Sunday, November 27, 2022


 By Caroline Clemmons

In the Eastern United States, riding a coach meant travel from one stage stop to the next, stopping at a tavern or inn for a meal and perhaps spending the night. In the West and Southwest, there were not enough established towns. Western travelers had to be made of grit and determination!

In 1858, John Butterfield undertook an overland stage line connecting St. Louis and San Francisco by way of El Paso, Texas. The route also ran through Tucson and Los Angeles, both of which were only villages of a few hundred residents. A federal contract paid the stage company $600,000 a year to carry U. S. mail across the continent. That sum helped subsidize way stations at regular intervals. The company spent nearly a year getting everything into place to support semi-weekly stagecoach service.

When Butterfield’s Overland Mail Line opened for business on 16 September 1858, the journey between St. Louis and San Francisco required three weeks of hard traveling—if the weather was good. Coaches moved all day and all night except for brief intervals at way stations. The fare did not include the cost of meals, which cost an average of a dollar each three times a day. Passengers had to sleep aboard the coach. These mail lines were guaranteed to be rugged but they got the mail through.

At this time, most coaches set on springs which provided a bumpy, jostling ride. If passengers were fortunate, the route included riding in a Concord stagecoach. The first Concord stagecoach was built in 1827 in Concord, New Hampshire. Abbot Downing Company employed leather strap braces under their stagecoaches which gave a swinging motion instead of the jolting up and down motion of spring suspension. They were known to be built so solidly they didn’t break, they just wore out.

Concord stage in Wells Fargo colors

Over 700 Concord stagecoaches were built by the original Abbot Downing Company before it disbanded in 1847. However, the company was still building coaches, wagons, and carriages according to their business card of 1898. The coach was noted for its ability to keep passengers dry while floating across streams and rivers. The swaying motion caused some passengers to become “seasick”.

In his 1861 book ROUGHING IT, Mark Twain described the Concord stage’s ride as like “a cradle on wheels”. Hmm, guess it's a matter of perspective.

Not all stagecoaches were of one of these types. Celerity or mud wagons were much lighter and cheaper to build. They had no springs so they offered a much rougher ride. They were primarily used on lines where passenger and express traffic was too light to justify the expense of Concord coaches. Instead of having a heavy wooden top, the celerity had a light frame structure with thick duck or canvas covering, greatly reducing the vehicle’s weight. Wheels were set further apart and were protected by wide steel rims that helped keep the coach from tipping over or the wheels from sinking in soft sands.

Celerity or Mud Wagon
Note canvas roof, open sides

While not as comfortable for daytime travelers, they were designed for passenger travel at night. Waterman L. Ormsby, special correspondent to the New York Herald, described the sleeping accommodations. “As for sleeping, most of the wagons are arranged so that the backs of the seats let down and form the length of the vehicle. When the stage is full, passengers must take turns sleeping. Perhaps the jolting will be found disagreeable at first, but a few nights without sleeping will obviate that difficulty, and soon the jolting will be as little of a disturbance as the rocking of a cradle to a sucking babe. For my part, I found no difficulty sleeping over the roughest roads, and I have no doubt that anyone else will learn quite as quickly. A bounce of the wagon, which makes one’s head strike the top, bottom, or sides, will be equally disregarded, and ‘nature’s sweet restorer’ found as welcome on the hard bottom of the wagon as in the downy beds of the St. Nicholas. White pants and kid gloves had better be discarded by most passengers.”

Unlike the classic Concord stagecoaches, which could be mired in bad weather, mud wagons could travel over trails and roads during inclement weather. The only protection provided for passengers against bad weather and dusty roads were the canvas side curtains which could be rolled down and fastened.

By the way, the word “stage” meant the place where the horses or mules were changed—staged along the route. These were spaced every 12 to 20 miles, depending on the terrain, and were usually operated by a single man living in a small cottage who kept a change of horses in a barn and/or corral. The stage stopped only long enough for passengers to stretch their legs while the horses or mules were changed.

