Category: Ghost Towns

Welcome Guest: Jaime Jo Wright

jaime-wright-media-12 (2)Dwelling in the past is something I love to do. Especially, when it involves ghost towns, gold, rivers, and hardy heroes. When I wrote my latest novella, “Gold Haven Heiress” from The California Gold Rush Romance Collection, it was very intriguing to find that ghost towns existed in the 1850’s! After towns were tapped out of gold, miners would pack up and hit the road for the next big hit and the buildings were left behind as memories of a bustling time filled with hopes of prosperity.

I loved planting my heroine, Thalia, smack in the middle of a ghost town. Stuck in a place where she could be alone and dwell in the murky pain of her past. Then I wondered to myself, how often do we plant ourselves in our own little ghost towns. Memories of where we once lived, who we once were, or what we once had. I believe in memories, they’re precious pieces of life that help us in the quiet moments. But to live there? To dwell there? It probably isn’t healthy when what before us are new memories, new beginnings, new hope.

My grandmother lived in New Mexico the majority of my growing up years. I recall hanging on the fence as my uncle worked the horses, riding the back of a hay bale pretending it was a bronco, and catching tarantulas with my cousins. Gramma always said that a piece of her heart lived in New Mexico and always would. But, she left it and returned to Wisconsin after my Grampa passed away.

I believe Gramma had the perfect equation of memories vs. living in the past. Pictures of New Mexico littered her bookshelf. A blue glass cowboy boot sat on her coffee table. A ceramic steer clock with leather ribbons hanging from its horns hung on the wall. An Aztec-patterned blanket draped over the back of her chair. But next to them all were the signs of new beginning. Even after the loss of her soul mate. The pictures of her great-grandchildren, the gardening gloves tossed on the kitchen table from tendering her flowers, the pressure cooker on the stove for canning, and her Sunday dress hung on the door ready to put on come service time.

Gramma always kept on keeping on. She moved forward even when memories tugged her back toward that ghost town. Toward the memories that perhaps seemed richer and more enticing than the future. She had hope in things eternal. In a land not-so-far away that would one day be that glorious place she’d call Home. My Gramma was an heiress to riches far greater than the ghost-town-memories.

I have memories too. They’re little golden nuggets I pocket in my heart. But like my Gramma taught me, I wave farewell to the ghost towns and journey down that dusty ol’ road. Adventure lays around the bend, you know, and there’s always the truth that more memories will be made.

What are some of your precious memories? Have you ever been to a real ghost town and felt the hovering of people’s memories in the vacant doorways?

I’m giving away one copy of THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH COLLECTION. Winner chooses either print or e-book.

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The California Gold Rush CollectionBarbour Publishing
Release Date: August 1st, 2016 |  ISBN:
978-1634098212

Gold Disappoints But Love Rewards

Rush to California after the 1848 gold discovery alongside thousands of hopeful men and women. Meet news reporters, English gentry, miners, morticians, marriage brokers, bankers, fugitives, preachers, imposters, trail guides, map makers, cooks, missionaries, town builders, soiled doves, and more people who take advantage of the opportunities to make their fortunes in places where the population swelled overnight. But can faith and romance transform lives where gold is king?


Gold Haven Heiress
?– Jaime Jo Wright

Jack Taylor determines to use his new wealth to restart a ghost town to help others. But one person challenges his conviction to embrace all the disillusioned and lost. Thalia wasn’t supposed to be hiding in the tiny little garden behind the ghostly saloon. And he never intended to fall hard for a used-up prostitute.

 

Professional coffee drinker?Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited turn-of-the-century romance stained with suspense. Coffee fuels her snarky personality. She lives in Neverland with her Cap’n Hook who stole her heart and will not give it back, their little fairy Tinkerbell, and a very mischievous Peter Pan. The foursome embark on scores of adventure that only make her fall more wildly in love with romance and intrigue.  Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimejowright.com.
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Welcome Guest – Erin Johnson

Rachel photo web

I’ve always been interested in history and did a lot of research on the West while I was writing the Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes (Cengage, 2012). I also spent time in Arizona after my father moved to a ghost town near the Mexican border, and I was fascinated by the area around Tombstone, where much of the WANTED series is set.

encyclopedias

Wanted_GraceBk1

In the first book in the series, Grace and the Guiltless, Grace is the lone survivor after outlaws massacre her family. She risks her reputation by entering the notorious Bird Cage Theater to report the crime to the sheriff:

Clouds of smoke enveloped Grace. Like the black, acrid smoke from the burning cabin that still clung to her pores and clothes, the sweetish cigar smoke and the sharper scent of burning tobacco from hand-rolled cigarettes suffocated her. Raucous laughter, the tinkle of a piano, and the clink of glasses pulsed through the room. The infamous alcoves, or bird cages, some with their red velvet curtains drawn, perched overhead like rows of fancy packages.

