Sunday, January 30, 2022

The Unnecessary War by Zina Abbott


Once the American Civil War ended, the U.S. Army turned its attention back to dealing with the hostilities between the white Americans and Plains tribes. Part of their effort involved making treaties where the tribes –primarily Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sioux, Comanche, Kiowa, or Plains Apache—gave up rights to certain lands in exchange for reservation land plus annuity payments in food, hunting weapons, and ammunition. White Americans did not really care about any territory rights the tribes still held. Native tribes retaliated when the perceived whites had violated the treaties.

An incident on the Kansas frontier in 1867—now known as Hancock’s War—is an example of the disasters that took place due to incompetence, intolerance, and misunderstandings. It is also known by some as “The Unnecessary War.”

Part of the misunderstandings came about because generals and other high-ranking officers who performed well in the Civil War were not suited to dealing with the Native Americans. In addition to having an arrogant contempt for tribal people as a whole, they did not understand the Native way of thinking or the way their leadership was organized. In addition, they were disinclined to listen to their own Indian agents who had developed a certain rapport with the different tribes.

After several tribes carried out a series of raids and confrontations because they felt certain treaties had been broken by white Americans (in most cases, true), many generals, including Gen. William T. Sherman, then assigned to oversee the Kansas frontier region, wished to carry out a revenge expedition. Gen. Grant decided against it. Instead, he directed Gen. Winfield S. Hancock to intimidate the people of the tribes into remaining peaceful. Hancock did not have authority to make any new treaties. However, he did intend to restore peace by forcing them into submission. He intended to accomplish this with a display of military might.

Gen. Hancock was confident in his ability to bring the tribes under control and intimidate them into falling into line with United States interests. He raised a force of 1,400 soldiers involving  seven companies of the 37th Infantry under Capt. John Rsiha, eight companies of new 7th Cavalry under Col. (brevet Lt. Maj. Gen,) A. J. Smith, a battery of 4th Artillery commanded by Capt. Charles Parsons (brevit lt. col.) and some Delaware Indian Scouts, also a few white scouts including “Wild Bill” Hickok.

Also, Leavenworth (The man, not the fort, the Indian agent of Kiowas and Comanches) and Wyncoop (the Indian agent of the Cheyenne and Arapaho) came. They repeatedly offered advice regarding the best way to negotiate with the tribal leaders, but were, for the most part, ignored.

Gen. Hancock and his men marched from Fort Riley to Fort Harker, where they were joined by Colonel Custer George a Custer, with four companies of 7th Cavalry and one infantry company. At Fort Harker the Expedition added two more Cavalry troops. Gen. Hancock and his men left Fort Harker on April 3, 1866 and arrived at Fort Larned on April 7, 1866.

From Ft. Larned, Gen. Hancock sent word to the surrounding tribal leaders that he expected them to come to the fort. He wished to speak to them, but he wanted to address them all at the same time. From among the tribes’ leaders, several stood out to officers at Fort Larned by March 1867, including Satanta and Kicking Bird of the Kiowa; Tall Bull, White Horse, Bull Bear, Roman Nose, and Black Kettle of the Cheyenne; and Little Raven of the Arapaho.

A few of the chiefs met with Hancock at Fort Larned. Although they kept insisting other chiefs were on their way, they repeatedly resisted all gathering in one place at the same time.  

Hancock concluded the meeting by indicating that he wanted to meet with the other chiefs. He and his troops rode west of Fort Larned toward a combined Cheyenne and Lakota village at Pawnee Forks. On April 13, 1867, as Hancock and his men approach the village, several chiefs came out to meet them. They said they would meet with the general the following day at the location where the Army set up camp.

Gen. Hancock insisted he wanted to come into their village at Pawnee Forks to talk to the chiefs.

Worried about the fates of their families, the Cheyenne chiefs and their Lakota Sioux allies resisted. It had been only three years since the massacre at Sand Creek where a village of Cheyenne under Black Kettle and some Arapaho were massacred by a unit of Colorado Volunteers.

Insisting on having his way, on April 14, 1867, Gen. Hancock ordered his troops forward. As the army drew nearer the village, a group of about 300 Cheyenne warriors—dressed in full battle array—rode out to meet them, mirroring the army’s display of military strength.

