Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Survey Markers by Zina Abbott

Survey markers are objects placed to mark key survey points on the Earth's surface. They are used in geodetic and land surveying.

Geodetic, or geodesy, refers to accurately measuring and understanding the earth’s geometric shape and size, its orientation in space, and gravity.  As for land surveying, this becomes necessary—not only to create more accurate maps, including topographical maps, but also to mark off land boundaries.

Survey markers are used to mark national and state boundaries, such as this 1877 marker on the Arkansas-Oklahoma state line.


This survey marker was originally upright. It marked the eastern 1893 Oklahoma Land Run boundary.

A benchmark is a type of survey marker that indicates elevation (referring to a vertical position). Horizontal position markers used for triangulation are also known as triangulation stations. Considering the earth is a globe, not flat, and contains mountains and valleys, these details must be accounted for through triangulation.

Survey markers are also called survey marks, survey monuments, or geodetic marks. My husband, who worked almost his entire career in one aspect or another of engineering construction, called them shiners.

This particular shiner is next to Merced River inside Yosemite National Park, just after entering the toll gate on Highway 140. There is a small rest stop there. While waiting for me one year, he wandered out over the rock that overlooked the river and was pleased to find this shiner firmly embedded in the stone.

1855 Geodetisch station at Ostend, Belgium used for triangulation

Survey markers were often placed as part of triangulation surveys, measurement efforts that moved systematically across states or regions, establishing the angles and distances between various points. Such surveys laid the basis for map-making across the world. 

Located on peak of Prospect Hill-Wompatuck State Park, Hingham, MA

All sorts of different objects, ranging from the familiar brass disks to liquor bottles, clay pots, and rock cairns, have been used over the years as survey markers. 

Some show the meeting points of three or more countries. In the 19th century, these marks were often drill holes in rock ledges, crosses or triangles chiselled in rock, or copper or brass bolts sunk into bedrock. 

 Today in the United States, the most common geodetic survey marks are cast metal disks with stamped legends on their face set in rock ledges,


embedded in the tops of concrete pillars,or affixed to the tops of pipes that have been sunk into the ground. These marks are intended to be permanent, and disturbing them is generally prohibited by federal and state law.

Some old markers were buried several feet down to protect them from being struck by ploughs or disturbed by other means. Occasionally, these buried marks had surface marks set directly above them.

This year, it was my research for two books set in the new Oklahoma Territory that was formed as a result of the land runs that led to my research on survey markers.

In 1871, the internal format of Oklahoma, then the Indian Territory, began to take shape. Based on Thomas Jefferson's standard United States public land survey system of townships, ranges, sections and quarter sections, an Initial Point was selected and a grid work of north-south and east-west lines was established. The entire Indian Territory was surveyed from a "bearing point" located one mile south of Fort Arbuckle and eight miles west of present-day Davis.

Survey crew Cherokee Strip (Outlet)

I have not discovered exactly what style of survey marker was used when the Cherokee Outlet was divided into quarter sections or city lots for those new cities that were planned in preparation for the 1893 land run. I’m sure they were set in a manner to avoid being disturbed or removed. 

However, in my book, Joshua’s Bride, my fictional heroine, Rose Calloway, attempted to secure the survey marker on the back, out of the way corner of the homestead plot she claimed. Being told by two of her neighbors who shared the corner that it was illegal for her to remove the survey marker did not deter her from digging it up. She was determined to keep usurpers from coming onto the back portion of her land and copying down the coordinates in an effort to claim the homestead plot for themselves. Here is an excerpt from the book:

         “You need to put it back, right away. In fact, give it me. I’ll find a surveyor and have him reset it.” The clerk reached for the pole.

         “No!” Rose twisted to keep the post away from his reach. “It’s my pole that goes to my property. Well, mine and three of my neighbors.”

         “Sir, you won’t need to go to all that trouble.” Joshua pulled Rose behind him and stepped to squarely face the clerk. This woman needs a keeper. “She’s with me, and I’ll help her return it where it goes.”

         “She your wife?”

         “No, sir, she’s my fiancé. We have one more matter of business to see to while we’re here, and then I’ll return her home and help her reset it.” The word fiancé was out of Joshua’s mouth before he even thought about it. He did not know how she felt about it, but, he reasoned, it was better for her reputation to be traveling in the company of a fiancé than a man with whom she had a casual acquaintance. He held the clerk’s gaze.

         “Is there a problem, Charlie?” A deep voice sounded as an older, thick-shouldered man with a deputy marshal’s badge on his chest approached.

         “This woman here—” The sputtering clerk waggled a finger at Rose as he turned his head to toward the deputy marshal.

