Foreword author(s)
Afterword author(s)

In July 1909 twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth Corey left her Iowa farm to stake her claim to a South Dakota homestead. Over the next ten years, as she continued her schoolteaching career and carved out a home for herself in this inhospitable territory, she sent a steady stream of letters to her family back in Iowa. From the edge of modern America, Bess wrote long, gossipy accounts—"our own continuing adventure story," according to her brother Paul—of frontier life on the high plains west of the Missouri River. Irrepressible, independent-minded, and evidently fearless, the self-styled Bachelor Bess gives us a firsthand, almost daily account of her homesteading adventures. We can all stake a claim in her energetic letters.

"Once I started reading the letters, it was extremely difficult to skip over some and not read every one, word for word…Each letter provides such rich details of this woman's life in regard to her daily activities, her interaction with neighbors, the difficulties of homesteading in Dakota, and, perhaps most unusual, many of her private feelings about herself and her life there."—Dorothy Schwieder
"…compelling reading …Her missives pulse with excitement—tall tales, fully rounded anecdotes, sharply drawn sketches—and Corey herself is in the center of the drama, a heroine bigger than life . . ."—New York Times Book Review
"Editor Philip Gerber has written an excellent introduction, providing useful historical background and a sketch of Bess's life. The footnotes clarify references to people and slang, but there are numerous obscure passages where further notes could have helped. Because these letters were written for a family audience—they are Bess's thoughts of the moment committed to paper—they lack the literary flair of some pioneer letters and diaries, such as Elinore Stewart's Letters of a Woman Homesteader, which was written with publication clearly in mind. Bess's letters are not carefully crafted short stories; they are an intimate and highly personal picture of rural life seen through the eyes and psyche of a young farm woman of limited education (and dreadful spelling). It is the ordinary and personal quality of these letters that makes them so extraordinary, revealing, and valuable."—History
"For a vibrant firsthand account of homesteading in South Dakota in the early 20th century, Bess Corey's letters are unexcelled."—Choice


Foreword by Paul Corey



A Note on the Editing

Elizabeth Corey’s Homesteading Letters

Epilogue: 1920-1954

Afterword by Wayne Franklin



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Publication Details

Publication Date
Pages, art, trim size
540 pages, 50 photos, 11 drawings, 1 map