Category: Wild West Research

Mary Porter, Queen of the Fort Worth Madams

 

In almost every town in the old West lonely cowboys could find entertainment in a red light district. Fort Worth’s seedy part was bigger and a lot rowdier than most. Due to the notoriety, it became known as Hell’s Half Acre and it comprised Tenth to Fifteenth Streets while Houston, Main, and Rusk (now Commerce) crossed. Boarding houses (wink, wink,) gambling parlors, hotels and saloons lined the avenues and it became a hideout for outlaws and violent criminals. The murder rate was high on a nightly basis. But if a woman had enough guts and could stomach the hard life, she could make a good living.

One woman was Mary Porter. She was born in Ireland in 1844 and came to Fort Worth about 1885 where she operated a high-end brothel. She employed four girls: Kittie Wilson, Etta Daniels, Mabel Thomason, and May Keller.

From 1893 to 1897, Mary was arrested 130 times but never spent a night in jail. Her clients were the wealthy and powerful and they made sure they kept her in business. Her fines usually ran around $100 but she viewed that as the price of doing business.

She operated within the laws—didn’t advertise, kept fighting to a minimum, got regular medical checkups for her girls, and kept a clean house. She was well-respected as someone in that business, and her girls sang her praises. Still, depression, suicide, and murder were things they all faced.

In 1887 following the famous shootout between Jim Courtright and Luke Short, a prostitute named Miss Sally was discovered nailed to an outhouse door. The murderer was never caught.

As the years passed, Madame Mary Porter’s fame and coffers grew. But somewhere before the turn of the century, a committee made up of ladies of the Union Bethel Mission and accompanied by two officers paid her a visit. They demanded that she vacate the premises by Monday, that her house was needed for other purposes. If she refused to leave, she would be the subject of a grand jury investigation.

Mary thought long and hard, then told her girls to start packing. She moved out all right—into one just a few doors down. The committee didn’t bother her again. On the 1900 census, she listed her occupation as “boardinghouse keeper.”

She once entertained the Wild Bunch led by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid plus other notable outlaws.

June 10, 1905, Mary suddenly died leaving an estate valued at $20,000 ($500,000 in today’s currency.) They buried her in an unmarked grave in Oakwood Cemetery. Then in 2009, over 100 years of her death, a group of citizens got together and bought her a gravestone engraved with the simple words, “Call me madam.”

I love stories that give colorful accounts of what life must’ve been like before we became “modernized.” I can close my eyes and picture this seedy part of Fort Worth and the rough and tumble daily existence. I wish I knew more of Mary’s story and what led her to prostitution. Maybe she got trapped in it as so many other women were who found themselves alone. Occupations for women were very limited.

Can you imagine how scary it was for a woman alone back then? Especially if she had no one to turn to. What do you think of Mary Porter?

It’s almost time! Longing for a Cowboy Christmas releases on September 24th! Six heartwarming stories sure to put the Christmas spirit in your heart by Leigh Greenwood, Rosanne Bittner, Margaret Brownley, Anna Schmidt, Amy Sandas, and me.

AMAZON B&N  APPLE  |  KOBO

 

Using Real People, Places & Events in Fiction

Thank you to all at the Petticoats & Pistols blog for this opportunity to post as a guest blogger.

Today I am going to highlight how I came up with the plot for my latest novel, Escape from Gold Mountain. It is very simple. Many of the elements of the plot came from actual history.

1863 DeGroot map of Mono County: Esmerelda & Bridgeport

Two shooting affrays in the same Lundy saloon three hours apart leaving four men wounded and waiting on the doctor in Bodie thirty miles away to come up the following morning to help patch them up? You bet.

In past years, I wrote a series based in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in remote and sparely-populated Mono County.

 

 

Lundy in the 1890s

 

For the basis of many of my plots and a few known residents for some of my minor characters (and miner characters), I relied on a book titled Lundy by Alan H. Patera.

 

 

Characters based on real people:

Until almost the end of this series, I skipped over the information under the heading of “Desperados” about a couple of bad men, or roughs, as the unruly, disorderly elements were called at that time and place. Then, one incident in particular caught my eye. It involved a “Chinawoman” and two roughs.

