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[Detail] The David Hilton family near Weissert, Nebraska. 1887.

Creative Writing

Virtually every letter in the Prairie Settlement collection is an interesting source for understanding ordinary people and their everyday lives. Read an exchange of letters among members of the Oblinger family (for example, the letters written in September 1887 would work well). Use the following questions to analyze the letters:

  • What issues seemed to be concerning the family?
  • What activities were family members busy with?
  • Where were the various members of the family at the time the letters were written?
  • What attitudes or emotions can you detect in the letters? Were family members happy? worried? excited about something?
  • Choose one family member to study more closely. Can you identify phrases this person used often or typical sentence structures in his/her writing? Was this person usually serious? Did he/she express humor? Did he/she seem to have a positive or negative view of life?
  • In the voice of the person you have chosen, write a letter that might follow those you have read. Write about the issues and activities concerning the family. Try to reflect the attitude and writing style of the person whose role you have taken.