Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction


The settings for novels on this page were in Wisconsin or the authors lived in Wisconsin. See the right column for more info about this website.



Julius the Street Boy; or Life in the West

NY: Burt 1874
Alger, Horatio Go to Book

“Horatio Alger, Jr. (1834-99) was a prolific writer of dime novel stories for boys. From the debut of his first novel, Ragged Dick, in 1867, Alger was instrumental in establishing a new genre of dime novels known as the ‘city story.’ The genre arose out of the wide-spread urbanization that followed the Civil War and paralleled the rise of industrialism. Alger’s stories heroicized the young street urchins living in poverty among large, urban centers such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. With uncommon courage and moral fortitude, Alger’s youths struggle against adversity to achieve great wealth and acclaim. These rags to riches stories were enormously popular with the public and flourished in the decades from 1870 to 1890.”
– From Stanford University’s “Dime Novel and Story Paper Collection” online

The Golden Justice

Boston: Riverside 1890
Bishop, William HenryGo to Book

Bishop (1847-1929) was a native of Connecticut and a graduate of Yale. He studied architecture after finishing college and then was the editor and proprietor of the Milwaukee Commercial Times for nine years. He afterward was an instructor at Yale and then served as the U.S. Consul in Genoa and Palermo. He published many books and contributed articles to leading magazines.
The Golden Justice is set in Milwaukee.

The Sheriff of Silver Bow

Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1921
Braley, Berton Go to Book

The author was the son of Arthur Briggs Braley, a municipal judge in Madison, WI who wrote on literary and political subjects and was a well-known Shakespeare scholar. Berton was born in Madison and graduated from UW-Madison in 1905. He began writing short stories, articles and verse commercially while still a boy, and continued throughout his life to be a free-lance journalist and writer, traveling widely. In a profile published in 1937, Braley was said to have written over 450 short stories and about 10,000 poems, in addition to numerous articles for the press.

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

Songs of the Workaday World

NY: Doran 1915
Braley, Berton Go to Book

For biographical info, see Braley’s other entry on this page.

Mr. Braley’s poems, written with swinging rhythm and facile rhyme, are familiar to readers of newspaper and magazine verse. Those collected in this book are arranged in seven groups: Songs of the workaday world; Songs of the inland seas; Songs of deep water; Western ballads; Songs of the copper country; Songs of the long trail; Songs of the true romance.
-Book Review Digest
“A collection of swinging, vigorous verse written by an American for Americans. He knows the heart of labor, the brains of labor, and the temper of the men who do the dangerous everyday work of the world. His poems are excellent for reading aloud.”
– American Review of Reviews

Deacon White’s Idees

Boston:Mayhew 1905
Brown, Stirling Wilson Go to Book

The author was a native of La Crosse, WI.

Two Wilderness Voyagers; A True Tale of Indian Life

New York: Revell 1908
Calkins, Franklin WellesGo to Book

Calkins (1857-1928) was born in Iowa Co., WI, and read law for three years early in his career. He lived much of his life on the western frontier, and was an early explorer of the Black Hills country. He visited many Indian tribes and became familiar with Indian languages. He also had an interest in animal and bird life of the plains and mountains. He wrote mainly about the frontier and Indians.

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

The Wooing of Tokala : An Intimate Tale of the Wild Life of the American Indian Drawn from Camp and Trail

New York: Revell 1907
Calkins, Franklin WellesGo to Book

For biographical info, see the other entry for Calkins on this page.

“With only a thread of a story in the conventional sense, this is a thoroughly competent study of a group of Dakotah and Sioux Indians. Their habits, traditions, and point of view are given with a detail which though painstaking is never tiresome.”
“He makes his Indians quite plain, as creatures in the toils of tradition and beliefs which they must obey. His style is clear and simple, attaining excellent effects by dint of completely avoiding self-conscious and labored efforts. In fact, the whole book contains matter of real interest, which is conveyed without parade of knowledge and with a total absence of trick or mannerism.”
– The Book Review Digest

Boss Bart, Politician; a Western Story of Love and Politics

NY: Neely 1896
Chapple, Joe MitchellGo to Book

For biographical information about the author, see his other entry on this page.

The Minor Chord : a Tale of the Middle West in the early ’70s

Boston: Chapple 1912
Chapple, Joe MitchellGo to Book

Chapple (1867-1950) was born in Iowa. In his early career he was a newspaper man in North Dakota and Chicago, and was for nearly a decade the editor and proprietor of the Ashland Daily Press in Wisconsin. In 1897 he went to Boston to take over editorship of the Bostonian, which was later re-named the National Magazine.

