First Children of Farmington

Six children of different ethnicity settle with their families in the Town of Farmington, Wisconsin, in the mid-1850s. Real children and families, based on recorded family stories or history.

Creative Non-fiction
Suitable for young readers, grades 2 - 4
Illustration accompany each chapter.
Full spread of hidden objects.

See my Pinterest Page for photos.

The Potawatomi Boy

Paperback: 34 pages
Publisher: Five Loaves and Two Small Fish (October 2, 2013)

Print ISBN-13: 978-0985621520

Order at your favorite book seller or online
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Theme: Learning to adapt to new ways

How Can We Be Friends?

Green Leaf’s cousins are all older than he and don’t like to play fair. He longs for a friend his own age he can play with, explore and fish with. When he meets a Luxembourger boy, Henri, Green Leaf is sure they could become friends, but Henri’s words are strange to Green Leaf. How can they play and explore together?

Green Leaf’s mother says, “Friends learn to speak one another’s words.” But will Green Leaf learn to say his friend’s words well enough to save Henri when he falls into danger?

Listen to Potawatomi Greetings and responses in a .wav file.
See the alphabet and pronunciation guide.
Listen to traditional flute music.
Learn  Potawatomi Legends.
Read Potawatomi history.
Historical photographs of Potawatomi people.
A Potawatomi village was once like this.
The Forest County Potawatomi in Wisconsin website.

Link to a ReviewWhat elevates this story is its attention to historical truth and period detail.

At the time this story takes place in the mid-1850s, the Potawatomi people had lived in Wisconsin for about two hundred years, having migrated from the eastern United States as a result of the Beaver Wars. In the 1830s the U.S. government began to purchase the land of the different branches of the Potawatomi. Families were moved to reservations in Kansas and Nebraska. A few Potawatomi either refused to move, or came back. These groups were known as Strolling Potawatomi. Farmington families recall Potawatomi people living in the area into the 1930s.
Clan, or extended family, titles are stylized, with family names having some related terms. In this story, Silver Birch is the name of the group of related families that make up Green Leaf’s clan, and so his name is related to trees. He was born in the spring time, so he is Green Leaf.

Henri Brinker was a real person. He is one of the west central European people who settled near the border of Washington and Ozaukee Counties in 1852, coming inland from Port Washington, the port city on western Lake Michigan. His parents came here hoping to run a store, but without means to easily buy new stock, quickly realized it would not work out. Their partners drifted off to make their living by other means, and Henri’s father, a tailor in his native country of Luxembourg, went to Chicago for work which left his family alone for months at a time in between visits.

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The German Girl

ISBN: Print 979-8-8690-6243-7
32 Pp print 979-8-8690-6244-4

Audible $3.46
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Theme: Obedience

Huldah Hartz is a curious girl who loves to watch the butterflies and grasshoppers. The flowers around her new home are pretty, especially the ones that grow close to the dark woods, 
where Papa and Mama say she must not play.

When Bessie the cow wanders away, Huldah is sent to find her and bring her home. 
But Bessie doesn’t want to come and Huldah doesn’t know which way to go when night falls. 
How will she find her way?


The names and the main event of Huldah Hartz, the German Girl, are taken from the mid-1800s pioneer history of Fillmore. Huldah’s granddaughter, Bernice Hron, told the story of the nine-year-old getting lost in the woods while looking for the family milk cow. Members of the local Potawatomi Indian clan found her. They took her to the trading post at Detmering’s Lake where her parents came to get her.

Over time, Detmering’s Lake became known as Erler Lake, and is currently part of Leonard J. Yahr County Park.

Max Gruhle and Huldah Hartz married when they grew up and later lived in Boltonville.

The 13th President of the United States, Millard Fillmore, 1850-52, is the namesake of the community of Fillmore in Washington County, Wisconsin. 

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The Saxon Boy
John Klessig: The Saxon Boy
winner of the 2013 Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring 

ISBN: 979-8-8690-6165-2

$3.46 Audio Book
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Theme: Blended families

How can John learn to love a new stepfather?

When John Klessig’s father dies suddenly, Mama marries Mr. Ernst, who is very different from Papa. His beard and his boots are big, and he doesn’t want to help new families the same way Papa did with the inn. Without warning, fire threatens the village. John and all the neighbors, including the Indians, help each other as friends. But where is Mr. Ernst? How can John and his new stepfather learn to love and respect each other?

John Klessig, The Saxon Boy, has earned the respect of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association as the 2013 Jade Ring Stories for Young People winner.


John Klessig was eight years old when his father died and his mother remarried. He was a first generation American, born of immigrant parents who were innkeepers and farmers. He grew up with four sisters, and a stepsister and stepbrother in a large house in Fillmore, Wisconsin, which also had guestrooms, a tavern, a store and lots of activity. 