I started researching—and researching. I wrote a spin-off novel that ended up being twice as long as the longest novella in the original series. I set it aside. I contracted for a cover. I researched some more. In a different local history of the area, I discovered the name of this woman—Ling Loi. I also learned more about the two men, “Tex” Wilson and Charley Jardine, who were involved with stealing her off the Lundy to Bodie stagecoach.

Bridgeport Chronicle-Union Nov. 8, 1884

In fact, up until I received my final editing, I spent hours in my local library perusing microfilms of the available Bridgeport Chronicle-Union newspaper for anything I could find on these people.

Bridgeport Chronicle-Union Nov. 8, 1884

This incident is not well known. There are no photographs I could find of these three historical characters. I found no physical descriptions other than local Mono County historian Ella M. Cain calling Ling Loi a “little, painted Chinese girl.” That may have been a euphemism for being a prostitute more than a physical descriptor. I do not believe any of them had children—at least, for the men, none they knew of. However, their story was too good to keep, and I fictionally expanded the tidbits of real history to create my longest and most researched novel to date.

 Singsong girl late 19th century

I did find images of Chinese prostitutes which I included in this post. This can give you an idea of how Ling Loi may had appeared and dressed.

The more I researched about the immigration experience of many of the Chinese women, especially in the 1880s when this story is set, the more I learned how many, if not most, were brought to San Francisco under false pretenses – if not outright abducted in their homeland – in order to be forced into prostitution in the brothels and opium dens of both the China towns of the bigger cities and the small mining communities of the west.

 

Street slave in Chinatown, 1896

Although the tong owners who bought them forced them to sign a contract of indenture, it really was slavery. The contracts were written so a woman could not live long enough to fulfill her financial obligations. Most of these women only escaped when they died from disease, most often syphilis.

At the encouragement of Alexa Kang, a World War Two romance author who is of Cantonese descent and is familiar with Cantonese customs and language, I gave Ling Loi more personality and a more active role in the plot.

Story Settings:

My Mono County settings included Bodie, now a state park.

Historical Bodie, California taken from the old Standard Mine

Until September, 1884, Ling Loi worked as a prostitute in Lundy, now a defunct gold mining town that became a seasonal fishing resort.

Lundy in 2014 with Mt. Scowden in background

 

Several chapters take place in the Masonic Mountains north and east of Bridgeport.

Also, one scene is based on a real incident that happened in Bridgeport at the Mono County Jail.

 

In addition to being fictionalized history, this story can also quality as an alternative history. My hero, Luke McDaniels (as well as a few other characters in the book) are fictional. After all, this is a romance. As much as she must deal with all the bad guys, I wanted to be sure the Ling Loi in my story had a happily-ever-after ending.

Here is an excerpt:

         Luke shook his head in frustration. “I should have known you two were up to no good. Look, I want no part of this, Charley. You said you’d give me what you owe me after we got back here today. Just hand it over. I don’t want to get caught in the middle of this mess.”

         “Ah, but you already are in the middle of it, eh? Don’t worry. It’s but a little change of plans.”

         Luke stepped forward, then assumed a stance with feet spread, and his fists on his hips, close to his weapons. “Where’s my money? I want it now.”

         Charley fished the reticule out of his pants pocket and emptied the contents in his hand. He counted out part of the half eagles and returned them to the reticule. The rest he put in his pocket. After pulling the strings tight, he tossed the bag to Luke.

         Before Luke could pull the purse open, Charley spoke. “There’s twenty dollars in there, Shorty. You want to take it and ride out, then be on your way. You want the full fifty, you’ll have to see this last job through to the end, eh?”

         Luke bit back the bitter threats he felt like hurling Charley’s way. Instead, he glared at the man, taking into account the calculating gleam in the Canadian’s eyes and his hand hovering near his knife.

         Luke’s mind raced as he considered his options. He could take the money and go, even if it meant fighting his way out. He already knew enough short-cuts through the surrounding remote territory to get far away quickly. However, if he left under these circumstances, would Charley end up fingering him for the abduction just as he once threatened to blame him for the cattle rustling?

