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Loss of Eden
A Biography of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh
By Joyce Milton
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1993 Joyce Milton
All rights reserved.
ON A LATE SUMMER DAY in the year 1900, Evangeline Land stepped off the train in Little Falls, Minnesota, and a hired a wagon to transport her trunk to the Antlers Hotel on Broadway. If any members of the school board were waiting on the platform to greet her, they must have been quite pleased with the new high school science teacher, whom they had hired sight unseen to teach five courses-chemistry, physics, biology, physical geography, and physiology-all for a starting salary of fifty-five dollars a month. Twenty-four years old, Miss Land was a slight, active woman with curly brown hair and large gray-blue eyes. She was pretty but not distractingly so, and unusually well educated for a small-town schoolteacher. A graduate of Miss Ligget's Academy in Detroit, she had earned a B.A. in chemistry from the University of Michigan.
There were few opportunities for women scientists at the turn of the century, and Evangeline had decided to use her bachelor's degree as a passport to see something of the world beyond her comfortable middle-class neighborhood in Detroit. After reading Down the Great River, Willard Glazier's 1881 account of his search for the true source of the Mississippi, she had set her sights on Little Falls. Glazier's popular and highly romanticized narrative told how he and his party had explored the headwaters of the river, canoeing across lakes with picturesque names like Winnibegoshish, where they encountered noble "copperskinned" Chippewa as well as elk, bears, deer, and numberless flocks of migrating ducks, brants, cormorants, pelicans, and trumpeter swans.
Their journey of exploration completed, Glazier's party had continued downriver, stopping at a series of trading posts and rough lumbering camps before arriving at Little Falls, the first truly civilized town on the Upper Mississippi. There, wrote Glazier, "a brass band saluted us with a lively air while cheers and words of welcome met us on every side." The explorers were led off in triumph to a comfortable hotel, where a delegation of townspeople, led by Moses LaFond, said to be the town's first settler, questioned Glazier about the river's geological origins and brought, for his inspection, a collection of relics, evidence of some unknown race that had inhabited the northern forests long before the arrival of the Chippewa and the Sioux.
When she accepted the school board's offer, Evangeline imagined herself teaching science to the children of humble lumberjacks and miners, perhaps with a faithful dog to carry her books to and from the one-room schoolhouse. But two decades had passed since Glazier's visit, and progress had come to Little Falls. The Pine Tree Lumber Company's state-of-the-art sawmill was busy round the clock, and local businessmen were buying up tracts of real estate on the west side of town and building worker's housing and blocks of stores on speculation. The windswept prairies to the west of town, where warriors of the Sioux nation had risen up against the whites as recently as 1861, were divided into prosperous farms. The primeval pine forests to the north and east were fast being clear-cut.
A county seat with a population of something over five thousand, Little Falls was far past the one-room schoolhouse stage, and the superintendent, probably reasoning that Miss Land was young and energetic enough to climb stairs without strain, promptly assigned her to a classroom on the top floor of the five-story high school building. The room was cramped and poorly equipped, and when winter came the winds blowing off the prairie penetrated the cracks around the windows. Evangeline's test tubes and beakers were icy, her fingers stiff and numb as she struggled to prepare her classroom demonstrations. She complained about the temperature in her classroom-"about 54 degrees"- only to be told that this was Minnesota and she would just have to get used to it.
Back at the Antlers Hotel, Evangeline discussed her problems with a fellow boarder who also happened to be the town's most prominent attorney. Charles August Lindbergh, usually called C.A., was a remarkably handsome man, still lean and fit at forty-one, with startling blue eyes and a deep dimple in the center of his chin. Recently widowed, he had been married to Mary LaFond, a daughter of the same Moses LaFond who had welcomed Willard Glazier to Little Falls in 1881. Mary had died unexpectedly at thirty-one, of complications following minor surgery, and C.A.'s two little girls, Lillian and Eva, were living at his mother's house while he boarded at the Antlers. Lonely and bored, he was delighted to discover that the attractive new schoolteacher was, like himself, a graduate of the University of Michigan. In her letters home, Evangeline called C.A. "the widower" and teasingly described him as a rich old man, ugly and objectionably "Norwegian," with a name "suggestive of cheese." None of this was meant to be taken seriously-Evangeline was as giddy as a teenager over her success in capturing the heart of the town's most eligible man, winning out over several competitors, including a certain Miss Cooper. She and C.A. had rooms that faced each other across the hotel courtyard, and within a few weeks their romance had progressed to the point where they worked out a set of signals so that they could communicate with each other first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
At the high school Evangeline had given up trying to reason with the administration. When her room was too cold, she took it upon herself to move her students to a vacant classroom on a lower floor. One day she was carrying a bulky piece of apparatus down the narrow staircase when she ran into the superintendent of schools. He ordered her to take the equipment back to the top floor. Evangeline, her "Irish temper" aroused, ignored him. The confrontation ended with her setting the apparatus down on the landing and walking out of the building, never to return.
