Wisconsin fiction free books. Novels set in Wisconsin or by Wisconsin authors. Some take place in Milwaukee. Hundreds of ebooks, vintage & modern, many genres.
Mythology & Folklore
Great Lakes States
Hint: When a book you want to borrow at Internet Archive is already checked out, go to the Internet Archive’s ‘Search’ box, check “Search Metadata”, and search for the book’s title. Sometimes they have two or more copies.
Novels set in Wisconsin. This group of 100 modern books by major publishers, free and online, was found in a search for ‘Wisconsin Fiction’ in the Internet Archive book collection. The metadata in their database entries indicates that these are books that take place in Wisconsin.
Some authors are: Lori Wick, Celia Wilkins, LaVyrle Spencer, Stephen King, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Katherine Hannigan, Maria D. Wilkes, P. J. Tracy, Carol Ryrie Brink, Lyn Cote, Ann Packer, Michelle Jerott, Pamela Ford, Elizabeth Nunez, Dorothy Garlock, Kathryn Springer, Flynn Meaney, Sharon De Vita, Hamlin Garland, Ellen Hart, Fran Shaff, Rosalind Noonan, John R. Riggs, Rick Harsch, Sandra Kring, Patrick Somerville, Kathryn Quick, Betty Ren Wright.
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NY: Burt 1874
“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
Ansay, A. Manette
“A snowbound wedding at a brothel turned resort in Wisconsin is the setting for this hectic, entertaining tale about love and compromise. Can arty, beleaguered April find happiness with Caleb, the earnest son of a fundaentalist minister? Ansay creates a zany tribunal from the guest list—spurned aunts, awkward teen-agers, a grandmother who searches for lucky pennies as if her life depended on it—and by the novel’s end the answer is that everyone, including the reader, hopes so.” -New Yorker. Books set in Wisconsin.
Ansay, A. Manette
Morrow 1998 Dewey Dec. 973.91
“A rural legend—of an angel watching over a river— provides the framework for this . . . novel about faith
and its power to transform individuals and a community. When odd, overweight Gabriel Carpenter comes to Ambient, Wisconsin, he’s taunted by other children and instantly disliked by his fifth-grade teacher. One night, teenagers, drinking and up to no good, take Gabriel to the bridge, where he somehow jumps, slips, or is pushed into the river; then his body is found, warm and fragrant, lying in a distant barn, presumably delivered there by the river angel. The legend is reborn, the barn becomes a shrine, and a small town struggling with progress is given new life.” Booklist. Books set in Wisconsin.
Auslander, Joseph and Wordemann, Audrey
Old World customs and festivals among an ebullient family of Czech immigrants, set in Wisconsin in the 1800’s. Historical fiction books set in Wisconsin.
Bishop, William Henry
Boston: Riverside 1890
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. This book takes place in Milwaukee. Books that take place in Wisconsin.
A novel based on the Jack the Ripper murders in London, 1888.
Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1921
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.
NY: Doran 1915
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
Chronicles the adventures of eleven-year-old Caddie growing up with her six brothers and sisters on the Wisconsin frontier in the mid-nineteenth century. Pioneer life; Books set in Wisconsin.
Brown, Stirling Wilson
A story of a pioneer farmer in western Wisconsin. The author was a native of La Crosse, WI.
Calkins, Franklin Welles
New York: Revell 1908
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.
The Wooing of Tokala : An Intimate Tale of the Wild Life of the American Indian Drawn from Camp and Trail
Calkins, Franklin Welles
New York: Revell 1907
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
Chapple, Joe Mitchell
NY: Neely 1896
For biographical information about the author, see his other entry on this page.
Chapple, Joe Mitchell
Boston: Chapple 1912
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.
Corbett, Elizabeth Frances
NY: Holt 1920
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
Corbett, Elizabeth Frances
NY: Doran 1918
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
NY: Duell, Sloan & Pierce 1960
Pioneer life in a small lead-mining town in Wisconsin in the 1840’s; local politics and the movement toward statehood, trouble with the Indians, and details of lead mining. Books set in Wisconsin.
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.
The adventures of Hercules Dousman, an agent of the John Jacob Astor fur trading company in the Northwest Territory, and railroad builder.
