Thursday, March 28, 2013

THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH by Cheryl Pierson



It all started when I read THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH by Robert Hicks, a novel about a woman who made the dead soldiers of the War Between the States her life's work. By the time I finished reading that book, I knew I had to go visit this place, Carnton, where she had lived and devoted her life to the dead.

Carnton is the name of the plantation just outside of Franklin, TN, where Carrie Winder McGavock and her husband John made their home with their two children, Hattie and Winder. There is so much history that comes before the fateful Battle of Franklin that changed Carrie’s life forever that there is no room to include it in this post.

So I will start with a brief nutshell of the circumstances. At the time of the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, Carrie’s children were nine (Hattie) and seven (Winder). Carrie herself was thirty-five, her husband, John McGavock, fourteen years her senior at forty-nine. They had been married several years, Carrie coming from Louisiana to marry John, who was quite a wealthy man for the times, worth over six million dollars in our present day currency. He owned the flourishing plantation where he and his brother James had been raised, Carnton, in middle Tennessee. The McGavock’s raised wheat, hay, corn and potatoes as well as maintaining a thoroughbred horse ranch

Carnton, (Scottish for “the place of stones”) was less than one mile from the battle that took place on the far Union Eastern flank. Most of the battle took place after dark, from 5-9p.m., so the McGavocks could see the firefight that went on over the town of Franklin that evening. Because their plantation was so close, it became a field hospital for the Confederate troops.

More than 1,750 Confederates lost their lives at Franklin. It was on Carnton's back porch that four Confederate generals’ bodies—Patrick Cleburne, John Adams, Otho F. Strahl and Hiram B. Granbury—were laid out for a few hours after the Battle of Franklin.

More than 6,000 soldiers were wounded and another 1,000 were missing. After the battle, many Franklin-area homes were converted into temporary field hospitals, but Carnton by far was the largest hospital site. Hundreds of Confederate wounded and dying were tended by Carrie McGavock and the family after the battle. Some estimates say that as many as 300 Confederate soldiers were cared for by the McGavocks inside Carnton alone. Hundreds more were moved to the slave quarters, the outbuildings, even the smokehouse—and when the buildings were full, the wounded had to lie outside during the frigid nights, when the temperature reached below zero.

After the battle, at 1 a.m. on December 1, Union forces under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield evacuated toward Nashville, leaving all the dead, including (several hundred) Union soldiers, and the wounded who were unable to walk as well. So when morning came, the 750 or so residents of Franklin faced an unimaginable scene of what to do with over 2,500 dead soldiers, most of those being 1,750 Confederates.

According to George Cowan's "History of McGavock Confederate Cemetery," "All of the Confederate dead were buried as nearly as possible by states, close to where they fell, and wooden headboards were placed at each grave with the name, company and regiment painted or written on them." Many of the soldiers were originally buried on property belonging to Fountain Branch Carter and James McNutt. Many of the Union soldiers were re-interred in 1865 at the Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro.

Over the next eighteen months (from all of 1865 through the first half of 1866) many of the markers were either rotting or used for firewood, and the writing on the boards was disappearing. Thus, to preserve the graves, John and Carrie McGavock donated 2 acres of their property to be designated as an area for the Confederate dead to be re-interred. The citizens of Franklin raised the funding and the soldiers were exhumed and re-interred in the McGavock Confederate Cemetery for the sum of $5.00 per soldier.

A team of individuals led by George Cuppett took responsibility for the reburial operation in the spring of 1866. By June, some ten weeks after the start, the last Confederate soldier was laid to rest at McGavock Cemetery. Some 1,481 Rebel soldiers would now be at peace. Soldiers from every Southern state in the Confederacy, except Virginia, is represented in the cemetery.
Sadly, George Cuppett’s brother, Marcellus, died during the process of the reburials. Just 25 years old, he is buried at the head of the Texas section in the McGavock Cemetery. He is the only civilian interred there.

The McGavocks, especially Carrie, took great care to preserve the identity of the Confederate soldiers. The original names and identities of the soldiers were recorded in a cemetery record book by George Cuppett, and the book fell into the watchful hands of Carrie after the battle. The original book is on display upstairs in Carnton. Time has not been favorable to the identities of the Confederate soldiers though. 780 Confederate soldiers’ identities are positively identified, leaving some 558 as officially listed as unknown.

