Sunday, May 30, 2021

Tom Horn and the Tuolumne County Jail by Zina Abbott


Like all the early gold rush towns, Sonora had its share of lawbreakers and troublemakers. The citizens came up with a series of jails in which to house them. History records the most primitive detention device was an oak tree with a chain around it. The oak was succeeded by a series of simple buildings including a log cabin, a metal cage inside the jail building to house the most violent prisoners, and a masonry building.

In 1866, a new jail was built on Bradford Avenue. This jail replaced a previous structure that was destroyed by fire in 1865, when an unhappy inmate named Tom Horn set fire to his straw bedding.

This was not the same Tom Horn made famous by his Army service in Arizona, his stint as a Pinkerton, or for being hanged for murdering a fourteen-year-old boy in Wyoming. There are pictures of him.

Inside Tuolumne County jail cell--note narrow window

Tom Horn, the Tuolumne County inmate, was a 36-year-old Irish gold miner considered a local misfit. I found no pictures of him, only a jail cell display to commemorate his incarceration in the previous jail and his demise. He was from Columbia, California, about five miles north of Sonora and had a history of committing arson. He rode into Sonora on a drunken spree. After being removed from his horse to save the animal, he made his next stop at the Riffle Saloon. Since it appeared he was not in any shape to ride home, he was taken to the County jail to "sleep it off." He was searched for weapons before being locked up. Unfortunately, he had matches in his possession that either were not found or were ignored. Evidently, Horn thought if he set the fire, they would take all the prisoners out of their cells. As flames went through the building, citizens raised the alarm.

Like most counties, the jailer or sheriff and their family lived in part of the jail.

Tuolumne County had hired only one jailer, Mr. Alfred Mills. After he checked his charges for the night, Mills went downtown where he purchased dinner at the same saloon where Tom Horn had been arrested that afternoon. Alerted about the fire by a neighbor name Rutledge who knew where to find Mills, the jailer ran several blocks to the jail. There he found Undersheriff George Seckels already there. Along with others, they did their best to save the prisoners' lives while at the same time not allowing any to escape.

The men saved all the other prisoners, but Horn's door jammed. The heat was so intense it fused the metal door of his cell shut. He died in the blaze.

There ended up being some political fallout because of this incident. The Tuolumne County Museum and History Center reproduced some of the local newspaper articles of the day regarding this incident. Below are a few of them. Draw your own conclusions.

The Sonora Herald, the first newspaper in California's Gold Country, editorialized that it was not uncommon for jailers to be absent and that law men "frequently…had to come down town to hunt up Mills…(to)…gain admittance." The Herald stated that Tom Horn had been yelling "Fire" before Mills departed for the Riffle and that Mills paid no attention to him.

In a letter to the editor of the Union Democrat, the writer said that "Surely, it could not be expected of Mr. M. that he would remain in the prison all of the time, night and day…One man is not enough to perform the duties of the jailer of Tuolumne County. Two, at least, are required."

Here are some other excerpts regarding this incident:

A Brave Officer - As soon as Mr. Mills learned that the jail was really on fire - it should be remembered that there had been several false alarms - he rushed fearlessly into the burning building and took out the prisoners from the different cells at the hazard of his life. The task was rendered more difficult by his having to guard against their escaping from custody in the confusion and excitement, and it is remarkable that not one escaped. In the performance of this duty he was fortunately assisted by the undersheriff and a few brave and reliable friends. All the persons confined were got out but the unfortunate man Horn, and ho effort was spared to save him, Mr. Mills repeatedly gained his cell door, but could not force it open, even after being unlocked. At the most imminent personal risk he persevered, and did not cease his exertions until overpowered by his labors and nearly suffocated with smoke, he fell exhausted in front of the cell door. Here Mr. Mills must have perished in the flames, but for the bravery of Mr. James Bolton, who rushed in and dragged him out. It is conceded by all who know the circumstances, that Mr. Mills performed his duty in a prompt, faithful and fearless manner. Some complaint has been made about his leaving the jail unattended. Surely, it could not be expected of Mr. M. that he would remain in the prison all the time, night and day. The trouble lies in the fact that he was allowed no assistant. One man is not enough to perform the duties of the jailer of Tuolumne county. Two, at least, are required.

