Posts Tagged ‘kansas history’

The Pioneer’s Cyber Monday Sales

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

While we’re ordering our holiday gifts online today because of Cyber Monday sales, I can’t help but think of the contrast of now, versus 150 years ago, when Kansas was being homesteaded by pioneers of several different nationalities.

Butter in the Well, historical fiction book by Linda K. HubalekThink how simple and thankful the pioneers were for their holidays and gift giving. When you read the diary entries from Butter in the Well, you’ll see what I mean…

“November 26, 1868

 We celebrated the American holiday called Thanksgiving with the Robinsons today. We were thankful to be asked to their home. They live in a dugout too, but have two rooms and real furniture. Benjamin had shot a turkey down near their bend of the river. He said that turkey is the traditional meat for the Thanksgiving meal back East. But Adelaide also fixed venison, potatoes, creamed hominy corn, pickled beets, fresh wheat bread (I had two thick slices) and dried currant pie. Since she has a cow, we also enjoyed fresh butter and cheese. Adelaide sent home a wedge of cheese and a loaf of bread. She is so thoughtful.

December 9, 1868

Since Carl is spending most of his time inside now that it is cold, he has been carving. He has made some wooden spoons and small bowls for me, and tool handles for himself. He carved a doll’s head and I added a little body for it out of one of Christina’s first dresses. It will be her Christmas present.

Carl bought a two-lidded stove in Salina this month to heat the dugout and so I could do some of my cooking inside. It is a very small second-hand stove, but better than cooking everything outside.

Since the days are shorter and sometimes overcast, we need more light in the dugout. Rather than use up the supply of candles, we are burning a plate of tallow, using a piece of twisted cloth as the wick, or burning the tail feathers of ducks geese. I don’t care for the smell of singed feathers, but I have to use what we’ve got.”

(Excerpts from Butter in the Well, © by Linda K. Hubalek)

Gifts were given and received, be it food or a hand-carved item, with thought and love back then. And, actually we’re still doing the same things now, only with a different means of obtaining them.

Have fun today as you think of Christmas gifts to give to others. Will you hand make some items this year, or order them online?

P.S. If you’d like to read more about these Kansas pioneers, or would like to give them as a holiday gifts, the Kindle and Nook ebooks are on sale this month as Butterfield Books Inc.’s Cyber Monday special. Or, you can buy autographed books on my website, where you always get free shipping. Happy Shopping and Giving!

Flooding Memories

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

(This month I’m posting excerpts from my books and telling you the story behind them.)

I remember several floods while growing up on the farm I featured in my Butter in the Well book series.

The creek runs through the middle of the farm, with the river on the west border. Most times the creek is dry, but it can flood quickly as Kajsa found out there first night on their new land.

“March 31, 1868

…Tonight and for quite a while we will sleep in the wagon and cook on the campfire. We stacked the lumber beside the wagon, so we have more room in the wagon bed. Carl may sleep on the ground, but Christina needs to be protected from the damp ground and the creatures that I’m sure will check us out tonight.

Thank goodness Christina has stayed healthy. Many children died on the long trip to America and were buried at sea. It broke my heart to hear about parents burying their babies along the wagon trails going west. The families had to move on, knowing they would never visit the grave. One woman told me she hoped her little one would be left in peace and not dug up by a wolf looking for food, or an Indian looking for clothing.

My thoughts have been interrupted several times by the dark clouds building up above the bluffs to the west. We experienced a few thunderstorms in Illinois and Christina was terrified. I was pretty uneasy myself. We were in a house then, not out in the wide open, lost in a sea of waving grass…

April 1, 1868

It poured all last night, maybe a slight pause, and then more buckets of rain. Carl and I were soaking wet, trying to keep Christina and our supplies halfway dry. Our poor animals were tied to the wagon, having no choice but to be miserable where they stood. In the dawn light we saw we were surrounded by water. The creek had flooded its banks and was rising around us. Our stack of boards was floating away so Carl and I had to jump from the wagon and splash around in the muddy waters, shoving the lumber back into the wagon. We had to move farther up our land to the northeast to escape the floodwater. The creek I was so happy about had become a life-threatening curse. It is evening now and the water is receding. We now know that the land will be our master and not the other way around.”

