The following is from my Author Notes in Pearl,
my most recent romance, which is a wagon train story set in 1858. Entire books
have been written about each of these places mentioned, so this is a very brief
on the Oregon and California Trails—unless individual trains in which they
traveled took a cutoff—passed by four major trading forts.
Kearney was a military installation established in 1848 to protect travelers on
the Great Platte River Road. It was located about one-sixth of the way to
either Oregon or California. Wagon trains moving west were able to resupply,
trade trail-weary livestock for fresh, and letters could be sent back to the
Laramie began in 1834 as a fur trading post. It was bought by the U.S. Army in
1849. As pioneer traffic to the west increased, it provided security, a trading
post for supplies, and a place for repairs. It was the major stop between Fort
Kearney and Fort Bridger.
Fort Bridger 1840s
Bridger began as a trading post. It was on the trail to Salt Lake City, plus
wagon trains bound for Oregon and California often made the relatively small
detour to reach the fort for supplies and repairs. It was bought by the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1855, although the sales documents and
powers of attorney involved were challenged by Jim Bridger. With the belief
that the coming U.S. Army had been sent to exterminate the church and its
people, the same church burned and abandoned the fort in 1857.
Fort Bridger 1858
Fort Bridger was taken
over by the U.S. Army. By 1858, construction on the fort had begun and a
sutler’s store run by William A. Carter was established. He ran it until his
death in 1881, at which time his wife, Elizabeth, took over supplying both
military men stationed at the fort and travelers alike. The sutler also ran the
the banks of the Snake River, Fort Hall was a trading post built in 1834 by
Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth. In 1858, it was located in Oregon Territory. In
February 1859, when Oregon became a state, it was part of Washington Territory.
Initially, Fort Hall’s owners did not wish to be a supplier for travelers bound
for Oregon or California, but it was soon forced into that role as it became a
regular stop on both trails. It became one of the most important stopping
places along the trails.
Pearl, Book 16 in the Prairie Roses Collection, is set in 1858 and follows both the Oregon and California Trails.It is currently for sale as an ebook and at no additional cost with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. It will shortly be available in print.
To find the link to the book description and purchase options, please CLICK HERE.
I love both windmills and sunsets. Although
they’re difficult to find now, I love the old wooden frame style best. I love
the song the windmill sings during a breezy day or evening. With the windows
open, the sound is a lullaby at bedtime. Don’t get me wrong, I love modern
conveniences, but they’re a trade-off. We lose something with each part of our
past that disappears.
Over 80,000 windmills are estimated to be
working now in Texas, the state in which I live. You can’t drive on any road
without seeing them in the distance. They are of particular service to ranchers
in the arid regions. Land that once was almost useless to ranchers became
valuable once windmills were erected. The windmill has come to be one of the
symbols of ranching and cowboys. Once I started researching them, I was
surprised the type I have come to love was not as old as I’d suspected.
Before the introduction of windmills to the West, inhabitable land
was confined to areas where a constant water supply was available. There was no
way for vast areas to be settled without a life-giving supply of water. The
coming of the windmill made it possible to pump water from beneath the ground,
and soon whole new areas were opened up to settlers. The first windmills were
of the European style, built by Dutch and German immigrants for grinding meal
and powering light industry. What settlers needed most, however, was a windmill
that pumped water.
Because of its bulk and need for constant attention, the European
windmill was impractical for this purpose. The solution to this problem came in
1854, when Daniel Halladay (Halady or Halliday) built the first American
windmill in Ellington, Connecticut. He added to his mill a vane, or
"tail," as it was called by cowhands, that functioned to direct the
wheel into the wind. The wheel was a circle of wood slats radiating from a
horizontal shaft and set at angles to the wind, designed so that centrifugal
force would slow it in high winds; thus, the machine was self-regulating and
operated unattended. Its simple direct-stroke energy converter consisted of
only a shaft and a small fly wheel to which the sucker rod was pinned. This
compact mechanism was mounted on a four-legged wooden tower that could be
constructed over a well in one day.
