Category: Texas

First Woman Governor of Texas

Texas had the first woman elected governor in the United States, but she wasn’t the first woman to be governor. Marian A. Ferguson was better known as “Ma” Ferguson and elected in 1924 and inaugurated in 1925, which was two weeks after a woman became governor of Wyoming.

“Ma” Ferguson was married to former-governor James E. Ferguson, who was barred from running again after he resigned in 1917, just before he could be removed from office on corruption charges.

Interestingly enough, Governor “Ma” Ferguson is remembered for granting an average of one hundred pardons a month during her first two-year term of office, which was also marred by charges of graft and corruption.

Although she lost bids for re-election in 1926 and 1930, she served again from 1933 through 1935, when she fought the Depression with loans for cotton farmers and “bread bonds” to feed starving children.

One of Governor “Ma” Ferguson’s many full pardons went to “Buck” Barrow, who quickly took advantage of his release from prison to continue a life of crime. Buck and his wife got together with Buck’s brother, Clyde, and his girlfriend Bonnie Parker, who were already notorious criminals.
A few months later, in a shootout with police, Buck was killed, and his wife Blanche was capture. Bonnie and Clyde continued their crime spree.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were both Texas natives. They met in Dallas in 1930 and formed a criminal partnership that included jailbreaks, robberies, kidnappings, and murders.

Their crime-spree prompted a well-publicized nationwide manhunt that ended on May 23, 1934, when a group of lawmen ambushed the couple and killed them.

Since then, their short careers as lawbreakers have been popularized in films, songs, and movies. Even in the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco there is a display of exhibits related to their ultimate demise.

Tell me about your favorite outlaw real or imaginary!

To one reader who leaves a comment, I will give them an eBook of my latest Kasota Spring Romance Out of a Texas Night.

Updated: April 29, 2019 — 5:22 pm

Not Always by Choice: Mail-Order Brides

I love reading and writing mail-order bride stories set in the Old West.  I’m happy to say that next month my next mail-order bride story The Cowboy Meets His Match will be published. And boy, oh, boy, does that couple ever clash!

It’s hard to imagine a young woman traveling west to marry a man she’d never set eyes on. The original catalog-bride business grew out of necessity. The lack of marriageable women in the west was partly responsible, but so was the Civil War. The war not only created thousands of widows but a shortage of men, especially in the South.

As a result, marriage brokers and heart-and-hand catalogs popped up all around the country. According to an article in the Toledo Blade, lonely men even wrote to the Sears catalog company asking for brides. (The latest such letter received by Sears was from a lonely marine during the Vietnam War.)

In those early days, advertisements cost five to fifteen cents, and letters were exchanged along with photographs. Fortunately, the telegraph and train made communication easier.

Not all marriage brokers were legitimate, and many a disappointed client ended up with an empty bank account rather than a contracted mate.

For some mail-order couples, it was love (or lust) at first sight. In 1886, one man and his mail-order bride were so enamored with each other that they scandalized fellow passengers on the Union Pacific Railroad during their honeymoon.

Not every bride was so lucky. In her book Hearts West, Chris Enss tells the story of mail-order bride Eleanor Berry. On the way to her wedding, her stage was held up at gunpoint by four masked men. While signing the marriage license, she suddenly realized that her new husband was one of the outlaws who had robbed her.

No one seems to know how many mail-order brides there were during the 1800s, but the most successful matchmaker of all appears to be Fred Harvey.  He wasn’t in the mail-order bride business, but, by the turn of the century, five thousand Harvey Girls had found husbands while working in his restaurants.

Under what circumstances might you have traveled west to marry a stranger?

His first mistake was marrying her; his second was falling in love.

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Updated: April 20, 2019 — 8:56 am

My Time Inside a Real Pullman Car

At the end of January, I had the chance to travel to historic Jefferson, Texas for a writer’s retreat. It was a history-lover’s delight! We stayed in an 1867 home, shopped in a 19th century mercantile, and stopped in at the oldest continuously run hotel in Texas. It was at the Excelsior Hotel, that we secured a tour of the authentic 1888 Pullman car stationed across the street.

Pullman cars offered sleeping berths for train travel in the 19th century. Usually only the wealthy could afford this luxury. But if you found yourself in the super-wealthy category, you might be able to afford a custom-built private sleeping car for personal use. Such was the case with railroad tycoon, Jay Gould.

