Month: March 2010

Taking The Stage–Coach, That Is

gallery_rooms_overland_stage_6 cropped


One of my favorite John Wayne movies is Stagecoach. Do you remember the scene where, after three days in very close quarters with strangers, the passengers descend the steps, the gentlemen tipping their hats as they walk away, the ladies fanning at the unexpected heat, though they look as fresh as if they’d just left the tender ministrations of their maids.

Yeah. Right.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Stagecoaches were open air affairs where passengers were crammed together onto barely padded benchDeadwood 1889 photo by John Grabiles, some inside, some riding the “rumble seat” on the top of the coach, shoulder to shoulder with strangers, with no privacy from those who were less careful about their personal hygiene. If it rained, oil cloths were lowered over the window frames to keep out some of the water, but that meant less ventilation. Passengers climbed out of those hot boxes with crumpled and stained clothing, sweaty and cranky, with dust in places no God-fearing person should have to abide dust.

Still, traveling by stagecoach was preferable to making the trip on horseback, or, heaven forbid, walking. And since the trains stopped halfway across the country, in places like St. Joseph, Missouri, or Memphis, Tennessee, the stagecoach picked up their passengers and took them to all points west.

Government mail contracts were the impetus and the financing for many of the stagecoach lines. And a lot of different companies ran stage lines across the west to Texas, Arizona, or California, to take advantage of those contracts. Here are a few examples.

Butterfield Overland Dispatch–two trails, a southern route, established in 1858, ran from Springfield, Missouri and Fort Smith, Arkansas, southwest across Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico to California, and was the first to carry mail; the other trail ran from Fort Riley, Kansas, to Denver, Colorado, beginning in 1865.

NOTE: John Butterfield’s company had the southern route, David Butterfield’s the Kansas/Colorado route–and the gentlemen were not related.

Visit this site if you’d like to see all the stations on the Kansas/Colorado route, as well as the approximately mileage between each: Ft Smith Butterfield Stagecoach

Butterfield Overland Stage Company–this was probably the most famous of all stagecoach companies, certainly in Texas. Butterfield proposed the southern route because the mail could continue to run, even through the winter months.

“Butterfield’s route headed southwest from St. Louis and Memphis, crossing the Red River at Colbert’s Ferry (qv) in Grayson County and continuing across Texas for 282 miles to Fort Chadbourne via Jacksboro, Fort Belknap, and Fort Phantom Hill. The next 458 miles to El Paso swung south across a barren plain between the Concho and Pecos rivers, where water was in short supply, past Horsehead Crossing (qv) on the Pecos, up the east bank to Pope’s Camp, (qv) where it crossed the river, hugged the west bank northwestward to Delaware Spring, and then turned westward through Guadalupe Pass to Hueco Tanks and El Paso. The line continued westward through Tucson and Fort Yuma to San Diego.”

Butterfield ran the stage lines until they were seized by the Confederate Army at the beginning of the Civil War. When he could no longer operate in the south, he moved his operation north and made use of the “Central Overland Route.”

Central Overland Route (aka “Central Overland Trail”, “Central Route”, “Simpson’s Route”, or the “Egan Trail”)–This trail was scouted by Howard Egan and used to move livestock between Salt Lake City and California. When the Army heard about the route, they sent an expedition to survey it for military use. It was opened to stagecoach lines and settlers in 1859. In 1860, the Pony Express made use of the trail, followed soon by the laying of lines for the Transcontinental Telegraph.

DeadwoodCoach SD 1889- photo by John GrabilBlack Hills Dead Wood Stagecoach went to–you guessed it–Deadwood, South Dakota. And William “Buffalo Bill” Cody rode shotgun and later drove for the company.

Cheyenne-Black Hills Stage and Express Line went from the Black Hills of South Dakota to Cheyenne, Wyoming. The Cheyenne-Black Hills line covered just over 300 miles, “…and for the most part the stations were located about 15 miles apart. The daily travel was about 100 miles and three days were necessary to make the entire trip.”

In February, 1866, Ben Holladay took over the Butterfield Overland Mail Company, renaming it Holladay Overland Mail and Express Company. Mr. Holladay sold out to Wells, Fargo in November of the same year.