         Although he gave no indication to the others, an awareness of the Chinese woman seated on one of the log stools not far from him jarred his conscience. He wondered—in addition to being cattle rustlers, thieves, and abductors, were Charley and Tex also murderers? If he left, she had no protection from them. She was not his concern, but he hesitated at the thought of walking away and later discovering the worst had happened to her.

         Luke tossed the reticule back to Charley. “I want all my money.”

I will be giving away a digital copy of the book to one person chosen at random who leaves a response on this blog post. Tell us about your favorite gold or silver mining town and/or your favorite mining town location.

Escape from Gold Mountain will initially be offered on more than one vendor. The release day is scheduled for September 4, 2019. If you are a Nook reader, the book will only be available for Nook purchase for about 12 days before it will be offered digitally exclusively on Amazon and in the Kindle Unlimited program.

 The book will also be offered in print format and continue to be offered for sale as a paperback on both vendors.

Here are the Kindle and Nook pre-order purchase links:

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

About Zina Abbott:

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. A member of Women Writing the West, Western Writers of America, and American Night Writers Association. She currently lives with her husband in California near the “Gateway to Yosemite.” When she is not piecing together novel plots, she pieces together quilt blocks.

 

Connect with Zina Abbott:

 

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Updated: September 4, 2019 — 8:26 am

The Ghosts of Old Tascosa

 

I hope you’re doing some fun things this summer. A few weeks ago, I drove thirty miles from where I live to what used to be only one of three towns in the entire Texas Panhandle. Tascosa used to be a thriving, but very dangerous, town that at its peak boasted 350 people. It was settled in 1876 by an ex-soldier and blacksmith named Henry Kimball and it became the assembling point for the Tascosa/Dodge City Cattle Trail. Surrounded by large ranches, the town quickly became known as the Cowboy Capital of the Plains and was an economic rival of Dodge City, Kansas.

It also became a place where outlaws and bad men outnumbered the law-abiding sort.

Here’s an adobe schoolhouse (built 1911). It’s the oldest one of adobe in Texas.

Due to the town being only thirty -five miles from the New Mexico line, Billy the Kid used to rustle cattle and bring them to Tascosa to sell. He made the trip many times. His campground is still marked today in a shady spot near a creek.

Pat Garrett was another regular to frequent Tascosa that in 1879 had a population of 150 with only 8 English speaking women who were not employed in the considerable brothels and saloons.

Inside of two years, there were twenty-eight deaths caused by shootings and Boot Hill saw much activity. Here’s the picture I took and the restored markers. I think it’s the first Boot Hill cemetery I’ve ever been in.

A post office opened in 1878 and in 1880 the county of Oldham (only the second county in the entire Texas Panhandle) was formed and a stone courthouse was built. That courthouse is still there and they’ve turned it into a museum. Here’s the picture I took during my visit.

Despite the lawlessness, romance was alive and well. A mysterious saloon girl and gambler named Frenchy fell deeply in love with Mickey McCormick who owned one of the saloons. They married and from then on, the two became inseparable. This huge, deformed tree and marker is all that remains of the spot where their adobe house sat.

         

Mickey died in 1912 and Frenchy walked to visit his grave every day—even after the town died and everyone moved away, she remained. She lived alone in the ghost town by herself with no running water or electricity for twenty-seven years, grieving for Mickey. Finally, in poor health and her house falling around her, the woman whose real name they never knew or where she was from let them move her to the nearby town of Channing where she stayed a little over a year before dying in 1941. As per her wishes, they brought her back and laid her to rest next to her beloved Mickey.

Other ghosts reside there also—like Ed King, Frank Valley, Fred Chilton, and Jesse Sheets who were killed in a gunfight in the wee hours of March 20, 1886.

The ghost town was bought by Julian Bivins who turned around and donated it to the Cal Farley Boy’s Ranch in 1939. The town sits on this private land and I believe the thousands of boys(and now girls also) who’ve lived there have purged the voices of the ghosts. I didn’t feel any restless spirits. Although it is on private land, they welcome visitors.

