Archive for the ‘HISTORIC SITES’ Category

The Heirloom Murders – A Retrospective

February 13, 2018

Welcome back to the behind-the-scenes look at the Chloe Ellefson mysteries! Up today: The Heirloom Murders, second in the series.

I knew where I wanted to go after wrapping up the first book, Old World Murder—Green County, Wisconsin, famous for its Swiss heritage. My father’s parents were born and raised in Switzerland, so that was a natural draw.

 

Fondue dinners in New Glarus became “research trips.”

Me and Mr. Ernst, New Glarus Hotel.

Spotlighting Swiss heritage, and places like the Swiss Historical Village & Museum and the National Historic Cheesemaking Center, satisfied my wish to celebrate Wisconsin’s cultural heritage and museums.

It was great fun to learn more about sap sago and other aspects of Swiss cheesemaking. And the timing was good—staff and volunteers at the Cheesemaking Center in Monroe were restoring the Imobersteg Farmstead Cheese Factory on their grounds while I was writing the book.

I knew nothing about heirloom plants, and how much diversity we’ve lost, until I went to work at Old World Wisconsin in 1982. I was fascinated by the topic, and the role historic sites around the world play in preserving genetic diversity. As I considered what aspect of museum work to showcase, heirloom plants and rare-breed livestock seemed like a good fit.

Antique apples like these may not look perfect, but they have more taste than some types bred to look good over long transports.

I’d known about the legendary Eagle Diamond, and thought it would be fun to fictionalize the story of its discovery and eventual theft. This book was the first in the Chloe series to include a thread of historical fiction, braided with the more contemporary plot strands. Reader feedback was positive, and I’ve used this approach in most of the later books.

Eagle Diamond

Five views of the Eagle Diamond. (Wikipedia)

Many authors say that the second book in the series is the hardest to write. (The first was written on speculation, without a contract; suddenly, there’s a deadline imposed on #2.)  The Heirloom Murders wasn’t harder to write, but it was challenging to market. The overall plot involved a woman’s death, a stolen diamond, Swiss green cheese, and heirloom gardening. Try summing that up in a concise but appealing way! And that’s without mentioning the main characters’ personal lives.

My original title for this book was “Deadly as Diamonds.” My editor changed it because another author with the same press had a book coming out with “diamond” in the title. When I saw him a few months later at a conference I gave him a hard time for “stealing” my key title word. Turns out his original title hadn’t included the word “diamond” at all, but it was changed for a similar reason!

SPOILER ALERT – plot points are discussed below!

The first thing I do when planning a book is think about the main characters’ emotional growth. Just when Chloe was finally moving on after what happened in Switzerland, Markus shows up. Chloe and Markus have a great deal in common.  Chloe and Roelke, not so much. That provided some good conflict.

A number of readers let me know that they particularly enjoyed meeting Johann and Frieda Frietag, even though they had a small role. That was a good reminder that minor characters need just as much care and complexity as the main ones!

I imagined Frieda bustling about this kitchen when Chloe and Markus visit. Swiss Historical Village & Museum, New Glarus.

The main mystery plot about Bonnie Sabatola’s death came from a late-night talk I had with an Eagle police officer. I was doing a second-shift ridealong and when we got back to the station, the conversation somehow turned to cases that had packed an emotional wallop. While working for another police department, he’d encountered a situation similar to what I described—a murder made to look like suicide.

The questions surrounding the case gave Roelke a lot to work with, and showed his tenacity. I’d already heard from readers who wanted to see more of him.  I hope his fans enjoyed his role in bringing the killer to justice. However, this book also revealed his trouble with anger management. Roelke threatens Markus with physical harm, and kicks Simon Sabatola. As an author, that may have been a risky choice, but I wanted Roelke to be a complex character, struggling with real issues.

So, what did you think? If read books one and two in order, did you want Chloe to end up with Markus, or Roelke? Did you understand Roelke’s anger, or was that indefensible? Was justice served? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can explore relevant people, places, and the past on my webpage for The Heirloom Murders. Resources include a Google map, a Locations Guide, full Discussion Guide, a recipe for Swiss Pear Bread, and links to lots of additional background material. Happy reading!

National Historic Cheesemaking Center. Photo by Mr. Ernst.

Chloe 9 Reveal!

February 6, 2018

Last week I zipped the manuscript for the 9th Chloe Ellefson mystery off to my publisher. This week, it’s available for pre-order! I’m excited to provide a peek at the next adventure for Chloe and Roelke.

Curator Chloe Ellefson needs distraction from the unsettling family secret she’s just learned. It doesn’t help that her boyfriend, Roelke McKenna, has been troubled for weeks and won’t say why. Chloe hopes a consulting job at Green Bay’s Heritage Hill Historical Park, where an old Belgian-American farmhouse is being restored, will be a relaxing escape. Instead she discovers a body in a century-old bake oven.

Chloe’s research suggests that a rare and valuable piece of lace made its way to nearby Door County, Wisconsin, with the earliest Belgian settlers. More importantly, someone is desperate to find it. Inspired by a courageous Belgian woman who survived cholera, famine, and the Great Fire, Chloe must untangle clues to reveal secrets old and new . . . before the killer strikes again.