Every 50 miles were the “home” stages, which were usually a couple or family who served meals and could provide overnight lodging—though sometimes passengers slept on a dirt floor. These stations also might include a blacksmith and stables. Drivers might be switched there.

Some coaches had two seats facing one another. The larger Concord squeezed in a center, forward-facing third seat, which made passengers very crowded and uncomfortable. Often the third seat had no back, which must have made retaining balance awkward as the coach swayed along. Often passengers had to interlock knees due to the crowded interior. Imagine you were a lady in the 19th century who’d been raised to observe propriety and you found yourself on a long coach ride having to lace legs with a male stranger. Ugh! Come to think of it, that wouldn’t be comfortable now.

Here are a set of rules posted by Wells Fargo in 1888:

1.      Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink, share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and unneighborly.

2.      If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the Gentle Sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted but spit WITH the wind, not against it. (I’d think this would be a given, wouldn’t you?)

3.      Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children.

4.      Buffalo robes are provided for your comfort during cold weather. Hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.

5.      Don’t snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger’s shoulder for a pillow; he or she may not understand and friction may result.

6.      Firearms may be kept on your person for use in emergencies. Do not fire them for pleasure or shoot at wild animals as the sound riles the horses.

7.      In the event of runaway horses, remain calm. Leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians, and hungry coyotes.

8.      Forbidden topics of discussion are stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.

9.      Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It’s a long walk back. A word to the wise is sufficient. (I love this one)

To these, the Omaha Herald in 1877 added cautions to:

Never ride in cold weather with tight boots nor close-fitting gloves.

When the driver asks you to get out and walk, do so without grumbling. He will not request it unless absolutely necessary.

Don’t linger too long at the pewter wash basin at the station. Don’t grease your hair before starting out or dust will stick there in sufficient quantities to make a respectable ‘tater patch. Tie a silk handkerchief around your neck to keep out dust and prevent sunburns. A little glycerin is good in case of chapped hands.

Don’t discuss politics or religion nor point out places on the road where horrible murders have been committed.

In very cold weather, abstain entirely from liquor while on the road. A man will freeze twice as quick while under its influence.

Don’t imagine for a minute you are going on a picnic: expect annoyance, discomfort, and some hardships. If you are disappointed, thank heaven.

The seven heroines in my Bride Brigade Series—each book of which has a new cover—traveled in a Concord coach from Fort Worth to (fictional) Tarnation, Texas. The first book is JOSEPHINE, which is only 99¢.  

Caroline Clemmons is an award winning and bestselling author of historical and contemporary western romance. She and her husband live in cowboy country in North Central Texas where they are owned by a menagerie of rescued pets.


Texas State Historical Association Handbook of Texas online


Thursday, November 24, 2022


Thanksgiving. Food. Shopping. Family. A precursor to Christmas. Perhaps one of these fits your holiday this year. Really, if one thinks about it, the holiday has had several purposes over the decades and centuries here in the United States.  

When Lincoln officially made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, he did so during a terrible time. After two years of bloody fighting, the American Civil War still raged. He wanted to set aside a day for Americans to pray. It was a remembrance day rather than a true feast.

Later, as immigrants flooded the country during the later half of the 1800s, the holiday became a way to welcome newcomers. Symbolism allowed the immigrants to practice American traditions. The turkey, the pie, the celebration of a harvest in their new country. Thanksgiving changed from a time of remembrance to more of the celebration and feast we know it as today.

A poem by Douglas Malloch captured the idea of the glory of a good harvest at Thanksgiving time:

To explain the shopping emphasis surrounding Thanksgiving, we have to look later to the 1920s. During that decade, the annual parades started. We can thank Gimbel and Macy for that. For my part, I prefer to associate this day with the warm joy of a thankful heart and a full plate.