Most of the above was taken from the Wikipedia article about Carnton and the McGavocks. Now you know the FACTS, but let me tell you about my impression of this remarkable woman and the cause she put above all else.

Robert Hicks’ book, THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH, is a fictionalized story about Carrie and John McGavock and their lives, but that was what made me want to travel to Franklin and see the house for myself. I put the description that Wikipedia gave near the beginning because I can’t begin to do it justice. It is one of the most gorgeous, meticulously restored homes of that period you will ever see. They do not allow pictures AT ALL as you’re touring inside. Many of the pieces of furniture, glassware and the pictures that are on the walls have been donated by the McGavock extended family and most everything in the house is a genuine period piece, whether it belonged to the family or not.

It is said that Winder’s room was used as an operating room. A table was set up by the east-facing window where the surgeries were performed. Today, there is a table there much like what would have been used, along with the crude medical implements that were available at the time. Our guide told us that when the doctor finished an amputation, he would throw the limb out the window, get the man off the table and make room for the next one. Because the doctor most likely wore a rubberized apron, the blood pooled in a kind of horseshoe shape on the floor where he would have stood. He walked in it and stood in it, grinding it into the wood. It is still there, to this very day—a testament to five of the bloodiest hours in the history of the Civil War.

Once when Hattie was asked about her most enduring childhood memory. “The smell of blood,” she replied.

In the book, there is mention made of Carrie’s friend, Mariah, who had once been her slave but chose to stay with her as they had been together since childhood. Mariah was said to have had the ability to look at some of the graves and tell something about the person who was buried there. She had “the sight.”

For the next forty years, after the Battle of Franklin, Carrie dressed in black, visiting the graves every day. She carried the book of names with her. I have to tell you, when I saw that book of names I got chills thinking of the devotion she had to this cause. Those men were not forgotten.

At one point, the house fell into disrepair, but was bought by a historical preservation society and maintained. The cemetery was the largest privately owned war cemetery in the US. Robert Hicks meticulously researched for the book he wrote, and the profits from the book (which made it to the NYT Bestseller List) helped to re-establish this grand old home as a piece of history where we can go to learn firsthand about what happened on that fateful day.

My husband and I toured the house, a gorgeous old mansion, with a wonderful guide who was glad to answer any and all questions. Tours are around $15, and well worth it. The cemetery tour is $5, or you can just walk around and look for yourself, which is what my husband and I did. If you buy the book, I promise you will be as anxious to see this place for yourself as I was.

Walking those same floors that were walked upon by Carrie and her family, and the wounded men, the generals, the doctors…gave me feeling I will never forget. I could almost swear I felt her presence, still there, still watching over the soldiers she devoted her adult life to at Carnton…the “place of stones.”

Here's a link that I hope will show up for you--a very interesting short piece that CBS news did on Carnton and Carrie's story.
Here's the Amazon link for the book THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


By Guest Author, Keta Diablo

The Bodie Saloon, Bodie California
Build circa 1892
Saloons served customers such as fur trappers, cowboys, soldiers, prospectors, miners, and gamblers. The first saloon was established at Brown's Hole, Wyoming, in 1822, to serve fur trappers. By the late 1850s the term saloon had begun to appear in directories and common usage as a term for an establishment that specialized in beer and liquor sales by the drink, with food and lodging as secondary concerns in some places. By 1880, the growth of saloons was in full swing. In Leavenworth, Kansas there were about 150 saloons

By way of entertainment, saloons offered dancing girls, some of whom occasionally or routinely doubled as prostitutes. Many saloons offered Faro, poker, brag, three-card Monte, and dice games. Other games were added as saloons continued to prosper and face increasing competition. These additional games included billiards, darts, and bowling. Some saloons even included piano players, can-can girls, and theatrical skits. A current example of this type of entertainment is the Long Branch Variety Show that is presented in the recreated Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas.

Dancing Girl

Among the more familiar saloons were First Chance Saloon in Miles City, Montana; the Bull's Head in Abilene, Kansas; the Arcade Saloon in Eldora, Colorado; the Holy Moses in Creede, Colorado; the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas; the Birdcage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona; the Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada; and the Jersey Lilly in Langtry, Texas. Many of these establishments remained open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week

Painted Lady of the Old West

Common Misconceptions

Faro was the most popular game of the time, not poker. Those who played Faro were called “punters.” Faro was played on a table and required special equipment which facilitated the game. As such, faro dealers made their money by traveling around the West with their gambling equipment, and setting up shop wherever they could. These dealers often rented space on a saloon floor, and, in return, gave a percentage of their winnings to the owner of the saloon. Unlike a poker game, in which each person playing banked their own game, and either won or lost according to the extent of their “investment,” in the game of faro. Contrary to modern beliefs, poker was seldom played in the first saloons.

