Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial Day - When It Began by Zina Abbott


Every year since the end of the Civil War, Americans celebrate the lives that were lost in war.

The practice of strewing flowers on the graves of those lost to battle started centuries ago in early Rome. The practice continued in parts of Europe. With so many dead as a result of the Civil War, and with so many buried in less-than-ideal situations, the desire to pay tribute to those who gave their all.  

General John Logan

With his General Order Number 11, dated May 5, 1868, General John Logan called for a nationwide observance which would be known as Decoration Day. It was first observed nationally on May 30, 1868.

The objective was “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” In addition to the decoration of graves, Decoration Day was also to be observed with “fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

May 30, 1873 Decoration Day at the Old Amphitheater at Arlington Cemetery  President Ulysses S. Grant and General John Logan

Veterans and their loved ones, as well as widows, orphans, and other bereaved, responded with great enthusiasm. That year, 183 cemeteries in 27 states celebrated Decoration Day, and observance only grew in the years that followed.

General James Garfield (not yet president) gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery with other generals. During the observance, 20,000 graves of Union and Confederate soldiers were decorated.

Fort Stevens near Washington D.C. had a small cemetery with 40 soldiers buried there. One of the soldiers buried was the son of a widow who lost three sons to the war. She laid 40 wreaths on 40 graves during that first Decoration Day.

At City Hall in Washington D.C., a laurel wreath was placed on the head of the Lincoln statue.

The Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati lined the route to the cemetery with half-mast flags. Floral wreaths were laid on the graves of soldiers and speeches were given.

By 1890, all the northern states had made it an official state holiday.

The South didn’t celebrate Logan’s Decoration Day until after World War I, when the holiday shifted from honoring Civil War dead to honoring the American dead of all wars. Instead, Southerners paid tribute to their Confederate dead locally on days throughout spring and early summer. 

Prior to 1868, the first Decoration Day was celebrated—unofficially and largely unrecognized until recently. To read an in-depth discussion of what is often considered the first Decoration Day—an event that was celebrated in the South, please CLICK HERE.

The celebration of Decoration Day grew to remember all those who sacrificed their lives for their country.

Eventually, the day became Memorial Day, and it was celebrated on May 30 until Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968.

Since 1971, Memorial Day has been celebrated on the last Monday of May.



My post was late today because I was busy meeting a book upload deadline. Joshua’s Bride, the first book in the Land Run Mail Order Brides series is currently on pre-order and scheduled for release on June 3, 2022.






Thursday, May 26, 2022


By Caroline Clemmons 

Were you a fan of “Gunsmoke” when it was a radio and TV staple? Although I wasn’t aware of the radio show, my family never missed the TV version. (It’s probably in syndication on some station.) At the time we watched “Gunsmoke”, I had no idea that the character of Miss Kitty was based on a real person. That woman was Carlotta J. Thompkins, also known as Lottie Deno, Mystic Maude, Angel of San Antonio, Faro Nell, Queen of the Pasteboards, and Charlotte Thurmond. She and Frank Thurmond were immortalized as Faro Nell and Cherokee Hall in a series known as the Wolfville books, written by Alfred Henry Lewis. 

Amanda Blake as Miss  Kitty

Lottie was born April 21, 1844 to upper-class Kentucky farmers near Lexington and Louisville. At one time, her father served in the Kentucky General Assembly. The area traded with both northern and southern states and her father traveled a great deal on business. He grew tobacco and hemp as well as engaging in horse trading, racing, and breeding.

With her younger sister, she attended school at an Episcopalian convent. After completing her education there, the attractive redhead traveled with her father on business to such destinations as Detroit, New Orleans, and Europe. He had no son and intended Lottie to take over his business for him. While on these trips, her father taught her the intricacies of gambling with cards.

Mary Poindexter was Lottie’s seven-foot tall nanny. Mary was loyal to and protective of Lottie. Her family didn’t have to worry about Lottie as long as Mary was with her. On several occasions, Mary saved Lottie from harm.

