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?