Believe it or not, this tiny town of 2,000 was once the 4th largest city in Texas. Back at the height of the riverboat era, Jefferson was a bustling port with a thriving cotton culture and a population around 8,000. Jay Gould came to town and tried to convince them to let him run his railroad through Jefferson. Unfortunately, the town wanted nothing to do with his Yankee money and turned him down. Mr. Gould predicted the destruction of the town on his way out and decided to build his railroad through the tiny town of Dallas instead. Rather ironic that the town that once sent Jay Gould away made the effort to secure his Pullman car as part of their history years later. Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20.

The Pullman car was a wonder to behold. The lighting was both electric and gas. Electricity would be generated while the train was in motion, and gas would be piped in when the train was stationary.

You will notice jay birds featured in much of the decor. Jay Gould used the jay bird as his symbol. It was even part of his signature visible on the register in the Excelsior Hotel. You will see it etched into the glass globes around the lights and most decadently on the side of his bathtub.

The electric bulbs are lit, but notice the small pipe in the center. That is where the gas would burn. Also note the jay birds etched in the glass at the bottom.

Jay Gould’s private bathtub.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are other pictures I took. You might see some authors you recognize along the way.

Elizabeth Ludwig in the front compartment used for social gatherings or for conducting business.

A true water closet. The basin would pull down once the door was open.

Anne Mateer and Crystal Barnes in the hall admiring the lavatory.

One of the smaller staterooms that had seating below and a pull-down berth above.

One of the large staterooms with a full bed. This was used by Mrs. Gould.

The second small stateroom set up for tea with a removable table that hooked into the wall.

Elizabeth Ludwig and Regina Jennings peeking through the window from the hall – wanting to get in on the tea action.

These three photos show the kitchen. They start with the cold side where you will see an icebox and the sleeping berth for the cook. There is also a counter with a pass-through window area that leads to the hot side where the stove is situated.

Finally, the rear compartment. The overall set up had two staterooms on either side with the hall switching from the left to the right side halfway down the car near the kitchen area to balance out the weight of the car. Notice the stained glass transoms above the windows. These could be opened to create a breeze during warm days.

 

Even today this would be a luxurious way to travel.

What museums have you visited that made you want to travel back in time?

From Murderer to Lawman — Texas Ranger Captain Arrington

In April, I’m attending an arts workshop, including authors, in Canadian, in the Texas Panhandle. You can’t think about this part of Texas without giving a great deal of thought to one of our pioneers, Captain George Washington Arrington, who was also one of the first Texas Rangers. His ranch is now an historical site with a Bed and Breakfast. I’m hoping to take a tour while we’re there.

“Cap”, as he was known, was not just a lawman, rancher, spy for the Confederacy, and Texas Ranger, but also a murderer.

Arrington was born in Alabama under the name of John C. Orrick, Jr., and at the age of sixteen enlisted in the Confederate Army. But, in 1867 he murdered a businessman in his hometown; and after a while, he moved to Texas and changed his name to Arrington to escape his troubled past. He did many things during his lifetime; worked on the railroad, at a commission house, and farmed in Collin County, Texas, which led him to get hired on to be a drover in cattle drives. That seemingly changed his life.

In 1875 he enlisted in Company E of the newly organized Frontier Battalion of the Texas Rangers, where he excelled and after only two years was promoted to Captain of Company C because of his accomplishments of tracking down fugitives and outlaws. In 1879, his Company was moved to the Texas Panhandle to investigate depredations at area ranches. He eventually established the first Ranger Camp in the Panhandle.
 
After breaking up a major rustling ring, he left the Rangers and became the sheriff of “the mother city of the Panhandle”, Mobeetie, a wild and woolly town with a reputation for fast gunplay, sporting women and quick-dealing gamblers.

Although, Capt. Arrington had dealt with hostiles and outlaws, and had even murdered a man, he couldn’t deal with card sharks, cattle rustlers and ladies of the evening. But, the best thing about him living in Mobeetie was meeting and marrying Sara Burnette. Out of that union came ten children. The first two were born in the Old Mobeetie Jail, where part of the two-story structure was used as a resident.

After Arrington left his office as Sheriff, he managed the Rocking Chair Ranch, until it was sold to a large conglomerate. Involved in the civic affairs of Canadian and helping to establish their first rural school, Cap purchased his own ranch.
 
The Arrington Ranch Headquarters, which still stands today, is located south of Canadian adjacent to the Washita River. The house was ordered from the Van Tein catalog, delivered by railroad, moved pieces at a time by wagon for the first ten miles, and set up on the prairie in 1919. The building site was well chosen; sweeping vistas offer unobstructed sunsets and sunrises across the grassland.

