NEW ULM — After 13 years of learning, writing and revising, local historian Terry Sveine has published his first full-length book.
The book is a biography titled “The life and times of Francis Baasen: from Luxembourg immigrant to ‘most eminent man'” The book focuses on Baasen’s life story. This includes his birth and rich life in Luxembourg, his move to America after his father supported the losing side of the 1848 revolution, and his contributions to New Ulm and Minnesota as a whole after moving to town in 1855.
Sveine has focused on the history of Luxembourg since he became a historian. He co-founded and served as president of the Luxembourg Heritage Society of Southern Minnesota, where he currently serves as co-treasurer. Sveine said this work initially brought Baasen to his attention.
“In 2010, I chose the easiest topics to write about in the newsletter” he said. “There is a book (called)”Luxembourgers in the New World“. There was a short paragraph about Francis Baasen as an accomplished Luxembourgish American. He was originally from Luxembourg and lived in New Ulm. I (started writing) about him (for the newsletter). I searched and found more and more. I said to myself, “One day it would be nice to write a book; this guy could provide the subject. He has such experience, he is such a publicly accomplished person that he could be the subject of a book.
Baasen is notable for several reasons. He was New Ulm’s first lawyer, worked on the Minnesota Constitution, and was Minnesota’s first secretary of state.
He played a major role in the formation of the town of New Ulm. He served as a city councilor, county commissioner, and city and county attorney. He also helped establish the new Ulm Battery and a Catholic parish.
With these contributions, the book’s editor, Daniel Groebner, said his resume rivaled that of prominent New Ulm settler William Pfaender. Despite this, he is not a well-known figure in New Ulm lore and had no definitive works on his achievements or legacy. With his book totaling 419 pages, Sveine hopes to bring this whole story into the spotlight.
“The reason Baasen is not more famous is that after his wife died, no family remained here.” he said. “Baasen is a lost family name (in New Ulm). I thought people who love reading and history in particular would like to learn more about this guy. He was so involved. I would say he is the most publicly accomplished man in the history of New Ulm.
The process of writing this book was long but fruitful for Sveine. He explained that the main reason it took so long was his relative inexperience at the start of the process. He pointed out a crucial misstep that had cost him time and energy early on.
“I didn’t take notes.” » said Sveine. “For the first 30 pages, I had no notes, I thought of something and put it together. Paragraph after paragraph, no theme, no chapter division or anything. I didn’t know what I was going to find. When it became clear that I was going to find a lot, I started organizing it into chapters, or even writing breaks. But there were no footnotes, no noted bibliography. Nothing. And it took me a year after I was done with it (to say), ‘This thing needs to be graded.’
Finding sources about Baasen’s life and times was the biggest challenge Sveine identified when writing this biography. Surprisingly, the Internet contained little information about Baasen or his life. Groebner said he even entered the name into ChatGPT as a test and the AI wasn’t able to tell him who Baasen was. Sveine said a lot of physical research was needed to find information.
“To write this, I used 57 newspapers. » he said. “The bibliography has 267 entries, different source works or publications. There are 32 index pages. And each of these pages is filled with two columns. And we have used footnotes at the bottom of the pages where appropriate.
Currently, Sveine is satisfied with the progress made with this first book. He said he used Baasen’s life to tell the first 50 years of New Ulm’s history. As for the future, he would like to continue covering New Ulm’s history through biographies of lesser-known figures from New Ulm’s past. Sveine said these plans are far from set in stone.
“I had the idea of telling the story of New Ulm through three people.” he said: “Baasen died in 1901, taking us to this period. There’s a man named John Graff, who was also quite an influential person locally. He died in 1948. I thought about taking him there. And I think of a man named Victor Reim, who was a lawyer in New Ulm. This may be the first in a series of books, (but) I don’t want to get stuck in that (that’s for sure).
There are currently no plans to sell the book in bookstores or elsewhere. Those interested in purchasing a copy should contact Sveine directly by calling 507-354-1123 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.