(Excerpt from Butter in the Well, © by Linda K. Hubalek)

The creek has flooded the farm on occasion for over 140 years. Sometimes it’s been a decade between floods, or a week depending on the year.

You can hear the floodwater coming up the “alley” between the corrals before you see it. It has seeped into the barn and granary, ruining things sitting on the floor of the buildings if they weren’t moved out in time. I remember tying the horses and 4-H calves up to the fence east of the house to be out of harm’s way when I was in grade school.

The house is on higher land but the cellar has been flooded a few times. I don’t know if their first home, a dugout was ever threatened.

Can you imagine Kajsa’s worry as the waters crept up towards their farm? It would have been the same as my parent’s worry decades later… with the same creek and the same buildings.

The Story behind the Immigrant's Journey

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

Julia and Kajsa  Runneberg, 1886. From book, Butter in the Well by Linda K. Hubalek.

Julia and Kajsa Runneberg, 1886.

When researching the history of our family farm for my book, Butter in the Well, I found stories written down by Julia Olson that her mother—Kajsa Runneberg—had told her about their homesteading days. Julia was our neighbor to the north, and was like a grandmother to me. She was born in 1884 and grew up on same farm as I did, decades later. Julia moved to the next homestead when she married the neighbor boy Joe in 1911, and died when I was in high school in the early 1970s. (Julia gave me two old quilts that I’ll guess were made in the house we both grew up in.)

Here’s the story of Julia’s mother’s journey to Kansas, that I wrote in a diary form, as if in Kajsa’s own words.

March 7, 1868

Ellsworth, Kansas — I want to keep a journal of our adventure into the American Plains so I will have an account of what our first years were like.

In spring of ’67 we traveled from Klevmarken, Sweden, to New York City, America, by ship, then by train to Jacksonville, Illinois. Now a year later, we’re back on a train heading for the open prairies of Kansas.

We traveled from Jacksonville to St. Louis first. In Illinois we saw meadows of grass, wooded areas and towns. The scenery was much the same until we got past Kansas City. Then there were very few trees and the prairie grass stretched as far as the eye could see. The few towns we’ve gone through were very small and new. The farther west, the sparser it has gotten. I’ve heard Kansas called “the Great American Desert,” but everything looks green. Of course it’s spring now. Maybe the whole countryside dries up in the summer.

We were to get off at the town of Salina, in Saline County. Our friends in Jacksonville put destination tags on us and our belongings since we don’t know much of the American language yet. Most people in Jacksonville were Swedish, so got along fine. Carl knows a few American words, since he had to work and did the shopping when we lived there.

The ride has been wearing on us. This morning Carl looked like he didn’t feel good. The motion of the train car bouncing on the track and smoke from the engine’s smokestack has made us all a little sick.

I was trying to watch the railroad station signs at each stop, but they were not always in sight. Each time Carl tried to find the conductor, to see if that was the place we were to get off. Instead of trying to ask, it was easier to point to his name tag.

At the last stop Carl rushed up to me and said: “Gather up our things and Christina! We’ve got to get off. This is Ellsworth. We missed Salina!”

I panicked when I realized we missed our stop. But, I knew Carl would figure out a way to get us back on the track to our destination. We have found overnight lodging and we will travel back to Salina tomorrow.

This was an extra expense we didn’t need.  

 March 30, 1868

Carl came down with the fever and chills of ague that night here in Ellsworth. Thank the Lord he is finally getting over it. It could have been worse. I could have become a widow with a 15-month-old baby in a strange American town.

We’ve been at the Railroad Hotel for over three weeks. I’ve had to help the cook prepare and serve the meals in exchange for room and board for our small family. We were to find a innkeeper so kind.

Tomorrow we’ll get back on the train heading for Salina. This time we will get off at the right town.”  (Excerpt from Butter in the Well © by Linda K. Hubalek)

I find these stories fascinating, although Kajsa must have been in a real panic when it happened. We’re so connected with cell phone these days and can get help almost immediately. But think how the early immigrants in the 1800s had to rely on themselves or the help of strangers.

