Two weeks ago I shared some big news here on my blog. I will have two novellas release with Barbour Publishers in 2015. The first, tentatively titled Four Brides and a Bachelor, will release in May.
I thought it would be fun to give you a sneak peek into the story.
|Belle Prairie, Minnesota|
Four Brides and a Bachelor is set on Belle Prairie, about four miles north of my hometown in central Minnesota. The prairies around here are not like the prairies in southwestern Minnesota or the Dakotas. Our prairies are much smaller, with trees rimming the edges. The photo above is actually taken at Belle Prairie just a few weeks ago. It's now a county park, but in 1852 it was a Manual Labor Mission School operated by Frederick and Elizabeth Ayer.
|Belle Prairie Cemetery|
None of the buildings exist any longer, but there is a cemetery still at the park. We know the mission consisted of a large house (similar to the one below), a New England style barn, and a "commodious" school, which also served as a church on Sundays. About twenty students attended the school in 1852. Some were Indian children, and others were children of fur traders. About half of the students boarded at the mission, helping with farm chores, while the other half lived close enough to walk.
Along with Mr. and Mrs. Ayer, and their teenage son Lyman, a few married couples lived at the mission. Some were only wintering there in 1852, or stopping over for a short visit on their way further north to other missions.
The Ayers employed a young female teacher from Cincinnati to help establish the school. But in early 1852, Mrs. Ayer went east to secure more funding, and to find more teachers willing to come to Minnesota Territory. Three young ladies returned with her.
These ladies were a rarity in Minnesota Territory! At a time when immigration into the territory (which didn't become a state until 1858) had just begun, there were very few single ladies to speak of.
Thus, the stage is set for a great story.
Four Brides and a Bachelor is inspired by a real event that took place on Belle Prairie in 1852. Miss Harriet Nichols, one of the teachers who had just arrived with Mrs. Ayer, wrote a letter to her brother soon after her arrival and said: "There was romance enough acted here to write as good a story as you will find in any novel."
|The Mississippi near Belle Prairie, MN|
She was referring to the week a missionary named Mr. Lafferty arrived at Belle Prairie. He had heard a single lady had come from Cincinnati the year before, so he traveled one hundred and fifty miles down the Mississippi River with the intent to propose to her. He was desirous to find a wife for his mission work at Red Lake. If she was willing, he would marry her and take her back to Red Lake within the week.
Little did he know that Mrs. Ayer had just arrived back at the mission with the three other teachers! When he stepped off the canoe, there were four single ladies--and all of them were desirous to go back with him as his wife!
I've taken this fun story and created four brides and a bachelor from my own imagination. Little is known about that eventful week, so I had fun filling in the gaps. Can you imagine the tension between these Mission Sisters as they tried to catch the bachelor's attention? And can you imagine the bachelor's delight?
|Pins from my Pinterest Board Four Brides and a Bachelor|
My story is a work of fiction, though I tried to stay true to the history of the mission, with a few minor exceptions where needed. 1852 in Minnesota Territory was an exciting, dangerous time. It was fun to recreate the location and place the players on the "stage" of my story.
As a historian, I love to share facts about real people, places, and events...but as a writer, I love to share a good fictional story, with all the drama and tension needed to turn the page.
My novella is finished and I've received wonderful feedback from some of my early readers. I have a few tweaks to make, but then it will be off to the publisher for the October 1st deadline. I'm excited for May when everyone will have a chance to read it.
Your Turn: Would you have been brave enough to travel 1,500 miles to teach at a mission school on the frontier? Could you have married a stranger, after only knowing him or her for a week?