cornwall so I could quickly establish both her strength (physical, and of character) and her vulnerability.

Readers meet Mary Pascoe when she is eleven years old and working as a bal maiden—bal, meaning “mine” in Cornish, and maiden referring to young or unmarried women. Bal maidens did manual labor on the surface of mine sites, processing ore.

Note the female workers in the foreground.  (“Dolcoate Copper Mine” engraved by J.Thomas after a picture by Thomas Allom, published in Devon & Cornwall Illustrated, 1832. Steel engraved print, hand-colored later.)

Women in the far southwestern regions of Great Britain have likely done tin and copper mine work for centuries, and written records date to the 13th century. In the 1800s it was common for girls to begin at about ten years of age, but documented cases show that a few started doing mine work as young as six years old.

Three Bal Maidens.  (Woodcut, Peeps into the Haunts and Homes of the Rural Poulation of Cornwall, 1879.)

The work was difficult, sometimes dangerous, and often done in the open air, exposing workers to harsh weather. Some of the duties included spalling (breaking ore into smaller pieces with long-handled hammers),

(Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1858)

and cobbing (breaking washed and sorted ore into even smaller pieces with a different hammer).

(Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 1858)

Some observers worried not only about physical strain, but about the impact of working in rough conditions, near men, on the female workers. In Mining For Justice, Mrs. Bunney, from the fictional Christian Welfare Society, expresses her concern to Mary:

It’s not only the danger inherent in mining work that troubles me. I’m worried about your soul. You are surrounded daily by rough men who use foul language. Young ladies like yourself should be cultivating modesty and grace. How can you do that here?

Mary was a capable worker, and like many of actual bal maidens who were interviewed, she didn’t especially mind the work.

(Illustrated Itinerary of the County of Cornwall, by Cyrus Redding, 1842)

However, Mrs. Bunney’s questions and indifferent treatment during the fictional interview do leave Mary wondering, for the first time, about her self-worth.  The question stays with her after she immigrates to the territory that would become Wisconsin.

I love having the chance to shine a little candlelight on everyday women who, a century or more ago, did amazing things but left few concrete records behind. I hope my fictional foray into the life of a woman who knew hard work and heartache before leaving Cornwall honors the legacy of Cornwall’s bal maidens.

Miners and bal maidens with typical equipment and protective clothing at Dolcoath, 1890.  (Wikipedia)

# # #

To learn more about bal maidens, visit the Bal Maidens and Mining Women website, which includes a list of books on the subject by Lynne Mayers.

Mining For Justice Event Details!

September 10, 2017

 

Mining For Justice, the 8th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, is officially slated to be released on October 8th. But we’ve got three special early launch activities planned.

 

 

 

RADIO

I’ll join popular host Larry Meiller during his Wisconsin Public Radio program on September 28 from 11:45 AM to 12:30 PM, discussing Mining For Justice and taking calls from listeners.

Larry’s show is streamed live over the Internet and broadcast over WPR’s Ideas Network (AM 930, 970, and FM 88.1, 88.3, 88.7, 88.9, 89.1, 90.3, 90.7, 90.9, 91.3, 91.7, 91.9, 107.9).

Listeners are encouraged to contact the show to ask questions and make comments. This can be done via Facebook or Twitter, by email to talk@wpr.org, or by calling (800) 642-1234.

 

LAUNCH PARTY

The official Mining for Justice launch party will be held on September 28 evening at the Mystery To Me, Madison, WI, 6:00 PM.

Mystery to Me is a fabulous independent bookstore. I’ll introduce the important themes in the book and answer questions. Enjoy Cornish Saffron Buns and door prizes. 

Yes, there is a Green Bay Packer game that evening at 7:30. We’re starting a little earlier than usual—and Mystery to Me has teamed up with Brocah, just down the street.  They offer great TV viewing, and have specials planned too.

 

CORNISH FEST

 

What better place to launch Mining For Justice than the 25th Annual Cornish Fest in Mineral Point, Wisconsin!  The book is largely set at Pendarvis Historic Site in that charming town.

Saturday, September 30, 11 AM  Mining For Justice Book Talk at the Opera House, 139 High Street.  Free.

Join me as I open a window into my creative and research processes, sharing some of the many challenges I encountered as I worked to construct a riveting mystery while remaining true to the real people of history whose lives I sought to honor.  Books will be available for purchase and I will be happy to sign them!

I will also be signing books at Pendarvis Historic Site during their Crowdy Crawn, 1-5 PM.  Free.

Crowdy Crawn is a Cornish expression that refers to entertainment that is “a mixture of things.”  This year’s event will include traditional craft demonstrations such as spinning, quilting, basket making, knitting, and rug hooking, and Cornish storytelling.

And, I will be signing books during the Pasty Supper, starting at 5:30 PM, at the Walker House, 1 Water Street, Mineral Point.

Pasty Supper and More:   Dine on the Walker House Salad, Beef Pasty, Pasty Sauce, Saffron Bun, Figgyhobbin, Wollersheim Red/White Wine or New Glarus Spotted Cow beer, or other Beverage (Soda, Coffee, Tea).  Pizza for kids.  Entertainment with ghosts and Tommyknockers. $14.25 + tax., 9 and under $6.65 + tax

Sunday, October 1, Mining For Justice illustrated program, Pendarvis Education Room, 11 AM.

Join me for a presentation featuring the buildings and artifacts that inspired plot elements.  Books will be available for sale and signing.  And you’ll have plenty of time to tour Pendarvis afterwards!

I am excited about these launch events, and I hope you can join the fun!  I’ve got lots of other events planned for the fall, too.  You can always find more schedule information on my website’s Calendar page.

Why Mining For Justice?

August 10, 2017

I have more story ideas banging around in my head than I’ll ever find time to explore. My files about possible historic sites and museums to explore in a Chloe Ellefson mystery are ever-growing. So why did Pendarvis Historic Site in Mineral Point, WI, rise to the top of the list?

Pendarvis is a collection of historic structures that date back to pre-statehood days. It was the first historic site I visited after moving to Wisconsin to work at sister-site Old World Wisconsin, and I remember enjoying the tour immensely.

The area has a fascinating history I wanted to learn more about—always a plus when plunging into a year-plus-long project.  Miners arrived in the 1820s to dig lead, most of them looking for quick hauls before moving on or heading back home. In the next decade miners from Cornwall arrived. Many brought their families, and the Cornish played a major role in turning a hardscrabble mining frontier into a community.

As I began conceptualizing the 8th book in the series, I thought first about where Chloe and Roelke, the main characters, were emotionally at the end of the 7th book, A Memory of Muskets. Where did I want them to go next on their emotional journey? What site and plot would reflect their personal challenges? As I played around with story ideas to weave together in the new book, I started seeing powerful connections. (I love it when that happens.)

Then there’s Mineral Point itself—it’s charming. Many readers have suggested that Chloe visit. I know Chloe and Roelke fans will enjoy exploring not just Pendarvis, but the area’s museums, architecture, art galleries, and restaurants.

I’m excited about Mining for Justice! We’ve got some special launch activities planned for the fall. I’ll share more details soon, and you can always find more information on my website. Stay tuned!