Saturday, November 28, 2020

In All Things, Give Thanks



I think it's safe to say that 2020 has been a doozy for all of us in one way or another. As many Americans gathered around their tables on Thursday, November 26th, to celebrate and enjoy being with each other, and many of them did not, I'm sure we all experienced a bittersweet feeling rather than the bounteous joy that usually accompanies such gatherings. Lately I've been reflecting on things that I am grateful for even though this year brought its own unique challenges to my life. One thing I'm especially grateful for is readers like you who support us authors. Writing for entertainment can be an entertaining endeavor in itself, but sometimes stressful, too, and this year it has been especially so. Along with that, I am also grateful to have received the inspiration I needed several times in order to finish a project on time. I am also grateful for my loved ones and pray that your loved ones are safe or that you'll find comfort if they have met misfortune this holiday season.

Notwithstanding these somber thoughts, however, I want to keep this blog post lighthearted and, yes, entertaining. I've put together a short and sweet Thanksgiving Quiz for you - don't worry, I've also provided the answers. And this isn't just a history quiz - as much as I like history, I thought it would be fun to learn a few things about Thanksgiving in this day and age (mostly). So here we go!

1) Which U.S. state grows the most corn?




Answer: Iowa, with Illinois being a close second. This was a fun fact to look up because a few years ago, I traveled through parts of both of these states and saw cornfield after cornfield. Arizona (where I'm from) grows a decent amount of corn, too, but what I saw on that trip was on a whole new level. And even though it was just corn (as compared to a natural wonder like the Grand Canyon), the sight of all that corn against the backdrop of a perfectly blue sky brought to mind the song lyrics, "amber waves of grain". I'm thankful I got to see such a great sight!

2) Why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving?




Answer: According to Brittanica, the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock most likely ate duck or geese at their harvest meal. Turkey, it seems, was introduced as the bird to eat in the early 1800s with the publication of Northwood, a book written by female novelist, essayist, and editor, Sarah Josepha Hale. She is remarkable for the fact that she became an editor after her husband died. She became the top influencer in the publication for ladies called Godey's Lady's Book. In 1830, she also penned a book called Poems for our Children. "Mary Had a Little Lamb" was one of the poems in that collection. Anyway, Hale's book, Northwood, described in quite fascinating detail a Thanksgiving meal that featured a turkey. She eventually campaigned for Thanksgiving to be made into a national holiday, as she felt that such an event would help to ease mounting tensions in the country. (Sound familiar?) Of course, this didn't happen until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday in the month of November as a day of prayer and thanksgiving. Here is a picture of Mrs. Hale. Wasn't she lovely?

3) Which U.S. state grows the most pumpkins?




Answer: Illinois, with Morton, Illinois being called the "Pumpkin Capital of the World". States like Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California aren't far behind. However, globally, China is the real pumpkin capital of the world in that it produces the most, followed by India, Russia, Ukraine, and finally, the United States.

4) Why does the President of the United States pardon a turkey every year?




Answer: The first unofficial pardon of a turkey came from President Ronald Reagan back in 1982. President George H. W. Bush decided it made for pretty good press, apparently, so he did the same. From there, the successive presidents have all carried on the tradition.

5) What is the record for the world's largest pumpkin pie?




Answer: New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers produced a pie that weighed 3,699 pounds on September 10, 2010, in New Bremen, Ohio. But if you're looking for who produced the world's largest sweet potato pie, you'll have to travel all the way to Japan. According to this article, Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway Company produced a massive 703-pound sweet potato pie in 2018. That's a lot of pie!

6) Which U.S. state consumes the most turkey?




Answer: California. Go figure.

7) How many feathers does an adult male turkey have?




Answer: Approximately 5,500. That's a lot of plucking before the bird gets to your dinner table!

8) What is the longest-running Thanksgiving parade in the United States? (Hint: not Macy's)




Answer: Philadelphia's Thanksgiving Parade celebrated its 100th year this month. Macy's in New York City began four years later, in 1924. Did you know that the balloons in Macy's parade have to be painted once they are blown up? Here are two articles that share fun facts about each of the parades:



I hope you've enjoyed this informal and informational quiz. I certainly learned a lot while putting this blog post together! And that's one of my favorite things about being an author. I come across interesting tidbits all the time. (For instance, I recently wrote a contemporary story that takes place in Georgia with the series title being called Georgia Peaches, but did you know that California is actually the U.S.'s leading peach crop producer?) 

Whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving as a holiday, there's one thing that I think we can all be grateful for this holiday season, and it is that fictional characters get a happily ever after. If you are in the mood to read stories with characters who dream of a better life and face the odds in obtaining them, I invite you to take a look at my Amazon page and view the stories that I have to offer. A few of them are even on sale at this time, and all of my Belles of Wyoming stories have updated covers. Here is the link to my page:

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Thursday, November 26, 2020


By Caroline Clemmons

They say what we fear fascinates us, which may explain my fascination with caves. I have a fear of closed in, underground places and that pretty well describes a cavern. Contradictory as it sounds, when I was growing up in West Texas I longed to tour Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. However, when my family traveled back and forth from Texas to California, we did not deviate from Point A to Point B. Ever! Fortunately, my husband is a fun traveling companion willing to take a side trip when the opportunity and time permit. So, I finally saw these caverns—well, the main one.

Carlsbad is huge, of course. What I didn’t know is that there are over a hundred caves in Carlsbad Caverns National Park and many more in the area. Prior to this, the fact that Caverns is plural had never caught my notice.

My husband had visited Carlsbad when he was a boy and again as a teen. One of the things he and his brother lamented is the loss of colors from the formations inside the main cavern. A guide explained this change was due to exposure to circulating air.

Doesn't this look scary?

Environmentally destructive events happened through the years—blasting to install elevators, air whooshing down the elevator shafts, electricity, plumbing, paving, etc. Officials constructed air locks to protect the formations from further degradation but great damage had already occurred. Since I hadn’t been on the tour before to make a comparison, I was awed by the varied beauty the formations offered. And, I’ll admit, very uncomfortable being underground!

Stalagtites stick tight to the roof,
stalamites might grow to reach the roof.

Thanks to an inland sea

Carlsbad Cavern is one of over 300 limestone caves in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea 250 to 280 million years ago. Twelve to fourteen thousand years ago, American Indians lived in the Guadalupe Mountains. Some of their cooking ring sites and pictographs have been found within the present day boundaries of the park. By the 1500s, Spanish explorers were passing through present-day west Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Eddy, New Mexico, which later became the town of Carlsbad, was established in 1888. New Mexico became a state in 1912.  

Although the first to discover the caverns is disputed, credit is most often given to a sixteen-year-old cowboy, Jim White. From April 6 to May 8, 1923, Robert Holley of the General Land Office surveyed and mapped the cavern, guided by Jim White and photographed by Ray V. Davis. Holley recommended the establishment as a national monument. On October 25, Carlsbad Cave National Monument was established.

Those aren't ants, they're people.

Work Begins

From 1923 to 1927,  W.F. McIlvain served as the first superintendent. His job involved overseeing the first trails, stairs and lights. He supervised Jim White, worked with Willis T. Lee, and coordinated with city officials, including the Chamber of Commerce. For this sure-to-have-been-a-headache position, he made $12 a year.

Not until 1924 and the sponsorship of National Geographic Society, did Dr. Willis T. Lee, assisted by Jim White, extensively explore the cavern. The staircase from the natural entrance to Bat Cave was installed, eliminating use of (Euww) a guano bucket to enter the cave.

Trails were laid beginning in 1926 through the Main Corridor, Kings Palace, Queens Chamber, and three quarters of the Big Room. Electric lights were installed in Main Corridor and Kings Palace followed a year later by the trail past Bottomless Pit (such an inviting name).

And They're Off...

That’s when Cavern Supply Company was established as the park concessioner. The entry fee was set at $2.00 per person. On May 14, 1930, Congress upgraded the designation to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. On June 23, the first wedding ceremony was held in Carlsbad Cavern, performed at Rock of Ages formation. 

Rock of Ages Formation

Continual improvements have been made since then. In addition to tours of the main cavern, park rangers will arrange tours to other caverns within the park. An amphitheater is set up for those who wish to view the evening flight of bats from the caverns.