There were specialized coach companies, too, like the Yellowstone Park Stage Coach Line, who had a fleet of bright yellow Yellowstone CoachConcord stagecoaches as sightseeing vehicles in the park in 1886.

And that most famous of all stagecoaches? Believe it or not, Wells, Fargo and Company didn’t own their own stagecoach line until 1866, when they purchased Ben Holladay’s company. Until then, they rented space from other lines as they needed it. “By 1864, Wells Fargo, and Company were selling over two million envelopes a year for the Wells Fargo mail service and the public was using Wells Fargo green mailboxes throughout California.”

Check out this link for lots more information on these and other stage coach companies: http://www.legendsofameCelerity Wagon

Not all stages were the big coaches, drawn by six horses or mules. Concord made what they called a “Celerity Wagon,” a light, durable vehicle made for travelling over rough roads. But from what I read, it wasn’t any more comfortable, it just held together longer.

“The Butterfield Overland Mail transferred passengers and mail to light, durable vehicles for travel over rough roads.  From Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, October 23, 1858.”


Whether a Celerity Wagon or a Concord Stage Coach, the trip west was certainly not for the faint of heart.

Have you ever seen one of the old stage coaches? Or ridden in one at a local fair or historical reenactment? I haven’t, but it’s on my bucket list.

Tracy G.

Updated: April 5, 2010 — 11:44 am

Stacey Coverstone Sets Out For The Junction

CoverThirdTimesACharmMiss Stacey Coverstone has packed her bags and set out for the Junction. She’ll arrive here on Saturday.

The dear lady will share some Irish sayings with us and talk about her new book called THIRD TIME’S A CHARM.

Ah do love the cover of this book that’s a sequel to OUTLAW TRAIL that released a while back. It looks like a humdinger if I say so myself! Miss Stacey is going to give away a copy to one lucky person.

The Fillies would like everyone to saddle up your horse and join us on Saturday to welcome Miss Stacey back. We’ll talk cowboys so ah know you’ll have plenty of things to share about that subject.

Don’t be shy now! Load up the younguns and whoever else wants to come along and follow the trail to the Junction.

Updated: March 21, 2010 — 1:44 pm

Another Kind of Alpha Hero

victoria_bylin_bannerAlmost two years ago my husband and I adopted a dog from an organization that rescues abandoned animals. His name is Hartley and he’s a Jack Russell / Beagle mix. He’s a tad bit . . . odd. He licks furniture (gross), and he’s terrified of little girls. Little boys don’t bother him at all. The poor dog doesn’t know how to chase a ball or play “Fetch,”  but he plays  catch by pushing the ball with his nose for a distance of about a foot. We roll it back anHartley&Misc029smalld he’s happy.

More than once, my husband has looked at our beloved mutt and said, “Hartley, you’re no Rin Tin Tin.”

That got me thinking about the famed German Shepherd who starred in the 1950’s TV show, “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.” In the show, Rin Tin Tin belongs to a boy named Rusty who’s been orphaned in an Indian raid. The boy and dog are adopted by the soldiers at Fort Apache and the adventure begins.

Rin Tin Tin TV ShowThe series was only one of Rin Tin Tin’s Hollywood credits. His fame goes back to films from the 1920s when he stared in several movies, many of them with western settings.  His continued to star in movies up through the 1940s, then moved to television.

The first Rin Tin Tin has quite a story. He was born in Lorraine, France in September 1918 in the thick of World War I.  He was just five days old when Lee Duncan, an American serviceman, rescued him from a bombed out war dog kennel along with the pup’s sister.  Duncan named the dogs Rin Tin Tin and Nenette after French puppets given to WWI soldiers for luck.

Duncan was fascinated with the abilities of the new breed known as a German Shepherd, and he became acquainted with the man who’d trained the dogs. He worked regularly with the dogs to teach them to perform on command.  When the war ended, Duncan took the two dogs to Los Angeles. Sadly, Nenette didn’t make iRin Tin Tin Moviet. She died en route from distemper.