The Klessigs and Jaehnigs lived in Fillmore in Washington County, Wisconsin and were real persons. We do not know a lot about John’s stepfather, Ernst Jaehnig. He went to California in 1852 to find gold and returned to marry the Widow Klessig. This is a story about what might have happened when John first met his stepfather.

After his stepfather passed away in 1879, John ran the family farm. He named it Spring Brook Farm and raised cattle and horses. The Farmington brewery was in operation until 1881.
John later took care of his mother when they moved from Fillmore to Kewaskum in 1910. He was active in local and county government. Liberta Klessig Jaehnig lived to be eighty-nine years old. John, in his old age, went to stay with his daughter in Milwaukee, and he lived to be eighty-three years old.

In September, 2013, the Wisconsin Writers Association was pleased to award The Saxon Boy with a Jade Ring for best Fiction for Young Adults in the annual fall competition.

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The Yankee Boy

Matthew LaCraft: The Yankee Boy

original publication date: July 2014 
38 pp. 5.5 by 8.5 inches 
Print ISBN 979-8-8690-6183-6

3.46 Audio version

Theme: Standing up for the right ideas; the importance of education

For Fun and More Information, please visit:
Read about the 1840-1850 era city of Buffalo, New York The LaCrafts were from Buffalo, which was also the home of former attorney Millard Fillmore who later became the President of the United States, and for which the small community of Fillmore in the town of Farmington is named.

This site has some interesting facts and lessons on the history of the Great Lakes 

Especially For Kids:
The Great Lakes Children’s Museum in Traverse City, MI is fun
Look at a map of the Great Lakes

Excerpt reviews

By Lorilyn Roberts on September 5, 2014

"LOYALTY and friendship are strong themes in this book, as well as getting a good education and doing the right thing. I loved how the story developed and the ending. Even adults could learn a thing or two from this delightful first chapters book. Highly recommended for early readers."

How can one boy change the minds of his neighbors?

When Matthew LaCraft’s father gives up his ship, the Mary Jean, Matthew is going to have to stay home and go to school. Worse, it’s a new school his father helped to build. Matthew would much rather go to school with the boys he knows in Boltonville. When a Potawatomi boy, Green Leaf, attends the new school, not all the neighbors are happy. What can Matthew do to help everyone get along? Will his plan work?

The LaCrafts were known as Yankees, pioneers who came from New York to work the land. John and his wife Mary built a brick home south of Boltonville in northern Washington County, 

Wisconsin, east of the small community of Orchard Grove. They had seven children. John was the first superintendent of schools in Farmington, and helped build a unique school in 1860 near a convent and chapel called St. John of God on the corner of what is now Highland Road and State Road 144. Although the school was run by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes in Barton, Wisconsin, it was open to the public. The school had classes for about fifteen years, then was abandoned. It was torn down in the 1980s. The Sisters of St. Agnes later founded a hospital thirty miles north in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

The Potawatomi who returned to live near Boltonville were known as Strolling Potawatomi. Once moved west by the US government, several families returned to live in their old homes. They had learned to build tipis from the Plains Indian people, and lived in them during the warm summer months.

In this fictional story, the timeline of when John LaCraft gives up sailing has been changed to fit with the building of the school. Matthew wants to go with his father on a last trading journey on his ship, to Buffalo, New York, but he has to stay home and go to school. Everyone learns a lesson when a Potawatomi boy comes to school too.

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The French Girl
Matilda Brinker: The French Girl

Original ublication date: October 2014 
36 pp. 5.5 by 8.5 inches 
Print ISBN 979-8-8690-5054-0

$3.46 Audio

Learn about the Luxembourg-Americans at the Luxembourg-American Cultural Society

Theme: Peer Pressure

How can Marie fit in with her new friends? 

Marie Brinker moved to America with her family. Her friends have new ways of dressing and talking, and making crafts. Will the new sewing machines take away her father’s tailoring work? Will Papa like his new quilt instead of his featherbed? When her neighbor Augusta makes a poor choice at the county fair, Marie must decide who is a true friend and what new customs to follow. 

