Hamlin Garland was born in the beautiful La Crosse valley,
September 16, 1860, and lived there until he was eight years
old. Twenty-three years ago he purchased the old homestead
near West Salem, La Crosse County, and to this he delights to
return each year for part of his summer. As one reads his
description of the trip to West Salem over the Northwestern
Line in his story, "Up the Cooley," he is compelled to see how
much Mr. Garland loves the scenes of Wisconsin.
Among the other states which may share in the right to
claim Hamlin Garland are Iowa, Massachusetts, Illinois, and
South Dakota. In Iowa he learned what the rural school, the
academy, and the farm could teach him. It was in the Boston
Public Library that he formed much of his literary style
and determined that the material for his future literary work
should be the western life that he knew so well. In Illinois
he began his work as a teacher and a lecturer. Here he met
the girl who was to become his wife, Miss Zulima Taft, sister
of the artist, Lorado Taft. Chicago is his present home. Mr.
Garland visited his parents in South Dakota in 1883 and took
up a claim there. Here he got material which he incorporated
into some of his stories, among which the Moccassin Ranch is
the most notable.
The experience in these several states gave Hamlin Garland
an excellent opportunity to understand all phases of country
life. He has expressed his observations in description of boys'
games, the labor on the farm, the work of the rural school, and
the varied activities of the rural community. He knew that
the work of the farm in an early day furnished as much opportunity
for the display of resistance and the determination to
use the last bit of strength to win as does the game of the
present. The work of binding the wheat after a reaper became
a game requiring honesty as well as skill and rapidity. Perhaps
no boy of today shoots a basket, makes a touch-down, or
hits out a home run with more pride than did the youth of this
pioneer life retire from the harvest field at noon or night with
the consciousness that he had bound all his "tricks" without
being caught once by the machine as it made its successive
rounds of the field.
Hamlin Garland knew the joys of these contests on the
pioneer farm, and he also knew the sordid side of the narrow
and cramped life of the early settler. He describes both with
equal vividness and sympathy. Wisconsin owes him much for
the work he has done in preserving pictures of her early pioneer
life. His hero and heroine are those ancestors who travelled
forth into the new regions in covered wagons, and by the
use of axe and plow conquered a seemingly unconquerable forest
or a stubborn prairie sod. In his book of short stories,
"Main Travelled Roads," he makes the dedication of it to his
heroic parents in these words:
"To my father and mother, whose half-century pilgrimage
on the main travelled road of life has brought them only toil
and deprivation, this book of stories is dedicated by a son to
whom every day brings a deepening sense of his parents' silent
To illustrate Mr. Garland's ability to picture the joyous and
the irksome in the life of the pioneer two selections are given
at this place. The first sets forth the joy of farm activity, the
second, the disheartening influence of abject toil.
Hamlin Garland's parents were of Scotch Presbyterian
descent and were strict in their management of their children,
but their lives were most wholesome and they were withal
companionable. Their sacrifice and toil have been rewarded
by the response their son has made to the opportunities they
could offer him.
Besides the rural school training at Burr Oak, Iowa, Mr.
Garland received additional education at Cedar Valley Seminary
at Osage, where he attended school during the winter seasons.
He graduated from this school in 1881 and then for a
year travelled through the eastern states. His people later
settled in Brown county, Dakota, and he visited them there in
In 1884 he went to Boston, where he came under the influence
of Professor Moses True Brown of the Boston School of
Oratory, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Dean Howells, Edward
Everett Hale, and Edwin Booth.
Mr. Garland began his career as an author with the publication
of his poem, "Lost in a Norther," in Harper's Weekly.
For this poem he received twenty-five dollars. His work has
been unusually remunerative. He has been a popular contributor
to the Century Magazine, the Youth's Companion, the
Arena, and other magazines. His first book was published in
1890. Mr. Garland enjoys social life and outdoor sports very
much. He was the founder and is still the president of the
Cliff Dwellers' Club in Chicago. He is especially fond of the
outdoor sports of swimming, skating, and riding the trail on
the plains and the mountains. The joy in this last is expressed
in a poem which is given later.
Mr. Garland's publications include short stories, novels,
essays, and poems. These book publications began with the
short stories, Main Travelled Roads, in 1890. Since then have
appeared Jason Edwards, 1891; A Member of the Third House,
an exposure of political corruption, 1892; A Spoil of Office,
1892; Prairie Folks, Prairie Songs and Crumbling Idols, a
series of critical essays, 1893; Rose of Dutcher's Coolly, a novel,
1895; Wayside Courtships, 1897; a Biography of Ulysses S.
Grant, 1898; the Trail of the Gold Seekers and Boy Life on the
Prairie, 1899; the Eagle's Heart, 1900; Her Mountain Lover, a
novel, 1901; The Captain of the Gray Horse Troop, another
novel, 1902; Hesper, 1903; The Tyranny of the Dark, a study
in psychic research, 1905; The Long Trail, 1907; the Shadow
World, another study in the psychic field, 1908; The Moccassin
Ranch, 1909; Cavanagh, Forest Ranger, a study in forest preservation,
1911; Victor Olnee's Discipline, 1911; The Forest
Daughter, 1913; and They of the High Trails, 1916.