Tuesday, August 30, 2016

WILL ROGERS – THE MAN BEHIND THE NAME

By Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Have you ever wondered why schools are named after someone? An airport? A park? Even a United States Naval submarine? Well, if you are familiar with the name Will Rogers, you may already be aware that he not only has all of the above named after him, but State parks, beaches, a hospital, and even a section of Route 66 in Santa Monica, California. There are also statues of him throughout the country, including a life-sized statue of him in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.

Why? Who was this man? Why was he so beloved by so many people?

For those who may not know much (if anything) about Will Rogers, this post may help to bring the magnitude of his life to light.

William Penn Adair Rogers was born 04 November 1879 at his parents’ ranch in Oologah, Oklahoma (then Indian Territory). Raised on a working cattle ranch, he learned how to ride and work a lasso with great skill. One such skill, throwing three lassos at the same time (one around the horse’s neck, one circling the rider, and the third looping all four legs of the horse together) found him added to the Guiness Book of World Records.

Among the many schools Will attended, one was the Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri. Yet this was a restless spirit; a boy born under a wandering star. School was not where he wanted to be. As a result, Will dropped out of school in the 10th grade.

Determined to become a cowboy and put his excellent roping tricks to use, he traveled to South America in 1902-1903 as ‘The Cherokee Kid’ with Texas Jack’s Wild West Show. [Note: Both of his parents had some Cherokee ancestry.] He later traveled to New Zealand and Australia as a member of the Wirth Brothers Circus .

Upon his return to the United States in 1904, Will performed at the World’s Fair in both St. Louis and New York City. From 1905 to 1915, Will worked the vaudeville circuit and toured America, Canada, and Europe. During this time period, he also married the love of his life, Betty Blake. Together they would have four children: Will Rogers, Jr., Mary Amelia Rogers, James Blake Rogers, and Fred Stone Rogers.

Will’s easy-going demeanor and exceptional skill doing rope tricks and demonstrating the lasso continued to grow in popularity. In 1917, he hit the big time and was signed with the prestigious Ziegfeld Follies.

An avid reader who enjoyed talking with people from all walks of life, Will incorporated insightful and quite humorous comments about life, people, the country, and politics into his act. With his unpretentious personality, easygoing manner, and simple way of talking, Will endeared himself to audiences wherever he went.

Soon, Hollywood came calling.

In 1918, Will appeared in silent films, two of which were Laughing Bill Hyde (1918) and The Ropin' Fool (1921).

When "talkies" arrived, Will Rogers became a genuine movie star. He would eventually star in 71 motion pictures. His film credits in talkies included They Had to See Paris (1929) and State Fair (1934). Before long, he was the #1 Box Office draw and voted the Favorite Actor in Hollywood.

So, what was it about Will Rogers that made him so popular?

Timing played a big part. From 1929 until 1939, the country was experiencing the Great Depression.

By 1933, between 13 million and 15 million people were unemployed. Half of the banks in the United States had failed. Although relief and economic reform measures were being implemented, the economy did not improve until 1939.

Consequently, the mischievous smile, sweet cowboy mannerisms, and Will's simple way of talking touched the lives of those who perhaps felt they had no voice.

Those experiencing despair, poverty, frustration, and loss were able to laugh. And the intelligent yet tinged with humor insight Will had on the country's situation and politics shined a light on what many were thinking. Suddenly Will Rogers was not just a cowboy from vaudeville, or a popular actor, he was someone like them. He understood them.

The country could not get enough of Will Rogers. His perspective, insight, and humor about life (and what was happening in the country) made him the equivalent of what we would call a superstar today. The Cherokee Kid soon found himself not only working in films, but in great demand on the radio with a weekly show. In addition, he wrote 4,000 syndicated columns and six books.

People were not only reading or listening to what he had to say, they were remembering quotes.

