Category: Places

Welcome Guest Janalyn Voigt

Top 10 Surprising Facts

About the Old West

Like most authors, I have an inquisitive nature. Maybe that’s why I gravitated toward writing western historical fiction. With so much lovely research to do, who could resist? A trove of little-known facts became my reward. I’m here to share some of the jewels I found with you.

Wild camels roamed the plains. The United States Camel Corps formed to help occupy desert tracts following the Mexican-American War. The first camels arrived in spring, 1856. Completion of the railroad ended the program., however The government sold some of the camels, but others escaped into the wild. The last encounter with a feral camel in America was confirmed in 1941, but unofficial sightings continue into modern times.

Credit: Courtesy of annca at pixabay.com

Everyone did not pack a gun. Guns came at a high price some couldn’t afford. Also, individual towns (including Dodge, Deadwood, and Tombstone) banned firearms.

Dance hall girls weren’t necessarily prostitutes. A lonely man would pay for the privilege of dancing with a woman. Some dance hall girls entertained men upstairs, but others simply danced.

Most men didn’t wear Stetsons. The ‘hat that won the West’ was the bowler (or derby). The iconic Stetson wasn’t introduced until 1865 and cost a lot more. The bowler predominated.

Credit: Courtesy of skeeze at pixabay.com

Buffalo never existed in the West. Settlers incorrectly referred to bison as ‘buffalo’ because they resembled the African cape buffalo and Asian water buffalo. American bison are a different species.

Indians were civilized. Native Americans engaged in agriculture, developed irrigation systems, traded with one another, and built cities. They were a far cry from ‘savages.’

A disaster few remember took more lives than the Titanic’s sinking. The steamboat Sultana went down in 1865 while overloaded with prisoners freed from a Confederate prison. More than 1,800 people died, a greater number than the 1,517 lost in the Titanic disaster. News related to the assassination of President Lincoln overshadowed the worst maritime disaster in U.S history. Few remember the ‘Titanic of the Mississippi’ today.

Men wore denim. Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss patented the first rivet-strengthened denim pants in 1871. Work clothes made from denim cloth had existed before that date.

 

Whiskey contained poisons. Called such things as tanglelegs, forty rod, coffin varnish, and strychnine, rotgut whiskey sold in the Wild West might include turpentine, ammonia, gunpowder, or other toxic ingredients.

Montana had a gold rush. Lesser known than the 49ers of California and sourdoughs of Alaska, Montana miners started stampeding for gold in 1862. I wrote the Montana Gold series to highlight this dramatic era in Montana history.

 

Hills of Nevermore

(Montana Gold, book 1)

Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish circuit preacher bent on helping her survive?

In an Idaho Territory boom town, America Liberty Reed overhears circuit preacher Shane Hayes try to persuade a hotel owner to close his saloon on Sunday. Shane lands face-down in the mud for his trouble, and there’s talk of shooting him. America intervenes and finds herself in an unexpectedly personal conversation with the blue-eyed preacher. Certain she has angered God in the past, she shies away from Shane.

Addie Martin, another widow, invites America to help in her cook tent in Virginia City, the new mining town. Even with Addie’s teenage son helping with America’s baby, life is hard. Shane urges America to depart for a more civilized location. Neither Shane’s persuasions nor road agents, murder, sickness, or vigilante violence can sway America. Loyalty and ambition hold her fast until dire circumstances force her to confront everything she believes about herself, Shane, and God.

Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, Hills of Nevermore explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west.

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About Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt’s lifelong love of storytelling began in childhood when she dreamed up her own bedtime stories. She grew into a precocious reader, a pastime she credits with teaching her to write. Janalyn trained formally with Christian Writers Guild. Today she is a multi-genre author and literary judge. Janalyn is represented by Wordserve Literary.

Updated: May 27, 2017 — 11:32 am

Southwest Style

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, built 1869

I’m not sure what it is in a person’s makeup that draws them to certain things, but I’ve always loved the art and architecture of the Southwest. Adobe homes, Spanish tiles, turquoise doors, Native American art and jewelry and pottery. I used to flip through the pages of home magazines to appreciate the various layouts and decor. I’d imagine having an adobe home with an interior courtyard complete with cobalt blue tiles as accents and a fountain. I think part of this may have come from some long-ago historical romance I read that had something to do with Pancho Villa and had a hacienda with such a courtyard described. Alas, I don’t remember the book or the author.