Cheyenne Warriors

Gen. Hancock and his forces continued to move forward. Before reaching the Cheyenne camp, they were met by a large body of Indians waving a white flag. The Chiefs said they wanted peace instead of War.

Colonel Ned Wynkoop, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agent at Fort Larned from 1866 to 1868, rode out between the lines to ask the warriors to stay calm and stay put. The warriors agreed. The Army troops marched to within one mile of the village and set up camp.

Fearing that the Army intended to attack their village, the women and children—along with many of the men to protect them—fled the village. They left their lodges and belongings—including most of their food—behind.

Gen. Hancock, talked and acted as though he could not understand of why the people would flee. Offended that they would have the audacity to take independent action, he demanded the return of the villagers. Some of the Cheyenne warriors obliged Hancock and rode to look for the women and children, but returned empty-handed. However, after observing the general’s anger and fearing retaliation, they fled without staying for any “talks.”

Gen. Hancock was far from acting in good faith with the Cheyenne. On the sly, he ordered Col. Custer’s 7th Cavalry to surround the village that night to keep them from running. However, Custer and his men either got there too late, or the villagers escaped past them.

Custer pursued them the next day. He discovered two stations of the Overland Stage Company on the Smoky Hill Trail had been raided and several people killed. He sent back word it must have been the escaping Cheyenne. He later realized it could not have been them (It was the work of the Lakota chief, Little Raven, and his warriors, who left the Cheyenne village shortly after Gen. Hancock and his troops arrived.) By the time Col. Custer sent another message saying, because of timing, it could not have been the Cheyenne, it was too late for the village.

On April 18, 1867, Hancock, contrary to Indian Agent Wyncoop’s advice, confiscates all Cheyenne goods and burned the village. He justified it by claiming the Cheyenne were “a nest of conspirators.”

Enraged, the Cheyenne vowed revenge. They waged war, not only on the U.S. Army, but on any white Americans whose paths they crossed. 1867 was considered an “unprecedented season of violence on the plains of Kansas.”

For more details about his incident, as well as some of the quotes by participants I used as chapter headers, please CLICKHERE.



I featured this incident in my book, Hannah’s Highest Regard, the second book in the box set, Hannah’s Lieutenant, I recently published. The box set is available in both ebook and print formats.







Friday, January 28, 2022


 Have you ever claimed something to be true and promptly afterward been shown up? The poor territorial governor of Washington State had this happen to him in 1880. He had just finished sending out his State of the Territory address in which he stated that the Seattle area has a mild climate and "ice and snow are almost unknown to Washington Territory" when it actually began snowing on January 5, 1880.


For most of the other townships in the Pacific Northwest, they didn't see the great storm hit their area until Friday, January 9, 1880. What is now believed to have been a Category 3 hurricane landed on the West Coast along southern Washington and northern Oregon. Somehow the extratropical storm (typhoon) formed deep in the Pacific Ocean but didn't follow the normal pattern of heading westward out to the islands. Instead it got pulled into a jet stream of cold air north of Seattle and dragged onto the coastline. Two vessels on the ocean at the time, the S.S. Oregon and the Victoria, reported an unusual and significant drop in barometric pressure, their readings only registering 28. 20". And in Portland, Oregon, the barometric pressure dropped to 28.56", the lowest reading on record. The same goes for Astoria - the reading of only 28.45" still stands as a record to this day.

Depending on which source you read regarding the Great Gale of 1880, or Storm King, as this hurricane came to be called, the region experienced winds from 70 miles per hour to 138 miles per hour. Most people remained inside, but there were a few hardy souls who were caught in it, and although there was thankfully minimal loss of human life, several heads of livestock were lost and buildings in Seattle and Olympia were smashed to pieces. Near Portland, over 500 trees measuring over 175 feet tall, were blown down, causing the trains to stop. Rivers overflowed with water, and the tide rose seven feet above normal. The Rev. A. Attwood, walking between Oakville and Turnwater, noted that "raging rivers" had formed from "small brooks" and there were many downed trees.

Seattle received 4-6 inches of snow, Tacoma 54 inches, and Eugene, Oregon 5 inches. Siletz, Oregon received 18 inches of snow. One newspaper, the Itemizer out of the Dalles, reported: "The storm of Friday was considered very severe here at the time, but since the reports of the havoc in other places, we have concluded that we had no storm here to speak of."

