Having grown up in the small resort town of Lake Geneva, WI, I’d heard for as long as I could remember how the wealthy of Chicago had come north to Geneva Lake after the Great Chicago Fire to build large (sometimes gargantuan) homes on the lakeshore to house their families while the city was rebuilt.
I didn’t really appreciate the history and legacy of the area until I realized a few years ago that many of those 19th Century homes were disappearing—some by the wrecking ball and others by fire. A burning desire ignited in my heart that wouldn’t stop until I crafted a story about a fictional wealthy family who came north after the fire, pulling in historical fact and cameo appearances of some actual people who had lived there back in the day.
Whenever I start researching for a story, I always learn something new. Until recently, the name of Irish Woods had never been in my vocabulary. Irish Woods’ story begins when years before the fire, Irish immigrants were hired to lay railroad tracks from Elgin IL to Geneva, WI (what Lake Geneva was called back then). When they came to the end of the line, the railroad company left them to their own devices to get back home. Instead of leaving, they headed a few miles west of town and laid claims on available property. And with that, the settlement of Irish Woods was born. Some farmed while others hired on in town.
By the time of the fire, a new train service had begun between Chicago and Geneva and, after the fire, many displaced Irish immigrants took advantage of free train tickets and came north to Irish Woods. When I heard about Irish Woods, I decided the male lead in my story had to be a redheaded Irishman who lives in Irish Woods.
Whenever I’m in town and drive west on Highway 50, I pass through the Irish Woods area and catch a glimpse of the school (a lot larger than the one-room school in my story where my heroine teaches). I sometimes think if I look real hard, I might see Rory Quinn, his grin wide, driving his team of horses toward the school and, if I pause long enough, I might even see Anna Hartwell coming outside to greet him.
Do you ever want to step inside a story you enjoy, or, if you’re an author, one you wrote? That would be a time travel to beat them all.
Pam has written most of her life, beginning with her first diary at age eight. Most of her novels are set in or near her hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. They include Thyme For Love, Surprised by Love in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and her newest release, Safe Refuge, the first of three stories in her Newport of the West series. Her novel, Second Chance Love, released last year.
Pam resides in northern Illinois with her two rescue cats. She’s an hour or so away from her home town where she can often be found researching and nosing for new story ideas. Find her online at www.pammeyerswrites.com
About Safe Refuge:
In two days, wealthy Chicagoan Anna Hartwell will wed a man she loathes. She would refuse this arranged marriage to Lyman Millard, but the Bible clearly says she is to honor her parents, and Anna would do most anything to please her father–even leave her teaching job at a mission school and marry a man she doesn’t love.
The Great Chicago Fire erupts, and Anna and her family escape with only the clothes on their backs, the wedding postponed. Father moves the family to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where Anna reconnects with Rory Quinn, a handsome Irishman who worked at the mission school. Realizing she is in love with Rory, Anna prepares to break the marriage arrangement with Lyman — until she learns a dark family secret that changes her life forever.