Specially priced at $.99 for you this Christmas! Pre-order today!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

It's Holiday Season


Post by Doris McCraw aka Angela Raines

The holidays are upon us. From Thanksgiving to Christmas time seems to fly. For myself, I've always preferred Thanksgiving over Christmas although I do enjoy both holidays. I thought perhaps a little look back might be fun as I myself gear up for my own celebrations.

From the November 18, 1898 issue of
The Chaffe County Record.

I love this advertisement from the "Pikes Peak Echo - Colorado College

December 7, 1885

How do you all celebrate Thanksgiving? Do you have turkey or ham? Friends, family? Whatever form your celebration takes, have a wonderful day.

Photo Property of the Author


Doris McCraw

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Apple Pie - It's Not as American as You Think by Jo-Ann Roberts

With Thanksgiving less than ten days away, many of us are planning our holiday feast...or more specifically, planning the desserts to make for family and friends!

In our family it's no different. Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete with my daughter's Apple Crostata (an Italian version of an open-faced apple pie).

Growing up in a large, extended Italian family, I naturally equate food to family and love. While I'm an okay cook, I'm a much better baker. So, I usually mention food in my sweet historical romances...which leads me down the rabbit hole to find authentic foods the pioneers in the Old West might have eaten.

In my upcoming release, Noelle - Christmas Quilt Brides, the hero Coleman West recalls eating Vinegar Pie as a child. But that's a blog for another time.

Today, it's all about apple pie. 

 Photo Credit: Pinterest

Believe it or not, apple pie has a surprisingly un-American history. In fact, apples aren't even native to North America and didn't grow here until the arrival of European settlers. And cinnamon and nutmeg? Those came from as far away as the Far East (Sri Lanka and Indonesia)

According to food historians, apple pie originated in England. It arose from culinary influences in France, the Netherlands, and the Middle East as early as 1390--centuries before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. When they landed, the only indigenous tree of the species they could find was the crab apple. They found it to be a far cry from the apples they usually had eaten back home, as crab apples were to0 sour to eat and were much smaller in size.

During colonial times, the European explorers did not eat apples but instead used them in making the alcoholic 'hard cider'. How did they remedy this situation? Transport apples from Europe through tree cuttings and seeds. The initial problem was pollination which made it difficult for the trees in North America to bear fruit. This problem was solved when European honeybees were introduced. After that, colonists began growing their domesticated apples in the country.

By 1800, some of those 14,000 varieties of apples were a good fit for apple pie. Around the same time, John Chapman planted so many apple trees in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana that he earned his nickname, "Johnny Appleseed."

Courtesy of Harper's Monthly, 1871

As the pioneers pushed westward, public interest in new fruit varieties of apples, pears, and peaches were discovered and introduced into their menus.

Easy and affordable, apple pie was a typical American cuisine by the 18th and 19th centuries. But it didn't become associated with our cultural identity until the 20th century, when advertising, news, and two world wars transformed the dish into a nationalist symbol.

Though the exact origin of the phrase "as American as apple pie" is unclear, a 1928 New York Times article used it to describe the homemaking abilities of First Lady Lou Henry Hoover. By World War II, it was a symbol of feminine love associated with home, warmth, and soldiers proudly proclaimed that they were fighting for "mom and apple pie." 

Interesting Facts About Apple Pie
The early English people didn't use sugar to sweeten the pies as it was very expensive. Rather, they used sweet fruits like figs, raisins, pears, and honey.

In the beginning, apple pies had a "take-off" crust. The apples were first baked in a crust, the Top crust was then removed, and sweeteners and spices were added. The pie was served with the top crust replaced.

                                                       Photo Credit:  Pinterest

The American West settlers made mock apple pie because they didn't have apples, so they used crackers and special spices, and though it tasted like real apple pie. Some people still make it mock apple pie today. 