Here is a picture of the Seattle harbor when it was hit by this storm:

Although this storm only seems to have hit the shoreline as far south as Coos Bay, Oregon (where it blew a 3-masted schooner onto the beach, breaking it into two pieces) I have taken creative license with it and am extending the area affected by this hurricane all the way south and east to Grant's Pass and Medford, Oregon, for plot purposes in my work in progress, a prequel to my Brides of Hope Hollow series called An Abiding Hope. I can't show you the cover right now because it is part of a larger promotion that will launch in April, but what I can share with you is that this story will affect a young woman named Penny Burton from San Francisco as she is traveling up by train to Portland. When the weather turns nasty, the train stops in Hope Hollow (approximately 15 miles south and east of Ashland, Oregon) while the engineers and conductor try to decide whether to continue the journey. When Penny inadvertently becomes stranded in the small town, newspaper reporter Nathan Hoffman is there to assist her--in a rather unusual way. A marriage of convenience results from their unlucky encounter, a marriage which neither of them wanted but will learn is the best thing to ever happen to them.

Nathan will also contend with a few of the foes that appear in later books in the series, particularly books 4 and 5, with one of those foes being named at the very end of book 5, Hope in Her Heart. You can read these two books here:


On the Wings of Hope:

Hope in Her Heart:


Please also note that I have made a few changes to the book covers in this series in order to more clearly brand it as a sweet historical Western romance series.


Wednesday, January 26, 2022


By Caroline Clemmons

Suppose you were hiking and became lost. Or, perhaps you’ve been kidnapped and are escaping from your captors. Suppose you’re a pioneer whose horse is startled and throws you, then takes off with your provisions. What would you do?

Beautiful, but brrrrrr!

This question puzzled me several years ago when I wrote a book in which the heroine rushed through a snowstorm to rescue her stepson (Surprise Brides: Jamie). They’re lost, but know the hero will come for them. Until then, what can she do to protect and feed them?  

When I was a small child, our neighbor in Bakersfield, California, harvested wild foods such as mushrooms, prickly pear cactus pads and flowers, and dandelions. There were more, but small kids don’t notice everything. My mom—also known as the pickiest eater ever—thought her friend was going to poison herself and her family. Yet, the family thrived. But, that memory wouldn’t help me with the book set in snow by a forest.

Even in winter, edible plants are available. But beware! There are also poisonous plants (as I used in Brazos Bride and High Stakes Bride in the Stone Mountain TX series). How do you tell the difference?

I recalled hearing about Euell Gibbons, famous for recommending foraging for edible plants. I started investigating his recommendations and proceeded from there. What an interesting man he must have been. Let me digress here to tell you a bit about Gibbons.

Euell Gibbons

He was born in 1911 in Texas. As a boy in Texas and New Mexico, Euell Gibbons began foraging to supplement the diet of his impoverished parents and siblings. At fifteen, he left home and spent many years working at various jobs and drifting. He admitted that for much of his time, he lived as a hobo. I’m pretty sure he didn’t go hungry.

After entering the University of Hawaii as a 36-year-old freshman, Gibbons majored in anthropology and won the university's creative-writing prize. In 1948, he married Freda Fryer, a teacher, and both joined the Society of Friends (the Quakers). The couple relocated to the mainland in 1953, where Gibbons became a staff member at Pendle Hill Quaker Study Center near Philadelphia. While there, he cooked breakfast for everyone every day. Around 1960, through his wife's urging and support, he was able to follow through on his earlier aspirations and turn to writing.

Capitalizing on the growing return-to-nature movement in 1962, the resulting work, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, became an instant success. Gibbons then produced the cookbooks Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop in 1964 and Stalking the Healthful Herbs in 1966. He was widely published in various magazines, including two pieces that appeared in National Geographic.

The first article, in the July 1972 issue, described a two-week stay on an uninhabited island off the coast of Maine. Gibbons, along with his wife Freda and a few family friends, relied solely on the island's resources for sustenance. The second article, which appeared in the August 1973 issue, features Gibbons, along with granddaughter Colleen, grandson Mike, and daughter-in-law Patricia, stalking wild foods in four western states.

