Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Magical Time for Magical Reads — and Giveaways

When I was a child, nary a Christmas passed without my father reading aloud Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. The Grinch was on TV, too, but somehow it wasn’t Christmas unless Daddy read us the story. He always played all the parts in each tale, making the characters come alive in a very special way.

Have you ever noticed that parents who read to their children raise children who love to read? All four of us kids — my two brothers, sister, and I — became avid readers. We still are.

Ask authors “Why did you become a writer?” and many will tell you they’ve always written, from the time they could pick up a pencil. Me? I trace my joy in creating fantastical worlds to escaping with Daddy into the stories he read to us throughout the year. Those were magical days.

Daddy’s been gone for twenty years, and I always miss him — and Momma, too — something fierce at Christmas. Though my parents gave their children many precious gifts, I think the gift of reading is among the best gifts of all.

I’ve got a lot of reading to do this year just to catch up with new Christmas stories set in the Wild West. Here are the ones in my teetering to-be-read pile:

A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe
Rediscovered feelings and unexpected new love bring six couples together during the holidays.

Kissing Until Christmas
A mail-order bride isn’t exactly who she seems — but her unwilling groom hides a dangerous secret of his own.

I Heard the Brides on Christmas Day
Hec Murdock orders up two brides — one for himself and one for his brother, Zeke. But somehow, Hec neglects to let Zeke know what he’s done.


The Gift of Forgiveness
A reformed gunman takes up his guns one more time to help a widow find her kidnapped son. In the bargain, he receives the gift of love.

Holiday Hoax
Widow Vera Sanders agrees to switch places with younger and prettier Adele MacIntyre, another mail-order bride. They’re both in for rude surprises, however, after trying to pull a holiday hoax on two very different grooms

A Marriage of Convenience
A debutante on the run from a monster finds her salvation in a jaded Indian Territory lawman. The marshal can protect her with a Christmas wedding … but can he protect his heart?

Her Holiday Husband
Secrets and surprises are in store when families meddle with a beautiful single mother and an outlaw-turned-respectable. Phoebe Pierce may have too many secrets of her own to keep her holiday husband.

Store Bought Ornaments
Ella’s cryptic letter brings her husband’s brother, Caleb, home for Christmas. Can they finally claim the love they’ve been denied for so long?

The Keepers of Camelot
An unusual twist on the King Arthur legend finds Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot embroiled in an Apache attack at a stage station. Only a homeless boy recognizes the three, reminding Arthur The Once and Future King will return when the world needs him most.

 Dance with Destiny
A half-Ojibwa drifter sees a fair-haired woman in a vision. An abandoned army wife with four young children needs help to survive the harsh Ohio winter. Will the love that grows between them endure, or is it doomed from the start?

My stack also contains a few medieval Christmas books. Medieval stories are something new for me, but whoever coined the phrase “variety is the spice of life” knew what he or she was talking about.

One Winter Knight
Eight Yuletide tales of love lost and found, laced with holiday traditions and the excitement of a bold, dangerous era.

To save her family’s fortunes, Lady Alisoun must wed an elderly earl the day after Christmas. But in the chapel on Christmas Eve, her heart collides with that of an elegant, mysterious stranger. Is he her salvation … or an enemy spy?

An Unexpected Gift
An outlaw vows to protect a homeless woman from the men who want to kill her unborn son. In the struggle against the cold and would-be kings, Meryk and Ada discover love is the most unexpected gift of all, but will they survive long enough to claim it?

Sir Baldwin and the Christmas Ghosts
An arrogant young knight and a woman with the gift of sight must work together to make a true Christmas for the survivors of a plague — and the spirits of those who did not survive.

On a stormy Christmas Eve night filled with danger, fate makes unexpected allies of a bitter man and an angry woman. Will passion ignite as a result ... or will they even survive to find out?

And because we all enjoy becoming children again once in a while, I always have one or two young adult Christmas reads in my stack this time of year.

The Christmas Spider
Christmas should be a happy time, but this year will be bittersweet for Samantha McCaslin. Following the death of her mother, the thirteen-year-old tomboy must grow up quickly, especially when a bully targets her American Indian friends. Thanks to the magic of Christmas and the power of love, Sam learns what family really means.

The Donkey that Carried Mary
A warm and funny story about Mary, the mother of Jesus, as told by her donkey, Sarah. This one won’t be out until Dec. 20, but I’m so looking forward to such a sweet-sounding read.



