Sunday, August 28, 2011

Preserving the Past For Future Generations

While researching my upcoming novel, Threads of Hope (Realms/Charisma House) the first book in my new Fabric of Time series, I garnered the help from Wisconsin’s Brown County Historical Society and learned about the Hazelwood Historic House Museum. Built to face the Fox River in Green Bay, Hazelwood was the original home of Elizabeth and Morgan Martin. As I gazed at Mr. Martin’s portrait, I thought of my own characters, Sam Sundberg and his father, Karl, who are Indian Agents and involved in local politics – just like Mr. Martin had been. I laughed at the coincidence.

The parlor

The kitchen
A guided stroll through Hazelwood revealed so much to me about life in the 1840s, particularly 1848, the year Wisconsin became a state. I had actually assumed life in Green Bay, Wisconsin at that time was rustic and uncivilized – and much of it had been. However, as both a busy port on Lake Michigan with access to the Fox River, Green Bay was nearly as sophisticated as Milwaukee and vying with it and other cities to be Wisconsin’s major port. The Erie Canal had opened in 1825, so by 1848, Green Bay received shipments from all over the world, although much of the commerce consisted of fur trading. The Fox River, I was told, was like a freeway system. Barges, canoes, and sundry other boats filled the river and traveled to and from the Bay of the Great Lake.

The characters in my story seemed to come alive and, after my tour, I felt confident about the historical facts I’d used in my upcoming novel, Threads of Hope. No textbook could have taught me what I’d learned on my tour of Hazelwood.

Years ago when I wrote my novel, Love Finds You in Miracle, Kentucky (Summerside Press), I learned that hands-on research fuels the imagination. I had visited Stanford, Kentucky and learned Miracle is the rural part of that town. I talked to some of the locals, viewed homes where my characters might live, and found the church I thought they’d attend. While such research enhanced my contemporary novel, it’s imperative, I think, when writing today’s historical fiction.

How blessed we are to have places like the Hazelwood Home and organizations such as the Brown County Historical Society. Without them, lovers of history and writers of historical fiction, like me, would be nearly helpless in both our passions and our imaginations regarding the truth about days gone by.


Linda Glaz said...

I've found google to be so much help. I wanted to use a Burma Shave sign for a novel, but wanted to be sure it was a real expression for Burma Shave, so I googled it and found the one I wanted. So much help!

Patricia said...

I just returned from Nebraska where I visited Wessels Living History Farm in York, Nebraska. The guides were amazing--helping guests step back into a 1920's farm house and barns. They even shared a cornmeal cookie (& recipe) from the period. After Wessels my husband and I ventured on to the American Indian school museum in Genoa, NE. Again, the guide was so helpful. At one point she said, "in this workshop, I can feel the spirit of the children that lived and worked here." What a blessing to experience places as part of my research.

Sandra Orchard said...

It amazes me how quickly a place can be forgotten if not preserved. I love how historical romances bring those places back to life.

This summer my husband and I went walking in a stand of woods, only to discover the remnants of a road, a dance hall and what was once the world's largest outdoor swimming pool. An historical society had recently mounted plaques to commemorate what we learned was once a popular tourist destination, that fell to the ravages of the Great Depression.

Teresa Morgan said...


Congratulations on your new series! I love your new title and cover! Somehow I just know it's going to be a keeper.

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD said...

Thanks for writing this fascinating post. I love historical research! While I was writing my recently completed novel, The Madonna of Pisano, our Lord miraculously connected me with a professional researcher and genealogist in Italy who lives in the very town I was researching. He generously provided me with tons of information he scanned from local archives. It is, indeed, amazing, how some of the most unobtrusive places can hold the richest history.