Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Hodgepodge of Author's Notes from My Book, Cole by Zina Abbott

 I recently completed Cole, part of the Cupids & Cowboys series. The following are taken from the Author’s Notes in the back of the book:


CP Huntington Locomotive after restoration

Beginning in 1869, the Central Pacific Railroad began either leasing other lines, or buying them out. What I did learn was that, for decades, former California governor, Leland Stanford, and the other officers of the Central Pacific ended up having their hand in almost all the railroad business in the state. By 1885, the C.P.R.R. was leased to the Southern Pacific Railroad and later consolidated with that line to become Southern Pacific Railroad.

Santa Fe train southeast of Merced 1994, before the line became the BNSF

One exception to C.P.R.R. involvement was the Santa Fe Railroad that built a line in the San Joaquin Valley. Although that company has changed names several times and is currently known as the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway, the Santa Fe tracks pass within a mile of my house.


Portion of 1871 Bancroft Map, notations added

Unfortunately, Leland Stanford, et al, got into a snit with Stockton and basically went to war against the city. Instead of having Stockton as one of its major stations on the San Joaquin Valley Railroad, the company created the town of Lathrop, named after Stanford’s brother-in-law, to serve that role. The location was originally known as Wilson’s Station. This line, the San Joaquin Valley Railroad line, started at Lathrop, which connected to the Western Pacific line. The first Western Pacific Railroad company failed and was absorbed by the Central Pacific Railroad in 1870. For twelve years, every effort was made to bypass Stockton by transporting travelers and shipping freight to San Francisco first before it would be taken to or from Stockton. Stockton was not printed on the railroad maps of the time.

Eventually, the connection was made with Stockton, and the San Joaquin Valley Railroad became part of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Its tracks are about three miles from my home. As a rural letter carrier, I used to deliver mail along S.P. Avenue built next to the tracks.

One of the financial difficulties railroads ran into throughout California was that so much of the land was tied up in Mexican land grants. Largely due to the support the United States received during the 1846-48 war with Mexico from many of the Californios—those Mexican citizens who lived in Alta California—the United States recognized ownership of land originally granted by the Mexican government. Although proving such land claims was not always easy and is a different topic for a different discussion, one of the repercussions for railroads was that said land was not considered federal territory. [I found it difficult to find public domain maps of Mexican land grants, but you might get some ideas of where they were located and how they might have affected the building the railroad by CLICKING HERE and by CLICKING HERE.]

[This book by Attorney Henry Beard is titled The lands granted to and withdrawn for the benefit of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company of California, and was published in 1877. It is in the public domain.]

[Mexican grant land] did not qualify as land that railroads would be granted to be sold for profit. Since the sale of land along qualifying rail line right-of-ways was how many railroads made their profit, many railroads that built in California ran into financial difficulty. That is one of the reasons behind the failure of the first Western Pacific Railroad that built mostly along the coast. Most of the land was Mexican land grant land, and had to be purchased.

It was also due to the number of Mexican Land Grants in California that there was not a lot of land available for homesteading, particularly on the coast or in the central valley (Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin Valley).

Regarding land ownership and women, California is one of the few community property states in the United States. The ability of women to own land was established in the first state constitution in 1850. Married women were allowed to own land separate from their husbands. Land owned by women before their marriage remained their sole property and could not be claimed by a husband after marriage. Likewise, land owned by men prior to marriage remained their sole property.

Land and other assets gained by the couple after marriage was community property to which the wife had a claim. For most of the 1800s, women could inherit up to one-half of the estate of her deceased husband, but she could not will or devise her half away from her husband. Upon her death, one hundred percent of the estate was inherited by the husband.

California community property laws, which were influenced by Mexican property laws, were the standard used by other community property states to develop their laws.

Several years ago, under my real name, I put together a presentation on California laws and how they affected women. My synopsis for that is still available on my Robyn Echols website HERE.



Cole, book 8 in the Cupids & Cowboys series is currently on preorder and will be released April 1st. Please CLICK HERE to find the book description and purchase link,