Duncan returned to his job as a clerk in a hardware store, but his interest in dogs continued and he took Rin Tin Tin to dog shows. In February 1922, Rin Tin Tin amazed the audience at the  Shepherd Dog Club by jumping a phenomenal 11 feet 9 inches. Quite by chance, a man named Charlie Jones asked if he could try out his new camera that made moving pictures by filming Rin Tin Tin. Duncan said yes, and a film company later offered Duncan $350 to film the dog in action. 

It took a while for Rin Tin Tin’s career to take off. Duncan tried to a sell movie script starring his dog, but he found no takers.  It wasn’t until he happened on a film company struggling to shoot a scene about a wolf that Rin Tin Tin got his big break.  Duncan said his dog could do the scene in a single take, and that’s what Rin Tin Tin did.  The producer hired him for the rest of “The Man From Hell’s River.”  The success of that film saved the studio making it from financial ruin.  The name of that littlle studio on the brink?  Warner Brothers Pictures.

Rin_Tin_Tin_005-01The first Rin Tin Tin made 26 movies before he died in 1932. Warner Brothers didn’t want to lose their star, so the mantle was passed to the Rin Tin Tin’s son, known as Junior. The two dogs weren’t identical in appearance, so a publicity campaign began. Junior was the first dog to fly in a commerical airplane.  Duncan and Rin Tin Tin No. 3 later particiated WWII by training 5,000 soldiers and dogs for the war effort.

Thanks to protected breeding, the legacy of Rin Tin Tin continues today.  Every dog that has ever played Rin Tin Tin is related to the original one.  The most recent is Rin Tin Tin #11, born July 8, 2009.  May the legacy of Man’s Best Friend continue!

The Bone Wars

Mary Connealy Header

 In the last third of the 19th century, a war began. Echoes of that war continue to reverberate today — “The Bone Wars.” There was an explosion in interest in fossils in the mid-1800s. Scientists were finding them so fast they wouldn’t do their own research.

Bone Wars MarshOthniel Charles Marsh (1831-1894) (Right) a professor at Yale became fascinated with fossils. He had a reputation as an “armchair paleontologist,” too busy to work in the field, who owed his high standing not to genius, but to luck and to his family’s money. However, his research led to the identification of 80 new species of dinosaur over his lifetime.

Bone Wars copeEdward Drinker Cope (1840-1897) (Left) distinguished himself as a child prodigy interested in science; he published his first scientific paper at the age of nineteen. In total he discovered and described over 1,000 species of fossil vertebrates, including 56 new dinosaur species. In total he discovered and described over 1,000 species of fossil vertebrates and published 600 separate titles.

As it turned out, Marsh and Cope had egos larger than the dinosaurs they were identifying. In 1877, Railroad workers discovered large bones near Como Bluff, Wyoming and notified Professor Marsh.

The Bone Cabin Quarry at Como Bluff took its name from the fact that a cabin belonging to a local trapper was made of dinosaur bones. In one year alone, some 30 tons of dinosaur bones consisting of some 141 individual critters were removed from the quarry.

Bone Wars como Bluff

Como Bluff became known as the Dinosaur Graveyard.

In the race to control these finds, Marsh and Cope, once friends, became bitter rivels. Marsh began bribing Cope’s workers to send him, Marsh, new fossils from Cope’s fossil pits. Marsh using the military to provide protection from Indians and he interfered with Cope’s ability to obtain accommodations or assistants at Fort Bridger. Cope had to sleep in the Fort’s hay yard. 


Bone Wars Brontosaurus

If you can see it, Marsh’s name is on the bottom of this picture of the Brontosaurus. He was the first to identify that species. He also identified the Triceratops and the Stegasaurus. Marsh was wealthy and had a paleontology department created at Yale at his family’s expense, on the condition he was put in charge of the department. He spent four short seasons doing field research. 

Bone Wars Cope Find plesiosaur

The second picture is a plesiosaur, one of over 1000 species (most neither dinosaur, nor extinct, but to that time unstudied) identified by Cope.

Cope spent 22 years in the field and, though he lacked the social position and formal scientific education of Marsh his work was more groundbreaking.

