Decoding college

Dawn of Day

by J.A. McPhail and illustrated by Gwen Battis

Henrietta never liked history. But on a late summer day in 1932, she and her sometimes annoying little sister Irma Jean, hear an exciting true story from their artist friend, Maude Mitchell—a story that takes them back in time 75 years.

In 1856, Maude’s father, William Mitchell, came from Connecticut to support the Free State cause in Kansas. William and his sister Agnes hid runaway slaves in their cabin, including Jesse and Abby, two slave children who’d been cruelly separated from their mother.

Henrietta had learned about the Underground Railroad at school, but she never realized how dangerous it was for everyone involved. But what has slavery got to do with the family secret and Aunt Jo being mad at her parents?

As the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, Henrietta discovers a surprise from the past that nobody dreamed was possible.

A portion of the proceeds from Dawn of Day will go to the Mt. Mitchell Heritage Prairie fund!

EDITORIAL REVIEWS (select to view)

Michael Stubbs, Kansas Historian—Set in a time when children still rode horses to school, Dawn of Day is an enchanting story about family history being passed on from one generation to the next. Based on historic events during the turbulent period of our nation’s history known as “Bleeding Kansas,” this is a book that is interesting, entertaining, and educational. It’s not often that one book successfully combines all three.”

Kathryn Mitchell Buster, great-niece of Maude Mitchell—Dawn of Day is an engaging introduction to a little-known part of Kansas history—the pre-Civil War immigration of abolitionists into the Territory to help “Bleeding Kansas” join the Union as a free state. The book offers a fictional but realistic glimpse into the lives of the Mitchells and other families who settled in Wabaunsee, who were involved in the fight for freedom and the secret activities of the Underground Railroad.

Featured in the Books Section of the August 2012 edition of Kansas Country Living Magazine. View here.

CUSTOMER REVIEWS (select to view)

My ancestors are from Wabaunsee. My great, great grandfather was John Smith and my great, great, great grandfather was Joshua Smith. When we discovered several years ago that Joshua and John were part of the Underground Railroad we were so proud. I can’t tell you how much my mother and I enjoyed your book. To see both of my grandfathers and their activities brought to life in a book was so exciting. Your book will be kept as part of our family genealogy and for the historical value. –JR

Dawn of Day taught me much that I never knew about the history of Kansas and its “slave” history. But it is the slave child Abby, wrenched from her mother and sent North with her slightly older brother, who gave me an unforgettable insight into the heartbreak and fear of those who traveled on the Underground Railroad. Her story made me realize that it wasn’t just adults who traveled the terrifying Underground Railroad. When we meet Abby many years later, the “old” Abby is as memorable and wonderful as we want her to be. –MM

What a delightful and inspiring story. An excellent read for any book loving child or adult. The story is historical and brings you right into the events taking place. Educating on the history of our nation and the goodness of our citizens who proved willing and able to meet the need of those escaping slavery. You could almost taste those cookies. –AB

Threads of innocence, humor, prejudice, compassion and strife are woven into a vibrant tapestry of historical fiction designed to enlighten the reader about the Kansas underground railroad of human cargo before the Civil War. A compelling story is well told by the great-great granddaughter of a charter member of the Wabaunsee Beech Bible Rifle Church. –GR

The author paints lively scenes of escaped slave children making a stop on the Underground Railroad and New England abolitionists living their principles by moving a thousand miles west to Kansas. Historical figures appear such as Henry Ward Beecher, William Mitchell, Charles B. Lines, and Benjamin Stringfellow, with mentions of John Brown and Harriet Beecher Stowe. –GV Thank you, Jeannie, this was a wonderful book. I learned a lot about the Underground railroad. I encourage any one to take the time, lay back and enjoy this GREAT read. Nicely done, inspiring too! – BCM

mcphail-jaJ.A. McPhail, (aka Jeanne Ann, aka Jeannie,) a native of the Sunflower State, possesses a rich fifth generation Kansas heritage. Her great-great-grandfather, John Willig, was a charter member of the Wabaunsee Beecher Bible Rifle Church, featured in Dawn of Day.

Born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, the author grew up attending many BBRC Old Settlers Homecomings. As children, she and her brother sang a duet at one of the annual gatherings. Years later, after marrying her high school sweetheart and raising a daughter, the McPhails returned to the church several times, singing with the Messengers Quartet.

During the seven years as her full-time care giver, McPhail listened to her mother, Irma Jean, tell stories about her childhood growing up in the Wabaunsee area. History and family memories, combined with inheriting two Maude Mitchell paintings of her grandparents’ homesteads, inspired the unique blend of fact and fiction used to create Dawn of Day.

As a former editor, columnist, and library director, McPhail has written hundreds of articles and columns for various newsletters, magazines, and newspapers. She currently writes devotions and maintains a reading/writing page on her family’s website,, as well as being a guest writer for her local newspaper.

J.A. McPhail now lives and writes in beautiful western North Carolina. She and her husband, Dennis are also a Southern Gospel songwriting team. But Kansas will always hold a special place in her heart.

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battis-gwenGwen Battis’ love of art began in childhood when she regularly exchanged picture-laden correspondence with her equally artistic cousin. She is mostly self-taught, working with graphite pencil. As an adult, she began to incorporate colored pencils, watercolor and pastels.

Gwen worked as Assistant and Director of the very same Silver Lake Library where J.A. McPhail was director.  After 10 years in Kansas and with their two sons in college, Gwen and her photographer husband, Rick, embarked on “The Great Adventure” of freelancing on the road, beginning with a fishing resort off the coast of Alaska and continuing to places they could hardly imagine.

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ISBN: 978-0-9851196-2-1 (hardcover); 978-0-9851196-1-4 (softcover)

Binding: Gloss laminate (hardcover); Perfect bind (softcover)

Trim Size: 5″ x 8″

Pages: 200

front cover

front cover

back cover

back cover

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Price: $10.99 (softcover)


Price: $17.99 (hardcover)


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Books by J.A. McPhail:

Book I: A Most Remarkable Hat

Book II: A Quite Extraordinary Umbrella

A Glimpse: The Truly Excellent Scepter

Dawn of Day

I Will Not Fear: A Chosen Life