Thursday, March 5, 2015


Today I would like to introduce you to one of Wyoming’s more colorful characters, Caroline Lockhart.  Out of the many people I've blogged about Lockhart is a favorite. Lockhart is Wyoming's first woman author (thank goodness not the last) and a founder of the Cody Stampede! A woman who writes AND is involved with rodeo…Can I be her when I grow up?

“Wyoming Girl’s First Novel is Successful…Equals Owen Wister in Thrilling Western Story!” Announced the Cheyenne State Leader on March 11, 1911.  “Not since the publication of The Virginian has so powerful a cowboy story been told as Miss Caroline Lockhart’s novel Me---Smith.”

Lockhart, 1900
Photo courtesy American Heritage Center, #ah003129
Born in Illinois, Caroline Lockhart spent fifteen years as a newspaper reporter in the East. But in 1904, she turned her thoughts to writing a novel and her feet to the West she always admired.  When she stepped off the train, the thirty-three year old cut a fine figure with gold-burnished hair that caught the sun and the eye of many a cowboy.  What caught Caroline’s eye was the town of Cody, Wyoming and the diverse peoples of the West; sheepherders, cowboys, Indians and even dudes from the East. The town Caroline first laid eyes on had 210 inhabitants and 14 saloons, “none too many for such an arid landscape,” according to Caroline.

Though not well-known today, during the 1920s, Lockhart reached her goal of becoming “the best known woman west of the Mississippi.” Her novels The Fighting Shepherdess and The Man from the Bitter Roots had been made into major motion pictures, and she had recently finished a stint as a celebrity journalist at the Denver Post.  The Park County Enterprise reported on her trip to Los Angeles.  “Los Angeles, the mecca of artists and authors has a famous visitor this week in Caroline Lockhart who wrote The Fighting Shepherdess and other best sellers of the day. Miss Lockhart’s first visit upon her arrival was to the Louis B. Mayer studio.”   There she met with Douglas Fairbanks regarding the adaptation of her nearly completed novel The Dude Wrangler.

Lockhart had a passion for the Old West; for the open-range cattle ranches before they were fenced and turned to dry-land farming, for the old characters who fought and scraped and survived the harsh land, and she loved, with a passion, horses. Her passions matched those of her contemporaries in Western novelists, such as Owen Wister and Zane Grey. But unlike other writers, Lockhart lived fulltime in the West. Therefore, her lifestyle brought authenticity to her work, not the depictions of what Easterners wanted the West to be.  Also, Caroline set her stories during the 20th Century, unlike other authors who set their tales in the Old West.  She wanted Wyoming to recognize its place in the present, and not fade into the past like the Midwestern frontier in the light and luxuries brought by the industrialization of the 20th Century. Wyoming’s heritage was dying on the altar of railroads, electricity, and automobiles. Who needed horses? Why would anyone care about the American Indians?  Only a small tip of the hat should be given to men such as Buffalo Bill Cody, whose legendary status was diminished by divorce and financial ruin.

Lockhart’s novels breathed life back into Western culture.  “Three cheers and a tiger for Caroline Lockhart. She is our only live, living author. What Caroline doesn’t know about Wyoming and Wyoming folks isn’t much. She can make a cavalier out of a sheepherder and a courtly gentleman from the crudest cowpuncher,” a Wyoming newspaper reported.

Almost 50 years old when her novels reached their peak, Lockhart appeared decades younger and “was one hell-of-a-good-lookin’ woman” according to one of her cowboy friends.  And Caroline Lockhart had many cowboy friends. Although she never married, she juggled multiple boyfriends offending many of the more conservative citizens of Cody.  Along with her long line of lovers, Codyites were fanning themselves over Lockhart’s penchant for drinking at a time three-quarters of the town voted for Prohibition. Lockhart, on the other hand, threw lavish parties in her Cody home where there was no lack of the demon liquor. In 1921, The State Tribune of Cheyenne published Lockhart’s letter to J.D. Woodruff in Shoshoni supporting his stand against Prohibition.  “Mr. Woodruff: I have finished reading your letter to Governor Brooks printed in the Tribune, and I am impelled to write and congratulate you upon your common sense and courage. It sounds like Colonel Henry Watterson—a sane voice in the mob always. What you say finds an echo in the heart of every person who is not a hopeless bigot…”