Union Democrat

Dec. 30, 1865


The Jail Could Have Been Saved

(From the Chief Engineer's Annual Report)

With a fire engine and a cistern, the jail could have been saved and Tuolumne county saved $15,000, what is more, the life of a human being who perished in the flames. I cannot close my report without calling the attention of the Trustees who now hold office, and those who will be elected in the coming year, to the wants of the Department, and there is but once way to do it, and that is, build four or five cisterns and procure a fire engine. If my recommendations had been carried out, we would now have a substantial Fire Department in this city.

Hoping my successor will accomplish what I failed to do, I most respectfully submit the foregoing.

         D.S. Lynch

         Chief Engineer of the Sonora Fire Department

Sonora Herald

Jan. 20, 1866


Old Tuolumne County Jail, now museum and history center

The jail was rebuilt in 1866. There were two cells blocks, since women and juveniles were incarcerated separately from the men. It remained in use until 1960.

Today, the old jail serves as the Tuolumne County Museum and History Center with the cells and corridors filled with displays of early Sonora and Tuolumne County.


Two of my recent books include Tuolumne County.


Most of Cole is set in Stanislaus County immediately to the west of Tuolumne County, Cole does travel to Sonora in order to buy land near the border of the two counties. You may found the book description and purchase link by CLICKING HERE.


A Lawyer for Linton is primarily set in Tuolumne County. You may found the book description and purchase link by CLICKINGHERE.






Display at the Tuolumne County Museum and History Center



Friday, May 28, 2021



If you're like me, you know bits and pieces of how things went down in the Old West and may even have a rudimentary timeline in your mind of major events that shaped the United States as a whole. However, when I stumbled upon this terrific timeline that author and historian Kathy Weiser-Alexander compiled, I wasn't aware of half the events that were so important in establishing the nation's structure and bolstering the settlers' courage. That courage, along with their grit and fortitude, is what helps me deal with difficulties in my own life. I know that I can face whatever mountain I have to face because of the mountains my progenitors faced.

Here are just a few facts that stood out to me as I read through the timeline:

1) My home state, Arizona, was established as a territory long before other states that were admitted into the Union. However, it was one of the last few to finally be admitted.

2) It took Samuel Colt fourteen years and the help of Texas Ranger Captain Sam Walker to invent the revolver. It then took another 23 years for the double revolver to be patented. Now that's persistence!

3) There were many more wars and skirmishes between whites and Native Americans than I knew of. We hear of the major battles between the Comanche and Texans, Crazy Horse and Custer, and Geronimo and Crook. Geronimo eventually surrendered to Gen. Nelson Miles, but there were countless other battles between whites and Native Americans in U.S. history, or in some cases, the same people fighting each other more than once, over the same issue. Difficult times for everyone involved! I think they just wanted to be able to live their lives the way they had always done and the only way they knew how. Unfortunately, history shows us that change is both inevitable and daunting.

4) I didn't realize how many cities are in existence today because of gold and silver discoveries. Many of the boom towns that sprung up after a major discovery fizzled out just as quickly, but there were several which persevered. Some towns like Deadwood, South Dakota, and Seattle, Washington even burned to the ground and were rebuilt, not unlike Chicago. (How often do we hear of the "Great Seattle Fire"?) And of course, San Francisco suffered a major disaster in the 1906 earthquake and has risen up to take its place on the world stage once again. Resilience has long been the fervor of our American forebears!

