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Heartland Homeland

Joyce in DeKalb

Midway through the summer is a great time to regroup, and to return to Illinois for a visit. When I renew family ties, I enjoy and appreciate the grounded feeling of walking on the soil of my ancestors and the land of my upbringing. Fields of corn look splendid, far beyond the anticipated “knee high by the 4th of July.” Sweet corn newly arrived at the farmer’s market tastes a little like heaven.

Weather was predictably unpredictable during my stay in Illinois. My first evening there, the rain poured down in buckets. The rain gauge read five inches under a canopy of hardwood trees. Next door, the reading was closer to a half foot. Tornadoes touched down a few miles away, leaving a trail of broken and uprooted trees, some collateral building damage, and power outages for several hours.

My family was unruffled. Once the rain let up, we opened a bottle of wine, put steaks and vegetables on the grill, and enjoyed candlelight on the screened porch. The beauty of the situation was far superior to any inconvenience caused by the absence of electricity. In a small way, I felt in touch with my long ago Illinois pioneer ancestors. In spite of the hardships encountered in their newfound homeland, there was beauty in nature and a simpler way of living.

I enjoy my visits back to the Midwest. I relish seeing the rich, black soil, the beauty of the lush greenery, trees, songbirds, and lightning bugs. I enjoy my people, appreciate my family history, and blend with and relate to the hearty souls and grounded characters who live in the heartland. However, the best part is my return trip to the Rocky Mountain West, where the wide open spaces, independent spirit, and cool, dry air envelope me and welcome me back to my chosen home.

Joyce B. Lohse, 7/3/10
http://www.lohseworks.com

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Posted by on July 3, 2010 in Family history

 

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Moving Forward on Thanksgiving

If Thanksgiving is upon us, it must be time for CAL – the Colorado Association of Librarians Conference. Every year, publisher Filter Press hosts a booth for this event in Denver, allowing the authors to meet and greet librarians, teachers and readers. It is always illuminating, and a mixed bag of good news and bad news comments. The bad news is predictable … more book buying budget cuts, more social studies programs slashed, more demand for books about speicalized topics way down on the priority scale.

The good news is encouraging and will keep us going. As more people learn about our “Now You Know Bio” series, they find more ways to integrate them into their programs, and more people read them. They recognize the quality of the biographies and the research which has gone into each one. They love the topics we’ve chosen, and enthusiastically look forward to the newest arrivals.

I’m thankful for what we have, and I embrace the challenge of moving forward to produce more pioneer stories which appeal to young readers and history buffs of all ages. I appreciate Filter Press, who believes in my work and publishes it, giving me a voice, and for the encouragement and support of my colleagues there, and in Women Writing the West. I am honored to apply my writing skills to preserve history, and to give a voice to women who were formerly silent and consequently overlooked. Many of their stories have emerged and can now be celebrated, either as individuals or in conjunction with their pioneering partner.

John and Eliza Routt (rhymes with “scout”) provide a great partnership story. My award-winning book, First Governor, First Lady: John and Eliza Routt of Colorado, published by Filter Press, is a duo-biography about the life and work of the Routts as Western pioneers. I was fortunate to revisit their story and share it in an article for the current holiday issue of Steamboat Magazine. To read a condensed version of the article, go to: http://www.steamboatmagazine.com/articles/255.php

Happy Thanksgiving!
Joyce Lohse – 11/23/09
for more information about Now You Know Bios:
http://www.lohseworks.com
http://www.filterpressbooks.com

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2009 in Western history

 

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Dearfield

House still standing at Dearfield

House still standing at Dearfield

This past week, I attended a screening at the Colorado Historical Society of Dearfield: The Road Less Traveled, with commentary by producer, donnie l. betts. The video, which was outstanding, was especially meaningful to me as I had visited the ghost town of Dearfield a few weeks earlier. Located thirty miles east of Greeley, Colorado, Dearfield was a colony settled by African American pioneers between 1910 and 1940. At one time, the community, founded by businessman O.T. Jackson, contained about 700 residents. The land was so dear to them that they named the town “Dearfield”.

Life was not easy in Dearfield. Weather was harsh, and growing conditions difficult for farming. World War I took away young men who did not return, and the Depression took a further economic toll. Although residents tried valiantly to maintain the town, hard times depleted it. By the 1940s, only twelve people remained. As betts pointed out, one reason the colony endured as long as it did, with a successful dining room and gas station, was due to the courage and tenacity of the female residents.

Fortunately, circumstances have led the Black American West museum to become owners and custodians of the property. Restoration as a historical landmark and for an interpretive center require much time, effort and funding. Much work has been done, and more is on the horizon. Hopefully, those things will all come together to keep the story and the dream alive.

Joyce B. Lohse, 9/6/09

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2009 in Western history

 

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