Photo courtesy American Heritage Center, #ah002656

Lockhart was, to say the least, a controversial figure, but she was a woman with “passion, gumption, and money to get things done.”  One thing she wanted to see done was an event to honor the Old West. So, on April 20, 1920 the bestselling novelist with a flair for publicity, gathered with other leading citizens of Cody; Ernest J. Goppert, Sr., an ambitious young attorney; Irving H. Larom, a Princeton-education owner of a prominent dude ranch; Sid Eldred, editor of the Park County Enterprise, the newspaper founded by Buffalo Bill Cody; and Clarence Williams and William Loewar, both men helped run the town’s small Fourth of July celebration. All agreed they wanted more than just a Fourth of July party, more than a rodeo and street dance. They wanted an event to bring back the Old West; an event to entertain and bring in tourists driving through the newly opened road to Yellowstone National Park.

The citizens who met in Lockhart’s house, and enjoyed her liquor, decided they would call this event “The Cody Stampede.” Lockhart persuaded them not to include the word “rodeo” in the title as it “sounded like a dude word and besides we did not know how to pronounce it.”  Lockhart was elected the organization’s president.  They sought to attract the finest contestants, which included one of Lockhart’s cowboy friends, champion bulldogger Pinky Gist.

The week after the meeting, Lockhart purchased, with four partners, the Enterprise.  She took control of the newspaper and used it to promote the Stampede.  Her Enterprise advertised such exciting news as: Toggery Bill securing “the Red Lodge Finnish orchestra and the only Mary Quilico for the Cody Stampede.”  And when Miles City, Montana chose the same dates for their rodeo, Lockhart and company stood firm believing “if necessary, there are enough riders and horses in the surrounding country to furnish a good program without outside help. Bronco riders and Grand Opera stars, we have learned from experience, have similar temperments [sic], and while some of the outside riders had their growl because they did not get in on the money we believe that a good percentage of them will come back and make another try for it.”

Lockhart was correct and many top riders returned to Cody. The Stampede grew under Lockhart’s presidency.  At fundraising balls Caroline invited members of the Crow tribe to appear in traditional dress, renewing a fascination for the American Indians rarely seen in Cody except by invitation. With Lockhart’s encouragement, fascination expanded to other aspects of the frontier. Lockhart argued Wyoming should capitalize on its unique cowboy heritage, rather than letting the state develop into a place like anywhere else.  Today the Stampede stands among the top rodeos with Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Pendleton (Oregon) Roundup.

Promoting Wyoming’s legacy became her passion. She next, proposed a gigantic statue of Buffalo Bill to be sculpted by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, one of the country’s most famous artists. By then the people of Cody would support any suggestion their local author made, but the town could not afford Whitney. Lockhart proceeded to pester the sculptor until Whitney agreed to both sculpt the statue and raise the required funds. Whitney campaigned for funds amongst New York City’s wealthiest classes, establishing Buffalo Bill’s nationwide posthumous reputation.

Buffalo Bill Statue, Cody, Wyoming

After a few years, Lockhart tired of the day-to-day frustrations of the newspaper and guiding the Stampede.  She believed local merchants never contributed all they could to an event that brought them so much business. She bristled at the incompetence of her co-owners at the newspaper, and her unpopular political positions made enemies and dampened profits.

In 1925, Caroline decided instead of promoting the Old West lifestyle she loved so much, she would embrace it and she purchased her own homestead.  She purchased a small 160 acre homestead, the  L/♥, north of Lovell, Wyoming.  She added land through purchase, homesteading, and leases until she controlled over 6,034 acres. From the owners she inherited a two-room cabin, a few run-down sheds, and 20 acres of cultivated ground. Lockhart added onto and landscaped the area around the cabin with irises, hollyhocks, cottonwood trees, and stone pathways. She constructed fences, corrals, and irrigation systems as well as adding 15 new structures.

Lockhart cabin
Photo courtesy of NPS

Life on the L/♥ ranch was self-sufficient. Potatoes, apples, onions, carrots, dried beans and peas, along with beef, pork, and wild game were stored in the powerhouse/storage building. Milk, butter, and eggs went to the spring house for chilling. In 1935, three loads of Lockhart steers topped the market in Omaha, granting Lockhart her dream of becoming a Cattle Queen.

