A Lake, a Resort–and a Massacre!

For those of us living in the Midwest, we are  hopelessly landlocked.  No oceans within easy reach for us.  We do, however, have some breathtaking lakes, and among some of the most beautiful are in northeast Iowa–West Okoboji, East Okoboji and Spirit Lake in the Great Lakes Region.

This summer, my family–all 19 of us–had a memorable vacation in Okoboji.  We stayed in Arnold’s Park, specifically Fillenwarth Beach.  Honestly, if you have a chance to go there and stay for even a few days, GO!  It’s the perfect family getaway.

While there, my husband and I went on a History Cruise, narrated by the widowed husband of Julie Fillenwarth, whose grandparents developed the resort in 1918.  (Yes, this year is Fillenwarth Beach’s 100th birthday.)  On the cruise, the narrator told of a museum within walking distance of the beach–an 1850s cabin that belonged to a family that had been massacred by Sioux Indians.

He explained how bitter cold winters forced bands of Sioux to find food and warmth.  On March 8, 1857, they attacked pioneer settlers who were trying hard to survive, just like they were.  In all, 33 settlers were killed and four females kidnapped, three of them married women and the youngest, a girl barely fourteen.

That girl was Abbie Gardner.  After her family’s murder, she endured 84 days with the Sioux where she witnessed the murders of two of the women until finally, she was ransomed and freed.  She married shortly thereafter at the (shockingly) young age of 14.  Though she struggled with what we now know is PTSD, she went on to live a relatively happy life with her husband and three children.  During that time, she wrote a book of her ordeal, The Spirit Lake Massacre and Captivity of Abbie Gardner.  The book earned seven printings and Abbie enough money to return to Spirit Lake and buy back the cabin her father built.  For many years, she worked at the cabin museum, selling her book and sharing her story.

I could not put this book down, it was so riveting.

(Buy the book on Amazon.)

There was even a movie made of her experience in 1927.

Abbie’s story reminded me of my newest book–without the massacre of course.  My first contemporary western romance will be released in January, 2019, by Tule Publishing.  Ava Howell comes to the Blackstone Ranch to develop a resort on the Paxton family’s ranch.  The resort has a beautiful lake, too, and a hero, Beau Paxton, who resists her efforts but can’t fight the love that grows between them.

I’ll tell you more about Ava and Beau’s story as details are finalized.  We’re working on the cover now–and Tule has some of the best!  Can’t wait!

Until then, tell me about your favorite family vacations!  Do they include a beach, too, like mine do?

Pam Crooks
Pam looks forward to the release of her first contemporary western romance with Tule Publishing in January, 2019. She has written 14 western romances, most with Harlequin Historicals. She has recently re-released four titles by ebook, individually and in a boxed set titled IN THE ARMS OF A COWBOY. More releases are HER MOTHER'S KILLER, a romantic suspense, and THE SPYGLASS PROJECT, Book One of her new Secret Six series, historical suspense set in the 1920s! THE BREWER'S DAUGHTER, Book Two. Next up - KISSES LIKE WINE, Book Three! www.pamcrooks.com

26 Comments

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  1. Pam- fantastic blog. I love Indians stories Especially true ones. Thanks for sharing.
    One of my family’s greatest vacations was going to Ruidosa, NM and all the fun things around there. White Sands, horse racing, and Of course the mountains. That was my 1st lasted of the mountains and I’ve been hooked ever since.

    1. I love that area too. We went there a lot when we lived in El Paso.

    2. Good morning, Tonya! My sister lives in Albuquerque, and when our plane landed in NM, it was like we entered a different world. Yes, those mountains! And adobe houses. So different from Nebraska where I live!

  2. I love going to Emerald Isle in North Carolina. I enjoyed the post. I shall add that to my bucket list.

    1. Ah, I will add that one to my list of places to go. We vacationed in Virginia Beach about 8 years ago, and that was the closest I’ve been to NC. So many people go there from here in the Midwest. Beautiful place.

  3. It’s been too many years since we’ve gone on family vacations. Both books are going on my TRL. Look forward to reading them.