Palace of the Governors, built 1610

Back in the 1990s, I went to a conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico for my day job. I had one afternoon where I could just wander around the city and loved every minute of it. I visited the old churches such as the Loretto Chapel and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi; took a trolley tour around the area; admired the bright and beautiful art at the city’s many, many art galleries; appreciated the public art that was seemingly everywhere; and perused the wonderful works of craftsmanship by residents of the nearby pueblos — art, jewelry and pottery that they offered for sale outside the Palace of the Governors. The Palace sits on the city’s plaza in the middle of town. It was built in 1610 and is the oldest continuously occupied building in the United States.

It really is amazing how incredibly different even sections of the West can be from each other. Texas is different from New Mexico is different from Montana. They are all beautiful in their own ways and have their own distinctive styles and cultures. But the Southwest is perhaps the most distinctive because of its Native American and Spanish/Mexican influences. It takes on the brown and red earthy hues of the rugged Southwestern landscape and adds in incredibly eye-popping colors — blues, reds, oranges and purples. Adobes pots and trellises overflow with tons of vibrant pink bougainvillea.

I’d really like to visit Santa Fe again sometime when I have more than an afternoon to explore. There are things I missed and even more that have been added in the years since I visited.

Are you a fan of Southwestern architecture and art? What are your favorite styles? Let me know what you think for a chance to win an autographed copy of my book, The Rancher’s Surprise Baby, which releases next week. It’s the latest in my Blue Falls, Texas series from Harlequin Western Romance and the second book featuring the five siblings of the Hartley family. Yes, it’s my birthday today, but I’m giving away a present instead. 🙂

Updated: May 28, 2017 — 12:39 pm

Wagon-training around the Tetons~Tanya Hanson

 

                                                            

A while back,  I and my hubby T.L., brother-in-law Timmy and sis Roberta (l-r in the pic above) had the experience of a lifetime, taking a wagon train around the Tetons with an amazing group, Teton Wagon Train and Horse Adventures headed by wagonmaster Jeff Warburton out of Jackson, Wyoming. He’s a true cowboy and a gentleman and guested here in Wildflower Junction not long after we got back.

Anyway, this fantastic trip helped inspire my eight-novella series Hearts Crossing Ranch, about the lives and loves of eight siblings of a Colorado working ranch that also runs city slicker wagon trains. The entire series–including the never-before-published finale about the baby sister Chelsea–has been compiled in one big anthology, available next month, and available for pre-order.

 

Anyway….We spent four days circling the Tetons through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest bordering Yellowstone bear country. We didn’t see any bear– likely the thundering horses skeered ’em away.

We got our start in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

First stop on the bus taking us to the wagons were photo-ops of the Grand lady herself..followed by her neighbor Mount Moran reflected perfectly in a oxbow lake.

These scenes were practically perfection in itself..but all breath stopped when we reached The Wagons.

 There was nothing quite like chuck wagon cooking in the open mountain air.

Pulling our wagons were magnificent draft horses, Percherons and Belgians. They are named in teams, such as Lady and Tramp, Gun and Smoke, Sandy and Sage, Jack and Jill. The first name is always the horse on the left. These glorious beasts are capable of pulling up to 4,000 pounds as a team, and they love to work. In winter, they lead sleighs to the elk refuge outside Jackson.                                                              

While the wagons do have rubber tires and padded benches, the gravel roads are nothing like a modern freeway. Most times our route was called the “cowboy rollercoaster.”

Most of our hard-working, helpful cowpokes were college students working for the summer. I promise you they remembered everybody’s name from the get-go. No question was too dumb.

 

 

I think everybody’s favorite “crew member” was Buddy, probably the cutest dog ever. He accompanied every trail ride after following the draft horses from camp to camp…he romped in every stream and lake, caught mice, and totally stole everybody’s heart. Jeff says, Buddy’s pretty disgusted to become a backyard dog after the summertime.

Our tents were comfy—all sleeping essentials are provided–, and there was nothing so fine as a cup of Arbuckle’s to warm us up on a chilly evening.  After supper—cowboy potatoes, Indian frybread, and raspberry butter are among our favorites—we gathered around the campfire for Jeff’s tall tales, historical accounts of the Old West, legends, guitar strumming, cowboy poetry and songs, S’mores, and delicious Dutch oven desserts such as peach cobbler and cherry chocolate cake always served to the ladies first.