If you’ve read any of my Outlaw Mail Order Brides, you’ve seen the town of Tascosa in the stories. Here’s one segment in Tally Shannon’s point of view from Book 1 – The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride:

Life was full of ups and downs, and this wasn’t the worst that they would face. She’d heard the men talk about a bounty hunter Ridge had seen in Tascosa and the reward poster the man had been showing around. Foreboding told her the worst still lay in front of them.

Have you ever been to or read about a ghost town? I’m curious what you thought. I would love to have seen Tascosa at its peak but I wouldn’t have wanted to live there. Too rough for me!

 

Who Was Calamity Jane?

Jennifer Uhlarik

Hi everyone. I’m celebrating this month! June 1 marked the release of Cameo Courtships, a 4-in-1 novella collection which I am part of. My story in the collection is Taming Petra, and my heroine goes by the name of “Buckskin Pete Hollingsworth.” Buckskin Pete is a buckskin-wearing, gun-toting, tomahawk-throwing tomboy, loosely modeled after Old West icon Calamity Jane.

If you’re like me, you know of Calamity Jane, but only in the most general way. So who was Calamity Jane?

She was born Martha Jane Cannary, on May 1, 1852, the eldest child of a gambler father and a prostitute mother. She had two brothers and three sisters. As the family traveled from Martha Jane’s birthplace in Missouri to Virginia City, Montana, her mother fell ill with pneumonia and died. A year later, her father also succumbed to death, leaving Martha Jane, who was just fourteen years old at the time, to take charge of her five younger siblings and support her family. The six siblings settled in Piedmont, Wyoming, where Martha Jane took whatever jobs she could find—from dishwasher, to waitress, to nurse, to ox-team driver, to sometimes prostitute.

 

As her younger siblings grew up and moved on, it freed Martha Jane to strike out on her own as well. In the 1870s, she is said to have acted as scout for the Army, an Indian fighter, as well as displaying excellent aim as a sharpshooter.

Calamity in a dress

When asked how she came to be called “Calamity,” she told the following story in a short biographical pamphlet. While working with the Army near Goose Creek, Wyoming, they were sent out to subdue an Indian uprising. On the way back to the post, they were ambushed about a mile and a half out. As she charged through the fray, being fired upon, she turned in time to see Captain Egan struck and reeling in his saddle. Jane turned back to help, caught the officer before he fell, and pulled him onto her own horse in front of her. Once safely back at the post and the captain recovering, he jokingly stated that he would dub her Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains, and she proudly wore the name from that point forward.

While the story is an entertaining one, several details call its credibility into question. For one, Calamity Jane was functionally illiterate, so she would have had to dictate such a story to someone else for the pamphlet. It’s possible she did just that. But in the story itself, she claims to have singlehandedly pulled a wounded and reeling man from him horse onto her own and held him in the saddle until they reached the safety of the army post. The likelihood of such feats of strength do cause one to question the story. Another alternative for how she came to be known as Calamity Jane is that she would warn any man who crossed her that he was “courting calamity” by doing so.

She is known to have had a kind and generous side. In Deadwood, S.D., she is rumored to have nursed the sick during an outbreak of smallpox. And she was also known to have helped those in need, providing food she’d hunted herself or given money to those unable to provide for themselves.

Calamity Jane at Wild Bill Hickok’s gravesite

Rumors link Calamity Jane to another well-known Western icon—James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok. Some rumors state they were friends. Others tout the pair were lovers. Calamity Jane herself stated that she and Wild Bill were married in 1873 and had a daughter, who was later adopted by another family. No marriage license has been found to support a legal union between the two characters. Of course, Wild Bill died by a shooter’s bullet in 1876, so any romance that may have existed lasted only briefly.

The later years of Calamity Jane’s life saw her become a hard-drinking alcoholic, often down on her luck, living life mostly alone. For a brief time, she performed with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show as a storyteller and sharpshooter, but otherwise, she drifted from town to town. She died of pneumonia on August 1, 1903, at the age of 51. She and Wild Bill Hickok are buried next to each other in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood.

