Those of us who love American history are acutely aware of the devastation the Civil War brought to the Southern states, but we don’t always remember the effects of the conflict on the Border States, where slaveholders rubbed shoulders with abolitionists and bloodshed often ensued.
I grew up in Kansas City on the border of Missouri (a "slave" state) and Kansas (a "free" state), and reminders of the conflict still remained in many neighboring towns when I was a child. One of my father’s law partners owned a farm in Lane, Kansas, with a small house that had once been a stop on the Underground Railroad. I was always fascinated by how little the building had changed during the hundred-plus years since the last slaves passed through on their way to freedom. Whenever we visited, I half-expected to run face-to-face into John Brown. For me, a trip to that farm was like a step back in time.
The small town of Weston, on the Missouri side of the state line north of Kansas City, is the setting for my first historical, HARVEST OF DREAMS. Weston represented the other side of the conflict. Around 1840, farmers from Kentucky settled the area and founded the town, bringing with them their heritage of tobacco farms and slaves. The Southern influence was so strong the county later became known as "Little Dixie." During the war, Union and Confederate troops took turns commandeering supplies from the citizenry until there was nothing left to take. By the time the war ended, the local economy was in tatters and freed slaves accounted for a significant portion of the population.
The setting was ripe for rootless men to form outlaw bands and take what they wanted by force. Some of those men had pillaged the area during the war under the command of guerrilla leaders such as the infamous Silas Gordon and William Quantrill--among them Frank and Jesse James. The James brothers were local boys, born in Clay County. They were credited with the first daylight armed bank robbery in peacetime in U.S. history—the robbery of the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, MO, on Feb. 13, 1866, and continued to plague citizens and lawmen alike until Jesse’s death in 1882 at the age of 34.
My latest historical romance, A MAN LIKE THAT, takes place in the Ozark Mountains of central Missouri just after the end of the Civil War when the wounds were just starting to heal. A MAN LIKE THAT is a story of healing, redemption, and the value of family – all as important today as they were in 1867
During the war years, Missouri was officially still part of the Union (unlike its neighbor, Arkansas) but recognizing slavery (unlike Kansas). The Show Me state was a veritable "No Man’s Land", with neighbors and families split by competing loyalties.
In truth, many people changed sides depending on which army was in the neighborhood because the soldiers, both Union and Confederate, uprooted civilians, burned towns, and confiscated provisions whenever they passed through. The thin, rocky soil and steep terrain of the Ozarks provided a sparse living in the best of times, and 1867 was not the best of times. But for the fiercely independent folk who called them home, the lure of the mountains remained strong, and my hero, Morgan Bingham, is no exception.
Morgan bears the scars of fighting with the notorious Confederate guerilla, "Bloody" Bill Anderson, and joining a band of renegade outlaws after the war. His brother, Ethan, was conscripted by the army then sent home after losing a leg. Only love can save these damaged brothers from the demons that haunt them.
Here’s a blurb:
Jessamine Randall, fearless crusader and champion of the downtrodden, is not a woman to be left waiting at the altar. When her fiancé disappears hours before their wedding, the ever-resourceful Jessy hatches a plan to track him down and bring him back where he belongs.
Morgan Bingham knows he’s no good. Never has been. Never will be. A former outlaw is no fit husband for the only daughter of the town judge, despite her misguided notions. Besides, after ten long years away from home, it’s time to return to the hills and face his demons.
Ill-prepared, but armed with unshakeable certainty, Jessy follows Morgan to his family’s cabin deep in the Ozark Mountains where she’s sucked into a whirlpool of deep secrets and old hatreds. While she struggles to bring light and hope into their dark lives, her greatest challenge is Morgan himself. Can she ever convince him he’s worthy of love?
Thanks so much hosting me today. It’s been great fun! For more details about HARVEST OF DREAMS and A MAN LIKE THAT, I invite everyone to visit me at www.alisonhenderson.com