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Esther's Town Cover

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Esther's Town

Deemer Lee

Esther's Town could be "Any Town, U.S.A.," for the equals of its cast of characters can be found in any small town. And here, as usual, was the town newspaper editor, the observing eye of all the foibles and peccadillos that form any town's history. Remembering all the years with love and humor, editor Deemer Lee chronicled the forty-four years he gathered and wrote news—forty-one of them as editor and publisher of his town's newspaper.

He dug into old records, recalled old times, and talked with old-timers. He illuminated the transition of a town, from Estherville’s pioneer settlement to the busy, active town it is today.

The excitement and fun begin with a story of bootleggers, Chautauqua meetings, and an accomplished arsonist—who achieves in less than two months the impressive score of burning seven barns and one feed store, with an unsuccessful attempt on the Methodist church. Scandinavians move in, build crude shelters for the first winter, and add their special characteristics to the town. The Irish arrive and stamp their mark on the whole territory. The circus comes to town and entrances everyone with its ancient pageantry. The railroads come through and add a rowdy element to the population. The Depression begins and farms see 11-cent corn, 108-degree heat, and a twister.

All these events, plus adventures with a massive meteorite and haunting river tragedies, create the drama and flow of small-town life, story by story, in a fascinating revelation of Americana. 

Everyday klansfolk  Cover

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Everyday klansfolk

white protestant life and the KKK in 1920s Michigan

Craig Fox

In 1920s Middle America, the Ku Klux Klan gained popularity not by appealing to the fanatical fringes of society, but by attracting the interest of “average” citizens. During this period, the Klan recruited members through the same unexceptional channels as any other organization or club, becoming for many a respectable public presence, a vehicle for civic activism, or the source of varied social interaction. Its diverse membership included men and women of all ages, occupations, and socio-economic standings. Although surviving membership records of this clandestine organization have proved incredibly rare, Everyday Klansfolk uses newly available documents to reconstruct the life and social context of a single grassroots unit in Newaygo County, Michigan. A fascinating glimpse behind the mask of America’s most notorious secret order, this absorbing study sheds light on KKK activity and membership in Newaygo County, and in Michigan at large, during the brief and remarkable peak years of its mass popular appeal.

Exploring Buried Buxton Cover

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Exploring Buried Buxton

Archaeology of an Abandoned Iowa Coal Mining Town with a Large Black Population

Few sources before have dealt with the archaeology of African American settlements outside the Atlantic seaboard and the southern states. This book describes in detail the archaeological investigations conducted at the town site of Buxton, Iowa, a coal mining community inhabited by a significantly large population of blacks between 1900 and 1925.

David Gradwohl and Nancy Osborn present the archaeology of Buxton from “the group up” to articulate the material remains with the data acquired from archival studies and oral history interviews. They also examine the broader significance of the Buxton experience in terms of those who lived there and their children and grandchildren who have heard about Buxton all their lives.

The Fall and Recapture of Detroit in the War of 1812 Cover

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The Fall and Recapture of Detroit in the War of 1812

In Defense of William Hull

Anthony J. Yanik

Details the first major U.S. setback in the War of 1812 and analyzes the background and aftermath of Hull’s surrender.

Finland-Swedes in Michigan Cover

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Finland-Swedes in Michigan

Mika Roinila

Who are the Finland-Swedes? Defined as citizens of Finland with a Swedish mother tongue, many know these people as “Swede- Finns” or simply “Swedes.” This book, the first ever to focus on this ethnolinguistic minority living in Michigan, examines the origins of the Finland-Swedes and traces their immigration patterns, beginning with the arrival of hundreds in the United States in the 1860s. A growing population until the 1920s, when immigration restrictions were put in place, the Finland-Swedes brought with them unique economic, social, cultural, religious, and political institutions, explored here in groundbreaking detail. Drawing on archival, church, and congregational records, interviews, and correspondence, this book paints a vivid portrait of Finland-Swedish life in photographs and text, and also includes detailed maps that show the movement of this group over time. The latest title in the Discovering the Peoples of Michigan series even includes a sampling of traditional Finland-Swedish recipes.