Mexican Free-Tailed Bats 
Emerging From Caverns

I suppose there are caverns in every part of the world. There certainly are many, many in Texas. My family and I have visited a lot of them because, while I'm NOT a fan of dark holes in the ground, one has to overcome phobias for the greater good. We tried to show our children as many historic sites as we could. That included watching the bats emerge from Carlsbad's main cavern.

My Journey

In my personal writing journey, I’ve used caverns and caves in several books. The first was THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND, in which the male main character, Nate, overcomes his fear of a cavern to rescue a child. Another was HIGH STAKES BRIDE, in which the hero, Zach Stone, saves the heroine, Alice, by taking shelter in a cavern then helps her exit out the other side. (That’s one of my favorites of my books, by the way.) In addition, the contemporary romance/mystery GRANT ME THE MOON, and the mystery ALMOST HOME use a cave as a major part of the plot. Others by me which utilize a cave to a lesser degree are the historical romances AN AGENT FOR LYDIA, GARNET, MAIL-ORDER PROMISE, and PRUDENCE. Whew, I must be obsessed by caves.

In the event you're interested, here's a snippet from HIGH STAKES BRIDE when the hero and heroine first meet:

Zach slipped into the bedroll and waited, pistol in hand. He feigned sleep, wondering what kind of man tarried nearby. Whoever it was could have picked Zach off, so the sidewinder must not have murder on his mind.

Probably up to no good hiding out like that, though, because any Westerner would share his campfire and vittles with anyone who rode into camp. Zach wriggled into a comfortable spot and lay motionless. Anger at recent events helped him remain awake.

The footfalls came so softly he almost missed them. He opened his eyes a slit, but enough to see a thin shadow move toward the fire. About then heavy clouds overhead parted and the moonlight revealed a boy who scooped up a slice of bacon and slid it into his mouth.

The culprit set Zach’s tin plate on the ground near the fire, ladled beans into it, and picked up a fork. He squatted down and balanced the plate on his knees before he commenced eating. Zach noticed he kept his left hand in his pocket the whole time.

Something must be wrong with the thief’s left arm.  Looked too young for it to have been a casualty of the War. Lots of other ways to get hurt out here. Whatever had happened to his left arm, his right one worked well enough. He forked food into his mouth like he hadn’t eaten in a week.

Zach let him shovel beans for a few minutes. Crook or not, anyone that hungry deserved a meal. When the kid stopped eating, Zach couldn’t figure out what he was doing.  It looked as if he used the fork to scratch around on the ground, so he must have eaten his fill. Zach slipped his hand from beneath the cover and cocked the pistol.

“Hold it right there, son. I’d like to know why you’re eating without at least a howdy to the man who provided the food.”

The boy paused, then set the plate down slowly. “I left money here on a rock to pay for it.”

Odd sounding voice, but the kid was probably scared. Zach slipped from his bedroll and stood, but kept his gun pointed at the food robber. “Maybe.”

Zach walked toward the kid, careful to train his gaze so the firelight didn’t dim his eyesight. Sure enough, he spotted a couple of coins on the rock beside his pot of beans, or what remained of them, and his empty plate.

He faced the intruder. “Why not just come into camp earlier instead of sneaking in after you thought I was asleep?”

“I—I was afraid you weren’t friendly.”

Zach thought he also heard the kid mutter what sounded like “...or maybe too friendly.” Must be the wind, he thought, as he neared the boy.

Zach motioned with his free hand. “I don’t begrudge anyone food, but I hate dishonesty and sneaking around.  Stand up so I can see you.”

The kid stood, hat low over his face and his good hand clenched.

Zach reached to push the brim back. “What’s your name?”

The kid stepped forward. “None of your business, mister.”

A fistful of sand hit Zach’s face. He heard his assailant run. Mad as the devil, Zach brushed grit from his eyes and set out in pursuit. The kid was fast, he’d give him that, but so was Zach. His longer legs narrowed the distance between them.  With a running lunge, he tackled the kid.