Captain Arrington was definitely a self-made man of his era, harsh but fair. He was rarely seen without his sidearm, fully aware of the long list of enemies made during his tenure as a lawman. If the Captain wasn’t wearing a six-shooter, he had one within easy reach.
 
In his later years, he suffered from arthritis and made frequent train trips to Mineral Wells for their hot baths. In 1923, on one of these trips, he had a heart attack. He returned to his beloved Canadian where he died on March 31, 1923. He and his wife are both buried in the Old Mobeetie cemetery.


The Arrington Ranch House Lodge is alive and well owned by 5th generation Arrington, who have worked hard to keep Captain George Washington Arrington’s name alive and well in the Texas Panhandle.

Have you ever spent time in an historical home or building? How did it make you feel?

To one reader who leaves me a comment, I will give them an autographed copy of my latest Kasota Spring Romance Out of a Texas Night.
 

Updated: February 25, 2019 — 5:23 pm

Before There Was a Texas, There Were Texas Rangers

I’m on the last draft of the third book in my Haywire Brides series (at least I hope it’s the last draft). My male protagonist is a Texas Ranger and, as some of you might have guessed from my earlier books, that’s my favorite type of hero to write about.

The Texas Rangers have a long and checkered history, starting in 1823. When Stephan F. Austin hired ten men to protect the frontier, he probably never imagined that nearly two hundred years later, the force would still be going strong.  

Those early Rangers were called various names including mounted gunmen, mounted volunteers, minutemen, spies, scouts and mounted rifle companies.  The term Texas Rangers didn’t come into use until the1870s.

Maintaining law and order on the frontier wasn’t easy, but those mounted gunmen still managed to move with quick speed over long distances, and settle trouble on the spot. Those early rangers were called upon to serve as infantrymen, border guards, and investigators.  They tracked down cattle rustlers and helped settle labor disputes.  They both fought and protected the Indians.

The job didn’t come cheap.  A man was expected to provide his own horse and it had to be equipped with saddle, blanket and bridle.  A man also had to supply his own weaponry, which included rifle, pistol and knife. 

As for clothing, a Texas Ranger wore what he had.  It wasn’t until the Rangers became full-time professional lawmen in the 1890s that many started wearing suits.  (Today, Rangers are expected to wear conservative western attire, including western boots and hat, dress shirt and appropriate pants.)

He would also have carried a blanket, and cloth wallet for salt and ammunition.  To alleviate thirst, a ranger would suck on sweetened or spiced parched corn.  Dried meat, tobacco and rope were also considered necessities. What he didn’t carry with him was provided by the land. It was a tough life and it’s not hard to guess why a man seldom lasted more than six months on the job.

Those early professional Rangers received twenty-five dollars a month in pay and worked hard for it. An officer’s pay was seventy-five dollars.

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame

Today, the Texas Rangers enjoy a stellar reputation, but that wasn’t always the case. Frontier justice could sometimes be harsh and cruel, and some Rangers fought according to their own rules. This led to excesses of brutality and injustice, including the massacre of unarmed citizens.  The Rangers were reformed by a Legislature resolution in 1919, which instituted a citizen complaint system.

The Texas Rangers have undergone many changes and transformations through the years. But the biggest change of all probably has such legendary Rangers as John B. Jones and Big Foot Wallace a-whirling in their graves; The Texas Rangers recently allowed women to join the ranks.  (Hmm.  I feel a story coming on.)

I told you the kind of heroes I like to write.  What kind of heroes do you like to read about?

“This book charms.”  Publishers Weekly

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Updated: January 18, 2019 — 2:16 pm

Cowboy Charm School & Giveaway!

When buying a horse don’t consult a pedestrian;

When courting a woman don’t ask advice of a bachelor.

                                               -Cowboy Charm School

I’m excited that my next book Cowboy Charm School will be published September 4th (but can be ordered now.) I played with the idea for four or five years before I actually got around to writing the book.  Book ideas generally come to me in scenes.  I’ll suddenly visualize someone atop a runaway stagecoach or scrambling over a roof and then have to figure out who, what, and why.

The scene that popped into my head for Cowboy Charm School was a wedding scene with a handsome stranger running down the church aisle yelling, “Stop the Wedding!” 

It took me awhile to figure out that the man was Texas Ranger Brett Tucker,  who thinks he’s saving the bride, Kate Denver, from marrying an outlaw. He’s mistaken, of course, but the groom jealously jumps to all the wrong conclusions and the couple breaks-up. 