This timeline, while helpful in putting the bigger picture together, isn't complete, and may never be. Personally, I would add the quest and mystery of the Lost Dutchman's gold mine in the Superstitions Mountains of central Arizona, the first rodeo occurring in Colorado Territory in 1869, and the start-up of dude ranches, or "guest ranches," as they were called. And while the article mentions the day when Pinkerton detectives stormed the James household in pursuit of Jesse James in 1875, it doesn't mention the formation of the famous detective agency in 1850.

Which important events that shaped the United States would you add? Is there a bit of local history in your area that contributes to the settling of the West?

Note: The article I referenced above also mentions Bleeding Kansas and the difficult years with the Border Ruffians. If you would like to read more about that, my book, Hope Springs Eternal, might be a good choice for you. Also, several of the Pinkerton Matchmaker books, including my first one, An Agent for Elizabeth, show Denver in its infancy after it sprung up from a mining camp. Finally, A Lumberjack for Christmas shows Arizona Territory when it was growing as well. You can find all of these stories on Amazon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021


By Caroline Clemmons

Cowboys on roller skates? Believe it!

Did you realize that a craze for roller skating swept across the United States in the 1880s? I hope you enjoy learning about activities which our ancestors enjoyed.

Fancy roller rinks for high society first began to appear in large cities like London and New York. Soon the craze spread to any town with a building large enough to contain throngs of skaters. Where there was no building, they were constructed. The roller rink became a popular meeting place for friends and neighbors, whether or not they skated.

Jean-Joseph Merlin

Jean-Joseph Merlin is credited with inventing skates in1760. The inventor and horologist was born in 1735 in Belgium. His roller skates were without brakes. He introduced his skates at a party in London and promptly crashed into a mirror.

Reminds me of the old Chicago metal skates on which I learned to skate, complete with skate key. This was at my grandmother’s in an older area of town. The sidewalks had shifted and some lifted, so that skating meant jumping parts that jutted into the air. Needless to say, I fell frequently. But in spite of cuts and bruises on my knees, I loved skating.

Credit for invention of roller skates is also given to the Dutch so they could skate during the summer. Dutch rollers were one row of what we would call “in-line” wooden wheels from the heel to toe, like an ice skate blade. Supposedly, even babies wore these skates instead of booties.

Monsieur Pettibled applied for the first patent for roller skates in 1819.

The first public skating rink opened in 1866.

After James Plimpton redesigned the roller skate in 1884 with two parallel sets of wheels, popularity spread. The base cushioned with rubber allowed flexibility. Later, ball bearings were added to the wheels. Toe clamps on the skates had to fasten securely to the outer sole or the skater would fall. Some added leather straps around the instep to be sure the skate stayed on safely. These modifications gave the user a chance of staying upright.  

Opinions were divided on whether roller skating rinks provided the public with “healthful amusement” or were “pits of perdition”, as some preachers claimed. No matter the opinion, roller skating was so popular that rinks were built across the nation.

A report of one rink stated:

“The floor is finished, with the exception of the final sandpapering, and the steam pipes will be put in today. Seats for visitors will be erected on both sides, under which the steam pipes will run, so that those looking on will be comfortable. A stand has been erected in the center of the building above the floor for the use of the band or orchestra. Rooms have been partitioned off for the offices, skate rooms, and the accommodation of skaters.”

In many places three sessions were held daily. Admission to the morning session was ten cents and the skates furnished for free. The afternoon session cost ten cents and the skates an added ten cents. For the evening session from seven to ten o’clock, cost was fifteen cents and the skates were ten cents. They might also have a session only for ladies or a young people’s session. Objectionable persons were not admitted.

Before the concept of roller derbies, would you have considered roller skating a spectator sport? Many people came to watch the skaters and listen to the music. Since not everyone who went to the rink skated, the manager booked attractions to entertain the spectators and keep their interest. Examples of these included a skating exhibition, a play, a magician, or a carnival night where skaters came in costume.