My heroine, Buckskin Pete Hollingsworth, is loosely based on Calamity Jane—in their shared propensity to wear men’s buckskin trousers, their ability to scout and track, and their soft sides that enabled both to help those in need. Do you enjoy reading fictional characters you know are based on a true person from history, or do you prefer purely fictional characters that are wholly original? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts to be entered in a drawing for an autographed paperback copy of Cameo Courtships.

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers, Women Writing the West, and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children. Check out her website and Facebook page or follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.

 

 

Updated: June 13, 2019 — 8:01 pm

Jack Long Retells How Bob Dalton Shot at Him

In July of 2011, while on our booksigning tour for the anthology Give Me a Texas Outlaw, fellow author Linda Broday and I had the opportunity to not only visit Liberal, Kansas, where we got a lot of insight into their old west and legends, but we also visited the Dalton Gang Hideout at Meade, Kansas.

We visited the former home of Eva Dalton Whipple, sister to the infamous Dalton Gang, as well as Linda being arrested by the town’s sheriff and locked up in an original jail cell of the 1800’s. We were honored to be able to witness a true old west shoot out, as well as travel through the underground tunnel between Mrs. Whipple’s house and the barn below the hill where Frank, Bob and Grat Dalton used to hideout.

But one of the most interesting things I personally discovered was taken from The Journal; The Official City Newspaper of Coffeyville, Kansas, dated Friday,::October 7, 1892. I’m using the exact punctuation original to the article. The account was authored by Jack Long for this edition of The Journal.

It was a beautiful morning Oct. 5, 1892, and Jim Boothby and I were going up town from the Santa Fe depot. We had just got in front of McLeese and Lewark’s livery barn when Jesse Morgan came around the corner of Eighth and Union shaking his umbrella and shouting, “They’re robbing the banks.”

Boothby and I walked on to the First National Bank, where I leaned against a railing in front of the plate glass window and looked across the street at the Condon bank. Boothby peeked in the First National bank door. Emmett Dalton saw him and hollered, “Get in here you SOB.”

In a moment, Emmett Dalton punched his gun against the window and said, “Get away from here, son before you get hurt”. I stooped down, looked under the curtain and saw four men inside, J.B. Brewster, Abe Knotts, Jim Boothby, and another man I didn’t know, standing with their hands in the air.

I took Dalton at his word and stepped over in front of Rammel Brothers drug store. George Cubine came up and stood beside me, holding a short Winchester. About that time, the Daltons started out of the bank. George shot, and they turned around and went out the back door of the bank. I walked to the back of the drug store and stood on a platform to watch them. They saw me but didn’t shoot because I had no gun.

They went on to the alley, where Lucius Baldwin was standing by the corner of a barn with a pistol in his hand. I heard Bob Dalton tell him two or three times. “Boy, throw that gun down—I don’t want to hurt you.” But Baldwin stood there like he was froze, and Bob shot him.

The Daltons rode north then to Eighth street, and I ran back through the drug store. Cubine was still in front with his short rifle. I told him, “George, they’re coming this way.” Just then a shot rang out, and Bob Dalton hit a shotgun in the hands of Charles Gump. Gump ran in the Isham hardware store.

By that time, the Daltons had reached Union street. Cubine was standing on my left with the rifle when Bob shot him. He fell on the sidewalk in front of me. Just after he fell, Charles J. Brown, an old shoemaker ran up and picked up Cubine’s gun. He no more than straightened up when Bob shot him. He fell across Cubine.

This seemed like a hot spot, so I stepped back in the drug store. Bob’s rifle cracked again, but the bullet hit the door behind me. The bullet hole is still in the door.

Thomas G. Ayers, cashier of the First National Bank, came running into Isham’s store to get a gun. He came to the north door of the store and was looking through a horse collar that was hanging there for a sign. Bob saw his face peering through the collar and shoot him through the jaw.

I could see the Condon bank, and everybody was shooting at it. While the shooting was going on, Jack Broadwell, one of the Dalton gang, came out of the bank. He walked back and forth in front of the bank for a while, looking in all directions. Broadwell was sure a wild looking human, and I heard he was just as wild as he looked.

After things quieted down a little, I went across the street, where I met Frank Skinner and Pat Boswell. We were the first men on the street. We stumbled over a sack, which Pat kicked and said, “They even brought their horse feed with them.”