Maria Ann Smith was an inspiration for the name Granny Smith apple variety. Mrs. Smith was well-known for her fruit pies, and the Smiths were apple farmers. She accidentally crossed a wild European crab apple with a more commonly grown orchard apple to make a new kind of apple.

Symbolism aside, apple pie actually does represent America, but not for the reasons most people think. Apple pie is American because it illustrates how cultures worldwide can join together to create something new and altogether wonderful. Like apples, we're all transplants.

Sunday, November 13, 2022


 By Caroline Clemmons

I’ve enjoyed Angela Rains posts on early women doctors in Colorado. She always posts interesting information. So, copying her, I intended to highlight early women doctor in Texas.  I’ve done enough genealogy to know that the story family passes down, frequently gets convoluted into something else. My intention was to feature the sister of someone who married into my father’s family.

The family story is that Necolena “Lena” Snedal McCrarary was one of the first women osteopaths in Texas and the first one to practice in North Central Texas. Following the birth of her children, she moved to Beeville, Texas, where she and another doctor purchased on old hotel and turned it into a hospital and clinic. When her daughter Evalyn joined her and the other partner retired, Lena and her daughter continued to operate the hospital and clinic. Finding corroborating records has been… not easy.

Here’s what I found instead:

In Beeville, Texas, Dr. Christian Bors-Hall, an osteopathic physician and surgeon, purchased the old Thurston Hospital on January 1, 1944, and operated it under the name of Bors Clinic. In 1958, Dr. Evalyn Kennedy, daughter of Dr. Lena McCraray (both osteopathic physicians and surgeons), bought the clinic and is presently operating the business. (Dr. Evalyn McCrarary Kennedy died in 2002.) An earlier osteopathic physician here was Dr. Catherine Compton, and when she moved to San Antonio in 1927, Dr. McCraray took over her patients. 

Lena McCrarary, D.O.

What I think I know is this:

Nicolena Snedal was born 17 May 1879 to Andrew/Andreas and Guru Anna Snedal, who had come from Frosta, Norway, two years earlier. Lena graduated in 1905 from A. T. Still’s American College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri. She first practiced medicine in Hardeman County between Quanah and Vernon, Texas.  

In 27 February 1908, she married Dozier Alonzo McCrarary. They became the parents of twin girls in 1909,Lena Rivers McCrarary and Elizabeth W. McCrarary. In 1910 Troy Bivens McCrary was born. Evalyn Blanche McCrary was born in 1920. Lena moved to the coastal area of Bee County, where her brother Haakon Snedal lived. Soon, she divorced her husband.

In Beeville, she established a very successful medical practice. Eventually, her daughter Evalyn joined her practice. Lena continued to practice medicine until shortly before her death in 1961.

Osteopathic Medicine

Beginning as a reformation movement in search of an alternative to standard medical practice, osteopathy claims a formal beginning in 1874 with Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO. A frontier physician known as the “Father of Osteopathy,” Dr. Still served an apprenticeship under his father and referred to himself as a licensed frontier physician (MD) and went on to establish the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri. 

While medical schools and male medical doctors were (in general) still resistant to female doctors, osteopathic medicine (in general) accepted women.

Early nineteenth century osteopathic philosophies, such as shifting the treatment of medical conditions away from prescription medicine and focusing on utilizing a whole body approach to treatment, are widespread in current health care practices. Publications of pamphlets and postcards from these early years showcase fundamental osteopathic principles and provide historical references about the practice of osteopathic physicians and early osteopathic hospitals, infirmaries, and sanitariums. Preservation of these physical artifacts extends the collective record of medical history and lays the foundation for current osteopathic medical practices.

In these early years, osteopathic information was circulated by way of pamphlets, leaflets, and brochures. The archives in the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences D’Angelo Library contain pamphlets and postcards that predate or are contemporary to the first published osteopathic medical history. These early publications have been designed with striking illustrations and photographs and describe new (at the time) medical theories such as the interrelated nature of bodily systems and musculoskeletal treatment techniques (e.g., osteopathic manual manipulation), with an overall emphasis on wellness and disease prevention.