Biographical novel of Nelson Dewey, first governor of Wisconsin, who came to Wisconsin Territory from New York in 1836. Books based in Wisconsin.
Dickinson, Thomas H., ed.
NY: Huebsch 1922
Original one-act plays from the repertory of the Wisconsin Dramatic Society. The authors were Zona Gale, Thomas H. Dickinson and William Ellery Leonard.
Duncan, Thomas W.
“Jim Buckmaster, nineteenth-century Wisconsin logger turned ruthless empire builder, is only one of the focal figures in a sprawling novel that takes its many characters into the north woods, New Mexico, New England, and the Civil War South.” – Booklist
Grosset and Dunlap 1971
“In this warm and beautifully written novel, well-known outdoorsman and wildlife expert Mel Ellis recounts the adventures and journeys of Duke, a wild Canada goose, during a two-year period of his life. Based on Mr. Ellis’s keen observations of a real gander’s experiences, the story is an exciting saga of Duke’s incredible will to live as he faces almost certain disasters in the form of hunters’ guns, traps, tornadoes, etc.” – Book cover.
Author Mel Ellis (1912-1984) grew up on a farm near Beaver Dam, WI, where he learned trapping and hunting from his father. After WWII service in the U.S. Army Air Force he worked for newspapers, and for 16 years was the Outdoors Editor for the Milwaukee Journal.
NY: Grosset & Dunlap 1912
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
“This story relates realistically the rise and fall of the lumber industry in Wisconsin and Michigan from 1850 to date. Of good Scotch-Irish stock, Barney Glasgow was a smart chore-boy who rose fast, married the boss’s daughter, owned the great paper-mills and camps, and at fifty-three was the richest man in Wisconsin. The story swings from the family home at Butte de Morts on Lake Winnebago to the north woods camps, to Europe, and back during the financial crash, closing with Barney’s two grandchildren. The title is a camp cook’s call to meals.” -Booklist. Books set in Wisconsin.
NY: Grosset and Dunlap 1917
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. Novels set in Wisconsin.
Ferris, Elmer Ellsworth
NY: Doubleday 1913
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
NY: Macmillan 1908
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. Novels set in Wisconsin.
NY: Appleton 1921
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
Gard, Robert E.
Stanton & Lee 1982
Stories from the author’s life in Wisconsin.
Chicago: Stone and Kimball 1895
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. Books based in Wisconsin.
NY: Macmillan 1926
Pictures of three generations of pioneers in Wisconsin. See the note about the author at Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly, on this web page.
Jane Hamilton (born 1957) is a best-selling author who lives and writes in a farmhouse near Rochester, Wisconsin. Several of her works have been selections of Oprah’s Book Club.
“Alice Goodwin is caring for her best friend’s children when two-year-old Lizzy Collins wanders to the pond on the Goodwin farm and drowns. The consequences of this tragedy reverberate through a small Wisconsin community, which never accepted Howard and Alice Goodwin. Theresa Collins, bereft at losing a child and a dear friend, draws on her Catholic religion and finds forgiveness. Alice, immobilized by guilt and grief and unable to function as a wife or mother to her own two daughters, is charged with abusing children in her part-time job as a school nurse.” -Libr J. Novels set in Wisconsin.
NY: Cochrane 1910
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
Hoffman, William Stanislaus
Boston: Stratford 1920
NY: Macmillan 1921
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
Jackson, Charles Tenney
Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1912
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
Jordan, Elizabeth Garver
NY: Harper 1904
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.
Pioneer days in Wisconsin before and during the Civil War; Southern wife loyal to her husband even after his death.
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.
King, Charles (Capt.)
Philadelphia: Lippincott 1891
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.
NY: Dillingham 1902
Lane, Katharine Glynn
Chicago: Weeks 1896
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.
Feminist Press 1984
“Margery Latimer (1899-1932) knows and understands human beings, particularly those who have been treated none too gently in the course of their lives… The heaviness and world weariness of her stories are balanced by the excellent craftsmanship which is the outstanding feature of her work.” – NY Times.
Perennial Classics 2000
“Here is a journey backward into time, an evocative recollection of summer fishing trips and picnics, the fall harvest, the well-stoked winter stove, the spring planting, and the Logan men and women whose lives were nurtured by the land. It is a world of warmth and honesty, filled with fragrances of country cooking and fresh-plowed fields, where the link between man and nature are strong and direct.” – Publisher. Books based in Wisconsin.