Railroad companies immediately recognized windmills as an
inexpensive means of providing water for steam engines and for attracting
settlers to semi-arid regions through which they planned to lay track. By 1873
the windmill had become an important supplier of water for railways, small
towns where there were no public water systems, and small farms. Are you old
enough to remember that old television show, Petticoat Junction?
Many of the very early mills were crude, inefficient, homemade
contraptions. One of the popular makeshift mills was a wagon wheel with slats
nailed around it to catch the wind, mounted on half an axle. The axle was
fastened securely to a post erected beside the well. A sucker rod was pinned to
the edge of the hub. It was stationary and worked only when the wind blew in
the right direction. The windmills used later on the big ranches were the more
dependable factory-made windmills.
Windmills moved to ranches with the use of barbed wire in the late
1870s. At first the water holes, springs, creeks, and rivers were fenced, so
that the back lands had no access to water. In the midst of the fence cutting
and fighting, some ranchers began drilling wells and experimenting with windmills.
Most of these experiments were unsuccessful, however, due to lack of knowledge
concerning the proper size of the windmill in relation to the depth and
diameter of the well. One of the earliest successful experiments was made eight
miles north of Eldorado, in Schleicher County, Texas by Christopher C. Doty, a
nomadic sheepman. Doty moved his flock into that area and found abundant water
in shallow wells. By 1882, however, a drought had dried his wells; he ordered a
drilling rig from Fort Scott, Arkansas, bored a fifty-two-foot well, and
erected a Star windmill, which successfully supplied water for his 4,000 head
Watering stock with windmills spread rapidly. Eastern land
speculators began buying, fencing, and running stock on the land until it
became ripe for colonization. The largest of the Eastern land speculators, the
Capitol Syndicate, began using windmills on its XIT in 1887. One of their
windmills was believed to be the world's tallest. It was made of wood and was a
total height of 132 feet. A historical marker at Littlefield, Texas, marks the
site of a replica. The original windmill blew over in 1926. By 1900 the XIT had
335 windmills in operation.
Not until the King Ranch began extensive use of the windmill in
1890 did that the practice begin to spread rapidly over that area. By 1900,
windmills were a common sight in the West. Inhabitable land was no longer
limited to regions with a natural water supply. The windmill made the most
remote areas habitable.
The use of windmills brought about two of the most colorful
characters of the West, the driller and the windmiller, and altered the
lifestyle of another, the range rider. The driller was usually a loner and
seldom seen by anyone except the range rider and windmiller. He followed the
fence crews and guessed at where he might find water, then bored wells with his
horse-powered drilling rig. When the driller was successful the windmiller
followed and set up a mill. Owners of the larger ranches usually employed
several windmillers to make continuous rounds, checking and repairing
windmills. The windmillers lived in covered wagons and only saw headquarters
once or twice a month. The early mills had to be greased twice a week, and this
was the range rider's job. He kept a can (or beer bottle) containing grease
tied to his saddle. When he rode up to a mill that was squeaking, he would climb
it, hold the wheel with a pole until he could mount the platform, and then let
the wheel turn while he poured grease over it.
The range rider was always in danger of attacks from swarms of
wasps, which hung their clustered cells beneath the windmill's platform; there
was the added danger of falling from the tower when such attacks occurred. The
windmill industry's shift in 1888 to the back-geared, all-steel mill caused
heated debates in livestock and farming circles. Most ranchers and farmers
welcomed the new steel windmill because its galvanized wheel and tower held up
better in harsh weather; also, its gear system was better able to take
advantage of the wind, thus enabling the windmill to run more hours per day.
The back-geared mill could also pump deeper and larger-diameter wells. Those
who favored the old wood mill argued that the steel mill was more likely to
break because of its high speed, that it was not as easily repaired as the wood
mill, and that when parts had to be ordered the steel mill might be inoperative
for days. Though sales of wood mills continued, they declined steadily, so that
by 1912 few were being sold.