Then along came H W. Read, president of the bank, to pick up the sack of what Pat, Frank, and I thought was feed. The sack contained $90,000. Read picked it up and took it back to the bank.

I knew Bob and Emmett. After Emmett got out of jail, I met him in Bartlesville on the day he was married. I asked him why Bob shot at me, and he said Bob thought I picked up the gun and stepped in the store.”

I could have continued to research the Dalton Gang and mixed fact with fiction to come up with a story, but nothing could be any better than a firsthand account of a piece of history. I deliberately used the spelling and punctuation of the era.

As hard as I tried, I was unable to find out anything on the original writer, Jack Long, but the editor wrote, “The following account of the Dalton raid as remembered by Jack Long, was written by Long especially for this edition of The Journal. Therefore, full credit for the newspaper account is given to Mr. Long.

As quoted from the newspaper … DALTON! The Robber Gang Meet Their Waterloo in Coffeyville.

Where is the most interesting historical place you have every visited?

To one lucky reader who leaves a comment, I will send you a copy of Give Me a Texas Outlaw signed by all four authors.

Updated: May 28, 2019 — 5:59 pm

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

The Music of Spurs by Linda Broday

I’m happy to kick off this Bustles and Spurs week. I just love writing everything about cowboys but especially the little visual details that can add so much to a story. The smooth way they walk. The way they talk—from the hard edge they add to their voice when they have to—to the quiet, gentle words reserved for their lady, kids, and animals. Then there are the sounds—the slap of leather chaps against their legs, their boot heels striking a wooden boardwalk.

Most of all, the clink of their spurs. Oh man! I love that music.

I began thinking about spurs and here are some facts that you might find interesting.

* The earliest spurs found go back to Julius Caesar and his Roman soldiers. Who knew?

* The type of metal used in those early spurs once indicated rank. Gold or gilded spurs were reserved for knights or royalty. Hence the expression, “earn your spurs.”

* The part of the spur that makes noise is the rowel that spins when the cowboy walks. The rowel is also the part he uses to make the horse do what he wants.

* The ornate Spanish influence is still evident today.

* Spurs from the second to about the fifteenth century were buried with their owners which is why few remain today.

* Any knight who failed to remove his spurs inside a church had them confiscated and had to pay a fine to get them back.

* The U.S. Cavalry uniform required boots and spurs and they were also worn during the Civil War. These were made of brass, slightly curved, with a small rowel, black straps, and a brass buckle.

* Today, artisan spurs are big business and depending on what they’re decorated with can be quite expensive. I recently saw a pair online selling for $925. Can you imagine?

* Sometimes cowboys attach jinglebobs to their spurs for even more noise.

I have a new book coming April 30 – SAVING THE MAIL ORDER BRIDE – #2 of Outlaw Mail Order Brides series. Jack Bowdre has been arrested and on his way to jail in a stagecoach the marshal flags down. The only other passenger is Lenora Kane who’s on her way to marry a man sight unseen. When the coach wrecks, Jack finds himself handcuffed to Lenora and they’re running for their lives, afoot, with nothing but the clothes on their backs and five days to safety. This has danger, suspense, humor, and romance and available for preorder.

AMAZON  |  B&N  |  iTUNES

Leave a comment mentioning some detail about a cowboy that really adds to what you love about him. Maybe it’s a bead of sweat trickling down his neck or the way he tips his hat to the ladies. Something small that gives you that tingle. You know the one. I’m giving away a western movie called Forsaken starring Kiefer and Donald Sutherland. It’s really good. I’m also giving a $10 Amazon gift card to another winner. Drawing will be Saturday.

 

 

A Quick History of the Pony Express

I lived in rural Nevada for thirty years and because my husband and I were originally geologists, we spent a lot of time beating around the state before settling down. The northern and middle part of Nevada can be either blazing hot or bone numbing cold, depending on the season—as near as I could tell, there were two: summer and winter, with three or four days of spring and fall between them. But don’t get me wrong, I love Nevada and its outback, and have so much respect for the early citizens—those that stayed and those that were there to do a job. The riders of the Pony Express were there to do a job. I’ve experienced the country that they crossed, and these guys were amazing.

