I'm not a numbers girl.
The fact that I managed a C in my high school algebra classes should be considered nothing short of a miracle.
So don't ask me to figure out the odds of someone finding my book by looking for information on a long-dead Nebraska town that most people have never heard of.
All I know is it happened, and it's one of the coolest things that has happened to me as an author.
Why Brayton, Nebraska?
I'd written several drafts of "Long Road" before I decided to use Brayton, Nebraska, as the main character's hometown. I've always been fascinated by ghost towns and, instead of creating a completely fictional village, I wanted to resurrect and modernize one of the many towns I'd read about here...
When it existed, Brayton sat just a few miles east of a spot where Highway 281 intersects with two gravel roads. If you're ever looking for the road that leads to Brayton, "X" literally marks the spot.
I didn't know that the first time I went looking for it.
In the late 90s -- when I started considering the resurrection of Brayton to use as Heather's hometown -- my husband and I went searching for whatever remnants of it we could find. I knew it was located somewhere between the present-day towns of Wolbach and Greeley, but this was long before Google maps made it easy to find almost anything.
When we reached the "X" in the highway, I felt drawn down one road in particular, so we turned and wound around on the gravel until we ended up encountering some farmers on a minimum maintenance road.
We asked if they knew of Brayton, and they said we'd driven right past it. They drew out a map on a slip torn from a bank envelope to point out its exact location.
Unfortunately, the path where the railroad once sat and a few pieces of the old schoolhouse were the only remaining pieces of the town.
Still, I felt a strong draw to the area and decided Brayton would be the town I'd resurrect and modernize in "Long Road."
Since that day, a big part of me has wondered what the real town of Brayton looked like and what its inhabitants were like.
|Charley & Mary Murphy|
But who on earth would look up Brayton, Nebraska, on Wikipedia? The town hadn't existed for almost 70 years.
Then Mary-Anne Linden contacted me. She'd begun reading my book after discovering it on Brayton's Wikipedia page and asked if I had any personal connection to the town.
I told her why I'd chosen it, and she shared what she knew about the town.
It turns out her mother grew up in Brayton. Mary-Anne's grandfather, Charley Murphy, owned a general store there. He also served as the postmaster and station master.
|Charley Murphy's general store in Brayton.|
The best part -- Mary-Anne shared photos of Brayton.
Now, between the information and photos she's provided and the tidbits I've dug up through the Internet, books and digital archives, I have a clearer picture of what life in the real Brayton, Nebraska, might've been like.
Here's what I now know:
Brayton's post office was established in February 1888 and discontinued in 1945. From what I understand, World War II played a part in the town's demise as men and women were called out of the remote Nebraska town to become part of the war effort.
It was a railroad town established by the Lincoln Land Company. The rail that ran through it was part of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad.
|Brayton train station|
Its inhabitants were Irish (a characteristic that made it into "Long Road").
According to a story by The Associated Press, Brayton had two grain elevators and was fairly important as a grain center until 1936.
It also had a dance hall, a bank, three grocery stores, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, a pool hall, saloons and a horse race track among its amenities.
The last remaining building at Brayton was the schoolhouse.
And finally, an old plat-map of Brayton Township shows a fun connection to Harry Potter. Well, okay, it shows there was a Muggle family and a Potter family that owned land near Brayton.
At first, I hesitated about adding anything about "Long Road" to the Brayton, Nebraska, Wikipedia page. Now, I'm glad I did, and I'm so thankful Mary-Anne contacted me. The photos and information provided through our exchange satisfies a curiosity I've had for a long time.
To me, it's priceless.
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Kathryn Harris is an award-winning journalist and the author of "The Long Road to Heaven," available on Kindle for FREE from Saturday, June 18, through Monday, June 20.