The last major development in the windmill came in 1915. A housing
that needed to be filled with oil only once a year was built around the mill's
gears. This relieved the range rider of his biweekly greasing chores and
somewhat diminished the windmiller's job. Because of the dependability of this
improved windmill, worries over water shortages were eased for the rancher,
farmer, and rural dweller. This mill was the prime supplier of water in rural
Texas until 1930, when electric and gasoline pumps began to be widely used.
The Aermotor Windmill Company,
which commenced operations in Chicago in 1888, is the nation’s sole remaining
full-time manufacturer of water-pumping machines. Windmills
remain an important supplier of water for cattlemen. Texas’ King Ranch in the
late 1960s kept 262 mills running continuously and 100 complete spares in
stock. Stocking spare mills is a common practice among ranchers who depend on
the windmill to supply water for cattle in remote pastures. One important ranch
worker is the man who rides—or drives—from windmill to windmill lubricating the
gears and making repairs.
Because the windmill has been confined for the most part to remote
areas, it has become a symbol of a lonely and primitive life, fitting for the
pioneers it first served and the cowboys about whom we love to read.
Should I let my characters go thirsty? It's the question I asked as I researched the Santa Fe Trail for my latest book. Do I have a wagon train across the wet or the dry route?
I always want to understand the history I use as background in each of my books. A trip on the Santa Fe Trail should be easy to describe. There is so much history in books and on the Internet describing it.
Strangely, it didn't turn out to be a simple thing for me. One thing I used to understand the trail was a "trail dust" chart. It helped me as an author understand how far my characters would travel and what places they would reach.
If the train in my novel followed the mountain route, they had to travel another fifty-five miles. They would have water, though.
If they went by way of the Cimmaron Cut Off to shorten the trip, they would have no good water sources. What to do? Realistically, would the wagons be able to haul the needed water?
Debating this in my head, I allowed the decision between the two routes to enter the novel, Glory, as well.
The preacher proved to be a fount of information about the trail.
As they ate, he shared what he’d heard from freighters heading north for more
goods. “I hear tell that the Cimarron’s the one to take. That mountain trail is
like to kill a man.”
Ollie nodded. “Yeah, so I hear. But it’s the one that goes where we
wanna be.” He looked from the man in black to Lee. “Think we’re up to that
Lee snorted. “We’ve got at least another three hundred miles before
we need to decide. I expect things might change betwixt now and then.”
“Journey of the dead,” Hudson growled, low and menacingly. “That’s
what the freighters call it. There’s not much water after here. The Indians are
looking for chances to attack, also.”
Alfie whimpered. As always, he was near Lee when the scout was in
camp. He shushed the small boy and told him to listen to what his pa had to
say. The wagon captain ignored his son and shrugged. “We’ve come this far.
Don’t expect we’ll turn back now.”
I wrote and rewrote, going back and forth between both. And then--I checked a map again. Since my characters were headed not to Santa Fe but Pikes Peak, it changed everything! They would never take the Cimarron Cut Off. Ugh!
Jarvis, one of Davey’s boatmen shouted, “I done it before. Steep,
but it’s better’n that Cimarron route with it havin’ no water.” At the sudden
silence of the group, the man cleared his throat in embarrassment but went on
speaking. “Course it adds five or six days to the trip.”
“The only trail for us to get to Bent’s Fort and Pike’s Peak.”
Ollie squared his shoulders as he stood to his full height. Glory had to admire
the man’s ability to regain control over the group. Murmurs of agreement with
the captain rumbled across the crowd. Jarvis sank back to the ground, silenced
by the disapproval around him.
Jarvis snorted. “Go longer if you want. Y’all should of taken the
Smoky Hill route. Better roads and an easier way into Colorado.”
Ollie shook his head. “That way’s not ready. The central route
won’t open until next year. That’s what the guide book said.”
Reflecting back over my process, I realize one thing remains true. Yes, a person really can confuse herself with too much research! Thankfully, that confuse dispersed quickly, and this fun novel can into being.