Gibbons was not a survivalist, but simply an advocate of nutritious but neglected plants. He typically prepared these in the kitchen with abundant use of spices, butter, and garnishes. Several of his books discuss what he called "wild parties", dinner parties where guests were served dishes prepared from plants gathered in the wild. His favorite recommendations included lamb’s quarters, rose hips, young dandelion shoots, stinging nettle, and cattails. He often pointed out that gardeners threw away the more tasty and healthy crop when they pulled such weeds as purslane and amaranth out from among their spinach plants.

His death occurred December 29, 1975 in Pennsylvania. A rumor spread that Gibbons died from eating a bad mushroom. That is not true. He die of an inherited disease called Marfan syndrome, which caused a ruptured aortic aneurysm.

But that doesn’t help us survive in a Colorado winter.

Cattail–. I checked many sources and learned that every part of the cattail was used by Native Americans. My heroine dug up the bulbous roots and baked them like potatoes. In late winter the first shoots that are starting to emerge are reported to taste good.

Conifer Needles– The needles of evergreen conifers are probably the easiest and most widespread thing to forage in winter, even in the coldest climates. Most conifers are edible, with the exception of the yew tree, which is toxic. According to several sources, pine, spruce, fir, and redwood needles make a “tasty” tea.

Juniper Berries– aren’t really berries at all. They are actually a fleshy pine cone with a distinctive scent and flavor. They are most commonly used as a spice rather than a food, and they are the main flavoring agent for gin. A well-known Aspen restauranteur uses them as a spice and as a garnish.

Birch Bark and Branches–Birch trees are another one that can be foraged in colder regions. The bark and small twigs and branches can be made into a tea. The inner bark can also be made into a flour substitute. (Don’t take too much of the bark from one tree as it can be harmful to the growth of the tree.)

Tree Sap– Beyond maples, many trees can be tapped for sap, even black walnut. This is something that is usually done towards the end of winter, as temperatures are just barely starting to get warmer, but the exact timing is dependent on your location. Birch trees are tapped earlier than most, often in late winter, and you can even ferment the birch sap into wine.

Acorns– The nuts of oak trees, acorns (along with most other nuts) come into season in the fall, but you may still be able to find some in the winter if the squirrels haven’t gotten to them first. Acorns require processing first to make them edible, but the resulting flour is supposedly good enough to be used for flatbread. I heard a Native American lecture on the process, and if you were stranded, you might starve before you finished the process.

Maple Tree Seeds– The little helicopter seeds from maples are edible. They may be a bit  dried up and may not taste great in winter, but they are often still hanging around.

Dock Seeds–Curly dock and yellow dock are common leafy weeds that are foraged in spring and summer for their greens. In late summer they shoot up a large stalk that will eventually be covered in seeds in fall. Once winter comes, the plant will die back, leaving the dried seed stalk. I’ve heard it’s a pain to forage dock seeds and do much with them, but they can be made into a flour.

Rose Hips–Rose hips are the fruit of the rose flower, and can be found in the wild or in cultivation. They appear in the fall, but may persist through most of the winter, often covered in snow or ice. They are high in vitamin C, and good for tea, jelly, or rose hip syrup. Supposedly, the cold makes them sweeter but a little mushy.

Hawthorn Berries– There are many types of hawthorn berries, and they also persist into wintertime. Not all varieties taste great, but none are poisonous, except for the seeds. Don’t eat the seeds! The berries are high in pectin and can be used to make jelly or jam.

Wintergreen (Teaberry or Checkerberry)–Teaberries, also called checkerberries, are the berries of the wintergreen plant. They will over winter and will often still be on the plant when the snow melts in the spring. The leaves of wintergreen are also edible and can be chewed on or made into a tea.

Uva Ursi (Bearberry or Kinnikinnick)– Uva Ursi is common in the Western states, and is highly prized for its medicinal properties, particularly for urinary tract infections. It does produce berries, but they aren’t tasty, so is more commonly used for its leaves. It’s a low growing relative to the manzanita, and looks somewhat similar. In winter it can be found under the snow, if you are willing to dig for it.

Watercress– This water plant loves cold water and will often grow all winter long. Watercress is a peppery tasting green that is used in salads or any other way that you would use leafy greens.

Oregon Grape– While there probably won’t be any berries left on Oregon grape plants in the winter, the inner bark of the stems and roots is highly medicinal. It contains berberine, the same compound that’s in goldenseal, which is beneficial for the immune system, as well as being antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Note that Oregon grape is at risk for being over-harvested and is on the plants to watch list.

