Eagle Lake writer’s family memoir finds a publisher

Every single one of us has a family story or two to tell, that’s for sure. But it’s the rare family memoir that holds enough historical significance, importance and interest to be published by a university press.

Author Kay Oakes Oring’s family manuscript, “We Come from Good Stock,” published by the University of Wisconsin’s Cornerstone Press, tells the story of her ancestors’ arrival in the West Central Wisconsin frontier in 1853, including her clan’s stories of prosperity, loss and reclamation. Oring taught college nutrition for many years before retiring to write full time. She now lives near the shore of Eagle Lake with her husband Lewis.

Local writer Joelle Frazer (author of “The Territory of Men,”) wrote, “At its heart, these stories are about people dreaming of, searching for and creating new homes in a new land. This moving book inspires us to explore the stories found in our own family trees, wherever we are from.”

Eagle Lake author Kay Oakes Oring. Photo by Shannon Ewing

Oring was born in Plum City, Wisconsin. Her family moved to Moscow, Idaho, but she kept in close contact with the Wisconsin relatives, who helped spark her interest in collecting and writing the family stories.

“We Come from Good Stock” tells the story of her paternal great grandparents, and Oring said she’s been working on it on and off for a long time. She said she signed the publishing contract with Cornerstone Press two years ago, and since then the book has gone through an extensive editing and rewriting process under the perceptive and watchful eyes  of several student editors. She said the nearly 300-page manuscript, expected to be released later this month, is currently in the final formatting-for-publication process.

Levi Jefferson Oakes.

“My family left Wisconsin when I was 7, and I mostly grew up in Moscow, Idaho, where I met my husband Lewis at the University of Idaho,” Oring said.

Her great grandfather, Levi Jefferson Oakes, came to Wisconsin to work as a logger about 1853. Her great grandmother, Mary Potter Oakes, arrived there about 1850. She came to Wisconsin before her first husband — waiting for him to arrive after he closed up their house — but he never came. Instead, pregnant and 16, she received divorce papers. She moved in with her sister in Prescott, Wisconsin, and later met Levi, her future husband.

“I’ve heard the family stories forever,” Oring said. “Before television, we had the radio, but mostly I listened to adult conversation. So, I was aware of the family stories when I was quite little.”

Mary Potter Oakes.

Her father’s oldest sister and brother began collecting the family history — mostly names and dates of birth and death — but their research also included some of the old family stories.

When the book is finally released, Oring, a long-time member of the Thompson Peak Writers’ Workshop, plans to hold a book signing at Margie’s Book Nook in Susanville.