         “There’s just been a little misunderstanding, marshal.” With a smile that lit her entire face, Rose stepped back to Joshua’s side. “I brought this survey post with me to help me register my land. You know, to prove I am the one who has the claim on that particular homestead? However, the clerk just told me I wasn’t supposed to take it out of the ground. I assured him I will take it home and put it back where it goes.”

         Joshua shifted his gaze between Rose, the deputy marshal with the thoughtful expression, and the clerk, who rolled his eyes. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes, too. I want to be her keeper. He cleared his throat. “As I was telling this gentleman, here…” he gestured toward the clerk. “Now we know the pole needs to stay in place, we’ll leave as soon as we finish one more item of business and go directly to the property where this survey post goes. I’ll help her get it set in the ground properly.”

         “Sounds reasonable to me.” His hands on his hips, the deputy marshal pressed his lips together and nodded. “Work for you, Charlie?” He turned to the clerk with an expression that did not invite a challenge.

         As he stared at the deputy marshal, Charlie swallowed. “If you say so.” Then he stiffened his posture as he turned and scowled at Rose. “Swear you’ll put it back as soon as you return to the property.”

         “I don’t swear, sir.” Rose straightened her spine and lifted her chin. “But, I will promise. I will return home and put the pole back where I found it.”

Joshua’s Bride is available for sale as an ebook and a paperback. It is also available at no additional cost with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. You may find the book description and purchase link by CLICKING HERE

         Rose’s sister, Marigold Calloway, claimed two lots in the town of New Ponca that was created as part of the same 1893 Cherokee Outlet Land Run. Even the boundaries of many town lots are marked with survey markers. You may find the book description and purchase link of Marigold by CLICKING HERE








Sunday, November 27, 2022


 By Caroline Clemmons

In the Eastern United States, riding a coach meant travel from one stage stop to the next, stopping at a tavern or inn for a meal and perhaps spending the night. In the West and Southwest, there were not enough established towns. Western travelers had to be made of grit and determination!

In 1858, John Butterfield undertook an overland stage line connecting St. Louis and San Francisco by way of El Paso, Texas. The route also ran through Tucson and Los Angeles, both of which were only villages of a few hundred residents. A federal contract paid the stage company $600,000 a year to carry U. S. mail across the continent. That sum helped subsidize way stations at regular intervals. The company spent nearly a year getting everything into place to support semi-weekly stagecoach service.

When Butterfield’s Overland Mail Line opened for business on 16 September 1858, the journey between St. Louis and San Francisco required three weeks of hard traveling—if the weather was good. Coaches moved all day and all night except for brief intervals at way stations. The fare did not include the cost of meals, which cost an average of a dollar each three times a day. Passengers had to sleep aboard the coach. These mail lines were guaranteed to be rugged but they got the mail through.

At this time, most coaches set on springs which provided a bumpy, jostling ride. If passengers were fortunate, the route included riding in a Concord stagecoach. The first Concord stagecoach was built in 1827 in Concord, New Hampshire. Abbot Downing Company employed leather strap braces under their stagecoaches which gave a swinging motion instead of the jolting up and down motion of spring suspension. They were known to be built so solidly they didn’t break, they just wore out.

Concord stage in Wells Fargo colors

Over 700 Concord stagecoaches were built by the original Abbot Downing Company before it disbanded in 1847. However, the company was still building coaches, wagons, and carriages according to their business card of 1898. The coach was noted for its ability to keep passengers dry while floating across streams and rivers. The swaying motion caused some passengers to become “seasick”.

In his 1861 book ROUGHING IT, Mark Twain described the Concord stage’s ride as like “a cradle on wheels”. Hmm, guess it's a matter of perspective.

Not all stagecoaches were of one of these types. Celerity or mud wagons were much lighter and cheaper to build. They had no springs so they offered a much rougher ride. They were primarily used on lines where passenger and express traffic was too light to justify the expense of Concord coaches. Instead of having a heavy wooden top, the celerity had a light frame structure with thick duck or canvas covering, greatly reducing the vehicle’s weight. Wheels were set further apart and were protected by wide steel rims that helped keep the coach from tipping over or the wheels from sinking in soft sands.

