History, Ancestry & Story

I’m Jane Porter and new here, but not a new author. I’ve written 50 stories since I sold my first book to Harlequin Presents in January 2000, including 10 women’s fiction titles and 40 romances.

With that first sale, I launched my career writing about alpha heroes and glamorous, international settings, but long before that, I wrote cowboys. Lots of cowboys. None of them sold, even though I did win a Golden Heart from Romance Writers of America for Best Long Contemporary with my western romance, ALL-AROUND COWBOY, so I shelved my cowboys when a London editor encouraged me to write a story for her. I did, and I built a career writing sexy Greeks, Sheikhs and Italians, but I began to miss what I knew best: small towns, ranches, and independent, rugged men who love the land.

1df6eb37-fac9-47a5-b2b8-3170c96116f4You see, I’m a small town girl myself, growing up in Central California with miles of farmland stretching in every direction, spending vacations on my late grandfather’s cattle ranch near tiny Parkfield, California. My grandfather Lyles was from Texas, just like his grandfather was from Texas, having moved there as a young boy from Mississippi following the end of the Civil War.

According to those that knew him, that great-great-great grandfather, William Durham Lyles, was big and physically tough. He stood 6’4”, had dark hair, dark-eyes and an intimidating stare. He also had a reputation for being able to work as hard, if not harder, than any professional cowhand.

According to an article on the front page of the New York Times in May 1889, he was a desperado.

NYT May 4 1889 article WD Lyles murderBy definition a desperado is someone who is a “desperate or reckless person, especially a criminal.” (Synonyms: bandit, criminal, outlaw, lawbreaker, villain, renegade.)

That sounds bad. And there are plenty of newspaper articles claiming that he was a cattle rustler, stealing cattle and horses in Texas and crossing state line to sell the stock in Louisiana.

There is no proof he did it. We, his descendants do know he settled in Vernon, Louisiana because he fell in love with my great-great-great grandmother, married her, moving to her hometown to raise a family. My great-great-great grandmother came from a wealthy family. William Durham Lyles wasn’t wealthy. Just big, and powerful, as well as fast with a bullwhip and gun.

Not everyone liked him. In fact, the wealthy establishment really disliked him. He was so disliked, that he was murdered at the age of 37, when a group of concerned citizens (vigilantes?) fired 18 rounds of buckshot, peppering his body, leaving him to die on a bridge six miles from his home.

His death would have been just one of many in the still wild west, if his murder hadn’t created tremendous controversy, with his close friends and family vehemently protesting Lyles’ innocence, while the media reported that he was “inclined to murderous aggressiveness”. True, he nearly always carried a gun, a rifle or a pistol (or both), and famous for his adroit use of the bullwhip, but he was a farmer, a rancher, and the border of Louisiana and Texas was still little more than a frontier.

IMG_2899William’s younger brothers rode over from Navarro, Texas to investigate the death, and things got pretty tense in Vernon, Louisiana. It didn’t help that one of William Durham’s friends was an editor at a small newspaper called People’s Friend, and the editor, Sorrell demanded justice for William Durham Lyles. “The editor of the People’s Friend, attacked State Senator E.E. Smart, a prosperous and influential citizen, demanding punishment. The Vernon News defended the Senator. The parish speedily divided into factions, the old element supporting the News and the border ruffians the Friend. Sorrell, the editor of the latter, has made himself very conspicuous and its feared he will be killed.” (NYT May 4, 1889)

WD Lyles grave marker Vernon Parish, LouisianaThe media loved this story. The New York Times was just one of a dozen papers to report on the “Texas Border Town on the Eve of Bloodshed”.

The newspapers focused on Lyles’ aggressive personality, repeatedly sharing colorful gossipy tidbits like, “He was said to have struck several parties with his rifle and deliberately stepped upon the toes of men while entering stores.” But family and friends claimed Lyles was definitely tough, but also fair. I can’t help wondering if part of the problem might have been that he wasn’t local, and he wasn’t born into money. And yet his gravestone in the Vernon cemetery is impressive. Someone must have loved him.

William Murray LylesWas he a cattle rustler? A criminal? A desperado? Or was he a fierce, independent Texan who rubbed the wealthy and influential the wrong way?

I won’t ever know what really did happen, but I do know this. William Durham’s first born, my great grandfather William Murray Lyles, attended LSU where he ran track and played football, and earned a law degree.