Sunday, March 28, 2021

Family Stories Involving the Westward Movement

I’ve mentioned several times before that I grew up in the beautiful Gila Valley (pronounced “hee-luh”) in southeastern Arizona. This valley sits between several mountain peaks, the most prominent and beloved being Mt. Graham. Standing at 11,000 feet above sea level, it is the place where our family reunions for my father’s side took place every summer, in a sweet campground called Soldier’s Creek. The campground itself had lots of big rocks to climb on and a small ravine that was safe to climb down into. You could even play in the creek below (if you were brave enough to get into the freezing cold water) or hike through the trees and enjoy the fresh mountain air with the scent of pine. Some families slept in tents while other stayed in cabins that were an easy walk of a mile away. The cabins had rows of beds for the cousins to sleep on. It was so much fun to stay up late and play cards or tell ghost stories around the campfire. The ravine at Soldier’s Creek is one that I mentioned in my book, On the Wings of Hope, when schoolteacher Ariana Stover loses her footing and goes rolling down the hillside toward the water below. If that were the real ravine, she wouldn’t have rolled far. There would have been too many fallen trees and protruding rocks in the way, along with a sharp drop if her point of entrance had been in the middle of the campground rather than on the left or right side of the campground. As for the actual event of Ariana losing her footing and rolling, that may or may not have happened to me on a hillside in North Carolina many years ago. My family still has it recorded somewhere on video tape. *cringe*


You might think that with my love of family and my love of stories and my love of history, I would be able to share all kinds of fabulous stories about my own family history with you. Admittedly, there are some pretty great stories out there about my ancestors, and though I’ve heard them a hundred times, for whatever reason, I cannot for the life of me ever remember the details. Therefore, I never mention them at all. Such a shame, really. 


Here are a few things I know about my paternal grandparents: 


My grandmother was 16 years old when she married my grandfather, who was 10 years older. The year was 1914. Grandma’s sister made her wedding dress and a traveling dress for her. Grandma had a true wit about her, and she enjoyed doing genealogy and teaching the children at church. As for Grandpa, I didn’t know him personally as he died before I was born. But in his heyday, he was a terrific baseball player with his chosen position being catcher. It was said of him that no one could steal second base on him. At one point, he was offered a contract to play professional ball (which team, I can’t remember, my brother thinks it was the Brooklyn Dodgers—I’m currently asking my cousins, and as soon as I receive the answer, I’ll update this post) but was strongly encouraged by his parents (who were very religious) to turn it down because he would have to play on Sundays. Choosing to honor his parents, he did as they asked and instead worked a dairy farm. They eventually had 13 children, most of whom lived to adulthood, and 83 grandchildren. Two of those children were my dad and his twin sister. Born at the tail end of the Great Depression, the doctor who delivered the babies felt they would be too big of a burden on an already struggling family and offered to raise them as his own. I’m very grateful that my grandparents turned him down! 


Grandpa’s grandmother and grandfather came to America in 1859. While living in Sweden, he became an expert cabinet maker, working in the King’s court for seven years. They crossed the ocean and rode the rails until they got to Nebraska. Once there, they prepared to cross the plains. It was an arduous journey, and at one point their little family was quite hungry with rations being reduced and fatigued. They stopped at a river and my great-great-grandfather went fishing. Intent on gathering buffalo chips, my great-great-grandmother gazed out toward the horizon and saw a tree. Feeling the need to check it out, she did so and found “a pile of dry bread,” according to a family journal. She was so overcome by the miracle that she wept. 


This is a picture of a museum in my hometown which used to be a bank. It showcases several artifacts from the early settlers of the Gila Valley, including some from Native Americans, particularly of the Apache Tribe. My great-great-grandfather’s Swedish Bible which he brought with him is there inside a glass container. I remember seeing it for the first time a few years ago. I wish I had taken a picture of it. The second picture you see is the storefront of an apothecary. Next to it is the old movie theatre where my dad and his brothers and sisters used to go every Saturday night. They worked in the cotton fields during the week and then treated themselves this way. Today these two buildings are part of the museum.

My paternal grandmother had some interesting people in her family tree as well. Her maternal great-grandparents moved from Kentucky to Illinois, and then Utah, narrowly missing the conflict of the Civil War in that area. In that time, they suffered many maladies, one of them being that their toddler son was swept away in a river never to be found. Another time, her great-grandfather was shot in the shoulder where the bullet lodged itself deeply into his flesh and stayed there until his death many years later. Despite these difficulties, they remained optimistic and were looked upon as spiritual leaders in their congregation. From family journals, we know that he “was a real pioneer always helping found new towns, making reservoirs, clearing new land, and encouraging people to build and build well. He was always on the frontier. He was a colorful figure in the early days of southern Utah. He was often referred to as the ‘Grand Old Man.’” 


My mother’s side of the family is rich with tales of adventure as well, but that’s a blog post for another time. I may at some point include some of these stories in my own fictional ones. Who knows? One thing I do know is that I don’t have to go very far to look for inspiration. These people were the real deal, and if I can be half of what they became, I’ll be doing well. If you'd like to check out the scene I mentioned of Ariana tumbling down a hill, here's where you can download the book: https://amzn.to/3b3iWbq

Wednesday, March 24, 2021


 Disasters create opportunity. That is the unfortunate truth--or fortunate if you are the entrepreneur cashing in on the catastrophe.