So how did the Pony Express come about?

Ruby Valley Nevada station. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In brief, Senator William Gwin of California wanted a faster mail service between the eastern part of the country and California. He conferred with the operators of Overland Stage Line of Leavenworth, Kansas, which ran a stage between the Missouri River and Salt Lake City, asking them to develop a mail system. Reluctantly, due to the costs, the owners of the stage line agreed and began developing the Pony Express. On April 3, 1860, less than two months after promising the senator to develop a faster mail system, the first express was ready to run between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento.

In those two months, the organizers found 80 riders and 500 horses, and stations were built along the route through Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. The riders received $25 per week, two revolvers, a rifle, a bowie knife and a bible. The ponies were sturdy stock, many of them carrying California mustang blood.

The mail was carried in a leather mochila with four locked boxes sewn to it to carry the mail. The mochila fit over the saddle horn, and when the rider arrived at the station, he threw the mochila to the next rider, who would then be on his way. The Pony Express carried mail 2,000 miles in 10 days.

The Pony Express lasted only 18 months, but even in that short amount of time, it left an indelible mark on the history of the county and the region. Finances were part of the reason for the demise of the express. Mail carried by the express cost the sender between $1 to $5 dollars per ounce, but despite the high prices, the Pony Express failed financially, as its organizers had feared. Congress offered no financial subsidies to help the express, despite the fact that it helped keep California in the Union.

Ultimately, however, it was technology that ended the Pony Express. When the transcontinental telegraph system was completed on October 24, 1861, there was no more need for the Pony Express. Four days later, the Pony Express officially ended.

 

Old Spanish Mines by Kristy McCaffrey and a Give Away!

We are thrilled to welcome guest author Kristy McCaffrey to the Junction today.  Kristy will be giving away a copy of her new book Rosemary to one lucky commenter!

Long before the westward expansion of the United States, the Spanish were present. Markings on a canyon wall in central Utah consisting of a cross symbol bear the date ‘1667’. Hieroglyphics and pictographs originally thought to be placed by Native Americans are actually markers along the Spanish Trail, which led from Mexico to the Uinta Mountains (in Utah) and beyond. This trail was the main link between Mexican and Spanish outposts, and it’s posited that they were religious outposts. The Spanish presence lasted well into the 1800’s, when packs of Mexicans were reportedly leaving the Uinta Mountains laden with gold.

Until the 1800’s, the tales of the Spanish gold mines were the subject of Native American history, with few white men knowing of the mines. The Spaniards used the Native Americans as slave labor, and after many years of oppression it’s believed that they revolted and killed most of their Spanish captors. Supposedly the Native Americans returned the gold bullion to the earth and sealed it in the very mines from which it had come.

Thomas Rhoades, a close assistant to Mormon Church leader Brigham Young, was one of the first white men to fully understand the implications of the Spanish mines. Young had become a religious mentor to a Ute Indian named Chief Walkara, who spoke of a secret cache of gold in the Uinta Mountains. The chief agreed to give the gold to the church, and Rhoades was selected to transport it to Salt Lake City.

Unfortunately, the Indians refused to remove the gold, believing it to be cursed. But it was easy for Rhoades to transport since it was already mined and left in bullion form. His first trip was said to have lasted two weeks, yielding more than sixty pounds of pure gold. For several years, Rhoades continued to transfer gold until, in 1887, he discovered additional mines located off Indian ground. This spurred interest in the lost Spanish gold mines, since it appeared there wasn’t just one mine to be found but many.

Prospector With Donkey

 

 

Searching for the mines could be deadly. In the early years, stories circulated of prospectors being shot and killed, often by Native

Americans protecting the sacred mines. Even as recently as 1990 there have been reports of modern-day prospectors being fired upon as a warning by Native Americans who protect the land near historic mining operations.

 

Old-timers in the Uinta Mountains have claimed there are seven mines lined with pure gold that supplied the Aztecs, serving as the basis for the seven golden cities of Cibola sought by early Spanish explorers.

