Category: Research

Bested by a Buzz Wagon

I’ve spent many hours the last few weeks combing through digital editions of old newspapers from Pendleton, Oregon.

As I was browsing through the news on one front page, a headline caught my eye.

Buzz Wagon Proves Too Much for Ted

The first thought that popped into my head was “what’s a buzz wagon?” The second was “who’s Ted?”

If, like me, you haven’t been exposed to the early 20th century slang term, a buzz wagon is what some people used to refer to an automobile. (Presumably from the noise emitted from those early vehicles.)

On a lovely June day in 1912, a cowboy named Ted and another cowpuncher brought 300 head of horses to Pendleton to sell.

According to the newspaper, Ted could ride anything that had two ears and a tail, but the “golderned buzz wagon” was too much for the buckaroo to handle.

While they waited around town the evening before they were to set to sell the horses, Ted and his fellow cowpuncher wandered down to the Pendleton Round-Up grounds to see what amusements they might find.

What they found was an automobile left sitting in the arena, unattended, while members of the Elks club tried out teams for an upcoming chariot race (wouldn’t that be fun to see?).

The two cowboys thought the seats of the auto looked inviting, so they slid in to watch the proceedings. After a while, Ted landed on the brilliant idea of taking the auto for a spin. Although he’d never been in an automobile before, let alone drove one, he asked his friend to get out and give the car a crank to start it.

The car started but ol’ cowboy Ted found he couldn’t control the “red devil” as it traveled across the track of the arena. He whipped the wheel one way then the other, touched every button and pulled every lever to no avail. The auto stopped when he bashed into a pole at full speed.

When the owner of the car arrived on the scene, Ted offered to buy the man a new automobile. The owner thought he could have the auto repaired and they settled on $25 payment.

Ted declared he was through with man’s inventions, much preferring a bucking horse than the unpredictability of a “buzz wagon.”

To find out more about the happenings in Pendleton during 1912, be sure to attend the Petticoat Ball on April 12 on Facebook! The fun begins at 10 a.m. (Pacific Time) and runs until 2 p.m. Guest authors, games, giveaways, and details about my latest Pendleton Petticoats book, Quinn, will be shared!

 

Crossword Puzzle Fun Facts

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  I hope you all had a very joyous Christmas and a fun-filled New Year’s celebration.

Last year I took a break from writing western historicals to pen a contemporary short story. It is titled A Crossword Puzzle Christmas and is part of the Christmas Roses anthology.  As the title of the story hints, my heroine is a crossword puzzle enthusiast. Which got me to wondering about the origins of the crossword puzzle itself. So of course I immediately dug in and did some research on the subject and here are a few tidbits I found.

  • Crossword puzzles are a relatively new pastime. The first one was published on 12/21/1913 in the New York World newspaper. The creator of this first puzzle was a journalist by the name of Arthur Wynne who hailed from Liverpool.  You can see a reproduction of his original puzzle below.

  • Arthur came up with the idea for these puzzles when he was trying to think up a new kind of game for the newspaper’s Christmas edition. He adapted it from a popular children’s game called ‘word squares’, transforming it into something more challenging for an adult readership.
  • The original puzzle was well received, so much so that Arthur created new puzzles for the next two Sunday editions. In fact, when the New York World tried to drop the feature, readers complained so strenuously that the owners of the paper decided to make it a permanent part of the puzzle page.
  • Arthur Wynne originally dubbed his puzzle a Word-Cross puzzle. However, several weeks after the puzzles debut, typesetters accidentally transposed the title and printed it as Cross-Word.  For whatever reason, the name stuck.
  • Though readers loved the puzzles, newspaper editors had the opposite reaction. The puzzles were difficult to print and they were prone to typographical errors. It was such a problem that no other newspaper wanted anything to do with them. As a result, for the next decade the only newspaper to carry the popular crossword puzzle was the New York World.