In their rivalry, Cope once had a train load of Marsh’s fossils diverted to HeartSongs10.inddPhiladelphia. Marsh salted Cope’s digs with odd pieces of bone fragments unrelated to the fossils from the period in question. In 1879, Cope showed up at the Como Bluff accusing Marsh of “trespassing” and stealing his fossils. Marsh directed that the dinosaur pits be dynamited rather than allow fossils to fall into the “wrong hands.”

Because they were racing each other, they often based descriptions of new species on sparse material, and sometimes mixed up bones from different animals, or gave different names to the same animal. Despite such shenanigans, the feud between Marsh and Cope benefitted paleontology immensely. When Marsh and Cope began to work, only eighteen dinosaur species were known from North America — many only known from isolated teeth or vertebrae. Between them, the two men HusbandTree smdescribed over 130 species of dinosaurs.

The animosity became public in January 1890. Cope had gathered numerous fossils, spending some $80,000.00 in his own funds on the effort. The federal government required that the fossils be turned over to the government. Cope blamed Marsh who had been successful in obtaining the upper hand with the Geological Survey. In the New York Herald Cope accused Marsh of stealing work from other paleontologists. The following week, Marsh claimed that Cope had committed “a series of blunders, which are without parallel in the annals of science.” Marsh indicated that he doubted Cope’s sanity. The end result of the Bone Wars was that each exhausted their respective fortunes. Cope had to sell part of his collections. Marsh had to mortgage his house. Today, Cope is regarded as careless. Marsh has been accused of taking credit for the work of his students. But when you get beyond the personal conflict of the Bone Wars, you find two men who discovered and documented a whole lotta dinosaurs.

And yes, there may be some fossils in an upcoming book. That’ll be fun. There is a really cool museum in Lincoln, NE with Mammoth skeletons and huge rhinos, all found in America. I got to see it once of twice as a kid and was really entranced by it. Anyone done any studies of skeletons or dinosaurs? Did you read Danny and the Dinosaur when you were a kid? Any Flintstones fans? Jurassic Park? Why do you think dinosaurs are so fun? 🙂

My Website

Updated: March 21, 2010 — 9:06 pm

We have two winners!

horseheader11.jpgWe have two winners in the drawing today.  They are Pamela S. Thibodeaux and Denise.

Pamela and Denise, could you please email me separately at  I’ll need your snail mail addresses. 

Congratulations go out to Pamela and Denise.  And my thanks to everyone who joined in the discussion today.  I really enjoyed talking to you all.

Updated: April 5, 2010 — 11:41 am

Good Morning (or afternoon)!

horseheader11.jpgI’m late today!  Please excuse.  For some reason I went to bed last night forgetting to post.  Sigh…  But the good part is that to make it up to you, I’ve decided to give away two different books today.  As usual all you have to do is leave a comment and you’re automatically entered into the contest.  What I do is take all the name and put them in a hat and then draw out the winners.  So come on in and leave a post.

red_road_pic[1]In just a few weeks I have a new book that’s due out in the stores (April 6, 2010).  It’s a book once again about the Iroquois and their unusal history.   This is a book of revenge, of great love, and also of freedom.  It’s about that freedom that I thought I’d look at in more detail today.

Some of you who have been following the blog for some years might remember me saying in previous blogs how the Iroquois Confederacy came about.  But if you’re new to the blog, or if your memory is sketchy on it, let me refresh it a bit.

images15Long ago (the Iroquois place the date at 1140AD), before the white man ever stepped foot on the North American continent, there was a Native American confederation that was established for the purpose of bringing peace to the land they called Turtle Island (the known world at that time), and to abolish war forever.  That confederation was and still is called the Iroquois confederation or the League of the Five/Six Nations.

95021_d0767b1thumbnail1The confederation was composed of five— and eventually six — Nations who were related by custom, language and blood.  These Nations were the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Onondagas, the Cayuga and the Seneca.  In the early eighteenth century (sometimes around 1722) the Tuscaroras joined the confederation, making the league six instead of five nations.

What is called the Great Peace of the Iroquois came about because of two men, Deganawida and Hiawatha (the real Hiawatha, not the Hiawatha of Longfellow’s poem).  Each of these men had a vision of ending war and the fear associated with war, and bringing peace and unity to a people that would not only make the people strong, but would allow the people to live their lives in freedom.

