Inspiration: Land of the Burnt Thigh

The On the Dakota Frontier books were inspired by historical statistics, pioneer truisms, and actual accounts from women homesteaders. As readers have noted, I conducted significant historical research to provide accurate narratives for each story.

Proving Her Claim was based on the statistic that while 12% of homesteaders were women, 42% of women homesteaders (who were single, widowed, or divorced) proved their claims, while 37% of men (single or married) proved their claims. Hmmm. There was a story there!

Lone Tree Claim was inspired by the agricultural adage “Sheep were for the cash. Cattle were for the prestige.”

Medicine Creek Claim is about two sisters who staked claims in Dakota Territory – much like Edith and Ida Mary Ammons. The Ammons sisters came to South Dakota in 1907, homesteading near the Lower Brule Indian Reservation. In 1938, Edith published Land of the Burnt Thigh, chronicling the sisters’ adventures on the frontier.

But the Ammons sisters did more than simply stake and work their claims. Within a few weeks to arriving in South Dakota, Edith was running a newspaper and Ida Mary was teaching school. Land of the Burnt Thigh is their story. The book details their battles with prairie fires, rattlesnakes, and blizzards — in addition to proving their claims.

I wanted to write a story about sisters in Medicine Creek Claim. As the oldest of three sisters, I understand their interactions and unique bonds. Our sisters are often our first friends—and our first foes.

(Author’s note: I found Land of the Burnt Thigh when I was doing my initial research for Proving Her Claim. Recently, a friend gave me a first-edition copy of Land of the Burnt Thigh. It is among my treasured possessions.)

All the books in the series tell stories about the strong women who helped build our nation. It was the women like the Ammons sisters who tamed the prairies. They built the church congregations. They were the school teachers, the midwives, and the mothers who tended the children.

Here’s to the strong women who went before us. We’re standing on their shoulders.