Finns in Minnesota Cover

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Finns in Minnesota

By Arnold Alanen

The first Finnish immigrants arrived in R ed Wing in 1864, the vanguard of thousands who eventually and resolutely placed Minnesota second among the states in terms of Finnish population. Today we may recognize Minnesota’s “Finnishness” in the popular sauna, in the characteristic tenacity known as sisu, or in place names and cultural markers that link to homeland. The newest contribution to the People of Minnesota series traces the Finns’ migration to the state, particularly its northeastern region; their log construction techniques, including dovetail notching; and their ethnic organizations, from religious to political to fraternal. Colorful sidebars enliven the narrative, highlighting such topics as “Finglish,” New World legends, and the 1920s Olympic competitors in track and field known as the “Flying Finns.” A separate thread tells the story of the Finland Swedes—“the minority within a minority” whose members were born in Finland but spoke Swedish and thus straddled two ethnic groups, belonging fully to neither. The book concludes with a personal narrative of Fred Torma (1888–1979), a miner and carpenter from Nashwauk, who describes establishing a Socialist hall, involvement in the 1907 Mesabi strike, and founding a cooperative boardinghouse and store. His is just one engaging example of the vibrant lives and legacy of Finnish Americans in Minnesota.

Fixing Illinois Cover

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Fixing Illinois

Politics and Policy in the Prairie State

James D Nowlan

Persistent problems have left Illinois the butt of jokes and threatened it with fiscal catastrophe. In Fixing Illinois, James D. Nowlan and J. Thomas Johnson use their four decades of experience as public servants, Springfield veterans, and government observers to present a comprehensive program of almost one hundred specific policy ideas aimed at rescuing the state from its long list of problems.Nowlan and Johnson start with the history of how one of the most prosperous states of the 1950s became a present-day mess riven by debt and discord and increasingly abandoned by both businesses and citizens. Among their more than ninety proposals to restore Illinois to greatness:An overhaul of state pension systems that includes more reasonable benefits and lengthening of the retirement age, among other changes;Reducing one of the nation's highest corporate tax rates to attract business;Medicare reform through an insurance voucher program;Demanding that schools raise expectations for success, particularly in rural and impoverished urban areas;A new approach to higher education that includes a market-driven system that puts funds in the hands of students rather than institutions;Broadening of the tax base to include services and reduction in rates;The creation of a long-term plan to maintain the state's five-star transportation infrastructure;Raising funds with capital construction bonds to update and integrate the antiquated information systems used by state agencies;Uprooting the state's entrenched culture of corruption via public financing of elections, redistricting reform, and revolving door prohibitions for lawmakersPointed, honest, and pragmatic, Fixing Illinois is a plan for effective and honest government that seeks an even nobler end: restoring our faith in Illinois's institutions and reviving a sense of citizenship and state pride.

Food Will Win the War Cover

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Food Will Win the War

Minnesota Crops, Cook, and Conservation during World War I

Rae Katherine Eighmey

Meatless Mondays, Wheatless Wednesdays, vegetable gardens and chickens in every empty lot. When the United States entered World War I, Minnesotans responded to appeals for personal sacrifice and changed the way they cooked and ate in order to conserve food for the boys “over there.” Baking with corn and rye, eating simple meals based on locally grown food, consuming fewer calories, and wasting nothing in the kitchen became civic acts. High-energy foods and calories unconsumed on the American home front could help the food-starved, war-torn American Allies eat another day and fight another battle. Food historian Rae Katherine Eighmey engages readers with wide research and recipes drawn from rarely viewed letters, diaries, recipe books, newspaper accounts, government pamphlets, and public service fliers. She brings alive the unknown but unparalleled efforts to win the war made by ordinary “Citizen Soldiers”—farmers and city dwellers, lumberjacks and homemakers—who rolled up their sleeves to apply “can-do” ingenuity coupled with “must-do” drive. Their remarkable efforts transformed everyday life and set the stage for the United States’ postwar economic and political ascendance.

