Plum Falls, New York, 1840s: Dismissed from Harvard Divinity School for his liberal views, Increase Joseph Link arrives home with a heavy heart. He gives up his dream of becoming a minister to settle for life on the farm, until the day he is struck by lightning and hears a voice telling him to rise and speak. Heeding that voice, Increase becomes a preacher, advocating for environmental protection and the end of slavery and war. His growing band of followers calls itself the Standalone Fellowship, and they accompany him on his move west to Wisconsin, to a place of better land and opportunity.
Link Lake, Wisconsin, 1852: Preacher Increase Link and the Standalone Fellowship settle near a lake that they name in his honor. Increase’s gifted tongue calls people to his mission to protect the land: “Unless we take care of the land we shall all perish.” To finance the fellowship activities, Increase sells his special cure-all tonic—fifty cents per bottle!
Inspired by actual events that took place in upstate New York and Wisconsin in the mid-nineteenth century, The Travels of Increase Joseph is the first in Jerry Apps’s series set in fictional Ames County, Wisconsin. The four novels in the series—which also includes In a Pickle, Blue Shadows Farm, and the forthcoming Cranberry Red—all take place around Link Lake at different points in history. They convey Apps’s deep knowledge of rural life and his own concern for land stewardship.