April 22, 2022. It's National Earth Day, National Jelly Bean Day. This past week was National Coin Week, and of course, April is National Poetry Month. What a full slate.
Earth Day is fairly new, however, Thoreau's "Walden" was published in 1854. While not a best seller when written, it did manage around three hundred copies a year in its first few years.
Now, when it comes to Jelly Beans, that's another story. Most candy makers used unique shapes to sell their wares. Is it an off-shoot of Turkish Delights? Those have been around since almost the dawn of civilization. If you follow the thread, the coating of the jelly bean could be traced back to the 17th-century when Jordan Almonds made their appearance. (Of all the candies, Jordan Almonds are one of the top on my list.) Fast forward to 1861 and a Boston candy maker advertised sending Jelly Beans to soldiers fighting in the Civil War. For me, it is not a leap of logic, since Boston Baked Beans had been around for some time, to call the bean-shaped candies Jelly Beans. But then, that's just my opinion.
National Coin Week, is the celebration of coin collecting, including paper money. Can you imagine having a coin from the early days of the United States? What a thing that would be, but I digress. This celebration is when the Numismatic Association becomes really active with coin shows, etc..
Of course, my favorite is National Poetry Month. I love poetry, both the reading and the writing of it. There were some wonderful women poets from the 1800s. If you haven't heard of Emma Lazarus, a favorite of mine after Helen Hunt Jackson, perhaps you know some of her work, like 'The New Colossus'
The New Colossusby Emma Lazarus (written in 1883)
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
I know for me, these days, weeks, and months allow me to look at the past and I find myself thinking, how can I add these wonderful pieces to my own work? How about you?
Having just finished "Ainsley" my contribution to the Love Train series, I've turned my attention to Book Two in the Mended Heart series, "Winning the Widow's Heart".
In early July 1864, General Sherman ordered the arrest and deportation of the 400 women, children, and a few men from Roswell and Marietta, Georgia with treason for spinning yarn and weaving cloth for the Confederates. Then he shipped them north, from their homeland, through Tennessee and on to Louisville, Kentucky, ordering them to cross the Ohio River and support themselves in Indiana in whatever way they could.
"Winning the Widow's Heart" follows the journey of Sofie Bishop of Roswell, Georgia from teacher to mill worker to alleged traitor and Union Captain Seth Ramsey, one of the officers charged with transporting the mill workers north.
While doing my research, I came across an article on vivandieres. Having never heard of these women who were part of a regiment, down the rabbit hole I went. Honestly, learning about these women was enlightening. I've never heard them mentioned in any history books, let alone a historical romance, either as the heroine or in a supporting role. There were the usual nurses, laundresses, cooks, and soiled doves who traveled with the armies. But vivandieres...no!
A vivandiere was a woman who filled several roles as needed: water bearer; a seller/distributor of food and creature comfort items like whiskey and tobacco; a nurse, a laundress, a mascot for shoring up morale; and many other incidental ones that came up as circumstances warranted. There were similar ladies called cantinieres, but at least early on there was a distinction between the two; vivandieres could accompany a unit onto the battlefield, while the cantinieres were to remain behind in camp. It has been noted that vivandieres did occasionally fight with their men.
Uniforms of vivandieres in the American Civil War varied from regiment to regiment. All had in common a knee-length skirt worn over full trousers, a tunic or jacket, and a hat. This style of costume was similar to bathing costumes depicted in fashion magazines of the period and was suitable for the outside exercise required of vivandieres who lived and marched with their regiments. There was a great deal of variation in trim and materials.
When the Civil War began, French-born Mary Tepe and her husband Bernard both joined the 27th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, popularly known as Collis’ Zouaves. French Mary Tepe owed her nickname to her accent. In her role as a Zouave vivandiere, French Mary Tepe wore a blue jacket, red pants, and a blue skirt trimmed in red. She participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 13, 1862), during which she received a bullet wound to one of her ankles. After a short hospitalization, Tepe rejoined her regiment. In July 1863, Mary and the 114th PA fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. When the battle was over, Mary volunteered her services as a nurse. A few weeks later, her nursing work at Gettysburg completed, she continued with her regiment and served throughout the remainder of the American Civil War.