Dr. Stanhope Bunting became a pioneer for disseminating early osteopathic information. He became impressed with Dr. Still’s movement after travelling to Kirksville, Missouri, to write a story for a Chicago newspaper in the mid-1890s. He eventually enrolled in the school and graduated in 1900, setting up a practice in Chicago and beginning two monthly publications, Osteopathic Physician for the practitioner only and Osteopathic Health for the general public. These publications document historical philosophies and practices of osteopathic medicine.



Monday, November 7, 2022

Does a Horse Skeleton Ensure a Merry Christmas? by Cora Leland

In Wales, it might.  

As I planned my Christmas novella, I wanted to write about the Mari Lwyd of Wales, and I felt that the Mari Lwyd resembled Native American rites. Researching this, I learned that Cheyenne were especially knowledgeable about horse heads, often burying them (as people have  all over the world, feeling that a horse's head is especially potent and sanctifies the earth where it's been buried).

Mari Lwyd translates as a Christian celebration near Christmas and Mari of course is Mary, Mother of Jesus.  Or Mari Lwyd translates as a pagan rite that speaks of hope, strength and power.  It also refers to the Grey (or White) Mare, known as Mari.

Here is the link to a 1910 film from South Wales, showing the Mari and the Welshmen taking her from house to house in a village (the time honored method for an entire village to receive the blessings of the Grey Mare).

The horse stands impatiently outdoors while a battle is conducted in song and verse, the person inside singing why it's impossible to allow the Mari inside.  The battle continues until the house-person relents and lets the Mari and her companions inside. She runs around and around, biting and snapping at these kind people.

As you've no doubt read, the Mari is a real horse's head (removed from a horse's skeleton) set atop a pole so that the Mari can shake her head rather wildly and even, when she's made it indoors, bite and snap at people. (This is easy if the Mari's jaw has a spring loading device.)

As my Cheyenne character says, the best ceremonial horse heads come from skeletons. But this very detail was one feature of the Mari Lwyd that almost destroyed it.  The strict religious sects that settled in Wales finally outlawed the many 'hobby horse' and mummer celebrations as well as all dancing.  Wales prides itself, though in the 21st century for a rich heritage stemming from these festivals.

Please follow the link. I enjoy the 10 minutes or so of the film from 1910 Wales.(scroll down the site a bit). lwyd. You can also find this film, they say, on Youtube and I watch it on the BBC.

My Christmas novella is set in what would become Wyoming in a very rural area in 1840 before forts were built to help the settlers on the Holy Road, or Oregon Trail.  The forts that did exist were fur trading posts such as Fort William (that eventually became Fort Laramie). Here is the link to an interesting site with the paintings of nineteenth century artists. This painting can be enlarged and we can navigate across it, showing details about the old Fort Laramie.

The Oregon Trail

Even though the Indians were given notice, so to speak, by the federal government in the 1830 Indian Removal Act, this secluded spot had a peaceful, conservative Lakota community.   

I began to wonder if my Welsh ancestors had roamed their villages in December with the Grey Mare.  I found that mummers' costumes were often based on rural people's clothes, including the Welsh top hat.

Rural Woman of Wales

I do hope you'll visit the Mari Lwyd site and the Youtube video from 1910 Wales with the outdoors singers bringing the Grey Mare to a house to gain entrance. #bbc

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Man's Best Friend

My blog posts normally come from something I've written but this week I decided to do some reading on dogs, and their place in the 1800's. My mind has been on dogs and puppies this week, partly because we have a new member in our family. We didn't set out to acquire a new dog. We have an older dog, and didn't think he needed more furry friends other than our three cats, but life had something else in mind. 

Before I get into my research, let me introduce you to Puppy. Yes, I know, not a unique name. We could have named him 'don't do that,' or 'stop that'.  You see, he's about six weeks old, and he is a hand full! He's into everything, chewing on anything that moves and is just a lot of work. He's just like a baby. I have to get up about every three hours to feed him and take him out to do his business. 

