By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
PANDORA — For as long as he can remember, Lloyd Harnishfeger wanted to be a writer.
Following a career as an art teacher, junior high principal and then a supervisor for the Putnam County Board of Education, Harnishfeger also managed to accomplish his goal and now has 15 published books to his credit.
His latest publication, “Harriet Tubman, Conversations With An American Heroine,” tells the story of Harriet Tubman-Davis, Civil War nurse, Union spy and slavery emancipator. The book was published in August by Trafford Publishing of Bloomington, Indiana.
“You just cannot believe this lady. She was really something,” Harnishfeger said. “She was just fearless.”
Most every morning, the 82-year-old Pandora man can be found sitting on the couch in his living room, legal pad and pen in hand, working on his “hobby.”
“That’s what I consider it, a hobby,” he said. “I love doing it.”
He grew up on a farm near Lima and attended what was then known as Bath Elementary School.
“And when I was a seventh-grader, they wanted to start a newspaper. So I was the first editor of the Bath Bugle. I think we had two issues. I think that was as far as it went,” he laughed.
The school only had eight grades, so Harnishfeger attended high school in Lafayette. That’s where he met Marjorie Yoakam, who would become his wife in 1955. After graduating from high school, Harnishfeger wanted to attend Boulder College in Colorado because he’d read they had a good journalism school.
“Then I realized I didn’t even have enough money to get out to Colorado,” he said.
The couple ended up at Bluffton College instead. Harnishfeger graduated in 1957 with a degree in art, and Marjorie earned a music degree three years later.
“My dad taught music about 37 years I guess at Lafayette when it used to be Lafayette-Jackson, and I guess it was kind of natural for me to go into music,” she said.
Harnishfeger taught art at Pandora-Gilboa School, then became a junior high principal.
Eventually he took a supervisor job with the county school board, a position he held for 20-some years.
“I sometimes wonder how things would have been if I had stayed in art,” he said. “It was a wonderful job (with the county school board), but I wonder.” Marjorie also became a teacher, working as a junior high music instructor at Columbus Grove and Ottawa-Glandorf schools.
Throughout his career, Harnishfeger’s interest in writing never waned, and he took a job as a stringer for the Lima News and former Lima Citizen newspapers.
“So I would be thrilled when my little offerings would show up there, and I would measure them up and send them in,” he said. “It is a thrill when you see something you wrote in print.”
He also tried working on some manuscripts. One was a children’s book called “Hunters of the Black Swamp.”
“It got rejected seven times,” he said. “You know how long that takes, each rejection you’re talking months. And I had forgotten all about it.”
Then one day in 1975 he got a call from Lerner Publishing in Minneapolis.
“They said, ‘We really like your book.’ They said it was the best unsolicited manuscript they’d received that year,” he recalled.
The themes of his books often followed Harnishfeger’s other interests: Indian artifacts and the history of the Great Black Swamp.
“So I wrote about that. The mastodons were here at that time and the hunters and gatherers,” he said.
He published two more books with Lerner including “The Collector’s Guide to American Indian Artifacts” and “Prisoner of the Mound Builders.”
“Black Swamp Wolf,” published in 2013, took the main character from the earlier “Hunters of the Black Swamp” into his adult years.
“He manages to capture a wolf cub and raises it, getting bitten and so on, a lot of problems, and then takes his life through that,” said Harnishfeger. “I told somebody it took 19 years for him to get four years older.”
One of his favorite books is titled “Tom Bluefoot, Wyandot Scout, General ‘Mad Anthony’ Wayne, and the Battle of Fallen Timbers,” published in 2015. His main character, Toom-She-chi-Kwa, called Tom Bluefoot by the white people, serves as an interpreter and confidante of General Wayne.
“I did a lot of research for this. It’s fiction, but it’s historical fiction,” Harnishfeger said.
The sequel is titled “Tom Bluefoot, Chief Tecumseh, and the War of 1812.” In this book, the main character is getting older and goes to Canada with Tecumseh, a Shawnee warrior and chief.
When Tecumseh was killed in 1813, Harnishfeger said, the location of his gravesite was unknown.
“He wanted to make sure his body was not recovered because the American Indians who were fighting against the British would have mutilated his body,” he explained, because they would have seen him as a traitor. “Nobody knows where he’s buried except those who read my book because Tom Bluefoot buried him. Tom was quite a guy.”
Harnishfeger is now working on another sequel. The war is over, but Tom Bluefoot has been gone from his wife and daughters for six years.
“His wife was starving and a French trader married her. She assumed Tom was dead, so now he’s going out West across the Mississippi to try and find her. I’m getting into the whole fur trade idea,” he said.
There’s a lot of research involved in Harnishfeger’s books to make sure dates and places are as accurate as possible and historical figures are portrayed correctly. He said he got the idea to write the book on Harriet Tubman when he heard that her picture was going to be placed on the $20 bill in 2020.
“When I read about the fact that they were going to put her on the $20, that puts (Andrew) Jackson, they moved him to the back of the bus. They moved him to the back of the $20. That’s what I read. This may not happen, but it’s well reported so it probably will,” he said. “So I just got to wondering about her.”
Tubman was born in 1820 and died in 1913 at the age of 93, Harnishfeger said.
“She was a conductor on the Underground Railroad and freed a lot of slaves, personally,” he said. “As I researched for this, I learned so much. That’s part of the beauty of doing this.”
Harnishfeger also wrote six educational work-texts for teaching listening skills.
Despite his love for the craft, Harnishfeger said it’s hard to believe he has more than a dozen books in print.
“I never imagined all this would happen,” he said. “It’s still a thrill every time a new book comes out.”
A book signing and presentation will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Pandora-Riley Township branch of the Putnam County District Library.
Many of Harnishfeger’s books are available for purchase through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or by calling him at 419-384-3815. His latest book is priced at $15.
Send an E-mail to Jeannie Wolf