To help make your holidays merry and bright, I'll give away four anthologies in e-book form: A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe, A Mail-Order Christmas Bride, One Winter Knight, and One Christmas Knight. To be eligible, tell me what holiday tradition is most special to you.

One more thing before I forget: Prairie Rose Publications is looking for reviewers. If you enjoy reading and telling people about good books you've read, email for more information. (Click the graphic below to make it larger.)

A Texan to the bone, Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperadoes. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen’s stories, even the good guys wear black hats.

Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction. Her novel Prodigal Gun won the EPIC Award for Historical Romance and is the only western historical romance ever to final for a Peacemaker in a book-length category.

Visit her hideout on the web at

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


When I moved back to Wyoming there was only one place I wanted to be and that was Sheridan. There's so much history (family and other) here, and many traditions around the holidays this town embraces. One is the Christmas Stroll, the Friday after Thanksgiving, where the people of Sheridan gather on Main Street and enjoy shopping, Christmas music, hot chocolate, and other treats as we stroll the street.  Another is one of the historic homes, Trail End, has a Christmas open house complete with figgy pudding and carols.

Digging through past newspapers from the area reveal Sheridan and its people have always opened their doors and hearts around the holidays.

I thought it would be fun to share a few of the Yuletide traditions and fun articles I’ve found thumbing through the Sheridan papers of yesteryear.

Personally, I love digging through these treasure troves of information. Newspapers used to cover everything from world events, local gatherings, who’s visiting who, whose cow was found in whose pasture.

At the turn of the Century, the Sheridan Inn offered its annual Christmas dinner a menu including. According to the Sheridan Post the Inn would be serving dinner from 5-7 with a menu of:

Oysters, caviar, young pig with apple sauce, goose stuffed with chestnuts, Belgian Hare, Venison. For those with discriminating tastes:  Opossum, braised, with Sweet Potatoes.  After your opossum you can indulge in green apple, mince, lemon-meringue pie, or English plum pudding with hard or brandy sauce. (I'd like the brandy to wash down the opossum, thank you.)

Coffeen’s  store offered a wide selection of dolls, drums, toy stoves, whistles, swords, books as well as candy and nuts for the young’uns Christmas joys in 1900. We all know where good St. Nick was doing his shopping that year.


Of course, romance is always a welcome story during the Christmas season.  The wedding of Angus Beaton of Manderson, Wyoming and Miss Catherine McBeth of Torrindon, Rosehire, Scotland, reported in 1909 saw a ten year romance find a happily ever after (or at least I like to think so):

“Bride Comes from Scotland to Marry”

“Eight years ago Beaton came to America to seek his fortune and his sweetheart agreed to wait until he should send for her. Beaton settled in Wyoming and is now fairly well-to-do. Miss Beaton came from Scotland unaccompanied and arrived a few days before the wedding, being interim the guest of Mrs. Rogers of this place.”

The same edition of the Daily Enterprise advertised bobsled rides to the Beckton dance. Couples who could afford a dollar, per couple, could dash through the snow to the little community just outside Sheridan for an evening of dancing, refreshments and maybe their own romance.

Some years saw Christmas take on a new meaning in Sheridan.  In 1917, as the shadow of the Great War oozed over the United States, Sheridanites prepared with pleas for Peace and Good Will. Combating the doom, papers announced traditional celebrations would continue.

Instead of advertisements filled with special goodies Sheridan stores announced gift giving would take the form of useful things to wear and keep with toys still going to the youngsters.  Only, many stores were not joyfully filling full-page ads with all the games and toys.


A new face appeared in the papers. The Red Cross declared a huge success to their Christmas fund drive.  The funds would go towards a vast number of programs including:  “hospital distributing service sends supplies to 3425 French military hospitals and preparing immense stores of emergency supplies for our own army. ..Operating six canteens for use of French soldiers… and children’s refuge and hospital at a point in the war zone.”

In the midst of scaling back on giving and digging deeper for charity, the people of Sheridan and the surrounding area did indeed find time to celebrate the peace they still enjoyed. Churches announced musical programs, masses and special programs for children and adults.

Individuals and social groups opened their homes and community centers for dances and socials.

