The Sower and The Seer

The Sower and the Seer: Perspectives on the Intellectual History of the American Midwest. This is a book about the Intellectual History of the Midwest. (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, March 2021)

This is a collection of 22 essays. My chapter focuses on the city of Cedar Falls, Iowa.

"Mind & Soil: An Iowa Town that Grows Writers."

"Mind & Soil: An Iowa Town that Grows Writers." Cedar Falls, Iowa predates the Civil war by a decade: this frontier town became a railroad town, provided a home for Civil War orphans, established a college to train teachers, supported a newspaper, created a library, and built a number of churches. Along the way, it became an important hub for readers and writers: five best-selling authors have ties to Cedar Falls, including Bess Streeter Aldrich, Ruth Suckow, James Hearst, Robert James Waller, and Nancy Price. The secret of this town’s success? A persistent focus by a succession of civic leaders on the fertile blend of literature and the land. Many towns had literary societies, but early Cedar Falls had Peter Melendy, founder of the Cedar Falls Horticultural and Literary Society in 1859. His motto, “the mind and the soil,” bore fruit in the creation of a city with beautiful parks, gardens, and trees complemented by a vibrant literary culture with a modern public library. This chapter explores the city’s early history, examines several community organizations that fostered reading and discussing ideas, and explains how the community has honored its five best-selling authors.

Last updated July 15, 2022