Whiskey Bottle

The whiskey often served was bad indeed. Called “Tarantula Juice,” “Coffin Varnish,” and “Stagger Soup,” the concoctions sold as whiskey were often made with cheap raw watered-down alcohol, and colored to look like whiskey with whatever was locally available, including, old shoes, tobacco, molasses, or burnt sugar. These whiskies were frequently given an extra “kick” by adding red peppers or, extra “flavor” by adding other things, like snake heads, which tainted the liquid. Now you understand what the cowboys, as portrayed in the movies, meant when they asked the bartender for a bottle of “your best whiskey.” They were asking for a bottle of real whiskey distilled in a place somewhere in the Eastern United States, like Kentucky, or, Pennsylvania.

I hope you enjoyed our journey back in time. Remember, not everything you hear or read about history is true.

Happy Reading,

Author Keta Diablo

Keta Diablo Keta is a multi-published author of paranormal and historical fiction. In 2009, her erotic romance Decadent Deceptions was a finalist in the RWA Molly contest. In 2010, Keta's entry Phoenix Rising finaled in the Scarlet Boa contest and in 2011 Keta's acclaimed paranormal shifter, Where The Rain is Made, was nominated by Authors After Dark for a BOOKIE AWARD and by Deep In The Heart of Romance for BEST ROMANCE OF THE YEAR

Her recent release is the sweet contemporary romance, SKY TINTED WATER.

The Amazon buy link for SKY TINTED WATER is

Many of Keta's books have won numerous awards: Top Reviewer's Pick, Recommended Read and Best Book of the Month.

If you'd like to know more about Keta and her latest releases, she haunts the Net here:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Life in a Jar--Irena Sendler

With March being Woman’s History Month, the posts here have been about courageous, interesting women who assisted in taming the west. I hope no one will mind that my post is about a woman who lived in the next century. Her story is truly remarkable, as is the way it was brought to life again by a few young women.  

In 1999 a history teacher in Kansas shared an article from a 1994 issue of News and World Report about a woman who saved 2.500 children during WWII. Claiming he’d never heard of this woman or her story, the teacher said the article might be an error. Three students, two ninth grade and one eleventh grade girls (others including boys joined the project later on) began researching Irena Sendler and her story. 

What they found was truly amazing, and those students took their project a step farther, writing a performance (Life in a Jar) which portrays Irena’s journey.  Their presentations lead to a movie and award winning book that assisted in spreading the word of Irena Sendler/Sendlerowa’s heart-wrenching work.
(Public domain photo--first published in Poland)

Irena Sendler was born on February 15, 1910 in Warsaw, Poland. Her father, a doctor, died when she was seven having contracted typhus, (not to be confused with typhoid fever) from patients he treated when other physicians refused.  Irena was an only child and attended Warsaw University, where she was dismissed for refusing to comply with Jewish segregation laws. She was eventually readmitted and became a social worker.

During WWII Irena was permitted to work in the Warsaw ghetto as a plumbing/sewer specialist. There she talked families into giving her their children, explaining they may die in the ghetto or death camps. With the help of others in her network, she snuck the children past the Nazi guards and eventually found homes for them with families or in convents and orphanages. Irena recorded the children’s real names and family members on pieces of paper she buried in jars so someday she could dig them up and tell the children about their real families. 

Irena and her counterparts found hiding for 2,500 children. A few infants she carried out in her carpenter’s box, and she also used a truck with hiding areas in the back along with a dog trained to bark when Nazi soldiers approached. 

Eventually, she was captured and badly beaten, but ultimately a member of her underground network was able to bribe her release and she went into hiding. After the war, she and her colleagues gathered their records, but reuniting the children with their families was impossible for most considering the amount of deaths.

Before her death at the age of 98 in May 2008, Irena said her father was her inspiration for serving the world.  To learn more about the Life in a Jar project and Irena, visit:

posted by Lauri Robinson

Friday, March 22, 2013


This month--as you can see at the top of the sidebar--is Women's History Month. Our writers here at Sweethearts of the West have been featuring a famous women of the West. I'm choosing to repost an article I wrote about a Texas woman, Ima Hogg.