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

Puritan and Pagan

NY: Holt 1920
Corbett, Elizabeth Frances Go to Book

For biographical info about the author, see Corbett’s other entry on this page.

Nancy Desmond is the puritan, Mary Allen the pagan. Nancy is a painter with a studio on Washington Square. Mary Allen is a distinguished actress. Max Meredith, who has married one of Nancy’s college friends, comes to New York on business and looks her up. They see much of one another during his stay and find to their dismay that they have fallen in love. True to her instincts and her ideals Nancy sends Max away from her. In the meantime, Roger Greene, Nancy’s friend and teacher, has become infatuated with Mary and between these two there is no question of renunciation. They accept their love as a fact although Mary refuses marriage. When Nancy learns of the affair she Is crushed and finds how much Roger has meant to her. Later after a long separation, after she has seen Max again and after the other love has run its course, Nancy and Roger come together.
– Book Review Digest
“The author has vividly portrayed several phases of New York life and analyzed skillfully several original characters, without forgetting that her main purpose was to tell a very old and very human story.”
– N.Y. Evening Post

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

The Vanished Helga

NY: Doran 1918
Corbett, Elizabeth Frances Go to Book

Corbett (1887-1981) lived with her family at the Northwestern Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Milwaukee for 25 years (near present-day Miller Park), where her father worked as an administrator. She continued to live in Milwaukee for several years afterward, before moving to New York. Corbett graduated from UW-Milwaukee in 1910, quickly becoming a novelist and short story writer. In addition to many other works, in 1941 she published Out at the Soldiers’ Home, an autobiographical account of her years there.

Jim Whittaker meets Zoe Lenox at the home of his friends, the Evingtons. She is a very
beautiful and a very proud and cold young woman of unlimited wealth. Her one passion is the sea. Shortly after, she asks Whittaker to cruise with her and the Evingtons on her yacht, the Helga. Jim goes on board at the appointed time and does not learn till the boat is under way that the other guests have been detained and that he is sailing alone with the goddess. Her caprice takes them into the Antarctic where they are all but wrecked by the floating ice, drifting about for days with little hope of rescue. It is at this time that the girl’s proud poise breaks down and she gives herself up to her awakened love for Whittaker. Once returned to land however, her old manner is resumed, and the latter half of the story has to do with the stormy years that follow before her stubborn determination is finally softened.
– Book Review Digest

The Hills Stand Watch

NY: Duell, Sloan & Pierce 1960
Derleth, AugustGo to Book

This story is historical fiction about Wisconsin’s territorial period and early statehood. August Derleth (1909 -1971) was raised in Sauk City, WI, and wrote many works about Sauk City and Prairie du Sac, in a collection he called the “Sac Prairie Saga”. He was an incredibly prolific writer, publishing, in his own estimate, upward of 3,000 individual works in approximately 350 magazines, in addition to numerous books.

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

Wisconsin Plays

NY: Huebsch 1922
Dickinson, Thomas H., ed. Go to Book

Original one-act plays from the repertory of the Wisconsin Dramatic Society. The authors were Zona Gale, Thomas H. Dickinson and William Ellery Leonard.

Buttered Side Down; Stories

NY: Grosset & Dunlap 1912
Ferber, Edna Go to Book

For biographical info of Edna Ferber, see her other entry on this page.

A dozen stories of breadwinners, women chiefly, whose bread invariably falls with the buttered side down. The types are chosen from among shop girls principally, and they are portrayed not as duncolored strugglers, pitiful to contemplate, but valiant or depressed, they are romantic human beings, experiencing the emotions which make all the world kin. Humor and crisp dialog abound as in the author’s “Dawn O’Hara.” The stories are The frog and the puddle: The man who came back: What she wore; A bush league hero; The kitchen side of the door; One of the old girls; Maymeys from Cuba; The leading lady; That home-town feeling; The homely heroine; Sun dried; Where the car turns at 18th.
– Book Review Digest
“Exceedingly slangy, occasionally flippant, amusing and uncommonly real stories of shopgirls, stenographers, actresses and other working women.”
– A. L. A. Booklist

Fanny Herself

NY: Grosset and Dunlap 1917
Ferber, EdnaGo to Book

Born in Kalamazoo, MI, Ferber (1885-1968) moved with her family to Chicago and Iowa before settling in Appleton, WI at age 12. After graduating from high school, she was a reporter on the Appleton Daily Crescent and later the Milwaukee Journal before publishing her first novel. Fanny Herself, a story of a young girl coming of age in Appleton at the turn of the 20th century, is generally considered to have been based on Ferber’s own experiences. Regarded by many as the “greatest American woman novelist of her day,” Ferber would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1925 for So Big. She was also the author of Showboat and Cimarron, which along with other of her later works were successfully adapted for stage and screen. Three of her books were developed into musicals.

