Happy Birthday Delos Wheeler Lovelace

On Dec. 2, 1895, a baby boy was born to Mortimer “Morton” and Josephine (Wheeler) Lovelace in Deer River, Minnesota. They named their only son, Delos Wheeler Lovelace. Baby Delos had four older sisters to dote on him, Ona, Aline, Amma and Grace.

Sometime before 1899, Delos’s father died and his mother Josephine moved the family to Detroit where she worked as a dressmaker and raised her five children. To help the family financially, Delos delivered newspapers and, spent his summers working on his uncle’s farm in Michigan. He also worked in the harvest fields in northern Minnesota.

In early 1911, Josephine moved to Fargo where she continued to work as a dressmaker and Delos attended high school. After graduation in 1913, Delos was hired as a reporter for the Fargo Courier News by managing editor Lewis T. Guild.

Delos moved to Minneapolis in 1914 to attend the University of Minnesota and work as a reporter for the (Minneapolis) Daily News. Here he met and became friends with another reporter, Merian C. Cooper. More about this friendship and Delos’s writing career in the next post.

In 1915, he began working as a reporter and copy editor for Harry Wakefield, the city editor of the Minneapolis Tribune. Delos and Harry became good friends. Also employed by the Tribune as a feature writer was Maud Hart from Mankato, Minnesota.

Lillian Wakefield (Harry’s wife) had hired Maud to work for her when she opened the Wakefield Publicity Bureau in 1916. In April 1917, Lillian invited Maud and Delos to the Wakefield home for dinner, and an immediate attraction developed between the two.

Delos Wheeler Lovelace, ca. 1917

When the U.S. became engaged in World War I, Delos joined the U.S. Army. He was first stationed at Fort Snelling, near Minneapolis. Maud wrote, “When possible, Mrs. Wakefield would send me on assignments out to Fort Snelling,” so that she could spend time with Lt. Lovelace.

Delos was transferred to Camp Dodge, Iowa, with the 339th Machine Gun Battalion. On November 29, 1917, Delos and Maud were married at the home of her parents (Tom and Stella Hart) in Minneapolis while Delos was on leave. They spent two weeks together, before Delos returned to Camp Dodge to complete his training.

Maud Hart & Delos Lovelace, Nov. 1917

He was sent to France on Aug. 14, 1918. After the war ended three months later, the army sent him to Trinity College in Cambridge for four months of study while he waited for space on a troopship to come home.

He arrived back home in the U.S. on July 13, 1919, and returned to the Minneapolis Tribune as a copy and telegraph editor. In 1920, the Lovelaces relocated to New York and Delos accepted a position as night editor for the New York Daily News.

More to come about Delos’s writing career in the next post.

Maud and Bick’s High School Commencement Day

Commencement Day, that never-to-be-forgotten third of June, dawned hot.

(from Betsy and Joe by Maud Hart Lovelace)

(The article below is reprinted from the pages of the Mankato Free Press, June 4, 1910)


Forty-One Graduates Were Presented With Diplomas at the Theatre

The Commencement Exercises Held in Presence of Large Audience

Young Men and Women Acquit Themselves in Creditable Manner

Forty-one high school students bid farewell to their Alma Mater last evening and stepped out into the world to either make good or not, according to the use that they make of their opportunities.  It was the ending of school days for most of them, and the commencement of other but perhaps no pleasanter duties of life. The exercises that marked this change in their lives were of as high an order as ever before presented by the school, and the citizens of Mankato could not but have had a feeling of pride in their excellent school system as they listened to the exercises and looked upon the imposing array of nice appearing and intelligent young people who filled the large stage, rising row upon row toward the rear.

Mankato High School

The thirty-fifth annual commencement of the high school was in every way a success.  The theatre was filled from pit to dome.  The members of the school board and high school faculty occupied boxes.  The class colors of purple and gray were brought out in the decorations, mingled with green, and the stage and boxes looked very pretty.  The figures “1910” were brought out in gray.  On the stage, besides the graduating class, was the large chorus.

The program opened with an overture by Lamm’s orchestra, “Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna,” by Suppe, and was very nicely done.  Rev. P. K. Edwards pronounced an invocation, and a large chorus of 100 voices, directed by Miss Fanny Pitcher, the supervisor of music and drawing, rendered “Hark, Hark, the Lark,” by Schubert, “The Owl,” by Hotchkiss, and “In the Dawn,” by Capua.  The work of the chorus showed that it had received most careful and painstaking instruction, and the result was very good.  A great deal of effort is due Miss Pitcher for the effectiveness of the different musical numbers on the program.