Ima Hogg, philanthropist and patron of the arts, was born to Sarah Ann (Stinson) and Governor James Stephen Hogg in Mineola, Texas, on July 10, 1882. When she arrived, her father said, “"Our cup of joy is now overflowing! We have a daughter of as fine proportions and of as angelic mien as ever gracious nature favor a man with, and her name is Ima!"  
Miss Ima as a toddler

Why, you may ask, would a man who loved his family and adored his daughter choose that name in combination with Hogg? Ima was named for the heroine of a Civil War poem written by her uncle Thomas Elisha and was affectionately known as Miss Ima for most of her long life.

Ima Hogg later recounted that "my grandfather Stinson lived fifteen miles from Mineola and news traveled slowly. When he learned of his granddaughter's name he came trotting to town as fast as he could to protest but it was too late. The christening had taken place, and Ima I was to remain."

During her childhood, Hogg's elder brother William often came home from school with a bloody nose, the result of defending, as she later recalled, "my good name". Throughout her adult years, Hogg signed her name in a scrawl that left her first name illegible. Her personal stationery was usually printed "Miss Hogg" or "I. Hogg", and she often had her stationery order placed in her secretary's name to avoid questions. Hogg did not use a nickname until several months before her death, when she began calling herself "Imogene". Her last passport was issued to "Ima Imogene Hogg". The story that she had a sister named Ura is untrue, although I heard it all my life.

Ima as a young woman

Ima had three brothers, William Clifford Hogg, born in 1875; Michael, born in 1885; and Thomas Elisha Hogg, born in 1887. Ima and her brothers were born into a family whose tradition of public service was an integral part of Texas history. Her grandfather, Joseph Lewis Hogg, took the oath of allegiance to the Republic of Texas in 1839, helped write the Texas Constitution, fought in the Mexican War, and served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Her father was the first native born governor and was elected in 1890.

She was eight years old when her father was elected governor; she spent much of her early life in Austin. After her mother died of tuberculosis in 1895, Ima attended the Coronal Institute in San Marcos, and in 1899 she entered the University of Texas. In 1901 Ima, who had played the piano since the age of three, went to New York to study music. Her father died in 1906. From 1907 to 1909 she continued her music studies in Berlin and Vienna.

In 1910, Ima moved to Houston, where she helped found the Houston Symphony Orchestra, which played its first concert in June 1913. She served as the first vice president of the Houston Symphony Society and became president in 1917. She became ill in late 1918 and spent the next two years in Philadelphia under the care of a specialist in mental and nervous disorders. She did not return to Houston to live until 1923.

Miss Ima's portrait

After their father’s death in 1906, Ima and her brothers tried to sell the Varner plantation, but a provision in his will specified that the land be kept for 15 years. On January 15, 1918, oil was found on the Varner plantation. A second strike the following year provided oil income amounting to $225,000 a month shared among the four siblings. That’s a lot of money now, but imagine what a sum that was in 1919! According to Ima’s biographer Gwendolyn Cone Neely, the Hoggs did not believe that the oil money was rightfully theirs, as it had come from the land and not hard work, and they were determined to use it for the good of Texas.

In spite of her personal health problems, or perhaps because of them, Ima Hogg founded the Houston Child Guidance Center in 1929 to provide counseling for disturbed children and their families. Ima was convinced that if children's emotional and mental problems were treated, more serious illness could be prevented in adults. Her interest in mental health came from her father, who had read widely on mental health issues; during his terms as governor, Ima had often accompanied him on visits to state institutions, including charity hospitals and asylums for the mentally ill. She furthered her knowledge of the field while she was a student at UT, taking several courses in psychology. Ima was convinced that her youngest brother, Tom, would have benefited from similar intervention, as he had reacted badly after their mother's death and as an adult was "restless, impulsive, and alarmingly careless with money". Although her ideas on mental health would be considered mainstream today, in 1929 they were pioneering. In 1972, she told a reporter for the Houston Chronicle that, of all her activities, she had derived most pleasure from her role in establishing the Houston Child Guidance Center.