The Lacemaker’s Secret will be published in October, 2018.  You can pre-order now:

IndieBound – Trade Paperback
https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780738753546

Amazon – Trade Paperback
https://www.amazon.com/Lacemakers-Secret-Chloe-Ellefson-Mystery/dp/0738753548/

Amazon – Kindle
https://www.amazon.com/Lacemakers-Secret-Chloe-Ellefson-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0795R5H4C/

Books-A-Million (BAM) – Trade Paperback
http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Lacemakers-Secret/Kathleen-Ernst/9780738753546?id=7179386161819

The story of Wisconsin’s Belgian immigrants is compelling, and I hope The Lacemaker’s Secret honors those early settlers—and the many people who have worked hard to preserve and interpret their history at Heritage Hill, and the Belgian Heritage Center in Namur.

Researching Old World Murder

January 27, 2018


St. Peters Church at Old World Wisconsin in 1982.

 

Mr. Ernst here. Extensive research is an important element in crafting the ‘people, places, and the past’ that appear in every Chloe Ellefson mystery, starting with the first, Old World Murder (OWM).

As the author, Kathleen does the vast majority of research. But as her spouse (and “partner in crime”) I enjoy the great good fortune of being allowed to help. It’s something we both really enjoy doing.

 

OWM takes place during May 1982. Key scenes are set in southeastern Wisconsin at real places, including Old World Wisconsin (an outdoor history museum) and the nearby towns of Eagle, La Grange, and Palmyra.

View of the Crossroads Village at Old World Wisconsin in 1982.

Kathleen tasked me with three types of research and documentation.

General Background

This one’s a bit of a ‘guess as you go.’ All I usually begin with is the story’s time period, locations, and featured ethnic group. (Kathleen doesn’t talk about her works-in-progress, which I fully respect; I rarely get to read a manuscript until just before she sends it to her publisher.)

For OWM I read local newspapers published during the first half of 1982. This involved days spent squinting at microfilm scrolling by on a viewing screen at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison.

While hard on the eyes, some interesting and/or potentially relevant details were uncovered about the story’s time period and locations. Kathleen used a few of them in the book. Others weren’t included, but ended up influencing the story. Most served  neither purpose.

Old World Wisconsin Museum Seasonal Employment ad in Waukesha Freeman Newspaper, March 6, 1982 issue.

Waukesha Freeman Newspaper, March 6, 1982.

As Old World’s newly hired Curator of Collections, Chloe would have had benefits and a salary of about a dollar more than the $3.43/hour and no benefits that Guide/Interpreters received in 1982.

Kathleen started as a Lead Guide/Interpreter at Old World in 1982, earning $3.80/hour (equal to $9.70 in 2018) without benefits.

Eagle Police pay raise OK'd article, Waukesha Freeman Newspaper, February 5, 1982 issue.

Waukesha Freeman Newspaper, February 5, 1982.

In 1982 Roelke McKenna held a temporary Patrolman 1 job with the Eagle Police Department (EPD) earning $6.00/hour (equal to $15.35 in 2018) without benefits. He worked extra shifts whenever they were available, and dreamed of securing a permanent EPD position, if/when one opened up. His boss, Chief Naborski, was paid $8.50/hour.

(If you are surprised by the 8% raise the village board gave out, consider that in the previous year the US inflation rate hit 11%.)

Specific Objects

Kathleen also asked me to research and recommend suitable objects for characters, together with details and images. Here are three that met her approval and ended up being written into the story.

Photo of a 1975 Buick Electra Limited. Source: SunAutoWorld.com.

1975 Buick Electra Limited. (SunAutoWorld.com)

Mrs. Berget Lundquist drove this to Old World to ask Chloe to return a valuable antique Norwegian ale bowl she had donated. Berget could barely see over the steering wheel of her 2 ton, 19 foot long behemoth.

Smith & Wesson Model 10 Revolver. (Photo by Scott Meeker.)

While on duty as a Village of Eagle police officer, Roelke carries a 6-shot, .38 caliber, Smith & Wesson Model 10 service revolver like this. First introduced in 1899, it was still being carried by police in the 1980s.

A Piper J-3 Cub. (Barnstormers.com.)

A Piper J-3 Cub. (BarnStormers.com.)

Having previously earned his single engine private pilot’s license, Roelke dreams of buying a “sweet little” Piper J-3 Cub he sees at the Palmyra, WI, airport.  Note from Kathleen: Mr. Meeker loves to fly, and has a pilot’s license, so I gave that attribute to Roelke.

Visual Documentation

Kathleen does a fair amount of research ‘in the field’ and I am usually along to take photos and video of potential story locations and objects. These can often be valuable references when she writes scenes, sometimes months later.

We also used them in the illustrated programs she gives, as well as on her website, Facebook Author page, Pinterest boards, and this blog.

And we used them to create a short video about researching ale bowls at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Kathleen wrote the script and appears on-screen; I taped and edited. It was our first such effort.