Fanny Brandeis, like Miss Ferber’s Emma McChesney, was a successful business woman. Her mother, Molly Brandeis, who, after her husband’s death, ran Brandeis’ Bazaar in the little middle western town of Winnebago, was also a good business woman, but she died of pneumonia, brought on by overwork, when Fanny was twenty-four. Then Fanny, swayed by “a bitter sorrow, and ambition, and resentment” made up her mind to crush out sympathy and unselfishness and the artistic impulse in herself, and to mold herself into “a hard, keen-eyed resolute woman, whose godhead was to be success, and to whom success would mean money and position.” She went to work in the Haynes-Cooper mall order house, where she made good, and in a few years was earning her $10,000. Then she had to choose between a still greater business success with Michael Fenger, former manager of the Haynes-Cooper concern, and a chance to develop her talent as a cartoonist and to marry Clarence Heyl, who had loved her for years, and who did not see the real values of life in terms of cash. Other characters are Father Fitzpatrick, the Catholic priest in Winnebago; Ella Monahan, buyer for the glove department of Haynes-Cooper; and Fanny’s brother, Theodore, the young violinist, to secure whose musical education Mrs. Brandeis and her daughter had made such sacrifices. Emma McChesney also plays a very slight part in the story.
– Book Review Digest

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

Pete Crowther; Salesman

NY: Doubleday 1913
Ferris, Elmer Ellsworth Go to Book

Ferris (1861-1929) was born in Lamartine, in Fond du Lac County, WI, and attended high school in Beaver Dam. He began his career as a lawyer in Nebraska and then was ordained in the Baptist ministry, serving in La Crosse, Milwaukee and New Jersey. In 1909 he retired from the ministry, becoming a traveling salesman and then a sales manager. His stories were mostly about salesmanship or business.

Pete Crowthir is a typical American hustler who, with good nature, sound common sense, and shrewd business ability, sells goods on the road. The story tells of his rise in life from a position as clerk in a country store to that of salesman for a big wholesale house.
– Book Review Digest

Friendship Village

NY: Macmillan 1908
Gale, ZonaGo to Book

Short stories of a Wisconsin village, held together by a thread of narrative.
For biographical info about the author, see her other entry on this page.

A village of no definite geographical location is the scene of happenings which are recorded by one who drops quietly into the life and ways of the towns-folk for a short season. From the lowliest to the village autocrat, the chronicler selects her types, and gathers them into a sheaf for the reader. The volume has a large brotherhood-of-man value in its lessons of neighborly kindness and charity, in its substitution of the spirit of simplicity and genuineness for superficial worldliness.
– Book Review Digest

Miss Lulu Bett; An American Comedy of Manners

NY: Appleton 1921
Gale, Zona Go to Book

Zona Gale (1874-1938) was an author and playwright, and was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in 1921. Born in Portage, WI, she attended Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam and received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She then worked for six years at newspapers in Milwaukee and New York before returning to Portage, where she lived and worked for the rest of her life. In 1920 she published the novel Miss Lulu Bett, and then adapted it for a play. It was this play that won the Pulitzer. In addition to being a prolific writer, Gale was very active in progressive political causes. You can find her autobiography on the Wisconsin Biography page of this website.

This play, which was awarded the Pulitzer drama prize for 1921 as the best American play of the year, is a dramatization of the novel of the same name. It has been given on the stage with two different endings, both of which have been included in the present volume.
– Book Review Digest

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly

Chicago: Stone and Kimball 1895
Garland, HamlinGo to Book

Hamlin Garland (1860-1940) was born in West Salem, WI and grew up on a succession of homesteads in Iowa and South Dakota. He moved to Chicago in 1893, where he wrote this novel. He was a well-known authority on pioneer life, as well as a novelist, short story writer, poet, biographer, lecturer and traveler. Memories of his boyhood days on a Wisconsin farm furnished him with themes for his work.