Besides the joy of skating and having fun as couples or in groups, special songs and music centered around skating became popular. New songs such as “Roller Waltz”, “Fun on Roller Skates Polka”, “Roller Skate Gallop”, and “Girl on the Roller Skates” were some of the music and lyrics that became popular. My favorite is “Skaters’ Waltz”, written in 1882 by French composer Emile Waldteufel.

Here’s what one of my favorite western columnists, J R. Sanders, has to say:

Roller-skating was instantly popular with young ladies of all social strata, who relished gliding through waltzes and quadrilles with wheels on their feet. Parents and politicians looked askance, worried the fad fostered undue familiarity between the sexes. Doctors were divided— considering it either healthful diversion or downright dangerous. Some clergymen condemned it as a sure pathway to Hell. With all that going for it, how could any red-blooded cowboy resist?

In its heyday that quintessential cow town and acknowledged Gomorrah of the Plains, Dodge City, Kan., had a roller rink. Owned by Dr. Thomas McCarty, it doubled as an opera house and, on occasion, a church. Kansans weren’t alone in their passion for the sport; El Paso had a rink, likewise Cheyenne and Omaha. Montana Territory was ahead of the trend with the Helena Skating Pavilion, built in early 1883, which boasted a 65-by-100-foot maple floor “almost as smooth and hard as glass” and three-tiered wraparound galleries for spectators. A year later the pavilion hosted an “apple race,” with skaters scrambling to be first to collect 21 apples from the rink floor and drop them in a bucket.

One account of 1885 life in Medora, Dakota Territory, noted, “A roller-skating rink, whose equipment was more to be feared by a cowboy than the hurricane-deck of a cow pony, was doing big business among the cattlemen.” In Cheyenne a drunken cowboy who couldn’t master his skates tried instead to ride his horse onto the rink floor. An attendant seized the animal’s bridle and gave horse and rider the heave-ho, informing the besotted buckaroo that if he returned, “the coroner would have a professional call.”

Skates stymied more than the hapless cowpoke. Texas lawman Stephen Boyard found them tougher than a gang of desperadoes. The October 29, 1884, Daily Laredo Times reported, “Marshal Boyard now takes his meals from the mantle shelf, and when asked the reason why, he gazes sadly at a pair of roller skates, asks you to occupy the official chair and braces himself against the telephone, but he says not a word.” Deputy Sheriff Fred Singer, a former Dodge City marshal, entered a skating competition at McCarty’s rink a week before Christmas, during which, reported the Dodge City Times, he “cut some funny evolutions, ‘lighting’ frequently on all fours.” Other lawmen fared better. In Las Cruces, New Mexico Territory, Doña Ana County Sheriff Eugene Van Patten’s “roller mania” was such that he patronized the local rink most nights, looking “as if he were having more fun than a boy at a circus.” Van Patten enjoyed skating so much that in fall 1885 he built a competing roller rink.


Just like fads today, the roller skating craze disappeared until the 1940s and 1950s. Wouldn’t it be fun to go skating?



To read a western historical romance which includes roller skating, pre-order your copy of ADELINE now at

ADELINE releases Monday, June 1. It will also be in Kindle Unlimited. Bachelors & Babies were first. Now those babies are growing up in Cupids and Cowboys. Don't miss this humorous, sweet story of a young woman and her best friend playing Cupid--with sometimes disastrous results.

Monday, May 24, 2021


 One-eyed Charley Parkhurst. This name became a legend in the West, especially in Northern California where this person settled and earned fame. But fame for doing what?

Pull up a chair and let me tell you 'bout old One-Eyed Charley!

Life in that orphanage back East was no picnic. Charley ran away from it at around the age of twelve. The God Lord smiled on him since he met Ebenezer Balch. Now Balch had a kind heart and a good way with horses. He taught Charley everything he knew about running a livery and caring for the animals.

Well, some years passed. Then it happened. They discovered gold in California. Men started flocking to the place. That gave Charley an itch for adventure. 