Her eyes stinging from the haze, Grace squinted to find the sheriff. So many black frock coats blurred into an indistinguishable mass…

WantedGraceandtheGuiltless_smDisentangling herself from pawing hands as she crosses the room, Grace irritates the sheriff by separating him from the painted lady keeping him company.

The heavyset man frowned at her. “So, what can I do for you, Miss —”

“Grace Milton, sir. Yesterday my parents . . . my whole family . . .” Grace’s tongue tripped over the words. If she said them aloud, it would make it real. But if she didn’t, those killers would get away with what they had done. “Elijah Hale and his gang . . . they shot my pa, and-and…”

The sheriff’s face paled at the mention of Hale’s name, but he leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers, though his hands shook slightly. “Mr. Hale is well known in these parts as a respectable man.”

Respectable man? A picture imprinted itself on Grace’s mind – Hale smiling, his gun pointed straight at her father’s heart.

The sheriff pulled a cigar from his vest pocket and rolled it between his fingers, avoiding her eyes.

Her Cold Revenge 9781630790073 web“Did you hear me? Hale killed my pa. And my ma, and my—”

The sheriff chomped down on the cigar, twisted, and then spat the end into the nearby spittoon. The wad hit the brass with a wet ringing sound. “Any witnesses?”

“Me,” Grace choked out.

Sheriff Behan lit his cigar and blew a puff of smoke in Grace’s direction. “Not sure your word,” he said, his gaze raking her disheveled appearance, “would stand up against Hale’s.” He waved his cigar in a dismissive circle. “You bring me some proof, and I’ll consider looking into it.”

A white-hot volcano of rage erupted in Grace’s stomach. Did that badge glinting at her from across the table mean anything at all?

“My family’s dead in the ground.” She sucked in air to control the tremor in her voice. “I dug their graves myself.” She held out her blistered and bloodied hands. “Is that proof enough for you?”

Something flickered in the sheriff’s eyes. Pity maybe? But he quickly shuttered it. “That’s a sad story Miss Milton, but people die every day.” His voice loaded with fake sympathy, he continued, “Lots of Injuns ’round here. Renegade soldiers. Hermits. Even coyotes. Understandable you’d be a mite mixed up following such a tragedy. You being hysterical and all.”

Wanted_GraceBk2“I. Am. Not. Hysterical.” Grace spat out each word. Furious, yes. Hysterical, no. Although he was rapidly pushing her in that direction. She’d get no help from this snake.

As Grace suspects, the sheriff is in cahoots with the gang, so she trains as a bounty hunter to singlehandedly track down the criminals. One reviewer calls her the “Katniss of the Wild West.” But when Grace falls for Joe, a?rugged range rider, can she give up her independence to take on a partner?

In book 2, Her Cold Revenge, Grace must prove her skills and stop a train robbery masterminded by the outlaws who slaughtered her family. And as she slowly opens her heart to both Joe and the Ndeh tribe, who take her in, her heartache begins to heal. Yet she’s still torn between revenge and love.

“Every second had me on the edge of my seat…”

“I’ve never been so moved by a book. You honesty made me cry…”

The books in the WANTED series came out in the UK first, and then in the U.S., with different covers.

Scuppernong readingFeast on Fiction

 Erin Johnson grew up watching classic western movies with her father, which fueled her lifelong love of horseback riding. She’s always dreamed of being a fierce-talking cowgirl, but writing about one seemed like the next best thing. She loves traveling, painting, and teaching, and she writes under several pseudonyms for both children and adults.

Blog: https://lje1.wordpress.com/erin-johnson/

Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/story/16791791-grace-and-the-guiltless

https://www.wattpad.com/story/38198225-her-cold-revenge

Buy links: G&G https://www.amazon.com/Grace-Guiltless-Wanted-Erin-Johnson/dp/163079001X/?tag=pettpist-20

HCR: https://www.amazon.com/Cold-Revenge-Wanted-Erin-Johnson/dp/1630790079/?tag=pettpist-20

Giveaway! : Erin has a great giveaway with two separate winners!  For a chance to win, leave a comment for Erin and you’ll be entered.  One winner will receive a copy of Grace & the Guiltless and the second winner will receive a copy of the recipe book, Feast on Fiction!