  • Believe it or not, the crossword puzzle was responsible for launching publishing powerhouse Simon & Schuster. Popular lore has it that Richard Simon’s Aunt Wixie wondered aloud to him whether there was a book of these puzzles that she could purchase for her daughter. Simon, who was trying to break into publishing with his friend M. Lincoln Schuester, latched onto the idea as a way to kick start his business. The pair approached the New York World’s crossword puzzle editors and reached an agreement with them. For $25 each, they purchased the rights to publish the best puzzles in a book.  They then sunk all their money into printing The Cross Word Puzzle Book.  By year end they had sold more than 300,000 books and Simon & Schuester had become a major force in the publishing industry.
  • As you can see from the puzzle above, the grid was originally diamond shaped. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the puzzles began to take the block form we’re familiar with today.
  • It was also in the 1920s that crossword puzzles really took off in America. The puzzle craze inspired a Broadway plat titled Games of 1925 and a hit song called Crossword Mama, You Puzzle Me (don’t you just love it!).
  • Despite their 20th century origin, crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread of word games in the world today.

There you have it – a brief history of the Crossword Puzzle.

So which of these tidbits surprise you the most? And how do you feel about crossword puzzles –  do you love them? Hate them? Feel indifferent? Are there other types of puzzles you prefer?

And since this is my first post of the new year, I thought I’d celebrate by doing a giveaway.  Everyone who leaves a comment on today’s post before noon on Tuesday will be entered into a drawing – the winner will have their choice of any book in my backlist

 

 

Updated: January 7, 2018 — 9:56 pm

The Only Female Recipient of the Medal of Honor

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

One of the writer-related questions I get most often is where do my ideas come from. The answer is a bit complex. As a writer, I see stories everywhere – in snippets of conversation, in song lyrics, in throwaway scenes from movies and TV shows and just from everyday life. But story ideas are also very fragile – they can disappear like mist when the sun beats down or like dream fragments once you’re fully awake.

So, whenever I get an idea for a new story, even if it’s just for a character or scene, I’ll set up a document in my Ideas folder to capture it before it gets away. From time to time I’ll go back in and add to one or more of the files, depending on what snags my interest at the time. And eventually one of these ideas will tell me it’s ready to be turned into a full blown book.

All of the above is backdrop to explain that one of these idea files contained a snippet of a story set in the late 19th century with a female doctor in the lead role. Of course a story like this requires a lot of research – questions such as what educational options were available for women and where could these be found, how well received were female doctors, what difficulties would they have faced due to their gender and just in general what medical treatments and a medical practice looked like during that time period.

And as often happens, while I was happily ensconced in researching some of this, I stumbled upon an unexpected and totally intriguing story about a fascinating woman.  Her name was Mary Walker. She was born in 1832, in upstate New York to parents who encouraged all of their children to pursue formal education. Mary took full advantage of her parents’  ideals and at the age of 25 graduated from Syracuse Medical School  with a doctor of medicine degree – she was the only woman in her class.  She then went into private practice and eventually married another physician, Dr. Albert Miller. However, in an action that was typical of her fierce independent spirit, she retained her maiden name. Eventually, she and Miller divorced due to his alleged infidelity.

When the Civil War broke out, Mary wanted to serve in the army as a surgeon, but because she was a woman she was unable to do so. Not willing to give up, she worked for free in a temporary hospital in Washington D.C.   From there she moved on to Virginia, treating the wounded at numerous field hospitals throughout the area.  Finally, in 1863, her medical credentials were acknowledged and she was appointed as a War Department surgeon. A year later she was captured by the Confederate Army and remained their prisoner for about four months.

 

 

In 1865, Dr. Walker became the first woman to ever be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, an acknowledgement for her services during the Civil War.

Mary’s unconventional life extended past her service during the war.  She was an active and vigorous proponent of women’s rights.  She became an author and a lecturer, focusing on issues such as temperance, health care and dress reform.  And putting action to her words, she could often be seen garbed in bloomers or even men’s trousers and  a top hat. Dr. Walker was a member of the Woman’s Suffrage Bureau in Washington D.C. and testified before committees in the US House of Representatives on woman’s suffrage issues.

In 1917 her name, along with 910 others, was stricken from the list of Medal of Honor recipients. The reason given was that none of these had ever officially served in the military. However, despite orders to return her medal, Mary refused and continued to wear it for the remainder of her life. She passed away in 1919 at the age of 86.

But that’s not the end of Dr. Walker’s story.  In 1977, thanks to efforts made by her family who pushed for a Congressional reappraisal of her accomplishments, President Jimmy Carter restored her medal posthumously. She is one of only six people to have this honor restored after it was rescinded. And to date she is still the only female to ever have this medal awarded to her.

