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From Back Creek to Lovely Creek: The Cather family and their move from Virginia to Nebraska

Ann M Tschetter, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study analyzes early Cather family history in Virginia, the subsequent move of the Cathers to Nebraska, and the impact of the Cather family on Willa Cather and some of her novels. Willa Cather's move from Virginia to Nebraska, and her family's subsequent years have been the subject of numerous biographies, articles, and scholarly papers. The arrival of Cather's aunt and uncle, Franc and George Cather, and the years they spent pioneering before the coming of Willa Cather's family have received much less notice by scholars. Willa Cather has been credited with writing about the Nebraska she knew as she grew from childhood to young womanhood in the state. A bounty of Cather family documents make clear that the author drew not only from her own experiences but also from the stories she must have heard about the burgeoning country from her Uncle George and Aunt Franc. The iconic West in Cather's fiction owed much to the lives of George and Franc Cather and the friends and family who followed them to Nebraska. ^ The first half of the study focuses on the beginnings of the Cather family in Virginia, tracing the family from Virginia's colonial days, through the Civil War, and finally, through the period of Reconstruction. It also looks at why the Cathers ultimately left Virginia and what opportunities they hoped to find in the West. The study then moves to the lives of the first Nebraska Cathers, George and Franc—Willa Cather's aunt and uncle—and their first ten years on the Great Plains. A detailed interpretation about their daily lives, their concerns, their achievements and the difficulties they encountered help illuminate the future writing career of Willa Cather. The study ends with an analysis of Willa Cather's immediate family, their early experiences, and how their relationship with Nebraska differed from that of earlier Cathers. ^

Subject Area

History, United States|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Tschetter, Ann M, "From Back Creek to Lovely Creek: The Cather family and their move from Virginia to Nebraska" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3104629.