Still image of the Migration of a Tradition video. Kathleen Ernst, LLC. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Migration of a Tradition. Copyright 2010 Kathleen Ernst, LLC.

Based on what she learned studying Vesterheim’s extensive collection, Kathleen imagined the bowl at the center of the mystery. Here it is.

Photo of the antique Norwegian ale bowl in Old World Murder. Author's collection.

Reproduced antique Norwegian ale bowl. Author’s collection.

This is what Mrs. Lundquist donated to Old World. This copy was created by two Vesterheim Gold Medalists, wood carver Becky Lusk and rosemaler (rose painter) Janet Kjenstad.

Note from Kathleen: After the book was published, Mr. Ernst secretly had the one I described reproduced, and gave it to me for my birthday. We display it when giving my Chloe Ellefson program

Odds & Ends

And as always, I discovered items that grabbed my attention, but ended up having no connection to the story. Here are three.

Ad for Kringles from Larsen's Bakery in Racine, WI being sold by Girl Scout Troop 369. Waukesha Freeman, April 17, 1982.

Waukesha Freeman Newspaper, April 17. 1982.

If you are not familiar with this delightful Danish delicacy, then you have my sincere condolences. Those of us in Badgerland who do, know that Larsen’s Bakery in Racine, WI, is the source for some of the very best Kringle available outside of Denmark. Ah, if only Girl Scouts still sold them door-to-door!

Eagle Bank Robber Gets 16-Year Term article, Page 2., Waukesha Freeman, March 16, 1982.

Waukesha Freeman Newspaper, March 16, 1982.

I’m with the judge, this fellow’s life was “most incongruous.” BTW, his total take of $28,881 is equal to $66,208 in 2018.

Three Candidates Say There Are No Issues article headline from the Waukesha Freeman, March 23, 1982 issue.

Waukesha Freeman Newspaper, March 23, 1982.

This headline is from an article about two incumbents and a challenger competing to fill two seats on the Town of Eagle Board. Most of the article consists of candidate bios, but two sentences stood out. The reporter wrote that “All three said there were no issues in the race.” And the challenger said he only ran to create competition, adding “It’s such a small town and life seems to go on.”

But Wait, There’s More

Hopefully this research has piqued your interest in discovering more about the ‘people, places and the past’ in Old World Wisconsin.

There’s a whole page full of information about it on Kathleen’s website, including a discussion guide for the book, a custom Google map showing story locations, a recipe mentioned in the book, a slide show of objects featured in the story, a public radio interview with Kathleen, additional blog posts, her video introduction to Old World Wisconsin, and links to booksellers that carry OWM. To explore them, click HERE.

Next month I’ll post an article about researching The Heirloom Murders, the second book in the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series.

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!

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!

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.

franzelsampler_northwoodcountyhs-1

“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.

Telling Everyone’s Stories

June 15, 2017

I have been visiting Williamsburg for 50 years. When I was a kid, most of the stories told were about the white men who struggled and took enormous risks in their effort to create an independent country. What our Founding Fathers did was amazing and important.

But there are other stories to tell, too. One of the pleasures of each return visit is seeing what new programs have been developed. A change I love? Having the opportunity to learn about all kinds of people who lived in or visited Williamsburg in the 1770s.

When I was researching Gunpowder and Tea Cakes:  My Journey With Felicity, I visited an exhibit that helped visitors understand the importance of religion and spirituality among black people living in Virginia, enslaved and free. Learning about the religious beliefs of enslaved people is challenging, because they left few artifacts or other records behind.

Sometimes sailors brought certain meaningful shells or other items from Africa, and sold them to black people in Virginia.

“Ritual Objects: When they adapted or crafted ritual objects from natural or found materials, slaves sought a direct connection to the natural world and its power.”

This gentleman talked with me about religion and faith among free blacks and enslaved people. Some became Christians. Others tried to keep in touch with African culture, or perhaps blended the two.

I also had the opportunity to attend a play that humanized the pain of an enslaved family torn apart. This black actress portrayed an enslaved woman who thought she had a close relationship with the woman who owned her…

…until she learned that she was going to be separated from her child.

A real highlight of my visit was attending a program where I learned about the importance of music within the black community—especially in slave quarters.  African music helped them feel connected to their homeland. For those who converted to Christianity, singing spirituals gave them hope.

African music is about rhythm. Large drums were sometimes prohibited by slave owners, who feared they might be used for communication (for example, to share information about an uprising.)

Some songs from the time period have lasted. Many songs were private, however, and have not been preserved.

It isn’t always easy to interpret difficult topics such as slavery.  The relationships among enslaved people, free blacks, and white residents in Colonial Williamsburg were complicated.  (Native Americans too! But that’s another story.) I’m grateful to all of the researchers, program planners, and interpreters who today provide a more complete glimpse of Colonial Williamsburg in all its complexity. Everyone’s story is important!

+ + +

 

Some of what I discovered became things that the main character discovered in Gunpowder and Tea Cakes:  My Journey With Felicity.  You can learn more on my 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!