At the same time, the entrepreneur from this tragedy has often been compared to a hero from one of my favorite movies. He's known as the real George Bailey. Remember that character from It's a Wonderful Life

 Some of you may have a credit card backed by a bank this real life "Building and Loan" man founded. Read on to discover which bank and how a San Francisco tragedy went on to launch make this bank a worldwide success, easily recognizable by most people in the United States.

April 18, 1906. The day started out rocky for people in and around San Francisco. Literally. A terrible earthquake had its epicenter in that city. Buildings shook and sometimes crumbled.

One woman determined to make the best of it and started her stove to make breakfast for her family not realizing that the quake destroyed her chimney. The fire quickly engulfed her home and spread throughout the city.

Sacramento Street with the approaching fire,
1906, by Arnold Genthe.

People's lives burned before them. To keep the city going and allow for rebuilding, bankers would need to loan out money. Quickly.
The problem lay with the safes used by the banks. These remained hot for weeks. No one could open them because oxygen rushing in would cause the cash and paper records to catch fire.

One small bank was different. The Bank of Italy was a small business with smart owner.  Amadeo Giannini loaded $80,00 of coins in his wagon and escaped from the town with them hidden under crates filled with oranges. Coins he collected in the weeks and months before the quake when he convinced immigrants that their few coins were safer in his vault rather than stuffed in their mattresses.

He returned after the fire was contained and set up a temporary bank on the shore of a North Beach wharf. There he lent out money with only a handshake.
After helping workers rebuild their homes by way of these loans, he expanded by walking the fields of  California's valleys where he convinced farmers to keep their money in his bank.
Because of his focus on hardworking immigrants and the common man, Giannini went on to found the Bank of America.

So, anyone have that bankcard in his or her wallet?



Monday, March 22, 2021


 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Photo property of the author

Do you have that movie, that when it comes around, you just have to stop and watch it?  There are many like that for me. Even when they asked what your favorite movie was in our staff meeting the other day I had to think about it. Since I'm a big fan of Kurosawa, "The Seven Samurai" popped out. I love it, subtitles and all. But there are other films that are not as well known that also draw my attention. One such is the film "Dark Command".

Image from IMDb

Based on the novel "The Dark Command: a Kansas Illiad" by W. R. Burnett, written in 1938, the film was released in 1940 staring: Walter Pigeon, John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Claire Trevor, George 'Gabby' Hayes, and directed by Raoul Walsh. 

The story, just prior to the Civil War, is one of the clashings of ideas and the personal costs to those involved. Pigeon plays William 'Will' Cantrell. Will is in love with Mary McCloud and convinces her to marry him. However, the war takes its toll, and Will changes before our eyes. To complicate matters, Bob Seton, John Wayne, shows up and also is in love with Mary. Add to the mix Fletch McCloud, Roy Rogers, as Mary's brother who follows Will on his raids, but as time progresses he finds himself wondering about Will. Throw in the raid on Lawrence, Kansas and you have a film that keeps you engaged.

Image of Claire Trevor
from Wikipedia

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Art Direction and Best Music Score. 

Of course, the film is deeper and more complex than my description, but it is one I will always stop to watch it whenever it shows up. Not only is it fun to watch a young Roy Rogers, a non-singing role, give a brilliant performance, but you also get to see John Wayne and Claire Trevor together after their pairing in 'Stagecoach' released the year prior. If you get the chance, check it out.

What films do you stop to watch when they show up?

For more on W. R. Burnett: Wikipedia 

For more on the cast, crew, and reviews: Dark Command, IMDb

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Post (c) Doris McCraw

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Irish At Heart

I'm late, I'm late for a very important date! Aye, 'tis three days past Saint Patrick's Day, but I'm still wearin' the green. I have only visited Ireland once and then only for a brief four-day bus tour. Yet, the Emerald Isle lives in my heart. Why? I don't really know. I do have a bit of Irish blood in my veins, passed on by my dad, but it's not enough to truly call myself Irish.

There's just something about Ireland that calls to me. Perhaps it's the Irish people's troubled history and their long struggle for freedom from British rule. Or all the Irish myth and legends I've enjoyed reading. Today, I'd like to share a couple of those legends and a blessing to light your day. Plus a special book recommendation!

The Legend of the Shamrock.