When the Civil War began, Lottie was seventeen. Her father enlisted and was immediately killed in battle. She, her mother, and sister were left tending the plantation. Relatives pooled money and sent Lottie to Detroit in the hope she would find a wealthy husband to help her family. Evidently, she was the best chance they had to survive. She loved the parties and balls, but instead of finding a suitable husband, she met up with Johnny Golden, one of her father’s former jockeys who had become a gambler. 

Eventually, Lottie ran out of money. She and Johnny, accompanied by Mary, struck out plying the riverboat gambling parlors throughout the war. She sent her relatives money but knew they wouldn’t have approved of her gambling. She told her straight-laced Episcopalian family that she had married a wealthy Texas rancher. Some say she never saw any of them again while others insist her sister came to San Antonio after their mother’s death. So, she repaid them for the money they chipped in to send her to Detroit, even though she believed she had to deceive them.

Near the end of the war, Lottie and Mary headed for San Antonio. At the time, the town was well-known as a wide-open gambling town. Johnny Golden was to meet up with them there later. Lottie found a job dealing in Frank Thurmond’s University Club, with Mary seated on a stool behind her to watch for trouble.

Carlotta Thompkins Thurmond

It was a winning hand that earned her a new name. A drunken cowboy yelled out to her “Honey, with winnings like that, you ought to call yourself Lotta Denero.” She didn’t take his full advice, but she did change her name to Lottie Deno.

Lottie’s dress and manners were those of a genteel Southern lady. She didn’t allow cursing, drinking, or tobacco at her table. Obviously, such a gracious lady wouldn’t cheat, would she? Men lined up to play cards with the “Angel of San Antonio”.

Lottie fell in love with her boss, Frank, and was loyal to him. He and another player got in a fight and Frank killed the man with a Bowie knife. The deceased man’s family put a bounty on Frank so he headed west. This was during a local economic boom on the Texas frontier as demand for bison hides spiked in the mid and late 1870s. Cowboys and traders flush with cash during the period became targets for gamblers in frontier communities. Soon Lottie found Frank working in Fort Griffin under the name Mike Fogarty. He was bartender in a place called the Bee Hive. Lottie got a job dealing there. 

Old Playing Cards

It was at Fort Griffin that her notoriety and legend became most established. Fort Griffin was a frontier outpost west of Fort Worth near the Texas Panhandle known for its saloons and the rough element it attracted. (Closest modern town would be Albany, Texas.) Gaining fame as a gambler, Lottie became associated with various old west personalities, including Doc Holliday. Supposedly, Lottie won $3,000 from Doc in one night.

Lottie Deno

At Fort Griffin, Johnny Golden caught up with Lottie. He died mysteriously in an alley that night. Lottie paid for his funeral and coffin, but didn’t attend. Instead, she stayed in her home with curtains drawn.

After five years at the Bee Hive, Frank and Lottie left for New Mexico and married December 2, 1880. Once again, Frank was in a fight in which he killed a man. This time Lottie and Frank had had enough of that life and changed course. They left Silver City, New Mexico and settled in Deming. Frank was in mining and real estate and eventually became an officer of Deming National Bank. As Charlotte Thurmond, Lottie was a well-respected member of the community. She even taught Sunday School.

Although they quit gambling, Lottie Deno hosted one more game in 1892, which raised $40,000 to build St. Luke’s church.  Frank’s friend Doc Holliday participated in that game. Reportedly, Lottie Deno made one of St. Luke’s altar cloths.

Frank and Lottie had been together for over forty years when he died in 1908.  She died in February 9, 1934 and is buried beside Frank in Deming.



Tuesday, May 24, 2022



Painting by Oscar Edmund Beringhouse

Life on the trail. Brave or simply desperate travelers stopped in towns like Independence and St. Joseph before joining other wagons on a trail heading into the West. Outfitters in these towns prepared the overlanders for their trip.

Without searching the Internet for the information, what food items do you think they took with them? Did bacon or flour come to mind? How about dried fruit?  I've read novels where authors include these when the book is set on a wagon train. However, I don't remember seeing crackers mentioned.

“June 3 Passed through St. Joseph on the Missouri River. Laid in our flour, cheese, crackers and medicine, for no one should travel this road without medicine, for they are almost sure to have the summer complaint. Each family should have a box of physicing pills, a quart of castor oil, a quart of the best rum and a large vial of peppermint essence.”  -Elizabeth Dixon Smith

What is the history of the common cracker? How did it get that name?