“Always drink upstream from the herd.” ~ Will Rogers

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.” ~ Will Rogers

“If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.” ~ Will Rogers

“Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.” ~ Will Rogers

“If you ever injected truth into politics, you have no politics.” ~ Will Rogers

“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report facts.” ~ Will Rogers

“We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.” ~ Will Rogers

“I never met a man that I didn’t like.” ~ Will Rogers

Sadly, on 15 August 1935, Will Rogers was killed in a plane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska. The 53-year old Cowboy, Humorist, Columnist, Actor, and Radio Personality had accompanied his friend, aviator Wiley Post on his private plane to Alaska. Needless to say, the nation mourned the death of Will Rogers.

Mourners lined up at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles for the funeral to pay their respects.

Although initially buried at the famous cemetery in Los Angeles, Betty Rogers built a memorial to her husband in Claremore, Oklahoma. The site was dedicated in 1938 by President Franklin Roosevelt. The body of Will Rogers, along with his son, Fred (who died at the age of two), were moved to the Claremore memorial in 1944. Betty Rogers also died that year, and is buried beside her husband and son.

As for all those memorials to Will Rogers, don't be surprised if you see one (or more) in your travels. They include an elementary school in Santa Monica, another in Ventura, California. California also has a park in Beverly Hills, a State Beach in Pacific Palisades, and the Will Rogers Highway (aka a section of Route 66 through Santa Monica).

Colorado has the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, an 80-foot tall observation tower at the base of Pike's Peak in Colorado Springs. In Fort Worth, Texas, there is the Will Rogers Memorial Center situated on 120 acres in the Arts District. Built in 1936, the complex includes an auditorium, rodeo arena, exhibit halls, as well as a 2,500 horse stalls and 2,250 cattle pens.

The former home of Will Rogers in Pacific Palisades was bequeathed to the State of California by Betty Rogers, to be used as a public park. The property includes the Rogers home, a polo field, and stables. In her bequest of the property, Betty Rogers requested that polo must be played on the field every year. The Will Rogers Polo Club is still open to the public.

It should come as no surprise that Oklahoma has created many memorials to their native son. Among them is the Will Rogers World Airport located in Oklahoma City. Thirteen public schools also bear his name.

The life of Will Rogers exemplified the impact one life can have on another. How we can heal wounds with laughter, or make people feel they are not alone or forgotten. Without question he was a gifted performer, one who used his talent, his perspective, and his voice to touch thousands of people who were perhaps feeling lonely or overwhelmed by their daily lives and the challenges the country was facing.

In addition, if you would like more information about Will Rogers, the Will Rogers Memorial Museum and Burial Site is located in Claremore, Oklahoma.

Thank you so much for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed this insight into the man behind the name, Will Rogers. There are so many other wonderful photos I simply could not put in this post. So, I made a fun video featuring the song Willamania from the Broadway musical The Will Rogers Follies. I hope you will watch it and smile. ~ AKB


Sources:

The Will Rogers Memorial Center, Fort Worth, Texas

The Will Rogers Memorial Museum, Claremore, Oklahoma

The Papers of Will Rogers - Volume One, November 1879 to April 1934, Edited by Arthur Frank Wertheim and Barbara Bair, University of Oklahoma Press - 1996

Sunday, August 28, 2016

SCHOOL DAYS--THEN AND NOW BY CHERYL PIERSON


I have always loved going to school. Even now, when I walk into WalMart or Target and the school supplies are displayed (in JULY!) I have to stop and look at them. My husband laughs at me, but I just keep on picking up post-it notes and pencils, thinking “I will need these at some point…”

Growing up in the 60’s, our school supply lists were not long at all in elementary school. A “Big Chief” tablet, one of those HUGE pencils, paste in a jar (with a brush built into the lid!), a box of crayons, and a pair of “school scissors” and a wooden ruler. That was it. By the time my kids started school in the 90’s—all that had changed. After shopping for school supplies for only two children, I wondered how families with several kids could afford for them to even go to school—and that wasn’t counting back-to-school clothing.

My mom spoke of her school days just shortly after Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma. That happened in 1907. She was born in 1922, and started school when she was only 5. She attended a one-room school house in a very small southeastern Oklahoma town. With the Depression on the way, and the Dust Bowl days looming, she spoke of the poverty of everyone she knew. She was the eldest of eleven children. Food was scarce. School supplies were almost nonexistent. I imagine that was why she took such pleasure in buying Big Chief tablets and crayons for me.