One of the nicest parts of the meals was Jeff leading us in a blessing first. Nobody had to join in…but seems like everybody did.

 

Days were full of Wyoming wildflowers, lakes and pine trees reaching for the clouds.   Nights after the camp quieted down were almost beyond description: the stars are endless, multi-layered, sparkling on forever and ever amen. What a sight.                                                   

But the most fun of all was riding horses!  Folks either rode, hiked, or wagonned it to the next camp each day.   My favorite mount was Copper. You can see her ears in the photo below–I’m astride and taking a pic of my hubby, ahead in the red ball cap.

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Our last day, the Pony Express rode through camp and brought us all mail.

Me and mine, well, we had the time of our life.

 

As Jeff said when we left, “There’s always be a campfire burnin’ for ya here in Wyomin.”

 

Yep. I’m feeling the warmth right now.

Sigh.

 

Updated: April 6, 2017 — 11:40 pm

The First American West

Today when we think of the American West, images of vast, empty expanses under huge skies come to mind. Prairies and cattle drives and covered wagons carrying settlers toward hopes of a better life. But before the land west of the Mississippi River became known as the West, America’s western frontier was considerably further east.

Daniel Boone escorting settlers, including his wife Rebecca, through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky, 1851-52 (oil on canvas) by George Caleb Bingham (1811-79); Washington University, St. Louis, USA; American, out of copyright.

I was born, raised and spent the first nearly 25 years of my life in Kentucky. If you’re a Kentucky native, there are several things that just say “home” to you — the Kentucky Derby, basketball, the words to “My Old Kentucky Home” and Daniel Boone. There is probably not another single person throughout history who signifies Kentucky more than Boone. He was among the founders of the state who led settlers along the Wilderness Road through Cumberland Gap into Kentucky.

Today you can learn about this famous gateway to the frontier at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, which is located where Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee come together. You can even walk in Boone’s footsteps along portions of the old Wilderness Road here. Prior to 1996, you could drive the route via Highway 25E, but in that year a tunnel through the mountain was completed, connecting the towns of Cumberland Gap, Tenn., and Middlesboro, Ky. Since 2001, work has been underway to restore the Gap to as close to its historic appearance as possible, including removal of the asphalt road and all modern structures, adding vegetation and even adding several feet of lost elevation.

Fort Boonesborough, photo via Wikipedia

Another of my favorite historic sites in Kentucky is Fort Boonesborough State Park on the site of the fort built by Boone and other settlers on the banks of the Kentucky River in 1775, 17 years before Kentucky became a state. The park contains a reconstructed fort with cabins and bunkhouses. During part of the year, costumed artisans and craftsmen showcase how a variety of goods were made in the 1700s to ensure survival on a dangerous frontier.

Even though this period began the settlement of Kentucky in earnest, Boone and his fellow settlers weren’t the first Europeans to set foot in what became Kentucky. You’ll probably recognize the names of famous explorers who walked this land as far back as Hernando de Soto of Spain in 1543, followed by French explorers such as Marquette and Joliet in 1673. It’s important to remember, however, that this land was not unoccupied when Europeans began to explore there or even when tens of thousands of settlers came flooding in via the Wilderness Road. Many Native American tribes called Kentucky home or used it as hunting grounds. Among these were the Shawnee, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Yuchi and Mosopelea.

Bison in Land Between the Lakes, Photo by Spongylumps (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There is a lot more pioneer history to explore across the Bluegrass State, the western part of which once was prairie and home to elk and bison — herds of which can be seen at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area near where I grew up. LBL’s 170,000 acres includes one of the largest undeveloped forests in the Eastern U.S., wetlands, and more than 300 miles of shoreline since it sits on a peninsula between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. One of my favorite parts of LBL is The Homeplace 1850s, a living history farm which features costumed interpreters, breeds of farm animals that would have been raised during the mid 1800s in Kentucky, and crops that also fit the time period. Several special events throughout the year showcase an even bigger slice of 1850s daily life with crafters showing visitors how to hand dip candles, make cornshuck dolls and homemade soap, as well as many other tasks. It’s a great way to get a glimpse into what life on this early frontier was like.

Updated: April 30, 2017 — 7:06 pm

The Smoky Hill River

Kathryns Banner

I am working on a series of historical western romances for Harlequin that take place in the fictional town of Oak Grove in Logan County in northwest Kansas. The town is situated just north of the Smoky Hill River which has so many interesting stories about it that I wanted to share a few here.