Charley made his way to Boston and boarded a ship, the R.B. Forbes, to take him to Panama. In Panama, he had to leave the ship and walk across land to reach the Pacific Ocean. Sure enough, the Lord was lookin' out for old Charley again. He met businessman John Morton there. The man owned a freighter outfit and needed drivers like Charley.

That Charley was one fine whip, as they called the drivers. In fact, he earned a special name--six-horse Charley. 'Course the other name came later when a horse kicked him in the eye, blinding it. From then on, folks mostly called him One-Eyed Charley.
You might be thinkin' that Dead Eye in the title was on account of Charley losin' that eye. That's not so. Outlaws learned to fear Charley Parkhurst. 

He carried a .44 caliber pistol and never hesitated to shoot anyone dead if the man tried to hold up Charley's stage. And he rarely missed what he aimed at with that gun or the coach gun. From twenty feet, he could cut the cigar out of a man's mouth if he aimed at it. Yes, he was that good.

All this would be enough to make Old Charley a legend. Funny thing is that Charley's legend grew after he died. All because of the surprise he had waitin' for folks.
After the cancer took Charley, the undertaker got him ready for burying. Only, the man couldn't help but notice that Charley was a woman. Charlotte.

Charley's obituary summed it up well.

On Sunday last, there died a person known as Charley Parkhurst, aged 67, who was well-known to old residents as a stage driver. He was, in early days, accounted one of the most expert manipulators of the reins who ever sat on the box of a coach. It was discovered when friendly hands were preparing him for his final rest, that Charley Parkhurst was unmistakably a well-developed woman! (Sacramento Daily Bee, December 1879)

Now don't that beat all!

Just consider this. Since Charley voted in an election for president, that makes her the first one in the United States to have the vote.

Latest Release...

Want adventure and romance? Please check out my latest release. From Minnesota to Wyoming, this couple will travel far before they can find their happily ever after...

Robbie MacTavish never thought to write away for a wife. After his wife’s death years earlier, he decided never to remarry. His aunt has other ideas and writes to a “friend of a friend”, Mrs. Ella Milton. When the bride fails to show, he is more relieved than disappointed. He needs to focus his attention on leading his family’s group of wagons to Wyoming.

When Veronica, his bride’s much older sister, appears and not Verity, Robbie suddenly grows much more interested in marrying. Will he be able to convince this woman that he needs only her as his wife while they race against time to find Verity?

Saturday, May 22, 2021

AND UP THE MOUNTAIN WE GO - Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

With Colorado Springs celebrating its sesquicentennial this year, I will periodically be posting about the city and region. Earlier I posted about the Trolley Museum: Found Here. What makes this post so much fun for me is the resource I found for the article and the fact that the Cog Railway is opening up again after almost four years.

An early photo of the cog railway

The Railway closed in October of 2017 for maintenance. The closure was longer than anyone expected. The re-opening coincides closely with the opening of a new Summit House at the top of the mountain. To me, there is nothing like riding up the side of the mountain to be greeted by views that take your breath away. 

But what about the beginnings. This article found in the "Cow-Boy Round-Up" was quite interesting. I'm sure they had high hopes for the publication, but I've only found one issue. As for the railway system, it didn't begin its climb up to the summit of the mountain until June 30, 1891.

Below is a short piece the publication included in that issue:

The Cow-Boy Round-Up is issued not only for the interest of the cowboy club but in the interest of the great and growing city of Denver, Colorado. The reader will find much interesting information regarding this wonderful city in this issue.

I'm not sure where this photo came from
but I had to share

And the following is the one on the railway.

To the top of Pike's Peak.