SEQUOYAH ORPHANS TRAINING SCHOOL--TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA 1920


BOYS AT SCHOOL --NEWCASTLE, OKLAHOMA 1914

Here is the exam given to students to pass 8th grade in 1895. Students could take this at the end of 7th grade, and then again at the end of 8th grade. I don't think I could pass this exam NOW!
EXAMINATION GRADUATION QUESTIONS OF SALINE COUNTY, KANSAS
April 13, 1895
J.W. Armstrong, County Superintendent.
Examinations at Salina, New Cambria, Gypsum City, Assaria, Falun, Bavaria, and District No. 74 (in Glendale Twp.)
Reading and Penmanship. - The Examination will be oral, and the Penmanship of Applicants will be graded from the manuscripts
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7-10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $.20 per inch?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865?
Orthography (Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u'.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e'. Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: Bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, super.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences, Cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.
Health (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Where are the saliva, gastric juice, and bile secreted? What is the use of each in digestion?
2. How does nutrition reach the circulation?
3. What is the function of the liver? Of the kidneys?
4. How would you stop the flow of blood from an artery in the case of laceration?
5. Give some general directions that you think would be beneficial to preserve the human body in a state of health.
SOURCE:
The following document was transcribed from the original document in the collection of the Smoky Valley Genealogy Society, Salina, Kansas. This test is the original eighth-grade final exam for 1895 from Salina, Kansas. An interesting note is the fact that the county students taking this test were allowed to take the test in the 7th grade, and if they did not pass the test at that time, they were allowed to re-take it again in the 8th grade. Also of note, the school year was but 7 months, beginning October 1 and ending April 1. allowing 5 months for planting, farming and harvest.


Education is so important. Thinking back, I’ve included it in many of the stories I’ve written, and I always love to see it included in the stories I read, as well.

What about your “school days” memories? Were you a student who looked forward to school or hated it? Do you have a favorite story of those by-gone times to share?

Friday, August 26, 2016

A TEXAS RANCH WOMAN FIGHTS TO PROTECT HER HERITAGE


Let me share with you a Texas Ranch Woman I “almost” knew. Her name is Christine DeVitt and she was once labeled “the richest woman in Lubbock”, Texas, my hometown. Miss Christine was a formidable ranching woman. Those who she crossed called her “nuts” but those who wanted her donations called her “eccentric”.

Christine DeVitt
Christine DeVitt was born in September 1885 on a sheep ranch in West Texas to Florence and David DeVitt. Her father had been a newspaper reporter in New York who came to Texas in 1880. Soon the family moved to the Mallett Ranch. The main ranchhouse, windmill, several bunkhouses, sheds, barns, and corrals were located near Levelland, Texas and Sundown, Texas six miles north of modern-day Whiteface, Texas (named for the white-faced Hereford cattle). In 1897, David DeVitt’s partner sold out to him for the land and six thousand head of cattle. At one time, the ranch included 100,000 acres.

Mallett Brand

The Mallet Ranch was named for its peculiar brand, which resembles a croquet mallet. The brand was first used in the early 1880s by D. P. Atwood on his ranch, which straddled the Texas-New Mexico line. In 1885, as the Atwood interests were preparing to dispose of their land and cattle, David M. DeVitt and John Scharbauer purchased the brand and formed the Mallet Cattle Company, with home and business offices in Midland and later in Fort Worth. At first they ranched near Midland and Big Spring but soon established headquarters in southwestern Hockley County, where the brand was registered. Over the next several years the Mallet Company expanded its ranges into portions of Hockley, Terry, Cochran, and Yoakum counties. Much of this land was obtained from small homesteaders.

