Twenty years ago I wrote my first book Butter in the Well. Writing was a new adventure for me, brought on by my husband’s job transfer to another state. I was homesick and started writing about the Swedish woman who left her country and homesteaded on the Kansas prairie that later became my childhood home.

Writing this first book changed my career and, my life. I swerved off this path for a decade while raising buffalo (which could be a book in itself), but I’m back to writing stories about pioneer women again.

Recently I re-read my books to enjoy the stories and photos that brought the characters to life, for both my readers and me.

Please join me as I post special passages from Butter in the Wellin my blog to relive the life of a special Swedish immigrant, Kajsa Swenson. I’ll add background tidbits, photos, and website links so you can enjoy “the story behind the story” too.

To get you started, here is the Preface from my book, Butter in the Well. (Copyright 1992 by Linda K. Hubalek)

“This book is about a Swedish emigrant woman who homesteaded Kansas land in 1868. Maja Kajsa Svensson was a young bride of one year when she, her husband, Carl Johan, and 3-month-old daughter, Anna Christina, left Sweden in 1867.

Born to Johan Magnus Andersson and Anna Lisa Mattesdotter on June 15, 1844, in Klevmarken, Sweden, she was the first in her family to marry and the first to move to America.

After receiving an encouraging letter from a friend who had moved and settled in Illinois, the Svenssons set sail for America and settled in Jacksonville, Illinois. Carl worked in his friend’s brickyard but dreamed of farming his own land. The farmland in Illinois had already been bought up, so they needed to look elsewhere. Land agents canvassing Illinois advertised the free land in Kansas, just waiting to be claimed. Although Kajsa would have preferred to stay in Illinois, she accepted Carl’s decision and packed for the trip to Kansas.

This fictionalized account describes Kajsa’s first 20 years on her Kansas farm and how the community developed into the Smoky Valley region of Saline County, Kansas. It is seen through her eyes, as though she were writing in her journal.

I interviewed relatives and neighbors who remember stories of this family and the history of this area. I walked the cemeteries to find the tombstones of Kajsa’s relatives. Some stories, dates, and name spellings have conflicted at times, but I have tried to find the truth by researching church, cemetery, and county records. Old newspapers and books have shed light on the conditions and events that took place in the communities.

The accounts of Kajsa are meant to portray life during the late 1800s in the Smoky Valley of Kansas. Some license has been taken to depict the everyday in the life of a family in this time period.

I have not found pictures of her family prior to 1881, but those of the family and farm in later years reveal much about Kajsa’s life.

Kajsa’s daughter Julia married Peter Olson’s son Joseph, and spent her married life on his family farm directly north of where she was born. “Aunt Julia”, as almost everyone in the neighborhood called her, was like a grandmother to me. I used to take her a May Day basket filled with lilac blooms picked from the bush she helped her mother plant.

But just as important as knowing Kajsa’s family, I know the farm they homesteaded, for I grew up on that very land, roamed its acres and lived in the house that Carl and Kajsa built. Living on the land has given me a depth and feel for the life of the woman portrayed in these pages.

In Kajsa’s photos, she stares me straight in the eye as if challenging me to look into her soul. Kajsa looked like a quiet, determined woman who loved her family and land. Her story ought to be told.”

Want to read more about Kajsa and her life on the Kansas prairie?
Please watch for my next blog…


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Comment by Linda Hubalek on February 20, 2012 at 4:40pm

Hej Leah! Tack så mycket from Lindsbrog, KS, known as Little Sweden USA!

Okay, I only know a little Swedish no Norwegian, but thanks so much for sending me a note!

I've been to Sweden twice, and Norway once and really felt at home there.

I hope you can read my Butter in the Well and Planting Dreams book series which describes the stories of life for so many immigrants, probably both yours and mine.

My blog is about my books, quilts, and whatever I can think of, so please do enjoy them.

Many thanks from the Kansas prairie!

Comment by Leah Garhovd on February 20, 2012 at 12:55pm

I am a new member of this forum so I just found your blog. I live in a small town in southern Norway. I married a Norwegian man and moved to Norway about 20 year ago.  My grandparents were immigrants to America my grandmother from Sweden and my grandfather from Norway.  I have had the joy to visit the place of where he was born and grew up as well as his parents and grandparents.  I have not yet been up to Sundsval, Sweden where my grandmother was born. 

I was touched by what you have written and will most certainly purchase your book. I can hardly wait to look up more of your blog entries.  Thank you for your time and diligence in writing this blog.

Comment by Linda Hubalek on November 4, 2011 at 10:07am
Thanks for the note. Please keep looking for my blog because I've posted a couple more blogs with excerpts from Butter in the Well since this one. Thanks, Linda Hubalek
Comment by Jytte Friis Buchholtz on November 4, 2011 at 7:51am
I like your intro, and I'm sure that I will read more. Regards Jytte
Comment by Susan Ioanou-Silver on October 20, 2011 at 10:40pm
can't wait to read the next installment...sounds so interesting
Comment by Linda Hubalek on October 20, 2011 at 11:07am
Thanks for the note Barbara! I appreciate it. It keeps me writing too!
Comment by Barbara Withers on October 20, 2011 at 8:40am
Enjoyed your intro and look forward to reading more, Regards, Barbara

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