So what do you think of this very unorthodox woman? Is there something about her life that particularly intrigued you?  Comment on this post for a chance to win an advance copy of my upcoming December release Once Upon A Texas Christmas.

ONCE UPON A TEXAS CHRISTMAS

Partners for the Holidays 

Abigail Fulton is determined to find independence in Turnabout, Texas—and becoming manager of the local hotel could be the solution. But first, she must work with Seth Reynolds to renovate the property by Christmas—and convince him she’s perfect for the job. If only he hadn’t already promised the position to someone else… 

Ever since his troubled childhood, Seth yearns to prove himself. And this hotel is his best chance. But what does someone like Abigail know about decor and furnishings? Yet the closer the holiday deadline gets, the more he appreciates her abilities and her kindness. His business ambitions require denying Abigail’s dearest wish, but can they put old dreams aside for a greater gift—love and family?

 

 

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Welcome Lena Nelson Dooley

It’s with a great deal of pleasure that we welcome back to the Junction, our week-end guest blogger. Lena Nelson Dooley, who will share with you the story behind the story and her research for A Heart’s Gift!

Love the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. My first trip to Colorado was in October of 2004, and that’s when I fell in love. I taught a retreat at Silverthorne in Summit County, not far from the Continental Divide. I was mesmerized by the beautiful mountains. The weather turned really cold, and a light snowfall dusted the higher slopes that I could see from the windows of the house where the retreat was held.

If the person I was talking to was between me and the wall of windows, I had a hard time keeping my eyes on that person. The mountains kept pulling my attention away. Breathtaking isn’t a strong enough word for what I saw when my eyes wandered. I decided that I wanted to set a book in Summit County. While I was in Summit County the first time, I bought a book about the history of the area.

A Heart’s Gift came out in December of 2016. When I write, I work hard to make the book authentic to the time period, which was 1893. Silverthorne wasn’t even a town at that time, but lots of both silver and gold mines were located in Summit County. Some small and owned by individual miners. Some had been bought by mining companies and were large enterprises. In addition to the book I bought when I was there, I also looked on Amazon for any historical books. There are at least two series of books that contain not only information, but also actual photographs taken in different time periods.

A treasure trove of details is available online and in books. I used a lot of them to recreate the area in 1893. I bought the Images of America book of photos in Summit County. These included photos of Breckenridge, which was a thriving town with mines and cattle ranches close by. I learned a lot about the area, and I was able to actually visualize the town and surrounding area.

Of course, the characters in my novel and the ranch are completely fictitious. Here are a few of the things that are authentic:

  • Capital Bank of Denver
  • Details about a cattle drive
  • Shipping cattle by rail to Swift slaughter house in Chicago
  • The baby furniture, the high chair and the cradle (I found these in a historical Sears catalogue I already had)
  • The Ladies’ Book Club in Breckenridge
  • The Arlington Hotel (but I fictionalized the owner and the special suite for mine owners)
  • The Breckenridge Bakery on Lincoln Street that actually did make cream puffs at that time
  • Vaudeville show – The Face on the Barroom Floor
  • Stamp mills, throbbing beat
  • Ladies spent a lot of money on hats

As a reader, I love when there are authentic details in books. I think most other readers do, too. That’s why I do so much research. I want readers like you to get a real picture of the history of the time when my books take place. I’ve written a lot of western historical novels.

I’d love for us to chat some, so I’m going to ask you some questions to get us started.

Do you as a reader like to know that the historical details are authentic? 

What time period do you prefer reading about? 

Who is your favorite western author?

A Heart’s Gift received the 2017 FHL Reader’s Choice Award for long historicals. I will be giving away one Kindle copy of the book. Even if you don’t own a Kindle, you can download a Free copy of Kindle for Apple (computers), Kindle for PC, Kindle for tablets, or Kindle for Android phones where you can read the book.

 

Buy links:

Print – http://ow.ly/X7HK30fC0IV

Kindle – http://ow.ly/Qyth30fC0Ym

 

Shelley Shepard Gray: The Story Behind The Book

We’re very happy to welcome Shelley Shepard Gray to the corral for a visit. She’s going to give us an interesting overview and the background of her newest book Love Held Captive

 

Every so often, I come across something while doing research that surprises me. Discovering that there was a Confederate Officer POW camp on Johnson Island, in the middle of Lake Erie, was one of those things!