“Oof. Let me go.” The lad was all wriggles and kicking feet as he squirmed trying to escape.

Zach wasn’t about to let that happen. They rolled in the dirt. In one move Zach pinned the boy’s good arm. The hat fell aside and a mass of curls spilled around the kid’s face.

His jacket parted and unmistakable curves pushed upward where Zach’s other hand rested. Zach stared in disbelief. Registering his hand pressed against a heavenly mound shocked him and he jerked his paw away.

“Well, I’ll be damned. You’re not a boy.”

The woman glared at him. “Right, and you’re not exactly a feather. Get off me.”

Zach stood and bent to help her but she curled into a ball where she lay. “Ma’am, you okay?”

“Just dandy.” She sat up, moving like a hundred-year-old. She glared at him while holding her stomach with her good hand. The other arm dangled uselessly. “You’ve likely broken the few uninjured bones I had left.”

His temper flared. “Hey, lady, don’t try to put the blame on me. If you’d been honest and come into camp like any other traveler, I’d have shared my food with you.”

“Yeah, well a woman on her own can’t be too careful and I don’t know you or anything about you.”

Universal Amazon Link  

Many will be celebrating the holiday via Zoom and Skype. Whatever your situation, I hope you and your family enjoy a safe and healthy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Good Riddance to the Horses! OR Where Have All the Horses Gone? by Marisa Masterson

Where did the horses go? Did cars suddenly displace them in the larger cities? Well, sort of but not the kind of car you might be imagining.

Typical horse-drawn car, circa 1877.
At one time, large cities deteemed with horse-drawn cars that ran on a sort of track through the city streets, early public transportation. These were actually railroad cars rather than the autos that the word car might create in one's mind. The railroad cars were altered but still had the steel wheels that required a track. The two lines of track ran down the middle of the street, allowing for lanes on each side that carriages used. 

Only one horse pulled the former railroad car. That was managable because the car's size had been changed. It was about half the length of a typical train car. Thank goodness for the horse! Inside there were just five seats, and the driver stood on a sort of porch outside the car. This porch was also used by passengers to enter and leave the car.

But I indicated this would be about no horses! I've digressed.

As beautiful an animal as the horse is, there were definite downsides to the horse-drawn car. The animals left waste behind them, required the care any living thing needs, and were slow. In bustling cities, people wanted something different. Mind you, the automobile hadn't become common at the time. In fact, just a year or so before Cleveland, Ohio installed the first electric streetcar, Carl Benz was patenting his gas-powered engine.

The streetcar or tram. That's what brought an end to the sight of horses plodding up and down the streets of most cities. The city of Cleveland installed theirs in 1884. Richmond, Virginia followed in 1888. But how did they run? Electricity.

Each car had a long pole on top that ran along electrical lines above the street. So what, you might say? When the horses disappeared, these streetcars ran faster and made it possible for people to live farther away from where they worked. In a way, these opened the door for our modern suburbs.

Electric Streetcar in Appleton, Wisconsin.
In my latest book A Bride for Boss set in 1889, Frankie (the heroine) and her friend ride an electric streetcar in Appleton, Wisconsin. Amazingly, this was actually a fact. That town had a streetcar before any city in Wisconsin, even Milwaukee or Madison. 

Harnessing the power of the fast moving Fox River allowed for it, producing the needed electricity. Here's an excerpt to help you better understand riding in the streetcar--

Walking to the stop, they waited for the streetcar. Ellie must have glimpsed the doubt on her friend’s face and began to chatter. “Imagine, our Appleton having an electric streetcar before Milwaukee or Madison!”

Frankie nodded. “It certainly gets a body where she’s going faster than the old horse cars. Oh, and such a better smell in the streets.”
Historic Appleton, Wisconsin. (Streetcar visible.)

Appleton installed the electric streetcars three years before, replacing the old system of horses pulling the cars. Frankie remembered when the small hydroelectric plant was built on the Fox River. One house near the dam had been wired first with electricity.

She and Ellie took her friend’s children to see the sight one night. They stood outside the large house on the other side of Appleton to watch the electric lights being turned on inside. The glow made it appear as if a hundred candles suddenly flamed to life.