The Mallet Ranch was divided into four pastures, each of which was watered by windmills and tanks. During the winter months only a handful of cowboys, usually around six, were kept at the headquarters. These, along with the foreman, a windmill man, and his wife manned the five-room ranchhouse, at which the employees ate their meals. The windmill man's wife cooked. The headquarters also had several bunkhouses, sheds, barns, and corrals. At the start of the spring roundup, the foreman often went to the nearest towns to seek extra help. Dipping vats to prevent scabs were built in a pasture about six miles north of the headquarters, near the site of present Whiteface. The cowboys usually took six weeks in the spring to dip all the cattle designated to be sold. Pat Ross, George W. Green, and Wadkie Fowler served successively as foremen.

The Mallet's chief competitor was Christopher C. Slaughter's Lazy S Ranch. The rivalry nearly came to blows in the early 1900s as a result of a land dispute following Slaughter's purchase of 34,000 acres in Hockley County. Some of this acreage was being leased for grazing by DeVitt and his partner, Charles H. Flato. To curtail the Lazy S purchases, DeVitt and Flato filed lawsuits against the Slaughter interests for some of the county school lands. Slaughter sought a momentary compromise by suggesting that both ranches share the leased tracts, but in 1903 the Lazy S took possession of one of the disputed tracts and fenced it. Over the next three months the fence was cut at least six times. A small-scale range war nearly erupted when the Lazy S men blamed the Mallet cowboys and prepared for action. DeVitt obtained an injunction against the Slaughter occupation of the land, but the Lazy S cowboys refused to vacate it until faced with a contempt-of-court threat. 

Cooler heads prevailed in the end, and a Lubbock district court ruled in favor of the Mallet interests. Although Slaughter took the fight before a federal judge, he was unable to win a reversal, and his employees had to go around the five-mile stretch of DeVitt's land. Later, Slaughter attempted to buy for $26,000 some of the land the Mallet was using under lease agreements, but the Hockley County commissioners who owned the leases firmly retained their commitments to DeVitt. As a result of the controversy DeVitt incorporated his land into the Mallet Land and Cattle Company in 1903. Under the terms of the agreement the Mallet lands were to be held in common by the company, with W. D. Johnson as president. DeVitt retained controlling interest in the cattle and other livestock. That arrangement lasted for the next forty years.

Hereford Cattle
Between 1905 and 1907 some 4,500 Hereford cattle bearing the Mallet brand grazed 200 sections in four counties. DeVitt kept most of his stock cows for three years at a time, selling only the calves annually, generally for twenty dollars each. At the end of every third year he sold the cows and started with fresh stock. In 1925 and 1926 about 6,000 acres of Mallet land were put into dry-land farming for cotton and feed crops. DeVitt's favorite feed came to be cottonseed cake, with which he fattened cattle before shipment. After the Santa Fe Railroad built through the area, he stored this feed in a warehouse at Ropesville. The ranch also had a large number of horses, which DeVitt kept in the pasture in honored retirement after they had passed their prime. By 1936 the Mallet Ranch was running some 3,000 cattle on 53,138 acres.

Today the Mallet Ranch encompasses approximately 50,000 acres of pasture and another 5,000 acres of farm land and is mostly located west of Lubbock in the southwestern quarter of Hockley County. It was largely the unique personality of Christine, who inherited a part of the ranch as well as a part of its oil royalties, that insured its survival. Christine's insistence that her mother and sister hold onto her beloved ranch even during the Great Depression brought about the DeVitt family wealth.
Christine insisted that one part of the ranch be left pristine. Because of her, the ranch comprises one of the largest blocks of virgin high plains prairie still in existence.

Cattle in this area require 40 acres per cow. The ranch cattle were regarded as one of the best bred herds in the Panhandle. Over the years, the acreage waned. David DeVitt took on another partner, F. W. Flato, Jr., from Flatonia, Texas.

In Christine’s early childhood, Lubbock was a tiny village and the Mallett Ranch was one hundred miles from the railroad. Land laws required David DeVitt to live six months of the year on the “proved up” ranch. He moved his wife and children to Fort Worth so the children could attend school. (And, according to what Miss Christine told my mother) because her mother and father often fought about his womanizing. Christine loved returning to the ranch in summers. By 1925-1926, DeVitt turned 6,000 acres into cotton fields.