The waters of the Smoky Hill River start in the high plains of eastern Colorado and flow east with many other rivers joining in, until it flows into and forms the Kansas River. From there the water flows into the Missouri River and then on to the Mississippi River.

Kansas MapFor many years, Comanche, Sioux, Kiowa, and Arapaho tribes hunted extensively along the river before being forced out by encroaching settlers. Game was plentiful in the extensive grasslands and fish populated the river.

There are differing stories as to how the river got its name. The Plains Indians, depending on which tribe, called it CHETOLAH OR OKESSE-SEBO. The early English and French explorers called it the RIVER OF THE PADOUCAS. It has since become known as the SMOKY HILL RIVER.

George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938—naturalist, explorer, author, anthologist) said that the name came from a large grove of cottonwood trees along the river on the Kansas/Colorado state line. The trees were very tall and could be seen for miles from the flat grasslands. It is said they looked like a cloud of smoke. The place was a gathering place for many tribes to camp and barter and visit with each other. It was also a burial grounds and a place of refuge for the Indians under Black Kettle of the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864.

James R. Mead’s version differs slightly. He said that the river is named the Smoky Hill because of the buttes along the river, that when seen from afar appear hazy from smoke. James  R. Meade was a trapper and trader in the area during the years of 1850 to 1860.

Logan County,Kansas

The Smoky Hill Trail used by the Native Americans along the river was the shortest, fastest route west across Kansas. In 1858, it was traveled by those heading to the goldfields of Colorado or beyond. The Native Americans did not want to relinquish the rich land and skirmishes with settlers followed. The army set up several forts along the river. A road followed, and then as more settlers came, a railroad. In 1870, the Kansas-Pacific Railway to Denver was completed.

Smoky Hill River

The Smoky Hill River in the area of Logan County where my story takes place is only about three feet deep. Of course, this level changes dramatically depending on the rains and the melting snow. One bit of research I found interesting took place in 1868 when a drought plagued the plains and the river level was quite low. An immense herd of bison—hundreds of thousands of them (enough to cover a thirty-mile area)—came to the river to drink. The first bison were crowded out by the animals that followed, who in turn, were pushed out by those in the rear. It is said they drank the river dry!

I am collaborating with author, Lauri Robinson, in writing the stories of the people of Oak Grove. Laurie has the fortune of having lived in the area for a few years. Since I have never visited Logan County along the Smoky Hill River, I have had to lean on book and internet research of the area for my next three stories. If any of you have been there and have something you would like to add, suggest or correct—please comment! I have a feeling that I will only feel reassured of my information if I get a chance to visit the area myself. A road trip may just be in my future!

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Welcome Guest Author Tracie Peterson!

Hello all of you wonderful readers,

This month I’m debuting a new series titled Heart of the Frontier. Book one is titled Treasured Grace and is the story of three sisters in 1847. The focal setting of the story is the Whitman Mission in the area of present day Walla Walla, Washington.Whitman Mission, Walla Walla, Washington

Whitman Mission aerial of grounds layout

This is a model of the mission layout with the main mission house to the right, the blacksmith shop in the center and the Emigrant’s House on the left. The mill pond (upper left) was where they also had a grist mill.

Treasured Grace by Tracie PetersonThis location was the site of the Whitman Mission Massacre that took place November 29, 1847. It was this massacre that truly changed the course of westward expansion and brought on the setting up of military forts along the Oregon Trail.

Marcus and Narcissa Whitman (she was one of the first two white women who crossed the Rocky Mountains) had tried for over ten years to win the hearts and minds of the Cayuse Indians in their area. However, a measles epidemic struck and killed a great many Cayuse, as well as whites. The Cayuse were convinced that Whitman (who was a doctor as well as a preacher) was trying to kill them and so on November 29th, they attacked and killed the doctor and Narcissa, along with most of the other men who were living at the mission. The remaining fifty-four women and children were taken hostage and held for nearly a month by the Cayuse.

The mission site is part of the National Parks system and open to visitors.

On my many visits there to glean information for my series, I found the park rangers to be some of the best I’ve encountered while doing research.  It was fascinating to learn about the Cayuse people. They were a nomadic people who were known for their horses and horsemanship. They were also considered to have some of the fiercest warriors.

They lived in tulle mat lodges and traveled with the seasons to harvest various roots and vegetation, as well as take advantage of the salmon fishing.