Mailing in her resignation, Evangeline returned to Detroit. But C. A. Lindbergh continued his courtship by letter, and on March 21, 1901, the couple was married in the living room of her parents' home. After a honeymoon trip to California, where they visited Yosemite and the cattle ranch of C.A.'s older half-brother, Perry, the newlyweds returned to Little Falls.
Shortly before the death of his first wife, C.A. had purchased a 110-acre farm two miles south of town, with extensive frontage on the west bank of the Mississippi. The property included a fine home site on a twenty-foot bluff overlooking the river. In a burst of expansiveness, the normally thrifty C.A. approved plans for a three-story frame house complete with hardwood floors and red oak paneling downstairs, five bedrooms, and a third-floor billiards room. If not quite the equal of the Weyerhaeuser mansion, the home of the local branch of the St. Paul family that owned the Pine Tree Lumber Company, it would certainly be one of the finest homes in Morrison County.
While the house was going up, C.A. and Evangeline camped out near the riverbank, sleeping in a temporary two-room cabin. By the time the weather turned cold, the main house was nearly finished and the new mahogany furniture, ordered from Grand Rapids, had arrived. A year after she quit her teaching job, Evangeline had three full-time servants and her own carriage and was entertaining the Weyerhaeusers, the Mussers, and the other leading families of the county.
At the time of his marriage to Evangeline, C. A. Lindbergh had a typical country lawyer's practice. He took criminal cases, and during a stint as county attorney he had even prosecuted a few murderers, but most of his income came from handling the local business affairs of the Pine Tree Lumber Company and of national firms like the Singer Sewing Machine Company and McCormick Harvesters. He dabbled in real estate, both on his own behalf and as the local agent of a "New York millionaire" named Howard Bell, who speculated in rural land.
Even among his central Minnesota neighbors, a group not noted for their demonstrative ways, C.A. had a reputation for being unusually introspective, a deep thinker who revealed himself only in occasional flashes of sardonic humor. The town intellectual, he pored over volumes of Abraham Lincoln's speeches, Prescott's histories, and Populist tracts like Coin's Financial School. He had read and pondered the classics of philosophy and literature more deeply than many an eastern college professor, but like many self-educated men he expressed himself poorly and had a tendency to wrestle with the big questions in isolation, often reinventing solutions that were already intellectual cliches.
C.A.'s net worth was about two hundred thousand dollars, making him a rich man by Morrison County standards, but most of that was tied up in rural acreage and he had always lived simply. He wore the same suit day in and day out, used country expressions like "begorry," and before his remarriage his social life had consisted of attending country weddings and the "river pig" banquets and log-rolling exhibitions organized several times a summer by the big lumber companies. He had a reputation for never taking a case unless he believed his client was in the right, and on more than one occasion, he accepted a mortgage payment from a hard-pressed farmer only to turn around and hand the money back in the form of an unsecured loan.
Many of C.A.'s clients and tenants owed him money, and one suspects they were none too happy to see him marry a woman who was socially ambitious, with expensive tastes and no ties to the community. Evangeline had a penchant for wearing large, showy hats, and surviving examples of her wardrobe-a blue velvet traveling suit and a bead-trimmed gown that she wore to a reception at the White House during the Wilson administration-testify to her love of rich fabrics and stylishly cut clothes. She called the river house "Lindholm," an affectation that grated on the sensibilities of her unassuming Lindbergh in-laws, and she even persuaded C.A. to take up horseback riding.
There is a tradition in central Minnesota that another local boy, Sinclair Lewis of Sauk Centre, knew the story of C. A. Lindbergh's second marriage and used Evangeline as the inspiration for the character of Carol Kennicott in Main Street. The connection can't be proved, but C.A.'s parents had homesteaded in Melrose, near Sauk Centre, and there are other hints in Lewis's novel that he was at least aware of the Lindbergh family's colorful past.
C.A.'s father, known in his youth as Ola Minsson, had been a famous man in the old country, a self-educated scholar and for eleven years a leading member of the Swedish Riksdag, where he almost single-handedly pushed through a program of liberal reforms. Månsson campaigned in favor of equal rights for Jews, other religious minorities, and women, and brought about the repeal of an old law that banned Bible reading and worship services in private homes. Another of his bills made it a crime for employers to beat their servants, and his longest and most controversial crusade resulted in the outlawing of the whipping post, the last vestige of corporal punishment in the Swedish legal system. Månsson's ultimate goal was the overthrow of the class system. In this he failed-"The Lords are ever Lords as they were before," he wrote sorrowfully some years after leaving office-but as the private secretary and close personal friend of the crown prince, later Charles XV, he was able to influence Sweden's development into a constitutional monarchy.
In 1859 a scandal brought Månsson's career to an abrupt end. He had used his position as a director of the Bank of Sweden to guarantee business loans for friends, and when the debts went unpaid he was charged with criminal embezzlement. According to the late Dr. Grace Nute, a Minnesota historian whose researches were partially sponsored by the Lindbergh family, Månsson was guilty at worst of a technical violation of the banking laws and was basically set up by his political enemies. A less charitable view might be that he had been careless and far too trusting of his wealthy friends.