Updated: August 2, 2016 — 11:57 am

Julian ~ The Ghost Town that Escaped

KathrynAlbrightBanner

The lifespan of a mining town in the old west was as volatile as the dynamite used to blow up the rock and release the ore. Seems that just as soon as most of the ore was hauled from the mines, the town would dry up and blow away, becoming ghost town. Two famous ones in California that boomed and are now nothing but ghost towns are Calico and Bodie.

ghost towns

Calico Mining Crew

Calico in Yerma, California was established when silver was discovered in the mountains there in 1881. $20 million in silver ore came from the 500 mines surrounding the town over the next 12 years. Then, when silver lost its value, everyone packed up and left. Today, Calico is a historic site, restored for people to visit and see what life was like ‘back in the day.’ Calico makes for a very interesting destination today, but no one lives there anymore.

bodie

Bodie, California

The same thing happened to Bodie, California. The place was a small mining camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains when gold was discovered in 1859. Although nearby towns boomed, Bodie inched along until 1876 when more gold was discovered by the Sandard Company. Suddenly miners poured into the town and its population shot up to 7,000. $34 million in gold ore came from the mines there over the next eleven years. And then, like Calico, Bodie slowly died. In 1915 it was officially labeled a ghost town.

So how did Julian in San Diego’s back country escape the fate of becoming a ghost town? 

In 1870 gold was discovered 60 miles east of New San Diego and the Julian Mining District was formed. Over the next 6 years more than 600 people made Julian their home and enjoyed all that living in a boom town entailed. then in 1876 with most of the gold excavated out of the mines, the bulk of people left searching for better goldfields elsewhere. The population dropped to 100. What made Julian’s fate so different than Calico’s or Bodies had to do with a number of things–good soil, climate, and more than anything it seems, Julian became a place for family.

Although the town had its share of saloons and dance-halls and rowdy miners, it was never the “Wild West Town” like other mining towns. The early settlers of Julian saw to the opening of their first school–and the first year 100 children attended. When teacher after teacher married and had to stop teaching due to the law at the time that forbade married women to teach, the school trustees decided to hire a man for the position. When the miners learned of it, they threatened trouble, and the trustees relented and hired another woman.

When the mines played out, instead of leaving, a core group of 100 people remained and turned to agriculture. James Madison was the first to recognize the perfect soil a

Julian CA

Julian California

nd weather for apple growing and he, along with Thomas Brady started an orchard of young apple trees. Others followed suit, adding pear trees. Today Julian apples have won many awards and the town is world famous for its apple pies.

There were two main ways to socialize in town. One was through church (Free land was given for the establishment of churches.) The second was at the frequent dances. Dances and fundraising socials would often last through the night and into the early morning hours. The dance hall in town even had a separate room for mothers to leave their babies to sleep away the night so the mothers could continue dancing. A number of good-natured tricks were played on neighbors and friends in Julian. Couples tried to keep their romantic feelings a secret so they wouldn’t end up the recipient of these pranks. The people of Julian were known for enjoying each other and having fun in a big way. (To me, it sounds like the town had a lot of personality!)

Today, Julian is a tourist town with a small-town feel. It caters to those who want to get away from the city. They come for the mountain air, fresh apple pies, mining tours and–for many San Diegans (including me) — the snow in winter. I have always had a soft spot for Julian. As an author, it is great to vicariously live in the town of 1876 through the characters in my books. I am grateful it survived its gold rush heritage and has given me such inspiraFamiliar Stranger in Clear Springstion for my stories.

Do you have a soft spot for any particular place?

Leave a comment to be entered into my drawing for a copy of my latest book!

Familiar Stranger in Clear Springs

(Please see Giveaway Guidelines listed on this page)

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The Copper Queen

Women weren’t supposed to prospect for precious metals in the 1800s. They were considered too delicate to travel across wilderness and deserts, collecting ore samples and chasing veins while carrying everything they needed to survive in a backpack. Ferminia Sarras did it anyway.

A small, compact woman, she identified herself as Spanish—not Mexican—and appeared on the Esmeralda, Nevada tax records as Ferminia Sarras, Spanish lady, in 1881. Eventually she would become known as Ferminia Sarras, the Copper Queen.

There’s no clear record as to why Ferminia, who was born in Nicaragua in 1840, came to the United States with her three young daughters in 1876. One theory is that she came

Esmeralda, Nevada

to join up with her husband in the Nevada mining camps. She placed two of her daughters in a Virginia City orphanage, quite possibly for their safety, before embarking on her journey to the camps with her oldest daughter, who married a miner a few years later.