In the 1840’s this area of America was called Oregon Country. It was mostly inhabited by Native Americans and the British. The latter ran a string of Hudson’s Bay Company forts and traded with both the Native Americas and whites who came west. I mention this because another fascinating aspect of this massacre and the aftermath was the part the Hudson’s Bay Company played.

When it was learned that 54 white women and children were being held captive, Peter Skene Ogden (one of the factors at Fort Vancouver – now present day Vancouver, Washington) went to work to secure their release.  He and Chief Factor James Douglas put together a ransom hoping they could convinced the Cayuse to let the women and children go without harm. The ransom included 62 blankets, 63 cotton shirts, 12 Hudson Bay rifles, 600 loads of ammunition, 7 pounds of tobacco and 12 flints.  Eventually the Cayuse did agree to this and the women and children were set free. I thought it quite interesting, if not touching that The Hudson’s Bay Company never billed the American settlers for the ransom. I thought it equally interesting that reimbursement by the American government was never offered.

If you’d like to read a brief summary of the actual attack, this website should help.

I had a lot of fun researching this series and hope you enjoy it.  Book 2 Beloved Hope will come out in June and Book 3 Cherished Mercy is due out in September.Tracie Peterson

 

Tracie will send one of today’s commenters a lovely gift basket containing Treasured Grace and five more of her latest book, plus some other goodies. Take our word for it: You’ll love the prize!

 

Find Tracie online at her website, TraciePeterson.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Arizona’s ‘Capital on Wheels’ ~ by Susan Page Davis

For my book My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains, my characters needed some transportation in Arizona during the territorial period after the Civil War. There weren’t any trains there yet, so stagecoaches it was.

The first stagecoach appeared in Arizona in 1857, and this mode of transportation had come to stay.

Before the Civil War, the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach line had a regular route across Texas and what is now New Mexico and Arizona, to southern California. When the war broke out, however, they abandoned it and used their northern route, through Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

But people still needed to travel in Arizona. When the war ended, the capital was at Prescott, which had remained Union territory. People in more populated southern locations, such as Tucson, needed to go back and forth to the capital. Several independent stage lines sprang up and developed their routes with varying success.

When I went to Prescott to do research for the book, the stagecoach problem was one of my focuses. The place where I found the most help was in the archives at the Sharlot Hall Museum. There I learned about several enterprising men who gave it a good try, and it was tough in those times.

The owners and workers found a great many obstacles to maintaining regular stage service over hundreds of miles of desert, and having to deal with increasingly hostile Indian tribes as well as the inhospitable terrain and climate. Indians stole hundreds of horses from mining operations and stagecoach stations. Some of the station agents had to haul in feed and water for the animals.

My characters attempted to make a stagecoach journey from Tucson to the fledgling mining town of Wickenburg, and from there on up to Prescott. As readers will see, this journey was interrupted several times.

The capital itself was a thorny problem during that period, and it was changed so often it got the nickname “Capital on Wheels.”

After the Confederate Territory of Arizona was formed in 1862, and in February, 1863 officially got Tucson as its capital with Jefferson Davis’s approval, Abraham Lincoln signed the law officially creating the Arizona Territory with Prescott as its capital. The territory was divided into north and south for a while, and for the rest of the Civil War it had two capitals.

Superstition MountainsAfter the war, in 1867, the capital was moved back to Tucson for the reunited Arizona Territory. At that time, Tucson was more developed than any other city in the territory.

However, in 1879, the legislature voted to move the seat of government back to Prescott. That move lasted ten years.

The capital had been located in each location for about the same length of time all told, and some people began to feel it should be moved to a neutral location, somewhere between Tucson and Prescott. By this time, more towns had been founded, and some of them mushroomed. Phoenix was not in existence at the time of my story, but twenty years later it was thriving. In 1889 the capital was moved permanently to Phoenix. Arizona became a state in 1912.

Today we can swiftly drive the length of Arizona in air-conditioned cars in a few hours. We can enjoy the vistas of the beautiful desert without discomfort. But our modern travels are a far cry from what Carmela Wade experienced.

 

About My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains

A Chance for Escape Takes Two Unlikely Allies on a Romantic Adventure through the Desert

Since she was orphaned at age twelve, Carmela Wade has lived a lie orchestrated by her uncle, pretending to be a survivor of an Indian kidnapping and profiting from telling her made-up story on the speaker circuit. But as she matures into adulthood, Carmela hates the lies and longs to be free. On a stagecoach in Arizona Territory, Carmela and her uncle are fellow passengers with US Marshal Freeland McKay and his handcuffed prisoner.

