The Pardees of Hazleton

    The story of Seeing the Elephant grew from my interest in the Pardee family of Hazleton, Pa., ancestors of my husband and sons. Israel Platt Pardee, the Izzie of Seeing the Elephant, is my husband’s great grandfather; Izzie’s father was Ariovistus Pardee Sr., the coal magnate, pictured at left.

    Dear Pa ... And So It Goes, a book of family letters edited by Gertude Keller Johnston, provided the spark that fired my imagination. Most of the letters were written during the Civil War, to and from family members who were very much a part of the action. Izzie’s aunt, Bell Robison, was an Army nurse stationed in Washington. Izzie’s brothers, Ario Jr. and Cal, started out with the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer
Infantry. The 28th became too large, and its offshoot, the 147th PVI, was eventually commanded by Ario Jr., shown at right. He fought at many of the war’s major battles, including Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, where now there is a field named after him. After the Battle of Peach Tree Creek in Georgia near the end of the war, Ario was breveted a brigadier general. As for Calvin, two bouts with typhoid forced him to muster out of the service, just as in my story.

    At one point, young Izzie was allowed to go to Washington with Aunt Bell to get a taste of the war.  His activities, detailed in Bell’s letters home to Izzie’s mother, formed the basis of Seeing the Elephant.

    My 2004 novel, The Breaker Boys, was also inspired by my fascination with the family and with Pennsylvania coal country at the turn of the 20th century.