West Texas cotton field
Christine graduated from high school in Fort Worth. Her elder brother had died in a hunting accident. Realizing that her remaining brother was destined to take over the Mallett she loved, she went east to Hollins College in Virginia for two years and then the Forest Park College in St. Louis, from which she graduated.

While away, she discovered an affinity for music and bookkeeping. When she returned to Fort Worth, she taught for a while at Riverside High School and DeZavala Elementary School, the elementary school she had attended. But, in 1932, her younger brother died in a high-speed collision with a tractor-trailer. Two years later, her father died. After threatening to disinherit her for her criticism and her stubbornness, David DeVitt had not done so. She and her sister Helen and their mom inherited his share of the Mallett Ranch.

Christine returned to Lubbock and lived in the Hilton Hotel. She took on the job of keeping the Mallett intact and in the cattle business. She convinced her mother and sisters to hold firm against attempts to break up the ranch.

Postcard of Hilton
Hotel in Lubbock TX
Her father’s partners and the manager they had appointed tried to keep her from making any decisions concerning the ranch. In spite of that, Christine negotiated a handsome lease for the first oilwell on the land in 1937.

Oilwell pump jack
After eleven years of lawsuits and countersuits, Christine won and became manager of the Mallett. With the help of cowhands and foreman, she rebuilt the Mallett Hereford herd, profitably, the way her father had. Some 1,100 oilwells now dot the ranch. While Helen became a philanthropist in Lubbock, Texas, it was Christine who oversaw the ranch.

Wadkie Fowler, the foreman most favored by David DeVitt was let go by the partners after DeVitt died. Christine loved the Fowler family and continued to spend many hours in their kitchen. To them, she was gentle, kind, and offered no criticism.

In town, however, her reputation was of a rich and powerful Texan. In her apartment at the Hilton, she played high-stakes poker and drank Cokes until the cleaning crew rebelled. The Hilton evicted her. She bought a house in Lubbock and then another and another, each of which she filled with stray cats. But, she kept the Mallett Ranch profitable. Personally, she lived frugally. She waited until nearly midnight on December 31 before making her charitable donations.

Her sister Helen returned to Lubbock in 1943 and with her brought gentleness to Christine. She introduced Christine to the world of Lubbock’s art and music and women’s study clubs. Helen demonstrated to her sister the projects that needed help and founded the Helen Devitt Jones Foundation.

Helen DeVitt Jones
Later, Christine founded her CH Foundation. Her first gifts went to Lubbock Methodist Hospital and the School of Nursing, and she continued generous donations to those institutions. She gave to education, music, arts, YMCA and YWCA, and prevention-of-blindness projects. My favorite of her projects was Ranching Heritage Museum at Texas Tech, which she dedicated to her parents. She supposedly shunned dedicating to churches, but left one of her homes to the First Christian Church my family attended.

For several of Christine’s last four years, my mother worked for Miss Christine. My mother and my Aunt Elizabeth “sat” with Miss Christine at Lubbock Methodist Hospital. Because of her considerable donations, Miss Christine had the hospital’s top floor and received excellent care. Even so, she wanted someone with whom she could visit and to wait on her. (She apparently enjoyed my mother because Mom would argue with her.) She disliked hospital food and paid a couple to prepare foods she liked and bring them to her for lunch and supper, giving the hospital food to whomever sat with her. For breakfast, she drank a Coke. She also paid someone to feed and care for her numerous cats.

She told my mother of a time when she and her three siblings and their mother took a vacation on the train to visit relatives in California. When they returned home, they found only a vacant lot where their home had been. Her father—often at odds with her mother over his philandering—had moved their entire house and belongings. In spite of his treatment of his wife and children, there is a DeVitt Street in Fort Worth, named in his honor.

Miss Christine also told my mother that until her father died, she had not known he was so wealthy. He treated her mother and his children with such penury that Christine thought he must be struggling. When he died in 1934, she was shocked to learn he was a multi-millionaire.