The stage is attacked. Suddenly a chance to make a new life may be within Carmela’s reach. . .if she can survive the harsh terrain and being handcuffed to an unconscious man.

 

Desert Moon

 

 

Susan will give a copy of My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains to one person who comments on today’s post, and a copy of Desert Moon to another commenter. The winners may choose to receive either print or digital format.

 

 

Susan Page Davis

 

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than seventy published novels. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award and the Will Rogers Medallion, and also a winner of the Carol Award and a finalist in the WILLA Literary Awards. A Maine native, she now lives in Kentucky. Visit her website at SusanPageDavis.com, where you can see all her books, sign up for her occasional newsletter, and read a short story on her romance page.

Buy My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: http://amzn.to/2kGDjPz

 

 

Following the Oregon Trail

Source: Wikipedia Commons, photo by Mike Tigas

Before I was a romance writer, I was a voracious romance reader. My reading of choice in those early days was historical romance, particularly American-set historicals. There were two facets of American history that drew me more than any others — Colonial/Revolution and Westerns. So it wasn’t a stretch that the first manuscript I ever wrote was set along the Oregon Trail. And since my sister moved to the Northwest, I’ve taken opportunities over the years to go on road trips to see her instead of flying (which I don’t like anyway).

During one of these trips, I got to see with my own eyes several of the Oregon Trail sites that I’d researched and written about in that first manuscript. I was fascinated to travel in the steps of those brave men and women who headed out for a new life, who traveled into the largely unknown landscape that was filled with danger on a daily basis.

Source: Wikipedia Commons, Scotts Bluff National Monument – Panorama. August 2006. Author: Kahvc7

Nebraska and Wyoming are often considered flyover states, but there’s so much to see, so much history to be absorbed if you take to the roads instead. One of the famous landmarks Oregon Trail travelers looked for on their journey was Chimney Rock in present Morrill County, Nebraska. This geological feature made of a combination of clay, volcanic ash and sandstone has a peak nearly 300 feet above the surrounding North Platte River valley. Travelers along the California and Mormon trails also used it as a landmark. You can see it today from US Route 26 and Nebraska Highway 92. Learn more at the Chimney Rock National Historic Site website.

Source: Wikipedia Commons, photo by Chris Light

About 20 miles to the northwest of Chimney Rock, also along Nebraska Highway 92, is Scotts Bluff National Monument near the town of Gering. This collection of bluffs on the south side of the North Platte River was first documented by non-native people when fur traders began traveling through the area in the early 1800s. It was noted to be among the first indications that the flatness of the Great Plains was beginning to give way to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s named after Hiram Scott, a fur trader who died near the bluff in 1828, though the Native peoples of the area called it “Me-a-pa-te” or “the hill that is hard to go around.”

Oregon Trail Ruts near Guernsey, WY. Source: Wikipedia Commons, photo by Paul Hermans

After crossing into Wyoming, another National Park Service site preserving trail history is Fort Laramie National Historic Site, which sits at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte rivers. It has a rich history as a frontier trading post and then an Army post up until its decommission and transfer out of the final troops in 1890. The fort also has appeared in pop culture, including in the Oregon Trail and Age of Empires video games, the 1955 movie White Feather, and a 1950s CBS radio drama called, appropriately, Fort Laramie. You can learn more at the Fort Laramie NHS website.

Perhaps one of the most amazing things you can still see today along the Oregon Trail are actual ruts made by the thousands of heavily loaded wagons heading west. This physical evidence made me feel closer to those long-ago travelers than anything else. One of the places you can see these ruts is Oregon Trail Ruts, a National Historic Landmark near Guernsey, Wyoming.

To learn more about the Oregon National Historic Trail overseen by the National Park Service throughout seven states, visit their site. I hope to be able to visit even more trail sites in the future. I’d especially like to see Independence Rock in Wyoming and more end-of-the-trail sites in Oregon.

Have you ever traveled to historic sites you’ve either written or read about? What were your favorites? I’ll give away a signed copy of A Rancher to Love, part of my Blue Falls, Texas series from Harlequin Western Romance to one commenter.

Happy trails!

