BHS graduate works on new PBS series

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 29, 2002

The work of a Lincoln County native will gain national attentionthis week with the premier of an educational television show.

Linda Sellers Peavy, a 1961 Brookhaven High School graduate, isone of two historians who worked on Frontier House, a PublicBroadcasting Services (PBS) project.

The six-hour show will run in three segments from 8-10 p.m.,Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Frontier House shows the transformation of three families whoput their modern-day lives on hold for five months of 19th centuryliving in an 1883 Montana Territory setting.

“It was fascinating to see how they responded,” said Peavy. “Welearned a lot about how people react under adversity.”

Frontier House highlights the trials and tribulations of 21stcentury families who show the world whether they “had the strengthand sense of purpose to make a go of it on foothill claims in theRockies.”

Peavy and companion author Ursula Smith worked on a book by thesame name to give a behind-the-scenes look at the PBS show.

Noted historians with a number of books to their credit, Peavyand Smith also served as advisors for the television show, whichwas filmed from May-October 2001.

Much research was required in order to make the projectauthentic to the period of time they created in a remote Montanavalley, said Peavy.

“One of our most difficult tasks throughout this project wasdetermining how to translate the 2001 dollar and various otherassets of today into comparable 1883 terms,” said Peavy.

The historians used an index devised by a political scientist tocalculate what each of the three families would have had whenstarting out on a homestead in 1883.

Each family was given 160 acres to develop and maintain fortheir five months of “roughing it.”

The three families, coming from Los Angeles, Nashville andBoston, had to build houses, grow crops and raise livestock ontheir land without the conveniences of modern-day technology.

“Just to have coffee in the morning, they had to get up an hourearly because they had to boil the water, roast the beans, thengrind them and make the coffee,” said Peavy.

The families labored from dawn to dusk building their one-roomlog cabins, milking cows and preparing meals over a fire.

They went from being accustomed to drive-through meals,high-speed Internet access and cable television to learning to cookwithout electrical appliances, making rooftops with sod andentertaining each other with only stories.

“No trucks, cars or anything modern went into that valley forfive months,” said Peavy.

The families were only armed with the knowledge they gainedduring a two-week boot camp on how to survive. They also wereallowed to read two books by Peavy and Smith about life in thattime period.

A small country store set up 10 miles away over two mountainpasses allowed the families a chance to buy things they could notproduce on their farms. They were permitted to make the day-longtrip every five weeks.

“This is very realistic as far as this is what you really had todo when first got to the frontier,” said Peavy.

Even though Peavy has written numerous books since she taught atCentral High School in Jackson from 1964-1966, she believes theFrontier House experience was her favorite because it gave her anopportunity to bring to life the history she has studied for overthree decades.

Peavy, who was born in Hattiesburg and lived in Brookhaven untilshe was 18 years old, now resides in Vermont. She still has manyrelatives in the area, including aunt and uncle Evelyn and LesterDavis, whom she visited recently.