In ROSEMARY, Book 11 of the Widows of Wildcat Ridge Series, Rosemary goes in search of the fabled Floriana mine in the wilderness of the Utah Territory in 1884. While The Floriana is a fictitious mine, I based it on tales of the time.

Rosemary Brennan is recovering from the loss of her husband five months prior in a devastating mine accident that took the lives of nearly all the men in Wildcat Ridge. The mine owner, Mortimer Crane, has given the widows an ultimatum—find husbands or he will evict them from their homes and businesses. Desperate to keep the assay office that her deceased husband had managed, she heads into the hills in search of an old Spanish mine called The Floriana in the hope she can lay claim to a bonanza of gold.

 

Ex-U.S. Deputy Marshal Miles McGinty arrives in Wildcat Ridge to pay his respects to Jack Brennan’s widow. He and Jack had a history, and Miles is heartsick over the loss of the young man he had come to think of as a brother. When he learns of Rosemary’s problems with the piggish Crane, he will do anything to help her—even offering marriage. But when it becomes clear that Crane knew of Jack’s criminal past and was blackmailing him over it, Miles must decide whether to tell Rosemary the truth, because doing so may drive her away. And to his surprise, Miles has fallen in love with his new wife.

A sweet romance set in 1884 Utah Territory.

Available at One commenter will win a digital copy of Rosemary!

 

Kristy McCaffrey writes historical western romances brimming with grit and emotion, along with contemporary adventure stories packed with smoldering romance and spine-tingling suspense. Her work is filled with compelling heroes, determined heroines, and her trademark mysticism. Kristy holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering, but writing has been her passion since she was very young. Her four children are nearly grown and gone, so she and her husband frequently pursue their love of travel to the far corners of the world. Kristy believes life should be lived with curiosity, compassion, and gratitude, and one should never be far from the enthusiasm of a dog. An Arizona native, she resides in the desert north of Phoenix. To learn more about her work, visit her website.

 

(Photos courtesy of Deposit Photos)

 

Fudging Facts to Name a State

I’m a native Idahoan now living in Montana. Basically, I moved next door, after a thirty-year stint in Nevada (also next door). I love all three states and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite.

Nevada Territory 1860

The origin of Nevada’s name is straight forward—Nevada means ‘snow-covered’ and referred to the many mountain ranges in Nevada, particularly the Sierra Nevada, which often have snow year round. The origin of Idaho and Montana’s names, however, is not so straight forward. In fact, those origins involved deception.

When I learned Idaho history in the fourth grade, we were taught that the name Idaho came from the Shoshone term Ee-da-how, which means ‘sun comes up in the mountains’. Not so.

In the early 1860’s Congress was considering making a new territory in the Rocky Mountain area, which would eventually become Colorado. A (fraudulently elected) lobbyist named George M. Willing suggested the name Idaho, saying it was a Shoshone term meaning ‘gem of the mountains’ or ‘sun comes up from the mountains’. He’d made the whole thing up. Congress figured it out before the territory was named, and that territory became Colorado Territory.

Colorado Territory

By that time, however, the name Idaho was in common usage. A steam ship on the Columbia River was named Idaho, and when gold was discovered on the Clearwater river in the 1860s, the area was called the Idaho diggings. A few years later, when Washington Territory was broken into two sections, the new section was named Idaho Territory.

Idaho Territory 1863

 

The origin of Montana’s name also involved a touch of deception. Montana was part of Idaho Territory until 1864, when a former congressman named Sidney Edgerton brought samples of gold to Washington and suggested the creation of a new territory. The Union needed gold, so congress set to work. Ohio congressman James Ashley suggested the name Montana for the new territory, explaining that ‘montana’ was the Spanish word for mountainous, which perfectly described the area. There was one small problem—there was nothing Spanish about the area, which bordered Canada. Other names were suggested–Shoshone, Jefferson and Douglas. Senator Charles Sumner wanted an Indian name for the territory. One of the original Montana settlers, George Stuart, suggested Tay-a-be-shock-up, which is Snake for ‘the country of the mountains’.  Some unknown person, however, convinced congress that the name Montana was not so much Spanish as it was Latin. Congress could accept a Latin name and Montana Territory was blessed with a name that could be easily pronounced.