Friday, August 18, 2017


Even though it’s not Halloween yet, I came across this legend and found it too fascinating to pass up posting about it now. The most captivating thing about this legend is that it is absolutely true. Yep, all true.

First of all the words, El Muerto, mean “The Dead One.” Well, that’s hair raising enough, but wait until you hear how El Muerto came about. It seems Texas had its own version of The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow, the famous legendary story by Washington Irving. And the Texas legend begins in reality. Get ready because here comes a most grisly tale of Texas justice.

Texas was a pretty wild and lawless place in the 1800’s with countless numbers of thieves and murderers running around playing havoc with the peaceful and law-abiding folk. Needless to say the lawmen had grown tired of this lawless bunch of outlaws behaving in such a way. The Texas Rangers burst on to the scene with a commitment to help the settlers fend off the Indian raids, lawless characters from south of the Rio Grande, and the countless other criminals who harassed and endangered the settlers.

In those days the Rio Grande River had been the declared border between the United States and Mexico, but the Mexican government claimed the border to be the Nueces River, so this land between those two rivers became a sort of “No Man’s Land” in which outlaws felt free to do what they pleased. Of course, we all know it would take a war between Mexico and the United States in 1846 to make the Rio Grande the official border. It would take another thirty years for the Texas Rangers to clean up the riff-raff in this former “No Man’s Land.”
Apparently these miscreants didn’t hear the warning bell that the Texas Rangers were patrolling the area and meant business because they believed they could continue their lawless behavior without consequence. Well, we all know you do not mess with the Texas Rangers. Texas Rangers were expert gunmen who roamed the area living out of their saddles doling out brutal justice.

Texas Rangers
Two of these Rangers were Creed Taylor and William Alexander Anderson “Big Foot” Wallace. “Big Foot” Wallace, by the way, was a folk hero in his own right. With Creed’s blessing, “Big Foot” inadvertently created the legendary El Muerto.
A man known as Vidal was about his lawless business of rustling cattle in 1850 down in South Texas. He had a “dead or alive” price on his head. A Comanche raid pulled the Rangers to the north to fight the Indians which left the settlements to the south temporarily unprotected. Vidal and three of his men took advantage of this temporary loss of protection and gathered up a hefty number of horses along the San Antonio River as they headed toward Mexico.
Apparently Vidal did not realize that among his stolen herd were several prized mustangs belonging to Texas Rangers Creed Taylor, Big Foot Wallace, and a rancher named Flores. Flores, Creed and Wallace didn’t have too difficult a time tracking down Vidal and his three men. What happened next is the stuff of legends.
"Big Foot" Wallace, Texas Ranger
The Rangers found the outlaws asleep in their camp. The thieves were killed including Vidal. But it wasn’t enough to just dole out justice by killing the outlaws. No sir, a warning for outlaws needed to go out and Vidal happened to be the perfect outlaw to use as an example. Big Foot Wallace lopped off Vidal’s head and sat the headless outlaw on a Mustang. He lashed Vidal to the horse to maintain a position sitting up as if riding the horse and lashed his head to the saddle in front of him. He then sent the Mustang out to wander freely with the grisly corpse on its back.
It was reported the following day by some cowboys that a gray horse bearing a headless rider rode through their camp with the headless rider shouting, “It’s mine. It’s all mine!” The sightings of the headless horseman grew in number. Cowboys and Indians were so terrified by the sight of the rider, they shot the corpse full of bullets and arrows. Years later, the Mustang was found and relieved if it gruesome rider who was finally buried, and then the horse was set free.

But even after the corpse of Vidal had been buried, reports were made of the headless horseman. A sighting of the corpse was reported near Freer, Texas in 1969. The legend lives on even today with sightings of a headless rider galloping through the mesquite on clear, moonlit nights in South Texas.

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Frontier Photographer, Solomon Butcher by Linda Hubalek

The second book in my Grooms with Honor series, Fergus' Honor, debuted recently. I sketched the main character, Fergus Reagan, after reading about Solomon D. Butcher, a well-known photographer who took photographs of Nebraska homesteaders in the 1880s.

Here's Mr. Butcher's biography and samples of his work from the Nebraska State Historical Society.

"Nebraska photographer Solomon D. Butcher produced, over the course of nearly forty years, a record of the settlement of the Great Plains that is both unique and remarkable. Born in 1856 in what was to become the state of West Virginia after the Civil War, Butcher came with his family to the plains of Nebraska in 1880.

This restless young man soon found that he was not up to the rigors of a homesteader's life. He had tasted just enough of it, however, to develop a profound admiration for those with the grit to survive and prosper on the Nebraska prairies. In 1886 Butcher was struck with an idea that was inspired.