Author Ben Logan (1920-2014) grew up on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin’s Crawford County during the Great Depression. He served in the Navy during WWII, and afterward had a career in broadcasting as well as writing.
Lush, Charles Keeler
Boston: Houghton 1897
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.
Mears, Mary Martha
NY: Stokes 1906
“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.
NY: Clode 1904
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.
being a loosely-organized compendium of facts, history, lore, remembrances, puzzles, recipes, and both household and gardening advice with which to offer elucidation, assistance, and occasional amusement to the conscientious reader
North Country Press 1989
Jacquelyn Mitchard (born 1956) was a journalist in the early 1980s when she began writing a regular column called “The Rest of Us” for the Madison “Capital Times”. In 1984 she moved the column to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. In 1997 her novel “The Deep End of the Ocean” became the first selection of Oprah’s Book Club and reached the top of the New York Times’ Best Seller list. “The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship” is a large selection of her newspaper columns.
Faber and Faber 1998
Contents: Willing; Which is more than I can say about some people; Dance in America; Community life; Agnes of Iowa; Charades; Four calling birds, three French hens; Beautiful grade; What you want to do fine; Real estate; People like that are the only people here: canonical babbling in peed onk; Terrific mother “These stories chart the intersection of the ridiculous and the tragic.. . Moore peers into America’s loneliest perches, but her delicate touch turns absurdity into a warming vitality.” New Yorker
Lorrie Moore (born 1957) taught creative writing at University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1984 until 2013. According to her profile in Wikipedia, she is known mainly for her humorous and poignant short stories.
Niedecker, Lorine. ed. by Bertholf, Robert J.
Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970) spent most of her life on or near Blackhawk Island, near Fort Atkinson, WI. This volume includes many poems, several radio plays, reviews, and some other prose.
E.P. Dutton 1963
“During a difficult year of his boyhood in Edgerton, WI, a raccoon was North’s closest companion and scampish co-star in small-town misadventures.” – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Books that take place in Wisconsin.
Olsen, Theodore V.
T. V. Olsen is mainly known as a best-selling author of western-themed novels.
“Soon after the Civil War, Jacob Hansen, a Union veteran, is working as pastor, sheriff, and undertaker in the town of Friendship, Wisconsin; while some resist the intensity of his faith, Jacob sees himself as the town’s spiritual caretaker. When diphtheria breaks out, he takes increasingly harsh measures to prevent it from spreading, and the consequences of his right-minded actions unfold with accelerating horror.” New Yorker. Novels that take place in Wisconsin.
NY: Doran 1919
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. Books set in Wisconsin.
NY: Doran 1917
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
“A reckless attempt to impress Carrie, Mike’s dive off Clausen’s Pier rendered him paralyzed. Now Carrie finds herself torn between the loyalty she’s expected to feel toward Mike and her need to transform herself. She takes a dive of her own – into adulthood – when she escapes to New York.” -Booklist
Peake, Elmore Elliott
NY: Harper 1903
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. Books based in Wisconsin.
Peterson, James A.
Minneapolis: Holter 1922
Pinkerton, Kathrene Sutherland and Pinkerton, Robert Eugene
NY: Doubleday 1920
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
NY: Macmillan 1918
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″
Rulsey, Ted, ed.
Lost River 1993
“A collection of 26 evocative stories and essays, all by Wisconsin authors. Thoughtful, well-crafted pieces by beloved outdoor favorites such as Aldo Leopold, August Derleth and Gordon MacQuarrie, contemporary writers like Justin Isherwood and George Vukelich, and even a few gifted newcomers venerate the many ways in which people relate to this beautiful land and how the outdoors has shaped or changed their lives.” -Book cover Other authors represented include: Walt Sandberg – Robert Hillebrand – Jerry Wilber – Scott Bestul – Clay Schoenfeld – Douglas McLean – Richard Yatzeck – Timoth L. Personius – Tom Davis – Larry Van Goethem – Richard Behm – Susan Wendorf – Galen Winter – John Beth – Roger Drayna – Dion Henderson – Don L. Johnson – John Bates – Mel Ellis – Dan Small – Frances Hamerstrom.