“The guests at the Foster House are entertaining their friends at a very enjoyable dancing parting this evening. The rooms are festive with holiday decorations, excellent music has been engaged and the good spirits co-incident with the season will make the occasion memorable for its pleasure…”

“Mr. and Mrs. L.H. Brooks were hosts Thursday evening to a company of friends, entertainment taking the form of a musicale. Dancing and the serving of light refreshments concluded the evening.”

Still the message Christmas 1917 was summed up in the following letter in the Sheridan Post.

“Therefore at this Yuletide, which may be the last in which we all gather about the old fireside, we put from us temporarily all thought of things abhorrent and enjoy in American fashion the pleasures of family and reunions, feasting and gift giving, mindful of a supreme power and grateful to the same for having postponed for so long a time (of) evil days that may be in store for us. In the midst of national peril and with what hope we can summon for brighter things, we wish the people of our country the happiest Christmas possible to them.”

What a transformation occurred the very next year in the December 24, 1918 edition. Despite the flu epidemic and the resulting cancellation of a few children's programs, reading the articles and advertisements one feel the relief, hope and excitement of a country witnessing the end of war and praying they won’t see it again.

As always the Post gave a running account of the movements of Sheridan County residents and visitors crossing the county’s borders.

“Hon. A.M. Halbert and family left Tuesday for a holiday visit to their former home in Missouri.”

“Mrs. Silas Cotey of Wheatland is visiting her sister, Mrs. John Winterling. She will remain several weeks.”

Traditional Christmas programs resumed, but as stated in an announcement:  “On earth, peace”,  takes on a deeper meaning than ever before and the feeling of “Good will toward men,” is universal. 
Churches celebrated the birth of Christ with special programs and “Christmas trees and treats for the little kiddies.”  Also promised, were festive Christmas trees lighting the windows of Sheridan.

 The Red Cross’ column, the previous year filled with gloom, proclaimed a feast fit for the returning heroes.  The train depot in Sheridan was turned into a dining hall.


“Returning soldier boys who fail to reach their homes but who are fortunate enough to pass through Sheridan during the holidays are not going to miss the good cheer of Christmas time. The Red Cross depot canteen workers are seeing to this and have provided such a feed as to almost make the boys cease to regret their absence from mother’s table.  Roast turkey, roast chicken, cakes.”

Of all the articles and ads in the 1918 issue one seized my attention and touched my heart. Its message is simple, but in all the early 20th Century language and questionable grammar lies a joy for the season we all should strive to attain, and lessons we should put into actions. I didn’t change a thing. It’s exactly as it appeared in the Post almost a century ago, but it’s my message to you. Merry Christmas, y’all!


“Christmas this year will be the best of all. We have won the war and that, in itself, is cause enough for rejoicing. The past year has been one of the most prosperous of all. America has maintained its name as the champion of freedom. The boys, victorious, are returning home. Some of them will arrive home in time for this wonderful day. Some homes will receive a letter that the son or husband will be home in the spring. Others, that are on their way now. O’…there are a million things one could mention! 

And you are happy. You are trudging home late tonight, your arms loaded with bundles—presents for all. You haven’t overlooked a single one. And they, too, will be happy.

What a wonderful world this really is. Despite all the sufferings and hardships. Christmas comes at just the right time of the year. Should it come in summer, spring or fall, it would not, could not be appreciated as it is now.  There is something in the spirit of Christmas, coming in the winter season, that endears it to the heart.  In the tropics, this day of the year is never appreciated as it is in the northern climes.

Maybe it is the contrast between the cold, dreary  outside and the warm hearth with the loving ones at home. Maybe it is---well, you know what I mean. There is an undefinable something that we have learned to love.  

And, with all the happiness that will come to you, the many and varied presents, are you going to overlook the more unfortunate friends, neighbors, or acquaintances this year? Let’s not. Try and do something that will bring joy to some needy family or some lonesome person of whom you know. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and 

A Merry, Merry Christmas to all!

Many of my stories take place in the Sheridan area and I have two that take place around Christmas time in this Wyoming town. I'd like to give away an e-book of HEARTS IN WINTER to one person who comments and an e-book of CHRISTMAS STROLL to another individual who leaves a comment. 

Thank you all and see you in the New Year!