Long ago, when Ireland was the land of Druids, there was a great Bishop, Patrick by name, who came to teach the word of God throughout the country. . . This saint, for he was indeed a saint, was well loved everywhere he went. One day, however, a group of his followers came to him and admitted that it was difficult for them to believe in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Saint Patrick reflected a moment and then, stooping down, he plucked a leaf from the shamrock and held it before them, bidding them behold the living example of the "Three-in-One." The simple beauty of this explanation convince these skeptics, and from that day the shamrock has been revered throughout Ireland.


The Legend of the Leprechaun

If you should be walking along a wooded path some moonlit night in spring and hear the faint tap-tapping of a tiny hammer, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of an Irish leprechaun, the elfin shoemaker, whose roguish tricks are the delight of Irish storytelling.

According to legend, the leprechaun has a pot of gold hidden somewhere, and he must give up his treasure to the one who catches him. You'll have to step lively and think quickly to capture a leprechaun's gold though, because this sly little fellow will fool you into looking away for an instant while he escapes into the forest.

A story is told of the man who compelled a leprechaun to take him to the very bush where the gold was buried. The man tied a red handkerchief to the bush in order to recognize the spot again and ran home for a spade. He was gone only three minutes, but when he returned to dig, there was a red handkerchief on every bush in the field. As long as there are Irishmen (or women) to believe in the "little folk," there will be leprechauns to reflect the wonderful Irish sense of fun, and many a new story of leprechaun shenanigans will be added to Irish folklore each year.

The Blessing of Light

May the blessing of Light be on you, 
light without and light within. May
the blessed sunlight shine on you and
warm your heart till it glows like a great
peat fire, so that the stranger may
come and warm himself at it, and also a friend.

Now for my book recommendation, I highly suggest you read The Texan's Irish Bride by our own Caroline Clemmons. It's a wonderful story and I bet you will find the Irish heroine enchanting.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness - Men's Grooming Habits in the 1800s by Jo-Ann Roberts


Once upon a time, men who spent too long in front of a mirror grooming themselves were thought to be narcissistic, pompous or even decadent. It's obvious that public attitudes have come a long way and the changes today in personal grooming for both men and women is a necessity and a definite desirable trait!

Now that Book Three in the Brides of New Hope series is scheduled for release in June, and I’ve started on a new series, I’m seeing a thread running through all my books.  At the hero and heroine’s initial meeting (a.k.a. meet-cute), the MMCs appear unkempt, road weary from traveling, wearing dusty, rumpled clothes, and in need of a shave, a bath or both.  Though the attraction between the FMC and MCC is apparent but strained, the heroine can’t help but be pulled in by the transformation wrought by soap, water and a straight razor, and the essence of either sandalwood, pine, or sage, as well as the unique scent belonging to him alone.

In Book Two of Brides of New Hope,  Posey, U.S. Marshal Grayson Barrett is on temporary assignment in New Hope. Here is Posey Campbell's  reaction to his transformation from the unkempt, long-haired man she met the previous afternoon.

But as soon as an unfamiliar scent of something gloriously clean and fresh, something reminiscent of a newly cut pine tree dusted with snow, settled around her, she turned toward the source Beneath the netting of her burgundy hat, Posey’s brows traveled up toward her hairline. Unable to hide her astonishment at Grayson Barrett’s transformation, Posey stared at his smooth, firm cheeks, complemented by twin dimples below the corners of the most perfectly formed lips the Lord ever bestowed on a man, and a cleft in his strong, square jaw begging for her touch.

Though he obviously favored its longer length, his damp hair curled at the ends, one lock falling forward, tempting, teasing her to brush it away with her fingertips. Her gaze drifted lower. Beneath a conservative gray-striped vest, which brought out the silvery highlights in his eyes, a white, but slightly wrinkled shirt accentuated his tanned features.

On the pretense of returning Henry to her lap, she couldn’t help but admire how well his dark canvas trousers stretched across his strong thighs. Even his boots were buffed to a Sunday shine.

Here are some interesting fact I discovered while doing  research on the history men’s hygiene for this series.

Aftershave," which was used by the Romans as an antiseptic and anesthesia was made with medicinal herbs and spices. In 1709, Italian Giovanni Maria Farina, developed a fragrance he named "Kolnisch Wasser," which meant  Cologne water. He was living in Germany at the time and name it after his hometown Cologne.

Changing beauty and hygiene standards throughout the 19th century caused perfumes to become more accessible and more fashionable as a cosmetic accessory for women. Grooming and hygiene products designed for men became popular during this time and signaled a shift in social trends relating to appearance and fashion. The growth of a fashionable middle class –and the men who maintained their own styles and routines –created a large new market for men’s personal style and hygiene products. 

