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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Guest Post by the Author of Her Kind

Debut novel fictionalizes the lost great river village of Parkhurst, Iowa Thank you to the incomparable Dr. Ellen for allowing me to share some thoughts about the historical research behind my debut novel, Her Kind, released last month by 918studio. Her Kind is a fictional account of the settlement of the real-life, lost great river village of Parkhurst, Ia., now part of Le Claire (voted one of the “2013 coolest small towns in America” by BudgetTravel). LeClaire historian, Dorothy Lage, first chronicled a narrative history of this eclectic river town with her self-published manuscript, LeClaire, Iowa: A Mississippi River Town (1976). In it, she characterized the attractiveness and functionality of Pau-pesha-tuk, the agitated waters of the big river, a series of rapids that drew some of Iowa’s first settlers after the Blackhawk Treaty of 1832, and later rapids pilots before the lock and dam system tamed this tumultuous stretch of river. The diverse blend of cultures, personalities and vocations led to the establishment of an even earlier set of communities that thrived along this unique stretch of the big river border of LeClaire Township, Scott County, Ia. Lage’s interpretation of the LeClaire oral histories said Eleazor Parkhurst, Iowa immigrant and native of Massachusetts, crossed the river and arrived in Iowa in 1834 from Port Byron, Ill. (est. 1828), and purchased an existing log cabin and 180-acre land claim on the Iowa side of the big river that had been built earlier that year by George Harlan. See this home on LeClaire’s River Pilots Self-Guided Tour. Although reports differ, Parkhurst had arrived to a community of somewhere between 500-1000 Sac natives that resided along this stretch of the river after relocation from their Illinois village of Saukenuk under President Jackson’s 1830 Indian Removal Act. Prior to the Homestead Act of 1862, that clarified property claim rights in the new states and territories, earlier land acquisition claims in the LeClaire area of the Iowa district of the Wisconsin Territory were handled by the Dubuque land office. Parkhurst extended his Iowa land grant west and north along the big river in LeClaire Township, some accounts say as long as two miles, settled the first farm, and built a house from native stone and stucco in 1842. Eleazor Parkhurst then convinced his brothers, Sterling and Waldo, to join him in the Iowa district, and his post office application was approved in 1836 establishing the village of Parkhurst. That same year, Sterling and Thomas C. Eads, who had purchased a portion of Sterling’s property, jointly began to plat out the town of Parkhurst. Surveyors making the original survey of the Black Hawk Purchase in 1837 recorded finding this town in section 85, LeClaire Township, and said it was prospering. Prior to the official Parkhurst plat, another topographer made his way through the Iowa district in 1835 and came across the early Parkhurst settlement. Lieutenant Albert M. Lea (namesake of Albert Lea, Minn.) had this to say about Parkhurst in his self-published work that led to the official state name of Iowa: Of this place, not yet laid out, it is sufficient to say that the site is beautiful, the landing good, building material convenient, and the back country fine. There is nothing wanting to make it a town but the people and the houses, and these will soon be there. Its position at the end of the Rapids will throw a little more trade and storage there then it would otherwise have. A good deal of trade of the Wabesapinica will find a port at Parkhurst; and many persons, emigrating from Illinois and the Lakes, will pass by this route (p. 39). Lea’s book was later reprinted in 1935 by the State Historical Society of Iowa and renamed, The Book that Gave Iowa its Name. In 1839, the Parkhurst post office was renamed Berlin, and Lage and others have noted that this may have been due to the influx of German immigrants within that period. In 1845, the name was changed back to Parkhurst and in 1847, the post office became LeClaire, and the village of Parkhurst became the Parkhurst addition. Get Robin Throne’s Her Kind, a novel free from Kindle April 5-7! She is the recipient of the 2013 David R. Collins Literary Achievement Award, and see why Her Kind readers are giving 5-stars at GoodReads!

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