Category: Wild West Research

The Oregon Trail Trading Post with Jennifer Uhlarik!

Hi everyone. Jennifer Uhlarik here. Have you ever thought of what traveling along the Oregon Trail is like? While I am fascinated with the idea of our forefathers traveling months along the path to make a life in the wilds of Oregon or other western places, the thought of being that far from civilization—particularly someplace to replenish supplies—is a frightening one. Keeping it real here: I live 2 miles from the grocery store, and it’s waaaaayyyyyy too easy for me to wait until 5 pm some nights to decide what I’m making for dinner, then rush off to the store for supplies. Our ancestors on the Oregon Trail didn’t have such luxuries! They had to pack enough stores to do life until they reached a trading post or fort to buy more.

So how did these trading posts get their start and what were they like?

As early as the 1500’s, French and English fishermen were sailing to the coast of Newfoundland to fish for cod. It was here that they encountered some local Indian tribes who were anxious to trade for metal goods. In order to obtain the iron pots, pans, knives and tools they coveted, the Indians offered beaver pelts, which they could provide in great quantities. It took the fishermen little time to sell the pelts once they returned home, and people quickly realized that the soft underfur of a beaver pelt made a wonderful felt for hat-making. With a growing demand for beaver pelts, both France and England began to explore North America with the intent to colonize it. Not long after, France began setting up trading posts in Quebec. Of course, England’s Hudson Bay Company moved into the area as well, sending traders and trappers across parts of Canada and the American frontier. Wherever they went, Hudson Bay Company set up trading posts to barter with the native population.

As life on the frontier changed from a focus on the fur trade to a focus on Westward Expansion, many of the old trading posts lived on. The owners of the posts continued to trade with the Indian tribes, but they also became outposts where white travels and settlers could get supplies. These small outposts provided staples like coffee, tea, rice, tins of hardtack biscuits, dried fruit, or canned goods. They also offered tools and utensils, such as cast iron pots, kettles, knives, and axes, saddles, and flint and steel for starting fires. Customers could trade for textiles, such as beaver-felt hats, blankets, bandanas, ribbon, thread, needles, and fabric. Ornamental or decorative supplies were commonly found, anything from silver to beads and beyond. And of course, guns, ammunition, and other shooting supplies were a common item found in these trading posts.

I’m sure you can imagine, life on the frontier could be lonely and supplies might be hard to come by. You had to learn to live with what you had…and make do until you could restock. Often, these trading posts were lifesavers, keeping people from starving or doing without until they reached the next major stop on their journey west. Or they might have prevented settlers from having to make a long trek to the nearest town or city, which might be days or weeks away. They certainly weren’t as convenient as today’s 7-Eleven, but I’m betting they were welcome stopovers to more than a few of our ancestors.

 

It’s your turn: If you had lived in times past, would you have liked to live on the frontier where a trading post might be your nearest source of supplies, or would you have preferred to live in a town or city? I’ll be giving away one paperback copy of The Oregon Trail Romance Collection to one reader who leaves a comment.

 

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 several 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. Follow Jennifer at bit.ly.UhlarikNews

 

The Oregon Trail Romance Collection

Nine romantic adventures take readers along for a ride on the Oregon Trail where daily challenges force travelers to evaluate the things that are most precious to them—including love. Enjoy the trip through a fascinating part of history through the eyes of remarkably strong characters who stop at famous landmarks along the way. Watch as their faith is strengthened and as love is born despite unique circumstances. Discover where the journey ends for each of nine couples.

 

Click HERE to buy

 

Fun Things About the Ol’ West

I love research, particularly about the old west. I could get lost in it and a lot of the times I do. Please don’t get me wrong, I love to write, but if I ever had to make a choice between researching for a book and writing one, I’m not sure but I think I’d go with the research.

I thought it’d be fun to blog about western terminology and some of the things I’ve learned from researching the Old West, particularly since I was born and raised in Texas. Now here’s my first comment … we’ve always used born and raised then when I began writing, I got heavily edited with “you raise corn, you rear children”. Now that’s changed back to born and raised.

Many of the jargon popular back in western times are still used today.

