The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

Creating Fiction from History: 5/4/2022


"But I don't want you to go!"

Janice had already been bereft of her father; now her mother was getting ready to leave her an actual orphan. Yes, she had plenty of aunts and uncles to live with; in fact, they were much better off than the Stodgsons had ever been, but Janice Louise was not ready to be an orphan!

Janice entered this world in the usual way, on March 22nd, 1932. In the little town of Waukon, Dennis and Mary Stodgson had made their own way, away from their respective parents back in The Windy City.

Dennis had worked in his younger years in the now-defunct ore mine in Waukon, but when The Iron Hill Mine finally closed its doors in 1916, due to the war in Europe, he found himself without work.

Because of a genetic birth defect Dennis, unlike many of his fellow miners, was not conscripted to fight for freedom overseas. After Dennis lost his job at the mine, as his condition gradually worsened, he continued to do odd jobs around Allamakee County until finally, in 1934, when little Janice was only two years old, Dennis passed from this life. Memories of better days were bittersweet for Janice and her mother.

In the early days of the 20th century, when the mine was in its heyday, one of the luxuries Dennis had been able to afford his beautiful wife was a short string of pearls. When he lost his good-paying job at the mine, many of the family's unnecessaries were pawned off, but one thing neither Dennis nor Mary was willing to let go of was the short string of pearls. This photograph pictures a fourteen-year-old Janice proudly, but sadly, wearing that same short string of pearls.

If you would like to create fiction from history with one of the museum's photos, please contact the Ledger at (406) 287-5301 or email


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