Marie Brinker was a real person, although this story is fiction. She was one of the Luxembourg people who immigrated from France where they'd lived, and settled near what became the border of Washington and Ozaukee Counties in 1852, walking inland from the Great Lakes shipping dock at Port Washington. Her parents and their partners came to Wisconsin planning to operate a store, but without means to restock goods (shipping was slow and expensive), quickly realized it was a financial loss. Their partners drifted off to make their living by other means, and Marie’s father, a tailor in Luxembourg and France, went to Chicago for work, leaving his family for months at a time. 
The Brinker family settled into their new community. Many of the people spoke only German. The Brinkers had to learn to rely on each other not only for material goods, but especially for company in this new country. Despite their differences they taught each other new customs. For example, the Europeans made featherbeds that were used both as a mattress and a covering and the American women stitched quilts. A European fad, making mourning jewelry, was popular during the disturbing war-time losses. Eventually it became a local custom to make a wreath of the hair, approximately eight to twelve inches wide, of floral designs using differently colored hair. 
Marie was born in 1848 in Luxembourg and lived in France before the family immigrated to the United States. The ages of both Marie and Mary Klessig have been adjusted to make them contemporaries and to take advantage of what a preteen girl might have experienced in the area about the time of the Civil War. When Marie grew up, she became a teacher and finished her hair wreath while she boarded at the Saxonia House. She taught at Fillmore School during the years 1867-1871. Her hair wreath is framed and kept at the Washington County Historical Society Old Courthouse Square Museum in West Bend, Wisconsin.

Christian and Mrs. Beger, mentioned in this story, are regarded as the first permanent settlers in the town of Farmington.

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Reviewed by Reader's Favorite:
4 stars.

Reviewed By Sarah Stuart for Readers’ Favorite in April, 2016

The French Girl (A First Children of Farmington book) by Lisa J. Lickel is based on the true story of Marie Brinker, a girl born in Luxembourg and brought up in France. Her family emigrated to America in 1852. Her father was a tailor, and the family, together with another couple, did intend to run a store; a project made impossible by the cost of importing goods. Ms Lickel has retained the outline of Marie’s arrival in Farmington, and the fact that her father spent months away from his family, working in Chicago. She has built on that grounding to give an accurate, but fictional, picture of rural life, and how the character of Marie in the story learns to fit in with local customs and make new friends.

Lisa J. Lickel’s short story, The French Girl (A First Children of Farmington book), is beautifully illustrated by Brenda K. Hendricks. The images are mainly of antique items, some of them essential to demonstrate how a tool used in the story would operate. Marie’s first hurdle is communicating with the neighbours’ children; Farmington is a German-speaking community. Young readers will be fascinated by activities such as a feather bee and the visit to the County Fair. Even more intriguing are the personalities trapped between the pages, and Marie’s thoughts about whom she’s prepared to befriend and copy as she adapts to her new life. The majority are friendly and hard-working, but there is also Augusta. All good stories have an antihero, and this one is well-painted: not overdone, but not likeable either.

The Irish Girl
Ann Riley: The Irish Girl


Publication date: October 2014 
24 pp. 5.5 by 8.5 inches 
Print ISBN 978-0-9856215-7-5

$3.46 Audible

Theme: Multi-generational families

For Fun and More Information, please visit:
A curriculum with great resources for lessons toward high school-aged students 

Later in life, Anna Susanna Riley, who was born on September 13, 1846, became a seamstress and then a nun. She joined the Brown Franciscans and went to live in their brand new convent in what is now Campbellsport, Wisconsin. Her new name as a new was Sister Mary Margaretha. She died of tuberculosis, it is assumed, when she was 44, February 14, 1890, and is buried at St. Matthew's in Campbellsport. See the website for the church here.

Who can Ann find for a grandfather?

With so many aunts and uncles, why doesn’t Ann Riley have a grandfather? Her friend, Katie Murphy, has a special grandfather who tells stories and remembers all the things he did at home in Ireland. When Katie’s little sister tells Ann that everyone has to have a grandfather, Ann decides to find one of her own. She asks all her neighbors to be her grandfather. But Green Leaf’s grandfather doesn’t speak the same language, the miller is too busy, the store owner too important, the cooper too fussy, the bagpipe player too loud, and Father Rehrl away too much. Who can be Ann’s grandfather?

Early settlers to Boltonville were Irish. Many of these people left Ireland in the 1820s through the 1840s and settled in upstate New York. As the Midwest was opened up for settlement they came in pursuit of their dreams. These early Irish pioneers in Boltonville included the Riley family: mother Ann and her five sons: Matthew, William, Edward, Thomas and Patrick, and two daughters.

Matthew’s daughter Catherine was a baby when they came. In 1847 a second daughter, Ann, was reportedly the first child born of European or American settlers to the community. A Riley descendant had letters from the family documenting several episodes of daily life, and contact with a small band of Potawatomi people who still made their home in the area.

Family and community were very important to these people. They learned to rely on each other and their wits as they settled in this territory. There were no banks, only rudimentary stores, a post which is brought once a week on horseback by a neighbor, the milling operation for local farmers, a barrel maker, a blacksmith and the important church and school. Businesses and prosperity grew.
Many of today’s residents can trace their ancestry back to some of these pioneers.

Read the First Chapter