Lyra and Silas Garber: A First Couple in Frontier History and in Willa Cather's "A Lost Lady"
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In the late 19th Century America, Lyra and Silas Garber were well-known persons in their part of the Midwest, which was Lincoln, the capital city of-Nebraska, where he served as governor, and their hometown of Red Cloud, along the Republican River in Webster County. Like so many post-Civil War settlers who led the way into wilderness areas, the Garbers were people who received special attention for their constructive roles in pioneering history.
But not only have the Garbers remained in the collective memory of their region. They have had their names catapulted far beyond Red Cloud, Nebraska. This ongoing posthumous fame is a result of their association with American writer Willa Cather, whose novel, A Lost Lady, was about the Garbers. Even though the book was labeled fiction, it closely followed the realities of their lives, and anyone familiar with Cather knew that Captain and Mrs. Forrester of Sweetwater were patterned almost exactly from Lyra and Silas Garber of Red Cloud.
Their story, removed from fiction, is an intriguing exploration of American history. It is a story that includes their relationship with a young girl, who would become one of America's leading novelists, as well as pioneering settlement in the East, Far West, and Midwest, the Civil War, the California Gold Rush, the building of western railroads, the founding of frontier communities and governments, and the financial crises that undermined the security of many lives.