“Thirty or forty years ago, in one of those towns along the Burlington railroad, which are so much greyer today than they were then, there was a house well known from Omaha to Denver for its hospitality and for a certain charm of atmosphere.”
A Lost Lady was inspired by the life of Lyra Garber, a beautiful woman from California who married Silas Garber, the founder of Red Cloud and the first man to file a homestead claim in the area. Cather fondly remembers having picnics at Garber Grove, the home the Garbers built for themselves. Although not pictured on the map at this time, the Forrester residence is modeled quite clearly after Garber Grove, which was located to the east of Red Cloud.
Cather describes the Forrester place: “The Forrester place, as every one called it, was not at all remarkable; the people who lived there made it seem much larger and finer than it was. The house stood on a low round hill, nearly a mile east of town; a white house … supported by the fussy, fragile pillars of that time, when every honest stick of timber was tortured by the turning-lathe into something hideous … It stood close into a fine cottonwood grove that threw sheltering arms to left and right and grew all down the hillside behind it. Thus placed on the hill, against its bristling grove, it was the first thing one saw on coming into Sweet Water by rail, and the last one saw on departing.”
The rest of Sweet Water has been mapped as accurately as possible, although the data is much more subjective and interpretive than is the case in the other novel explored here.