Sheridan Post, Tuesday, December 24, 1918. Pgs 1-10
Sheridan Post, Tuesday, December 25, 1917. Pgs 1-8
Sheridan Post, Thursday, December 20, 1900, Pg 4
Sheridan Daily Enterprise, Friday, December 24, 1909, Pg 2

 Kirsten Lynn is a Western and Military Historian. She worked six years with a Navy non-profit and continues to contract with the Marine Corps History Division for certain projects. Making her home where her roots were sewn in Wyoming, Kirsten also works as a local historian. She loves to use the history she has learned and add it to a great love story. She writes stories about men of uncommon valor…women with undaunted courage…love of unwavering devotion …and romance with unending sizzle. When she’s not writing, she finds inspiration in day trips through the Bighorn Mountains, binge reading and watching sappy old movies, or sappy new movies. Housework can always wait.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Pucker Up and Kiss Your Sweetheart Under the Mistletoe! By Cheri Kay Clifton

When Celia suggested we use a personal holiday theme for December, I thought about all our family traditions we celebrate during the season. First and foremost is our display of the Nativity Scene above the mantel and our decorated Christmas tree in the living room. Also we enjoy the popular customs like stockings and wreathes hung, candles all aglow, fruitcakes and cookies baked and shared, and oh yes, we never forget our well-worn elves on the shelves every year!

But there's another traditional decoration some folks display in their homes, including ours ... Mistletoe. What kind of plant is it and where does it come from, some may wonder. And where did the holiday tradition of kissing under the mistletoe originate?

Other than seeing mistletoe for sale in the stores at Christmas time, I’d never known much about it until after I was married and my husband pointed out the plants growing in the tops of oak trees along the roadsides. He reminisced about how in his youth, he’d climb trees to cut down the mistletoe and make wreathes which he sold door to door for extra money during the holidays. Because of that bit of nostalgia, we’ve always had a wreath on our door and/or a sprig of mistletoe hanging over a doorway at Christmas time.

Mistletoe is commonly found growing as a parasitic plant. There are two types of mistletoe. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration (Phoradendron flavescens) is native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees from New Jersey to Florida. The other type of mistletoe, (Viscum Album) is of European origin.

The use of Mistletoe goes back to the times of ancient Druids. They didn’t kiss under it, but they believed the plant, especially a rare species that grew on oak trees, to have sacred powers including the ability to heal illnesses, protect against nightmares, and even predict the future. The Druids would hang the plant in their houses hoping it would bring them good luck and ward off evil spirits.

Mistletoe was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology and that’s where it’s believed the custom of kissing under Mistletoe comes from. Mistletoe continued to be associated with fertility and vitality through the Middle Ages, and by the 18th century it had also become incorporated into Christmas celebrations around the world.

Victorian England is credited with perpetuating the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. The custom dictated that a man was allowed to kiss any woman standing underneath mistletoe and that bad luck would befall any woman who refused the kiss. One variation on the tradition was with each kiss a berry was to be plucked from the mistletoe and the kissing must stop after all the berries had been removed. Thus, the traditions which began with the European mistletoe were transferred to the similar American plant with the process of immigration and settlement.

So, how many of you decorate your homes with a sprig of mistletoe (real or artificial) and follow the romantic tradition of couples kissing when caught standing under it? Oh, by the way, I should mention that the plant is poisonous, so please, don’t eat it. Just Kiss!


To learn more about me and my books, please visit my website:

Friday, December 2, 2016

People Either Love Fruitcake or They Hate It

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
The earliest recipe for fruitcake came from ancient Rome. It lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into a barley mash. In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added to the mix. Recipes varied greatly in different countries throughout the ages, depending on the ingredients available as well as church regulations in some instances forbidding the use of butter. Fruitcake was used to sustain Roman Legions during their long, arduous campaigns, as well as the Christian armies during the Crusades.
Starting in the 16th century, sugar from the American Colonies (and the discovery that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits) created an excess of candied fruit. This made fruitcakes more affordable and a lot more popular. Fruitcake is thought to have made its appearance in America during the Revolutionary War.
It is unknown why fruitcakes became synonymous with Christmas, but it is thought to have been started by English nobles who passed out a slice of plum cake to poor carolers in the late 1700's.
Does anyone really eat fruitcake? It seems Southerners are a bit fonder of fruitcake - over forty percent say they not only eat it during the holidays, but actually enjoy it. Those of you who hate fruitcake, sit back, have a double shot of eggnog, and hope you don't get another doorstop this year.
My family tradition is the best part of the Christmas holidays for me. It's how my family says thank you to people in our community who've gone out of their way to be kind to us and friends we've appreciated over the years. Yes, there are people I know who love the fruitcake I bake and gift to them. Amazing, you say? As far as I'm concerned, they have excellent taste. I've even had people cry when we moved from their area because they didn't think they'd ever get another one. Surprise, two different friends found one in their mailbox around Christmastime for seventeen years.