All Did Finely.

The essays and orations were of an unusually high order, and interesting in the subjects and the way that they were handled, as well as effective in the manner of delivery, denoting not only native talent of a high order on the part of the speakers, but careful training on the art of appearing in public and delivery.  Each young lady and gentleman on the program did herself and himself proud.

Miss Vera Schmeltzer was the first speaker, her subject being “American Women of Action.”  She said that the fact that woman is no longer a clinging vine was shown by the fact that 6,000,000 of them were earning their own livelihood.  They were fast surpassing men in teaching.  She instanced the success of some of the most prominent women workers of the world, and closed by saying that the opinion of women on vital things was to count enormously more in the future than in the past.

Philip Comstock spoke on “The Farmer of the Twentieth Century.”  The gauge of a nation’s prosperity now, he said, was its crop report.  Rapid changes have been made in methods of farming, and the American farmer of the future would be a broad minded citizen and a good business man.  Business ability will be one of the imperative requirements of the future.  Small farms and rural communities will make farm life much more enjoyable.

Miss Ethel Korsell’s subject was “The Value of Play.”  She said that the multiplicity of vehicles no longer left any room on the street for children to play, and she told of the advantages to be derived from play grounds.  The repression of play in children was a dangerous thing, as it meant disease, and perhaps the white plague.  Play grounds could do a great deal toward reforming the character of children.

The chorus sang “Old Ironsides,” by Klein.

Miss Maud Hart read a delightful dissertation on “The Heroines of Shakespeare.”  She said that some of his characters were good and some bad, but the most were divided between good and bad, like real people nowadays.  Women had no interpreter as sympathetic as Shakespeare.  She reviewed the characters of Juliet, Rosalind, Ophelia, Lady Macbeth and Imogene, “the crowning flower of womanhood.”

“The Measure of a Man” was the subject treated by Herman Hayward.  He showed how standards had varied with the changes of the times, from brute strength in the feudal age down to our own age, which he said was one of money madness.  Commercial success was our ideal, but wealth does not bring true happiness, but brings out the coarser side of man’s nature.  The roll of honor of those who achieve real success will contain many names unfamiliar to us.

The Opera House where the commencement ceremony was held.

Earned An Encore

Miss Frances Kenney rendered the solo, “The Evening Wind,” (Samson and Delilah) by Saint-Saens, assisted by the mixed glee club of thirty-two voices.  It was so well done that it was encored and Miss Kenney sang “Sylvia,” assisted by the boys’ glee club of sixteen.  She possesses a very sweet soprano voice.

Miss Harriet Ahlers described “Oberammergau and the Passion Play,” very effectively.  She told of the city and how the villagers first happened to give the play, in compliance with the promise made in a prayer to dispel a plague.  The audience listened breathlessly to her description.

Miss Alice Alworth told of “Factory Life for Women.”  She said that the American people should know that what hurts the girls hurts the nation.  She told of factory life, and of its unwholesomeness, with lunch time too short, poor light that was hard on eyes, etc.  The system of factory inspection was causing but a slow improvement in conditions.  When the work ceases to be a drudgery the first step will have been solved in the problem of improving factory conditions.

Miss Katherine Mae Jones sang the solo part of “Swords Out for Charlie,” from Bullard, the boys’ glee club rendering the chorus.  This was encored, and they sang “Blue Danube.”  It was a choice number.  Miss Jones has a soprano voice of much range and clearness.

Willard Washburn was the last speaker, and his subject was “party Solidarity.”  He said that there were many advantages of having political parties and some disadvantages, one being that most members must make some sacrifice of principle.  Party reform should lie not in making a line of cleavage, like the present insurgent movement on the part of some republicans, which causes a split and gives the opposition a coveted chance, but by the quieter and slower policy of education inside of the party.

Dr. J. S. Holbrook, president of the board of education, presented the diplomas, after addressing the class as follows:

Presentation of Diplomas

“This day is the one you have long looked forward to. Perhaps some of you tonight have not attained all that you could have during your high school course, and think if you could only live over the past few years–if you could only start afresh with your present knowledge and experience–you would be better prepared for the commencement of your life work.  There is an old saying that ‘If we were not so busy looking back at yesterday and forward to tomorrow, we would make better things of today.’  Chances are all about you, and all you have to do is to reach out and take them.  Every day is a fresh beginning, every sunrise is but a new birth for you and the rest of us–the beginning of a new existence and a great chance to put to new and higher uses the knowledge you have gained.

“If you are sincere in your desires that this day may be the commencement of great things for you, you will not waste the golden hours of opportunity in regret, but will put to use the lessons learned.