Celerity or Mud Wagon
Note canvas roof, open sides

While not as comfortable for daytime travelers, they were designed for passenger travel at night. Waterman L. Ormsby, special correspondent to the New York Herald, described the sleeping accommodations. “As for sleeping, most of the wagons are arranged so that the backs of the seats let down and form the length of the vehicle. When the stage is full, passengers must take turns sleeping. Perhaps the jolting will be found disagreeable at first, but a few nights without sleeping will obviate that difficulty, and soon the jolting will be as little of a disturbance as the rocking of a cradle to a sucking babe. For my part, I found no difficulty sleeping over the roughest roads, and I have no doubt that anyone else will learn quite as quickly. A bounce of the wagon, which makes one’s head strike the top, bottom, or sides, will be equally disregarded, and ‘nature’s sweet restorer’ found as welcome on the hard bottom of the wagon as in the downy beds of the St. Nicholas. White pants and kid gloves had better be discarded by most passengers.”

Unlike the classic Concord stagecoaches, which could be mired in bad weather, mud wagons could travel over trails and roads during inclement weather. The only protection provided for passengers against bad weather and dusty roads were the canvas side curtains which could be rolled down and fastened.

By the way, the word “stage” meant the place where the horses or mules were changed—staged along the route. These were spaced every 12 to 20 miles, depending on the terrain, and were usually operated by a single man living in a small cottage who kept a change of horses in a barn and/or corral. The stage stopped only long enough for passengers to stretch their legs while the horses or mules were changed.

Every 50 miles were the “home” stages, which were usually a couple or family who served meals and could provide overnight lodging—though sometimes passengers slept on a dirt floor. These stations also might include a blacksmith and stables. Drivers might be switched there.

Some coaches had two seats facing one another. The larger Concord squeezed in a center, forward-facing third seat, which made passengers very crowded and uncomfortable. Often the third seat had no back, which must have made retaining balance awkward as the coach swayed along. Often passengers had to interlock knees due to the crowded interior. Imagine you were a lady in the 19th century who’d been raised to observe propriety and you found yourself on a long coach ride having to lace legs with a male stranger. Ugh! Come to think of it, that wouldn’t be comfortable now.

Here are a set of rules posted by Wells Fargo in 1888:

1.      Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink, share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and unneighborly.

2.      If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the Gentle Sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted but spit WITH the wind, not against it. (I’d think this would be a given, wouldn’t you?)

3.      Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children.

4.      Buffalo robes are provided for your comfort during cold weather. Hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.

5.      Don’t snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger’s shoulder for a pillow; he or she may not understand and friction may result.

6.      Firearms may be kept on your person for use in emergencies. Do not fire them for pleasure or shoot at wild animals as the sound riles the horses.

7.      In the event of runaway horses, remain calm. Leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians, and hungry coyotes.

8.      Forbidden topics of discussion are stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.

9.      Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It’s a long walk back. A word to the wise is sufficient. (I love this one)

To these, the Omaha Herald in 1877 added cautions to:

Never ride in cold weather with tight boots nor close-fitting gloves.

When the driver asks you to get out and walk, do so without grumbling. He will not request it unless absolutely necessary.

Don’t linger too long at the pewter wash basin at the station. Don’t grease your hair before starting out or dust will stick there in sufficient quantities to make a respectable ‘tater patch. Tie a silk handkerchief around your neck to keep out dust and prevent sunburns. A little glycerin is good in case of chapped hands.

Don’t discuss politics or religion nor point out places on the road where horrible murders have been committed.

In very cold weather, abstain entirely from liquor while on the road. A man will freeze twice as quick while under its influence.

Don’t imagine for a minute you are going on a picnic: expect annoyance, discomfort, and some hardships. If you are disappointed, thank heaven.

The seven heroines in my Bride Brigade Series—each book of which has a new cover—traveled in a Concord coach from Fort Worth to (fictional) Tarnation, Texas. The first book is JOSEPHINE, which is only 99¢.  

Caroline Clemmons is an award winning and bestselling author of historical and contemporary western romance. She and her husband live in cowboy country in North Central Texas where they are owned by a menagerie of rescued pets.


Texas State Historical Association Handbook of Texas online


Thursday, November 24, 2022


Thanksgiving. Food. Shopping. Family. A precursor to Christmas. Perhaps one of these fits your holiday this year. Really, if one thinks about it, the holiday has had several purposes over the decades and centuries here in the United States.  

When Lincoln officially made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, he did so during a terrible time. After two years of bloody fighting, the American Civil War still raged. He wanted to set aside a day for Americans to pray. It was a remembrance day rather than a true feast.

Later, as immigrants flooded the country during the later half of the 1800s, the holiday became a way to welcome newcomers. Symbolism allowed the immigrants to practice American traditions. The turkey, the pie, the celebration of a harvest in their new country. Thanksgiving changed from a time of remembrance to more of the celebration and feast we know it as today.