Realizing that the period of settlement would soon be over, he set out to create a photographic history of pioneer life. Between 1886 and 1912 Butcher generated a collection of more than 3,000 photographs.

Though he died in 1927 believing himself a total failure, Solomon D. Butcher's work has survived to become the most important chronicle of the saga of homesteading in America."

"One of the more famous Butcher photographs: The Chrisman sisters, 1886. Lizzie Chrisman filed the first of the sisters' homestead claims in 1887. Lutie Chrisman filed the following year. The other two sisters, Jennie Ruth and Hattie, had to wait until they came of age to file. They both filed in 1892."

"The Shores family, near Westerville, Custer County, Nebraska, 1887. Jerry Shores was one of a number of former slaves to settle in Custer County. He took a claim adjacent to that of his brothers, Moses Speese and Henry Webb (each had taken the name of his former owner)."

"The David Hilton family near Sargent, Nebraska. Mrs. Hilton and her eldest daughter were adamant that they not be photographed in front of their sod house, because they wished to send copies of the picture to friends and relatives elsewhere and thought it embarrassing to be seen living in a house of dirt. But they did want to be seen with their new pump organ, so they made Mr. Hilton and the photographer drag the organ out of the house for the photographs, then drag it back in again. "

Butcher's photographs portray frontier life, which future generations would have been hard to imagine. I'm glad they were preserved for us to show what the homesteaders life was like starting over on the Kansas prairie.

Here's the description and order link for Fergus' Honor.  

A sweet historical romance set in 1886.

He's at the right place at the right time to save a woman from falling to her death...but she hadn't planned to survive. Can he convince her life is worth living, with him?

Fergus Reagan's fascination with photography led him to a career of recording people's lives. While in Nebraska photographing homesteaders in front of their humble sod houses, he's at the right place at the right time to save a young woman.

Iris Kerns' suicide attempt was supposed to end her engagement to an abusive man, but her rescuer shows her life is worth living when Fergus takes her home to Clear Creek, Kansas, to help with his new photography studio.

But, the past catches up with Iris, drawing danger to her, Fergus, and his family.

The Grooms with Honor series showcases the six sons of Pastor and Kaitlyn Reagan. The family was first featured in the 1873 year-based Brides with Grit series. Besides the Reagan brothers, the series features other men in their community.

"Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, be faithful unto her as long as you both shall live?"

The young men have heard Pastor Reagan say these words to many couples over the years, and they vow to treat all women this way as they walk through life.

Many thanks from the Kansas prairie...
Linda Hubalek

Monday, August 14, 2017

Life in the Old West—Cooking in the Victorian Kitchen

When writing My Heart Will Find Yours I learned a lot about nineteenth-century kitchens.

Very few homes had an ice box, the kind where a block of ice was delivered to sit in an insulated reservoir in the top of the wooden structure. They were invented for home use in the 1840s, but it wasn't until the 1870s that the U.S. had ice plants that produced artificial ice. In the model seen here, the block would go in the unopened door to the left. As the ice melted the cold water flowed down the sides and kept the contents inside cool. Note the pan on the floor. Of course, in hot weather, the ice didn't last more than a couple of days. Owners had a sign with 25 lbs, 50 lbs, 75 lbs, and 100 lbs on each side. You'd prop the side up with the amount you needed out front so when the iceman came by he'd know what size block to bring in for you. This picture can be found in an online article titled Early Days of Refrigeration at

I found an advertisement for a model almost identical to this one. No date was given but the price was $16.98.

My mother-in-law said that even in the early thirties they kept their perishables in a spring house, a small shed built over a spring. Food was covered with dish towels or cheese cloth to keep out flies and other pests, and the flowing water kept the room cool. Some homes had a larder which was a room on the coolest side of the house or in the cellar. None of these solutions would make modern homemakers happy, but folks back then didn't know any difference and the system worked for them.

This picture was taken at the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore, Texas, and dates somewhere around the 1920s or 1930s. The design in these cupboards didn't change much over time so earlier models looked much like this one. Today cupboards or Hoosiers have become popular decorative additions to modern kitchens, as have old ice boxes. I have one though it's not a genuine Hoosier but a generic type of which there were a lot. It's a nice decorative piece.

Last, but not least, in importance to the homemaker was the wood cook stove. Before the cast iron kitchen stove was invented, women cooked over hearths with ovens built into the wall, if they were well-off, or outside in a fire pit. Both methods were hard on the back due to bending over to stir food in pots suspended from iron hooks. Cast iron pot bellied stoves, used mainly for heat, could be used for some 
cooking, but lucky was the woman who had a genuine kitchen cook stove like the one pictured here.  

