Maud Hart Lovelace was born in Mankato, Minnesota in 1892 and lived here until 1910. The author of six historical fiction novels and 18 children’s books, Maud often remarked she had always felt destined to become an author. She is best known for her beloved series of Betsy-Tacy books, which to a great extent depict her childhood days in Mankato, the fictionalized “Deep Valley”. These books created a historical account of life for one little girl growing up in the Midwest at the turn of the 20th century. Her stories of small town life, family traditions and enduring friendships have captured the hearts of her fans over the years.
I did not read the Betsy-Tacy books as a child. I was in my 40’s when I finally read them and was fascinated by how much of Mankato’s history is written in these stories. Mankato was only 40 years old when Maud was born. She grew up hearing first hand stories from the early settlers who arrived by steamship or covered wagon. She learned the stories of bravery of the First MN Regiment at Gettysburg, the vivid stories of the Dakota Conflict, the devastation of grasshoppers, floods, blizzards and epidemics. She lived through the transition from the horse and buggy to the automobile and the introduction of the telephone and electricity to our homes. However, even though Maud was writing about her childhood in Mankato, it could have been life in any small town in America.
My passion has always been history and genealogy. Maud had the ability to draw the reader into the life and times of her characters and she was careful to be historically accurate in her writing. Knowing the Betsy-Tacy books are highly autobiographical, I became curious as to what was fiction and what was fact in these books. This lead to research that eventually became a book released in 2002, “Maud Hart Lovelace’s Deep Valley”, a comprehensive guide to the Mankato people and places in the Betsy-Tacy books. A new book, “Discover Deep Valley: A Guide to Maud Hart Lovelace’s Mankato” was published in 2011. This book is a “traveler’s companion to the places in the Betsy-Tacy books”. The research goes on for me and I continue to discover interesting information about Lovelace, her characters and Mankato history and I hope there will be more Lovelace-related books to publish in my future.
“To find the Deep Valley of the Betsy-Tacy stories in this bustling, modern Mankato is not easy. You must wipe out the changes time has brought and bring back the horse and buggy days.” Maud Hart Lovelace, 1961