Ferminia started prospecting in 1883, wearing pants and tramping the hills alone. She prospected in several Nevada mining districts, including the Candelaria, Silver Peak and Santa Fe Districts and recorded numerous copper claims.

candelaria

Candaleria, Nevada

After the Comstock Lode petered out, Nevada went into a depression, however the discovery of gold in the central part of the state revitalized the mining economy and Ferminia’s copper claims increased in value. Her first sale came in 1901, with several more to follow, and eventually she made a fortune on her copper claims, thus earning the name the Copper Queen. She kept the gold coins from the sales in her chicken coop, which she considered safer than a bank.

gold fields

Goldfields, Nevada

 

Ferminia married at least five times to men younger than herself. One husband died in a gunfight protecting her claims and according to a newspaper account, all of her husbands died violent deaths. Historians theorize that she may have married younger men to help protect her claims, however one of the last men she was involved with robbed her and used the money to flee to South America.

Ferminia died in 1915. The town of Mina, Nevada, which currently boasts a population of 155,  was named in her honor.

For further information on Ferminia Sarras and other women who dared to prospect in the American West, check out A Mine of Her Own by Sally Zanjani. Much of the information I have on Ferminia came from that resource.

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.

 

Fallen Lone Stars: Indianola

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Founded in 1840 as an Indian trading post, Indianola, Texas, served as a major seaport from 1844 to 1886. The city and Galveston, about one hundred fifty miles northeast, had many things in common—including a desire to outstrip the other and become Texas’s maritime leader.

Indianola in 1860 (Helmuth Holtz, Library of Congress collection)

Indianola in 1860 (Helmuth Holtz, Library of Congress collection)

For a long time, Indianola seemed to be winning. Companies in the city’s industrial district began canning beef as early as 1848. In 1869, Indianola became the first U.S. port to ship refrigerated beef to New England.

The city’s reputation for innovation and dogged determination paid off handsomely. Ships arrived from New York and other New England ports, ferrying passengers and goods bound for San Antonio and California. Indianola became a major debarkation point for European immigrants…and a few boatloads of camels imported for the U.S. Army’s notorious Camel Corps experiment. (The experiment was abandoned at the outbreak of the Civil War, and some of the camels were turned loose. The last feral camel sighting in Texas took place in 1941.)

“Union Troops in the Streets of Indianola, Texas.” Civil War wood engraving by Thomas Nast, published in the New York Illustrated News, April 6, 1861. From the collection of the Calhoun County Museum, Port Lavaca, Texas.

“Union Troops in the Streets of Indianola, Texas.” Civil War wood engraving by Thomas Nast, published in the New York Illustrated News, April 6, 1861. (From the collection of the Calhoun County Museum, Port Lavaca, Texas.)

Indianola did so well that it made itself a target during the Civil War. Determined to cut one of the major Confederate supply lines, Yankee vessels blockaded the port in October 1862 and demanded surrender. Being Texans, the nearby fort politely declined with a cannonade. Several scuffles later, Indianola and its port fell to the Yanks on December 23, 1863. One of the jewels of Texas remained in Federal hands for the rest of the war.

In 1867, fire and a yellow fever epidemic ravaged the town. Indianola rebuilt bigger and better, reaching a population of 5,000 by the time the first death knell rang. Although the city had been damaged by a strong storm in 1851, a major hurricane in 1875 demolished almost everything. Tough to the core, the people of Indianola used the debris to rebuild again.

Indianola ca. 1875. Image courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Indianola ca. 1875. (Texas State Library and Archives Commission collection)

Then, in August and September 1886, two major hurricanes six weeks apart left Indianola and its celebrated seaport in ruins. Sand and silt blown in by the storms made the bay too shallow for big ships to navigate. Most of the residents moved inland.

The post office closed in 1887, and what remained of the town was abandoned.

The storms ended Indianola’s competition with Galveston for maritime supremacy. Galveston got its comeuppance in 1900 when the Great Storm leveled the island city, giving Houston the right break at the right time to become—and remain—the dominant economic power in Southeast Texas.

The city once known as “the Queen City of the West,” today is “the Queen of Texas Ghost Towns.” Though an unincorporated fishing village stands on the shore, Indianola lies beneath the water, 300 feet off the coast in Matagorda Bay.