I got my recipe from my mother-in-law 48 years ago. I'd never eaten a fruitcake up to that time, but knew the cakes were special. Every year after that I've baked three batches (six cakes in a batch) and handed all of them out but one. My hubby loves the fruitcakes, too. Some people say no thank you, and I appreciate they do not like fruitcakes and didn't want to bother to try one of mine. A lot of times I give a cake to one member of a couple, and afterwards the other half of the couple admits they tried a piece and said they really liked it.

I can attest to fruitcakes being enjoyed by people in the South. I send a cake to a family member in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Florida every year.
When my daughters were little, they'd sit on the kitchen counter, wrap their legs around the large Tupperware bowl, and stir as I put the ingredients in. I was sad when they grew up and weren't around to help me anymore. Hubby refuses to sit on the counter - what's that all about?
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In celebration of the Christmas season, I'm giving away a copy of my Northwoods Series: Christmas Surprise.
Please leave an email address so that I can contact you for information to get the book to you if you are the winner of this historical romance.
Amazon link:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


By Ashley Kath-Bilsky

The truth is…we all die.

How’s that for an opening line?

Well, today I am going to talk about death from a historical perspective; in particular, how people dealt with death in the past. What customs or expectations were not only observed but "required" of people by society?

Throughout history, people have dealt with grief in many different ways. Often in historical novels, we get a glimpse or sketchy reference as to how people processed death through Mourning practices. So, to satisfy my writer's curiosity, I wanted more detailed information. From wearing black to remembering a loved one through art work, today's post is about how people in the 19th century accepted death and found strength to move on.

The sad fact is that during the 19th century, the sudden loss of a loved one was the norm rather than the rarity of dying old in your bed. Infant mortality was so high that many people would not even name their baby until the child was 1-2 years of age. Many women died during childbirth. Illnesses that are treatable today would claim the life of young and old. Influenza, pneumonia, consumption (TB), dysentery from tainted water, and even an infection caused by a cut could mean death.

Despite religious beliefs which brought words of comfort and the promise of a Heavenly reunion one day with their departed loved ones, there were society expectations and many superstitions associated with death that prevailed in the 19th century. And whether we know it or not, some of the mourning customs associated with superstitions are still followed today.

Customs associated with Mourning:

1) Immediately after someone died, the ritual of covering mirrors is implemented. ALL the mirrors, or any reflective glass surface, in the house were covered. Why? Based on superstition, the deceased soul might see their reflection in the mirror and become trapped which would then make them become a ghost haunting the earth.

2) If there is a clock, the motion of the clock is stopped; this gives the family the exact time of death. In many instances where the death occurred at home without a physician present, the time of death was necessary for documentation. Makes sense, right?

However, one superstition about this practice was that if you do not stop the clock, the soul of the deceased will linger and become a ghost or trapped spirit.

Another superstition attached to this custom is that if one did not stop the clock, the family of the house would have bad luck.

Whatever the reason for stopping the clock, it would not be restarted until the funeral and burial had concluded.

3) Often the viewing (and sometimes the funeral itself) was held in the home before being taken to the cemetery for burial. In rural communities, families often had burial plots on their property.

4) Whether the funeral took place in the home or not, the home was also prepared in accordance with customs.

The exterior of the home must indicate to neighbors and the public at large that the household was in mourning. Black crepe wreaths with black ribbons were placed on the front door, or adorned the door knob. If an infant had died, the color of the crepe and ribbons was white.

5) Inside the home, especially if the wake or funeral took place there, customs were also followed. The casket of the deceased was often placed in the parlor.

My mother once told me that when her beloved grandfather died, his casket was placed in her childhood home before being transported to the church and cemetery for burial. She remembered vividly, despite her young age, that when she came down on the morning of the funeral, the house was unusually quiet. She was then sent to her aunt’s house (two doors down) to join her little cousins. However, she noted a casket was now in the parlor and that black crepe had been placed on the mantle, windows, and doors. Paintings (art work) were also covered with black crepe.