My great-grandfather “Pap” was a brilliant, athletic, kind man. I don’t know how he could have turned out quite so wonderful if his father had been such a ruthless, terrifying desperado.

TakeMeCowboy_JanePorter_thumbnailI love history, ancestry, and stories. Especially stories with tough heroes and the strong women who love them.

What do you like to read? I’d love to know. And I’d also love to hear if you have any juicy stories in your family. I can’t be the only one with a desperado in the family tree!

I’m giving away three digital copies of Take Me, Cowboy so leave a comment, share your thoughts and you could be a winner!

 

 

 

 

Jane Porter
Jane Porter, the NYT and USA Today bestselling author of 50 romances and fiction novels, holds an MA in Writing from the University of San Francisco and has been a finalist for the prestigious RITA award in the US five times, with her novella, Take Me, Cowboy, winning the Novella Category July 2014. In 2008 Jane's wildly popular novel, Flirting with Forty, was made into a Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear, and just recently Jane has had two more stories optioned for cable movies. For more info, visit www.janeporter.com.

1887 Lever-Action Shotgun

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By the late 19th century, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company was well known for their lever-action firearms. Though designer John Browning—who designed most of the lever-action rifles that “won the west”—recommended the new shotgun be pump-action, Winchester management wanted to capitalize on their previous success. Early brand recognition!  The result?  The Winchester Model 1887 Lever-Action Shotgun. [That’s mine, a reproduction, pictured above.]

That brand recognition even extends into modern-day Hollywood — Arnold Schwarzenegger carried a Model 1887 in The Terminator.

The Model 1887 loads from the top or breech (picture on right). It had a magazine tube that would hold six shells plus one IMG_0077more in the chamber. Patterned after their lever action rifles, the shotgun lever design included an internal safety innovation that minimized the possibility of accidentally firing: the firing pin cannot strike the primer of the shell until the breech block is completely closed. That means the shot will go down the barrel and not up into the shooter’s face.

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The lever is exactly that—a lever. [See picture on the left] Opening it or pushing it down ejects the spent shell and moves another shell from the tube into firing position.

When a man or woman could carry multiple weapons that used the same cartridges, that meant more variety of firearms and less weight in lead to haul around. Winchester produced lever-action rifles that could fire several pistol-caliber cartridges (from right to left in the picture): .32-20, .38-40 & .44-40, all worked in FullSizeRenderthe Model 1873 rifle; and they made the Model 1886 rifle to use higher powered big game cartridges like the .45-70, the original “buffalo” cartridge.

Since shotgun shells of the time used black powder, the Model 1887 was designed and chambered for these less powerful shotshells. And, while both 10 and 12-gauge model 1887s were offered [two left shells above, respectively], it was quickly realized the 1887 wasn’t strong enough for the more powerful smokeless powder shells. That prompted a redesign that resulted in the Model 1901—but that’s another blog.

Here’s a short video showing how the Model 1887 breech-loading rolling block lever-action shotgun functions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE9WD9Fihks

And, of course: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9SpHLyZuP0

Tracy Garrett

PRPTracy Garrett Duo Web

 

 

Available Now ~ “A River’s Bend Duo,” featuring two short stories, WANTED:  THE SHERIFF & NO LESS THAN FOREVER.

Tracy Garrett
History, Texas, cowboys, horses—these are a few of Tracy’s favorite things. Check out her westerns at www.TracyGarrett.com.

JD McCall Has Winners!

SouthOfRisingSun_blogThank you, Mr. JD, for riding over and sharing a cup of coffee with us. We enjoyed it.

Winners for the E-Book copy of SOUTH OF RISING SUN are……

  • KIM AMUNDSEN
  • DK STEVENS
  • NANCY C
  • CONNIE J
  • ROSIE
  • CHERYL C
  • MELANIE BACKUS
  • BRITNEY ADAMS
  • TANYA HANSON

Woo-Hoo! Congratulations to all you ladies. Mr. JD will contact you with instructions on how to claim your prize.

Felicia Filly
When I'm not keepin' all these Fillies in line, I'm practicing my roping so I can catch me a cowboy. Me and Jasper (my mule) are two peas in a pod. Both of us are as crotchety as all get-out.

We Have Two Winners for a free E-Book from Karen Kay

bannerThat’s right!  We have two winners for the ebook — sometimes that happens when I pick out names.  Finally I am home.  Deep sigh.  I love the road, but it is good to at last be home.

Anyway, the winners of the free e-books are Patricia B and Britney.

