Posts Tagged ‘The Lacemaker’s Secret’

Belgian Star Barns

October 10, 2022

While driving back roads in northeast Wisconsin as I researched the 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, I encountered a handful of old Belgian structures featuring stars. Most of them were white, on the gable ends of barns.

Near Union, WI.

No one seemed to be sure of the custom’s origin, although some historians have speculated that they represented the settlers’ strong religious faith.

There are a handful of Catholic Churches in the region named Stella Maris (Our Lady, Star of the Sea), an ancient title for the Virgin Mary. It signifies protection and guidance.

Near Algoma, WI.

I chose to incorporate that idea into one of the book’s pivotal scenes. Last July, when participants on a tour of Belgian sites in the vicinity asked about star barns, I promised to share some photos.

Near Rosiere, WI.

I hope these shots will help you imagine the scene!

One of my favorites! Near West Kewaunee, WI.
And a star house! The brickwork on this beautiful home is astonishing. Near Rosiere, WI.

By the way…I’ve neglected my blog of late in order to focus on manuscripts in progress. I’ll try to do better. Happy autumn!

Belgian Sites Tour

March 4, 2022

I’m delighted to announce that the Belgian Sites Tour inspired by the 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, is a go! The special event will take place—live and in-person—on Saturday, July 9, 2022.

A full day of programming by the amazing folks at the Belgian Heritage Center in Door County, Wisconsin will provide exclusive insights into the world Chloe explored in the the book.

Highlights include a Great Fire Presentation, a lunch featuring traditional Belgian food, and a guided bus tour of the Namur National Landmark Historic District. I’ll also provide a behind-the-scenes program about The Lacemaker’s Secret.

Space for this unique experience is limited. Click HERE for more information, and to register. I’m excited!

Save The NEW Date!

May 9, 2020

Due to the pandemic, my friends at the Belgian Heritage Center and I have decided to postpone the special Chloe tour scheduled for this summer.

The NEW date is Saturday, July 10, 2021. The tour plan outlined below remains the same. We all need things to look forward to, right?

The 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, takes place in northeast Wisconsin where early Belgian immigrants made their homes.

When readers asked for a special book-themed tour of the area, I turned to my friends at the Belgian Heritage Center in Brussels, WI.

We’ve planned a very special excursion for readers on Saturday, July 11, 2020. I hope you’ll join Mr. Ernst and me as we explore featured locations and learn about the inspiring history of one of Wisconsin’s lesser-known ethnic groups.

Activities will include:

  • Great Fire Presentation

This powerful program will be provided by Barb Chisholm, historian at the Belgian Heritage Center. The Great Fire, which happened on October 8, 1871, was devastating for southern Door County’s Belgian community. Two of Barb’s ancestors survived the fire by hiding in a well, and part of her presentation shares her great-grandmother’s experience.

  • Guided Bus Tour of Namur National Landmark Historic District

Experience Belgian culture and tradition on a narrated tour of the largest Belgian settlement in the United States. The tour will include Belgian architecture, Roadside Chapels, and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

  • The Lacemaker’s Secret Illustrated Presentation

Learn more about the stories, places, and artifacts that inspired Chloe’s—and Seraphine’s—stories.

  • Time to explore the Belgian Heritage Center’s exhibits.
  • Traditional Lunch of Booyah, Bread, & Belgian Pie.
  • Optional add-on tour of Heritage Hill State Park’s Belgian Farm (Friday)

Space will be limited, so save the date!

When the time is right I will announce registration here on my blog, in an email to those signed up for my mailing list, and on my Facebook Author Page.

Save The Date!

March 22, 2020

I’ve been dithering about whether to announce the Chloe tour scheduled for this summer. In the spirit of optimism…here you go.

The 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, takes place in northeast Wisconsin where early Belgian immigrants made their homes.

When readers asked for a special book-themed tour of the area, I turned to my friends at the Belgian Heritage Center in Brussels, WI.

We’ve planned a very special excursion for readers on Saturday, July 11, 2020. I hope you’ll join Mr. Ernst and me as we explore featured locations and learn about the inspiring history of one of Wisconsin’s lesser-known ethnic groups.

Activities will include:

  • Great Fire Presentation

This powerful program will be provided by Barb Chisholm, historian at the Belgian Heritage Center. The Great Fire, which happened on October 8, 1871, was devastating for southern Door County’s Belgian community. Two of Barb’s ancestors survived the fire by hiding in a well, and part of her presentation shares her great-grandmother’s experience.

  • Guided Bus Tour of Namur National Landmark Historic District

Experience Belgian culture and tradition on a narrated tour of the largest Belgian settlement in the United States. The tour will include Belgian architecture, Roadside Chapels, and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

  • The Lacemaker’s Secret Illustrated Presentation

Learn more about the stories, places, and artifacts that inspired Chloe’s—and Seraphine’s—stories.

  • Time to explore the Belgian Heritage Center’s exhibits.
  • Traditional Lunch of Booyah, Bread, & Belgian Pie.
  • Optional add-on tour of Heritage Hill State Park’s Belgian Farm (Friday, July 10)

Space will be limited, so save the date!

