The Society for Strang Studies
founded in 2000 to facilitate research into the life and accomplishment of James Jesse Strang

   

 
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J.J. Strang Writer's Society
Issue No. 2
December, 2001

It's been great to hear from our members and putting this edition together was a joy. I hope we all continue to find pleasure, information and inspiration from each other. Also I wish you all a joyous holiday and a happy and productive 2002.

Jill Sharland jes48email.byu.edu “I am currently finishing the first half of my novel about Elvira Strang Baker and her relationship with James Strang. I am graduating in December with my Master's degree. The deeper I get into this novel, the more she haunts me.”

Anne-Marie Oomen's address should be omenaminterlochen.K12.mi.us She tells us that, “I've finally completed a third draft of the full-length play, much revised from the earlier version, now called simply, Strang! It took a very different turn from what I originally expected, but seems much improved for it. The problem of course is that the story is so BIG-- and a play may at best be a slice of history, and very selected, often fictionalized, history at that. Speaking of that, I would like feedback on a tough issue in the writing of this piece. To make this play work dramatically, I needed to reduce the number of characters significantly and to create characters I could work with through the duration of the play, even though historically, those people may have been only actively involved with the Strangites for a short period of time. For example, I took the liberty of extending George Adams character so that he could participate in the conspiracy even though I know historically he was out of that picture years before. I needed a character who had witnessed Strang's transformation over the years and who had been intimate enough to form deeply personal reasons (more than Bedford and Wentworth) to want to see him dead. Adams was the natural choice.

“Of course, I would always include director's notes explaining that this play is historical fiction (I can never actually know what the wives were thinking) and even specifically listing what changes I have made. I suspect that that's a close enough depiction for most viewers and would simply encourage people to learn more on their own. But I'm wondering if I set myself up for attack from those who are true historians of the time. How have other writers-about-Strang dealt with this issue? Do you have suggestions?

“I also wanted to say how helpful was Vicki Speeks draft of her article on the wives, and also some verses to a Sacred hymn which I copied from the books at the museum.”

From Sam Han shanMetLife.com -- “I am polishing my novel on a contemporary Strang successor. He returns to Beaver Island with plans to retake the kingdom that J.J. Strang lost.. My contemporary J.J. is completely ruthless in his dealings with his wives, his disciples, and the Gentiles on the island. His principal agent is his third wife. She begins as J.J.'s most ardent follower and only slowly comes to see him in a radically different light. J.J. is opposed by the island's resident deputy who can hardly believe his eyes as J.J. reign of destruction is unleashed. I plan to be finished by July 1. When I started this project a few years ago, I was

concerned that my J.J. might be too violent to be believable, but after September 11, he seems very tame.

“Thanks to Bill Olson and Vickie Speek for their help with some background research. If anyone has any information on what happened to Strang's family and followers following his death, I would appreciate it. I will be using this information in a second Strang novel I plan to start in July. That book will be set in the period immediately following Strang's death.”

John Quinn quinnhope.edu a professor at Hope College in Holland Michigan says, “I can't locate a copy of the reprints [of Beaver Island newspapers] that's located conveniently enough.” Does anyone have a suggestion for John?

John continues: “I spent a late September weekend in Burlington, WI, keeping an aunt who lives in the area company -- mainly by dragging her around to see the Strang sites. Took a fair number of slides of what remains of Voree. Of course, the home that John Hajicek restored is in the best condition.

“On the first try, could not find Strang's grave in Burlington Cemetery (whither he was removed from the remnants of the Voree cemetery). But a call to the caretaker the next morning resulted in some better directions, and we found it quick enough. Must have walked past that row I don't know how many times the day before!

"I can't say that I've written anything yet. But have done lots of reading these last few months, including slogging through all of the Book of the Law of the Lord, Chronicles of Voree, and the published letters &

revelations.”

Bill Olson (your friendly editor) wolsonitol.com has been back at work on Kingdom Come since the summer activities ceased and several books went to press. "I will not have much time for the next month or so as my last novel is being put on tape with me as narrator but I'm always thinking about Strang even if not writing. Vicki has kindly critiqued one of my chapters relating to two of Strang's wives (Phoebe & Betsy). She pointed out some areas where I was in error and I want to thank her. I think this may well be where we can help one another A LOT.

“I wonder how the Strangites addressed one another. I have assumed they used the titles "brother" and "sister" but I'm not sure. What special title did they use when addressing Strang or when talking about him? I'm also wondering how Strang's followers celebrated Christmas and Easter. Can anyone help?

“A ramble through the Internet used book stores netted one I had been trying (without any success) to get on Inter-library loan. It is Mark Strang's deciphered version of The Diary of James J. Strang. The transcriptions of the sections in code are printed in boldface type. Although it was quite expensive I am happy with this addition to my library. It did raise one issue, however. I had believed that Betsy McNutt Strang was responsible for saving Strang's diary as indicated in Quaife's footnote on page 50:

‘...together with Strang's diary, came to Denio from his grandmother, Strang's third wife, Betsy McNutt Strang.’ BUT in Russel Nye's foreword to the Mark Strang edition of the diary he says, ‘... his second wife, Elvira, saved it from the Beaver Island calamity and gave it to her two sons, from whom the pages, in two separate lots, reached the Coe collection in the Yale University Library.’ Was it Betsy or Elvira we have to thank for preserving this gem?”

Josh Broder, KingStrangaol.com “Not much to report here, Strang-wise. My screenplay is as finished as it's going to get unless someone ponies up some money and starts throwing their weight around. My writing partner and I are still circulating it. Just today got a respectful rejection from a veteran director who, among other qualms with the script, was wary about tangling with the Utah Mormons.

“We are at work on another script with, coincidentally, a religious theme. It's a comedy/romance set on a Passion Play tour.”

Vickie Speek vspeekcbcast.com has been revising her article on Strang's wives and will submit it to the University of Illinois Press. She has been quite busy due to her daughter's wedding in November.

Carolyn Lewis sunwriteix.netcom.com says, “My husband and I are moving to Traverse City, Mich. from New York this January 2002, and will open a used bookstore, hopefully within the year.” Carolyn will let us know when the store is up and running.

 

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