This is a restored model pictured at Many models such as this one had a copper lined reservoir on the side to keep water warm for beverages, dishwater, or bathing. The smart homemaker never let it go dry. In my reading I noticed some even had a kick plate to open the oven door when hands were full. Some of these models were designed to use either wood or coal oil. Restored wood stoves are popular and being added to homes of individuals who like antiques and love to cook. They aren't for the person who wants to pop something in the oven and go about their business as the product must be watched carefully to make sure oven temperature is maintained. Also, they're quite expensive, 
between two and three thousand dollars.

Managing a house hold during this era wasn't for the weak. Just lifting those iron cooking vessels took a strength many modern women don't possess. But, I guess carrying buckets of milk from the barn, doing the wash in the yard using a scrub board, and their other daily chores built muscles. And don't you just love the old bath tub?

My time travel heroines face multiple challenges when learning to live and take care of a home in the nineteenth century. Though it’s never easy, their love for their hero gives them the perseverance to adjust to a past way of life.
A Law of Her Own, A Marshall of Her Own, and A Love of His Own released today from The Wild Rose Press are all set in the nineteenth century town of Prairie, Texas. In this last story, the individual to travel back in time is the hero and though he doesn’t have to adjust to cooking in a Victorian kitchen, he does have to adjust to many other aspects of life in the past.

Thanks for reading,
Linda LaRoque
Writing Romance with a Twist in Time
A Marshal of Her Own, Feb. 2012 Book of the Month at Long and Short Reviews

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Oil lamps from years gone by are still in use.

Oil lamps are almost a misnomer. When we say oil lamps today, we think of kerosene lamps. They were and are also called paraffin lamps. Kerosene and paraffin were names interchangeable in the late 1800's. In the early 1800's, we were using whale oil so making kerosene from coal was a major advancement. But even saying kerosene is slowly fading from our vocabulary because today we have "lamp oil".

Many of us have several old kerosene lamps because they were still in constant use well into the 1950's. And then there are the lamps that were patterned after the kerosene lamps. I have two of those made by Fenton in my bedroom. They are old and once upon a time belonged to my grandmother, but not exactly true antiques - just old. But also I have several kerosene lamps that were "modernized". What once held a wick now has an electrical receptacle that holds a light bulb. But throughout my house are the real things. I haven't converted all of them to electric because they are wonderful for when the power goes out.

If you've never used one, you are missing out on one of the beautiful leftovers from years ago. Of course, you don't leave a lighted kerosene lamp unattended. They are dangerous to use if you have a cat or other animal that is apt to knock one over. Also never place the lamp on a middle shelf or where it might be close to a flammable object such as a ceiling. You want the charming glow, not a house fire.

Unlike a candle, it produces an even light that shouldn't flicker very much if at all, and it can burn for hours. Snuff the light and use it again. Today we buy something called lamp oil. It's very refined, burns nicely, often it is colored so that it looks pretty, and it is scented. Using regular kerosene can be stinky, may leave a greasy film, and is considered dangerous. Use lamp oil! Do not substitute. It doesn't matter if your grandpa burned some other fuel in it! Don't do it! Also a jug of lamp oil will last for years if you only use it in one or two lamps for the occasional outage. And it's much cheaper than buying tons of batteries. Keep the cap tightly screwed on the jug so that nothing evaporates and keep it away from sunlight or warm objects. Mine normally is kept in the pantry area next to the cleaning products.

A kerosene lamp emits enough light to read your favorite paperback. (Always keep a few paperbacks on hand for emergencies.) The last major power outage I had was after a hurricane took down enough trees and branches to send my tiny city into a blackout for days. I was one of the last people to get my power restored. In 14 days, I read almost thirty paperbacks. I kept looking at my dwindling pile and hoping my power would be restored before I ran out of reading material. By day six, a good chunk of the city around me was still minus power. Fortunately Starbucks did get theirs restored by day four. But just how long can anyone hangout at Starbucks? Especially when the entire population of the city seemed to be trying to escape the heat, needed to charge their laptops and phones, and discovered Starbucks had power. I'd grab some food, then go to Starbucks for coffee while I recharged my phone. After that, I'd come home and read. I whipped through some flashlight batteries during that time, but I barely used a full "tank" of oil in my lamp. That's because I kept the flashlights throughout the house so I could turn them on and off as I entered a room or ran up the stairs. But my trusty kerosene lamps that decorated my living room burned brightly.

