Thursday, February 24, 2022


 If I mention men claiming land in the 1850s, does it bring to mind Nebraska or even Wyoming? How about if I write West of the Mississippi? Do you think about the Great Plain or the Dakotas? 

West of the Mississippi includes Minnesota. This very northern state might not be an author's first choice for a historical western novel, but Minnesota was being settled in the years just before the Civil War. Perhaps because of my family's history with that, I chose it as the setting for my next novel, Regina's Replacement.

Example of a Minnesota Sod House
My great grandfather was born in soddy in Minnesota. His father died before the land was "proved up", but his mother stayed on. She lived there until the five years passed and she owned the claim. Then she sold it and moved back to Dodgeville, Wisconsin with her three children. 

My story has a much more romantic ending. But there are problems for a young widow. The woman, Regina, leaves Virginia soon after a battle is fought not far from her farm. She arrives by steamboat, but not a boat that traveled on the Mississippi.

As I researched, I found an area about one hundred miles outside of Minneapolis. The land claimed by people there was around a very large lake, Lake Minnetonka. Steamboats traveled across the expansive body of water, bringing people and goods to spots around it. 

Governor Ramsay Steamboat
One such boat, the Governor Ramsey, sailed in and out of Excelsior, the first white settlement on Lake Minnetonka. Excelsior was settled by a group of pioneers from the East who formed the Excelsior Pioneer Association. They came together, ready to set up a town and bought land for around $1.25 per acre.

Farm near Excelsior, MN, 1864.
Excelsior in 1861-1862, about eight to nine years after it was settled, became the setting for my novel. Imagine the farms, mostly growing potatoes. With the Civil War, a few farmers listened to the call for northern farmers to grow typically southern crops like tobacco. That's what my heroine does in Regina's Replacement, though her husband thinks it's a crazy idea.

Lithograph created to sell a Minnesota farm in the 1800s.

Of course, with my heroine living in that area around 1862, a serious problem arises. The Dakotas had been moved to a reservation. There they were left to starve by an inhuman Indian agent. No wonder the Dakota War happens in 1862. Does it reach Excelsior? 

Read Regina's Replacement and find out...

Visit a time when Minnesota was land still being claimed and settled...

Joshua Gibson had enough courage to save his uncle. He’s not brave enough to show his face in town after being badly burned in the rescue.

Regina Richardson decided marriage to a stranger was better than living through a war that had nothing to do with her. After Union troops brought a battle near to her farm, she grabs at the chance to marry a man in Minnesota. Only, she discovers the man has never lived in the town where she’s told to go.

A desperate aunt and uncle see this as a God sent opportunity for their hermit nephew. Will Regina find the love of her life or will she end up with one more burden to bear?

And what about the man killed at Joshua’s farm the night that he was burned? How will the couple protect themselves when Joshua and Regina have no idea that revenge stalks them?

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