The Council of the Great Peace was an extraordinary government, unparalleled in European culture.  It made each man, woman and child free of government rule. and provided strong provisions to ensure that the chiefs remained responsible to the people.  So strict and astute were these laws that if any chief began to serve his own needs, instead of those of the people, the offending chief was at once removed by the elder women of the tribe.  That such men lived the rest of their lives in disgrace was evident.

adam-beach.jpgWithin the council a majority could not force the minority to their will.  All had to agree before any law or action came into being, thus debate and oratory were highly valued.  The Great Peace was a government truly of, by and for the people, and it influenced Benjamin Franklin,  Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson.  When it came time to set up our own government and constitution, Benjamin Franklin studied the Iroquois confederation in detail.  This is a fact that I didn’t learn in school, and in case you didn’t either, I thought I would bring the information to your attention.

There truly was a spirit of freedom and independecne that filled Native America long before the white man “discovered” America.  This was so much the case, that it was unwittingly written into James Fenimore Cooper’s books.  In his prose, one can lay witness to a taste of this spirit.  In fact, if one were to watch Michael Mann’s most recent rendition of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1992), and listen to our hero, Nathaniel, one can hear him state that he is not SUBJECT to much at all.  Such was the attitude prevalient throughout Native America.  It was a country of free men and free women, and no “subjects” were to be found.

85URD00Z[1]It was this concept of freedom and independence that met and influenced the first European settlers.  Indeed, the European people who came ot the shores of America had not been indoctrinated in the idea of freedom of thought.  Instead, the Europeans came to America to escape oppression, and a government that considered people little more than chattle; the right to have an individual thought was almost nonexistent.  Instead the “Devine Right of Kings,” where the King owned everything and everyone, ruled England and Europe.

Although the doctrines of Greece influenced our Founding Fathers,  not even in Greece was the concept of equality and the idea of being beholden to none better embraced than in Native America.  This was particularly so amongst the Iroquois, who gave our founding country so much.

sf[8]The roots of freedom as we here in America have come to know it, grow deep in Native America.

In 1774, Iroquois Chief Canassatego issued some advice to the newly forming country of America.  It was at a meeting in Lancaster that he said, “Our wise forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations.  This has made us formidable.  This has given us great weight and authority with our neighboring nations.  We are a powerful Confederacy; and by your observing the same methods our wise forefathers have taken, you will acquire such Strength and Power.  Therefore whatever befalls you, never fall out with one another.”

images27I’ll leave you with this for today.  In Britain in 1776, it was said, “The daring passion of the Ameircan is liberty and that in its fullest extent; nor is it the original natives only to whom this passion is confined: our colonists sent thither seem to have imbibed the same principles.”

Seneca+Surrender[1]SENECA SURRENDER is a book about the Seneca.  It’s a book of passion, of unending love, of revenge, but it is also a book about the Irquois confederacy and their own idea of how the world should be free.

It’s due for release on April 6, 2010, and it can be ordered ahead of time at Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Hastings.  If you haven’t ordered your copy yet, do so today.

So the question today is, what is your concept of freedom?  Are we as free today as we were, say in 1834?  1850’s?  1900?  Come on in and let’s chat.

Updated: April 5, 2010 — 11:42 am

The Name Game, Collectively Speaking


There is a fun little reference book out there called An Exaltation of Larks.  I’ve had a copy of it on my writer’s resource shelf for several years and pull it down every once and a while to thumb through it.  The book lists the names of collective groupings of a particular animal or object,  or in other words, “nouns of multitude”.  It includes such commonplace terms as

  • A pod of whalesEOL Cover
  • A herd of cattle
  • A pride of lions
  • A plague of locusts
  • A litter of kittens.