 

The Forgotten Town ~ Tanya Stowe

Petticoats and Pistols welcomes inspirational author TANYA STOWE to Wildflower Junction today! She’ll be giving away a PDF copy of her latest, Tender Trust, so don’t forget to tell her howdy and leave a comment! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 

“Goodbye God, we’re moving to Bodie.” This little girl’s comment, published in newspapers across the country, exemplified Bodie’s lawless status. The booming California gold town was thought to be so remote, so full of gold, vice and danger this fearful little girl thought even God would not dare to go there.

The church at Bodie.

Kansas City, Tombstone, Deadwood are all familiar boomtowns of the Wild West. Their names strike stirring images of men with guns, untold wealth and lawlessness. But how many can recall or have ever heard the name of Bodie?

Discovered in 1859 by a group of prospectors led by William S. Bodey, this town in the Eastern Nevadas was located 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe and lay on the route to Virginia City, Nevada and the Comstock Lode. The area’s remote location and rugged weather discouraged early development until 1875 when the Standard Mine found substantial deposits. From 1875 through the late 1880’s, Bodie boasted a population of seven thousand people with nine stamp mills, two thousand buildings, a Wells Fargo bank, worker’s unions, four volunteer fire departments and four brass bands. Bodie even counted its saloons. Sixty-five lined Bonanza Street, not to mention Chinatown with its several hundred residents, a Taoist temple and, of course, opium dens.

Owners thought their Bodie find was rich enough to rival the Comstock. In 1881, the ore production in Bodie was recorded at 3.1 million dollars. A narrow gauge railway was built to the remote mining regions located high in the surrounding mountains. In 1892, The Standard Mine built one of the first hydroelectric power plants at a pond thirteen miles outside of Bodie to carry 3,530 volts of alternating current to its stamp mill. This marked one of the first efforts in the nation to carry electricity through wires over a long distance.

Bodie landscape

Most of these engineering feats were invented to help draw the rich ores from the unforgiving Eastern Sierra Nevadas. But their efforts were costly and minors moved on to new, easier discoveries. A series of fires destroyed many buildings. The price of gold dropped and in the 1930’s, the remaining residents just walked away…leaving behind homes, rusting cars, giant wooden wheels, a single church spire and of course, the giant Standard Stamp mill sitting on the hill overlooking the decaying remnants of this once bustling city.

The roads grew over and the town was forgotten. Bodie’s remote location preserved these remnants in a ghostly memorial. Today Bodie is a state park, protected and preserved for generations. But with all of these remarkable accomplishments and the typical, gun slinging desperados walking the streets, why was Bodie lost? Why doesn’t the name of Bodie strike stirring images like so many other boomtowns?

Perhaps the answer lies in Bodie’s unique location. The Eastern Sierra Nevadas are one of the most fascinating, diverse areas of the country. A few miles north is the highest peak in the continental States. As the crow lies a few miles away is Death Valley, the lowest point. The area abounds with rich natural resources, gold and silver, Mono Lake with its salt water and tufa, extinct volcanoes and fresh water for a thirsty Southern California. Bodie_old_car (2)

Still, nature jealously guards its treasures. A few years ago a woman dropped her children off for a day of skiing at nearby Mammoth then drove up to visit the ghost town. An infamous Bodie Zephyr blew in a winter storm and trapped her car on the dirt road leading into the park. By the time she was rescued, she’d lost several fingers to frostbite.

The wild country that created theses riches doesn’t give up its treasures without a fight. In the end, nature won and Bodie was forgotten, barely even mentioned in the history books.

TenderTrust

Blurb: (click on cover to purchase)

Alex Marsden dragged Penny Layton out of the gutter and promised her a happy-ever-after-love with a house and a white-picket fence. But the Civil War changed their paths. Separated twice by circumstances beyond their control, Penny learned to survive on her own, but lost hope.  

Five years later when Alex miraculously returns to her, Penny doesn’t believe in happy endings or miracles. Will Alex’s faith and love be strong enough to drag Penny out of the gutter one more time?

Bio:

Tanya Stowe is an author of Christian Fiction with an unexpected edge. She fills her stories with the unusual…gifts of the spirit and miracles, mysteries and exotic travel, even an angel or two. No matter where Tanya takes you…on a journey to the Old West or to contemporary adventures in foreign lands…be prepared for the extraordinary.

www.tanyastowe.com

 

 

Updated: December 13, 2013 — 12:26 pm

Holcomb Valley Fever… ~Tanya Hanson

Holcomb Valley, the richest gold mining area in Southern California, is  a quiet, lonely place these days. Hard to imagine 2,000 folks lived here in the early 1860’s.