I sincerely hope that all of us feel comfortable traveling by July. Since we don’t know how events will unfold, however, I am not yet taking reservations for the tour. When the time is right I will announce registration here on my blog, in an email to those signed up for my mailing list, and on my Facebook Author Page.

Sabots

April 22, 2019

When I went to work at Old World Wisconsin many years ago, one of my first assignments was working at the 1860 German farm. The curator who’d furnished the building left a couple of pairs of reproduction wooden shoes near the back door. “Aren’t those Dutch?” visitors often asked.

I explained that many rural people wore such clogs. (In this 1982 photograph I’m wearing a pair while knitting in the doorway of the 1845 Fossebrekke cabin, home to Norwegian immigrants.)

The clogs were sturdy, and kept the wearer elevated from muddy pastures and mucky barns. Most that I’ve seen are pretty basic.

This pair worn by a Swiss immigrant is on display at the Swiss Historical Village & Museum, New Glarus, WI.

I got a lot more interested in wooden shoes when I began learning about the Belgian immigrants who settled in northeast Wisconsin for the 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret. One man recalled:

While at work or at home the Belgians all wore wooden shoes…  When plowing, they wore them without socks, for the sabots soon filled up with loose soil.  …They were also worn in winter when logging or working around the sawmills.  They then tacked on long canvas leggings which made cheap and serviceable footwear.  The sabots of the women were fastened on the foot with a strap above the instep.  A few could even dance with them but that was exceptional.  (Hjalmar Rued Holand, Wisconsin’s Belgian Community, Door County Historical Society, 1933)

Belgians called their clogs sabots. The word can be traced to early 17th century France—a blend of savate (shoe) and botte (boot). (Most of the Wisconsin Belgians spoke Walloon, a language similar to French.)

By the early 20th century, another word had developed: saboter, which roughly meant “to kick with sabots, to willfully destroy.” These acts of willful destruction gave rise to one more term:  sabotage. One definition provided by Merriam-Webster is this: “destruction of an employer’s property (such as tools or materials) or the hindering of manufacturing by discontented workers.”

Early in my research I found a reference to poor tenant farmers in Belgium wearing their sabots to crush harvest crops if they were angry with their employers. How could I not use that in my novel?

Now that I was paying more attention to wooden shoes, I was attracted to a pair on display in the Belgian Farm at Heritage Hill State Historical Park. These are the sabots that are attributed to Seraphine in The Lacemaker’s Secret.

I love the decorative carving on these. The shoes are still practical, but beautiful too. (I don’t know what the small holes were used for—perhaps to tie the shoes together when not being worn?)

I’ve since read about other sabots that were carved or painted.  Some were evidently quite colorful.

These shoes, on display at building owned by the Peninsula Belgian American Club in Namur, inspired another pair mentioned in the mystery.

And here’s a beautiful pair:

Sabots

On display at the Peninsula Belgian American Club, Namur, WI.  I’m sorry I don’t know who made them.

Sabots popped up again when I read about the plight of Belgian civilians during the German occupation of World War I. This headline is from the September 25th, 1914 edition of the Green Bay Gazette:

Version 2

(Associated Press)

Every day at 5 o’clock a bell rings in the Exhibitions Hall of Alexandra Palace, whereupon 1,500 hundred women, children, and old men, with a scattering of youths, set up a clatter of wooden shoes.  This amusement park is now the largest camp for Belgian refugees in the London district….

The Belgian settlers continued to wear their sabots in Wisconsin. The photo below is one of my favorite images in the extensive Belgian-American Research Collection in the UW-Green Bay Archives (shown here on exhibit at the Belgian Heritage Center, Namur, WI.)

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(Mrs. Frank Martin pumping water for the cows.  Photo dated March 5, 1919)

Many Belgian people wore sabots as they met challenge after challenge. I was thinking about that when I wrote one of my favorite moments in The Lacemaker’s Secret, when Sharon makes a confession:

“Seraphine must have had a hard life. All of the earliest arrivals did. I probably shouldn’t admit this to a curator, but…sometimes when I’m facing a challenge I slip off my shoes and stand in Seraphine’s sabots.” Sharon’s gaze flicked to Chloe, then away again as if afraid she’d see mockery.

But Chloe was anything but amused, or annoyed. “Standing in her shoes,” she said softly, with complete understanding.

“Exactly.” Sharon’s shoulders relaxed. “Seraphine—all of the women who came in those early years—they were so courageous. Their faith was so strong. It’s inspiring.”

Artifacts are most precious for the stories they can tell, and the people they represent.  Belgian sabots are a wonderful example.

Large Print Giveaway Winners!

March 28, 2019

Congratulations to Dianne Martingano, Miriam R. Nelson, and Kathleen Newberg! Each won a signed, hardcover copy of the large print edition of the 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret.

Winners were chosen at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page.

Thanks to all who entered!

Large Print Giveaway!

March 26, 2019

This week a large print, hardcover edition of my latest Chloe Ellefson mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, is being released.

Would you like to win a signed copy? For yourself, a loved one, or your local library?