In April 1861, Annie Ethridge joined nineteen other women who enlisted as vivandieres with the Second Michigan Volunteer Regiment. Annie served throughout the rest of the war with the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments. She became famous for her bravery under fire; after a battle, her skirt was always riddled with bullets. She carried pistols for her protection, saddlebags filled with medical supplies, and she frequently rode on horseback to the line of battle to aid wounded soldiers. She served at the First and Second Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Fredericksburg.
‘Gentle Annie,’ as she was called, worked for the Hospital Transport Service, which ferried wounded soldiers to military hospitals in the North aboard old paddle wheel boats that had been converted to be used for that purpose. Annie was used as a shield at one point -- some cowardly officer squeezed in behind Annie and her mare to shield himself from the fighting. Surprised, she turned to speak to him (and probably was going to tell him to get back into the fighting) when a stray minie ball struck him, killing him.
In the early 1860s, Kady McKenzie worked as a weaver in the mills of Providence, where she met and fell in love with Robert Brownell. With the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Robert joined the 1st Rhode Island Infantry; Kady was determined to serve with him.
At the First Battle of Bull Run (July 1861), she held the regimental flag high as Confederate bullets were flying all around her. After enlisting in the 5th Rhode Island Infantry with her new husband, she served at the Battle of New Bern, North Carolina (1862). Brownell remained in New Bern after the battle, caring for her wounded husband. After his recovery he was deemed unfit for battle, and both were discharged.
Lavinia Williams of the 1st Louisiana Tigers
Calculating the exact number of women who served as vivandieres is nearly impossible. Neither North nor South recognized the service of vivandieres and they are rarely mentioned in official records. Their courage and brave deeds are recorded in personal accounts and post-war regimental histories.
Armed with this fascinating information on those brave, intrepid women, a vivandiere or two will be featured in "Winning the Widow's Heart" coming late 2022/early 2023.
Prison Rodeo in Huntsville, Texas, was the first of its kind in the United
States, operating from 1931 to 1986. In
1931, the general manager for the Texas prison in Huntsville, Marshal Lee
Simmons, instituted the Texas Prison Rodeo.
The rodeos were held on Sunday afternoons in October with the blessings
of local clergy members.
was provided by the prison farms, and Simmons trucked in spectators and inmates
on “rolling jails” from the prison farms and the prison itself, called “The
Walls” by many. The rodeo took place on the prisoners’ baseball field.
stadium only seated a few hundred, so organizers had to turn away fans.In 1938 the arena seating was doubled and in
1950 a red brick arena with a 20,000 seating capacity was built for one million
Wildest Show Behind Bars” and “The Wildest Show on Earth,” the rodeo proceeds
were used to provide funds for an education and recreation fund that purchased
such things as textbooks and Christmas turkeys.
wore black and white striped uniforms sewn by women at the Goring unit. Men and
women could participate in the rodeo.
Men competed in calf roping, bronc riding, bull riding, bareback
basketball, and wild cow milking. In
“Hard Money,” inmates wearing red shirts competed against each other to be the
first to snatch a tobacco sack full of cash from between the horns of a bull.
Women participated in calf roping, barrel riding, and greased pig sacking.
were paid for performing.They earned two
dollars in 1938 and ten dollars in 1986, but the main draw was the satisfaction
and recognition for winning. O’Neal Browning began participating in rodeos when
he was sixteen. His father, who wanted Browning to help him on the farm, beat
the boy regularly even though he was bringing money home from rodeo winnings.