  • Wild-cow milking: When sister Filly Linda Brody, Jodi Thomas, and the late DeWanna Pace and I began to write our anthology Give Me a Cowboy we had already decided that we’d have a 4th of July Rodeo take place in Kasota Springs, Texas, over four days. There were a lot of things that we had to iron out for consistency sake. I had to have a rainy day, so we had to make sure one day it rained. But, the funniest thing that happened was choosing events, so we didn’t duplicate. In the 1800’s there were only a limited number of events to choose from. I love the rodeo, so I had my mind set on bull riding. Linda and Jodi selected their events first … not bull riding, so I knew I had my event in the bag! But one problem, Dee selected hers next and since her brother was a champion bull rider … oh yes, you guessed it, she asked for bull riding. I took a deep breath and the only event left was wild cow milking. So, I smiled and enjoyed learning about this part of a rodeo. In the long run, I probably had more fun writing the scene where my hero and heroine were teamed up for this event and it began to rain. I’m not gonna tell you anything else, but if you haven’t read Give Me a Cowboy I think you’d enjoy what could happen in a wet arena with two people attracted to one another when they are trying to hold down a cow and milk her.  Of interest, the wild cow milking event came into existence because they had to bring calves for roping and of course they couldn’t separate the mama’s and their calf, so thus wild cow milk came about.
  • Chute Rooster: This was another term I learned through research and used for the same story. A chute rooster is a rodeo-wise boy who perched on top of the chutes and knew how everything should be done and didn’t mind telling about it.
  • Doggone: A wild slang expression. Whenever he could think of it, a cowboy used this term around womenfolks. I still use it.
  • Salty Dog: A man who was considered better than anyone else in his line, whether it was shooting, roping, riding, cattle rustling, holding up trains and stagecoaches, or just “plumb ornery”. Dog was also one of the old-time cowboy’s terms for bacon. When it was salty, it was “salty dog”.
  • Dofunny: The cowboy’s expression for a useless object.
  • Bible Two: A term used by Texas Rangers for the list of outlaws published every year by the Adjutant General’s Office. It was said that at one time the Texas Rangers had a list of over 5,000 desperadoes wanted by the law.
  • Hog-tied: I love this one. When a cowboy got “hog-tied” by a female he was no longer a cowboy but a cowman. I think that’s pretty self-explanatory.
  • Vamoose: The cowboy used this word several different ways, but basically it meant “to move on” or “let go”. The word came from the Spanish vamos, which means “we go”. It’s still used today in our neck of the woods.
  • Cross Draw: The act of drawing a pistol with the right hand when it was worn on the left side. The sidearm was carried either in the waistband of the trousers or in a holster with the butt of the gun forward. The gunfighter had to cross his arm over to whip it out. When two guns were worn, both with butts forward, the gunfighter employed a “cross-arm draw” to take them out. This has been used many times in Westerns over the years.
  • Critter: Chiefly a term for a cow, but it could be any animal. We still use it today.
  • Road Brand: This was the light brand placed on cattle sufficient to “last up the trail” to the shipping point when different brands were in the same herd. Once the cattle were sold, the rancher would change to their own brand.
  • Hollow Horn: I found this particularly interesting. It is a disease that puzzled the tenderfoot. Cows’ horns simply dropped off after a freeze. Of course, they were hollow, thus the term hollow horn.
  • Liquored up: Has only been around since the early twenty century, but most everybody knows that it means “drunk”.
  • Larruppin’: One of my favorites. Larruppin’ good means excellent, especially with food.

What old terms do you use in your daily life?  What is your favorite?

To one two lucky readers I will send you an autographed copy of Give Me a Cowboy. If you already have one, I’ll give you an eBook copy of my latest western contemporary romance Out of a Texas Night, which have many of the founders of Kasota Springs, three to five generations later in it.

I wish to give credit to Bruce Grant and his book The Cowboy Encyclopedia because I mixed some of my own terminology with some of his. Thank you.

Updated: October 28, 2019 — 4:17 pm

Krystal M. Anderson presents: The Stage Coach: Icon of the West (and a PAPER BACK GIVE AWAY!)

First of all, I’m so thrilled to be with you today and look forward to making some new friends!
We hear about lots of brave men – and a few women, too – who faced incredible obstacles in settling the American West. This was wilderness untamed, a place where you could never be sure what you’d find… or what would find you. Their stories are the ones I like most, for the events that brought them to their destinations often were so incredibly unlikely, yet true. As the 19th century progressed, people traveled west by wagon, handcart, stagecoach, and train. To me, each of these are symbols of that wild time period, but perhaps none more thrilling than the stagecoach.
Can you imagine traveling in one?
Nine passengers could be crammed inside, twelve more squeezed onto the roof. Belongings were packed on the roof or in the front or rear boot (those leather pouch-looking spaces). It varied, of course, on the type of terrain and road conditions, but a stagecoach averaged 5 mph (8 km/h) and could travel 60-70 miles per 24 hours.
If you wanted to ride a stagecoach from your town to another that was 100 miles away, you would typically ride 24 hours a day in the coach. That’s where you would sleep, too. They had to stop every 10-15 miles to swap out the team of horses at a swing station (ideally, they were galloping that entire distance, weather and trail permitting) and passengers could get out and stretch for a minute. Home Stations were located every 50 miles or so, and that’s where you’d come inside to have a meal.
Riding across the country in a stagecoach was miserable, dusty, bumpy, and cramped. It would be a test in patience and endurance to travel in such a way, in my opinion!

