Monday, January 24, 2022

EVER UPWARD! by Marisa Masterson

 Excelsior! It means every upward. Great words for the beginning of a new year. But, also those words were the focus of a certain group of pioneers I've recently been researching. 

A man named George Bertram founded a town (or at least envisioned one) on the shores of Lake Minnetonka about 100 miles outside of Minneapolis and called it Excelsior . The next year he helped a group of settlers from New York and New England to form what was called the Excelsior Pioneer Association. In a state dominated by Scandinavians, these Episcoplians decided to farm and live around  large Lake Minnetonka.

One thing I found intriguing about this group was that they claimed both a lot in town and up to 160 acres of farmland. All for a cost of only $1.25 per acre. So they were connected to both the land and the village.

As far as buildings in town, Trinity Church and the school were the early focus. The settlers started by meeting for services in homes before building a log church two years later.  Next they put up a school. They had no mercantile until 1860, but this group still managed to keep a town going. All of this was laid out along the lakeshore rather than in the usual grid used by towns.

One thing that intrigued me was the public commons set aside by the group. That's an older custom in England, where the village green or commons was dedicated for public use so people in a town could allow their animals to graze. I couldn't find out through research why this association felt a public commons was needed. Makes me wonder...

Farm outside of Excelsior, 1864

Now, what am I doing with this research? I'm sending a mail-order bride from the South to cold Minnesota in late 1861. Too bad her groom doesn't meet her. What's a woman to do then? Why, rely on the kindness of strangers, of course. And it just so happens that one kind stranger has a nephew who needs a wife...

Burned and heartsick, Joshua Gibson hides away from the world. Only the animals on his farm and the leather which he works keep him from madness. Unfortunately, the townspeople don't believe that. They're convinced that the fire burned away all traces of sanity in him.
Regina Wilson needs a man. The good women of the town come to her aid when the mail-order bride arrives to discover that her groom is dead. The problem, as the ladies tell her, is that only one bachelor is available--Goofy Gibson.

Will Regina hibernate with her forced husband or will her presence bring new life to the farm and to Joshua?

1 comment:

  1. REGINA'S REPLACEMENT sounds like a book I'll enjoy. Mr. Bertram must have been persuasive to entice pioneers to his dream village.


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