“I care not what you have learned from your studies, if you have developed an honest character and a determination to win by fair methods, and stick to that determination through thick and thin.  If you will ‘let conscience lead and approbation follow,’ you cannot fail.

“The board of education congratulated you, the class of 1910, on your success in fulfilling the requirements for graduation, and extend their hearty wishes for continued success in your life work, whatever it may be, and I have the honor to present to you for this board your well earned diplomas.  I hope you will hang them where you will see them daily, so that they will be constant reminders of your determination to make each day a new beginning of a newer, brighter, and truer life for yourselves and those about you.”

The chorus sang “Hark, Hear the Cannon’s Thunder Pealing” (Tannhauser) by Wagner.  The rendition was splendid. 

The program closed with a benediction by Rev. T. Ross Paden.

(NOTE: For more see Essay Contests and Commencement Orations)

Memories of a Special Homecoming: Maud Hart Lovelace honored in 1961

A headline in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 9, 1961 reads:

While Maud Hart Lovelace is again ‘Betsy’

For Three Days, Mankato Becomes ‘Deep Valley’ of Fiction World

As children in 1961, these women attended Betsy-Tacy Days and shared their memories of the event with me.

Reviewing their favorite Betsy-Tacy books in preparation for their meeting with the author, Maud Hart Lovelace, October 6 and 7, are left to right: Lydia Sorensen, aged seven, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Sorensen of 803 Warren street, a “Betsy”; Kathy Frahm, also seven, daughter of the Rev. and Mrs. Paul Frahm, 317 Willard, as a “Tacy”; Margaret Hanson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Hanson of Petticoat Lane, another “Betsy”; Cindy Cooper, daughter of Charles Cooper, Southview Heights, another “Tacy”; Janet Burns, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bert Burns, 527 Byron street, (where this picture was taken), another “Tacy,” and Marla Sugden, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Sugden Jr., of Skyline Drive, the third “Betsy.” (Photo and caption Courtesy Mankato Free Press, Oct. 5, 1961)

Kathy Frahm was a seven year-old red-headed little girl when she was “discovered” by Nadine Sugden (AAUW board member) looking for another Tacy. “I remember someone came to Jefferson School and asked me if I would participate,” Kathy wrote.  “I recall being excited about participating and posing for the picture that appeared in the Free Press. I remember sitting in the front row in front of a stage at Lincoln School for part of the program. I recall my foot got caught on the hem of the antique dress I was wearing and ripped it.”

Lydia Sorensen was seven years old when she dressed as a young Betsy for Betsy-Tacy Days. “I remember the gracious lady, so well dressed, that told me I looked like her memories of herself. I told her that I thought she was writing about me. She asked me who read them to me and I boasted that I could read them myself. She gave me the sweetest smile. I remember thinking I wanted to be like her when I grew up.”

Joanne Maas was ten years old when Maud visited Mankato in 1961. Her parents, Elmer and Margaret Nerge owned the Cherry Bookstore, located on Cherry Street, and they carried Maud Hart Lovelace’s books. “I remember going to the lecture at Lincoln School and the book signing at the old Carnegie Library. There was such a crowd pressing in to get the author’s autograph that someone (I perceived her as a bossy lady!) began trying to push people into a more orderly line. I was shunted aside and never did get my book autographed by Mrs. Lovelace. I remember being so very disappointed by that, although I did get Tacy, Tib, and Alice.”

“Because I grew up in Mankato and literally in a bookstore, I was always aware of the Lovelace books. I have all the Betsy-Tacy books and have read a number of her other books as well,” said Maas.

A little girl at the time, Jan A. remembers standing neatly and quietly in a line. “We each got to present something we wanted signed by Mrs. Lovelace. I remember noticing how different she was from my grandmother and great aunts. She was impeccably dressed and wore a beautiful pearl necklace. She was wearing the most beautiful perfume. I felt as if we were in the company of a great lady, a sophisticated woman. All these years later, the memory really stuck with me.”

For more see:

Betsy-Tacy Days in 1961

Betsy-Tacy Days – Part 2

Betsy-Tacy Days – Part 3

Deep Valley Virtual Book Festival



The Deep Valley Book Festival gets its name from the setting of the beloved Betsy-Tacy children’s books written by Mankato-born author Maud Hart Lovelace. The festival connects readers and writers in a celebration of literature and literacy. In the past, the festival has been held live in Mankato, Minnesota. This year marks the 5th Edition of the DVBF and due to covid-19, we’ve gone virtual and expanded to 2 days!