But it also includes wonderful, little known terms such as

  • A leap of leopards
  • A skulk of foxes
  • A knot of toads
  • A parliament of owls


The author, James Lipton, professed to have great fun coining new terms for some of these groupings himself and encouraged his readers to join in the fun too.  He advises ‘players’ to keep the following in mind:

  • A simple play on words usually detracts from rather than adds to the energy of a term
  • Alliteration is not necessary and can even seem stilted or forced
  • The success of the expression works best wihen it hones in on the quintessential essence of the group, allowing it to represent the whole – for instance a blur of impressionists or a blessing of nuns


So I decided to play along, with a somewhat western focus, and this is what I came up with:

  • A feist of cowgirls
  • A stoic of cowboys
  • A quell of schoolmarms
  • A sashay of saloon girls
  • A quiver of dragonflies
  • A clump of boots
  • A startle of minnows
  • A posy of debutants
  • A pretend of jackalopes
  • A giggle of schoolgirls
  • A slingshot of schoolboys
  • A squirm of babies
  • A twinkle of fireflies
  • A battery of bullies
  • A priss of spinsters
  • A glib of peddlers
  • A menace of bulls


So, how did I do?  And do you have some ideas of your own to add to the list?

Updated: March 22, 2010 — 12:49 pm

Matt Koumalats: The 5 Dos and 5 Don’ts for Creating Your Book Trailer

 Thank you so much for this opportunity to blog with you today. I am the Executive Producer for Reader Hook Productions and you can find us at . I want to talk a little about an option for promotion that appears to becoming more and more popular with writers… and that’s video.

The world of entertainment is exploding. Authors today must compete with movies, television and music that is now, thanks to devices like the i-phone, just as portable as a paperback. The number of books is also on the rise. Many authors are choosing the convenience of self publishing, and this has sent the number of books available to the public through the roof.

Creating a movie-like trailer for your novel can bring you new fans, push up your sales, and it can be fun. Putting together a promotion video can seem like a daunting task, but there are a few big mistakes that beginners make that if avoided can make the process a whole lot easier.

Lets start with 5 steps that will get you off on the right foot.

1.) Do Work and Re-work the script. A video is only as good as its script. Tap into your own skill as a writer to create a quick description of your book that will grab the viewer.

2.) Do Find the Right Look. Spend some time finding the right look for your video. Try for pictures or video that will fit both the time period and theme of you book. Here is one we did that I think has a good look:


3.) Do Pick Good Music. The right music can make an average video good, but the wrong music can ruin a great one.

4.) Do Ask for Help. Find someone with some video editing experience and ask for their help putting together your video. It could be the kid down the street or a professional video production house,. The point is the right advice could really add some energy to your video. Don’t be afraid to ask, but remember that you get what you pay for

 5.) Do Have Fun. Look at the video creation process as another way to enjoy your writing. If you take the time to craft the right look and feel for your video, you will be much happier with the final product. Plus friends and fans will enjoy a video more when they know it has been made with love.

Now the 5 things to watch out for…

1.) Don’t Make it Too Long. Even the best videos can be killed by length. Short and sweet is the way to go. Try to hook the viewer quick, hit them hard and leave them wanting more. A good length to try and stick to is around one to two minutes.

2.) Don’t Underestimate a Good Voice. The right narrator can add life and pace to your video.

3.) Don’t Assume Anything. It is important to remember that the viewer will most likely know little to nothing about your book, so highlight the big themes of your story. Keep the script simple, and in the end your video will be more interesting.

4.) Don’t keep it to yourself. If you want the world to read your book, let the world see your video. There are several websites where you can post video for free. YouTube is the biggest but not the only one out there. It can also be a good idea to burn your video onto DVDs and pass them out to friends and fans. Here is a video Reader Hook did that is front and center on the client’s website:

5.) Don’t Forget the Details. Nothing is worse than a great video that leaves the viewer saying “Now what?”.

Remember to include the details of where and when the viewer can get your book. You may also want to include your own website or the website of your publisher near the end of the video. Here is one example of one we just did with lots of detail:


The bottom line is whether you do it yourself or with a little help, producing a video can be fun if you let it, and it can be a great way to pull in new fans.

Check out some of the latest videos from Reader Hook Productions at . Please shoot us an email if you have any questions, or you are ready to get started on your video.

Gook luck!