In 1952, Caroline decided she and her then-boyfriend were too old to continue running the ranch. Her eyesight was failing and ranch life had become too hard. She moved back to Cody, and lived the rest of her life in obscurity. Her only foray into society was inviting neighborhood children over to watch “Hopalong Cassidy,” on the only television in town.  A show based on novels that in 1910 were considered inferior to her works.

Caroline Lockhart died on July 25, 1962. There was no funeral as she had requested her ashes be scattered over “the most convenient peak.”

A woman who not only loved Wyoming and the West, but did all in her power to see its legacy preserved, I like her. 

Cheyenne State Leader, no 136. Cheyenne, Wyoming.  March 11, 1911, page 5.
Wyoming State Tribune, no. 93. Cheyenne, Wyoming.  April 14, 1921, page 1.
Park County Enterprise, no. 32. Cody, Wyoming. March 17, 1920, page 1.
Wyoming State Tribune, no. 169. Cheyenne, Wyoming. June 30, 1921 [Morning edition], page 6.
Park County Enterprise, no. 36. Cody, Wyoming.  April 13, 1921, page 1.

Kirsten Lynn writes stories based on the people and history of the West, more specifically those who live and love in Wyoming and Montana. Using her MA in Naval History, Kirsten, weaves her love of the West and the military together in many of her stories, merging these two halves of her heart. When she's not roping, riding and rabble-rousing with the cowboys and cowgirls who reside in her endless imagination, Kirsten works as a professional historian.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Ghost Story - The Hotel Leger, Wine, Women, and Whoopie

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
In 1851 newcomer George Leger left Hesse Castle, Germany and came to the hamlet of Mokelumne, California. An entrepreneur with lots of cash in his pocket, and someone who loved to have a good time, he was thought to be different from the often crass and always dirty miners. He made some shady and sane dealings in the community and ended up with enough cash to build a one-story hotel, which he named The European Hotel.
It didn't take long for Leger to add a second story to be used for room and board. He converted the first floor into a general store. He still wasn't satisfied with his hotel, so he added a lavish dance floor to hold his parties in. The hotel soon became known as the most elegant place for entertaining in his part of the country. Its lavishness drew many of the elite and famous from the world of arts and politics.
George had an eye for rich and beautiful women and loved to party. The best alcohol and food was always on hand. He was in his element in this world, but it didn't last. In 1879 a portion of his hotel burned. Undaunted, he rebuilt and renamed the place Hotel Leger for good luck.
Women, women, women! He loved them all. Even being married didn't interfere with his conquests. His much younger bride died two years after they married. Her death didn't stop him from continuing his lifestyle as he had before and during her time in his life.
He was a dashing figure of a man, standing six-foot tall, with dark hair and a moustache, in his sexual prime, and wealthy. W.H Adams, Leger's friend and the owner of the stage company that had the Wells Fargo contract between Stockton and Sacramento, had a violent temper. Adams was devastated when he learned the beautiful young woman he had his heart set on was spending her time with Leger during his absences. Adams sent a lone gunman to Leger's living quarters at the hotel. The hired man knocked on Room 7 and as the door opened he shot Leger point blank. Leger fell mortally wounded into the arms of Adams' paramour. The killer walked out of the hotel and was never seen again.
It was said that Adams' sweetheart took off with someone else after Leger died. Adams was the first person up the stairs that fateful day on Leger's behalf and as his friend was laid to rest, he led the crowd in tearful lament for his lost buddy. As a befitting omen, Adams was interred next to his ex-best friend.
Soon after Leger's death it is rumored his spirit began showing up at the hotel. Leger's friends in life started to feel uneasy that he was still overseeing things in death as he had in life, especially Adams because the secret of his death was Adams' alone. No one except Adams was aware of his involvement in Leger's demise until he fessed up years later. Maybe it was on his deathbed. No one knows for sure.
A family with children bought the hotel years after Leger's death. A couple of days after the family moved in, the children ran from their bedroom to their father and cried, "Someone told us to be quiet." Upon investigating, the father couldn't find anyone in the room. Later that day the children went into Room 7, which had been George Leger's bedroom, and where he died. The children ran to their father again. They pointed to a man in an old tintype hanging on the wall. "That's the man who told us to be quiet." The photo was of George Leger. Their father, who always wore a cowboy hat, remarked that he often saw two cowboy hats coming up the stairs in the shadows on the wall. One was his.....
Researched in "The Incredible World of Gold Rush Ghosts by Nancy Bradley and Robert Reppert."

