Our Story Within the Larger Story

Along the way of doing this blog there have been a few surprises. One of the recent ones is my discovery of two books – academic studies actually – that focus on Pigeon Township and Trempealeau County events and values in the years to which we’ve been paying attention.

The first book is by a woman taught history at UW-Eau Claire, at least in 1992 when the book was published. Jane Marie Pederson has given us Between Memory and Reality: Family and Community in Rural Wisconsin, 1870-1970. She pays attention to the values from the old country immigrants held to, while working to adapt to a new land. Chapter titles include “The Men and the Mentality of Main Street,” “Work: The Ethic and The Reality,” “Woman’s Place, Woman’s Work,” and more.

Peter Ekern, who gave our ancestor Bertinus Estensen a ride from Black River Falls when he arrived, and who is a Pigeon Falls patriarch, appears in both the books I discovered. From Pederson’s book, here’s a photo of Ekern’s mill from 1908, seven years after Emil and Gina had built their barn.

The second book was an important scholarly study from more than thirty years earlier: The Making of An American Community: A Case Study of Democracy in a Frontier County. This 1959 book tends to the whole of Trempealeau County, compared to Pederson’s focus on Pigeon and Lincoln Township (and so Pigeon Falls and Whitehall). Curti, assisted by other writers, has the following, for example, among his 15 chapters: “Transportation and Communication,” “Making a Living on the Farm,” and “Democracy at the Grassroots: Town Government in Lincoln and Pigeon.”

So far I’ve just read sections of Pederson’s book, but I’m looking forward to both. It’s not often that a person can find so much work done on the history and culture of their family’s community. I even found an episode about relative of my mother’s told in a letter to Herman Ekern, Peter’s son. Another surprise.

Well, you may never get around to reading both of these books, but as a Borreson family member, I thought we should all know about them. Curti’s book was published by Stanford University Press, and Pederson’s by The University of Wisconsin Press.

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