After electricity made its way into homes in the city, the old horse cars were electrified so the animals became obsolete. Very few animals were seen on the streets now. Except of course for stray dogs. Frankie had a soft spot for animals and hated seeing the feral, skinny things roaming the streets. Especially since she’d always wanted a pet.

“Oh, here it comes.” The ringing of the trolley’s bell punctuated Ellie’s happy words. Frankie looked up into her much taller friend’s face and smiled. A person couldn’t help but smile when Ellie was happy. Her joy was contagious.

The driver stopped. From his spot outside the car’s interior, he descended the two steps to help the ladies. Each lifted her narrow skirt a few inches and, for balance, put her hand on the arm the driver courteously presented. On the small platform, they deposited the fare and moved into the enclosed car.

Inside, a tiny aisle allowed riders to pass the five rows of seats and choose whichever they wanted. The benches on each side were narrow, barely fitting both Ellie and Frankie. Still, they squeezed into the one open seat at the back of the car.

The driver, outside the car, peered in through the glass. Once he saw the women safely seated, he started the streetcar and they were off.

In very little time, Ellie’s gloved hand reached up and pulled the cord for their stop. This modern world amazed Frankie. To think that the country had been torn apart by war only twenty-five years before. And now, they lived in such a civilized, gracious time. Frankie did enjoy every bit of the advancements she’d seen in her lifetime. Not to use candles or oil lamps especially pleased her. She’d always hated squinting by candlelight to sew or read in the evenings.

From the bestselling author of Ruby’s Risk comes a fast-paced and suspense-filled romance. The #1 new release on Amazon in Western Religious Fiction...

This miracle child is not Frankie's, so why does she risk her marriage to keep the little girl? Frankie's worry is only about her proxy groom. She has no idea of the danger that follows the child.

Frances "Frankie" Elder is brutally frank. It's what led to her firing by the school board. The advertisement for a bride/teacher seems heaven sent. The fact that her groom demands a proxy marriage doesn't faze her. She was already sure this would be a business arrangement rather than a real marriage.

On her way from Wisconsin to Wyoming, Frankie stops in Chicago to buy warmer clothing. Instead, she ends up with a child. What's a woman to do? She's longed for a little one. Besides, the girl clings to her, craving love. But will her husband find the girl as irresistible as she does?

Boswick "Boss" Carter is the first mayor of Scrub Brush, Wyoming. When the town demands a teacher, he agrees to send for a mail-order bride who's a trained teacher. Winter nights are lonely and he's a terrible cook. This will solve both his problem and the town's.

To be sure the woman doesn't cheat him out of the cost of a ticket, he demands she marry him by proxy. Of course, he doesn't bother taking part in a proxy ceremony. That way he can decide if he'll keep her.

What should be a business arrangement quickly becomes a matter of the heart. The three would be a happy family, if only the kidnappers stopped coming at night. Who's sending them and how can they keep their adopted child safe?

Available now at Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited.

Sunday, November 22, 2020


 Post by Doris McCraw writing as Angela Raines

Photo (c) by Doris McCraw

I recently came across the phrase 'talking with the dead'. Initially, I thought it sounded rather morbid until I thought about what it was really about. To me, it's connecting with the past in ways we might not think about. This also follows an earlier post about what inspires your stories. For those who would like to take a look at that post, here is the link: What Inspires Your Stories 

The second post on inspiring stories: Talking with the Dead- Photographs

The third of what I include for inspiration is Cemeteries: Talking with the Dead - Cemeteries

My fourth post is about newspapers. I know most people use them to find out about certain people like the below piece from an 1882 edition of the Gunnison, Colorado newspaper.

However, there is also the 'editorial' which gives a writer an idea of what some people were thinking about the events around them. In the below piece the writer is voicing their opinion about what another writer has said. It is a response to an event that occurred in a town to the north of Gunnison. This gives a glimpse into what could bring people to the point of anger, protest if there were enough who could be inflamed by the words. This writer spells out what is perceived as an injustice. What wonderful, although scary information to use as you write about the conflicts. This writer is talking to us from the year 1882. A glimpse into human nature.