Updated: March 18, 2010 — 7:55 am

Circuit Preachers: Saving Souls with a Bible in One Hand and a Gun in the Other

Margaret Brownley margaretbrownley-150x150



The hero of my book A Lady Like Sarah is a preacher named Justin Wells. Prior to his arrival in Rocky Creek, Texas folks depended on a circuit rider for their spiritual needs who rode into town every six months and “always preached the same sermon.” 

Though itinerant preachers still exist today in some rural parts of the United States, they were the norm in the Old West.  Known as circuit riders or saddlebag preachers, they rode from town to town preaching the gospel from horse and saddle pulpits.  Weddings and baptisms were carefully planned to correspond with a preacher’s expected arrival.  Funerals were seldom as conveniently timed.

In the early years, Circuit riders were most often lay preachers without formal education. They were young, poor, and, for the most part, single. Traveling thousands of miles a year they were probably also saddle-sore.  

Though circuit riders eventually represented many different denominations none were more aggressive or effective than the Methodists. In 1838, there were only six Methodist circuit preachers for the whole Republic of Texas, but this number soon grew.  Supervised by presiding elders under the authority of itinerant bishops, circuit riders helped make the Methodists the largest religious group in Texas. This chwestern sayinganged during the Civil War when church membership dropped 50%.

Circuit riders preached in fields, barns and private homes.  Oftentimes, saloons or dance halls were the only buildings large enough to hold a worship service.  If nothing else, these “dens of inequities” assured good attendance.

Finding a place to preach was the least of it. Early Texas circuit riders fought for independence, ran revival meetings, built schools and churches, and served as fort chaplains and medical assistants. They also battled Indians, outlaws and wild animals.


Holy Scalawags

Often the realities of the trail conflicted with church policy or beliefs. In her book Pistol Packin’ Preachers, Barbara Barton writes about a preacher named Jackson Porter who, after being ambushed, shot two Indians.  “A bishop admonished him saying that scripturally speaking, “our weapons are not carnal.”  Porter quickly responded that Indians didn’t exist when the Bible was written.

Drinking, smoking, snuff-dipping and other “wages of sin” provided frontier preachers with perhaps some of their toughest battles. Women were often just as guilty as men. The Texas Baptist Herald addressed this issue in 1867. “I despise above all things to see ladies dipping.  If they are pretty, it spoils their beauty and if they are homely, it still makes them more so.”  No mention was made of how snuff- dipping affected the looks of men.

Though most circuit preachers were good Christians, some were better at preaching the Ten Commandments then obeying them.  A circuit rider name George Morrison poisoned his wife after falling in love with another woman.  Although Morrison was convinced that God would forgive him, the good citizens of Wilbarger County were less willing to do so.  He hung at 12 noon on October 29, 1899.

Neither Rain nor Snow…

Circuit preachers received little pay, and sometimes only farm crops for their services.  Each congregation was responsible for collecting a circuit rider’s salary but many early pioneers had little or no money to spare. This posed a great hardship for preachers with families to support.   However, the difficulty of getting paid was nothing compared to the poor working conditions. Lack of roads, bad weather, diseases, and far-flung communities took their toll. Of the 737 Methodist circuit preachers that died prior to 1847 nearly half were under the age of 30.

Had the good citizens of Rocky Creek known the difficulties of the job, perhaps they would have been more lenient toward their “one sermon” preacher.  Or, then again, maybe not.   What do you think?

In Bookstores now.


Updated: April 5, 2010 — 11:45 am

Saturday’s Guest: Matt Koumalats

Hello all you little darlings,

We’re in for a treat come Saturday when we welcome Mr. Matt Koumalats.

For those who don’t know, Matt is Jodi Thomas’s son. And he designs book trailers. Yep, that’s right. He’s done a passel of ’em and each one seems better than the last. Matt does appear to have the knack for putting the things together! He’s won The New Covey Award for some of his work. Quite an achievement.

Mr. Matt will tell us a little bit how he goes about designing an award-winning trailer. Ah know you’re chomping at the bit to find out how he does it. Bet he’ll even share a few of his secrets if we twist his arm.

So don’t be tardy. Follow the trail to the Junction and help the Fillies show Mr. Matt the kind of hospitality we’re famous for.

Covey Awards

Updated: March 17, 2010 — 10:38 pm
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