One personally funny thing regarded Miss Christine’s addiction to Coca-Cola. My mom had long argued with my dad that his drinking only a Coke for breakfast was dangerous to his health. She wouldn’t let me get away with the same (I tried, but she was a very good mother) and insisted I have a nutritious breakfast each morning. When she related to me that Miss DeVitt drank only a Coke for breakfast, I had a good laugh at my mom’s expense.

The Mallet Ranch buildings and headquarters court area represent the owner’s effort to establish and maintain a quality lifestyle on an isolated West Texas ranch. Today it is an intact example of an early twentieth century ranching enterprise. The buildings and the headquarters court have been sadly neglected since the death of Christine DeVitt.

Deteriorating Mallett Ranchhouse
The Mallet Ranch/Llano Estacado Heritage Foundation has developed a plan of creating an outdoor education center that will allow visitors to experience the ranch in situ instead of relocating the ranch headquarters (as has been done with others at the Ranching Heritage Center). However, due to neglect, the ranch structures are losing authenticity and integrity that cannot be replicated if deterioration continues.

Miss Christine DeVitt had the foresight to pump wealth into the community. She guided the Mallett Ranch through droughts, disasters, and a major Depression with a successful Hereford operation and oil kingdom. Christine died October 12, 1983.

Caroline Clemmons’ list of books may be found on her Amazon author page here. Sign up for her newsletter here and receive a free novella.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sources:
TEXAS RANCH WOMEN: Three Centuries of Mettle and Moxie, Carmen Goldthwaite, History Press, pp 110-119.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Circuit Preachers by Paty Jager

photo: http://rootsfromthebayou.blogspot.com



After reading an article in a local paper about circuit preachers in Oregon history, I had a light bulb blink on over my head. I would use a circuit preacher in one of my Letters of Fate books.

That is what started my research on the profession. This is what I found in Wikipedia for an explanation: A circuit preacher is a Christian minister who, in response to a shortage of ministers, officiates at multiple churches in an area, thus covering a "circuit". They were officially called Traveling Clergy.

As small communities sprang up across the American frontier they weren’t large enough to support a church or a minister. They would ask for a circuit rider. A minister who rode from community to community providing services whenever and wherever he came across someone who would listen to him preach. They were also known as “saddlebag preachers,” because they traveled by horseback with everything they owned in their saddlebags.

They would preach anywhere. Cabins, courthouses, fields, meetinghouses, some towns would even close down the saloon  when the preacher arrived and they would hold services in the establishment. These orators of the good book would preach wherever they were welcome. Their areas usually ranged from 200-500 miles. They traveled through mud, rain, snow, and scorching heat to keep on their rounds. It could take them from five to six weeks to make a circuit.

It took a preacher with a good sense of humor to travel as they did, most times alone, just their horse or mule, Bible, and few belongings.  Along the way they would spread the word and help those in need.
There are tall tales of how circuit preachers saved a lost soul from a lynch mob or a landslide and have the saved person immediately open his heart to the Lord. 

In the eastern United States it’s noted that after the Civil War circuit riders were fewer, however, they were still needed in the western territories and states. They continued there until early1900. 

All of this information has brought a unique character and circumstance to mind for a book. I have another Letters of Fate book in the works, so this one will come after that, but that just gives me more time to “stew and brew” this character and plot. 

Have you heard any Circuit Preacher stories?  

My newest Letters of Fate release:
Brody: Letters of Fate 
 
Historical western filled with steamy romance and the rawness of a growing country.

A letter from a grandfather he’s never met has Brody Yates escorted across the country to work on a ranch rather than entering prison. But his arrival in Oregon proves prison may have been the lesser of two evils. A revenge driven criminal, the high desert, and his grandfather’s beautiful ward may prove more dangerous than anything he’s faced on the New York docks. 

Lilah Wells is committed to helping others: the judge who’d taken her in years ago, the neighboring children, and the ranch residents, which now includes the judge’s handsome wayward grandson. And it all gets more complicated when her heart starts ruling her actions. 




Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance.  This is what reviewers says about her Letters of Fate Series: “What a refreshing and well written love story of fate and hope! Very well written but sometimes sizzling love scenes!”

All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
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