Hardtack or a sea biscuit is the forerunner of the cracker. It was originally called Pearson's Pilot Bread and was made out of only flour and water. Plain and certainly not the savory and salty saltine crackers that I love.


How did hardtack turn into a cracker? It didn't. Actually, biscuits turned into crackers. A baker burned a batch of biscuits. The biscuits "crackled" when he took them out of the oven, thus the name. 

This gave Josiah Bent, the baker, the idea of producing what became our modern cracker.  Eventually he sold his business to the National Biscuit Company. Do you recognize that name? It was shortened to Nabisco. 

Some inkling told Glory she needed to share a secret in return. Her friend’s tone sounded so vulnerable. “No, I’ve always wanted to be just like my mother. She was a wonderful woman.”

She glanced at the sick man as she continued. “But I was really afraid I’d marry a man like my pa.”

Pikes Peak or Bust! Glory’s father catches a fever—gold fever.

"This is a well written book that is filled with love, excitement, hardships, friendships and faith. I recommend this to anyone that likes clean historical western romance."--Amazon Kindle Review

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Trails - Getting From Point A to Point B

 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Photo Property of the Author
Tracks of a stage line in the Comanche Grasslands- Colorado

Lately, I've been thinking about the trails that traversed the country from East to West. We know about the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails, but what about some of the other 'trails' that we sometimes forget? Below are just a few that I know off.

I've always been fascinated by the Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the 1820-40s. The stories of the Fur Trading Forts, especially in Colorado, are a source of constant research for me. There is a trail named "The Trappers' Trail", that ran from Bent's Fort up the Arkansas River to Fort Pueblo (Pueblo, CO.) then it followed Fountain Creek through the where the town of Colorado Springs is, where it joined Monument Creek. This continued north to Cherry Creek, then to Wyoming to Fort Laramie. 

Arkansas River in Canon City, CO

Growing up in Illinois, I've known the story of the Morman Trail for years. It ran from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City. The major portion of the trail led from Illinois, through Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming to Utah. The trail was used during the years 1846-47. I learned after moving to Colorado that a portion of those of the faith coming from Mississippi and additional Southern States came up through Pueblo and wintered at Fort Pueblo in 1846.

The Smokey Hill River Trail was used as a route to the goldfields in Colorado after gold was located in the Cherry Creek area. The route followed the Smokey Hill River, which begins in Eastern Colorado, from Atchison, Kansas through Eastern Colorado. This trail later was used by the Butterfield Overland stage line. By 1870, when the Kansas Pacific Railroad was completed the trail was no longer used.

There are many other trails that are left to explore. What are the trails that hold your interest?

Until next time.

Doris McCraw


Monday, May 16, 2022

Crimes of Fashion - The Civil War Hoop Skirt Smugglers

I admit it...I'm a history junkie! Particularly when it comes to the 19th century Victorian America, Civil War, and the Wild West. Honestly, if there was a time-machine that could transport passengers back to that time, I'd be the first in line. 

Having just finished my entry, Ainsley - Book 8 in the Love Train series, I turned to writing Wooing the Widow, Book Two in my Mended Hearts series. Based in Roswell, Georgia during the last year of the Civil War, it tells the ordeal of Sofie Bishop who innocently takes a job in a mill producing 'Roswell grey' fabric to be sewn into Confederate uniforms. 

The taking and destruction of the mill, looms, and fabric was not just a capture of infrastructure. Charging them with treason, the Union troops took about 400 mill workers, most of them women and children, to Marietta to be sent North on trains.  

They spent a week in holding in Marietta before being sent North, many to Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois on trains.  They were then left to fend for themselves in Northern towns already overcrowded with refugees. Many would die from starvation or exposure until a mill opened in 1865 that provided employment. The ultimate fates of many of these women are unknown, but the majority who survived settled in the North.  There are only a few reports of any women and children returning to Roswell. 

While researching this Civil War "Trail of Tears", I came across an article about hoop skirt smugglers. Instantly, I knew I had to add a scene or two showing how some of the women might have used their skirts for a different purpose: smuggling to support the Cause. So...down the rabbit hole I went!