She joined her elder brother William on a vacation in Germany in 1930. During their visit, he suffered a gallbladder attack and died on September 12, 1930 after emergency surgery. Ima brought her brother's body back to the United States. His will bequeathed $2.5 million to UT and his desire was that it be used alongside money donated by his sister for far-reaching benefit to the people of Texas. Legal challenges tied up the grant until 1939, when the University received $1.8 million. In 1940, after discussion with her brother Michael—the executor of the will—Ima used the money to establish the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas at Austin.

In 1943, Ima Hogg decided to run for a seat on the Houston School Board so that the board would include two female members. During her term, she worked to remove gender and race as criteria for determining pay. She championed a visiting teacher program for children with emotional problems and began art education programs in the schools for black students.

Varner Plantation at Bayou Bend

Although Ima Hogg spent little time at the Varner Plantation after Bayou Bend was constructed, she continued to purchase art and antique furniture on its behalf. In the 1950s, she restored the plantation, and each room was given a different theme from Texas history: colonial times, the Confederacy, Napoleonic times (1818), and the Mexican–American War. One room was dedicated to her father, and contained his desk and chair as well as his collection of walking sticks. She donated the property to the state, and it was dedicated as the Varner–Hogg Plantation State Historical Site in 1958, the 107th anniversary of Jim Hogg's birth.

Ima Hogg donated works she inherited from her brothers to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts, including one of the limited editions of Bronco Buster by Frederic Remington. In the 1920s, Hogg's brothers began to develop a new elite neighborhood, which they called River Oaks, on the outskirts of Houston. For their home, the Hoggs chose the largest lot, 14.5 acres. Ima worked closely with architect John Staub to design a house that would show off the art the family had purchased. William and Ima moved into the house, which she christened Bayou Bend, in 1928. In 1939, when she restored her estate along American lines, she donated more than 100 works on paper to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH), including works by C├ęzanne, Sargent, Picasso, and Klee. Following the death of her brother Michael in 1941, she donated his collection of Frederic Remington works to the museum. Consisting of 53 oil paintings, 10 watercolors, and one bronze, it is known as the Hogg Brothers Collection, and is called "one of the most important groupings of Western paintings on display in an American museum. " Ima donated her collection of Native American art to MFAH in 1944, including 168 pieces of pottery, 95 pieces of jewelry, and 81 paintings.

In 1960, she was appointed by President Eisenhower to serve on a committee to plan the National Cultural Center, now called the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C. In 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy named Hogg to the 18-member advisory committee to work with the Fine Arts Committee in seeking historical furniture for the White House.

One morning in 1914, Ima was awakened by a burglar in her bedroom. She confronted the man, who was attempting to steal her jewelry. Not only did she convince him to return the jewelry, but wrote down a name and address, handed it to him and told him to go there that very day to get a job. When asked why she did that, Ima responded, "He didn't look like a bad man."

Later that year, she sailed to Germany, alone. While she was en route, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, and the day before she arrived, Britain declared war on Germany. The United States was still neutral, however, so Hogg continued her tour of Europe, not leaving until several months later.

Though Ima Hogg has been described as a woman of "unfailing politeness", she was not without adversaries. For instance, at a concert arranged by the Houston Symphony for her 90th birthday featuring the elderly pianist Arthur Rubinstein, he characterized her as a "tiresome old woman". Hogg, in turn, regarded the musician as "a pompous old man". By contrast, Hogg said of Vladimir Horowitz, whom she met backstage at a 1975 concert in Houston, "Such a nice man. Not at all like that Mr. Rubinstein."

Ima Hogg was a generous benefactor, and believed that "inherited money was a public trust". She was described by the University of Houston as "compassionate by nature", "progressive in outlook", "concerned with the welfare of all Texans", a "zealous proponent of mental health care" and "committed to public education".

A lifelong Democrat, Ima Hogg died on August 19, 1975, at the age of 93, from a heart attack resulting from atheroma. She had been vacationing in London at the time, but fell as she was getting into a taxi, and died a few days later in a London hospital. An autopsy report revealed that her death was not related to the earlier fall. On receiving news of her death, the University of Texas declared two days of mourning and flew the flag at half-staff.

Miss Ima in later years

She received too many awards and honors to list. In 1963, former Governor of Texas Allan Shivers—when presenting Hogg with the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the University of Texas Ex-Students Association (the first woman so honored)—said of "Miss Ima":

Some persons create history.
Some record it.
Others restore and conserve it.
She has done all three.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


By Carra Copelin

              Mary Ann "Molly" Dyer Goodnight remains a positive role model for people, young and old. Her strength and spirit are qualities that have made Texas what it is today for Texans and the rest of the world.