“Widely regarded as the best of Hamlin Garland’s novels, Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly tells the story of a country girl of precocious ability who is raised by her widower father on a small Wisconsin farm. She wants to be a poet and eventually attends the university, where her talent is encouraged. A carefully crafted defense of the New Woman, the first generation of women to achieve economic and social independence, Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly deals with issues that are still with us-the nature of femininity, the problem of reconciling career and family, the meaning of “love,” and the need for equal opportunity. Above all, it records a nineteenth-century man’s vision of a world that still eludes us, one in which men and women are equal partners.”
– from Google Books

Trail-makers of the Middle Border

NY: Macmillan 1926
Garland, Hamlin Go to Book

Pictures of three generations of pioneers in Wisconsin. See the note about the author at Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly, on this web page.

Something about Singlefoot: Chapters in the Life of an Oshkosh Man

NY: Cochrane 1910
Hicks, John Go to Book

Author John Hicks (1847-1917) was a newspaperman, author, and diplomat. He moved with his parents to Wisconsin in 1851, settling in Little Chute. He attended Lawrence College (1865-1867), and began his journalistic career in 1867 as city editor of the Oshkosh Northwestern. He became the owner of the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, and incorporated the John Hicks Publishing Co. in 1889. He served as U.S. Minister to Peru (1889-1893) and Minister to Chile (1905-1909). He contributed numerous articles to his newspaper based on his travels, and was the author of two novels, The Man from Oshkosh (1894) and Something about Singlefoot (1909).
– Wisconsin Historical Society

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

Richard Haddon: A Romance of Old Fort Crawford

Boston: Stratford 1920
Hoffman, William StanislausGo to Book


Their Friendly Enemy

NY: Macmillan 1921
Hunting, GardnerGo to Book

Gardner Hunting (1872-1958) was born in Kilbourn City, WI, son of a pastor. He was engaged in commercial drawing until 1897, when he began a series of newspaper reporting and editing jobs in Michigan, Chicago and New York. He also worked as a writer and editor in the film industry. He wrote a number of novels, including some for juveniles, and contributed to magazines.

Two girls just out of high school, Hallie Rector and Marah Whittlesey, decide they do not want to teach school, so when a chance comes to buy out the town paper, the Penwater Clarion, they borrow money and become real editors. At first things run beautifully; then there are difficulties over the attitude of the paper toward the town water system, and trouble comes thick and fast. Just when it seems as if things could not be worse, a fire breaks out which threatens to wreck a whole section of the town. But this instead of being the end, turns out a blessing in disguise.
– Book Review Digest

The Midlanders

Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1912
Jackson, Charles Tenney Go to Book

Charles Jackson (1874-1955) was born in St. Louis, MO. He attended high school and university in Madison, WI, leaving college after one year to serve in a Wisconsin army unit at the time of the Spanish-American War. He worked on newspapers in California for several years before returning briefly to Wisconsin to work on the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1909. He was the winner of the O. Henry award in 1921 for the best short story.

The midlands are the wide prairie states of the middle West thru which the Mississippi river flows. The story begins low down in the Louisiana swamps and moves northward with old Uncle Michigan and little Aurelie when they start out to explore the states and countries with the music names they have picked out on the map in the old geography. Most of the story plays itself out in Rome, Iowa, and never it would seem, has the atmosphere of the complacent, prosperous, cheerfully unprogressive mid-West town been better reproduced on paper. Politics plays a part and so do the Ladies’ Shakespeare club and the social ideals of High street, but the best thing about the story is still Aurelie, the little Cajun girl from down river, who sparkles and scintillates and grows to sweet womanhood unspoiled by the publicity of a beauty contest or the notoriety of Chicago musical comedy success.
– Book Review Digest

May Iverson

NY: Harper 1904
Jordan, Elizabeth Garver Go to Book

Elizabeth Jordan (1867-1947) was born in Milwaukee and graduated from the Convent of Notre Dame there. After working several years as a secretary in Milwaukee she moved to New York. There she joined the editorial staff of the New York World for 10 years and the Sunday World for three more years before moving on to Harper’s Bazaar as editor.
Jordan authored many novels and contributed articles and stories to magazines. She also served in leading positions in a number of reform organizations, including the National Woman Suffrage Association.

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

Why Joan?

NY: Century 1919
Kelly, Eleanor MerceinGo to Book

Eleanor Mercein (1880-1968) was born and raised in Milwaukee, and was sent to a Catholic boarding school in Washington, D.C. for high school. In 1901 she married and moved with her husband to Louisville, KY, where she began writing novels, and stories for major magazines. She traveled widely, helping her to set many of her stories in exotic locales.