A poem by Douglas Malloch captured the idea of the glory of a good harvest at Thanksgiving time:

To explain the shopping emphasis surrounding Thanksgiving, we have to look later to the 1920s. During that decade, the annual parades started. We can thank Gimbel and Macy for that. For my part, I prefer to associate this day with the warm joy of a thankful heart and a full plate.

Specially priced at $.99 for you this Christmas! Pre-order today!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

It's Holiday Season


Post by Doris McCraw aka Angela Raines

The holidays are upon us. From Thanksgiving to Christmas time seems to fly. For myself, I've always preferred Thanksgiving over Christmas although I do enjoy both holidays. I thought perhaps a little look back might be fun as I myself gear up for my own celebrations.

From the November 18, 1898 issue of
The Chaffe County Record.

I love this advertisement from the "Pikes Peak Echo - Colorado College

December 7, 1885

How do you all celebrate Thanksgiving? Do you have turkey or ham? Friends, family? Whatever form your celebration takes, have a wonderful day.

Photo Property of the Author


Doris McCraw

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Apple Pie - It's Not as American as You Think by Jo-Ann Roberts

With Thanksgiving less than ten days away, many of us are planning our holiday feast...or more specifically, planning the desserts to make for family and friends!

In our family it's no different. Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete with my daughter's Apple Crostata (an Italian version of an open-faced apple pie).

Growing up in a large, extended Italian family, I naturally equate food to family and love. While I'm an okay cook, I'm a much better baker. So, I usually mention food in my sweet historical romances...which leads me down the rabbit hole to find authentic foods the pioneers in the Old West might have eaten.

In my upcoming release, Noelle - Christmas Quilt Brides, the hero Coleman West recalls eating Vinegar Pie as a child. But that's a blog for another time.

Today, it's all about apple pie. 

 Photo Credit: Pinterest

Believe it or not, apple pie has a surprisingly un-American history. In fact, apples aren't even native to North America and didn't grow here until the arrival of European settlers. And cinnamon and nutmeg? Those came from as far away as the Far East (Sri Lanka and Indonesia)

According to food historians, apple pie originated in England. It arose from culinary influences in France, the Netherlands, and the Middle East as early as 1390--centuries before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. When they landed, the only indigenous tree of the species they could find was the crab apple. They found it to be a far cry from the apples they usually had eaten back home, as crab apples were to0 sour to eat and were much smaller in size.

During colonial times, the European explorers did not eat apples but instead used them in making the alcoholic 'hard cider'. How did they remedy this situation? Transport apples from Europe through tree cuttings and seeds. The initial problem was pollination which made it difficult for the trees in North America to bear fruit. This problem was solved when European honeybees were introduced. After that, colonists began growing their domesticated apples in the country.

By 1800, some of those 14,000 varieties of apples were a good fit for apple pie. Around the same time, John Chapman planted so many apple trees in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana that he earned his nickname, "Johnny Appleseed."

Courtesy of Harper's Monthly, 1871

As the pioneers pushed westward, public interest in new fruit varieties of apples, pears, and peaches were discovered and introduced into their menus.

Easy and affordable, apple pie was a typical American cuisine by the 18th and 19th centuries. But it didn't become associated with our cultural identity until the 20th century, when advertising, news, and two world wars transformed the dish into a nationalist symbol.

Though the exact origin of the phrase "as American as apple pie" is unclear, a 1928 New York Times article used it to describe the homemaking abilities of First Lady Lou Henry Hoover. By World War II, it was a symbol of feminine love associated with home, warmth, and soldiers proudly proclaimed that they were fighting for "mom and apple pie." 

Interesting Facts About Apple Pie
The early English people didn't use sugar to sweeten the pies as it was very expensive. Rather, they used sweet fruits like figs, raisins, pears, and honey.

In the beginning, apple pies had a "take-off" crust. The apples were first baked in a crust, the Top crust was then removed, and sweeteners and spices were added. The pie was served with the top crust replaced.

                                                       Photo Credit:  Pinterest

The American West settlers made mock apple pie because they didn't have apples, so they used crackers and special spices, and though it tasted like real apple pie. Some people still make it mock apple pie today. 

Maria Ann Smith was an inspiration for the name Granny Smith apple variety. Mrs. Smith was well-known for her fruit pies, and the Smiths were apple farmers. She accidentally crossed a wild European crab apple with a more commonly grown orchard apple to make a new kind of apple.

Symbolism aside, apple pie actually does represent America, but not for the reasons most people think. Apple pie is American because it illustrates how cultures worldwide can join together to create something new and altogether wonderful. Like apples, we're all transplants.