In a time when women had little political power, I discovered many of them eagerly joined in to not only support the troops in spirt, but took a more aggressive role in the war. From undercover spies to actual soldiers, many women considered themselves as equal participants.

Realizing their unique position as women, they used their hoop skirts for smuggling messages, weapons, and medical supplies. Despite what modern readers might view as bothersome, many women enjoyed wearing things like hoop skirts and corsets. Those who utilized them to smuggle goods reveled in the power it gave them to feel both feminine and fierce.

Belle Boyd - Siren of the Shenandoah

Boyd's espionage career began by chance. According to her highly fictionalized 1866 account, a band of Union army soldiers heard that she had Confederate flags in her room on July 4, 1861, and they came to investigate. They hung a Union flag outside her home. Then one of the men cursed at her mother, which enraged Boyd. She pulled out a pistol and shot the man, who died some hours later. A board of inquiry exonerated her of murder, but sentries were posted around the house and officers kept close track of her activities. 
In one account, Belle organized a smuggling operation composed of other southern belles to hide weapons in their hoop skirts. While Union troop were relaxing near their encampment in Harper's Ferry, she and her belles confiscated sabers, pistols,  muskets, and calvary equipment. She also smuggled precious quinine (best treatment for malaria) across the Potomac River to secessionist towns in Maryland.

In addition to her hoop skirts, Belle used her feminine wiles to seduce both Union and Confederate soldiers, easily extracting information from the unsuspecting men who were unaware of a woman's ability to perform as a spy. 

Elizabeth Van Lew

Upon the outbreak of the war, Van Lew began working on behalf of the Union with her mother, caring for wounded soldiers. When Libby Prison was opened in Richmond, Van Lew was allowed to bring food, clothing, writing paper, and other things to the Union soldiers imprisoned there.  Quickly, her efforts escalated to smuggling written messages in and out of the prison by pasting them in books, and on one occasion, she brought in coded messages in the bottom of her custard dish. Another time she brought along her knitting and intertwined messages in her stitches.

When her hostile neighbors began to attack her mental capacity because of her allegiance to the Union, she took to combing her hair crooked, wearing tattered dresses, walking the neighborhood looking generally disheveled. Given her wealth, this led to her neighbors to jump to the conclusion that she was indeed, disturbed, and hence, not a threat to the cause.

When Richmond fell to U.S. forces in April 1865, Van Lew was the first person to raise the Union flag in the city. On Grant's first visit to Richmond after the war, he had tea with Van Lew. Grant said of her, "You have sent me the most valuable information received from Richmond during the war. Elizabeth was eventually inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.

Emma Kline - "Hostile in Spirit"

As the daughter of a Mississippi planter, and a sister to five brothers, Emma Kline became involved in the war effort with enthusiasm. On one occasion, she managed to conceal a roll of army cloth, several pairs of cavalry boots--tied to the rolled coils of her hoop skirt--along with a roll of crimson flannel, packages of gilt braid and sewing silk, cans of preserved meats, and a bag of coffee—quite a tally of contraband for a 20-year old woman.  

Eventually, the entire Kline family was exiled from the Vicksburg area by order of Major Eastman...

"I desire you to entrap and catch these outlaws, if you can. I am also well satisfied that the Kline family, and especially Miss Kline, are guilty of acting in bad faith toward our government and imparting information to the enemy. You will, therefore, take immediate steps to put the whole family across the Big Black, not to return to this side without written permission from the proper military authorities, under penalty of being dealt with as spies."

Emma Kline would be little remembered today if not for one photograph of her that was taken in 1864. It shows a defiant young lady standing between two guards from the 5th Iowa Infantry after her arrest for smuggling.

Elizabeth White, Annie Hempstone, Kate and Betsie Ball

Early on the morning of July 5, 1864, these Virginia-based Confederate sympathizers embarked on a daring mission to retrieve desperately needed boots and clothing for soldiers of the 35th Battalion who had family in Maryland. They crossed the Potomac River at Point of Rocks into Maryland. 

With boots and clothing tied to the frames of their hoop skirts, they discovered Union troops guarding the crossing. They retreated to Elizabeth's mother's home where they hid the clandestine goods.