Our planning committee has been hard at work for months organizing the event. We have more than 45 authors and exhibitors and hundreds of books for you to enjoy! Check out the program schedule with panel discussions, LIVE author Q&A, giveaways & drawings, headline award-winning author Matt Goldman, and children’s programming.

Of special interest to Lovelace and Betsy-Tacy fans is a unique panel called “Minnesota Writes“. This panel is comprised of living history actors portraying 5 famous Minnesota authors from the past. The actors bring the authors to life, answering questions using their own words taken from past interviews and articles. The program is FREE on Sunday, October 4 @ 11 am CST.

In the Author Directory, you’ll find pages for Maud Hart Lovelace, Eileen Rudisill Miller (illustrator of the new Betsy, Tacy and Friends Paper Doll book), the Betsy-Tacy Society, and myself.

In addition to the Minnesota Writes program, Eileen Rudisill Miller participates on the Illustrator panel and Included in the Children’s Program schedule is a reading of “Everything Pudding” presented by members of the Betsy-Tacy Society.

The 2020 DVBF headline author is Matt Goldman, New York Times bestselling author and Emmy award-winning TV writer for Seinfeld and others.

Be sure to register for all LIVE portions of the event to be included in the giveaways or drawings during the event. We have lots of books and DVBF tote bags to giveaway! Registration details found on the Festival Schedule page. Register before Sept. 30 to be sure to be included!

There’s something for everyone at the Deep Valley Virtual Book Festival. You can attend from the comfort of your own home and it’s FREE! I hope you will join us! For up to date news as the event gets closer, “like” us on Facebook.

Betsy, Tacy and Friends Paper Doll Book: The Hill Street Collection


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Betsy and Tacy liked playing paper dolls better than real dolls.” from Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace

I’m excited to share the news about a new project I’ve been working on this year. I’ve teamed up with Eileen “Rudy” Rudisill Miller (well-known paper doll artist) to create the the first full color Betsy-Tacy paper doll book. After months of work, the paper doll book is going to print!

Trained as a fashion illustrator, Rudy first drew fashion for department stores and later designed dolls, figurines and collectibles for the Franklin Mint. She is well-known internationally for her paper doll work, having nearly 100 paper dolls books or sets published over the past 10 years.

Using quotes and descriptions provided from the first 4 Betsy-Tacy books, Rudy created over 45 costumes for 8 paper dolls. Inside you’ll find Betsy and her family, Mr. and Mrs. Ray (Papa and Mamma), and her sisters Julia and Margaret. You’ll also find Betsy’s friends Tacy, Tib and Winona. From birthday parties, making Everything Pudding, and going Christmas shopping, Betsy, Tacy and friends are dressed for it all! And inside the front and back cover of the paper doll book is a backdrop scene from the front parlor of Betsy’s house.

Rudy at work on the Betsy paper dolls in her studio.

The paper doll book is at the printer and pre-publication orders are being taken NOW. Pre-publication orders will be shipped as soon as they are off the press! Expected delivery is November, 2020. Order online now.

Preview of some pages from the paper doll book

The Gift of Books

giftbooks copyDear Friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Deep Valley!

Books make meaningful and lasting gifts. The Maud Hart Lovelace fan in your life would love a book about or by the author and A Year with Betsy-Tacy 2020 Wall Calendar will be enjoyed all year long! Or keep Lovelace’s legacy alive when you introduce someone new to her books.

Visit my website for special holiday coupon savings on all books and the new 2020 calendar. You’ll also find book sets available at special prices. All my books are limited editions. Thank you for your support and patronage in 2019!

The Mystery of the Yaeger School House Ghost

This ghost story was BIG news in the Mankato area at the turn of the 20th century. Although Maud Hart was only five years old when this happened, certainly her parents Tom and Stella Hart had heard the news. The Yaeger school was located just south of Mankato near Rapidan not far from the Orono Dam (Rapidan Dam) that Maud wrote about in Carney’s House Party. I’m sure the story continued to be told for years and I wouldn’t be surprised if Maud and the Crowd checked it out on a drive to the Dam.

School-brown copy

Yaeger School House, ca. 1900 (photo courtesy Cindy Slater)

Perched on a grassy green hill surrounded by a cluster of oak trees in Rapidan Township just east of Rapidan, is a brown brick school house. This school was established in 1867 as School District #91. The school became known as the Yaeger school, named after the Yaeger family who owned the land surrounding the building. This little schoolhouse has a very interesting history because at one time it was thought to be “haunted”! Stories of the Yaeger schoolhouse ghost have become a part of local folklore passed down through the years.