Forest for the Trees Cover

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Forest for the Trees

How Humans Shaped the North Woods

Jeff Forester

Author Jeff Forester describes how humans have occupied and managed the northern borderlands of Minnesota, from tribal burning to pioneer and industrial logging to evolving conceptions of wilderness and restoration forestry. On the surface a story of Minnesota's borderlands, The Forest for the Trees more broadly explores the nation's history of resource extraction and wilderness preservation, casting forward to consider what today?s actions may mean for the future of America?s forests. From early settlers and industrialists seeking the pine forests' wealth to modern visitors valuing the tranquility of protected wilderness, the region known today as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has offered assorted treasures to each generation. By focusing on the ecological history of the BWCAW's Winton watershed, Forester shows how the global story of logging, forestry, conservation, and resource management unfolded in the northern woods of Minnesota. The result is a telling exploration of human attitudes toward wilderness: the grasp after a forest?s resources, the battles between logging and tourist interests, and decades of conservation efforts that have left northern Minnesota denuded of white pine and threatened with potentially devastating fire. The result of a decade of research, The Forest for the Trees chronicles six phases of human interaction with the BWCAW: tribal, burning the land for cultivation; pioneering, harvesting lumber on a small scale; industrial, accelerating the cut and consequently increasing the fire danger; conservation, reacting to both widespread fires and unsustainable harvest levels; wilderness, recognizing important values in woodlands beyond timber; and finally restoration, using prescribed burns and other techniques to return the forest to its "natural" state. Whether promoted or excluded, one constant through these phases is fire. The Forest for the Trees explores how tribal people burned the land to encourage agriculture, how conservationists and others later fought fire in the woods by completely suppressing it, and finally how scientific understanding brought the debate full circle, as recent controlled burns in the BWCAW seek to lessen significant fuel loads that could produce fires of unprecedented magnitude.

A French Aristocrat in the American West Cover

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A French Aristocrat in the American West

The Shattered Dreams of De Lassus De Luzieres

Carl J. Ekberg & Foreword by Marie-Sol de La Tour d'Auvergne

 

In 1790, Pierre-Charles de Lassus de Luzières gathered his wife and children and fled Revolutionary France. His trek to America was prompted by his “purchase” of two thousand acres situated on the bank of the Ohio River from the Scioto Land Company—the institution that infamously swindled French buyers and sold them worthless titles to property. When de Luzières arrived and realized he had been defrauded, he chose, in a momentous decision, not to return home to France. Instead, he committed to a life in North America and began planning a move to the Mississippi River valley.
            De Luzières dreamed of creating a vast commercial empire that would stretch across the frontier, extending the entire length of the Ohio River and also down the Mississippi from Ste. Genevieve to New Orleans. Though his grandiose goal was never realized, de Luzières energetically pursued other important initiatives. He founded the city of New Bourbon in what is now Missouri and recruited American settlers to move westward across the Mississippi River. The highlight of his career was being appointed Spanish commandant of the New Bourbon District, and his 1797 census of that community is an invaluable historical document. De Luzières was a significant political player during the final years of the Spanish regime in Louisiana, but likely his greatest contributions to American history are his extensive commentaries on the Mississippi frontier at the close of the colonial era.
            A French Aristocrat in the American West: The Shattered Dreams of De Lassus de Luzières is both a narrative of this remarkable man’s life and a compilation of his extensive writings. In Part I of the book, author Carl Ekberg offers a thorough account of de Luzières, from his life in Pre-Revolutionary France to his death in 1806 in his house in New Bourbon. Part II is a compilation, in translation, of de Luzières’s most compelling correspondence. Until now very little of his writing has been published, despite the fact that his letters constitute one of the largest bodies of writing ever produced by a French émigré in North America.
            Though de Luzières’s presence in early American history has been largely overlooked by scholars, the work left behind by this unlikely frontiersman merits closer inspection. A French Aristocrat in the American West brings the words and deeds of this fascinating man to the public for the first time.

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