While still in his teens in a drunken rage, Browning killed his father with an
ax and was sentenced to life in prison. For 30 years he participated and became
a celebrity as he was the top winner in seven rodeos.
clowns distracted the bulls and entertained the spectators. During halftime
shows prison gospel choirs, string bands, and the “Goree Girls” featuring the
former stripper Candy Barr entertained the crowd. In the 1950s, celebrities began
performing, including Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Willie
involved inmates throughout the prison systems and local businesses such as
restaurants and stores benefitted from the resulting tourism. In 1975,
astronauts and cosmonauts from the Apollo-Soyez space mission attended the
rodeo. In 1980, the film “Urban Cowboy” filmed several scenes from the arena and
included the prison rodeo in the film’s plot.
inmates ever escaped. One year a pair of convicts slipped under the bleachers
and put on clothes left by an outside accomplice. As they were heading toward
the exit, a security guard actually threw them out of the rodeo because he
thought they were sneaking in.
factors contributed to the rodeo’s demise.The energy crisis and inflation in the 1970s and 1980s, along with poor advertising
and bad weather dramatically reduced the crowds. As Huntsville and the
surrounding area became increasingly less rural, fewer inmates had the
necessary skills to participate safely.Changing views emerged concerning the treatment of incarcerated
people.Federal funding increased to the
state prison system and eliminated the pressure for the state prison system to
earn its own finances.The rodeo was
still quite popular in 1986 when engineers condemned the stadium as unsafe. Efforts
to revive the rodeo in the 1990s proved unsuccessful. In 2012 the rodeo grounds
"Cooking over campfires takes practice." (Cora Leland's earliest Nebraska settler)
Baking kettles, like the one above, were essential to households stretching across the eastern seaboard (1700-1800) for cooking in ahses or hanging in fireplaces. Many of the colonists lived near streams and rivers in wooded areas, where a wealth of creatures continued to live as they had before the colonists had arrived.
Woodchuck, Western New York area
Living in the freedom and prosperity of the new world, America, became so important that people were willing to accept lengthy periods of indentured servitude in exchange for passage money. (1600-1800).
But the costs for transporting people decreased as newcomers -- an important source of labor -- clamored for tickets. (This time was known as the age of mass migration from Europe(1850-1900).)
One nation, among many, was Ireland, where people fled famines and unemployment. An earlier wave of Irish people had come from northern Ireland: they were English-speakers who were skilled and quickly adapted. Many, like my great aunts, cheerfully adapted and prospered.
But the next waves of people arrived with no skills and spoke no English. (My family's earliest Irish relatives came from impoverished Galway and they'd suffered from all the changes.).Most Irish people in this group spoke only Gaelic, though a few were trained to work as blacksmiths and other jobs needed for establishing a nation.
A baby tender (1820)
A baby tender was used by families as the women went about their daily chores, just as Native American women wore a cradle board for their baby.
Native American Cradleboard
While some parts of the continent were excellent farming country and millions vied for these places, while others, like the beautiful lands of Dakota Territory, were not easily turned into breadbaskets, like the plains were.
In 1862, farms and ranches were offered, almost for nothing, as homesteads from the government and later from railroad companies. When the nation filled up, eventually the government carved away more of its acres.
As one man expressed it, living with his wife and family in a one room leaky cabin with no land to farm was a life he'd gladly exchange for a good plot in Oklahoma territory. He, along with 100,000 others, joined the Oklahoma Land Rush on Sept. 16, 1893.
The world was being gripped by a terrible economic recession, and a chance like this seemed wonderful. (My older sister married a man whose family 'rushed' to 160 free acres of rich land, and generations have been full-time farmers on what became their two sections of farm land.)
This was the first of Oklahoma's four 'land runs'. (Plots between Kansas and northern Oklahoma were offered separately). They also used closed bid auctions. Altogether, Oklahoma gave away two million acres of land.
One minute before the start: Oklahoma Land Rush
Other places in the country offered their land to encourage settlers. Georgia, for example, held seven lotteries for farm land and one lottery for 'gold rush' land. The gold rush in Georgia (by 1832, when the land was offered) had almost ended, and there was no guarantee that these plots would hold gold.
Settlers, as you'd imagine, wore clothes their mothers and sisters had sewn by hand; men's work pants could be bought in town, but not always their shirts, so the ladies made them, too. Fashionable dresses with bustles and trains were probably not necessary among those generations.