Saturday, February 28, 2015


Welcome to “Part 2” of my “For Indians Only” series. The last time we talked about this topic, we talked about the boarding schools our country set up for Indian children to help “assimilate” them into white American society. It was a huge failure. Part 2, Indian Hospitals, is a true horror story from our nation’s past.

I want to talk a bit about a specific hospital in my state of Oklahoma. I’m sure there were many others like this, scattered around, but this is one I have a little personal knowledge of.
Located in Talihina, Oklahoma, in a secluded area on top of a large hill in the Kiamichi Mountains, the Harper Building is one of several from the former Eastern Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanitarium. It was built in the early part of the 1900’s, specifically to house Indians (Choctaws and Chickasaws) with tuberculosis.

Here’s a little of the article that appeared at the time in our largest state newspaper, The Daily Oklahoman, in explanation of why it was being built. (Rootsweb Ancestry)—partial article

The Daily Oklahoman
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
December 22, 1917 p 4
Sanitarium Is Provided
Six years ago the Choctaws, noting the increase of tuberculosis among them, took the first step toward establishing a tubercular sanitarium, the report says. On Dec. 14, 1911, the last Choctaw council passed an act appropriating $50,000 for such a sanitarium. This act was supplemented by a later act of congress, approving the appropriation, but it was not until the present year that the institution, located near Talihina, was completed. The hospital as established is doing a general hospital work, however, and no special provision has been made for the care of tubercular patients.
Therefore, the following detailed recommendations were made:

First: The Talihina Sanitarium - This sanitarium should be devoted particularly, if not exclusively, to tuberculosis. It offers the principal and immediate remedy for existing conditions. It is centrally located in the home country of the Indians, and if it is properly conducted Indian patients may be induced to reside there, where they will be properly clothed and fed and will receive the medical and surgical attention they need. They can be provided with religious services, and open air classes can be carried on for children so that they may not grow up in ignorance.

Jump to the next century, ca. 2008-2009. I was teaching a novel writing class, a small class with only 8-10 students. One of those students was an incredible Choctaw Indian lady, who I will call Emma. She told the class that she was there to learn how to write her life story. And she proceeded to tell us some of the stories of her life.

She’d gone to an orphanage at a young age, her single mother unable to feed her and her younger brother. When she reached her teen years, perhaps 16 or 17, she was sent from the orphanage to the Talihina Indian Tuberculosis Hospital. Young Emma made friends—most of the patients there were children and teens, but there were some adults. But because of the nature of the illness, Emma lost many of her friends to death.

She told of a particular instance, after the death of one of her good friends, when the janitor, who also helped dig graves, saw her in the hallway. He gave her a slow grin and pointed a bony finger at her. “When will I be coming for YOU?” he asked.

Even worse, experiments were conducted on the patients there at the Indian hospital. Why? Because there was a white tuberculosis hospital in the same area (my dad was a patient there a few years later) and they needed to find out the best treatments to use…so the Indians were the ones they experimented on. Emma told the story of going in and having them collapse her lung—with no anesthesia—when she was around 17 or so.

The hospital still stands, but is said to be haunted by all the children and others who died there. The government now owns the property, and it’s run by Oklahoma Veteran Affairs. These pictures are of the Harper Building where the Indian hospital was, and is being considered for demolition at this time.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Many communities have reconstructed pioneer villages, but one of the best I’ve seen is in Lubbock, Texas. Of course, I’m partial to the National Ranching Heritage Center (NHRC) at Texas Tech University. Although I only lived in Lubbock for nine years, I consider the “Hub of the Plains” my hometown. Let me take you on a tour of the center.

Until 1999, the NHRC was a part of the Museum of Texas Tech University, to which is adjacently located. It was begun by the first director of the museum, the historian and archaeologist William Curry Holden. I’m no doubt dating myself, but I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Holden as a history professor my freshman year at Texas Tech. In addition to teaching history, he was curator of the museum, which was a magical place to visit. He was a man with great foresight. Dr. Holden authored many books, including one which was purchased by a Hollywood studio and made into a movie.