As I researched stage lines and all the fascinating treasure stories involved, I came across very few women.

Charley Parkhurst was a notable stage driver in California and Nevada in the mid-1800s, though no one knew she was a woman until after her death. She wore an eye patch and could spit tobacco and shoot a gun like any man of the west. Her story intrigued me. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to write a female stage driver?”

That’s how The Stage Driver’s Daughter came to be.

Winnifred Morgan, the heroine, spends most of her childhood in the driver’s seat of a stage coach beside her pa, learning all he knew. When he is killed suddenly, Winnie has no one left. So, she forsakes her dress and bonnet for boots and trousers and turns to what she knows: driving a coach, and not through civilized, populated roads – No. Where is the fun in that? She takes on the perilous mining routes in Nevada, and does it better than anyone else, too.

When she begins conveying treasure boxes for Wells Fargo Express, they hire a shotgun guard named Benjamin Sharpe to ride with her. Wouldn’t you know, she fights her growing attraction to him as they face many a highwayman on those dusty, dangerous roads.
But a secret surfaces, something her pa took to his grave, and those who seek it are coming after Winnie… You’ll have to read it to find out what happens when they do!
The Stage Driver’s Daughter is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited here.
To celebrate the book’s release one week ago, I’d love to give a paperback copy away here today.

I’ll pick a random winner from the comments to this post. Tell me your favorite way to travel, and why.

Thanks for having me, and I hope to see some of you on Facebook or my newsletter!

 

 

Amazon

Facebook

Website

 

Updated: October 14, 2019 — 3:56 pm

Tracie Peterson’s Wild West Extravaganza!

As I conclude my Brookstone Brides series with the third book What Comes My Way, it seemed only right that I should offer some insight into the research done for this series. The Brookstone Wild West Extravaganza was a fictional wild west show I created with all-female performers. The show consisted of trick riders, Roman riders, bow and arrow trick riders, and trick shooters and because of this, I needed to know more about each of those things.

To learn more about trick riding in general, I was invited to come to a training camp at the Vold Ranch in Colorado. Karen Vold, (standing with me in the picture right) a former trick rider and rodeo company owner and her right-hand lady Linda Scholtz (also a former trick rider and in the picture below) conduct clinics each year to teach new up and coming trick riders the old art. They are a couple of amazing ladies, and I learned so much in talking with them and watching their instruction. They were always on hand to answer my questions and it turned out that both were strong Christians, as well.

 With the trick shooting, I was able to talk to my husband’s uncle, John Peterson. John’s father was once asked to do performance shooting for one of the major rifle manufacturers. As an avid collector and researcher of old weapons and trick shooting, Uncle John was able to point me in the right direction for research. I was able to lay my hands on a lot of interesting accounts of trick shooting and performances thanks to the help my daughter Julie gave. We made it a family affair and I was even able to do a little shooting.

Throughout my research regarding these performing arts, I was reminded of the long history of each. Roman riding is as it suggests an art that goes back to the Romans and beyond. This is the art of standing on the backs of horses and leading them through a series of tricks or races while managing the team of 2 or 4 and sometimes more horses.

In America, we don’t have to look any further than the American frontier and Native Americas for talented abilities with trick riding. Being able to maneuver with great skill on a moving horse was something the native warriors were known for, and of course, the wild west shows of Buffalo Bill Cody and Pawnee Bill were famous along with numerous other shows for perpetuating these talents.
These shows were developed to bring the wild west into the big cities where people held an absolute fascination for all things frontier. Today’s rodeos take their place for the most part and you can still catch plenty of trick riding at most.

Seeing these great performances and knowing what kind of work went into such shows gave me a much greater appreciation for those who performed and continue to do so…all in order to keep the history of the past alive for folks today. It made the perfect backdrop for my series and I hope my readers will enjoy the tales of Lizzy, Mary, and Ella as they conclude their performances in What Comes My Way.

amazon

 

Have you ever seen or read about trick riders or trick shooting competitions? Leave a comment for a chance to win a set of all three books.

 

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:

 

WEBSITE  |  BLOG  |  FACEBOOK  |  PINTEREST  |  TWITTER

 GOODREADS   |  BookBub  | 

 Please sign up to receive my NEWSLETTER

 

 

 

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