If you would please, would the both of you please go to my website at www.novels-by-KarenKay.com and pick out which ebook you would like.  Then email me personally at karenkay(dot)author(at)earthlink(dot)com.  Insert (.) for (dot) and @ for (at).

We’ll figure out how to get that e-book to you.  Thanks for all your patience with me.

Karen Kay
KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the author of 17 American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great-great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.

Welcome Guest J.D. McCall!!!

Lecompton, Kansas: A Legendary, Forgotten Town

Borrowed Guns Cover 1 (2)I’ve been asked by a few people why I chose Lecompton, Kansas, to be the setting of my second book, and the simple answer is: my publisher, Rebecca Vickery at Western Trailblazer, asked for a follow-up effort. I was not planning on writing a second novel, figuring on being a one-and-done author after Borrowed Guns, so when asked for a new effort featuring the same two main characters, I balked by saying I didn’t have any ideas for a story. This was the truth as I am not a very imaginative person, and I also made it clear at the end of the first book there were no further adventures involving the two.

Rebecca then suggested taking an incident mentioned in Borrowed Guns, and making a short story out of it (does a hundred and fifty-five thousand words qualify as short?), featuring one of the characters. Lucky for me, I set that event twenty years earlier in the historically important city of Lecompton, just south of a rowdy little town called Rising Sun.

Rising Sun completely disappeared from the Kansas landscape within a few decades of its founding, unlike the more politically significant city of Lecompton across the Kansas River to its south, which has endured until this day. With the population hovering around six-hundred in 2014, Lecompton is still a proud little town, never having forgotten the major role it played in precipitating the election of Abraham Lincoln, in turn leading to the secession of the southern states, and ultimately, the Civil War.

Elmore Street, Lecompton-The Wall Street of the West_blog

Elmore Street, Lecompton: The Wall Street of the West

Following the opening of Kansas Territory, scores of Northerners and Southerners flooded the area in attempt to promote their ideological vision for the future state. Lecompton was the first official capital of the Kansas Territory and was originally founded as a pro-slavery settlement, boasting two newspapers, both in favor of making Kansas a slave state. By 1855, enough Missourians had crossed the border to illegally vote in a pro-slavery legislature which took up residence in Lecompton. Abolitionists in Topeka answered this chicanery by drawing up their own free-state constitution for Kansas, but President Franklin B. Pierce threw his support behind Lecompton, declared the Topeka government in rebellion and rebuked the Topeka constitution, ending its debate in the Senate.

Rowena Hotel, Lecompton Kansas_blog

Rowena Hotel, Lecompton, Kansas

Basking in Pierce’s support, Lecompton legislators drafted their own pro-slavery constitution and submitted it to a vote by the populace in 1857. To make certain it passed, the ballot box was again stuffed with pro-slavery votes from residents of Missouri who crossed the border to vote. The trickery was discovered when an informant saw the candle box containing the fraudulent ballots being buried by two legislative clerks. Upon investigation by the sheriff, it was later found, and a legitimate election was scheduled to be held. Two other constitutions were proposed prior to the new vote, with the free-state constitution winning the election, and all three sent to Washington to be debated on by Congress.

SouthOfRisingSun_blogIt was during this debate that the fight mentioned in the South of Rising Sun broke out on the House of Representatives floor. President James Buchanan, a pro-slavery advocate, urged the legislators to adopt the original Lecompton Constitution, but it was eventually by-passed in favor of the free-state constitution, paving the way for Kansas to enter the Union as a non-slavery state in January of 1861.

The Lecompton Constitution was mentioned thirteen times in the famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates of the 1858 Illinois senatorial campaign. Democrat Stephen Douglas, who ran for president against Abraham Lincoln in 1860, refused to support the Lecompton constitution when it was being debated in Congress, arguing that the citizens of each territory should be allowed to decide the slavery issue by their own vote. Douglas’s outright refusal to support the Lecompton Constitution so enraged Southern Democrats that they split from their Northern counterparts and ran their own candidate for president against Lincoln and Douglas. In addition, a fourth candidate entered the race, and with the vote split four ways, Lincoln won the election with only thirty-three percent of the vote, and the rest became history.

Constitution Hall Lecompton Kansas

Constitution Hall, Lecompton, Kansas

The story is somewhat more complex than the distilled version I have related, but it would require an entire book to elaborate all the intricacies of the politics involved, and I have no intention of going down that path. It does, however, lay to rest the argument that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights.