Brett feels terrible for what’s he’s done and is determined to set things right. Since the hapless groom hasn’t a clue as to how to win Kate back, it’s up to Brett to give him a few pointers–and that’s when the real trouble begins. 

For a chance to win a copy of the book, tell us the best or worse advice anyone ever gave you.  (Contest guidelines apply.)

“This tale charms.” -Publishers Weekly

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Updated: August 19, 2018 — 7:38 am

How the West Was Wed–Giveaway

It’s PUB week for my book How the West Was Wed

and I’m giving away an eBook copy.

The only thing threatening their success is love.

After finding herself a widow at the age of twenty-six, JOSIE JOHNSON moves back home to Two-Time, Texas and takes over the town’s only newspaper, the Gazette.  Everything works as planned until the very charming, very handsome BRANDON WADE moves to town to start his own newspaper. At first Josie welcomes the competition, but soon learns that readers prefer Wade’s bold hyperbole to her more serious type of journalism.

Brandon never meant to put the pretty publisher out of business and suggests a solution.  Nothing sells newspapers like a good juicy scandal, but lacking that, the next best thing is a good old-fashioned print war between two battling editors.  Brandon even writes up an article disparaging himself and his paper to demonstrate. Josie refuses to stoop to such tactics.  She’ll gain her readers back on her own terms—or not at all!  But when her paper accidentally publishers Wade’s article, the print wars are on.

The rivalry between Josie and Brandon meets with immediate success and both newspapers fly off the racks. The editorial warfare is the talk of the town and readers can’t seem to get enough. While the ink wars rage on, Josie and Brandon find themselves fighting yet another battle—a mutual attraction that could put everything they worked for at risk.

Before the Civil War, people were content to receive news weeks and even months after an event, if at all.  The war changed that. Suddenly, people were demanding to know what was going on, and newspapers became an important part of life.  President Lincoln recognized that newspapers could be used to sway public opinion and he used them to good advantage, much as politicians do today.  

Here’s my question: What’s your favorite way of getting the news?

 

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Updated: March 17, 2018 — 7:03 am

Fake News and Feuding Editors

Accuracy to a newspaper is what virtue is to a lady;

but a newspaper can always print a retraction.

                                                                                                       –Adlai E. Stevenson     

My March release, How the West was Wed, follows the story of two rivaling newspaper editors.  JOSIE LOCKWOOD is the successful editor of the town’s only newspaper until the very charming, very handsome BRANDON WADE moves to town to start his own newspaper. At first Josie welcomes the competition, but she soon learns that readers prefer Wade’s bold hyperbole to her more serious type of journalism.

I especially enjoyed writing about a Victorian newspaper woman. Women editors date back to colonial times, and some edited publications in the east during the first half of the nineteenth century. Still, in those early days, the newspaper business was primarily a male occupation.

This changed somewhat during the westward movement. The late eighteen-hundreds saw some 300 females editing 250 publications in eleven western states. California led the way with 129 known female editors. No doubt there were more, but some female publishers sought credibility by listing a husband’s name on a masthead.

Newspaperwomen covered everything from national and local news to household hints.

Newspapers at the time also carried what today might be called fake news. Along with their morning cup of Arbuckle’s, Victorian readers were regaled with stories of mysterious creatures, flying objects, ghosts, extraterrestrials and other strange phenomena.

It’s not hard to see why the news business would attract female interest. Having control over editorial content afforded women the opportunity to lead a crusade, promote religious and educational activities, and bring a community together. Women still didn’t have the vote, of course, but some female publishers had strong political views which they were all too glad to share with readers.

Editorial disputes like the one between Brandon and Josie were common in the Old West, but not all had such a happy ending. Sometimes things went too far.  In some instances, the feud ended in gunfire.

Most feuds, however, were carried out with a war-of-words. Rival editors prided themselves on the quality and quantity of their insults. Typesetting was a tedious job. It took less time and effort to call someone an idiot or numbskull in print than to find a gentler approach.

If editors weren’t fighting each other, they were fighting readers. Any editor printing an inflammatory story could expect to be accosted at the local saloon or challenged to a duel. Things got so bad that an editor of a Kansas newspaper wrote: “What this community needs just now is a society for the prevention of cruelty to writing men, otherwise editors.”

After one man was acquitted of killing the editor of the Leavenworth Times, the Marion County Record wrote, “That’s just the way with some juries—they think it no more harm to shoot an editor than a jack-rabbit.”