Men’s fragrances in the 19th century were mostly used in grooming and hygiene products to mask smells, the scent of chemical ingredients, or create demand for a particular product. Florida Water (not a brand, but a kind) was popular for decades before and after the American Civil War. 


Daily shaving became common in the late 19th to maintain a youthful, healthy appearance, creating an increased demand for personal shaving products. Men were reluctant to spend much time on personal grooming because it was seen as “feminine," however, most had begun shaving daily.


In the late 1880s, etiquette books started spreading the importance of cleanliness and proper hygiene. Weekly and daily bathing had been a privilege of the upper class. Once the popularity of etiquette books spread, the middle class started to take notice and would emulate the rituals of the wealthy. Eventually the lower classes and immigrants, trying to assimilate into the American dream, began to improve their health and hygiene as well.

The early deodorant patent was from 1867, and the earliest commercially successful deodorant brand was “Mum” in 1888, followed by the first antiperspirant in 1903. Despite their unappealing format, many early deodorants and antiperspirants included perfumes to minimize their chemical scents.  Deodorants and antiperspirants weren’t widely marketed until the early 20th  century. Before then, people who could afford to mask body odors did so with perfumes applied directly to their clothing or handkerchiefs. Companies sold soaps, creams, lotions, and scented waters for shaving. American ads emphasized that these products were manly and would give them a professional edge.  Men also used hair tonics, hair cream, or oil.  

Hair tonic, including a popular brand called Rowland's Macassar Oil was used by men everywhere. The term "Macassar Oil" was a registered trademark and it became a generic term for men's hair oil. It was first offered in the 1780s and was still in use in the early 1900s. It was a mixture of coconut oil and other scented oils. The oil was notorious for staining the backs of chairs and sofas. "Anti-macassars" were known as the small ornate pieces of cloth that were draped over furniture to stop the hair oil from staining the material!


Today, we take our modern amenities—especially clean water and hot water, running water inside the house, and showers and bathtubs—for granted. But keeping a body clean in the 1800s, especially on the frontier, was an arduous and time-consuming job. Most folks on the frontier bathed in rivers or ponds when they were available or took sponge baths from a metal or porcelain basin. But there were plenty of people who seldom did that!

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Texas Woman Who Saved the Bison by Bea Tifton


Charles Goodnight is a Texas legend. He co-established the Goodnight-Loving Trail and was the inspiration for Larry McMurtry’s epic book, Lonesome Dove. But did you know his wife also made historic contributions to Texas and all of North America?

Mary Ann “Molly” Dyer was born on September 12, 1839, in Madison County, Tennessee. She and her family moved to Texas when she was fourteen. Soon after, her parents passed away and Molly was the caretaker for her five brothers. 

Molly became a schoolteacher and taught in Weatherford, Texas in the 1860s.  In 1864, she met Charles Goodnight. They married in 1870. 

 Charles Goodnight went into partnership with Jon Adair and together they founded the J.A. Ranch in Palo Duro, Canyon, Texas. Molly ran the household. She became a mother figure to the cowboys who worked for her husband. As she adjusted to the loneliness of a frontier wife, a cowboy gave Molly three chickens. Instead of consigning the fowl to Sunday dinner, Molly made pets of them. 

 The Native Americans hunted bison, also called American buffalo, and when they killed the animal, the people used all of the parts. When White settlers arrived, there were between 30 and 60 million bison roaming the United States. The Whites began slaughtering the animals, taking the pelts and leaving the carcasses to rot. By the 1860s, only about 300 bison were left in the United States.

One day Molly and Charles found two orphaned calves. Molly convinced Charles to keep them and care for them. The couple added any bison orphans they found and bred the animals until soon, they had a herd of about 200.

 Molly heard that conservation efforts were underway in various parts of the United States and she and Charles donated and sold part of their herd.  Some went to Yellowstone National Park, the New York Zoo, and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Molly died in 1926 and Charles died three years after. In 1996, the herd, one of the last pure bison herds in the United States, was donated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division. Many of the buffalo roam in the Caprock Canyon State Park near Lubbock, Texas. They range in 15,000 acres to live unmolested.  San Angelo State Park in San Angelo, Texas, also has a small bison herd, as does the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. About 5,000 bison exist in North America today.

At the Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight Ranch Historic Site in Goodnight, Texas, a statue of Molly with a bison calf reminds visitors what she did to save the American Buffalo.

Further reading and a bison video: