The books shown in my last post were dated 1610-1984 (the dates were part of the title of the series). However, the bulk of the collection of original letters and documents that found their way to me in 1983 were dated from 1844 through the first decade of the 20th Century, with a notable exception in 1826 of my ancestor's certificate of military induction. Some decades were more abundantly represented than others. It became clear to me that the scope of the story from beginning to end became too big to deal with as completely as I wanted to in fewer than about 3,200 or so large-format pages. I'd already written 883 pages, and had only begun to reach what I felt to be the strongest part of the story, or the most interesting part of the letters. The original letters and documents from the 1840s through the 1860 comprised a well-woven fabric of people and the events, feelings, and thoughts that made up their lives.

It is hard to imagine a sphere of history more wonderfully preserved than that contained in the material I had at hand. Certain of the characters (my ancestors and others) had become so real to me that I lived with their thoughts every day. I wanted to share them. If I'd had nothing to do but write, I might have changed gears and gone forward, but my life contained so much more. Besides that, I was torn: should the materials simply be archived? While they SHOULD be archived, one question was where, and another question was, would the pageant ever be told? I wanted to find a compromise. Actually, I wanted to do it all. Some letters have been archived, some copied, some filed in one form or several forms. Some are available to the public now and some not yet. Eventually, I shelved what I had left, keeping a way to find all information until I could sort out a way to present it.

Finally, I believe that the story has to be told in parts, or at least begun in parts. It may be that someday an overview will be warranted, but for now I intend to begin to tell what is for me (and I hope for others) a compelling true tale of love, adventure, industry and friendship, success and passion, dreams and choices, awakening and flights of the spirit around the life of one man and the woman he vowed to love forever. The tale will begin at an emotional and physical turning point, and will conclude when a particular desire has been fulfilled, but so much of his industrious life is still to be played out. I feel and hope that there are several books on tap. I feel ready to start on this one, and I hope to complete it in a year. The provisional name is Love on the Prairie, but that doesn't cover the scope of the contents. I've become a product of the SEO mentality, where the title needs to include those words that Google can spider to return the desired results to searchers. So it gets a little complicated, not to mention wordy. But, Love on the Prairie is what came to mind. It can be changed, and it sounds better than Love and Law on the Prairie. We'll see what happens.

My plan is to keep this blog as a diary of the work, a place to sort out questions and hopefully attract some interest in my subject. I plan to post excerpts from these remarkable letters and some of my writing as well as discussions about both; we'll see what comes of it all. I always like to begin a blog post with an image. After awhile that may prove to be a challenge, but I'm resourceful :) If you happen to read this and have any questions, let me know.


Lee Spangler said...

An ambitious life project. It might be nice to learn the names of some of the Iowa historians and get the names from them of any corresponding reference works of the period.

tapirgal said...

Yeah. I'm not sure what to do about additional research. I've read a number of bios in publications and online, and they are filled with mistakes which (like researching tapirs) are then repeated and repeated so that they now show up on the Internet. In reading through this original material, it was interesting to see what facts were given at the time of the events without the kinds of errors that happen when you write history long after the event. The other kind of mistake I've found is in the "legend" category. Something sounds like a better story, or someone purposely obfuscated the facts because they were embarrassing. Or maybe they told it to someone and that person mis-remembered it. For these reasons, I'm hesitant to do much more research, and just go with the originals, because the information is likely to be accurate unless, of course, the writer is re-telling or remembering something themselves.

Well, that said, I'd be very interested in going to Iowa and researching complementary original docs and (judiciously) exploring historic texts. Further, it would be fun to see the locations. Is this what you meant?