Colorado is bound to be the Mecca of tourists in the United States. A few days ago, a most important transaction took place, which will advertise Colorado all over the world. The transaction was nothing more or less than the taking up of the remaining stock in the Pike's Peak railroad company, a corporation that can now boast of a half million of capital, placed principally with Chicago capitalist. Within a few weeks, this corporation will commence breaking ground for one of the most novel railways in the United States — a cog-wheel road from Manitou to the top of Pike's Peak. The road will be 9 miles long, and will run straight up the face of the mountain. The trip to the top will be made in an hour and a half, thus enabling tourists to ascend to the top of the Peak and return between meals. At present, the traveled road is twenty-four miles long, and an entire day is generally taken for the trip. It will take the entire summer to build the road, but when completed, it will be solid, substantial, and safe. (Denver Journal of Commerce.) 

The Cow-Boy Round-Up, Volume 1, Number 1, March 4, 1889

The author's photo from one of the cog trips

I hope you enjoyed my trip back and how things may have changed, but still stay the same. Until next time.
 For more information on the process

Cog Railway History

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Author of the 'Agate Gulch' series of novellas and the 'Kiowa Wells' series of novels
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

(c) 2021 Doris McCraw All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Cowboy Lore and History of Coffee


“Whether perked, brewed, dripped, or boiled, coffee has been touted as the definitive treatment for drunkenness, sleeplessness, depression, and anxiety. Both cursed and blessed, the dark brew has been blamed for man’s (and woman’s) perdition as well as salvation practically since the discovery of the bitter red berries.”

~From back cover of HOW THE CIMARRON RIVER GOT ITS NAME and Other Stories About Coffee

Chapter One of this entertaining book is titled Cowboy Lore, Legends, Lies, and Bits of Truth About Coffee. Before I delve into the history of coffee, here are a couple of those cowboy legends.

“A buckaroo grew weary of riding drag day after hot, dusty day. He decided to ask for what pay he had coming, take to the trail alone, and see what Lady Luck might bring his way. Things didn’t go so well. He had drifted into the Oklahoma Panhandle when the chance presented itself to rustle a few cattle. Now fortune was on his side. He drove those longhorns across the hot prairie, staying away from well-worn trails. When he came to a river he stopped to rest and built a little fire to put on a pot of coffee before searching out a fording place. Suddenly he heard the clatter of hooves moving fast. A posse! He jumped on his horse, took one long look at the coffee pot, and shouted, “Simmer on, you son of a b—ch.

"And with that he splashed across the river and was gone. But the memory of the would-be rustler lingers on: the river is still called by the name he gave it, the Cimarron. Cowboys are known for their colorful language.”

Legend #2

“Northerners, like old-timers in Montana, had a lot of fun at the expense of “rawhides,” their name for Texas cowhands who began spilling into Montana from about 1883. The nickname was derived from the Texans’ way of mending everything that broke or fell apart with strips of rawhide, whether it be a bridle or a wagon tongue. They knew cows and horses, the Montanans said, but when it came to anything else, they were “from the sticks and no mistake.” They told a story about a Texan who rode into camp in time for dinner. When they passed him the sugar, he said, “No, thanks, I don’t take salt in my coffee.” The only sweetener he knew about was sorghum syrup.”

There are many more humorous, sometimes true, tales of cowboys and coffee in the book, but let’s move on to some historical factoids.

According to the book’s author, Ernestine Sewell Link, coffee originated in the Middle East. The plants were cultivated, the seeds zealously guarded by Arabian growers as the beans (red berries) developed into a lucrative trade. However, a few of the seeds were smuggled into India, where they grew into trees and flourished.

Dutch traders, recognizing the value of the coffee beans, got hold of seeds in India and started plantations in Java, an island near Borneo.

Coffee berries & roasted beans

Despite the Arabs’ best efforts, coffee made its way to Europe, first arriving in Italy, supposedly after the Turks laid siege to Venice. They were routed by the Venetians, leaving behind their supplies, including bags of coffee berries, when they fled. One Venetian man took the berries and introduced “the divine drink” to his compatriots.