Today, not a single trace remains of Rising Sun, but visitors to Lecompton (originally called Bald Eagle) can tour the Territorial Capital Museum and Constitution Hall and learn about the fascinating story behind this small but historically important Kansas town. Since doing extensive research for South of Rising Sun, I’ve become engrossed by Lecompton’s past and its role as “the birthplace of the Civil War.” Did you know Lecompton was also home to one of the biggest gunfights in the West? But that’s another story.

To discover more about Lecompton, visit LecomptonKansas.com.

I’ll give an e-book of my latest historical western, South of Rising Sun, to ten readers who leave a comment about the setting, Lecompton, Kansas. The winners will be announced Sunday evening (Aug. 30).

 

John-Old West Pic B&W jpgJ.D. McCall grew up in Kansas during the time when Westerns were king on television and at the movies. Living in a state that was home to such places as Abilene, Dodge, Wichita, and many other of the wickedest cattle towns ever found in the West, he was never far from Kansas lore, which included the legendary figures of Earp, Hickok, Masterson, and Cody. Not surprisingly, he has retained a great affection for that part of American history which was once the Old West. Born too late to be a cowboy, J.D. makes his living in this modern day as an industrial hygienist in the field of occupational health and safety. He continues to reside in the city of his birth, Ottawa, with his wife and three children.

Visit J.D. at his website. Find all of his books on his Amazon author page.

 

Karen’s Back to School Winner!!!

A Worthy PursuitI so enjoyed strolling down memory lane with all of you yesterday! Thanks to random.org, we have a winner.

Congratulations to:

Ruth Ebert

Ruth will be receiving an autographed copy of my latest book,

A Worthy Pursuit.

I’ll be sending you an email, Ruth, so be watching for it.

Thanks to everyone who entered.

Be sure to hug a teacher this week … or at least eat an apple in his/her honor.

Karen Witemeyer
Winner of the ACFW Carol Award, the HOLT Medallion, and two-time RITA finalist, CBA bestselling author, Karen Witemeyer, writes historical romance for Bethany House believing the world needs more happily ever afters ... and hunky cowboy heroes. She's an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. She makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children.

Woo-Hoo! Brand New Fillies to the Corral!!

Lord have mercy! Things they are a changin’! And in a very good way I might add. My mule Jasper agrees because of the two new horses in the corral.

The Fillies are jumping for joy at having both these additions–Jane Porter and Jeannie Watt! These ladies are so talented. I can’t even begin to list all the nice things to say about them because my fingers would get tired from typing.


Jane PorterJane Porter is the NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of 47 romances and women’s fiction. She’s won many awards and her novel, Flirting With Forty, was turned into a Lifetime movie in 2008 starring Heather Locklear. She hails from sunny California where she lives with her surfer husband, three sons and two dogs.  Jane’s first blog here is on Tuesday, September 1st. Don’t you dare miss it!

 

Jeannie WattJeannie Watt comes to us from Nevada where she lives in a historic ranching community. She teaches science and art at a remote rural school. Jeannie and her husband both have degrees in geology and they often roam about the desert and argue about rocks. They have two children along with three horses, two dogs and a cat named Floyd. Jeannie has a new book coming in December — To Tempt a Cowgirl. Her first blog date is Wednesday, September 23. I guarantee it’ll be interesting!

 

So there you have it. Give them a big howdy and make them feel welcome. Time’s a wastin’. You can also bring over a casserole–one of those kind with plenty of cheese. We’re hungry! Writing books is awful hard work.

 

Felicia Filly
When I'm not keepin' all these Fillies in line, I'm practicing my roping so I can catch me a cowboy. Me and Jasper (my mule) are two peas in a pod. Both of us are as crotchety as all get-out.

What To Call a Slew of Cowboys

MargaretBrownley-header

cowboysWhat do you call a group of cowboys? Don’t know? I didn’t either until I read an Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton.

Most of what Lipton calls terms of venery were codified between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.  I must say our early ancestors sure did have a great sense of humor. Who else could have come up with such delightful terms as a rash of dermatologists, a prickle of porcupines, or transparency of toupees?

So what do you call a slew of cowpokes? Why a saunter of cowboys, of course! Here are some more terms of venery from the Old West. Some you might already know:

A spread of Texans
A drove of cattle
A coalition of miners
A string of ponies.
A quiver of arrows
A trace of bounty hunters
A stud of poker players
A herd of harlots
A streak of gamblers
An obstinacy of buffaloes
A converting of preachers
A hangout of nudists
(Couldn’t resist throwing that one in)

 

So dear browse of readers,
Some of the more familiar terms that have lasted through the years are den of thieves, flight of stairs and comedy of errors. Can you think of any others? I can’t wait to see your blizzard of quotes.