I think my fascination with kerosene lamps started when I was little. I remember both my grandmothers having them in the house. A great aunt and uncle, who had a summer home in the country that didn't have running water or electricity, used kerosene lamps. It was while staying with my great aunt and uncle that I learned how to clean the chimney, trim the wick, etc. (I also learned how to peel a potato using only a paring knife. I think I was four or five at the time. YIKES!)

So when I discovered this tiny little kerosene lamp in an antique store when I was about eight. I fell in love and had to buy it. My mom thought I was crazy. Looking back now, after raising a few children, I understand how young children can latch onto the oddest things. Obviously, I still have the lamp, and I still think it's adorable. What I didn't know until I was probably in my teens was that tiny lamp was not a child's lamp or just a cute little object. I had the real thing.

Traveling salesman used to carry samples of their wares. They were never sold - just samples. What I had was a sample lamp. That salesman probably had a trunk full of these tiny samples. He would go from farm to farm, or ranch to ranch, and convince the lady of the house that she had to have the latest design in lamps. He'd also stop at the dry goods store or mercantile and convince the owner to order a dozen of his lamps. It must have been a pretty tough life for that salesman. But he probably made quite a few sales, because as we all know, it's easy to lose a favorite item to breakage. Carrying a six-inch lamp sure beat carrying a full-sized one. He could carry two-dozen styles instead of carrying six large ones.

If you ever find a sample lamp, scoff it up! They are rare. I've never seen another. It's extremely difficult to know an old kerosene lamp from a modern one. Many that are made today are made from old molds. The best way to assure that what you have is an antique is to know the history behind it. Aunt Sally might have bought hers in 1973, but her daughter only knows it was once her mom's. If that nonagenarian in your family decides to leave you what was once her grandmother's lamps you've got a good chance that it's the real thing. Sometimes you just have to quit worrying about it being an antique. Enjoy it. And from a few new ones that I've looked at online…beautiful, exquisite, phenomenal, fantastic, I'm running out of adjectives, who cares if it's not super old, kerosene lamps are available!

You don't have to wait for a power outage to enjoy a lamp. Electrify one or two for that guest bedroom. Just remember to keep at least one with a wick in case you need it or want it for a romantic evening. Because how else are you going to read one of your favorite author's books if the power goes out? Everyone needs a kerosene lamp or a dozen.

~*~  ~*~  ~*~

I'd like to thank Michael at B&P Lamp Supply, Inc (Antique Lamp Supply) for allowing me to use the photos from the website. For further information, please visit the company site. I'm drooling over those beautiful lamps and their super nice parts. They have great info on the historic old lamps if you want further info.

I think I need this blue one. What do you think?

And that tiny lamp next to the one with the dirty chimney is mine. I promise that I know how to clean a chimney, but it's apparent that I need to do a little housekeeping instead of constantly writing. Also I will suggest that when you are finished lighting the lamp, replace the chimney very carefully. Too many times it is assumed that all four prongs that hold the chimney are on the outside of the chimney and holding it. If not, the chimney will crash to the floor, and I swear it will never survive the fall. Experience is a great teacher. Keep an extra chimney on hand at all times.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


Limited in their legal rights and accepted customs of society at the time, women mostly honored their husbands' demands and spent their time cooking meals, tending to children, watering the horses and taking care of the household chores.

 But, that was not always the case. There are hundreds of women who stand out in American History due to their strong characters, contributions to society, or plain old interesting personalities.

From the hardy pioneers who crossed the vast prairies and mountains heading westward, to nurses, abolitionists, stagecoach drivers, and even a few doctors and soldiers, you'll find their stories here.

For those less fortunate, forced by circumstance, need, and sometimes adventure, you'll also find female outlaws, gamblers, powerful Madams, their brothels, and a bevy of soiled doves.

 In the days when the West was ruled by the gun, it took a woman of great character and strong resolve to survive.

I invite you to follow this link and save it for further reference.

Celia Yeary...Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
My Blog
Sweethearts of the West-Blog
My Facebook Page 

Sunday, August 6, 2017


As I was thinking about what I wanted to blog about this month it occurred to me that three years ago today I received the cover for what would be my first published book, HOME FIRES. And almost 10 full-length books and numerous novellas later, the thrill of the first cover and first book published is still felt when I look back on August 2014.

So much influenced the story of Cord and Olivia from my studies of Civil War history and the American West during the years that followed, to my studies of the Montana Territory. In the past couple blogs, I've shared about Virginia City and Bannock, Montana, both playing a role in HOME FIRES and the sequel (coming in 2018).  But today I wanted to share about Fort Ellis.

This fort played an important role in the development of Bozeman, Montana and in reuniting Cord Matthews and Olivia Bartlett.

