Category: Nebraska

From Barbie to Wild Bill Hickock: The Allure of the Dead ~ Pam Crooks

If you’re a history lover like me, there’s something fascinating about famous historical people.  DEAD famous historical people.  Nothing like visiting a grave to get my imagination juices going about the life they led, the death they may (or may not) have suffered, and what the world they lived in would’ve been like.

A few years ago, my husband and I visited Deadwood, South Dakota.  Seeing the Mount Moriah Cemetery outside of town was a tourist must.  First stop was Wild Bill Hickock’s plot. His burial was in 1879.

Wild Bill Hickock Grave

You can see how large his plot is and how well the community cares for it.  He did, after all, put Deadwood on the map.

Nearby was Calamity Jane’s (Martha Jane Burke) grave.  To this day, I’m not sure where her grave began or where it ended.  It was quite a large retaining wall with the plaque bearing her name.

If you get a chance to visit Deadwood’s famous cemetery, you’ll see even more burial places of notorious characters from the Wild West. But I didn’t have to travel far from home to discover some fascinating graves right here in my own city.

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery is Omaha’s oldest, active cemetery.  The first recorded burial was on June 6, 1873. Holy Sepulchre is special because many members of my family are buried here, the oldest being my great-great grandmother, Salvatarice Salerno, who emigrated to America from Carlentini, Sicily, in the mid-1800s.  My husband and I have burial plots there, too.  In fact, our marker is already in place.

It was extremely important to my parents, especially my father, to keep the memories of our ancestors alive.  With his help, I wrote a map and detailed directions to each grave so we can “take the tour” every year and decorate the graves.

Last month, we took our daughters and grandchildren “on the tour.”  Along the way, we found some pretty fascinating graves of some pretty fascinating people.

Have you heard of Edward Creighton?  Along with his brother, John, he was one of Omaha’s earliest and most prominent businessmen who contributed substantially to our city’s growth.

One of his legacies is Creighton University. 

Creighton University

Three of our four daughters attended college there, as well as numerous other family members.  In fact, two daughters were married at the beautiful St. John’s Church on its campus.  You can see it here in this aerial view of Creighton’s campus today.

Creighton Campus

I’m sure Edward is smiling in his grave at the legacy he started that is thriving today as a world-renowned educational institution.

Anyway, back to the graves.  As a testament to his wealth and prestige, he and his family occupy a good chunk of land at Holy Sepulchre.

Creighton Obelisk

His obelisk is a landmark in the cemetery.

Creighton Family Markers

There are plain markers around the obelisk for various Creighton family members. I found them quite unusual.

Holy Sepulchre is home to many who once led very colorful lives.  Vincent Chiodo was one of them. This is his mausoleum.

Vincent Chiodo Mausoleum

He was Omaha’s first Italian millionaire.  He made his money in real estate and helped build homes for newly-arrived immigrants from his home country, which gained him their unwavering respect and honor. 

Along with all the good works he did, though, his life was full of tragedy and drama.  He was acquitted of murder twice, lost his fortune in the 1929 crash, and endured the death of his beloved son in his home. The death remains a mystery to this day.

Chiodo home

But his mansion still stands.  If you’d like to read more about him, here’s a recent article about him in our Omaha newspaper.  Just click HERE.

Ah, but I’m saving my favorite for last.  Again, thanks to an article in the newspaper, I learned about another famous person who rests at Holy Sepulchre.  She was much less flamboyant than Edward Creighton or Vincent Chiodo, but her legacy endures today in a different way.

I, like millions of other little girls, loved my Barbie dolls.  Charlotte Johnson was born and raised here in Omaha, but moved to Los Angeles where she became a fashion designer and instructor. In the mid-1950s, while working alongside Ruth Handler, who co-owned Mattel with her husband and is credited with conceiving the idea for the Barbie doll, it was Charlotte who designed Barbie herself, along with her glamorous wardrobe that so many little girls dreamed of having for their own.

I thought it was just the COOLEST thing she was in my cemetery!

Sadly, Charlotte never had a daughter of her own to play with the doll she helped create into an international sensation.  She died in Los Angeles, but came back home to Omaha to be buried.

Charlotte Johnson’s Niche

To learn more about Charlotte, click HERE

How about you?  Have you visited any famous graves?  Do you find them fascinating?  Any cool stories to tell?

 

Let’s chat, and you can be eligible to win an ebook of my new contemporary romance, A COWBOY AND A PROMISE (currently on sale for $1.99!)

 

Buy on Amazon

Or visit the Tule Publishing Bookstore for all formats!

 

Cover Reveal Today!!!

I’ve got a fun update today!!!

I’ve got a new cover and a book available for pre-order.

I’m in a series called 

THANKSGIVING BOOKS AND BLESSINGS

One new book a week leading up to Thanksgiving. 

Mine is called Thankful for the Cowboy.

Mine is coming in September.

To pre-order click https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07SYGGW15/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Thankful+for+the+Cowboy+Mary+Connealy&qid=1560390172&s=gateway&sr=8-1%5C%22%3EHERE%3C%2Fa%3E%3C%2Fp%3E&tag=pettpist-20 for the Cowboy

Tom MacKinnon rides up driving a wagon with a second wagon trailing him. He and his sister want to be hired to build windmills. They’ll ask for very little money and, in exchange heroine, Lauren Drummond, newly widowed mother of four nearly grown sons, will help them learn to survive in the Sandhills of Nebraska. What to grow, what to hunt, how to build a sod house.
Tom’s windmills will save her ranch. Lauren needs three windmills on this drought year or her growing herd of cattle is going to die of thirst. She agrees to teach him the ways of the Sandhills, and to give him fifteen head of cattle.
She’s not ready to think of another man. But Tom changes her mind. His little sister and one of her sons find love together before Tom and Lauren do.

Other books in this series are:

Texas Tears by Caryl McAdoo

These Great Gifts by Allison Pittman

Mail Order Misfire by Davalynn Spencer

Blizzards & Blessings by Samantha Bayarr

Spring of Thanksgiving by Liz Tolsma

All now available for preorder!

Happy….Thankgiving? In June?

Why not, then when we do Christmas in July it’ll seem really natural. 🙂

 

 

Updated: June 12, 2019 — 8:52 pm

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