Currently, the NHRC features almost fifty authentic ranch buildings dating from the late 18th to the mid-20th century. These structures include a railroad depot, homesteads, barn, schoolhouse, windmills and other historic structures. One views the exhibits through a self-guided walking tour (unless you’re fortunate enough to be there on a celebratory day when there are docents). It is free to the public. Of course, I don’t have space to feature each of the structures, so I’ll hit what I consider the highlights.
Masterson Ranch Line Shack
Most important to our family is the above stone line shack from the Masterson Ranch. My husband’s uncle, Jimmie Pendleton, worked on this ranch and told of the first fire of the season bringing up rattlesnakes from under the floor to warm on the hearth. Apparently, the cowboys used the snakes for target practice—not something I’d want to experience with the chance of bullets ricocheting around the cabin. Or snakes—euwww! Cowboys are tough. My husband’s uncle worked for the ranch as head wrangler until a horse he was breaking threw him and kicked him in the head. (His injury triggered Parkinson’s and curtailed his ranching career.)

80 John Wallace home
Daniel Webster “80 John” Wallace was one of Texas’ most successful black ranchers. Born the son of slave parents in Victoria County in 1860, he went to work as a cowboy when he was 15, eventually working for C.C. Slaughter, Isaac Ellwood, John Nunn and Clay Mann, getting his nickname from the large “80” Mann ranch brand. He used his wages to buy cattle and land, setting up his own ranch on 1,280 acres southeast of Loraine, Texas, in Mitchell and Nolan counties and buying more land as he could. As D.W. grew more successful, he became a strong supporter of education for the surrounding communities. D.W. built this cross-shaped ranch-house facing west with a floor plan that allows a nice flow of air through the house. The building was designed to have four porches with the two on the east side used for sleeping porches when weather allowed. In West Texas, spring and summer breezes usually come from the southwest, so most people wanted their bedroom on that side of their home. This also protected them from winter’s cold north winds.

Bairfield School
One-room schools were built to serve the families of cowboys, ranchers and homesteaders. Classroom furniture was homemade, and wooden boards were painted black for chalkboards. You think kids bring home a lot of sickness now? A bucket of water from a well or stream provided drinks for everyone, which caused illnesses to spread rampantly. School buildings were used for social gatherings, meetings, plays, and sometimes for church services. The Bairfield Schoolhouse operated until 1937. As late as the late 1970s, the children of friends attended a one-room school at Lucas, Texas which went through fourth or fifth grade.

Barton house
Joseph James Barton came to the South Plains to join his uncles in their ranching operation. Barton built this house eight miles west of Abernathy as part of a vision that he and his uncles shared for a town that they planned to build on a section of their ranch land. The site was chosen on the basis of the proposed route for a railroad line from Amarillo to Lubbock. Barton chose to build a fine house for himself and his family in the growing town of Bartonsite. The design for this Queen Anne-style home came from a set plans Barton purchased from Modern Dwellings Magazine. Unfortunately, the Santa Fe Railroad changed the course of the rail line and bypassed Bartonsite. When the house was donated to the NRHC, it was all that remained of the town.

Box and Strip House
I had to laugh when I saw this house at the NRHC because it reminds me of one where my family used to stop by and visit relatives. This exact style was extremely common in Texas and Oklahoma, and probably many other states. Box and strip (or board and batten) construction became popular in West Texas when railroads began delivering lumber to areas where trees were scarce and wood was difficult to obtain. Construction allowed settlers to abandon their dugouts. Box and strip houses were economical, easy to build and above ground, unlike dugouts. Uprights were held in place by the floor and the shingle roof. There were no horizontal, stabilizing boards. Although a major step up from a dugout, this Martin County house had no insulation, and dirt, wind and snow blew through the walls. During strong storms, the walls actually moved. 

Two of our relatives (brothers) told of being out and deciding the impending storm made it safer to stop for the night at a boarding house than to continue driving. The structure was built of box and strip construction. The landlady brought them a thick comforter and told them to be sure to cover with it before going to sleep. When they awakened the next morning, snow had blown through the wall cracks during the night and covered the comforter and pillows.

