Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day Nineteen: Ten Things I Know Because of NaNoWriMo

In researching background information for my NaNo novel, much of which is set in Stowe, Vermont, in 1870-1871, I've discovered some interesting bits of information, so thought I'd share a few.

Ten Things I Know Because of NaNoWriMo:

1. On October 21, 1870, in his "Thanksgiving Proclamation," President Ulysses S. Grant recommended "all citizens to meet in their respective places of worship on Thursday the 24th day of November next, there to give thanks for the bounty of God during the year about to close and to supplicate for its continuance hereafter." Presidents are allowed the freedom to call the nation to prayer, but cannot mandate either for or against it without violating a Constitutional Amendment or the separation of church and state.

2. Also, in 1870, President Grant officially made Christmas a US federal holiday.

3. People in America now know what Santa Claus looks like, thanks to cartoonist Thomas Nash who created Santa's image in 1863.

4. It was in the late 1800s that the focus of gift giving at Christmas began to shift away from its religious significance as a reminder of the gifts of the magi to the baby Jesus at Epiphany, to the more social emphasis of our modern celebrations.

5. Prior to 1838, Stowe was spelled without the "e."

6. In 1863, the Stowe Community Church was built for $12,000, significantly less than modern building projects cost.

7. The first school was erected in Stowe, VT, in 1800, eight years after a provision for public education was passed by the legislature. The District #6 Village School (Stowe High School) was built in 1861.

8. The Stowe Free Library was established in 1866, although the public library movement didn't really gain momentum until 1880.

9. Gold Brook Bridge (Emily's Bridge) was built in 1844, but the legend didn't exist prior to 1968. In one account, a high school girl claims to have gotten the story of Emily's death from her Ouija board; in another, the legend was told by a woman to scare her children and/or a group of college students in 1970.

10. At one time, Stowe had ten covered bridges. Emily's Bridge is the only one that still exists. (Maybe the other bridges should have housed ghosts!)

Bonus fact: Originally, Stowe belonged to Chittenden County, then Washington, and finally Lamoille. And did you know Lamoille got its name because of a cartographer's mistake? It was originally Lamoitte, but the mapmaker forgot to cross his "t's."

Let that be a lesson to us writers. Have a good editor check your manuscripts to make sure you've dotted your "i"s and cross your "t"s, or what is left for posterity might not be what you intended.

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