“In this heartfelt tale of labor and love, Ernst produces one of her most winning combinations of historical evocation and clever mystery.”  —Kirkus Reviews

Enter to win by leaving a comment below before 11:59 PM Central Time on Wednesday, March 27th. Three winners will be chosen at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page.

One entry per person, please. The winners’ names will be posted here and on my Facebook page the following day.

Good luck, and happy reading!

Our Lady Of Good Help

February 22, 2019

Adele Brise was born in Belgium in 1831, and immigrated to Wisconsin with her family in 1855. The Brise family settled about 16 miles northeast of the city of Green Bay in Robinsonville, now Champion, Wisconsin.

Little is known of Adele’s early years, but she was remembered as a devout young woman.

Our Lady of Good Help
(Photo on display at Our Lady of Good Help)

In October, 1859, apparitions of the Virgin Mary occurred to Adele as she was walking through the woods. Mary instructed Adele to teach local children in the faith. Adele devoted the rest of her life to that charge.

AdeleBriseStudents
Adele Brise with students. (CatholicLane.com)

Many church leaders doubted the veracity of Adele’s story. Her friends and neighbors believed, however, and Adele’s father built a chapel nearby. In time it was replaced with a larger chapel, and facilities for students.

In 1871, during the Great Fire, some area residents fled to the grounds. They processed around the chapel carrying the statue of Mary. Conditions almost overwhelmed them, but Adele instructed them to pray. When the firestorm finally passed, everything around the chapel grounds had been destroyed. The outside of the fence was charred, but the grounds were undisturbed. 

Adele Brise, Our Lady of Good Help
Adele Brise was not a nun, but she adopted attire similar to a nun’s habit. (Photo on display at Our Lady of Good Help)

Adele’s vision was not accepted by the church before she died in 1896. Finally, over century later in 2010, the apparitions were formally approved. Today, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is the only Marian shrine in the United States on the site of an approved apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I read about Adele while doing early research for The Lacemaker’s Secret, the 9th Chloe Ellefson mystery, which focuses on Belgian immigration to Northeast Wisconsin. I wanted to include Adele’s story. As a non-Catholic, I also wanted to be respectful.

Before making any final decisions, I visited the site itself.

Our Lady of Good Help

It includes a small museum that tells Adele’s story.

National Shrine Of Our Lady Of Good Help
The apparition appeared between a maple tree and a hemlock tree. These are pieces of the roots of those trees.
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The site includes a contemporary church, home to an active congregation. The sanctuary is beautiful.

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Around a corner and down some stairs is the Apparition Oratory.

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These crutches near the entrance are testament to reports of visitors being healed of illness or affliction after a visit.

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To me, even more powerful was the absolute, reverential beauty of the small chapel.

IMG_4739

 

I knew that if Chloe visited the chapel, she couldn’t help but be moved as well. I decided to have her visit at an emotionally low point, so she could find solace.

The grounds are also peaceful and inviting.

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This is Adele’s grave.

Version 2

The building below is a roadside chapel that was moved to the site and restored in 2003.

Our Lady of Good Help

Visitors are welcome to visit any day of the year, from 7 AM to 7 PM.

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Print

To learn more about The Lacemaker’s Secret, or my other books, I invite you to visit my website.

Click here for a more detailed account of Adele’s story.

The Lacemaker’s Secret Giveaway!

January 29, 2019

I’m celebrating last fall’s successful launch of the ninth Chloe Ellefson Mystery with a Giveaway! Nine winners will receive a signed and personalized trade paperback copy of The Lacemaker’s Secret.

To enter the Giveaway, leave a comment here before 11:59 PM (Central US Time) on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. One entry per person, please.

Nine winners will be chosen at random from all entries here and on my Facebook Author Page. Winners will be announced here on Thursday, January 31. Good luck!

Chloe Ellefson Mysteries Update

January 25, 2019

The 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, scheduled for release in September, 2019, will be the last one released by publisher Midnight Ink—which is shutting down.

The setting for book 10!

While that isn’t good news, since the announcement I’ve been overwhelmed by the support from wonderful Chloe and Roelke fans. Thank you!

I do want to continue the series. My upbeat and savvy literary agent has already sent a proposal to a press which has expressed interest. The publishing industry wheels can grind slowly, but—fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I’m focusing on finishing Chloe 10. The manuscript is due to my editor on March 1. My recent Chloe books have been about 95,000 words in length, and I’m at 85,000 words now. I’m getting there!

Mr. Ernst and I also want to do everything we can to demonstrate to potential publishers that the series is still going strong. Thanks to you, we had a very successful launch of the 9th Chloe mystery, The Lacemaker’s Secret, in October. Now we want to keep expanding the circle of Chloe Ellefson Mystery readers.

To that end, next week we’re going to hold, here and on my Facebook page, a special Giveaway for The Lacemaker’s Secret. We hope that loyal readers who have already read the book will encourage friends to enter.

Writing online reviews, and recommending the books to your local library, are also enormously helpful.

Over the past decade, Mr. Ernst and I have had an amazing time exploring historic places and meeting new reader-friends. We’re grateful! We’re optimistic that with your help, the adventures will continue.