Eva Hower

Eva Hower, sketch by A. Anderson. (Mankato Daily Review, Nov. 11, 1897)

Newspaper accounts tell the story of what actually happened in 1897 when Eva Hower was the school teacher and the events began to unfold. The following is an account of the events as Eva may have told them if she were here today…

“I was the teacher at the Yaeger school house in 1897 when a series of strange events began to take place at the school and in the neighborhood. Several times when I arrived at the school house in the morning I found a window to the building was open. At first I didn’t pay too much attention to this. Then one Monday morning upon entering the school, I discovered men’s footprints on the floor and bits of paper scattered from one of the windows to the chimney. My students began to tell me stories about clothing that was missing from their mother’s clothesline, chickens were missing from their father’s chicken coop or that they woke in the morning to find their cow had been milked. People all around the neighborhood were talking about these strange events and they were getting nervous.

Leona Holberg came to school one day and told me this story: “Mother and I were out near the corncrib when we heard a noise from the other side of the crib. We knew there must be a tramp or thief in the neighborhood, because everybody was losing stuff, ourselves included. Mother said, We’ve caught the thief now! You run around one side of the crib and I’ll go around the other. We ran around the crib from different sides – to find a black calf nibbling corn out of the crib.”

Now that is how nervous people were. Every noise we heard, we thought a thief was on the place. Clothes for smaller persons, sheets, pillow cases and blankets were missing from clothes lines. Hams were missing from smokehouses and chickens and turkeys were taken from their roosts. Preserves and canned goods were missing from cellars with outside doorways.

The former state senator, William A. Just, owned a beautiful riding horse. One morning he found his horse coming down the road toward his home, tired and sweaty. The animal had been ridden hard. But there was no rider! Herman Miescke awoke to find his team, harness and wagon gone one morning. Later in the day the team came home, driverless, tired, and showing the signs of a hard, long trip.

These strange happenings kept on for months and months. At first people thought it was a very clever thief. But then stranger things began to happen. John Ballard, one of my students who built the fire for the schoolhouse during the winter, told me that many times when he reached the building he saw smoke coming from the chimney, but he always found the stove cold. Sometimes he found the kindling he had prepared the night before was gone in the morning.

Some people thought all of this was some kind of a prank or a twisted joke, but when it continued for so long, they thought the joke has passed. Carl Flo was the teacher here during the summer term. He told me that on the last day of the summer term he took a shortcut through the pasture leading by the schoolhouse. He saw smoke coming from the chimney. He knew there had not had a fire in the stove at school that day. So he went in to investigate and could find nothing wrong and the stove was COLD!

Of course the talk turned from a thief in the neighborhood to a ghost in the neighborhood! One day Lois Ballard, the youngest student in school, called down into the school basement, “Come out of there! We know you are in there!”

More and more things kept disappearing…tools, furniture, books from the school and pretty much anything you can think of. The newspapers reported clothing worth $1250 was stolen or missing from the Omaha freight house in Garden City and horse thieves broke into George Conklin’s barn at South Bend and stole a horse.

Who was this ghostly thief? Who was this who could burn fires yet never heat the stove? Who could vanish so quickly into thin air? Who could never be seen or heard? It must be a ghost!

Well, one day just as I was about to dismiss the students, Sheriff Dan Bowen arrived at the schoolhouse. I went to the door and saw Sheriff Bowen talking to Louis Yaeger, who had been plowing corn in front of the school. Then the sheriff came to the door, “Miss Hower,” he said, “I have some very important news to share with you.” “Let’s go inside and sit down.” He began to tell me how he had solved the mystery of the Yaeger schoolhouse ghost.


Cyrus B. Miller, sketch by A. Anderson (Mankato Daily Review, Nov. 11, 1897)

His story began when he received a description of Cyrus B. Miller (alias Silas Gary), an escaped convict from the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. But weeks and months passed and the convict was not seen in Blue Earth County. “Then one day I saw a little man, smooth shaven, alert, answering the description of the escaped prisoner and I set out in pursuit.” said Bowen. The trail led southeast of Mankato into dense woods and ended. Deputies were put on watch, yet the convict did not appear. Many more weeks later, the man appeared near the Omaha railroad tracks and again the sheriff gave chase. This time Miller crawled into a moving boxcar and rode away on the train. “Now,” said the sheriff, “we all thought he was gone for good and forgot about him.” That is until Mankato merchants Perrin and Jensen reported the theft of a bright red bicycle.