The scene of this story is laid in Kentucky, just before and during the great war. The principal characters are Major Darcy; Mrs. Galloway, a vulgar, rich and kind-hearted widow, with a shrewd commonsense of her own, who becomes the Major’s second wife; Joan, daughter of the first Mrs. Darcy; Ellen, the “hired help,” really one of the family; and Joan’s three lovers—Eduard Desmond, who lives only for the emotion of the moment and has no use for matrimony; Archie Blair, a decidedly rough diamond, but unselfish to a fault, whom Joan mistakenly marries; and Stefan Nikolai, the talented Jewish author who has long loved Joan and whom she learns to love. The novel ends differently from most modern stories in that Stefan tells Joan: “I do not need you, and you do not need me, Joan. People like us get on quite well alone.” So she goes hack to Archie, bears him a son, and under Nikolai’s influence, becomes a writer. The book ends with Archie starting for the war, Nikolai going to Russia to help, and Joan pounding away at her typewriter.
– Book Review Digest

Captain Blake

Philadelphia: Lippincott 1891
King, Charles (Capt.)Go to Book

Capt. Charles King (1844-1933) was born in Albany, NY and graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1866, serving in the army until 1879 when he was “retired for wounds” as a Captain. He then served in the Wisconsin National Guard in the 1880s and 1890s, reaching the rank of Brigadier General. From 1888-1889 he served in the Philippines Insurrection. King authored over 50 novels, mainly on military and adventure themes.

The Iron Brigade; A Story of the Army of the Potomac

NY: Dillingham 1902
King, Charles Go to Book


The Girl from Oshkosh

Chicago: Weeks 1896
Lane, Katharine GlynnGo to Book

Katharine Glynn Lane grew up in Oshkosh, graduating from Oshkosh Normal School; a teachers’ college. The Girl from Oshkosh was semi-autobiographical, and her only published book. In 1896, the year of its publication, she married Rollin B. Lane. He had grown up in Oshkosh also, but had established himself as a real estate investor in Redlands, CA, where the couple went to live. Rollin soon became a real estate tycoon in Hollywood, where the couple built an enormous mansion. Katherine played a leading role in Hollywood social and community affairs.

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

The Federal Judge

Boston: Houghton 1897
Lush, Charles Keeler Go to Book

Charles Lush (1861-?) was born in La Crosse and attended boarding school in Indiana. He worked in printing and then as a reporter for a Chicago newspaper. He moved to Milwaukee in 1889, where he continued to work at newspapers.

The Breath of the Runners

NY: Stokes 1906
Mears, Mary MarthaGo to Book

“One of the runners is a large-souled, unselfish girl, the other a jealous, narrow-minded; self-constituted rival. Beulah Marcel’s art career from the lowly rounds of a cameo-cutter’s apprentice to the point of distinction as a sculptor Is unselfishly subordinated to that of Enid Rahfield spares no effort, good or evil, to win much-coveted fame. The scene shifts from New York to Paris, and at every pause of the runners, the love interest creeps in, and with it, misunderstandings which are fully accounted for at the mention of “artistic temperament.”
“There is much knowledge of the art world, much keen insight into the hearts of men and women, and no small amount of healthful philosophy of life in this unpretentious story.”
– The Book Review Digest

Mary Mears (1876-1943) grew up in Oshkosh, where her mother and sister were notable in the arts. Mary’s mother, Elizabeth Farnsworth Mears, wrote the first book of verse published in Wisconsin (1860). Mary’s sister, Helen Farnsworth Mears, was a sculptress who created a statue of reformer Frances Willard that still represents the state of Illinois in Statuary Hall, in the U.S. Capitol building. Mary, with the encouragement of her parents, decided in her teens to become a novelist. Her first published novel was mostly completed while she was still a schoolgirl. Mears said in 1920 that she considered The Breath of the Runners to be her most individual work.

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

The Lure O’ Gold

NY: Clode 1904
Millard, BaileyGo to Book

Born in Markesan, Green Lake County, WI, Bailey Millard (1859-1941) did not receive much formal education. He started his career as a ‘printer’s devil’ and worked his way west through a succession of newspaper and printing shops. In the 1890s he was an editor of the San Francisco Call, and in 1918 he was the managing editor of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin. He published a number of new writers, including Jack London.

