What was life at Gibbs Farm really like back then? – Twin towns


A historical fiction about the life of a Minnesota farmer’s wife in 1877 that celebrates the opening of Gibbs Farm for the season and a novel that reminds us of the past is a prologue. Both will launch in separate events this week.

“Grasshoppers in My Bed: Lillie Belle Gibbs, Minnesota Farm Girl, 1877.” Written by Terry Swanson, illustrated by Peggy Stern (Ramsey County Historical Society, $20)

I discovered a way that Frank is nothing like Tom Sawyer – he doesn’t seem to be very into girls. However, Tom Sawyer had been engaged twice when he was only twelve years old! I can’t imagine Frank kissing a girl.

On this May day, 145 years ago, Lillie Gibbs could have speculated in her diary about the actions of her brother, Frank. This is one of 138 fictional journal entries in this slim paperback, chronicling Lillie’s life from December 1876 to December 1877, written for intermediate level readers.

Lillie did not leave a diary per se, says author Swanson, but the book is based on primary sources from the Ramsey County Historical Society archives, including photographs, maps, programs, a personal Bible, Lillie’s dictionary and some of her school notebooks. full of essays, spelling words and calligraphy homework, as well as historical accounts from Lillie’s brother and her father’s accounting books.

Lillie was the daughter of Herman and Jane Gibbs, who acquired the land north of St. Paul in 1849. In 1949, local citizens and members of the Gibbs family saved the century-old property from demolition and the new Ramsey County Historical Society. worked to preserve, study and document the history of the Gibbs family. (The farm is at 2097 W. Larpenteur Ave., Falcon Heights.)

Swanson knew her stuff well, having served as program and site manager on the farm for 10 seasons. Lillie loved to sketch, and Swanson felt it was important to incorporate illustrations into the book. Local artist Peggy Stern has drawn and painted over 200 individual images that bring the pages to life.

Lillie was obviously an observant 11-year-old, writing in her diary about her week cleaning chamber pots, her parents’ sadness at the loss of a son, the summer heat, the grasshoppers, the Easter table laden with dishes of all kinds, attending the Independence Day celebration at Lake Como, and how sad she feels for having had a fight with her best friend.

Swanson hopes this book will answer the question she heard while working on the farm: “What was that? really like living on this farm at the time? »

Swanson and Stern will be at the opening day of Gibbs Farm on Saturday, May 28 starting at 10 a.m. can also take farm tours and Dakota lifestyles, see farm animals, and help with farm chores. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $5 for children over four. Pre-registration is recommended but not required. Go to [email protected]

“The Moments Between Dreams” by Judith F. Brenner (Greenleaf Book Group Press, $17.95)

Book jacket for "Moments between dreams"“You know how you act sometimes. How you really drive me crazy.

‘IDdon’t get angry on purpose, Joe.

“I haven’t hit you in a long time. I don’t think I have a problem.

“It’s an anger problem, Joe. Would you like Ellie to marry a man who beats her? Think about it. You are a model.

‘Your stupid a- triggers me. There is always a reason.

It’s the summer of 1943. Carol’s husband, Joe, is in the army when their baby girl, Ellie, is diagnosed with polio. It was parents’ worst fear, this epidemic for which there was no vaccine and, initially, no treatment. Alone in Chicago with her daughter and eldest son, Carol will do anything to help the child recover from painful surgery and learn to walk with braces.

Joe comes home and, at first, everything is fine as they move into a new house. But gradually, Joe’s temper changes and he begins to abuse his wife to the point of breaking her ribs and blackening her eyes. She has no idea what triggers it, so she’s constantly walking on eggshells. Whenever her mood takes over, Joe says it’s something she did. He refuses to let her drive their car or see his sister, brother and wife. She can’t wear makeup and he wants to know where she is at all times. She can only leave the house to go to church functions.

At first, Carol believes him when he says his bad behavior triggers him. After all, her Catholic faith and society in general maintain that a wife should do everything to please her husband. Even her priest is unsympathetic, though he can see her bruises. He simply tells her to invite her husband to come and see him and they will pray. Then he rushes out of the room because he is training a new choir boy. Later in the story, this priest is quickly sent to another parish. In 2022 we know what happened with the priest and the boys but, like domestic abuse, no one talked about this particular sin in the 1940s and 1950s.

Much of the book is devoted to Carol’s passionate need to help her daughter live life to the fullest. When Joe nearly kills her, she hatches an escape plan for her and Ellie, escaping to Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. Remember, those were the days when there were no hotlines or shelters for abused women. If Joe finds them, Carol could lose custody of her children to their father, whom they love because Carol kept the worst of his abuse out of their sight.

When tragedy strikes, Carol hardens her heart and loses the respect of her son and, briefly, her daughter.

A pandemic. An abused woman. Fear of the handicapped. Things aren’t much different now, in 2022, although we now know more about the signs of a controlling man.

It’s not a spoiler to reveal that the book ends on a hopeful note as the country enters the post-war era and Carol begins a new life.

Judith Brenner owns and operates Creative Lakes Media, a publishing services company. She is the author of non-fiction books, another novel and essays. She earned her MBA in Marketing from the University of St. Thomas.

The author will launch “The Moments Between Dreams” at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24 at the Edina Senior Center, 5280 Grandview Square, #101, Edina. It’s free, but registration is required at: judithbrenner.com/events.

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