Sheriff Bowen

Sheriff Dan Bowen. (1895 Standard Atlas & Gazetteer)

A few days later, officers in Fairmont reported that a man had been seen riding a bright red bicycle. Guards were posted near the bridge where Miller had stashed his red bicycle and when he returned for it they arrested him. Once in the custody of Sheriff Bowen, he was questioned. Where did he live? “Under the Yaeger schoolhouse,” he said. What? How long? “Eighteen months,” he said calmly. “I was very comfortable there.”

Then the sheriff walked over to my desk and moved it aside. To my surprise he found a trap door and he led me down to see me the ghost’s den. I couldn’t believe my eyes! All these months there was an escaped convict living beneath the schoolhouse! Overhead unknowing children did their sums, nor ever a thought a ghost lurked quietly beneath their feet!

But there I was, standing right in the middle of the ghosts’ den. It must have been about six feet by nine. On the west side there was a table and a cot with a buffalo robe, blankets and a pillow. On the east side was an oil heating stove and a writing desk. Dishes and cooking utensils were neat and orderly on shelves on the walls. The oil stove was attached to the schoolroom chimney to carry off the gas. The desk contained newspapers and many books from our school library and from the Mankato public library. A reflecting lamp hung on the wall that gave excellent light. There were rugs on the floor, pictures on the walls and the room was spic and span. My, my Cyrus Miller was certainly a neat and orderly ghost!


Diagram from the Mankato Daily Review, Nov. 11, 1897

Sheriff Bowen continued to tell me the story of how Miller became the schoolhouse ghost. Cyrus Miller, a small, dark complexioned 29 year-old man, came to the schoolhouse in the summer of 1896 when school was not in session. He used a skeleton key to open the door and went to work. He sawed a hole under the teacher’s desk at the south end of the room. Here a big oak sill, running the entire length of the room, was sawed through at three places to make his entrance. This weakened the floor but the ghost did not care, and the children did not know. The teacher’s desk stood on a platform raised about a foot from the floor and was not nailed down. Miller made a trap door along the seams of the boards and left no marks. Children often raised up the desk, but no one ever suspected a trapdoor. A three foot opening from the floor to the dirt beneath gave Miller plenty of room to work. Most of his work was done at night. The nearest house was the old Yaeger homestead about 60 rods away, so he was safe from interruption. He labored for days digging a slanting tunnel and a room, which was under the north end of the school room. The room he carved out was about six and a half feet deep, with doors on the north and south sides. It was boarded up tightly and covered with fancy wallpaper. The second entrance was made by removing the wainscoting around the chimneys at the north end of the room, and taking out the bricks. A weight attached to a pulley kept his improvised door tightly closed. The weight was two heavy chunks of wood in a gunny sack. These chunks of wood were imprinted with the name Eric Holberg, from whose farm they had been stolen.

Well, it didn’t take long and the word that the mystery of the schoolhouse ghost was solved and the ghost himself was laid by the heels. Crowds flocked to the school to see where he lived. Someone even asked for 10 cents admission. If anything, this swelled the crowds and in one day more than $10 was taken in. But, it developed that the revenue fell far short of covering the loss through the weakened floor, the broken chimney and the rest of the damage done by Cyrus Miller.

I was very curious about the man who had inhabited the school house unbeknown to me and felt compelled to speak to him. So I went on down to the Mankato jail to see this Cyrus Miller. He told me that on several occasions during school hours he watched the proceedings through a crack in the chimney entrance to his parlor below. He said only once did he get a good glimpse of my face. He told me that in the evenings when no one was around he would come up, make himself at home in the school and play the organ! He also told me he always had plenty to eat, and that he never stole anything he couldn’t use himself.

When the trial came, Miller solved a great many mysteries in concise confessions to this theft, that ride or that burglary. According to his testimony, he stole from people far and near. His father wrote to the judge in his son’s defense and stated that Cyrus had, at one time, been a school teacher and a dutiful son until a few years ago when he began to act peculiarly. His father thought he might be mentally deranged. However, the court did not take his father’s concerns into consideration and Judge Severance sentenced him to serve five years and six months in the state penitentiary at Stillwater and then finish his term in Nebraska. Sheriff Bowen told me that Cyrus made no attempt to escape when he and his deputies escorted him to prison. “He told me he’ll make no attempt to escape from prison and when he’s discharged he’ll try to make a man of himself,” the sheriff said. “You know what else? He’s planning to write a book while he’s in prison, a history of his life. And he promised to send me one of the first copies.”

Well, I don’t know if he ever wrote a book or just what became of Cyrus Miller. But I’ll never forget the year I taught at the Yaeger school.”