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

Big Flat

NY: Doran 1919
Oyen, HenryGo to Book

Olaf Henry Oyen (1882-1921) was born in Norway and immigrated with his parents to Waupaca, WI, where he lived on a farm and roamed the woods with his brothers as a small boy. His father died, and a few years later the widow moved the family to Chicago. Henry was eventually hired as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, and began writing fiction in his spare time. At age 27 he moved to New York to try to make a living writing fiction, but without success, so he moved back to Waupaca and lived with his brothers in a cottage on Otter Lake. Then he began writing adventure stories set in the Wisconsin woods, and quickly became a popular and successful writer. Big Flat was one of those stories.
– Biographical info from Wayne Guyant, Waupaca County Post Feb 28, 1991

A story of the pioneer farmer of the lake region. Martin Calkins starts out in life with an apparently worthless stretch of timber land and promise of ruination by a speculating company. He has refused to sell the latter his land and has also influenced his neighbors not to sell theirs. Although they were at first opposed to innovations of any kind, he forms a cooperative association of the farmers in the flat, low-lying country. They buy tractors with which to clear the land and one year later are all well on the way to prosperity. In the meantime, they have defeated the plans of the speculating company. Interwoven with Martin’s struggles for the land is his romance with “the little school chum,” who has grown up to be a capable business woman and help-meet.
– Book Review Digest

Gaston Olaf

NY: Doran 1917
Oyen, Henry
Go to Book

See the biographical note about the author at Big Flat, on this web page.

His full name, Gaston Olaf Francois Thorson, revealed his mixed French and Scandinavian parentage, and this joint heritage was apparent in his nature too. There were times when Gaston Olaf was wholly French, other times when he was all Norwegian. His entry Into Havens Falls was spectacular. Gaston Olaf arrived in the nick of time, to make himself, as he always seemed able to do, center of a dramatic little scene in which an attractive girl played the other part. Tom Pine, his woods partner, scenting-danger, tried to guide Gaston Olaf out of town. It was Tom Pine’s fear that someday his friend would like a town so well that he would settle down and stay there. His fears seem for a time to be justified, for when Gaston learns of the plot of Dave Taggart, of the La Croix lumber company, to steal Rose Havens’s timber, he feels that this town is the place for him. He foils Taggart and helps to make Havens Falls a place fit to live in, and then the choice that Tom Pine has foreseen faces him: town or trail? And the instinct that is deepest seated within him wins.
– Book Review Digest

The Pride of Tellfair

NY: Harper 1903
Peake, Elmore ElliottGo to Book

Elmore Peake (1871-1921) was born in Ohio and lived in Janesville, WI for a time. His wife was from Lake Geneva WI. He worked for several years as a private secretary to railroad executives before becoming a novelist in 1896. The Pride of Tellfair is said to be set in Lake Geneva.

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

Hjalmar, or the Immigrant’s Son

Minneapolis: Holter 1922
Peterson, James A.Go to Book


Penitentiary Post

NY: Doubleday 1920
Pinkerton, Kathrene Sutherland and Pinkerton, Robert EugeneGo to Book

Kathrene Gedney Pinkerton (1887-1967) was born in Minneapolis and was a graduate of UW-Madison. Robert Pinkerton (1882-1970) was born in Arena, Iowa County, WI. He attended UW-Madison, then worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in Milwaukee. The two married in 1911. Their first effort in fiction was a novelette that they sold to Munsey’s Magazine for $150. They used the money to move to Canada, building an isolated cabin in the woods of Ontario. They continued to write fiction and non-fiction, jointly and separately, from the north woods for many years.

A story of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Phil Boynton is sent to take charge of the fort known as Penitentiary Post, a place with an evil reputation. Behind him at Savant House, he leaves the girl he loves, knowing that John Wickson, the man who Is sending him north, also loves her and is determined to win her, and half suspecting that personal motives were back of the appointment. At Penitentiary Post he finds himself fully occupied with the mystery of the “weeteego,” or evil spirit, that haunts it. His Indians desert the place in fear and the fur hunters refuse to come near It. Joyce Plummer, hearing tales of what he Is undergoing, comes alone through the storm to find him, and Wickson follows. The three, who are forced to make common cause against hunger, come to an understanding, and the poor, crazed Indian who had watched his family die of starvation and is taking a weird revenge on the white man, meets his own fate.
– Book Review Digest

Under Sail

NY: Macmillan 1918
Riesenberg, FelixGo to Book

Felix Reisenberg (1879-1939) was born in Milwaukee and attended the New York Nautical School, graduating in 1897. He then became a deck officer in the Merchant Marine, and served in the Naval Reserve. He twice served on the crews of airships that attempted to reach the North Pole, in 1906 and 1907. In 1913 he graduated from the Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science, and then worked as a civil engineer for New York State, serving also as superintendent of the New York Nautical School. His novels drew upon both his careers; seaman and civil engineer. His widely-used textbook on seamanship was published in 1922.
Under Sail is (according to a publisher description) “a narrative of the old square-rigger sailing ship days, detailing the story of a voyage around Cape Horn to Honolulu and back to New York in the American three skysail yarder “A. J. Fuller” in 1897-8″

