Candace Simar’s book, Abercrombie Trail, a fictionalized account of the Sioux Uprising of 1862, is inhabited by the 19th century settlers of west central Minnesota. It centers on the life of her fictional character Evan Jacobson, an immigrant Norwegian stage coach driver. The stops along Jacobson’s stage line reveal the families who live along the trail between Fort Snelling and Fort Abercrombie (just south of Fargo) and their ultimate fate in the, until now, untold story of the northern fringe of the 1862 Sioux (Dakota) Uprising and the siege of Fort Abercrombie. Jacobson struggles with learning English, falling in love and fulfilling his dreams while living with events of the war in the South and the one threatening on the next horizon.
Simar, a prolific writer of articles, poems and inspirational bits, followed her passion for history and began a literary project in 2001 that culminated in the release of her first novel in May of 2009. “History has been my life-long passion and frequently family vacation destinations have been linked to museums and historical spots. I’ve visited multiple Minnesota museums and spent countless hours at the Family History Museum in St. Paul, reading old letters, newspapers and books.” She also drew on her own Scandinavian family history to flesh out her characters.
Simar who lives at Pequot Lakes would be happy to travel to meet with book clubs in the area that are interested in discussing Abercrombie Trail. She can be contacted through her website www.candacesimar.com
Review by Nancy Leasman – email@example.com
Available at at www.northstarpress.com , www.amazon.com, and in Barnes & Noble in St. Cloud and www.barnes&noble.com., at independent book stores and in some libraries.
“Abercrombie Trail, Candace Simar’s first-rate debut novel, beautifully captures the wild unpredictability of nineteenth-century immigrant life out on the Great Plains.” Diana Ossana is an American Academy Award-winning writer who has collaborated on writing screenplays, teleplays, and novels with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry.
Diana and Larry received the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Brokeback Mountain.
“Endlessly fascinating…The ultimate ‘I was there’ book. I have read many books about Scandinavians coming to America in the turbulent 1860s, but thanks to author Candace Simar, this is the first time I was ever transported from my easy chair right into the book to experience it with them. The images of courage, cruelty, intolerance, discovery, and simple pleasures have stayed with me. This is one book I won’t forget.”
Jack Koblas author of Let Them Eat Grass Trilogy
ABERCROMBIE TRAIL has been a labor of love for the past eight years and I owe much to other writers who cheered me along the way. Special thanks to Brainerd Writer’s Alliance, Bards of a Feather, and Heartland Poets for much needed encouragement. Also thanks to the following workshop leaders who helped me meander through the maze of novel writing: Diana Ossana, Sands Hall, Brett Anthony Johnston, and Josh Kendall at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival; Lisa Tucker at the Taos Writer’s Conference; Laurraine Snelling at Drayton North Dakota Ox Cart Days; Robert Olen Butler at the Duluth Writer’s Conference; Sheila O’Connor at the Split Rock Arts Conference, and Mary Sharratt at the Loft Literary Center. Thanks to Brenda Seaman for giving me the idea of writing a trilogy and to North Star Press for taking a chance with an unknown writer. Special thanks go out to Charmaine Donovan and Angela Foster who offered valuable critique and editing assistance over countless revisions. I am the grateful recipient of several Five Wings Art Grants and for research assistance from The Minnesota Family History Museum in St. Paul, The Otter Tail County Historical Museum, The Grant County Historical Museum, Fort Abercrombie Historic Site and Museum, and the Fort Snelling Historic Site. And most of all, thanks to my husband who endured countless trips to museums, historical sites, and writing conferences to let me follow my dream. Keith, I couldn’t have done it without you.
Over the Earth I Come: The Great Sioux Uprising of 1862, Duane Schultz, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1992
The Sioux Uprising of 1862, Kenneth Carley, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1976
Dakota War Whoop: Indian Massacres and War in Minnesota, Harriet E Bishop, Edited by Dale L. Morgan, McConkey 1965.
The Great Sioux Uprising, C.M.Oehler, De Capo Press, New York, 1997
Through Dakota Eyes, Edited by Gary Clayton Anderson and Alan R. Woolworth, Minnesota Historical Press, St. Paul, 1988
Fort Abercrombie 1862, Supplement of Richland County Farmer-Globe, Wahpeton, No.Dak. 1936
Minnesota Days, Our Heritage in Stories, Art and Photos, Edited by Michael Dregni, Voyageur Press, Stillwater, Minnesota, 1999
Ever the Land, A Homestead Chronicle, Ruben L. Parson, Adventure Publishing, Staples, Minnesota 1978
Minnesota history is one of my favorite things. All my life I’ve daydreamed how it really was to live through the earliest days of Minnesota, wondered how historical events impacted ordinary people’s lives, and imagined characters and stories. It has been my life-long study.
One sultry Fourth of July, I was shocked to learn how little our adult children knew about the 1862 Minnesota Sioux Uprising. Our children, all born and educated in Minnesota schools, thought it was a minor skirmish in New Ulm; not realizing how it affected the young state for years afterwards. “You ought to write a book,” my son said.
As a result, I started researching primary and secondary sources for 1862 Minnesota. I didn’t have to go far. My great-grandfather drove the stagecoach from St. Cloud to Fort Abercrombie in the years directly after the Sioux Uprising. I became entranced with the idea of what he might have experienced had he arrived in Minnesota one year sooner. Abercrombie Trail is the story of Evan Jacobson–the story that might have been my great-grandfather’s.
ABERCROMBIE TRAIL STUDY NOTES
Abercrombie Trail by Candace Simar North Star Press 2009
Are situations and relationships today anything like they were in the 1860s?
- Still have immigrant issues—racial tensions remain, immigration problems with assimilation and acceptance.
- Marriages are not always what one would hope—relationships are sometimes found through matchmakers—think of E Harmony and online dating.
- It’s never easy starting out in a new place or situation
- World events still impact individual lives
- Though Indian attacks are no longer an issue, crime and political upheaval sometimes cause fear and anxiety
- Indian attacks similar to terrorist attacks of today—sudden without warning
How have women’s lives improved since 1862?
- Women are citizens, can vote, own property, and more control over their lives.
- Women can divorce abusive spouses
- No longer are indentured servants
- Patriarchal authority is no longer the norm
- Women are valued for who they are, not just who they are married to
- Modern medical care has reduced infant mortality and increased quality of life
- Modern conveniences removed most of the back breaking labor of the women
In what ways have women’s issues remained the same as 1862? A good or bad thing?
- Women still work hard for their families
- Modern stress is different than those stressors back then but still challenging
- Illness, children, marriages, financial situations, and living away from family still cause anxiety and heartache
- Consider the benefit of the multiple support systems our society has in place to prevent the impact of catastrophic events such as war or natural disaster
How might things have been different in 1862 had good communication systems existed?
Consider how the Civil War led to the Sioux Uprising
- Men gone to the war
- Funds redirected to military expense and unavailable to meet commitments to the Sioux treaty
- In previous wars (French and Indian, Revolutionary, and War of 1812) governments had used their influence with the various tribes to draw them into the battle—almost like a secret weapon.
- What would have happened if the Confederates really had beguiled the Sioux into joining them in the fight against the Union Army?
- The South released Union POWs with the understanding that they would fight the Indian War and not raise arms against the South again.
- What do you think about this?
- It’s been said that the Government in 1862 wanted to free the slaves and kill the Indians. Do you think this is an accurate statement?
Who was your favorite character and why?
Has your opinion of the Sioux Uprising changed since reading ABERCROMBIE TRAIL?