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Event Highlights

Collectors' Day  at the Bell Museum

Next door to the Gibbs Farm historic site, where Lillie Belle Gibbs grew up, stands the University of Minnesota's Bell Museum. When the natural history museum moved to its new site here in 2018, some of its famous dioramas came with it, along with an evolving, state-of-the-art approach to sharing nature with all ages.

Every year the Bell hosts a Collectors Day, with citizen-collectors displaying curiosities ranging from fossils to Pez candy dispensers.  In 2023 (November 4) they were also treated to "A Day in the Life of Lillie Belle Gibbs," a collection of real-life artifacts and stories told by author Terry Swanson.

See the new museum's own collections and visit its learning landscape: details here .

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Twin Cities Book Festival 2023

Thousands of book lovers swarm this annual event held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in mid-October. Ramsey County Historical Society hosted a booth: editor Meredith Cummings (center) was joined by Grasshoppers illustrator Peggy Stern (left) and author Terry Swanson as well as other authors published by RCHS. Also on display: Ramsey County History magazine, one of the perks of membership. Learn more.

Holiday celebrations 2022

Lillie Belle Gibbs was born on Christmas Day in 1865, so the holidays are a natural time to share Grasshoppers in My Bed. St. Paul's Landmark Center, home to the Ramsey County Historical society, hosted its annual Holiday Bazaar in early December, and RCHS showcased the book. The next weekend, visitors to St. Nikolaustag at Bruentrup Heritage Farm in Maplewood joined author Terry Swanson to hear a prequel story about Lillie and make Victorian-era tree ornaments. Later, carols filled the air and St. Nikolaus himself made an appearance. 


Holiday Bazaar

at St. Paul's Landmark Center

St. Nikolaustag

at Maplewood's
Bruentrup Heritage Farm

Gibbs Farm Apple Festival

Visitors to Gibbs Farm for the September 24 Apple Festival walked in the footsteps of Lillie Belle Gibbs and her family.  They also met author Terry Swanson, who signed copies of Grasshoppers in My Bed and discussed some of the historical resources she drew on. The book display also featured Peggy Stern's illustrations as tabletop figures. 

Guests of all ages explored the Gibbs Farm prairie and heirloom apple orchard, cranked a cider press, and enjoyed apple games and treats.

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September dragonflies
Welcome to Lillie's World
Display by the Gibbs farmhouse
In the background: the neighboring Bell Museum
A Pond House afternoon

A historic 19th-century home in present-day Bloomington, the Gideon and Agnes Pond House is perched on the Minnesota River bluffs.  Brothers Samuel and Gideon Pond were early missionaries and neighbors to the Dakota people. As ministers and farmers, they had close ties to the Gibbs family. 

The creators of Grasshoppers in My Bed spent the afternoon of August 6 with Pond House visitors.  Illustrator Peggy Stern led a journal-making activity for all ages, and author Terry Swanson discussed the process of writing historical fiction for young readers. 

Guests also toured the house and hiked around the 18-acre Pond–Dakota Mission Park with soaring views of the Minnesota River Valley.


The Pond House is open for tours on Sunday afternoon: visit the website.

The historic Pond House
Journal-making materials
Peggy Stern guides young visitors
Terry Swanson with young readers
A sample illustration from the book
Announcing the new release
Meadow views at the Pond House
Milkweed in bloom
Minnesota Sinfonia
hosted by Gibbs Farm and Bell Museum

Families gathered as the sun set July 21 to hear the Minnesota Sinfonia in concert in the Red Barn courtyard at Gibbs Farm. Artistic director Jay Fishman led the chamber orchestra in a "lighter side" program that included waltzes, polkas, and animal-themed selections. After a drawing for two free copies of Grasshoppers in My Bed,  the author and illustrator signed more books for guests. 

Since it moved to the corner of Larpenteur and Cleveland Avenues in 2018,  the Bell Museum has collaborated with neighboring Gibbs Farm on group tours. This time, the natural history museum and the historic site co-hosted a special event that brought new visitors to both.  After the concert, guests were invited to the Bell to see the new Gaia installation: a 23-foot suspended, illuminated globe that  inspires awe for our planet.

Visitors explore Gibbs Farm
with the author and illustrator

Guests at Gibbs Farm June 17 heard Lillie Belle's stories in their period settings, then tried their hand at open-air sketching.  Shown here: author Terry Swanson in the one-room schoolhouse and illustrator Peggy Stern with an all-ages group.

After viewing Peggy's sketchbook of working drawings for Grasshoppers in My Bed, guests honed their own observation skills.  How do you capture the essence of a chicken or a goose in just a few lines? The youngest visitors managed to do it!  Stay tuned for more of these special tours.

Book Launch on Opening Day at Gibbs Farm

Visitors of all ages gathered at Gibbs Farm May 28 to celebrate the publication of Grasshoppers in My Bed on opening day of the historic site's summer season. In the Red Barn, author Terry Swanson and illustrator Peggy Stern spoke to the crowd, telling how they chose the stories and images to accurately represent the life of eleven-year-old Lillie Belle Gibbs. The book's editor, Meredith Cummings of Ramsey County History Society, told about bringing the project to print. 

Costumed guides gave tours of the site, showing the farmhouse where Lillie grew up, the period schoolhouse, restored prairie, and animals like those kept by the Gibbs family. Children tried their hand at some 19th-century homestead skills.

The Twin Cities Pioneer Press gave the book launch a boost ahead of time.  Coincidentally, Curt Brown's local history column in the May 21 Star Tribune was headlined Grasshoppers Swarmed in 1870s. When Brown learned of the new book, he promptly bought a copy for his granddaughter, whose name is Lillie.

All photos by Jen Strom unless otherwise noted.

Terry Swanson appears on Good Day 

Just before the book launch, Terry Swanson was a guest on Fox 9's Good Day program, talking about the origins of Grasshoppers in My Bed.


During her ten years as Gibbs Farm program director, Terry heard questions from children eager to know what life farm life was really like in 1877.  "I owed those kids an answer," she told her Good Day hosts, noting that at a historic site, guides often point out what people didn't have at that time period. "I wrote this book more from, What kids did have," she said. "When you live in a different time, you don't know new things are coming along... So [at the site] we talk about no electricity, no running water, using chamber pots.... But they had so much that we don't have, that we've lost, in a way."

Viewers also saw examples of the book's illustrations by Peggy Stern, which bring the Gibbs family to life, both their daily routines and special occasions. 

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