The Only Way

Duluth, MN: Conopus 1926
Shastid, Dr. Thomas HallGo to Book

Dr. Shastid (1866-?) was born in Pittsfield, Ill. and studied at universities in Vermont, Harvard, Michigan and Vienna before becoming a practicing Ophthalmologist in Superior, WI. He wrote widely in his professional field and published numerous books and articles, both fiction and nonfiction, on many other subjects.

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

The Legatee

Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1903
Smith, Alice PrescottGo to Book

“It is a story of the lumber districts of the northeastern peninsula of Wisconsin. The hero of the book, the legatee, is a young Southerner, who inherits a lumber mill in the district and goes there to take possession of it. He finds himself met by a spirit of hostility, due primarily to the fact that he is a Southerner and has been a slave-owner, but also largely to his inability to understand and sympathize with the people. Along with the animosity of sectionalism growing out of the war, there Is also developed a further dislike of the stranger by the teaching of temperance fanatics, who denounce him as a wine bibber, and certain socialists, who look upon him as a representative of capitalistic oppressors of workingmen.”

“The author knows the country well. We are told that when she was but a child her father went to this country as a Congregational missionary and she grew up amid the scenes and the people she describes. It is said of her that her father’s parish covered a wide district, and in his long drives from farm to farm he made a comrade of his daughter. There was not a village she did not know, and she often stayed for weeks with friends on the forest farms.”
– Review article in the San Francisco Call, Vol. 93, no. 147, 26 Apr 1903

High Joe; or, The Logger’s Story

Madison: Busy World 1892
Smith, J. BurrittGo to Book

Jabez Burritt Smith (1852-1914) lived in Hudson and River Falls, Wisconsin as a boy and young lawyer. In 1888 he moved to Madison to be a partner in a law firm there and to assume the position of Secretary for the Prohibition state committee. He continued to work for prohibition throughout his life, writing widely on the subject. His novel High Joe was his best known work.

Merrilie Dawes

NY: Scribner 1913
Spearman, Frank HamiltonGo to Book

Frank Spearman (1859-1937) lived in Appleton from l868-l879, attending public schools and Lawrence College, and lived in Wisconsin again from l884 to 1886. A popular novelist and short story writer, especially on railroad themes, his novel Whispering Smith was made into movies eight times and became a TV series in 1961.

A novel in which the characters are a group of financiers who buy and sell railroads with the celerity and nonchalance with which lesser men might acquire and dispose of so much kindling wood. Merrilie Dawes, the heroine, is a very rich young woman who says she is tired of being looked upon as “an estate.” She cannot escape her destiny, however; the wealth is hers, and thru the possession of it she finds herself involved in the financial ventures that threaten to overwhelm her friend John Adrane. She meets Adrane only after he has become engaged to Annie Whitney, but in the panic which bankrupts John this inconvenient engagement is dissolved and he is left free to become something more than a friend to Merrilie.
– Book Review Digest

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

Partners of Providence

NY: Century 1907
Stewart, Charles David Go to Book

Charles Stewart (1868-1960) was born in Zanesville, OH and attended school in Milwaukee and Beaver Dam, WI. He served as the Executive Secretary to the Governor of Wisconsin from 1915-16, and lived in Hartford, Dodge and Washington Counties, WI. He is known for his novels, essays, and short stories, many of which have a Wisconsin background.

In the vernacular of the rover, Sam Daly recounts his “rolling-stone, happy-go-lucky” experiences mainly on “Mississippi river steamboats and the rafts and landings alongside from Cairo to New Orleans.” Sam’s partners are his dog Rags and Clancy, the expert “tosser” of hot rivets into a bridge-builder’s bucket. They run the round of chance, sometimes are masters of fate, often a prey to it, but are ever cheerful philosophers.
– A. L. A. Booklist

The Contessa’s Sister

Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1911
Teall, Gardner CallahanGo to Book

Gardner Teall (1878-?) was born in Eau Claire, WI and was educated in Minnesota. From about 1910 he was in New York and worked as an editor on magazines such as House and Garden, American Homes and Gardens and Good Housekeeping.