Molly Goodnight

              Molly was born September 12, 1839, in Madison County, Tennessee to a prominent lawyer, Joel Henry and Susan Lynch Dyer. When Molly was fourteen, the family moved to Fort Belknap, Texas, where she worked as a schoolteacher and raised her five brothers after her parents died.

              In the mid-1860s, she met Charles Goodnight and they married on July 26, 1870 in Kentucky. They settled in Pueblo, Colorado, where they worked their ranch until drought and the Panic of 1873 caused the family to move back to Texas. Irish investor, John George Adair backed Goodnight and the two men became partners, moving with their wives to the Palo Duro Canyon where they established the vast JA Ranch in May of 1877.

Goodnight home with buffalo herd

              Molly became the surrogate mother and nurse to the cowboys of the area earning their respect for her compassion and natural remedies she developed for their wounds and fevers. She taught a number of them to read and mended their clothes and for this they nicknamed her "Mother of the Panhandle" or "Darling of the Plains".

Cowboys on the JA Ranch

She persevered as a ranch woman, teacher and healer. According to WOMEN IN TEXAS by Ann Fears Crawford and Crystal Sasse Ragsdale (Eakin Press, 1982), Molly’s home remedies included “coal-oil for lice, prickly pear for wounds, salt and buffalo tallow for piles, mud for inflammation and fever and buffalo meat broth for a general tonic."

Molly and Charles Goodnight

 In 1898, Molly and Charles helped establish Goodnight College through the donation of 340 acres. Molly passed away in April 1926. Her gravestone is inscribed with a fitting tribute: "Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight, One who spent her whole life in the service of others."

Today, visitors can catch a glimpse of Molly Goodnight's life in various exhibits at the Armstrong County Museum in Claude, Texas. The museum is also working to restore the Goodnight Home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. To learn more, visit: .

I chose Molly Goodnight because she is the epitome of Texas history and its people and she embodies the spirit of the characters I write about. I'm so glad to be a part of Women's History Month and Sweethearts of the West.

Carra Copelin, Author
Award winning author Carra Copelin writes contemporary and historical romance. Her current project is The Texas Code series of romantic suspense novels to include CODE OF HONOR, CODE OF CONSCIENCE, CODE OF JUSTICE, CODE OF LAW, and the historical KATIE AND THE IRISH TEXAN, and MATELYN AND THE TEXAS RANGER.

Summer 2013 Release

Visit Carra at these sites:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Louisa Swain, First Woman to Vote in the USA

Sarah J. McNeal

Louisa Swain, First Woman to Vote in the USA
In the early years of the 20th Century, my grandmother McNeal dedicated herself to women’s suffrage, working hard for women to have the right to vote. Although I never met her, since she died long before I was born, Matilda McNeal inspired me with her forward thinking and activism.
So when I discovered that a woman had voted in a general election in Wyoming long before the 19th Amendment was passed in the United States giving the right for all women to vote, well, I had to learn more about her.
Louis was the daughter of a sea captain that was lost at sea when she was still a child. She and her mother moved to Charleston, South Carolina where, sadly, her mother died. Now an orphan, Louisa moved to Baltimore, Maryland to live with her uncle, Ephraim Gardner. There she met and married Stephen Swain who owned a chair factory. After their fourth child was born they moved to Ohio and later they moved again to Indiana. Louisa Swain and her husband, Stephen, moved to Wyoming from their home in Maryland to be closer to their son and his family in 1869.  Louisa and her husband were in their late 60’s then. In that same year, the Territorial Legislature, composed of twenty men, approved the measure that was revolutionary for its time stating: “Every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this territory may at every election to be held under the law therefore, may cast her vote.”  The bill’s sponsor, William Bright, shared his wife, Julia’s, belief that suffrage was a basic right of every American citizen.
Unlike other states, Wyoming had no organized campaign to win suffrage, no parade or public demonstration. Women did, however, keep vigil outside Governor John A. Campbell’s office until he signed the bill into law. In other states, women had suffered terrible atrocities, t6rt4re even, in their fight for their rights and were held up to public ridicule for their activism. God bless the state of Wyoming.
So, on September 6, 1870, Louisa Swain cast the first vote by a woman in a general election in the United States of America.
One of the reasons I decided to use Wyoming as the home of my fictional characters, the Wildings, besides its wild and beautiful countryside, was because of their motto, “The Equality State”…and they mean it.
Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride has a heroine from present day who falls back into 1910. Good thing women could vote in Wyoming then because Lola was not the kind of woman to be deprived of her rights.