If you see someone that could use some help today, think of Kajsa, and reach out a hand. No matter what century, everyone appreciates help…

Why I wrote Butter in the Well

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Butter in the Well book series

Butter in the Well, historical fiction book by Linda K. HubalekTwenty years ago I wrote my first book Butter in the Well. Writing was a new adventure for me, brought on by my husband’s job transfer to another state. I was homesick and started writing about the Swedish woman who left her country and homesteaded on the Kansas prairie that later became my childhood home.

Writing this first book changed my career and, my life. I swerved off this path for a decade while raising buffalo (which could be a book in itself), but I’m back to writing stories about pioneer women again.

Recently I re-read my books to enjoy the stories and photos that brought the characters to life, for both my readers and me.

Please join me as I post special passages from Butter in the Well in my blog to relive the life of a special Swedish immigrant, Kajsa Swenson. I’ll add background tidbits, photos, and website links so you can enjoy “the story behind the story” too.

To get you started, here is the Preface from my book, Butter in the Well. (Copyright 1992 by Linda K. Hubalek)

“This book is about a Swedish emigrant woman who homesteaded Kansas land in 1868. Maja Kajsa Svensson was a young bride of one year when she, her husband, Carl Johan, and 3-month-old daughter, Anna Christina, left Sweden in 1867.

Born to Johan Magnus Andersson and Anna Lisa Mattesdotter on June 15, 1844, in Klevmarken, Sweden, she was the first in her family to marry and the first to move to America.

After receiving an encouraging letter from a friend who had moved and settled in Illinois, the Svenssons set sail for America and settled in Jacksonville, Illinois. Carl worked in his friend’s brickyard but dreamed of farming his own land. The farmland in Illinois had already been bought up, so they needed to look elsewhere. Land agents canvassing Illinois advertised the free land in Kansas, just waiting to be claimed. Although Kajsa would have preferred to stay in Illinois, she accepted Carl’s decision and packed for the trip to Kansas.

This fictionalized account describes Kajsa’s first 20 years on her Kansas farm and how the community developed into the Smoky Valley region of Saline County, Kansas. It is seen through her eyes, as though she were writing in her journal.

I interviewed relatives and neighbors who remember stories of this family and the history of this area. I walked the cemeteries to find the tombstones of Kajsa’s relatives. Some stories, dates, and name spellings have conflicted at times, but I have tried to find the truth by researching church, cemetery, and county records. Old newspapers and books have shed light on the conditions and events that took place in the communities.

The accounts of Kajsa are meant to portray life during the late 1800s in the Smoky Valley of Kansas. Some license has been taken to depict the everyday in the life of a family in this time period.

I have not found pictures of her family prior to 1881, but those of the family and farm in later years reveal much about Kajsa’s life.

Kajsa’s daughter Julia married Peter Olson’s son Joseph, and spent her married life on his family farm directly north of where she was born. “Aunt Julia”, as almost everyone in the neighborhood called her, was like a grandmother to me. I used to take her a May Day basket filled with lilac blooms picked from the bush she helped her mother plant.

But just as important as knowing Kajsa’s family, I know the farm they homesteaded, for I grew up on that very land, roamed its acres and lived in the house that Carl and Kajsa built. Living on the land has given me a depth and feel for the life of the woman portrayed in these pages.

In Kajsa’s photos, she stares me straight in the eye as if challenging me to look into her soul. Kajsa looked like a quiet, determined woman who loved her family and land. Her story ought to be told.”

Want to read more about Kajsa and her life on the Kansas prairie?
Please watch for my next blog…

Another pioneer story?

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog

Tena Janecek Hubalek

Tena Janecek Hubalek

I tend not to write when I’m sad or overwhelmed, and I’ve been both recently— so I haven’t blogged, written on my book series, or even handwritten in my daily diary.

Lois, my mother-in-law went into hospice in July and died the last part of August. We had a memorial service here since she moved to our town after my father-in-law died, and then the burial out in western Kansas where the family had originally lived.

Then it fell on my shoulders to sort and disperse of my in-laws final belongings.

Lois was a very organized woman, so going through the last of her things wasn’t too bad as she mainly kept what she needed and was important after moving near us.

