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Rugby’s Skjelver pens book

By Staff | Nov 6, 2009

Danielle Mead Skjelver of Rugby will be signing copies of her book “Massacre: Daughter of War” on Saturday, November 14, at Barnes and Noble in Dakota Square Mall in Minot.

The book, which Danielle finished in 2004, begins in the year 1637 with the attack on Pequot Fort in present day Connecticut. “It took quite a while (to complete the book),” Danielle said. “I had been researching for about 10 years.”

Even though Danielle dislikes the word massacre, she chose it for the title because it was probably the most appropriate. “When Native Americans kill it’s a massacre,” Danielle said. “When Americans win it’s a great battle.” That notion is changing, however, and in New England, as well as other parts of the United States, wars are being renamed.

Danielle traces her history to Massachusetts Colony, where her ancestors settled after arriving on the Mayflower in 1620. She began her historical research out of curiosity. Her great-grandmother had written down family stories that she remembered, and that was a starting point. It was hard to find information at first, “but once you find one shred it just mushrooms,” Danielle discovered. “The Puritans believed they were doing something historic so they wrote everything down.”

Her motivation in writing the book was to experience the events her ancestors witnessed and to honor those who lived at the time. “We have this idea of the colonial times as very cozy,” she said. “My ancestors lived on the frontier, and it was extremely precarious.”

From the skirmish at Pequot Fort related in the prologue, the book jumps to the courtship of some of Mead Skjelver’s ancestors in 1703. It tells the story of Danielle’s family, the Hawks and the Scotts, and their experiences as British colonists during wars with both the French and Native Americans. “The bulk of the story takes place during Queen Anne’s War,” the author said.

For the book, Danielle created a fictional Native American family because she believed it would be hard for white readers to relate to the situation of the natives without the humanizing element of a family. “They would have come across as nothing but savages,” she said, and that was not her intention.

A battle central to the story is the Deerfield Massacre of 1704, now known as the Deerfield Raid. “My family was nearly wiped out,” Danielle said.

“I could not write in a chronological flow,” she said of the process. “I switched back and forth (between the natives’ side and the colonists’ side). I would feel such anger and sorrow. The whole story is so sad.”

In September Danielle was invited to speak about her book to an American Literature class at Bishop Ryan High School in Minot. The teacher had chosen it to engage the class, comprised mostly of boys. “They loved it,” Danielle said. “The book is very violent and the gruesomeness grabbed them.”

Barnes and Noble is timing the book signing to coincide with Thanksgiving, when interest in New England history is high. “But it’s not Thanksgiving,” Danielle insists. “It’s the other side.” She will be at the store from 1 to 4 p.m., and is donating 20 percent of the profit from the sale of the book to Rugby’s Relay for Life.

The book is also available at Backstage in Rugby.

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