Finally, there are those pieces in the newspaper that allow us to glimpse what is important to the founding and growth of a town. The below piece is from an 1873 issue of the Colorado Springs newspaper, The Gazette. This writer is offering suggestions for a safe and fire-proof town. Fire is something many early settlements dealt with as they struggled to grow. In this case, the town of Colorado Springs was only two years old at the time of this article.

So the next time you decide to delve into the historic newspapers, remember there is more than just news to read and use for your inspirations. They are full of humor, news, and those blessed editorials, a glimpse into what people thought was important to their lives and those around them. 


My short story in the recently released "Under Western Stars" by the Western Fictioneers is about a newspaperman. Below is a short excerpt from 'Gilbert Hopkins is Going to Die'.

Gilbert hurried through his day. He wanted to have a chance to speak with Zoe about what she might expect. He had to admit to himself that he’d become very fond of the young girl, almost as if she were his own child.

Hurrying down the street to the Widow Harkins place, Gilbert hoped he would be in time to join Zoe and the widow, who had taken her in, for the evening meal?

Knocking on the door Gilbert smoothed his hair after removing his hat. He was in the act of replacing it just as the door opened. Quickly removing it again, Gilbert smiled, “Good evening Mrs. Harkins, I've come to speak with Zoe if she's available."

Mrs. Harkins smiled, the edge of her gray eyes crinkling in her aged face as she replied, "Yes she is. She's been excited all day. I’ve had my hands full keeping her occupied," the lady smiled even wider, "and you are just in time for dinner."

Gilbert knew that he should dissemble but somehow that didn't fit his mood. "Now how did you know I'd not eaten?"

Mrs. Harkins laughed, "I know you young man, homemade bread, jam, and beef stew are a sure thing with you."

"You know me so well Mrs. Harkins, I never could pass up a slice of freshly baked bread, and you make the best."
"I swear Gilbert, your enthusiasm for my cooking makes me wonder if you ever get a decent meal," Mrs. Harkins said stepping aside to let Gilbert in.
Gilbert placed his hat on the hat rack, following Mrs. Harkins as she entered the kitchen. Zoe sat at the table her hair shining and wearing a new dress. If Gilbert had been so inclined, he would be jealous of this relative that was coming to take Zoe away. What started as a scary, tenuous journey had blossomed into a community’s love for the young orphan. Once they heard her story they were all eager to do what they could to make her stay in town as enjoyable as possible.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History

Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Friday, November 20, 2020

When Thanksgiving was Political


According to historian Michael LaCombe, Chief Massasoit and his people contributed freshly killed deer for the first Thanksgiving. Much appreciated by the Pilgrims, I’m sure. However, LaCombe asserts that the Native Americans undermined Governor William Bradford’s authority by giving the meat to the colony’s leading members, rather than to Bradford himself, for redistribution. Thereby thumbing their nose at Bradford’s rule.

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth"
(1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe; public domain 

Decades later, in 1675, Massasoit’s son, Philip (alias Metacom or Metacomet), gathered together several tribes who had been enemies. Faced with spreading, permanent English colonization, they fought the colonists in “King Philip’s War” – called the deadliest war in American history, in proportion to population. Doubtless, the natives did not favorably recall the first Thanksgiving.

In 1776 colonists accused King George III of allowing “the merciless Indian Savages” . . . to attack “the inhabitants of our frontiers”. In truth, these early Americans had spent more than a century taking native territory that did not belong to them. When the Revolutionary War ended with the defeat of Great Britain and her native allies, more indigenous territory was seized. How to divide so much land between southern slave interests and northerner anti-slavery forces ultimately sparked the American Civil War.

Which brings us back to Thanksgiving.

Sarah Josepha Hale, ca. 1831; public domain

In 1863, novelist and magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale convinced Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday on the last Thursday in November. She had started campaigning for the holiday in the 1840s, hoping a national day of celebration would help prevent the quarrel over slavery from erupting into Civil War. Her idea met with resistance from the southern states, as well as inconsistencies in how to celebrate the holiday.