Rather than fight the charges against him, a deeply embittered Månsson liquidated his property to cover the debts and announced his intention to turn his back on his ungrateful countrymen forever. In the summer of 1859, he sailed for America with his second wife, the former Louisa Carline, and his infant son, named Charles August in honor of the crown prince.
It happened that around the time of Månsson's emigration, the Swedish people were changing over from the old-fashioned system of patronymics-adding the suffix son or dottir to the father's first name- to standard surnames. Månsson's sons by his first marriage had already adopted the surname Lindberg, and he decided to do the same. In a more unusual move, he changed his first name as well, becoming August Lindberg. Soon after arriving in America, he anglicized his new last name by adding a final h. So determined was he to put the old country behind him that he put away his Swedish books, immersed himself in American literature, and was soon writing even his personal diary in English.
Louisa Carline Lindbergh was just twenty, thirty years younger than her husband and a member of one of the very aristocratic families whose power Ola Månsson had fought in the Riksdag. There is some question as to whether the couple was ever legally married, and C.A.'s birth on January 20, 1859, was registered from the home of the midwife who delivered him, a practice commonly resorted to when illegitimate children were born to upper-class families. All this suggests that the scandal that brought to an end Månsson's political career, and his and Louisa's subsequent decision to leave the country, may have been somewhat more complicated than surviving accounts indicate.
At any rate, the couple settled near Melrose, on the Sauk River in Stearns County, Minnesota, where August traded a gold medal awarded to him by the Riksdag for his first plow. Homesteading on the frontier was challenging enough for the able-bodied young. August Lindbergh, though he came from a peasant background, had done no farm work for thirty years, and the struggle to house and feed his family took a brutal toll.
In 1861 August Lindbergh was delivering a load of logs to a sawmill in Sauk Centre when he slipped and fell into the machinery. A rotating saw nearly severed his left arm and sliced through his rib cage- one witness said he could actually see Lindbergh's throbbing heart. The village's only doctor had gone to St. Cloud, and a local preacher, the Reverend Harrison, loaded the wounded man into the back of his wagon and took him back to Melrose so that he could die in his own bed. The next morning the doctor arrived and charged twenty dollars to amputate Lindbergh's arm without benefit of an anesthetic.
But August Lindbergh refused to die. By the end of the year he was chopping down trees again, using a specially weighted one-handed ax that he had designed himself. He lived to father six more children, three of whom died in infancy. He and Louisa helped establish the first public school in Melrose, and gave food and shelter to hundreds of Swedish immigrants who came through Melrose on their way to starting new lives in western Minnesota and the Dakotas. In later years August was frequently consulted by students aware of his historical role in bringing the values of the Enlightenment to Sweden.
As an adult C.A. would take tremendous pride in August's accomplishments. In his youth, however, he was terribly ashamed of his shabbily dressed, one-armed father. In addition, although the Lindberghs were literate in English, they all spoke with a strong accent, and C.A. recalled with shame the laughter that broke out when he was called upon to recite "The Charge of the Light Brigade" for a school program, enthusiastically declaiming: "Hof a lee-gyew, hof a lee-gyew, hof a lee-gyew onvart."
At the age of ten C.A. dropped out of school to help support the family. He ran trap lines, fished, and hunted deer for the table. He did not set foot in a classroom again until he was twenty years old, when he enrolled in a private academy that allowed young men like himself to make up for years of lost schooling by pursuing an intensive program of reading and independent study. Two terms spent studying law in Michigan completed his formal education.
Excerpted from Loss of Eden by Joyce Milton. Copyright © 1993 Joyce Milton. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents
2 "I Worshipped Science",
3 "This Strange Unmortal Space",
4 Cadet and Airmail Pilot,
5 The "Walled Garden",
6 "Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously",
7 "Like Brave Lochinvar Out of the West",
8 "The Glory",
9 "Save Him from the Wolves",
10 "The Last of the Gods",
11 "Anne and Lindy Wed",
12 "Our First Romancers of the Air",
13 "The Eaglet Is Taken",
14 The "Inner Circle",
16 "Life Is Getting So Sad",
17 "Around the North Atlantic",
18 "Unknown Subject #5",
19 "It Was Enough to Make Me Want to Cable Hitler",
20 "House of Atreus",
22 Mission to Berlin,
23 "America First",
25 "The Mermaid and the Eagle",
26 "After D'Fall",
A Note on Sources,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The story itself was fascinating but the text was riddled with misspellings. The many errors detracted from the book. The story is well researched.
Great read of a well researched bio. Insights into his wife Ann are revealing of the feminine view of that era and a glance at the transition of the 1960s.
Recent notes that he had two german mistresses and children by both despite his wealth and flying was not allowed any position duribg wwii due to german contacts in military.