 

Doggone Fun!

What would happen if two people unknowingly owned the same dog?

Read Margaret Brownley’s story Dog Days of Summer Bride.

12BridesSummerNovella3_SocialMediaPosts

Amazon

B&N

 

Margaret Brownley
Margaret has published more than 40 books and is a N.Y. Times Bestselling author and past Romance Writers of America Rita Finalist. She writes historical novels set--where else?--in the Old West! Look for her new books Undercover Bride and Prairie Summer Brides (a Walmart special). Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.

Mr. JD McCall Comes to Visit!

SouthOfRisingSun_blogWestern author JD McCall will be here on Friday, August 28th!

Mr. JD is writing a series about one man, a US Marshal who’s trying to bring law and order to Kansas. Mr. JD loves the old west and is brimming with little known tidbits that he’s itching to tell.

He’s toting a passel of e-books to give away too!

So get your fannies over here and get to talking.

Yep, you’ll be sorry if you don’t.

Felicia Filly
When I'm not keepin' all these Fillies in line, I'm practicing my roping so I can catch me a cowboy. Me and Jasper (my mule) are two peas in a pod. Both of us are as crotchety as all get-out.

Back to School

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Here in Texas, our children have returned to the classroom. My three kids were up early Monday morning, making lunches, packing backpacks, and rushing off to the first day of school. My oldest is starting her senior year of high school. Gasp! Not sure mom is quite ready for what that means. But whether mom is ready or not, it has begun.

In the American West, teachers were often little more than former students who had completed the 8th grade and gone on to pass a teacher’s examination. My youngest is starting 8th grade this year, and I can’t even imagine him having enough knowledge to turn around and teach.

As more settlers headed west and communities grew, so did the demand for teachers with a higher education. In the early 1800s, schoolmasters were men. They ruled their classrooms with discipline and authority. Yet in the 1830s when tax-supported common schools made education more widely available, the result was a teacher shortage that left the door open for women.

“God seems to have made woman peculiarly suited to guide and develop the infant mind, and it seems…very poor policy to pay a man 20 or 22 dollars a month, for teaching children the ABCs, when a female could do the work more successfully at one third of the price.” — Littleton School Committee, Littleton, Massachusetts, 1849

By the time of the Civil War, women dominated the teaching field. However, if a woman wanted to set herself apart, to establish herself as a professional, she required training that went beyond the rudimentary grammar schooling of her peers. She needed a diploma from a reputable Normal School.

Normal Schools were two-year academies designed to grant teachers a mastery of the subjects taught in the common schools as well as giving them a practical knowledge of teaching methodology. Normal Schools prided themselves on their thorough, cohesive, and “scientific” curriculum. They would provide a norm for all teachers (hence the term Normal School) that would assure a level of quality generally unavailable previously.

The Boston Normal School, for example, was established in 1872. According to a regulation manual published in 1888, a teacher studying there would have taken courses in the following areas:

  • Mental and Moral Science and Logic
  • Physiology and Hygiene
  • Natural Science
  • Study of Language
  • Elementary Studies
  • Principles of Education, School Economy, and Methods of Instruction
  • Vocal Music, Drawing, and Blackboard Illustration
  • Observation and Practice in the Training School
  • Observation and Practice in other public schools

Not so very different from our current teacher education programs, is it?

Click Cover to Order

Click Cover to Order

The heroine in my latest release is a teacher of exceptional youths, or what we would call today – gifted children or child prodigies.

In honor of teachers across the country who are getting back into their classrooms, I’ll be giving away an autographed copy of A Worthy Pursuit to one reader who leaves a comment.

Tell me about you favorite first-day-of-school memory. What made you excited, what you dreaded. How long it took you to pick out the perfect outfit. Anything related to the first day – kindergarten through college. Or maybe your first day as a teacher, if that is your profession. Anything is fair game.

Have fun! :-)

 

Karen Witemeyer
Winner of the ACFW Carol Award, the HOLT Medallion, and two-time RITA finalist, CBA bestselling author, Karen Witemeyer, writes historical romance for Bethany House believing the world needs more happily ever afters ... and hunky cowboy heroes. She's an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. She makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children.
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