Note: Eva Hower later became the head bookkeeper for the Mankato Telephone Company. Carl Flo, who taught the summer term at the school in 1897, later he worked in the elevator and lumber business in Rapidan. This article was also published in MankatoLife.com and was revised from an article originally written for the Blue Earth County Historian, Fall 2004 issue.

The Tune is in the Tree


Cover of the 2019 reprint edition

Those who have read and loved Mrs. Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy stories will also love this one, for it is, as Mrs. Lovelace says, “just the sort of a story Betsy used to tell Tacy”. (quote from 1950 dust jacket of The Tune is in the Tree)

The Tune is in the Tree by Maud Hart Lovelace was published March 25, 1950 by Thomas Y. Crowell Company, NY and has been out of print for many years. I’m excited to share the news that Minnesota Heritage Publishing will release a limited edition (softcover) reprint of this charming story!

Two of Maud’s books were published by the Thomas Y. Crowell Company in 1950, the other was Emily of Deep Valley. Five years later she would refer to The Tune is in the Tree in Betsy’s Wedding.

Running her carpet sweeper blithely up and down, Betsy watched s robin’s nest, the eggs, the fledglings. “I think I’ll write a story about a little girl going to live with the birds!”   (from Betsy’s Wedding)

As with all her books, Maud did extensive research. She incorporated 23 species of birds into this entertaining and imaginative story about a little girl named Annie Jo and her adventure living with the birds.

In a March 27, 1950 review of The Tune is in the Tree, Thomas Edwards (aka Willie Putt) wrote in the Mankato Free Press: It is the most imaginative fiction one can expect to encounter. We who have followed Maud for a long entertaining period, and have received the colorful description of places and people, will meet a very new type of reading in “The Tune is in the Tree.

Over the years Maud and Mr. Edwards became close friends and corresponded regularly. In a letter dated April 12, 1950, Maud wrote: I’m so glad to get the two nice letters, the fine review of “The Tune” and the clipping from Mr. Russell’s column. How good you are to me! The Tune was written for Merian many years ago when she was a very little girl. I got it out and prepared it for publication last winter because there is such a demand for more stories for younger children…Betsy, Tacy and their friends having gone to college. The Marguerite Marsh story was finished in March, six weeks late, after a terrific siege of work. Now Miss Neville is working on the pictures. 

TT 6

“The Tune is in the Tree” Illustration by Eloise Wilkin

Eloise Wilkin, award-winning American illustrator, best known as an illustrator of the Little Golden Books, is the illustrator of The Tune is in the Tree. Many of the picture books she illustrated have become classics of American children’s literature.

The reprint edition is in production and will be available in early July. Books can be ordered now and will be shipped as soon as received from the printer. Order online now.

A Year with Betsy-Tacy

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a new project that I’m excited to share. It’s a full color wall calendar featuring 13 months (January 2020-January 2021) of Betsy-Tacy books.

Lo-Res WallCalendar2020_FrontCover copy

Some day in her maple or on Uncle Keith’s trunk, she would write something good. (from Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown)

Maud did indeed write something good! Ten books in the Betsy-Tacy series and another three Deep Valley books were published between 1940 and 1955.

SamplePagesJanJulyThe calendar features one original cover each month along with a Lenski or Neville illustration and a book description.  Real life character birthday dates (and some anniversaries) are highlighted each month.  A side bar contains a quote or history related to the book.

Pre-orders are being taken through June 15, 2019. For more information and to order, click here.


Mankato Opera House

2. Harmonia Hall-Opera House

Harmonia Hall, later the Mankato Opera House

Outside, the Opera House was a large brick structure. It was a fine theatre for a town the size of Deep Valley. But Deep Valley was what is known as a good show town. It was a thriving county seat, and theatrical productions, passing from the Twin Cities to Omaha, found it a convenient and profitable one-night-stand.

Winona and Betsy and Tacy and Tib were the first ones inside the house. They did not go at once to their box. First they raced all over the auditorium. It was elegant beyond even Winona’s descriptions and Betsy’s wildest dreams. A giant chandelier hung with glittering crystal drops was suspended from the ceiling. The seats were upholstered in red velvet. The boxes were hung with red velvet tied back with golden cords.

The orchestra started to play. It played sad tunes. Old Kentucky Home, Swanee River, Massa’s in de Cold Cold Ground. All over the house the lights went low. There were rainbow colors in the crystals of the great chandelier as the lights faded away. Then…oh, magic moment!…the curtain started to rise. Slowly, slowly, while the music kept on playing and the rainbow in the chandelier flickered out, forgotten, the curtain lifted. Quote from Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace

Maud’s wonderfully descriptive writing easily transports the reader of the Betsy-Tacy books to the 19th century cultural center of Deep Valley—the Opera House. It’s so easy to imagine what it looked like and how it felt for Betsy and Tacy when they first visited the Opera House.

