Hephzibeth, Woman of Iron
Written by Lauren L Nickisch
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Hephzibeth Jewett Merritt arrived at the Head of the Great Lakes in the fall of 1856, pioneering the forested wilderness with her husband and eight boys. Together, they helped to shape what eventually became the city of Duluth. Her sons sealed the fate of northern Minnesota with their discovery of the Mesabi Iron Range, but it is in the troubled times following this discovery that Hephzibeth, Woman of Iron takes place.
On the day her sons lose the Mesabi to John D. Rockefeller, Hephzibeth, matriarch of the family at the age of 84, tries to shore up the spirits of her granddaughter, Ruth. She shares stories of her youth and her struggles of the early days in Oneota (now West Duluth) hoping to help Ruth through this time of crisis. Hephzibeth recounts a midnight cutter ride across the ice of St. Louis Bay to assist a sick neighbor many miles away. She tells of the impact Indians had on her life and how death affected her family. As the discovery of iron on the Mesabi is woven into her tale, the audience discovers the strength and courage that is Hephzibeth Merritt.
The stories and facts used in this play are historically accurate, researched by the author/actress, Lauren Nickisch, who is Hephzibeth's great-great-great-granddaughter through her son Leonidas. Nickisch is active in theater in the Brainerd Lakes area. She has performed Hephzibeth, Woman of Iron across the state of Minnesota including such venues as St. Cloud State University, Central Lakes College, Northland Community College, and New York Mills Regional Cultural Arts Center.