    1. One can’t go on vacation often enough, Carol. So good for the soul–and memories. Hope you get to travel again soon!

  4. Thank you for sharing your interesting post. We just returned from my favorite vacation. 56 days of road travel to Canada and Alaska and many points in between.

    1. Oh, my goodness! WE WENT TO CANADA AND ALASKA this summer, too! Canada by train (Rocky Mountaineer) and Alaska by ship (Celebrity Cruise.) A road trip for 56 days? Wow. How fun. You learn so much more when you’re on your own. I assume you had a camper?

    2. Lucky you. We have planned a 3 month or so RV trip to Canada and Alaska and have had to cancel the trip both last year and this year due to health concerns. We WILL make it next year.

  5. We used to take vacations to the beach in Destin Florida growing up it was so beautiful sugar white sands and beautiful water in the beaches. Sadly now Destin is over grown with condos and no where nothing like the place we visited while I was growing up even our sweet little one story motel the Frangista is gone. It had little Kitchenettes in them I remember we would go buy fresh shrimp and have huge shrimp boils. Oh how I miss those days growing up. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Look forward to seeing your new book. Have a Blessed Day Pam Crooks a very wonderful day!

    1. Thanks for sharing your memories, Glenda. I can tell they were very special to you. A few years ago, we went to Cocoa Beach and I thought the same thing. The place had changed – motels had windows boarded up and tourism was down. What a shame for such a beautiful place right on the ocean.

  6. I love that area too. We went there a lot when we lived in El Paso. I do not remember one in particular but my favorite family vacations were when all six of us were still at home, my parents still together, when we would go to Florida on vacation. These were exciting vacations because my father was one of eight that grew up in East Texas. We were the only set in all the family that we moved all over so so many of our vacations were to go home to East Texas to visit all our family. Now after my Dad remarried my favorite vacations were ski trips we went on to Crested Butte, Colorado. They weren’t with all of my siblings but they were still fun!

  7. Funny how your vacations changed from hot in Florida to cold ski trips in Colorado! I’ve never been that far south in Texas, but I have a brother who lives in Amarillo. We drove down there from Nebraska for his wedding eons ago, and the terrain was very desert-like. We had never seen it before.

    Thanks for sharing, Stephanie!

  8. Sebago Lake Maine and yes there is a beach.

    1. Now that’s one I’ve never heard of. My husband’s bucket list has had Maine and lobster on it for years. We hope to get out there some day. I don’t think of Maine as being beach-ey warm, but evidently it is. 🙂

      1. Not really warm. In the northern lakes, they wear wetsuits to water ski. It is a lovely state with good mountain areas, rocky beaches (and some sandy ones), and wonderful lobster. We lived in Northern Maine for 2 years when we first got married. Really hard winters. Loved the Carrabassett Valley area.

        1. That’s how I was thinking Maine would be in the summer, Patricia. And oh, those winters. No, thank you! (apologies to the East Coasters out there ) Nebraska winters can be bad enough. The older I get, the less I like snow, cold, ice, gray skies . . .

      2. It is warm for about 2 to 3 months out of the year and the other 9 months cool to cold. Mid june to mid sept it’s can get into the 90’s. But were talking inland and not on the ocean.

  9. I get to the beach sometimes, but mostly I go to the mountains of East Tennessee

    1. Ah. Tennessee mountains. Yes!! The Smokies has been on my husband’s bucket list, too, for forever!

      1. We live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the TN-NC border. The area is lovely. Lots of good hiking and things to see. Asheville, NC isn’t far and the Biltmore is something special. Lots of good restaurants.

    2. My parents aren’t technically in the Smoky Mountains. They’re in the Iron Mountains, which is considered a subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Appy Trail runs through it.

  10. We have never been beach people. When we have time, we head for the mountains, lakes (canoeing, fishing), National Parks, and historic sites. We do like a rocky coast.

  11. Pam, Thank you for this wonderful post. My family didn’t take vacations.

    1. Hope you’ll take some vacations soon, Caryl. The older I get, the more of a priority I make them. Thanks for stopping by!

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