El Capote Cabin

This cabin was built during the Republic of Texas period, 1836-1845, and represents the simple architecture of early frontier days. Located in what is now Guadalupe County, Texas, it was constructed of winged elm logs chinked with mud from a nearby streambed. The roofing was hand-split pecan shakes; the floor was compacted earth. Multiple door openings were cut into the logs in later years, when the cabin may have served as slave quarters or a kitchen. El Capote, or “the cape,” was named for nearby hills that spread out like a cloak. It is very much like log cabins in other pioneer villages I've seen.

Harrell House

Harrell House began as a single stacked rock room in 1883. Next, two box and strip rooms were added to the east side of the stone house. Last, the other rooms and porches were added. Over the years, the building fell into disrepair until Fay and Myrtle Harrell of Scurry County, Texas, found it and made it their project to restore. In 1961-1962, the sisters provided most of the somewhat eclectic furnishings to represent early West Texas.

Hedwig's Hill Dogtrot House

In Mason County, Texas, near the Llano River, this house was built as two log cabins under a common roof separated by a breezeway called a dogtrot. Two limestone rooms in the back were added later. This style of architecture is characteristic of frontier houses throughout the Southern states. It was cooled in warm weather by air flowing through the dogtrot. In cold weather it was heated by fireplaces. A modified dwelling, it doubled as a post office, store, tavern, boarding house, church and polling place. It represents the arrival of German immigrants to Texas. Thanks to J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, I always want to pronounce the name as Hedgwig like Harry Potter's owl.

JA Ranch Meat and Dairy Storage

The front room of this structure from the JA Ranch (originally owned by John Adair and Charles Goodnight) in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas, is a meat storage/workroom. Hooks on the rafters suspended carcasses of meat. Slatted walls allowed air circulation yet repelled predators. In the stonewalled milk room was a water trough filled with cloth-covered crocks of dairy products, eggs and other perishables. Water from a spring or windmill flowed through the trough and cooled the food. Although smaller in scale, this method was also used on the Belding-Gibson Ranch in Palo Pinto County which I have mentioned in other blog posts. However, the Belding meat area was a smokehouse for curing meat.. 

Jowell fortress home on Bluff Creek

This fortress-style home was built in Palo Pinto County, Texas, to protect a pioneer family from dangers in the wilderness. After George Jowell’s wood cabin was burned by Indians, he designed a home of cut limestone and sandstone with rifle slits above the door. The family could find safety by climbing a ladder to the second floor and entering through a trap door, pulling the ladder in behind them. Exterior stairs were added after Indian attacks ceased. A well, cistern and springhouse nearby provided water and cool storage during the summer heat. Again, in another blog I’ve featured a similar building from the same county. This home was donated by the L. E. Seaman estate. In current times, the L. E. Seaman estate was reached via the original Bankhead Highway.  

Los Corralitos
Los Corralitos, meaning “the little corrals,” was a fortified home in Zapata County, Texas. Made from cut sandstone, mud mortar, mesquite and Montezuma cypress, its walls are 33 inches thick. The single room has one door, no windows and six small gun ports for defense against enemies. Evidence dating from around 1783 suggests that Los Corralitos may be the earliest rancho with standing structures in the state of Texas!

Matador half dugout
Most first homes of ranchers and settlers on the plains were half-dugouts. They were cut into embankments with the door facing southeast to catch cool breezes in summer. Roofs were made of hides, sod, thatch or, in this case, wood shingles. The roof of this Dickens County, Texas, dugout was built from cottonwood trees that grew along a nearby creek. When materials became available, settlers moved to more conventional homes, glad to be rid of the snakes and critters that shared the dugouts. Cowboys continued to use these structures as bunkhouses or line camps.

Ropesville Depot
The railroad was essential to the growth of ranching, transporting cattle, settlers (some establishing businesses in the towns), manufactured goods, supplies and lumber to the plains. The Spade Ranch near present-day Ropesville, seeing the need for rail service to the area, deeded 85 acres to the railway on the condition that a depot, agent’s house and stock pens were built. Over the years, the depot serviced ranchers from across the South Plains and as far away as New Mexico. In the end, it stood witness to the decline of ranching on the South Plains and the beginning of a farming lifestyle. In the late 1950s, a tornado destroyed much of Ropesville.

