Southern Price County resident Lily Kempton has ensured that the stories of her family and other early residents of one rural Prentice neighborhood will live on long into the future with the publication of her first book, “The History of Goetzke Road.”
The story opens with her grandparents’ 1885 arrival from Germany and ends with a snapshot of those living along the road in the 1970s.
Characters and events driving the narrative are based largely on a combination of memory and tales Kempton’s mother would share with her.
“She used to tell me all kinds of little stories about her parents,” Kempton said.
As the youngest granddaughter, Kempton never actually got the chance to meet her grandma and grandpa, who passed away before she was born. Still, she had the memories shared by her mother to catapult them to life in her imagination.
“I wanted to write this down in a book so that when I’m gone all these little stories wouldn’t be lost,” Kempton said.
The author was told about how her grandfather came to purchase that chunk of land in the middle of the woods nine miles out from Prentice.
The land agent incorrectly informed them that the lot fell in the Town of Knox when in actuality it was a part of the Town of Prentice – a discovery made via later surveying work. There was no road connecting the developing farm to the life-sustaining amenities of town, and so the family went about building one. The work of carving out the narrow dirt road from the landscape fell mainly to her grandfather and Uncle Ernest, the oldest boy in the family.
A diary her grandfather kept over the course of about five years in the 1920s details project tasks and funding requests made to the town so more work could be done.
“It’s really interesting,” Kempton said.
Along with developing the road, her grandfather eked out a farm by and by from what was once all woods.
“Over the years, he just kept working at clearing the land,” Kempton said.
The task, of course, involved cutting down a lot of big trees, which Kempton’s grandfather would turn to firewood, reducing the felled timber to smaller logs with a hand-splitting maul and piling them up to dry.
He would make a trip to town each weekend, taking with him a cord of firewood at a time to sell to some local business or another.
The wood went for $2.50 a cord.
“Boy, I wish I could buy some wood for that now,” Kempton said.
Her grandfather had the help of six children to get the farm up and running and then keep it going.
“It turned out to be a nice big farm when he was in operation,” Kempton said.
Home to a herd of registered Holsteins, the little chunk of rural paradise went by the name of the Lone Corner Farm. That moniker is still emblazoned on special stationery he had made.
Along with capturing all the hard work that went into making life in early Prentice possible, the book details how her grandparents and their children passed the days way out in the middle of the woods, as Kempton explained.
“It was like ‘Little House on the Prairie’ almost,” Kempton said.
Kempton is thankful for the help of her daughter, Sherry Olig of Menasha, in bringing the book to completion. Along with lending her editing skills to the project, Olig helped get her mother set up with a publisher she found online.
“She’s a computer whiz,” Kempton said.
The book’s official release date was sometime in mid-November 2013.
Without her daughter’s help, Kempton doesn’t think she would have seen the book reach its final form.
Kempton explains that she wrote up her ideas and then got a rough draft of the book on paper one letter at a time using an old typewriter – “hunt and peck,” she joked.
“I was at a stand still…” Kempton said. “I got that done and I thought, ‘now, what do I do?”
That was where her daughter stepped in to tighten up the language and get things off to press.
“I feel pretty proud of the book, that I finally got it out there so people can read it,” Kempton said.
She would like others to pick up her inaugural work and discover the stories behind that little dirt road off CTH-C they may have driven down out of curiosity or simply passed by.
At 76-pages, the book is a relatively easy read.
“I’ve had pretty good comments from those who’ve read it so far,” Kempton said.
She only ordered 30 books in the beginning, not sure how much the story would take off, and is now almost out of copies.
Orders are being collected for another shipment.
Books cost $10 plus $2.50 for shipping and handling.
Kempton explained how one gentleman from the Brantwood area wanted a book shipped out to Virginia. Some of her relatives in South Carolina and Iowa have also requested a few copies.
“So it’s out there,” Kempton said about her book.
Writing is something Kempton’s thought about exploring more for awhile, having started a correspondence course on children’s literature in the 1980’s.
She would like to begin another book based on a diary her paternal uncle kept detailing all the deer he ever shot over the course of his life, spanning around 89 years. Kempton heard comments that a lot of hunters would be interested in reading such a book.
The author currently lives at the very Prentice Area farm where she came into this world 73 years ago.
“I don’t know how many people can say that,” Kempton said.
When her father Les went to live at a veterans home, Kempton was asked to take good care of the farm, and she’s been there ever since.
“I’m keeping my promise,” Kempton said.
Those who are interested in buying a copy of Kempton’s book are asked to call her at (715) 767-5724.