Months before that discovery, I had been making dinner with my husband and told him about my idea for a series. I wanted to focus on a band of brothers who made a vow to be there for each other after the War Between the States. One idea led to another, and by the time we sat down to eat, I had the outline for a three book series.  The leader of this group was Captain Devin Monroe. I knew he was going to be the heart and the soul of this group of men. So well respected, he was almost larger than life. All of that was good. I just couldn’t figure out how the men had formed their bond. I came up with several scenarios, covering everything from being neighbors to meeting during basic training, to forming a bond during specific battles.

Then I discovered the POW camp on Johnson’s Island. During my research, I read one thing that stuck with me-that the best of the Confederacy was being guarded by the worst the Union had. I learned that these officers were carted up to Sandusky, Ohio by train and marched across the ice to Johnson’s Island. Then, these generals and captains and first lieutenants were essentially left to govern themselves. They made gardens, they whittled, and they cared for each other. One group of men even wrote a play. I knew right then and there that I had my men’s bonding experience!

Of course, no matter how much it differed from other encampments, it was still a POW camp. Dozens of men died while being incarcerated and the officers buried them on the island. When the war ended, groups from several southern states raised funds so the men would have tombstones. The cemetery is still there.

Right before I began writing the first book in the series, my husband and I drove up to Sandusky and visited a Veterans Home. A kind gentlemen took us up to the third floor of the museum there and showed us the many artifacts that remained from the camp. Then, after a few wrong turns and more than a couple dead ends, we finally found the Confederate cemetery. The site of it took my breath away.

People ask all the time how much research I feel I need to do for my historicals. For me, the story and the characters always come first…but the experience of actually being where my characters might have walked? Well, for me, it was priceless.

Love Held Captive is the last book in my Lone Star Hero’s Love Story series. It features both Captain Devin Monroe’s and Major Ethan Kelly’s stories. It takes place in San Antonio at the Menger Hotel and on Johnson’s Island. At its heart, it’s a romance about two men and two women who truly deserve their happiness. But it’s also about perseverance and grit. And about surviving, forging friendships, and clinging to hope in even the darkest of circumstances.  I hope you will enjoy the book.

Here’s the link to the website, so you can get a copy in your favorite format.

http://www.shelleyshepardgray.com/love-held-captive/

We are very pleased that Shelley is giving one reader, who leaves a comment,

a boxed set of her series.

Elevators – History and Trivia

Hi all, Winnie Griggs here. In December, my book Once Upon A Texas Christmas will release. The story features a hero and heroine who have been asked to team up (much to the hero’s chagrin) to renovate an old hotel building. One of the things I wanted them to include as part of the renovation was an elevator. And this, of course, led me down a rabbit hole of research into what elevators were like during this period of time. So today I thought I’d share a little bit of what I learned.

First some history:

  • While the concept of lifting heavy objects is older than the pyramids themselves, it was in 236 BC that Archimedes, a Greek mathematician, invented the first elevator that was based on ropes, wrenches and weights. His concepts became the foundation for all elevators going forward.
  • One of my favorite and unexpected bits of elevator trivia – In 1203 the Abby of Mont St Michel installed a treadmill powered hoisting elevator. Most sources say prisoners were employed to man the treadmill. But at least one source noted that monkeys were employed as well. Whether true or not, isn’t it fun to imagine what that would have looked like?
  • It was in 1743 that one of the first elevators designed specifically for human passengers, a counterweight lift, was installed in King Louis XV’s villa at Versailles, France.
  • In 1852, while working in a New York bedstead factory, Elisha Otis saw a problem he needed to fix. Workers there were reluctant to use the hoists that were required to lift the heavy equipment to the upper floors. They were afraid the cable would break and crash to the ground causing serious injury or worse. Elisha rose to the challenge and he designed and created the first elevator safety braking device. It was this invention that revolutionized elevator design and paved the way for commercial passenger elevators.

    Elisha Otis

  • In 1854 Elisha Otis introduced another safety device, an elevator cabin that featured a self-locking door gear, designed to protect occupants from falling out of the elevator. 32 years later inventor Alexander Miles patented an automatic door system for the elevator.
  • Elisha Otis died from diphtheria in 1861, he was only 49. But his two sons took over the company, turning it into an international giant. Over the next several years they installed elevators in such prestigious buildings as the Eiffel Tower, the Washington Monument and the 60 story Woolworth Building which was the world’s tallest building at the time. The Otis Elevator Company is still the world’s largest vertical transportation manufacturer today (it includes escalators as well as elevators).