Waggoner Commissary
A commissary was used by large ranches to provide supplies for their cowboys and ranch hands. The great distance to town created a need for food and supplies to be bought in bulk. They were then distributed at headquarters and to distant line camps. Stone walls kept the structure cool in the summer and protected supplies from freezing in the winter. This commissary from Wichita County, Texas, was built so a block and tackle could be used to unload a freight wagon and items stored in the loft. Smaller items were stored in the lower room.

Famous 6666 barn
The 6666 barn stood near the home of rancher Samuel Burk Burnett in Guthrie until it was removed to the NRHC. The ranch is large and now raises horses as well as cattle. On one trip by the ranch many years ago, my family were fortunate enough to drive by while they were filming at this ranch. We weren't able to stop and probably would have been asked to leave if we had, but seeing the film crew and cowboys broke up a long trip from Lubbock to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief tour of Texas pioneer structures. Is there a similar pioneer site where you live? 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Golden Nugget

Considered one of mankind’s most prized possessions, for centuries people of all walks of life have dreamed of acquiring the riches associated with gold—of finding that ‘golden nugget’. 

Although the gold rushes of California and Alaska may have become some of the most well-known, there have been gold rushes and discoveries in most every state of the U.S. Even my home state of Minnesota had a short lived gold rush in the 1880’s. 

The largest single gold nugget ever found and ‘recorded’ was in Australia on February 5, 1869. It weighed around 140 pounds and had to be broken into three pieces to be weighed because there wasn’t a scale capable of weighing it. It was discovered in a rut along a road. This photo was taken at the discovery site. The nugget was quickly melted down and sent to the Bank of England fifteen days after being found. At the time it was valued around $50,000. In today’s market, that nugget would be worth approximately four million dollars. 

I found my ‘golden nugget’ a few years ago. While at a book sale a small paperback book, “Gold Finding Secrets” written by Edwin P. Morgan and first published in 1966 caught my attention. It’s autographed by the author, and I believe I paid a quarter for it, thinking it would be a cute little ‘coffee table conversation piece’. However, when an Alaskan gold rush story came to me and my editor said ‘write it’, this little paperback became a treasure of information. Full of black and white pictures, illustrations and blue prints for building rockers, sluice boxes, and vibrating tables (among other things), this book had the answer for practically every gold mining question I had. It has since gained a protected spot on my ‘keeper’ bookshelf.  

Do you have a little nugget like that? Something you stumbled across, but truly didn’t know how valuable it would become to you?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mountain Man Tales and Romance Novels

by: Peggy Henderson

History is so full of events and memorable people that a writer is never short of a good story to tell. I enjoy researching about the early explorers and fur trappers in the Rocky Mountains because a majority of my romance novels are based in that era and that time in history. The stories and lore of the mountain men is sometimes as tall as the mountains themselves. Several stories I’ve stumbled across, whether true or not, are just too good to pass up, and I love to incorporate them into my romances, adding my own little spin.
In my book, Yellowstone Redemption, I knew when I was planning the book, that my hero would have an experience similar to what happened to John Colter, a man who is considered to be the first true mountain man, and the first non-native to see the Yellowstone and Grand Teton Regions.
Colter was a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and after leaving them in 1806, returned to the wilderness over and over again, leading other trappers to find beaver. In 1809, he was traveling by canoe with another trapper, John Potts, when a party of Blackfoot warriors attacked them. They killed Potts, and captures Colter. He was asked if he was a fast runner, and then ordered to strip off all his clothing and told to run. The young warriors of the group then pursued him. Here is the account as told to a newspaper reporter, John Bradbury, in 1817:

Again he turned his head, and saw the savage not twenty yards from him. Determined if possible to avoid the expected blow, he suddenly stopped, turned round, and spread out his arms. The Indian, surprised by the suddenness of the action, and perhaps at the bloody appearance of Colter, also attempted to stop; but exhausted with running, he fell whilst endeavouring to throw his spear, which stuck in the ground, and broke in his hand. Colter instantly snatched up the pointed part, with which he pinned him to the earth, and then continued his flight.

Colter next reached the Madison River, and hid inside a beaver lodge for the night, then walked for eleven days to reach the nearest trading outpost.