Burdock  Burdock is a thistle that has an edible root. In fact, there are many types of thistles that have edible roots that you might be able to dig up, as long as the ground isn’t totally frozen solid.

Chicory–Chicory grows almost everywhere and the root can be harvested all through the winter (once again, if your ground isn’t completely frozen solid). It makes a nice coffee substitute if you’re in need of a hot drink.

Dandelion–Dandelion root can also be collected through the winter if the ground isn’t too frozen. One author (Wild Food Girl) wrote:


Other recent snow-forage we’ve found in the Colorado high country includes dandelions, currants, and gooseberries. We found the dandelion greens poking out of snow from grassy beds under willows along the same mining road. Some were as long as my arm!

I took a small bag and they almost wilted by the time I got home so I washed and ran them through the food processor immediately. The chopped greens smell exactly like a fresh mowed lawn—which, instead of off-putting, is a smell we treasure, as we don’t get much of it in these parts. To this I added finely chopped raw onions, oil, soy sauce, and tofu cubes for a batch of the cold marinated salad that has become my go-to dandelion recipe. Yum!"

Many edible mushrooms can be foraged during the winter, especially those that grow on trees above the snowline. .

Yellowfoot Chantrelles– Also called winter chanterelles these tasty mushrooms in the  chanterelle family can be found through most of the winter. They have the same false gills as chanterelles, but a hollow stem.

Oyster Mushrooms–Oyster mushrooms grow on downed logs or standing dead wood, and can often be found year round. They won’t tolerate a hard freeze.

Chaga Fungus–Chaga fungus is all the rage right now with its powerful medicinal properties. It presents as a large knobby growth, usually on birch trees. Great care is required when harvesting to ensure that it will come back year after year, as it is a very slow grower.

Turkey Tail Mushroom– This medicinal mushroom also grows on trees through the winter, making it great to forage in the colder months. Turkey tail mushrooms are usually made into a tincture. They support the immune system.

Now you know how to survive in the wilds of winter. Have fun foraging. As for me, I find writing about adventures far more appealing than having them. I’ll be waiting at home.


Monday, January 24, 2022

EVER UPWARD! by Marisa Masterson

 Excelsior! It means every upward. Great words for the beginning of a new year. But, also those words were the focus of a certain group of pioneers I've recently been researching. 

A man named George Bertram founded a town (or at least envisioned one) on the shores of Lake Minnetonka about 100 miles outside of Minneapolis and called it Excelsior . The next year he helped a group of settlers from New York and New England to form what was called the Excelsior Pioneer Association. In a state dominated by Scandinavians, these Episcoplians decided to farm and live around  large Lake Minnetonka.

One thing I found intriguing about this group was that they claimed both a lot in town and up to 160 acres of farmland. All for a cost of only $1.25 per acre. So they were connected to both the land and the village.

As far as buildings in town, Trinity Church and the school were the early focus. The settlers started by meeting for services in homes before building a log church two years later.  Next they put up a school. They had no mercantile until 1860, but this group still managed to keep a town going. All of this was laid out along the lakeshore rather than in the usual grid used by towns.

One thing that intrigued me was the public commons set aside by the group. That's an older custom in England, where the village green or commons was dedicated for public use so people in a town could allow their animals to graze. I couldn't find out through research why this association felt a public commons was needed. Makes me wonder...

Farm outside of Excelsior, 1864

Now, what am I doing with this research? I'm sending a mail-order bride from the South to cold Minnesota in late 1861. Too bad her groom doesn't meet her. What's a woman to do then? Why, rely on the kindness of strangers, of course. And it just so happens that one kind stranger has a nephew who needs a wife...

Burned and heartsick, Joshua Gibson hides away from the world. Only the animals on his farm and the leather which he works keep him from madness. Unfortunately, the townspeople don't believe that. They're convinced that the fire burned away all traces of sanity in him.
Regina Wilson needs a man. The good women of the town come to her aid when the mail-order bride arrives to discover that her groom is dead. The problem, as the ladies tell her, is that only one bachelor is available--Goofy Gibson.

Will Regina hibernate with her forced husband or will her presence bring new life to the farm and to Joshua?