Updated: February 26, 2017 — 2:56 pm

Special Guest – Sondra Kraak

Some places sow themselves into your memory. They must be cherished. Revisited, even if only in the imagination. And if those places have been sown into the fertile loam of a writer’s imagination, they must be written about. Plain, Washington, is such a place for me.

Originally known as Beaver Valley to the pioneers who settled it, Plain packs a fierce visual punch with its medley of grassy meadows and pine forests. Rocky peaks play sentinel over the winding Wenatchee River, formerly a favorite site of native tribes for salmon fishing. Anything but plain, as its name might suggest, this pastoral valley has the power to send you back to frontier time with the soundtrack from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers rolling through your head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looks like the perfect setting for a historical romance, right? Which is why I based my first two novels on beautiful, Plain, Washington, renamed Pine Creek in my stories. And though I’d promised myself I wouldn’t write about a school teacher—it’s been done and overdone—my debut, One Plus One Equals Trouble, turned out to feature not one teacher, but two. Hence, the math equation and the trouble that ensues when two teachers are accidentally hired for the same position.

The red one room schoolhouse I pictured as I wrote about Barrett and Claire battling for the teaching position, was this historic gem below.

 

The old Winton schoolhouse used to sit several miles from Plain before being moved into Plain to be preserved. As a child, I visited it numerous times during camping trips to nearby Lake Wenatchee. The bright red building sat by the tracks, a delight for my dad, an avid railroad photographer. While he waited to photograph a freight train, my sister and I would wonder what it would be like to attend a one room schoolhouse. We thought of Christy and Anne of Green Gables. Ideas spun my thoughts as robustly as the steel wheels clickety-clacking over our pennies on the tracks. I suppose it was inevitable that when I began to write, a red schoolhouse with a pair of teachers pushed its way into my novel.

What is it about schoolhouses, horse-drawn wagons, and rugged valleys with refreshing streams that so intoxicates our senses and paints a whimsical idealism over our impression of frontier times? Because really, it was hard living without plumbing, electricity, or Nutella. I think it’s the simplicity that lures us into a love of the past. When I think of Plain—Pine Creek—I feel that quirky, old-fashioned charm that acts like a balm against today’s busyness and our media-crazed society. And I hope readers feel it, too. I hope they can hunker down in that Cascade Mountain valley beside San Franciscan native Claire as she adjusts to frontier life in a landlocked town. Or keep in stride with easygoing Barrett as he sets out to woo his unexpected and stubborn competition.

To show my gratitude for being able to visit the Petticoats and Pistols blog today, I’d love to giveaway print copies of the first two books in my “Love that Counts” series: One Plus One Equals Trouble and Two Ways Home.

Would you leave a comment telling me about a special setting in your life that carries you back to the past? Maybe a small mountain town like Plain, or a rustic desert valley? And after you comment, I’d be delighted if you’d hop over and visit my One Plus One Equals Trouble page on my website. You’ll get a little taste (four excerpts) of Barrett’s and Claire’s struggle to win the position without losing their hearts.

 

This is how the story starts: Killing Edward Stevens was beyond her proper ways. So instead, Claire Montgomery made tea. Even if she wanted to kill him, which she didn’t—not entirely—he was two states away, and she was here, stuck in a sparsely furnished cabin with a drafty window and a roof that moaned with the slightest wind.

And for those of you who like to read the last page first, who can’t stand a little mystery, I’ll share the last line—and only the last line—with you: “Ever.”

Bio:

A native of Washington State, Sondra Kraak grew up playing in the rain, hammering out Chopin at the piano, and running up and down the basketball court. Now settled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children, blogging about spiritual truths, and writing historical romance set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She delights in sharing stories that not only entertain, but nourish the soul.

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Janet Chester Bly – 7 Little Known Facts of Goldfield, Nevada

Goldfield, Nevada of Esmeralda County is most known these days for its haunted hotel and array of original buildings still in good repair. A 20th century boom town, it sprang into existence after a rich gold strike by William Marsh and Harry Stimler (part Shoshone) in December 1902 and mostly died by 1910. Stimler and Marsh were first on the ground after sighting an Indian named Tom Fisherman loaded down with yellow rock. They eventually pressured Fisherman into showing them the place where he found the treasure. A revival of mining soon exploded in Nevada.

Here are seven other random factoids about the fascinating early days of desert ghost town Goldfield, Nevada.