Since colonial times, the meaning of thanksgiving days has varied greatly. Prior to 1863, thanksgiving events occurred throughout the year and could involve religious fasting and feasts to mark important events. In 1777, the Continental Congress proclaimed a day of thanksgiving for all 13 states to celebrate winning a battle against the British at Saratoga.

Professor Matthew Dennis observes that by 1850 every northern state, and several southern, Midwestern and far western states (including Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin) celebrated Thanksgiving, at least occasionally.

Sarah Josepha Hale believed an official thanksgiving date would give the states more in common than they had differences. In 1854, as editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, she wrote: The last Thursday in November has been selected as the day best suited to the general convenience, when the people from Maine to Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, might sit down together, as it were, and enjoy in national union their feast of gladness.”

In the south, however, slaveholders viewed the holiday as an opportunity for Yankee preachers to sermonize against slavery, and in their eyes to push the country closer to war. In 1853, Governor Joseph Johnson of Virginia refused to declare Thanksgiving a holiday, and in 1859, Governor Stewart of Missouri proclaimed December 8th instead of November 24th a day of Thanksgiving, a deliberate act of defiance.

Despite Hale’s efforts, war broke out, and Lincoln’s decision to make the holiday a national one was intended to support the north’s cause as much as to commemorate an event in the nation’s history. Thanksgiving did not prevent the Civil War, but it was used to help bolster the Union’s cause – partially through food. Mentions of turkey, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce appear in association with Thanksgiving in 1860s editions of Godey’s Lady’s Book.

In this year of the terrible Covid pandemic, Thanksgiving may not be a subject for political debate, but it does present a challenge for all of us. Common sense calls for us to avoid large family gatherings, to stay home in our personal bubbles and, I pray, live to see next year's national day of thanks. Amen.

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and paranormal romantic suspense novels, all spiced with sensual romance. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and two very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged babies.


Amazon Author Page: (universal link)  

Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 

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Monday, November 16, 2020


by Jo-Ann Roberts

“After all, a woman didn’t leave much behind in the world to show she’d been there. Even the children she bore and raised got their father’s name. But her quilts, now that was something she could pass on.”

                                                                                                                                    - Sandra Dallas

While history books, almanacs, and memoirs chronicled the West as a man’s world full of adventure, clashes with nature and with man, it must be noted women also played a vital role in the migration and taming of the frontier. In addition to their diaries and journals, pioneer women stitched fabric blocks together to narrate the many hardships, challenges and joys depicting their life in the West.  Whether on the westward trail, an Army post, or a frontier settlement, quilts offer physical as well as emotional comfort.

Prior to leaving for the arduous journey West, female friends in the East came together to work collaboratively, stitching a quilt for the departing woman. Ultimately, these “quiltings” became farewell gatherings, united in purpose as well as in friendship. Thus, “friendship quilts”, squares inscribed with names, dates, and heartfelt sentiments became popular.  Early Western quilters didn’t limit their designs to just one type of quilt. They combined patchwork and applique to create a one-of-a-kind quilt.

As preparations for the journey progressed, the women gathered together all the quilts, blankets and tied comforters they could either make or acquire. While very special quilts were packed in a trunk or used to wrap fragile keepsakes, everyday quilts were left out for bedding. It wasn't long before women found this bedding to be necessary for many other uses. A folded quilt offered padding on the wagon seat for the person driving the oxen over the long rough trail. When winds rose up and blew across the dusty plains blankets, quilts and comforters were used to cover the cracks that let the dust inside the wagon.

Since the wagon ride was uncomfortable and jostling, the women and children often walked alongside the wagons. Needless to say, little quilting was done on the trail. A few women managed to piece some quilt blocks or perhaps a whole quilt top but more often women knitted or mended clothing during the short breaks and occasional layovers. The poor light of a campfire would not have been conducive to fine-stitching.

Many times quilts reflected the adventures of the family as they made their way West. The names assigned to these quilts are still popular today. “Road to California”,  “Crossing the Plains”, “Flying Geese”, and “Log Cabin” often indicated memories of home and hearth, the trail looming up before them,  the movement of the wind across the plains, and the flora and fauna seen along the way.