This is a bit of history about the Opera House that Maud, her family and friends attended in Mankato. I imagine it must have looked just like Maud described it in the books.

Mankato (Deep Valley) owed its Opera House and its status as a regular stop on the theatrical circuits to the enthusiasm for culture of some of its German citizens. William and Jacob Bierbauer purchased land in the 200 block of South Second Street in 1870 and transferred it to the Mankato Harmonia Association, a German singing society. The association completed the building they named Harmonia Hall, in July 1872.

The structure cost $11,000, which was paid by donations and loans. It featured a grand stage, a balcony and a 30-foot ceiling adorned with a dome. The dining area was in the basement and was the same size as the main hall (62 by 70 feet). A grand opening was held on December 25, 1872 with speeches, music and tableaux. The following evening was celebrated with an inaugural ball and dinner.

During its first decade, it was used for performances by local musical and theatrical groups and occasional professional productions. The name was changed to the Mankato Opera House in 1878 when the building was remodeled as a playhouse. The Mankato Review reported “The Boston Ideal Company played Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the night of the 26th to a very large house. The hall was filled, even beyond the over-attendance at the Kellogg concert. Never before have we witnessed such a crowding assemblage” (Jan. 3, 1882)

Just a few weeks later, on January 23, 1882, disaster struck when a fire broke out, which destroyed all but the exterior walls of the building. That evening the temperature was -6 degrees with blowing snow when a policeman discovered the building on fire. Reports alluded to possible arson. Kerosene barrels were stored in the ticket office and had caught fire. Rebuilding began and the structure reopened as a theater, the Mankato Opera House in 1883 and was managed by A.G. Bierbauer (son of William).

Clarence Saulpaugh

Clarence Saulpaugh

Clarence Saulpaugh leased the Opera House in 1893, made extensive improvements and changed the name to Mankato Theatre. Townsfolk seemed to prefer “Opera House”, since this is the name many continued to use. The theater had a seating capacity of 1,000 and was of a horseshoe-type construction, designed so that the stage could be clearly seen from each seat in the house.

The Opera House was the center of both high culture and popular entertainment in Mankato. The early 20th century was the golden age of the theater in America. Opera companies and symphonic bands joined New York-based musical reviews and straight dramatic theatrical companies traveling by railroad from city to city. Everything that came out of New York also came to Mankato because the company would break here when traveling between Minneapolis and Omaha.

1. Andrews Opera Co program

Many stage stars, as well as boxers and wrestlers, appeared on the stage at the Opera House. The theatrical programs of the day reveal that almost all of the stage greats appeared at the Mankato Opera House, including Mary Pickford, John L. Sullivan (world-famous boxer), John Drew, Maude Adams, Anna Held, Charles Winnenger, Jos. Jefferson, Gertrude Coughlan, Sousa’s Band, and Mankato’s own Andrews Opera Company. Mankato vocalists also appeared on the theater stage, including Florence MacBeth, who went on to a career in opera and concert, as well as Lora Lulsdorff.

Chauncey Olcott came to Deep Valley in his play, Aileen Asthore. Mr. Ray took the family to hear him. Usually Betsy saw her rare plays at matinees with Winona who had passes because her father was editor of the Deep Valley Sun. But once a year when Chauncey Olcott came, she went to the Opera House in the evening with her parents. The Irish tenor was growing old and stout, but his swagger was as gallant as ever, his voice as honey sweet. Always in the course of the evening the audience made him sing a hit song of earlier years called, “My Wild Irish Rose.”   Quote from Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace

3. Chauncey Olcott Mankato Theatre ad 9.4.1906

Mankato Weekly Review (Sept. 4, 1906)

The Irish tenor Chauncey W. Olcott (1858-1932), was a Mankato favorite. On each of Olcott’s appearances in Mankato special trains were run to the city from towns as far away as Blue Earth and Tracy, Minnesota. Olcott combined the roles of tenor, actor, songwriter and composer in many productions. He is best-known and beloved for his songs; My Wild Irish Rose, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, and Mother Machree.

The motion pictures spelled the doom of live theatrical entertainment for Mankato and the country as a whole. Several movie theaters opened in Mankato, and by 1921 the Mankato Theater was renamed the Orpheum. It became a second-rate movie house where live performances — usually benefits or school theatricals —were given from time to time, the last of which was given in 1928. That year the building was marked for demolition, but it wasn’t actually taken down until 1931.