When coffee arrived in Rome, a controversy ensued. Some priests declared it to be the Devil’s invention, insisting he had given it to the Mohammedans for use in their rituals. Coffee would entrap weak Christians, causing them to lose their souls. But when the Pope tasted the drink, he said, “Why, this Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall fool Satan by baptizing it and making it a truly Christian beverage.”

French merchant sailors brought back stories about coffee and introduced the beans to France. Jean de Thevenot is credited with teaching Parisians how to prepare and drink the dark, bitter brew. They were to fill a boiler with water, let it boil, then add a heaping spoonful of coffee power per every three cups of water. This should be brought to a boil and stirred or temporarily removed from the fire lest it boil over; then repeat the process ten or twelve times. When done, pour into porcelain cups, place on a wooden platter and serve while boiling hot. “One must drink it hot, but in several installments, . . . One takes it in little swallows for fear of burning one’s self – in such fashion that . . . one hears a pleasant little musical sound." [A slurping sound, presumably.]

In Germany, Frederick the Great resented the fortunes being made by foreign merchants from the coffee bean trade. He declared coffee to be a quality drink, only available to the rich, thus limiting how much traders could sell in Germany. To quiet complaints from the poor, he claimed avoiding coffee was good for the fatherland because coffee made men sterile. Physicians further insisted women must not drink it if they wished to have children. Protesting such nonsense, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote the Coffee Contata.

Garraway's Coffee House, Exchange Alley, London

In England during the 17th and 18th  centuries, coffee drinking flourished. Touted as the “virtuous“ drink, it became the drink of democracy. Coffee houses sprang up where men could meet and discuss differing opinions. Women complained to King Charles II that the “drying and enfeebling” liquor had made the men “unfruitful as the deserts where that unhappy berry is said to be bought.” Alarmed, Charles ordered the coffee houses to be suppressed, but the men argued intensely against this, and he revoked his order within eight days.

However, when the East India Company formed to promote tea, the government began pushing tea, calling it “the cup that cheers.” Soon, tea replaced coffee as the national drink of England.

We have the French to thank for bringing coffee to the Americas. One brave, determined Frenchman brought a sprout from King Loius XIV’s royal tree across the Atlantic, keeping it alive through the depredations of a Dutch spy, a pirate attack, and a severe water shortage. Landing on the Caribbean island of Martinique, he planted and tended the wilted sprout, and within a few years coffee plantations were established.

Coffee could be had in the young United States, although at an exorbitant price. Not until after the Civil War did it gain widespread popularity. During the war, it became a staple among Union troops. The daily ration was ten pounds of green coffee beans or eight pounds of roasted ground per company. When the soldiers bivouacked, fires were built and coffee was the first thing prepared.

Did Confederate soldiers have coffee? Well, it seems they sometimes did. Dogs trained for patrol duty were sent across enemy lines where, by previous arrangement, Yankee coffee was exchanged for Confederate tobacco and peanuts.

And then . . .


According to folklorists, coffee spread widely in settlements of the Southwest after the war. It was effective after the settlers’ habitual over-indulgence in mescal, “pine top” whiskey or other alcoholic home brew. One memoirist recalled Southerners being so impoverished after the war that they concocted “coffee” from parched maize, meal bran or roasted sweet potato peelings.

Travelers to Texas were not impressed by the so-called coffee they experienced. Frederic Law Olmsted is quoted as saying, “. . . it is often difficult to imagine any beverage more revolting.”

The author mentions a number of other substitutes for coffee, including sassafras tea, which was considered a good tonic. Peppermint, easily found growing along little streams, also made a good tea (one I personally enjoy.) Among settler, though, parched corn was the most common substitute for the real thing.

Eventually, coffee did come to Texas after the war, much appreciated by gone-to-Texas emigrants, hunters and cowboys. “With the establishment of the ranching economy in the last decades of the 1800s, the back burner on the stove in every Mama’s kitchen had its coffee pot. Coffee was taken for granted as a necessity in the West.”

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 three 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 

Twitter   Facebook   Goodreads   Sweethearts of the West