6) When removing the deceased loved one’s body from the house, it must be carried out feet first. The superstition associated with this practice was that if the deceased was carried out head first, he/she might look back and beckon someone living to join them.

7) Perhaps the most stringent custom with regard to Mourning was that of clothing. Somber mourning attire dates back to the 1600s.

During the early to mid-1800s, mourning the death of a loved one had become associated with the observance of strict guidelines and even art forms.

Books were published on the subject. When her beloved Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria went into a very strict and lengthy Deep Mourning, and essentially inspired what is considered the Victorian period of mourning that her subjects and people in the United States also adopted.

8) It should be noted that the War Between The States in America had also begun at this time, and it seemed death surrounded the populace on both sides of the Civil War. Rare was the family spared the death of a loved one – be it father, husband, brother, son, cousin, etc. In the state of Alabama alone, there were 80,000 widows mourning the death of a loved one.

9) Formal black mourning clothes were ONLY worn by the immediate family. This attire included undergarments as well as accessories such as gloves, hats, handkerchiefs, jewelry, and even a ladies’ parasol. [Pictured: 1865 photo showing ruins of Richmond, Virginia, with women in Full Mourning attire on the lower right side. Courtesy: US National Archives]

Non-immediate family members (men, women, and children) observed mourning by wearing a black arm band for the required amount of time, or a black cockade (badge) pinned to their clothing.

10) In addition to the formal black clothing, women had to wear a veil in public. Ostensibly, the veil provided a protective barrier whereby the grief-stricken face, swollen eyes, or pale countenance of the bereaved lady could remain private.

However, it was also believed that the spirits of the deceased would linger around a loved one. Thus, if someone were to look upon the face of the lady in mourning, the spirit of the deceased might attach itself to the innocent bystander. Therefore, the black veil pinned to a widow’s bonnet was also a means to protect anyone else from this superstition being true.

11) Since mourning clothes were timely to make, and death could happen so suddenly, mourning clothes were readily available ‘off-the-rack’ for purchase. In fact, mourning clothing was the first ‘off-the-rack’ clothing for purchase.

One must remember that most people made their own clothing at this time. Those who were more affluent and could afford to have clothing made by a professional dressmaker, would also have mourning attire made and ready in their wardrobe, if necessary.

12) For many people, buying mourning clothes ‘off-the-rack’ was not affordable. As such, women would take clothing they already had and put them in a large cast iron pot with black dye. This laborious task had to be performed outside since the odors of the dye were quite strong and taint the air within the home. Another option for those who could not afford ‘off-the-rack’ mourning clothing, but did not want to dye the clothing themselves, would bring their clothing to a merchant to do the necessary deed.

13) A rather macabre custom during the 19th century were coffin bells.

The fear of being proclaimed dead when one was actually alive proved such an alarming concern that even George Washington asked his manservant to sit with him for three days to make sure he was dead before proceeding with the funeral.

Almost 100 years later, Mary Todd Lincoln had the same fear and left hand-written instructions regarding her funeral, which included the following statement. “I desire that my body shall remain for two days with the lid not screwed down.” So, how exactly did this bell method work? A bell was attached to the headstone. A chain then went directly from the bell down into the coffin and attached on a ring placed on the deceased’s finger. (See attached illustration.)

14) There are three different stages of mourning, especially for women. The stages include: Deep Mourning, Second Mourning, and Half Mourning.

Deep Mourning immediately followed the death of a husband/wife, parent, or child. Clothing must be solid black, including one’s jewelry. As stated above, ladies must wear bonnets covered with black crepe with a long, black veil attached. Hats were never worn. During this period, a lady in Deep Mourning would not speak to anyone outside her family. Neither would she attend any party or gathering, including weddings. Deep Mourning must last a minimum of one year plus a day. Some women, like Queen Victoria, remained in Deep Mourning for the remainder of their lives.

Second Mourning began immediately following Deep Mourning, and would last a minimum of 9 months to 12 months. The traditional black veil formerly draped over a ladies’ face was pinned back, and the veil itself could now be half the length it had been in Deep Mourning. Women could also add black lace to embellish their clothing. In addition, the collar and cuffs of clothing could now be white. Ladies could also send out announcements that their period of Deep Mourning had ended and she could now receive visitors. However, she still could NOT attend parties, weddings, or social gatherings.

