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
Alison, your book covers are both so beautiful and the stories sound engaging. I envy your visit to the safe house on the underground railroad. Thanks so much for guesting here on Sweethearts of the West.ReplyDelete
Hi Alison. WOW, talk about a piece of history. You certainly have dropped into a place in time that had more than its share. How wonderful you're able to show a different light to what happened during those difficult times. I use my area and history of the 1849gold rush for my stories and love writing about the history here.ReplyDelete
Best of luck with lots of sales. It was so nice to get to meet you today. :)
Great post! Reminded me of the Outlaw Josey Wales. Remember that line he said to the girl from Kansas? "Show me."ReplyDelete
Hi Caroline, thanks so much for having me. I just love my covers, too!ReplyDelete
Paisley, I think it really adds to the sense of place in a story when the author has some personal connection to the history and the setting.
Angelyn, thanks so much for stopping by. I don't remember that line from the movie, but Missouri is the "Show Me" state, so I'm guessing he was giving her a hard time.
Alison--your book sound wonderful! They're just the kind I like...and try to write! Your covers are beautiful, too.ReplyDelete
The Quantril Raiders.. Now, that is a wild looking bunch.
I enjoy the history of Kansas vs. Missouri, and have read a couple of novels in the past dealing with one or the other. The Civil War, itself, is an endless source of fascination and stories.
I keep seeing your photo on FB--now I can't remember why. Don't mind me...I have AAADD--Age Activated Attetnion Deficit Disorder.
We spent some time in Kentucky last week, and while we saw some of the Civil War influence, we mainly saw and toured distilaries.
Thanks for being our special guest. Go to my FB page and see that I have SOTW Networked there.
I hope to see you around much more--Caroline and I so appreciate your wonderful post! Celia
Alison, a great bit of history there. Your book, A MAN LIKE THAT, sounds most intriguing. Wishing you much success with your writing.ReplyDelete
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Thanks for the interesting blog on border states. Brings up some great questions and conflicts for writers like romance writers. Good luck with your novels. They sound intriguing.
Hi, Alison! Thanks for a terrific post, with a reminder about how the Border States were affected by the Civil War. You really brought into focus the aftermath of the war and the lawlessness which fed on the devastation in some areas of the country. After reading your post, I would love to read your books! Your story lines and characters sound very involving.ReplyDelete
My lifelong love of history and romance grew and came into bloom from my roots deep in my home state of Virginia. From one corner of the state to another, and points in-between, Virginia is a living history book. It's also breathtakingly beautiful. Many times, as I have looked at my mountains, I have wondered about the past lives of people who once stood gazing at the same glorious sight. I truly believe that the answers to our future lie in the questions from our past. It is very important to never forget the sacrifices made by those who have fought to preserve the American way of life. We must also remember that heroes and heroines are real people with imperfections and vulnerabilities. Their gallantry and honor often comes with a high price. This year, 2011, marks the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Not a cause for celebration, but one for reflection and remembrance. It is hard for many of us to imagine the scope of the Civil War. Americans fighting against each other on our home soil. Friends and family members so divided by the cause of "North versus South" that they battled with one another to the death. To this day, the American Civil War remains the conflict in which the most Americans lost their lives. The death toll? Over 600,000 lives were lost in the War Between the States.
What a fascinating area you live in. I can understand how families would be torn apart by the war. I might be an Aussie but the civil war has always interested me. Blame Gone with the Wind for that.
Alison, I love romances rooted in American history, particularly the Civil War. I'm doing a series of 'this day in the Civil War 150 years ago' on my Victorian group blog and even in the first year of the war, civilians were unwillingly pulled into the conflict, being harrassed, properies damaged or destroyed, and some were even killed. Can't really blame them for changing to side with the occupying armies.ReplyDelete
Your stories sound wonderful and what lovely covers! Best of luck with both books. My hope is the Civil War anniversary will bring Civil War romances back into the limelight.
Thank you all so much for your warm words of encouragement. Stories set in American history aren't as fashionable as they used to be, but they're so much a part of what we are as a people and a nation. I'm glad to have an opportunity to share with other afficionados.ReplyDelete
This was fascinating. I can imagine the difficulties faced on both sides of state lines.ReplyDelete