Opening one box led me to the Hubalek family history. Here were photos of my husband’s maternal great grandparents that came from the Czech Republic in 1874, and his fraternal grandfather that came in 1892. They settled in the western Kansas Czech community of Wilson.

Besides photos, which when flipped over were all labeled with every person featured on them, there were books and postcards in the Czech language, telling me the story of their lives in a language I couldn’t read. Little boxes of newspaper clippings and obituaries about family covered a whole century of time.

Here was the final trace of the family line in boxes on my dining room table.

What did I do with these final boxes? I saved them. Maybe this is another pioneer woman’s story I could share by my writing. Can you think of a better way to honor the ancestors that left their homeland for the future of their family?

Kansas Quilter died 40 Years ago

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in about Trail of Thread book series, Blog, Kansas Quilter book series

Wedding photo for Ira and Kizzie Pieratt

Ira and Kizzie Pieratt

I thought of my great grandmother Kizzie Pieratt several times yesterday. It had been 40 years since she died. Besides my having a good memory for event dates, I’ve been working on the Kansas Quilter book series about her life and the quilts she made. I watched the calendar as her death date approached.

She and husband Ira were married 70 years, and she lived another seven years after he died. My husband and I have been married 35 years this month­—half the amount that my great grandparents were married.

Kizzie and Ira were pioneer children. First generation to be born to my Kansas homesteading ancestors featured in my Trail of Thread book series.

I think of all the changes I’ve seen in my life span, and then compare it to theirs. Huge inventions—electricity, telephones, cars, and airplanes, and so much more—were invented during their lifetime.

Although Kizzie’s been gone for several decades, I still have items we both touched and used…including her quilts she hand stitched decades ago.

Electricity may have changed how we can make quilts, but quilting is still done the same way—with our hands, while thinking of who may touch the quilt in future generations.

Linda Hubalek, Featured Quilter

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog

Gosh, it’s exciting to be a featured quilter today on My Quilt Place! (Okay, so I just probably got randomly picked out of the 3451 quilters, but hey, it still made my day…or maybe they DO LIKE my posts…)

Historical fiction books about pioneer women by Linda HubalekSo to celebrate I just posted a special promotion for the historical fiction books on my Linda Hubalek website. Put promotion code QUILT in the shopping cart when you order any of my paperback books and you’ll can get 20% off your total book order, PLUS I’ll autograph your books and mail them free to you. The code is good until Aug. 21st, and you’re welcome to pass the code on to your friends and family.

Or if you prefer to read my Trail of Thread series on your Kindle orNook, I have them on special at $3.99 each.

So for whatever the reason, enjoy some great books about pioneer women at a discount. Hey, it’s Friday and they “like” me!

Many thanks from the Kansas Prairie!
Linda Hubalek

Thimble of Soil Quilt

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in about Trail of Thread book series, Blog

Quilt made by Margie Lock, featuring quilt blocks from the book, Thimble of Soil by Linda K. HubalekI must admit…
I love hearing from people that have read my books, and how the real pioneer women portrayed in my historical fiction series have touched their lives.

My Trail of Thread series also brought quilters into my reading circle, inspiring them to use the quilt blocks featured in the back of the books for block-of-the-month, quilting clubs, and personal quilt projects.

This month a special reader found me through the internet, wanting to show me a quilt she made featuring quilt blocks from the Trail of Thread series. Margie’s mother gave her my book Thimble of Soil because Margaret Ralston Kennedy, the main character in this book, was actually her own great, great, great grandmother.

Margie picked out twenty patterns, made the blocks using material that looked old-fashioned and hand-stitched the quilt featured with this blog. She embroidered the quilt pattern underneath each design, and a signature plate on the back.

What a great way to commemorate her ancestor, and to have a quilt she has handmade to pass down to her own descendants.

Quilt made by Margie Lock, featuring quilt blocks from the book, Thimble of Soil by Linda K. HubalekAnother plus from her email—I found a cousin from my Kennedy family tree because our great, great, great grandfathers (Michael and Hugh Kennedy) were brothers!

So please email me a note if you have enjoyed reading my books. It keeps me writing, knowing I have touched your hearts with stories and memories about special pioneering women.