This sleepy mountain meadow was once the site of bustling, somewhat slapdash Belleville. The largest bunch of prospectors gathered right here, just east of Bill Holcomb’s original 1860 gold strike. Within two months, a “town” had come to life. Nothing remains now, but miners’ lore speaks of “saloons, gambling dens and bagnios of the lowest kind.”

The town got its name from the first baby born in the valley. She was the daughter of Jed Van Dusen, the blacksmith who was paid $1500 to carve a road down the mountain. On the valley’s first Fourth of July, Belle’ mama stitched together a sparkly Stars and Stripes from the shiny skirts of saloon girls, and the red and blue shirts of miners. In gratitude, the locals christened their new hometown after the baby girl.

This antique cabin is not the original Van Dusen log home, but it was brought to their  Holcomb Valley plot to represent a family’s life at that time. Many miners lived in earthen dugouts and shanties on the outskirts.

A few other structures have been recreated for today’s history lovers.  Little is known of “Ross.” He was accidentally killed when a tree he was chopping down fell on him. Buried on the same spot where he died, somebody thought enough of him to outline his grave with a white picket fence.  Sadly, in recent years, most of the pickets were vandalized. The few remaining are now preserved in the Big Bear Museum. Volunteers built this log fence in 1995.

Nobody knows why this little place below, called Pygmy Cabin,  had a doorway of only 4 feet high, and a roof peak only 6 feet, making the side walls very short. Was the owner an itty bitty miner?  Or was he too eager to start panning the streams and digging into a quartz ledge to built full size? Or did the weather change so suddenly he had no choice but to hunker down mid-size? In 1983, a fire destroyed the cabin.

Along with the sand mounds called “mine tailings,” (discarded rocks and ground up ore), this water pump remains from Jonathan Tibbetts’  “Grasshopper” quartz mill. Operated by a steam engine, heavy iron heads rose and fell, 24/7, smashing quartz to extract gold. Sadly, these days vandals use it for target practice! (That’s me. I am not one of them.)

The hustle and bustle of Holcomb Valley’s mining days only lasted a few years. However, in 1875, Elias Baldwin, who had gotten “lucky” in the Comstock lode, decided to try again at what he dubbed “Gold Mountain.” In 1874, he built a large 40 stamp mill. A new mining town (Bairdstown) with two saloons, a butcher shop, two boardinghouses, and a population of 180 miners quickly sprouted. However, the mill was shut down after only seven months. The slim amount of gold processed just wasn’t profitable.   Bairdstown became Ghost Town,

The stamp mill burned to the ground in a mysterious fire in August 1876. Remaining are the supports.  (I outlined the remains in red.)

 

In 1899, a large mill and cyanide processing plant was built here. It operated until 1923.

Bill Holcomb, who started it all by finding gold while tracking a bear, came back to the valley for one last nostalgic peek in 1875.

Despite its dearth of living souls these days, our trek through Holcomb Valley–which has been preserved by the wise souls of the Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture—lets you really get a feel for days gone by.  Happy trails to all you goldminers out there!

Updated: September 11, 2012 — 9:42 pm

Elaine Levine ~ A Dip into the Wild and Unruly Past

Cimarron, NM

One of my favorite things to do is to visit historic western towns.  In every single one of them, the energy of the last century feels alive to me.  This past spring, my husband and I took a jaunt down to the wild and unruly town of Cimarron, New Mexico–a historic stop along the rugged Santa Fe Trail.  We were on a mission to photograph an amazing saloon bar like the one featured in my latest story, LEAH AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER.

Over the years, Cimarron has been home to Anasazi, Apache, and Ute Indians, as well as traders, trappers, miners, and ranchers.  It’s now a lovely small town with historic buildings, a few shops, a museum . . . and a very haunted hotel–the St. James.

The St. James Hotel (originally known as the Lambert Inn) was built in 1872 by Henri Lambert–formerly the personal chef of President Lincoln–after his foray into gold mining proved less than lucrative.

The St. James, an oasis of luxury in the late 1800’s, hosted many

St. James Hotel, Cimarron, NM

well known western personages including Jesse James, Bat Masterson, Black Jack Tom Ketchum, General Sheridan, Kit Carson,

Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill, Billy the Kid, Clay Allison, Pat Garret, Fredrick Remington, Annie Oakley, and Zane Grey.

What drew us to the hotel was the gorgeous bar in the restored saloon.

The tin ceiling in the saloon still has nearly two dozen bullet holes from gun fights that erupted inside the

room in the days when carousing cowboys rode horses through saloons and settled disputes with lead.

St. James Historic Saloon

When Henri Lambert’s sons were repairing the roof at the turn of the century, they found over 400 bullet holes in the double planked ceiling separating the saloon from the guest rooms above.

