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Conrad Richter

October 13 is the birthday of novelist and short story writer, Conrad Richter.  He was born in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, in 1890.  His father, his paternal and maternal grandfathers, and most of his uncles were preachers.  As a young boy, Richter enjoyed listening to them tell stories of ancestors who had been tradesmen, soldiers, country squires, blacksmiths, and farmers.  He was especially captivated by tales of one of his ancestors who had fought in the Revolutionary War under George Washington, as well as by another who had been a Hessian mercenary fighting against Washington for the British Army.

Richter's writing career began in 1910 when he went to work as a journalist for the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Journal.  That led to other newspaper work.  His first short story, How Tuck Went Home, appeared in the magazine, Cavalier, in 1913.  Two years later, Richter married Harvena Achenbach. 

From 1915-1928, Richter was heavily involved in the publishing world.  At the same time, he set out upon a soul-searching journey to learn about the meaning of life.  The results of his reflections led to two book-length essays, Human Vibration (1925) and Principles in Bio-Physics (1927).  In 1928, with his wife ailing, Richter moved from damp and cold Pennsylvania to the warmer, dryer climate of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  There, he discovered a whole new world of life and lore--the American Southwest.  He traveled around, interviewing older men and women and gathering all of the books, newspapers, letters, and diaries of early pioneers that he could find.  He poured over them fervishly, addicted to their content. 

In 1937, Richter wrote his first novel, The Sea of Grass, which, along with his later books, explored life in the West and the hardships of being an American pioneer.  He went on to write many more books, including a trilogy about frontier life in Ohio: The Trees (1940), The Fields (1946), and The Town (1950), the latter of which won for him the Pulitzer Prize.

In 1950, the Richters returned to Pennsylvania, where Richter produced eight novels, a novelette, several short stories, and several magazine articles in the final eighteen years of his life.  His The Light in the Forest (1953) was produced by Walt Disney Studios. Its sequel, A Country of Strangers, was published in 1966.  The crowning glory of Richter's later years included the first two volumes of an unfinished trilogy of novels, the winner of the 1960 National Book Award for fiction, The Water of Kronos, and A Simple Honorable Man (1962).

Conrad Richter, himself a simple, honorable man, died on October 30, 1968. 

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