Despite its location in the fruitful Gallatin Valley and the labors of early settlers, the future of Bozeman, Montana was anything but certain in its early years. The town’s dependence on the success of nearby mining camps and attacks by local American Indian tribes left many to wonder if the settlement, found in 1864, would thrive or die.  With the establishment of Fort Ellis three miles east of Bozeman, the town witnessed its first surge in growth and development. 

Fort Ellis was established in 1867 in response to the hysteria caused by the murder of John Bozeman, allegedly killed by Blackfeet Indians.   Under the orders of Brigadier General Alfred H. Terry, commander of the Department of Dakota, Captain Robert S. LaMotte and soldiers under his command in the 13th U.S. Infantry constructed the garrison.  It took two years before Colonel A.G. Brackett arrived with two companies of the 2nd cavalry. The cavalry gave the installation the distinction of being the only early cavalry post in Montana.

The fort was named for Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis, who was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.  The soldiers were charged to protect the agriculturally significant Gallatin Valley, area miners, and white settlers, and those traveling on the Bozeman Trail from “aggressive Indians,” mainly the Sioux and Blackfeet.  

Fort Ellis Courtesy of the National Park Service

At its largest, the fort was comprised of three log officers' quarters, seven troop barracks, a hospital, an ammunition storehouse, office building, guard house, mess hall, store house, two granaries, five stables, a bakery, a laundry, a library, a court room, a sawmill, and various workshops.

There are no reported significant conflicts between the soldiers and Sioux or Blackfeet, but January of 1870 saw one of the most tragic events in the fort’s history. Orders from Lt. General Philip Sheridan came to the fort to strike at the Blackfeet and “strike them hard.”  Major Eugene Baker led Fort Ellis troops in a violent attack against a winter camp on the Marias River.

When the gunfire ceased, 90 women, 50 children and 33 men, most elderly and in 40 degree below zero weather, lie dead. Soldiers burned the lodges, destroyed winter provisions and took 140 women and children prisoner. Before the soldiers could get their prisoners to the fort, they found the captives were infested with small pox. In a despicable act, they left the women and children in the bitter elements without food or adequate clothing.

Upon their return to the fort, Baker and his men found they had mistakenly attacked a friendly group of Blackfeet who had recently signed peaceful agreements with the whites. The horrendous massacre was ignored in the West, while Eastern newspapers did not and reported on the event “…which will leave so dark a stain on our history.” 

Col. Baker and soldiers Courtesy of National Park Service

Fort Ellis did play an important role in the economy of Bozeman and the history of the town. At its peak 400 soldiers resided there, rivaling the population of Bozeman. With the sense of security provided by the fort more women and children settled in Gallatin Valley.

Soldiers squandered their pay at local saloons. Businessmen and ranchers also prospered from government contracts for supplies, horses, and beef. One year after the outpost was established Bozeman grew from a village of a dozen log cabins to a town of 150 people with 40 dwellings, three stores, a hotel, a gristmill, a blacksmith shop and two saloons. By 1870, Bozeman was a community of 574 people.

Soldiers from the fort served as escorts for the Northern Pacific Railroad surveying parties, erected telegraph lines, and built roads.  Among the cavalry units stationed at Fort Ellis was the Second United States Cavalry. An officer from the Second, Lt. Gustavus C. Doane, became well known for his exploration of Yellowstone National Park (the first scientific expeditions of Yellowstone).
The post’s importance waned by the 1880s, and in 1886 the government decommissioned the Fort Ellis. All buildings affiliated with the post were eventually demolished or relocated.   

Fort Ellis Marker

As mentioned above, Fort Ellis plays a significant role in my debut publication, HOME FIRES, and in the next installments of the series.  Both the benefits and tragedies of having a fort nearby are felt by the Matthews’ family, as it was by the early settlers of Bozeman, Montana.

Malone, Michael P, Roeder, Richard B. et al. Montana: A History of Two Centuries.  University of Washington Press:  January, 1991.

Cord Matthews sets his sights on the open Montana Territory when the War Between the States rips everything from him including his own heart, Olivia Bartlett. Cord builds a new dream, but a ghost from his past won’t let him forget what his heart wanted most.
Olivia Bartlett, forced to flee her Virginia home and the man who owns her heart, finds new purpose as a nurse to the wounded at Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory.  But war and separation haven’t diminished her love for Cord Matthews, or her stubborn belief he is coming for her. When tragedy steals another loved one and danger threatens her life, Olivia flees to Montana Territory, seeking refuge.
Reunited on the Montana frontier, can Cord and Olivia hold tight to their love despite the guilt each carries for a past they can’t change and defeat a danger who seeks their destruction?

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.