Fortunately, today’s disgruntled readers are more likely to drop a subscription than drop an editor, but one thing hasn’t changed; For more than a 150 years, the death of newspapers has been predicted.  It was once thought that the telegraph would do the ghastly deed.  Today, the Internet is taking the blame.  Whether it fully succeeds is anyone’s guess.

So, what do you think?  Are newspapers still relevant?

 

Meet the Brides of Two-Time, Texas!

            

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Updated: February 18, 2018 — 9:59 am

Come With Me To Santa Anna!

Settings are very important to me in my stories and when I can, I go to visit the land. I stand, close my eyes and listen to what the wind tells me. Often I hear voices long past whispering in the breeze and I know this is what I’m supposed to write.

In the back of The Cowboy Who Came Calling, I explain that everything I put in the story is historical fact. I think readers want to know that.

This story is set in the small town of Santa Anna, Texas in the central part of the state. Both the town and the nearby mountain were named for the Comanche war chief, Santanna. He was an important chief and the first of his tribe to visit Washington, D.C. There, he saw what his people were up against and began advocating for peace. He was struck down and died in a cholera epidemic in 1849.

Here are the Santa Anna Mountains in the distance. Not very high at all. Most probably wouldn’t even call them a mountain range.

This monument was erected by the state to mark the site of Camp Colorado. It was part of a line of forts built in the 1800s to protect settlers against the Indians. There wasn’t anything left when I last visited here. It’s on private land now. Luke McClain joins a gang who use the old fort as a hideout in my story.

The town (only 8 miles from Coleman, TX) was never very large and today the population is a little over a thousand people. Here is a very old building and an old crumbling wall.

 

The picture below shows the thick vegetation and in the distance, the ridge of Santa Anna Mountains above the treeline.

Below is Bead Mountain that I mention in the story is actually a sacred Indian burial ground. When it rains, colorful beads wash down the sides. It’s actually reputed to be haunted.

Okay, that’s a quick look at my setting. I apologize for the poor quality pictures.

Here’s your question: How often do you look on the map for the place a story is set when you’re reading? Do you feel cheated just a bit when you find it’s a made-up place? I’m giving away four copies (winner’s choice of print or ebook) of The Cowboy Who Came Calling. Comment to enter the drawing.

Fall In Texas

I’m from Iowa, and there it’s easy to tell fall has arrived. The trees change to lovely shades of yellow, orange and crimson. A crispness lingers in the air all day. It feels like fall. I love that time of year. Wearing jackets, snuggling under a blanket with a good romance on Saturday. Walking on crunching leaves.

Now I live in Texas, and fall is different from what I knew growing up. In Texas, it’s hard to tell autumn has arrived. Halloween has come and gone, and Thanksgiving is around the corner. Despite what the calendar says, this week’s forecast is for record high temperatures. We’re talking hitting ninety degrees. When the leaves change, they turn a shade of brown and fall off the tress. Not exactly the ooh-ahh fall colors I spotted in the Midwest.

Saying It’s been an adjustment for me is like saying Texas and Texas A&M have a little rivalry. Over the years I’ve learned fall is heralded in different ways in Texas. First and foremost, we know it’s fall because of the arrival of football season. Yes, it’s true. Football is almost a religion here in Texas. From high schools on Friday night to TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas and Texas A&M on Saturday. There’s even have a “Red River Showdown” between Texas and OU at the Texas State Fair.

Which brings me to another huge sign of fall in Texas, the state fair. When people start talking about corny dogs, turkey legs, and fried any and everything, I know autumn has arrived. I hear Big Tex’s voice and see pictures of him everywhere. In 2012 when Big Tex caught on fire, it was huge news. We got updates on the progress to rebuild him, including details on changes in his iconic outfit.

But I’ve learned to adjust. I decorate the yard and house for fall, Halloween, and then Thanksgiving. I admit a couple times I had a fire and then turned on the air conditioner because the house got so warm. I bake items that remind me of fall. One of my family’s favorite is pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin Bread

3 1/3 C flour
3 C sugar
4 eggs
1C oil
2/3 C water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 can pumpkin
½ black walnut flavoring
Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Make a “well” in the center. Add eggs, water, oil and black walnut flavoring in well. Mix. Add canned pumpkin. Mix. Place in greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Now tell me about your favorite fall tradition and be entered in the drawing to win the pumpkin and Home On The Ranch: Colorado.

Updated: November 1, 2017 — 6:28 pm