As the journey continued, quilts were needed for far more serious purposes than simply comfort and dust control. In some cases they became targets for arrows when they were hung on the exposed side of the wagons for protection during  sattacks. Diseases like cholera  and  influenza were never-ending threats, resulting in lives lost on the trail. Death from sickness and injury was no stranger to the weary travelers. Since wood was scarce along the trail, building a proper coffin was nearly impossible, not to mention time consuming. Wrapping a beloved mother, child or husband in a quilt for burial gave the family comfort knowing that something symbolizing family and their love enfolded their dear one in that lonely grave along the trail.

Once a pioneer family reached their destination quilts and blankets were still needed for uses beyond bed coverings. Instead of keeping the elements out of the wagon they covered windows and doors of log cabins and dugouts. There was a need for emotional sustenance as well. Putting a favorite quilt on the bed gave a woman a sense of connection with her former way of life. Something of beauty was very much needed in her desolate home.

One pioneer woman in Texas recalled how she was left alone in the dugout during a dust storm. While her husband went to get firewood, a task that took a week, she passed the time quilting. "If I hadn't had the piecing, I don't know what I would have done". 1

Life in the West was far different from what they left behind. Quilting, knitting and hand sewing were popular topics when socializing. A Swedish woman settled in Kansas in the early 1850s and remembered an invitation to a sewing circle. Being new to the country and to the territory, she took this as an offer of friendship. In turn, she hosted a quilting party at her home.  Pioneer quilting had come full circle from making quilts in anticipation of the journey to the opportunity to express creativity and cultivate friendships through quilting in the new land.


1. pp 23 & 24, "The Quilters: Women and Domestic Art, an Oral History", by Patricia Cooper and Norma Bradley Allen.

"Quiltmaking on the Overland Trails: Evidence from Women's Writing", by Barbara Brackman, Uncoverings 1992.

"Treasures in the Trunk,: Quilts of the Oregon Trail", by Mary Bywater Cross
Lone Stars: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, 1836–1936 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986) Caroline Patterson Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes.

In Lessie-Brides of New Hope Book One , the hero, Eli MacKenzie has no memory of his marriage, yet he has a wife…a very beautiful wife!  Here’s a snippet where Lessie’s quilts play a significant role in the story…

Eli sensed Lessie’s apprehension.

“You can’t possibly be cold,” she said. Holding the wrapper up to her chin like a shield of armor, she pointed to the quilts. “What do you intend to do with those?”

Taking the first quilt, Eli folded it lengthwise then rolled it into a soft cylinder. He wedged it between the two pillows then repeated the process with the remaining quilts, setting them end to end down the middle of the bed to disappear beneath the sheet.

“Beginning tonight, I intend to sleep with my wife, in our bed, every night. This”—he pointed to the line of quilts—“is your insurance policy that I will not exercise my husbandly rights until Owen Shepherd reunites us in marriage a week from Sunday. But be forewarned, Mrs. MacKenzie, I intend to court you every day and every night until that time.” He hooked his thumbs under his suspenders. They slid off his shoulders just before he pulled his shirt from his trousers. 

In, Posey-Brides of  New Hope Book Two, quilts again play a role in the interaction between the hero, Grayson Barrett and Posey Campbell. When Gray unwittingly makes a comment to Posey, he follows her, snagging a quilt as he goes…

She allowed Gray to adjust the quilt. He slipped one arm beneath her bent knee and the other around her shoulders then tugged her onto his lap. He had no right to be so familiar with her person. His actions went above and beyond what propriety dictated, and if anyone saw them in this compromising position, her reputation and self-worth would be damaged beyond repair. But in this moment, in this place, she needed his comfort.

After several minutes, he tucked a curly strand of hair behind her ear and asked a second time, “Do you still love him?”

“Any feelings I ever had for him died long before the ink dried on the divorce decree.” She took a shuddering breath.

Along with her resolve, she pushed herself off Gray’s lap and started for the door. “As I have accepted my fate to live the rest of my days as the spinster schoolteacher, you must accept the fact I am not the type of friend you want, Marshal Barrett.”

“I’m not buying it, Posey,” Gray countered, following her. “We are friends. We shook hands on it. It may not mean anything to you, but a handshake sure as heck means something to me.” 

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