A young American with literary proclivities and enough money to insure him leisure goes to the island of Capri, hires a villa, where straightway a face—”as lovely as any Raphael knew”— gets confused with his azure skies and primrose sunsets. His course of love is not altogether smooth, because a German baron has seen the face too. Everything works out pleasantly and the reader finds the story full of real people whom it is entertaining to know; among them, besides the three mentioned, are the Contessa, an American widow, and an English spinster.
– Book Review Digest

Glenwood of Shipbay

NY: Macmillan 1921
Walsh, John HenryGo to Book

John Walsh (1879-?) was born in Marquette Co., WI, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, and received an M.S. in Naval Architecture at MIT. He had a career in the Navy and authored short stories and novels.

The hero is a Maine shipbuilder, eccentric, forceful, and given to the emission of sententious remarks something in the manner of Pudd’nhead Wilson, though they are not always bull’s-eyes. His career is followed from boyhood, through various adventures in business, in love affairs, and politics, to a spectacular success.
— Literary Digest

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

The Herd

NY: Cochrane 1908
Ward, Jane Olive PatriciaGo to Book

Jane Ward (1882-1918) was born and grew up in Lake Geneva, WI and attended university in Minneapolis. She traveled widely throughout the U.S., studying the condition of the laboring classes, the race problem in the south and the position of small farmers in the midwest.

Richard Epps, and other stories

Milwaukee: Watrous 1906
Watrous, Jerome A. Go to Book

Jerome Watrous (1840-1922) was born in New York and lived with his parents in Wisconsin as a child for six years. In 1857 her returned to Wisconsin, teaching for two years in Calumet County and working on newspapers in Menasha and Appleton. He then served in the Infantry for four years during the Civil War, returning to newspaper work in Black River Falls, Fond du Lac and Milwaukee. During those years he also served in the Wisconsin State Assembly and was a customs collector in Milwaukee. He returned to military service as a Major during the Spanish American War, and was sent to the Philippines in 1900.
In addition to his works of fiction, Watrous authored a 2-volume history of Milwaukee county (1900). The stories in Richard Epps were mostly published in previous years by the Chicago Times-Herald, and drew upon Watrous’s military experience.

Britomart, the Socialist

Chicago: Scroll
Weir, Florence RoneyGo to Book

Born in Waupun (Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties), Florence Weir (1861-1932) made her home as an adult in Seattle, writing short stories for magazines and publishing a number of novels.

Wisconsin Novels and Historical Fiction

Lydia of the Pines

NY: Stokes 1917
Willsie, HonoreGo to Book

Nora Bryan McCue (1880-1940) was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, and moved with her family to Madison, WI as a small child. She majored in history at UW-Madison and married Henry Willsie there in 1904. The couple was living in Arizona when she began submitting articles to magazines under the name Honore Willsie. After divorcing Willsie, she married publisher William Morrow in 1924, who soon afterward founded a New York publishing house. She continued to write in New York, becoming an authority on Abraham Lincoln and publishing a number of novels and biographies.

(About the book) “They are as poor as a family can be, among those rolling northern hills. Amos and his girls, Lydia and Patience — with the hired help Lizzie whom Amos can barely afford — scrape out a meager living on the edge of a town nestled among maple-edged farmlands. But Lydia is as rich with life as the motherless family is poor of pennies. With her friend Kent and even the spoiled Margery she finds play and joy aplenty. Troubles loom ahead, though: sickness, worries, and debts — and then political turmoil so fierce it threatens to tear the community apart — and that even more direly threatens the nearby Indians on their ancestral lands.”

“Lydia has no choice but to face the difficulties as they arrive. Yet it is when she learns about the old pine woods, and takes to heart what they mean, that she moves at last, and forever, beyond girlhood.”
– From the Goodreads website

Poems of Pleasure

Chicago: Conkey 1897
Wilcox, Ella WheelerGo to Book

Ella Wilcox (1855-1919) grew up at Lake Mendota, near Madison, where she remained until her late 20s. She became well-known in Wisconsin for her poetry while still in high school. Her poem “Solitude” began with the still-familiar lines:
“Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone”
Later in life she was associated with Spiritualism and Theosophy. Her autobiography, The Worlds and I can be found on the Biographies & Memoirs in Wisconsin History page of this website.

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

Every One His Own Way

NY: McClure. 1901
Wyatt, Edith FranklinGo to Book

Edith Wyatt (1873-1958) was born in Tomah, Monroe County, WI, attended high school in Chicago and college at Bryn Mawr. She spent most of her adult life in Chicago, writing novels.

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