Trivia and fun facts:

  • There are currently over 700,000 elevators in the US. But as of 2008, Italy holds the record for the country with the most elevators installed – approximately 850,000.
  • Statistically, elevators are the safest way to travel. And they are 20 times safer than escalators.
  • The reason most elevators have mirrors is to make them seem larger in order to help people who suffer from claustrophobia.
  • Music was first introduced in elevators in the 1920s. It was hoped that this would calm folks who might be anxious about riding in elevators for the first time.
  • Betty Oliver was an elevator operator in the Empire State Building who was on duty on July 28, 1945 when a plane crashed into the building. She was injured and when rescuers subsequently tried to lower her the elevator cable broke, plummeting her 75 stories down. Miraculously she survived the fall. She still holds the record for being the longest elevator fall survivor.
  • Over the course of three days, elevators carry the equivalent of the world’s total population.

So there’s a quick overview of some of the info I gathered in my research.  What do you think? Did any of the info surprise you? Do you have any fun stories of your own to share related to elevators?

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for an advanced copy of my December release, Once Upon A Texas Christmas.

ONCE UPON A TEXAS CHRISTMAS

Partners for the Holidays 

Abigail Fulton is determined to find independence in Turnabout, Texas—and becoming manager of the local hotel could be the solution. But first, she must work with Seth Reynolds to renovate the property by Christmas—and convince him she’s perfect for the job. If only he hadn’t already promised the position to someone else…

Ever since his troubled childhood, Seth yearns to prove himself. And this hotel is his best chance. But what does someone like Abigail know about decor and furnishings? Yet the closer the holiday deadline gets, the more he appreciates her abilities and her kindness. His business ambitions require denying Abigail’s dearest wish, but can they put old dreams aside for a greater gift—love and family?

Preorder Link

 

Updated: October 10, 2017 — 2:45 pm

Homesteading on the Prairie

 

Homesteading on the Prairie

By Kathryn Albright
Tales of Courage & Hope

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I have scurried down many rabbit holes in my research so that my books set in western Kansas are historically accurate. Rivers, native fish, agriculture, Native Americans, sod houses, native birds and wildlife, cattle drives and cattle breeding are a handful of these “holes.” The internet is a big help in fact-finding, but my-oh-my do I get lost at times and surface just before it is time to prepare supper for my family!

For my next book in the Oak Grove Series, I’ve had to do some research into homesteading on the prairie.

The early inhabitants of Oak Grove, a fictional town set along the Smoky Hill River, lived in tents made from the canvas of their prairie schooners, but with the Kansas-Pacific Railroad now established all the way to Denver (1878), the small town was growing and wooden structures were springing up as the train brought supplies from the east and wood from the Rocky Mountains. The town prospered with the nearby stockyards that shipped cattle (up from the drives in Texas) to the miners in Colorado and to Chicago.

Railroad land grant Kansas

Homestead Act of 1862

However, some who lived out of town on 160 acres of their own, were farmers who’d come west with nothing but a dream to take advantage of the government’s Homestead Act of 1862. Requirements to own a plot of land by this means included:

  1. Must be at least 21 years of age.
  2. Must be a citizen or an immigrant with the intention of becoming a citizen.
  3. Must pay a filing fee (usually at the Land Office in the nearest town where it was also determined that no one else had claimed that particular parcel of land.)
  4. Must farm the land and live on it for five years before gaining the official deed to the property.
  5. Must build a home within six months. (Requirements in some states included the minimum dimensions of the home, one glass window, and also building a well.)

Homesteading on the Prairie

On the open prairie, it seemed that all weather was extreme. On arriving, many of the “sod busters” began by building a small dugout into the side of hill, just to escape the relentless wind, sun, snow and rain. Since there were no trees or large stones for construction material, the settlers would use their mules, oxen, or horses, and a special plow to cut rectangles of sod, 18” x 24” (weight = 50 pounds) to use as “bricks” for their home. These would be set so that the roots could grow and intermingle into the next row of sod, creating a very strong wall.