Half Mourning involved the last six months of one's Mourning period. No longer limited to wearing only black, colors such as lavender, mauve, violet, and gray were used. In addition, a lady no longer had to use the color white for just her collar and cuffs. She could now wear a combination of black and white evening dresses. Bonnets were lavender silk, straw, or white.

15) One of the most confusing requirements regarding Mourning, especially during the 19th century, was the requisite time period expected for people. The socially acceptable period of Mourning was different for various family members, but each relation had a minimum amount of time that must be observed. Any family member NOT observing their required time of Mourning would subject the entire family to scandal. The time period for different family relations is as follows:

Spouse of Deceased: One Year Minimum although 2-1/2 Years was Traditional.
Parent of Deceased: Six Months to One Year.
Children 10 & Older: Six Months to One Year.
Children Under 10: Three to Six Months.
Infants: Six Weeks and Up
Siblings: Six to Eight Months.
Aunts & Uncles Related By Blood: Three to Six Months.
Aunts & Uncles Related By Marriage: Six Weeks to Three Months.
Grandparents: Six Months
Distant Relations & Friends: Three Weeks

16) The Mourning period for men had more flexibility, primarily because they were the providers for their families. Their attire include a dark suit, with a dark strip (usually made of crepe) wrapped around the band of their hat.

Black arm bands were worn as well, and often a black cockade [pictured] was pinned to his lapel.

Although it seems excessive that a woman was expected to follow the three periods of Mourning, men often needed to remarry quickly out of need for someone to care for their home and any children left motherless.

It should be noted that if the husband should remarry not long after his wife had been buried, the new wife could mourn her predecessor in her husband’s stead, gong through the three periods of Mourning out of respect for the departed woman.

17) One custom that may seem somewhat bizarre was the practice of using hair from a deceased loved one to make a framed, often elaborate, memorial piece of artwork. Yet when one thinks how mothers preserve a lock of their baby’s hair in a diary, bible, or baby book; or how for centuries a lock of hair was treasured as a romantic keepsake between couples during their courtship, it seems a natural progression that someone would think to make an artistic tribute to their loved one in such a manner.

Hair cuttings or strands of hair left in a hairbrush were sentimentally used to make brooches, watch fobs, rings, bracelets, or placed carefully inside a locket. Magazines during the 19th century often included articles instructing how to make hair wreaths, a traditional mourning custom during the Victorian period.

The hair wreath was the more traditional remembrance and could be made using the hair from one family member, or using locks of hair from several family members that have been preserved and added to as time passed. Framed in glass, these hair wreaths were treasured, sentimental keepsake remembrances that often told the family history using hair art.

18) Another art form used to mourn passing family members of love one was quilting. Very often, especially in pioneer America where families moved often, often by covered wagon, the grave site for loved ones was in another place – one that perhaps would be forgotten as generations passed. Determined to create a record of where her loved ones were buried, in 1836, Elizabeth Rosemary Mitchell began stitching a quilt in memory of her 2-year old son who had just died. The simple first square was of a cemetery with the embroidered casket for her little boy. In 1843, she added another son who died at the age of 19.

Known as The Graveyard Quilt, Mrs. Mitchell used what materials she had and a talent she possessed to remember her deceased children and also document the family’s history. Her quilt has since become a genealogical and historical artifact.

Losing a loved one is never easy, and the grieving of that loss takes time.

Everyone deals with mourning the death of loved ones in their own way. Whether it is a quilt, a framed mourning hair wreath, visiting the final resting place of a loved one on their birthday, or looking at old letters and photographs, it is how we remember those we love that not only endures but gives us strength to continue on for them, and to share the history of their life with others.

I hope you enjoyed this unusual post. Hopefully, you did not find it depressing but interesting and/or informative. Very often, especially as a writer (and reader) of historical fiction, knowing the customs associated with so inevitable a subject as death, helps bring not only accuracy but understanding to the reader and to the traditions we may still observe today. ~ AKB


On the Duties of Consolation, and the Rites and Customs Appropriate to Mourning, A.E. Miller (1829)

The American Victorian Woman: The Myth and the Reality, Mabel Collins Donnelly (1986)

Victorian Rights of Passage: Death Rituals, Elizabeth Kelly Kerstens, Ancestry Magazine (September/October 1999; Vol. 17 No. 5)