(Photo: Michael Torlen)
(Photo: Michael Torlen)
Rockland Public Library will host a free, illustrated, in-person talk with author Eleanor Brackbill on Thursday, September 23, at 6:30 p.m.

In her book “The Queen of Heartbreak Trail: The Life and Times of Harriet Smith Pullen, Pioneering Woman,” Brackbill tells the story of a Klondike gold rush pioneer who, despite landing broke and alone in Alaska in 1897, launched her career as the owner of Skagway’s famed Pullen House by single-handedly hauling prospectors’ provisions into the Yukon where gold beckoned.

Harriet Smith spent her formative years as a Dakota homesteader in a covered wagon and sod houses, challenged by grasshopper plagues, droughts, blizzards, prairie fires and floods. She married a transplanted Mainer, Dan Pullen, in Washington Territory, where they built a mansion overlooking the Pacific. Harriet defended herself in grueling courtroom testimony against the false accusations of a spiteful employer and endured a lengthy land contest with the U.S. government. Reinventing herself in Alaska during the last great gold rush and homesteading for a third time, she held a claim jumper at gunpoint and, in her father’s words, “turned out” her husband of 20 years, raising their four children alone. She eventually became a raconteur heralded as the Mother of the North.

Brackbill, Pullen’s great-granddaughter, retraced by foot, car, train, plane, and ferry the Pullen and Smith families’ westward migrations and delved into official documents, unpublished material and family stories to tell her tale.

Brackbill worked as an educator for 25 years before embarking on a second career writing about history.

For more information, email elewis@rocklandmaine.gov.