A haunted house, a trunk and a date with destiny.


Lola Barton discovers a warp in time in an old trunk when she falls into 1910. She finds herself married to Joseph Wilding, a stranger shadowed by secrets. Mistaken for Callie McGraw, a thief and a woman of ill repute, Lola finds her life is threatened by a scoundrel. Joe stands between her and certain death. With danger threatening all around and secrets keeping them apart, can Joe and Lola find their destiny together? Or will time and circumstance forever divide them?

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lottie Deno – The Lady Was a Gambler

By Anna Kathryn Lanier

First, I want to thank Tanya Hanson for switching days with me.  My usual monthly post date, the 14th, snuck up on me this month and I was not prepared. I do appreciate your kindness!

Now, to talk about one of the more fascinating women in gambling history....

Carlotta “Lottie” Thompkins was born in Warsaw, Kentucky on April 21, 1844 into a substantially wealthy tobacco family.   Lottie and her younger sister were blessed with every advantage possible.  During her education at an Episcopal convent, Lottie would also accompany her father on business trips to Detroit, New Orleans and Europe. An avid gambler, her father took Lottie with him to horse races and gambling dens.  He also taught her everything he knew about cards. By the time she was sixteen, Lottie was an expert card player in her own right.

Lottie’s life, like that of most of America, changed drastically with the outbreak of the Civil War.  Her father, a Southerner at heart, joined the Confederate army and was killed in his very first battle.  The news devastated her mother, whose health began to fail.  Lottie took over the role as head of household and ran the farm. However, distant family members felt it inappropriate for a woman to run a business and they persuaded her mother to send Lottie to Detroit to live with family friends.  Her mother sent her, also, in the hopes of finding a suitable husband, but Lottie’s meager funds did not last long during the height of the social season.  Lottie’s mother and sister were struggling financially as well since the war was taking its toll on the farm. A lack of workers prevented crops from being planted and harvested. Lottie decided to get a job.

Jeopardizing her social standing, she took up gambling.  Her talent for winning, however, earned her enough money to not only send home for her sister and mother’s care, but for her own support in style.  At this time, she also met Johnny Golden, a gambler and Jew. Her mother disapproved of him immensely for both reasons.

The couple gambled up and down the Mississippi, but Johnny was not as lucky at cards as Lottie and the couple finally went their separate ways.  Lottie had just settled into a New Orleans hotel, when she learned of her mother’s death.  The care and education of her younger sister became her prime concern.  Lottie took up riverboat gambling and earned enough money to send her sister to private school.  After graduation, Lottie and her sister moved to San Antonio. (I’ve not be able to discover what happened to Lottie’s sister after this move).

San Antonio was the perfect city for a gambler.  The establishments were open twenty-four hours a day and Lottie played poker at the Cosmopolitan Club.  After seeing her play, the owner of the University Club offered Lottie a job as a house gambler, someone who would use saloon-provided money to gamble with. The professional card player would receive a percentage of the winners.

The novelty of not just a woman, but a beautiful, dignified woman dealing cards drew droves of men to the club who challenged Lottie to five-card  draw and her favorite game, faro. 

The owner, Frank Thurmond, had another reason for asking Lottie to join his club. He was smitten with her.  Lottie soon fell in love with Frank, too.  Johnny showed up in San Antonio and stated that Lottie was his wife, a claim she denied. Frank, meanwhile, was in an argument with a fellow gambler and a fight ensued.  Frank drew his bowie knife and stabbed the man. The dead man’s family put a bounty on Frank, forcing him to leave San Antonio.

Lottie also left, bouncing around the west Texas towns of Fort Concho, Jacksonboro, San Angelo, Dennison and Fort Worth. She was so good at winning many accused her of cheating.  One saloon-keeper told a newspaper reporter, “The likelihood of a woman being able to win enough pots to make a living playing cards is far fetched. That could only happen if she were crooked.” If Lottie cheated however, she was never caught.

It was a winning hand that earned her a new name. A drunken cowboy yelled out to her “Honey, with winnings like that, you ought to call yourself Lotta Denero.” She didn’t take his full advice, but she did change her name to Lottie Deno.