Many thanks from the Kansas prairie, Margie…where both of our ancestors lived!

Linda K. Hubalek

Planting Dreams in Kansas Heat

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in Blog, Planting Dreams book series

Planting Dreams book by Linda K. HubalekToday I’m thinking of those Swedish immigrant’s first summer in Kansas as our heat index is way over 100+ degrees again- like it has been for the whole month.

The women would have been wearing long-sleeved dresses, lots of yards of material, and sweat. Of course they’d be very sunburned if they weren’t covering all their skin….

Living in a handmade hole in the ground or flimsy wooden shack with a dirt floor…with mice, flies, snakes, ticks. No air conditioning. Just hope for a breeze.

Tired sweaty little kids…who hopefully are not sick…

Thirsty? How far do they need to walk to find water…which is probably scooped into a bucket directly out of a river or creek until they got a well dug.

Hungry? Where to find it, catch it, keep it safe to eat without a way to keep it below 40 degrees?

I know generations have grown up without air conditioning (as did I as a child) but it makes me real glad for modern times…and makes me admire the pioneer women that had to suffer through their first summer of Kansas heat. I think it would have been so different compared to a mild Swedish summer they would have been used to.

So you be cool today with climate controlled air, an iced drink, cold food, and hopefully doing an indoor activity.

Think about those first pioneer women and Kansas heat by reading the Planting Dreams series instead!

Planting Dreams: 
A Swedish Immigrant’s Journey to America, 1868-1869

Drought has scorched the farmland of Sweden and there is no harvest to feed families or livestock. Taxes are due and there is little money to pay them.

But there is a ship sailing for America, where the government is giving land to anyone who wants to claim a homestead.

So begins the migration out of Sweden to a new life on the Great Plains of America.

Can you imagine what life would have been like once they got to their new destination?

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A Cup of Tea with a Trail of Thread

Written by lindahubalek on . Posted in about Trail of Thread book series, Blog

Pioneer woman's story by Linda K. Hubalek.Talk, gossip, laughter or tears—with a cup of tea or coffee—has been a comfort and need for women in any century.

These days it is easy for us to brew a quick cup of a hot drink, and hardly stop the flow of conversation. Even if it is just a cup of hot water heated up in the microware with a tea bag thrown in…it takes less than two minutes.

Back in the pioneer days—depending on if you were traveling or on the homestead—you’d have to gather the wood, start the fire, go outside to a well or creek to draw up a bucket of water, put an enamel pot over the fire to heat up the water, roast and grind the coffee beans, etc (sigh) before even thinking of savoring that hot cup of brew.

Thimble of Soil, Book 2 in the Trail of Thread book series.The time consuming work of getting meals—or even an afternoon cup of coffee on the trail—was very evident when I was researching and writing my Trail of Thread series.

For example, Deborah and John Pieratt, featured in the Trail of Thread, the first book of the Trail of Thread series left Kentucky in 1854 when the Territory of Kansas was formed. They were part of the thousands of families that packed wagons and headed east for the promise of a new life. They had to gather wood for a fire for every cup of hot drink they made for three months. I’m sure conversations with other women they met along the trail were welcomed, but short, due to the groups moving on every day.

Thimble of Soil, the second book in the series, features Margaret Ralston Kennedy. She was a widow who moved with eight of her thirteen children from Ohio to the Territory Kansas in 1855. She was dedicated to the cause of the North, and helped with the Underground Railroad in both Ohio and Kansas. Did she brew and secretly give hot drinks to people hiding under her watch? Did Margaret have a chance to ask where her visitors were from let alone where they were headed?

Stitch of Courage, Book 3 in the Trail of Thread book series by Linda K. Hubalek.Orphaned Maggie Kennedy, portrayed in Stitch of Courage, the last book in the series, followed her brothers to Kansas looking for a better life as the states fought out the history of the Civil War. Again, think of the work it took to make a cup of coffee behind the battle lines, and how welcomed a normal conversation with someone from home would have been.

This series, written in the form of letters the women have written back home to loved ones portray the life and times of that generation. I wish I could have a cup of tea with one of my ancestors to get to know her, and her way of life.

I imagine there would be talk, gossip, laughter, and tears—with that cup of tea…