It’s exciting to travel to unfamiliar places and soak up the history and ambience, but I like to take a cue from Dorothy Gale…there’s no place like home especially if you are writing a historical book set in the area or state you live in.
A few years ago, I decided I had to be more diligent about visiting museums and area attractions close to home to help me find ideas or tidbits to use in my writing. My current release, The Widow’s Suitor, is a prairie romance. When I first saw the hero on my cover, I thought “Pa Ingalls”. I hadn’t written the story with Laura Ingalls Wilder in mind, but she was the first author who introduced me to prairie life. I’m sorry to say that I live about ninety minutes away from DeSmet, SD, home of Little House of the Prairie and I have never visited the town or museum. I think I’d better get this attraction on my list of places to visit!
I have visited Historic Prairie Village in Madison, SD, another close to home attraction. As the name tells you, they moved in buildings to replicate a prairie town. It seems once you’ve seen one attraction like this you’ve seen them all. It’s not true with this Prairie Village. They house two hard to find attractions, a working Hershell Spellman steam powered carousel (now converted to gas) and the chapel car, Emanuel. Did you know there were railroad churches? They were designed to bring the word of God to people on the prairie.
A few hours visiting attractions like this can help you add authenticity to your historical writing. On a tour of the Adams House in Deadwood, SD I learned wealthy people kept their table silver in a safe in their home to avoid theft. A mansion in my home town area which has always been a private residence, gave tours for a fund raising effort and I saw a smoker built into the fireplace chimney in the attic. That’s right, they heated their home and smoked their meat at the same time. It made me wonder did they use special wood when they smoked the meat. What did the house smell like while this process was taking place? A historical society in Yankton, SD is in the process of refurbishing a historic building, the Meade Building, which was a sanitarium. There is beauty in the structural aspects of this building. Gliding down the elegant marble staircase you’d never guess what was housed directly behind it. When you get further into the building and see the closet sized patient sleeping rooms and the area where you see where treatments were done, it is eerie, scary, and eye opening.
I referenced Dorothy Gale because L. Frank Baum lived in South Dakota and I’m sorry to say I’ve never visited the Aberdeen area where he first started writing the Oz books. Although we can’t click our ruby slippers heels together to get to our destinations, if you want to know what it was like to live a hundred years ago, there is no place like home to get started!
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CORA ANDERSON ISN’T LOOKING FOR LOVE The young widow is just trying to make a life on the prairie for herself and her newborn son. When handsome newcomer Luke Dow shows up at her cabin door, she soon relies on the man’s help with her homestead…and dares to dream of the future. Luke came to the small South Dakota town to build a hotel and make his fortune. But he never expected to care for anyone, let alone the beautiful Cora and her baby boy. When Cora’s land claim is challenged by a neighbor, Luke will do all he can to protect her and her home—and claim her heart.