The guest rooms in the historic portion of the hotel are filled with antique and reproduction furniture.  The doors of unoccupied rooms are left open but areblocked off by velvet ropes, letting visitors peek inside rooms that look like museum vignettes.

I took some pictures of the hallways, certain I’d capture a ghostly image.  After all, with 26 recorded deaths on the premises, the probability for encountering an entity seemed high.

St. James 1st Floor Hallway

That night, I lay awake in our first floor room, listening to the music and sounds from the saloon slowly grow quiet as the hotel settled down to sleep in the wee hours of the morning.  Not a floor board creaked.  Not a door opened or closed.  No whispers from disembodied visitors echoed in our room or the hallway.  The absolute silence lulled me to sleep.

The next morning, as we were loading up our car, we came across a lovely young couple in the parking lot.  Theyhad stayed on the second floor, near the hotel’s infamous gambling room.  The woman was looking very pale and distraught.

We asked how they enjoyed their stay and quickly learned their sleep had been disturbed all night long by slamming doors, stomping in the hallway, men arguing, and a lingering scent of cigar smoke.  Her husband, a soldier, had tried numerous times to get the other occupants to settle down so that his wife could sleep.

St. James 2nd Floor Hallway

Of course, there never was anyone to scold because hell raisers in the hallway were not visitors from the human realm…

Elaine Levine is the author of 3 books in the Men of Defiance series that take place in Nineteenth Century Wyoming.  She’ll be giving away a copy of her latest release, LEAH AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER, to one lucky commenter (be sure to let her know if you prefer a paperback or a Kindle ebook version).  Visit her

website www.ElaineLevine.com for more information

about her books.

Updated: August 18, 2011 — 6:20 pm

Deep Trouble

My next book, releasing May 1…which isn’t THAT far away, is called Deep Trouble.

Deep Trouble begins at a cliff dwelling site which is a somewhat fictionalized Mesa Verde and travels into the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Researching this book was really interesting. I’ll talk more about The Grand Canyon next month, today I’ll tell you a few things I learned about Mesa Verde. Mesa Verde is located near the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. The Anasazi inhabited Mesa Verde anywhere between 550 to 1300 AD.

The first record of Mesa Verde came around 1760 when Spanish explorers from California traveled through the region. Mesa Verde means Green Table and the area had a lot of lush grass for such a dry region. The explorers saw the green and named it Mesa Verde but they didn’t get close enough to see the cliff dwellings. No one would notice the cliff dwellings for another hundred years.

The existence of the cave dwellings was recorded in 1873 by John Moss, a prospector. Others had seen the cliff dwellings but Moss is the one who got the word out. He acted as guide to a photographer in 1875 and the world suddenly knew about Mesa Verde.

Two cowboys also reported the existance of the ruins in 1888. Tracking wandering cattle through a snowstorm on top of the mesa, they stopped on the edge of a steep canyon. Through the snow they could see the faint outline of the walls and towers of what looked like a huge palace of stone on the far side of the canyon. 

Excited about their discovery, they made a makeshift ladder and climbed down to the deserted cliff city, exploring its ghostly network of deserted rooms, where they found such artifacts as tools and pottery. Their condition was so good that some of the items were still usable. They named the dwelling Cliff Palace, and archaeologists later determined that no one had stood in the rooms explored by the cowboys for nearly six centuries

In 1891 Gustaf Nordenskiöld, a trained mineralogist, introduced scientific methods to artifact collection, recorded locations, photographed extensively, diagrammed sites, and correlated what he observed with existing archaeological literature.

His did great work documenting the site, but then he tried to pack up as many artifacts as he could from the cliff dwellings with plans to take them back to Norway. When his plans were found out he was nearly hanged and had to abandon the area, but he wrote a book about Mesa Verde called The Cliff Dwellers of the Mesa Verde. This book put Mesa Verde on the map and unleashed a tremendous interest in the odd place. But, because there was no one protecting the cliff dwellings treasure hunters began systematically stripping the place for souvenirs. They even knocked down some of the walls to let light into the cave dwellings so they could see better to work. The site was finally named a national park in 1906.

These pictures are of several different cliff dwelling sites, including one in Africa. I used them just to show you the different ways ancient people found to make their homes in difficult areas. The one on the lower left is particularly cool and it was a site like this that ultimately was my inspiration for the beginning of the book, because we start off with my heroine being abandoned in one of the high caves when her traveling companions, whom she hired to help her search for the Seven Cities of Gold, were NOT impressed with this first city. No gold here. So they stole her map to the next city, which will lead them to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, left her in the high up cave to die and ran off. Along comes our hero who finds a woman stuck up high where he can’t reach. No ladder because the outlaws shot the one they used to get up there to smithereens.