Finally, Lottie ended up in Fort Griffith, a rowdy town full mostly of rough cowboys and soiled doves. But Lottie thrived and had great success as a gambler there.  She set up a regular game at the Bee Hive Saloon and was treated as royalty by the men who frequented the bar.  Mike Fogarty, the bar tender, treated her especially well.  Mike, was in fact, Frank Thurmond.  Afraid that someone would make a connection between Mike and the man Lottie used to be romantically involved with, the pair would sneak away to a nearby town for romance.

Johnny followed Lottie to Fort Griffith, but he was killed just days after finding her.  Lottie paid for his funeral and coffin, but she did not attend his funeral. Instead, she stayed inside her home with the curtains drawn.

Johnny’s death was not the only violence Lottie witnessed during her gambling career.  Fights broke out constantly. In one instant, two cowboys accused each other of cheating and fists started to fly.  The sheriff rushed in to calm things, but both men drew on him and Sheriff Cruger ended up killing them both.  Everyone in the saloon had scattered. Everyone that is except Lottie. She sat calmly at her table stacking her chips.  The sheriff commented that he couldn’t believe Lottie had stayed at the grisly scene.  “You’ve never been a desperate woman, Sheriff,” she replied.  She may not have feared for her life, but she did fear being poor.

Lottie soon became a legend of the West.  Artists painted pictures of the lady gambler.  Authors and songwriters wrote about her.  One such author was Dan Quin, cowhand turned writer.  He wrote a series of Old West adventures, including one with a female gambler fitting Lottie’s descriptions and named Faro Nell.  Lottie, however was not happy with the book, published in 1913.  She said it was an “unfair representation” of her, portraying her as an “unsophisticated lady without proper breeding.”

It was at the Bee Hive that Lottie often played cards with Doc Holliday, of the OK Corral fame.  It’s also alleged that she got into an argument with Holliday’s girlfriend, Big Nose Kate, because Kate thought Holliday was cheating on her with Lottie.  “Why you low down slinkin’ slut!” Lottie shouted. “If I should step in soft cow manure, I would not even clean my boot on that bastard!  I’ll show you a thing or two.”  Lottie is alleged to have pulled a gun then, and Kate drew a weapon as well.  Doc Holliday placed himself between the women and stopped a shoot out then and there. Knowing of Lottie’s reputation for being an elegant lady, it’s questionable if the conversation went as now retold, since things tend to be embellished as they are repeated over time. 

After five years in Fort Griffith, Lottie moved to Kingston, New Mexico, where she met up with Frank Thurmond again.  The two went into business together in 1878, opening a small gambling room in the Victorio Hotel and a saloon in nearby Silver City.  The couple also acquired several silver mines.  They were soon very wealthy and loaned out money to mining operations in exchange for a stake of the claims.

It was there that Frank and Lottie finally married on December 2, 1880. Lottie continued to deal cards and Frank managed the saloons, restaurant and hotel they owned.  The couple also purchased a liquor distribution business in Deming, New Mexico, property in the heart of town and a ranch at the foothills of the mountains.

If not for the brutal murder of Dan Baxter, Lottie may have stayed in the gambling business for a while longer. Baxter and Frank got into a fight and Baxter threw a billiard ball at Frank, who pulled out his bowie knife and stabbed Baxter in the abdomen.  Baxter died and the authorities called the death self-defense. But it was enough violence for Lottie and she decided to retire.

Frank and Lottie settled in Deming to live quiet, orderly lives. He concentrated on the mines, cattle ranching and land. Lottie became involved in civic organizations and helped build St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. It’s said that the $40,000 for the original structure of the church was financed with winnings in a poker game with Doc Holliday.  Lottie made the altar cloths used by St. Luke’s.  Lottie was a respected community leader, forming a social club Golden Gossip Club. The women gathered to swap recipes, play cards and sew quilts.

After 40 years together, Frank died in 1908 of cancer. Lottie lived another twenty-nine years, dying at the age of eighty-nine on February 9, 1934.  However, Lottie has lived long past her death.  The character of Laura Denbo in the movie Gunfight at the OK Corral and that of Miss Kitty in the television show Gunsmoke are based on Lottie Deno.

Works cited and for more reading:
THE LADY WAS A GAMBLER by Chris Enss; ISBN 978-0-7627-4371-1

Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. ~Doug Ivester