Here is an excerpt of my version of “Colter’s Run”, as it happened to my hero, Chase Russell in Yellowstone Redemption.

Nothing would stop him now from reaching the Firehole. He was running for his life, running to the woman he loved, and for the first time ever, he felt free. His lungs burned and his heart pounded in his throat. It was the most exhilarating feeling he’d ever had, and he felt alive.
He turned his head, looking over his shoulder again. Only one pursuer remained. The other had barely left the tree line. The one behind him was close enough that he could throw the spear he held in his hand.
Game time, Russell. Do something the opposition will least likely expect.
Chase stopped in his tracks. He whirled around, and assumed a fighting stance, his legs wide apart, his knees bent, and his arms out at his sides, holding his weapons in his hands. Breathing hard, a wide sneer crossed his face. The maneuver had worked. His opponent looked stunned and surprised. He tried to stop, tried to brandish his spear, but in his shocked disbelief, he tripped and fell to the ground. With a loud splintering noise, the spear broke in half. Chase gave him no chance to recover. With a loud roar he ran at the man on the ground. He dropped his weapons and grabbed for the broken lance. The man tried to struggle, but Chase used his size to his advantage, holding the warrior to the ground. He rammed the spearhead into the dirt, pinning the man’s shirt into the ground. He could have easily killed the warrior, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He hoped rendering him immobile would buy enough time to put some distance between them.
Chase stood and righted himself. His other pursuer was gaining ground, and he could also see several more warriors emerge from the trees. He lunged for his weapons, and took off again, straight for the bison herd. He remembered all the warning pamphlets he’d read that the park service provided, which stated to stay at least 25 yards away from bison. They were dangerous and could gore a man in seconds.
To hell with that. Chase needed another tactical surprise element. He ran straight for the herd. Several of the lumbering beasts looked up from their grazing when he approached. He didn’t slow down. He ran and darted between the big beasts. Several shied away, kicking and galloping in the opposite direction – the direction his pursuers came from. Chase whooped and punched the air with one hand, sending even more bison scurrying.
He could hear the rushing sound of the river now. It was just up ahead. He’d made it through the herd unharmed. He hoped his tactics had paid off. He couldn’t run any further. Plunging head first into the cold water, he welcomed the soothing feeling on his scorched skin. He gulped mouthfuls of water even as he swam downstream, aided by the current. He was swept past a beaver lodge. What had Sarah told him?
“I once hid from my brothers for an entire day inside a beaver lodge. They were so furious with me that I outsmarted them.”
“Thank you, Angel.” He grinned. He pulled himself through the water, back upstream towards the beaver dam. He dove and swam under the lodge, until he found the opening. When he resurfaced, he was in a dark, muddy chamber. A beaver sat in the mud, chatting loudly at seeing the intruder. Chase ignored it.
How long would he have to stay hidden? The cold water began to chill him, and it was dank inside the lodge. He pulled himself up onto the muddy platform. The beaver abandoned his perch and dove into the water, slapping his tail in protest. Did those Indians know this little trick? He could be a sitting duck for all he knew.
He drew his legs up close to his body, shivering as the minutes turned to hours. Once, he thought he heard voices just above, but they quickly died away. His surroundings darkened even more. Chase huddled against the mud, gritting his chattering teeth. He closed his eyes. If he could sleep for a few hours, he could continue to the geyser basin in the morning. He knew it might be best in the cover of night, but he’d get lost. In the blackness, he wouldn’t be able to see anything.
He drifted in and out of sleep. Sarah’s face materialized before him. Imagining her smile warmed his insides.
He was in love with her.
The realization still stunned him. Did she have feelings for him, too? Why should she? He wasn’t the kind of man she needed. She needed a strong man who knew his way around the mountains and would protect her from its dangers. He couldn’t even keep his own ass out of trouble.

Peggy L Henderson is a laboratory technologist by night, and best-selling western historical and time travel romance author of the Yellowstone Romance Series, Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, and Teton Romance Trilogy. When she’s not writing about Yellowstone, the Tetons, or the old west, she’s out hiking the trails, spending time with her family and pets, or catching up on much-needed sleep. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart. Along with her husband and two sons, she makes her home in Southern California.