Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Settler's Year: Pioneer Life Through the Seasons by Kathleen Ernst, © 2015

While the first few years in their new home might be difficult, many immigrants in time achieved their dream. Old World Wisconsin’s Koepsell Farm represents a well-settled German-American family. (Photo by Loyd Heath)

Right away I was drawn to this photo with the Koepsell Farmhouse in the background. This home was moved to Old World Wisconsin ~ an authentic homestead beginnings. I especially like the overhang on the front, "a cantilevered porch hood."

Hardcover, Non~Fiction, includes bibliographical references and index.
A Settler's Year
The immigrant experience is, at its essence, about people searching for a new home, in a new place. That journey has meaning for almost all of us—whether in our own lives, or in our ancestors’ lives.
   --author Kathleen Ernst

I have awaited this journey and it has arrived! Waiting to post on the day of the special launch event at Old World Wisconsin on September 20, 2015, I have thoroughly enjoyed the Introduction and photos as I begin the seasonal readings. The author has let the times speak for themselves as these pioneers share with those dear to them in their letters and journals. How interesting to hear of their triumphs and hardships firsthand as they begin anew in this new land. Separated from those they loved, they were eager to have their own land, clearing forests to have farmland, to prosper to bring their families from the Old-Country.

LoydHeathAtOWWKathleen Ernst is the award-winning author of more than thirty mystery, historical fiction, and nonfiction books for adults and young readers. Her latest include "Death on the Prairie," the sixth Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery for adults from Midnight Ink, and "The Smuggler’s Secrets," a Caroline Abbott mystery from American Girl. Kathleen has a master's degree in history education and writing from Antioch University. She spent over a decade as curator of interpretation and collections at the Wisconsin Historical Society's Old World Wisconsin site. Learn more at her website, Facebook, and an interesting background story.

Loyd Heath's interest in photography began in 1945 when he was a high school student in Milwaukee. Since then he has taken many photo courses and workshops, participated in many photo shows, and been widely published. After retiring in 1998 from the University of Washington, where he is currently Professor Emeritus of Accounting, Loyd has devoted his time to photography. He is best known for his photos of the University of Washington campus, Pacific Northwest totem poles, Genesee Country Village in Mumford, New York, and Old World Wisconsin. He judged the annual Old World Wisconsin photo contest for many years. More of his photos can be found at his website.

***Thank you to author Kathleen Ernst and the Wisconsin Historical Society Press for this review copy of A Settler’s Year: Pioneer Life Through the Seasons, of special interest to me because of my Wisconsin ancestry coming from Ireland, Norway, and Germany; and my husband's, settling further north in Wisconsin, from France and Belgium. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

I am beyond thrilled to share this news from the WI Historical Society Press:
"Our upcoming book “A Settler’s Year: Pioneer Life through the Seasons” by Kathleen Ernst, with photography by Loyd Heath, has been selected to represent Wisconsin at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC!
"The book is on the list of “52 Great Reads Prepared by the Center for the Book and its Affiliate State Centers,” which features books representing the literary heritage of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands."
   --author Kathleen Ernst

Enjoy this preview of A Settler’s Year: Pioneer Life Through the Seasons written by Kathleen Ernst. Photographs by Loyd Heath. Published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. The photos in the book were all taken at Old World Wisconsin, a large outdoor living history museum that you can visit from May through October. Old World Wisconsin is located just outside the rural Village of Eagle in the Southeast corner of the state.


On a breezy, salt-scented day in the 19th century, a group of Bohemian immigrants with tearstained cheeks leaned over the railing of the ship that would take them to America. Someone began to sing Where Is My Home? Husky-voiced, the others joined in as their last glimpse of Europe faded into the horizon behind them.
   Another day, an Irish boy with haunted eyes and hollow cheeks boarded a ship. He did not look back at the land so desperately ravaged by potato blight and famine. Pinned inside his pocket was the note his mother had scribbled on a scrap of paper before she died—the name of an unknown uncle, and a single compass word: Wisconsin.
   At a different dock, several German women gave the tail ends of fat balls of homespun wool to their weeping, shawl-wrapped mothers and sisters. The yarn unwound behind the emigrants as they trudged up the gangway to their ship and found space at the railing. When the ship left her moorings, the yarn unspooled all too fast through trembling fingers. Soon each woman felt her twisted filament slip away—the last ephemeral link to everything dear and familiar. Dozens of strands billowed lightly over the water, fading from sight like the tail of some fearful mare galloping back to familiar pastures.
   Sometime later a Swedish tenant farmer, deep in debt, slipped from home on a dark night and made his way to the nearest port. He left his family with nothing but a promise to send passage money when he could. Years would pass before the family could reunite.
   Where is my home?
   The question haunted thousands of Europeans a century and more ago. They were caught between all they had ever known and the unimaginable—a new home on a different continent. Might America truly offer such dazzling possibilities to justify leaving loved ones? The decision was agonizing. Johann Schutster of Bavaria succumbed to gnawing doubts before departure: “We know how things are here,” he cried. “…Germany we know; America is an unknown country to us.” His wife replied, kindly but firmly, “Johann, we leave tomorrow for America.”
   Some immigrants traveled alone; others took strength from friends, relatives, or neighbors who had chosen to journey together. They’d all gambled that the journey would lead to to a better life—if not for them, for their children. Wisconsin’s population rose from 11,000 to over 305,000 between 1836 and 1850. By then, one-third of the population was foreign-born—some from Great Britain, some from Europe.
   Behind the statistics were more than 100,000 unique people, each with her or his own hopes and heartaches. School children can recite lists of “push and pull factors” that contributed to the mass immigration. Famine, wars and compulsory military service, political or religious oppression, lack of affordable or arable land, and primogeniture prompted thousands of European children, women, and men to turn their backs on home and family; available land and glowing reports from early immigrants and land agents lured them across the Atlantic. But many Polish immigrants, whose homeland was under Russian and German rule, summarized the reason for leaving succinctly: za chlebem—for bread. Thousands of desperate Poles saw no hope of preserving their culture, tilling their own land, or otherwise providing the most basic necessities for themselves and their children in the Old World. They came in search of a new home.
Kathleen Ernst, A Settler’s Year: Pioneer Life Through the Seasons Wisconsin Historical Society Press, © 2015.

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