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn
Kristine Kathyrn Rusch, born 1960, lived in Wisconsin from 1967 until the late 1980s. Her school years were spent in Superior, WI, where her father taught at University of Wisconsin-Superior, and she earned her bachelor’s degree at UW-Madison. She fairly quickly became a best-selling author of Science Fiction. According to her biographical entry in Wikipedia, she writes under various pseudonyms in multiple genres, including fantasy, mystery, romance and mainstream.
Meditations on outdoor life in Wisconsin.
Southerner frees slaves and starts out anew in Wisconsin; 1840s.
Shastid, Dr. Thomas Hall
Duluth, MN: Conopus 1926
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.
Simak, Clifford D.
“When Bea Maxwell returns to her small home town, in 1964, after college and a stint at a big-city ad agency, she wants to believe that this is not the end of her story—that the chapter including ‘the startling redemption’ is still to come. But what follows is less a story than a catalogue of fragile moments that never crystallize into actual events. Bea wrestles with the propriety of a woman telephoning a man, flirts awkwardly with a priest, and deflects a sexual advance from her married boss, to her regret. It’s not easy to write a novel in which the central tragedy is that nothing happens, but the author uses the cumulative power of small details to convince us that Bea’s stalled life is a life worth knowing.” -New Yorker
Smith, Alice Prescott
Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1903
“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
Spearman, Frank Hamilton
NY: Scribner 1913
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
“The untimely death of her husband leaves Maggie Pearson wealthy but emotionally bereft. Two decades after she has left home, Maggie returns to Wisconsin to fortify her spirits and decides to open a bed-and-breakfast despite dire warnings from her tight-lipped mother and the hurt fury of her college-age daughter. Her first love, Eric Severson, is also back in town, running a family-owned charter fishing boat to the great displeasure of his beautiful, ambitious wife.” Publ Wkly
Stewart, Charles David
NY: Century 1907
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
Peter Straub was born in Milwaukee in 1943, where he lived until departing for Ireland in 1969. He has been a best-selling author of Horror Fiction since the mid-1970s.
Teall, Gardner Callahan
Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1911
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
Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters Vol 85 (1997) p. v
Urbrock, Bill, ed.
Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters
15 Short Story selections were selected from a large number of submissions for this special edition of the “Transactions”, to celebrate Wisconsin’s 150th anniversary of statehood. While they were chosen for their quality, many of the stories are set in various locations in Wisconsin. The authors are: Marnie Krause, C. J. Hribal, Karen Loeb, Martha Bergland, Thomas Bontly, Margaret Benbow, Julie King, Carol Sklenicka, David R. Young, Peg Sherry, Tom Joseph, Ron Wallace, Gordon Weaver, David Tabachnick, and Anthony Bukoski.
Walsh, John Henry
NY: Macmillan 1921
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
Ward, Jane Olive Patricia
NY: Cochrane 1908
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.
Watrous, Jerome A.
Milwaukee: Watrous 1906
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.
Perennial Classics 2000
The author “introduces us to Henry and Sonya House, a couple who have drifted apart after the death of their 4-year-old son. They own an apple orchard that has been in Henry’s family for generations. … One day.. Sonja is approached by Ned Weaver, a local artist with a reputation for sleeping with his models, who asks her to pose for him. She agrees … Weaver becomes obsessed with Sonja, and Henry … becomes increasingly jealous until he confronts Weaver.” -NY Times Book Rev
Weir, Florence Roney
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.
Winner of the 1927 Harper Prize. “Based on Wescott’s own life and family, the young Alwyn Tower leaves Wisconsin to travel in Europe, but finds himself haunted by a family of long-dead spirits – his grandparents and great-uncles and aunts, a generation whose young adulthood was shattered by the Civil War. Their images were preserved in fading family albums of daguerreotypes and in his own fragmented memories of stories told to him by his strong and enduring grandmothers.” Book cover
NY: Stokes 1917
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
Wilcox, Ella Wheeler
Chicago: Conkey 1897
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.
Wilder, Laura Ingalls
A year in the life of two young girls growing up on the Wisconsin frontier, as they help their mother with the daily chores, enjoy their father’s stories and singing, and share special occasions when they get together with relatives or neighbors.
Wyatt, Edith Franklin
NY: McClure. 1901
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.