A scene from the hero and heroine’s first meeting. Gabe Lasley, who first appeared in Cowboy Christmas, hears screaming and shots and rides to the rescue. When he gets to the place all the shooting was coming from he finds….a spooky, long abandoned city carved into stone.

Deep Trouble

Gabe got to the top of the narrow arroyo and pulled his horse to a dead stop.

He was looking at something he couldn’t believe.

A mountain carved up into— homes?

Shaking his head he looked closer, trying to make the structure in front of his eyes something created by nature. But it wasn’t. These were man made. The lowest levels had structure to them. Rock work that formed walls. There were depressions in the rocks above the structures. Cave openings, multiple levels of them. He counted four layers, one above the other, of what had to be dwellings of some kind.

And now abandoned.

Gabe had never heard of this. He was just passing through the area now, but he’d ridden with the cavalry in Texas and the Southwest for years. How could this have gone undiscovered? And who had found it now and died?

Fascinated, Gabe walked his horse into this lost valley, then swung down and tied the gelding to one of a thousand mesquite bushes. The wind whistled through the hills and canyons. It was the only sound and that moaning wind told him no one else was here. Those tracks cut in the dust were the only sign that humans had passed through here in ages. Seven horses in, seven out. Judging by the tracks, he’d say two pack horses, maybe three. So five people had come in here. How many had ridden out?

He tried to remember exactly where that sound had come from and it wasn’t hard to figure it out. He could see where people had stood, horses, supplies. A camp had been set up here and had only been torn down a few minutes ago. A chill sliced up his spine in the Arizona heat as he realized he’d barely missed whoever left this place. The folks doing all the shooting.

But who had done the screaming?

He stared at the wonder before him and studied the sign and terrain with no idea what to do next. There was nothing. No one.

The place was eerie, as if who ever had lived here before still watched, testing those who came. He heard wind whistling like a specter calling to him from those unnatural caves high overhead.

Where had the people gone who had done such work, created such a home? Who would work this hard then leave? Had they died? Had they abandoned all their labor? Had they been killed? And if so where were those that had done the killing?

His eyes went up four levels of stone homes. Gabe felt a quick chill of fear. No human hand created this. And yet what were the other possibilities? He was left with the sense that it was ancient and utterly empty of life.

“Help me.”

He jumped, drew his gun and whirled around toward where the riders had left. Heart slamming, he looked left and right. Blinked and gasped for air and saw. . .

. . .no one.

There was no one anywhere. Could the place be haunted? He didn’t believe in such things but—

That cry echoed and bounced until Gabe was surrounded.

“Help me, please.”

This time it was stronger and even with the echo, Gabe whirled back and looked up and up and up. A woman.

Gabe almost screamed.

Her face was soaked in blood, one arm flung over the edge of the cliff as she lay on her belly, looked down.

He probably would have screamed if he hadn’t choked on spit when he drew in an involuntary breath. While he coughed he fought to get a grip on his nerves.

Spooks and haints were something he’d heard of plenty growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. Lots of superstition in those mountains. But his ma raised them Christian and wasn’t given to such nonsense.

Still—

“I’m trapped. They left me.” Her voice was weak but it carried on the quiet of the canyon. This was no ghost. Except could ghosts fly? Because that’s the only way Gabe could see that she got up there.

The coughing ended and, with a whoosh of relief, his head cleared and he knew there was a woman up there. A real woman. A living, human being, definitely in terrible distress.

She was so high overhead, her face streaked in bright red blood. Dark hair spilling down over the edge of the cliff. He had no notion of what she looked like, only her voice and long hair told him she was female.

“Ma’am?” Gabe had no idea what to say or do.

“Help me, please.” Each word shook as if she gathered every ounce of her energy to keep talking. “Help me get down.”

“I’ll help you.” His voice didn’t exactly work. He tried again, loud enough she could hear him. “I’ll help you.”

“Promise you won’t leave me.” She sounded on the verge of pure panic.

Gabe couldn’t say he blamed her. “I’m not going to leave you. I promise.”

“Thank you.” Her voice broke, and he heard a muffled sob. “I need you to get me down.”

“How?”

It wasn’t fair to ask a trapped bleeding woman how to save herself.

“I don’t know.”

Not fair at all.

http://www.maryconnealy.com

Updated: March 15, 2011 — 11:56 am
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