A Town Full of Visionaries

Fantastical mining and business schemes abounded, of course, but also new inventions. Improvements for the mines, such as making building blocks from sagebrush. Brake upgrades for carriages. Charles Chrisman created the “Desert Flyer,” a sixty horsepower auto with no gears. However, efforts to produce the auto failed. Then, there were the various airships concocted by men with names like Beller and Froberg who made daytime and secret night test flights to the entertainment and endless derision of Goldfield citizens.

Death Stats

Alcoholism was either the sole cause or leading factor in more than 5% of deaths, especially in the boom years. In fact, water cost more than whiskey, which provided a story kernel for my late hubby author Stephen Bly’s novel Fool’s Gold, Book 1, Skinners of Goldfield series. In the early days, a bath was the ultimate expensive luxury.

Next, homicide victims were 4%.

Suicides rated 3%.

Unforgiving Environment

Descriptions of the site by newcomers ranged from “hideous” to “too much sky and not enough water” to “the end of the world.” Parmeter Ken in the Goldfield Gossip, 1906 wrote Goldfield had the “worst climate in the world … For three months it scorches the life out of you; freezes and chills you for another three, and blows what’s left of you into dust for the remaining six.”

Hosts of Pests

The desert town was home to its share of rattlesnakes, tarantulas, vinegarones, and bloodsucking flies. However, some considered the lizards the most beautiful they’d ever seen. One young man found them also somewhat palatable. He survived for five days by chewing cacti and lizards until a rescue party found him.

Teachers and Firemen

Both these trades held a unique distinction. They often worked without pay for periods as long as five months at a time.

Womba Women

Only the most vigorous women pulled up stakes with their men to come to Goldfield. One man wrote of his wife: “She is a brave little body and is entirely willing to cast her fortunes with me in Tonopah or Goldfield, and brings the matter up every day.” The ghost town still has about 200-300 hardy living residents and is a popular tourist stop.

The Ladies Aid Society

This group proved to be the civilizers and equal opportunity social movers of this frontier town. They raised money for a building where religious meetings of many different beliefs could take place. The hall also provided concerts, a justice court, as well as boxing matches, and served as an all-purpose recreation center for dances.

(You can find out much more in resources such as Goldfield/The Last Gold rush on the Western Frontier by Sally Zanjani)

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Have you ever visited the town of Goldfield or one like it? What was your most compelling impression? Would you ever want to live there? Would love to have you leave a comment below so we can chat and also you can be entered in a drawing to receive a free copy of Down Squash Blossom Road — either paperback (USA only) or .pdf for your digital reader.

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AUTHOR BIO:

Janet Chester Bly is the widow of Christy Award winning western author Stephen Bly. Together they published 120 fiction and nonfiction books for adults and kids. Janet and their three sons finished Stephen’s last novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot, a Selah Award Finalist. Down Squash Blossom Road is Book 2 in the Reba Cahill contemporary western mystery series.

Download 5 free chapters now here:
http://www.blybooks.com/genre/contemporary-fiction/

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Book 1 is Wind in the Wires. Find it here: http://www.blybooks.com/books/inspirational-books-novel/

Down Squash Blossom Road

What Secret Lies Down Squash Blossom Road?

Cowgirl Reba Cahill’s schedule is full. Save the family ranch. Free her mom from a mental institute. Take a road trip that includes Goldfield, Nevada. Solve a murder and kidnapping. Evade a stalker. Can she also squeeze in romance?

Reba Cahill focused on the duties of the ranch, along with her widowed grandmother. But a crippled Champ Runcie returns to Road’s End in a wheelchair and seeks revenge for the accident that put him there. He blames Reba’s horse. Meanwhile, a letter from her estranged mom forces her and Grandma Pearl back on the road: I can leave now. Come get me. Love, Mom

When they arrive in Reno, her mother issues a demand and refuses to return to Idaho. They head west instead by way of Goldfield, Nevada. In California, Reba’s friend Ginny’s marriage is on the rocks. The family business is threatened. And squabbles turn deadly.

Reba digs deep to find the courage to forge a relationship with her mom and escape a crazed man’s obsession. She also hopes for a future with a horse trainer who offers her a new horse to replace the one she lost in the accident. But why does he have a photo of a pretty woman on his wall?

 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Rachel Hauck said of Book 1, Wind in the Wires: “I love your voice! I love the setting…It’s a great story!”

 

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Updated: January 17, 2017 — 10:19 am
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