I will say on his behalf, we have no idea what he had been taught or has suffered. He was set out alongside the road to fend for himself, until my husband found him. He was just sitting there in the middle of the road looking so cute, dirty and pitiful.  He has no manners, was starving, and had to have some emergency medicines to rid his tiny body of several kinds of worms. For six weeks old, he's very smart and can be loving when he's not biting me. :) 

Onto the Research

I never really thought about dogs until I wrote Sweet Prince. I don't recall if I mentioned what year the story took place, but it was somewhere in the 1400's.  I wanted the main character to have a dog so I had to learn where dogs came from and what kind of dog he could have had in that era.  

History says dogs came to America after crossing from Siberia to Alaska, and it was during this period that the domestication of dogs began in America.  It is theorized that there were four separate introductions of the dog over the past nine thousand years,[1] in which five different lineages were founded in the Americas.[3] 

I found some of this information HERE online.  

General Custer

One of the most interesting things I learned was about General George Custer. I don't think there was ever anything about the man I really admired. At least now, after reading and studying on the topic of dogs, I can say the man loved his dogs and cared greatly for them. 

History says he had at least forty dogs. I can only imagine how much time and money something like that would take. He hired men to care for his dogs and talked about his love for them. While Custer probably had other dogs before he went to West Point, his first documented dog was named Byron, an English Greyhound he had while he and his wife were living in Texas. 

Soon after, Custer became enamored with the hunting dogs that Texas planters were using, and some of his friends gave him dogs from their packs. These were Scottish Staghounds, known today as Scottish Deerhounds. 

If you'd like to read more about Custer and his life and love for dogs, I found a really good article on the topic. It was very interesting. You can read about his love for dogs HERE and HERE.

Civil War

I read an article that said when men go off to war they try to take as much of home with them as they can, and that many of them took their dogs.  

I also assume they found some along the way. Many of the Infantries had mascots and you can tell the men had a lot of love for Man's best friend from the letters and articles I found.  You can read some of the stories here.  

Dogs also played a big part in the Civil War. They looked for food and water. They crossed enemy lines to carry information, they watched over the prisoners, they were companions and improved soldiers morale. They were even included on monuments, memorials and in pictures. I'm sure they could have also helped to find the dead or wounded as they did in WW1. 

I'm sure most of you have had a dog at some point in your life or been around one, but if not, trust me, they are very smart. They can remember many commands. Why, we even had to spell things around two of our smartest dogs! And I declare, I think they even learned how to spell. One day I hope to write down a list of all of the words that my dog, Jack, knew, and the tricks that he learned to do. One of the biggest, as a cute side note, was 'spit it out.'  He spit out many things, from live bunny rabbits, to cats, chicken bones, etc. You name it, Jack had it in his mouth. 

Dogs in General 

I'll add though, I didn't have time for more research. I'm sure that dogs were a big help in many ways to the settlers. I'm sure they used them to hunt, to trail, to protect. Maybe they watched over the children while Mother was doing the laundry or working in the garden. They've laid in the yard and slept on floors, listening and waiting, to be of help. 

Dogs have been known to pull wagons, carry food, and letters. I can only guess how they helped to make this country what it is in many ways. If nothing else, the sweet companionship that they offer us wishing for nothing but love, kindness and something to eat. 

Please feel free to share about a favorite pet of yours or a story about one of them. Thanks for reading. I hope to delve deeper into some of the research that I did for Sweet Prince at some point in the future. It was a fun, fairytale type book with talking animals and a sweet, clean romance. 

Website Facebook Group Contact Us Samantha Fury is the author of  the Street Justice Series.  She's written many articles on book covers, for Indie Authors. She operates several Indie Groups. Editing Services, Cover Artist, Helpful Indie Facebook Groups.