Love of history, stories leads to journey into writing

Local author Fred Brede speaks at Chisago County Historical Society meeting

By Amy Doeun

Fred Brede speaking at the North Chisago Historical Society.
Photo by Amy Doeun

While attending college in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Fred Brede had to write a thesis that would include both business and ecology themes.
“So I wrote about Brazilian killer bees. My professor liked it and put it in the Library of Congress,” he said.
Brede went on to work in the banking industry for 40 years.
While in the banking industry, Brede developed three very specific and useful skills: strategic thinking, storytelling and assumption making.
“I could tell my clients’ stories. I was also good at making assumptions about them. I could picture their stories and backgrounds,” he said.
Brede said that he thought those three skills “were perfect to go into writing.”
Brede shared his personal journey and how his love of history, including family and personal histories, has led to a writing career at the North Chisago County monthly meeting on Aug. 1 at Rushseba Townhall.
He started with an article about his own family history.
“Then I discovered Windows 10 and Create Space, and I realized I could take the writing all the way to publishing. It is great to see your work come to life,” he said.
Much of Brede’s writing is historical fiction. While he loves writing fiction, he recently became fascinated with the town of Franconia.
“I am always working on about three projects at once. I am marketing one, writing one and looking for ideas for a new one.” When he decided to write about Franconia, which would be a history book, “the first thing you have to do is gather the history.”
So he started with the “old village” down by the river and began asking questions about how it got its start and then its eventual decline.
According to Brede, Ansel Smith moved west from the eastern United States and founded the town on the river in 1851. At that time the only way to get around in area was the rivers.
“There were over 700 residents, three saloons, two hotels, a couple motels. It was regular city on the river that is no longer there,” he said.
For his book, he focused on the “pre-city history – the fur trade to the first paddleboat.” Then he moved on to the old village and looked at area saw mills and finally looked at area families.
“In every book there is a eureka moment that then becomes the center point of the book,” Brede said.
Through the writing process, Brede discovered that it was the railroad that was the downfall of Franconia – that was the “eureka” point for this book.
The railroad came overland from Wyoming following roughly the path of Highway 8. The railroad did not go all the way down to the river, but instead the Franconia depot was near the present day roundabout.
“It was no longer necessary for farmers to go all the way down to the river,” Brede said.
Within a couple of years of the railroad coming in 1886, the town had virtually dried up.
“Many of the houses were smaller, built on sleds, so the families just pulled them away to new locations,” Brede said.
There are still six original houses still in the old village that “have been very well maintained.”
Brede loves helping others almost as much as he loves writing, and he said he is can help other families in their goals of recording their histories. Contact Brede at [email protected]

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