The four women were arrested as spies and sent to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C.   Though Union officials knew the women were Confederate sympathizers, they could find no evidence to support a charge of spying. The women repeatedly stated that their trip to Montgomery County, Maryland was for pleasure alone, and Union officials released them three weeks later.

Somehow escaping detection, Elizabeth White and her comrades promptly returned to the house of White’s mother in Dickerson, Maryland and retrieved their concealed items. The return river crossing was precarious simply because of the weight of the items concealed in the folds of the women’s skirts but went off without a hitch.

These women had taken great risks to retrieve these supplies and had demonstrated their willingness to expose themselves to great danger to support their soldiers.

How to Catch a Lady Smuggler

The prevalence of female smugglers had become such a problem for the Union army that the following red flags became well-known to officers. 
        • A traveler walking oddly
        • Clothing that was quite tight
        • A woman who seems overly nervous
        • Clothing that appears too large for the wearer
So, this led me to wonder... How would a male officer  prove a female was smuggling contraband?

Enter the Inspectress.

Code of morality were such at the time that conducting searches would have been too uncomfortable for most officers to bear. It would also mean putting his own reputation at considerable risk.

One aspect of my research that I hadn't expected was that the boldness of one group of women created an entirely new career for another. Since women had never been employed at the prisons, they were now brought in to conduct such searches. When the war ended, and fashion trends evolved to slimmer skirts and fitted bodices of the early 1900s the opportunity for on-person smuggling diminished.

Wait...what about the bustles of the 1870s, 1880, and 1890s?  I guess I'll have to take another trip down the rabbit hole!



Sunday, May 8, 2022


When my most recent heroine protests to the Dakota settler who wants to marry her,  "but will you respect me and my beliefs?" he protests that he will.  He explains the cruel experiences his family endured elsewhere finding work. (They arrived, like many others, starving and without experience, from Galway, Ireland.)  He, though, had persevered, proved up his land, and was now able offer her a good home. 

Jake, my hero, in need of a wife

The population of Dakota (from the official census in 1860) was 4,837, but immigrants going West sometimes came northward, swelling the population of Dakota to 11,776 in 1870.

If Jake's family had settled in Dakota, the boys would have found work as  miners, even as waves of immigrants poured into the Black Hills (1874).  Suddenly, Deadwood changed to a large, bustling city, one of the largest in the area.

The Black Hills

90% of immigrants to Dakota were English-speakers, though they'd had little work in Ireland, or even in England. Once relocated to Dakota, their experience grew and their skills were honored.  Cornish and Irish miners, especially, were sought after.

 Miners were often chosen for top-ranking jobs when they spoke English, being able to direct other workers underground.  The British had a different situation in Dakota, with sympathetic help coming from a wealthy independent family.  The concept was to help other British people become prosperous 'Gentlemen farmers', and the aid included Dakota farmers and hands-on experts working with newcomers.

But Scandinavian immigrants were the largest numbers to Dakota, often coming in groups.  The census of these early 'waves' of Northern European immigration began in 1890, with  Norwegians listed as bringing the most people:  19,275.  Germans and others from the areas near Germany brought a slightly fewer number of people, with 18,188.  During the Dakota Boom, one European family was so enchanted with Dakota that they relocated!

Medora, Marquise de Mora

The Dakota Booms lasted roughly from 1873 -- after the Panic of 1873  had abated -- to 1890, and the boom suddenly stopped, when a great drought hit the plains. 

People with farming skills found work in the Dakotas as sheep herders and cowboys when Dakota was 'discovered' as cattle country.

The Homestead Act of 1862 had little influence.

Cowboys and hands camp in the Badlands

But the boom was cemented by the railroads.  First, the eastern areas were drenched with trains, then the smaller communities were reached.  Sources say that the railroad companies were tremendously rich, and had knowledge of where depots would be located.  Nonetheless, many people found jobs laying and maintaining those tracks.

Bismark rails across the Missouri

285 towns were platted during those years, and 135 had railroad a railroad terminus.

Prosperous Deadwood 1876

The Drought of 1890 that ended the Dakota Boom

One North Dakota college states that booms have continued since then, encouraging the population to swell (it's close to 700,000 now).