The base of a soddie was wide and the walls would then taper inward slightly to allow for settling. Most had a dirt floor, but later a puncheon or plank flooring might be used. On the inside, the walls would be plastered with mud to create a smooth appearance. Open windows were covered with oil cloth. A fireplace for cooking would take up one wall of the house.

The roof caused the most concern in the building process. Wooden poles, laid across the rim of the sod house, were then overlaid with bundles of brush. On top of the brush, more sod blocks were placed. Dirt clods dropping form the roof was a problem as well as other insects and an occasional snake. If the sod became too wet after a hard rain it could cave in. Every few years, depending on the severity of the weather, the roof would have to be replaced. Structures had one to three rooms and were surprisingly very snug and warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Homesteading on the Prairie

With all the difficulties they had to face, the years of too much or too little rain for their crops, less than 50 percent of homesteaders achieved the five-year requirement and acquired the deed to their land. Those who did not, went back home or traveled further west. Although most homesteaders consisted of a husband and wife and often children, a single woman or widow could also homestead and work to own the land. Once source reported that single and widowed women made up to 12 percent of the men and women homesteading in the Rocky Mountain area.

From 1862 to 1900 over 600,000 claims to homestead were filed. The Homestead Act ended in 1976 for the contiguous 48 states and in 1986 for Alaska.

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Learning these facts helped me form the basis of my fictional character’s life on the prairie. I was worried that the land would not be hers after her husband died, but was gratified to know she could hold on to it and it would be there for her son, and her son’s son if he chose that same life. That is why she fights for it so fiercely. The Prairie Doctor’s Bride, a western historical romance, won’t be available for a few more months, but it is available for pre-order here ~ [  Amazon  ]

* * * * * * * * * *

I doubt that I would have lasted six months living in a sod house! The bugs falling from the roof would have been too much for me! What, for you, would have been the most difficult part of life in a soddie?

Comment to be entered into a drawing to receive my latest release ~ Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove!

Homesteading on the Prairie

 

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The Pathfinders – James P Beckwourth


James Beckwourth

Born a slave, freed by his master/father when he was 26 years old. Mighty nice of his father to release his son from slavery, huh? By all accounts though, the father was good to the son, taught him to hunt and fish, found an apprenticeship for him, and was genuinely a father to him.

The year he received his emancipation papers, In 1824, Beckwourth joined up with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and headed with an expedition to explore the Rocky Mountains.

A story told by a trapper, in 1825, told of Beckwourth being born to the Crow Indians then stolen by the Cheyennes. Thus began a life so full of tall tales—many of them told by Beckwourth himself—that it’s long been hard to separate fact from fiction. A truth that applies to almost all mountain men as they often had their legend doctored up by the press and by dime novels celebrating them.

That same year, Beckwourth claimed to be captured by the Crow. Another version of this story is he was mistaken as the kidnapped son of a Crow chief and taken into their tribe.

Beckwourth embraced this lore by dressing as a Crow and he soon married the daughter of a Crow chief. By his own account he had four wives. He remained with the tribe for about ten years and rose to the position of Chief, a very powerful and respected man.

And then he went back east and joined the army and took part in the Seminole War, that lasted about five or six years. Then he went to California, then part of Mexico for a few years until a war broke out and he returned to the United States and went back to work for the Army.

James Beckwourth, Crow Chief

And then the California Gold Rush began. Did Beckwourth go and dig for gold? Nope. He opened a store. It was always said that the store owners were the ones who really got rich most reliably in a gold rush.

During the gold rush years Beckwourth worked as a Store keeper, professional gambler, rancher, hotel keeper, and (YAY!) author

One long winter a judge named Thomas Bonner stayed in a hotel in the town near where Beckwourth was ranching, in a town that became Beckwourth, California. During those cold evenings, Beckwourth told Bonner his life story.

It was published in 1854 as The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth: Mountaineer, Scout and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians. Many believe the book is little more than tall tales but there is a look at those days and Beckwourths adventures in it. And the book helped etch Jame Beckwourth in history. The book is still available for sale today on Amazon and I’ve got a ecopy! $0.99!

A particularly interesting fact about this book…though there were many books about mountain men, this is the only one in existence narrated by the mountain man himself. All the books about Kit Carson and John C Fremont and others were written by others while the men the books were about had no idea the book was even published.

 

 

 

Beckwourth Trail, note Reno as the right. This pass is the current route of California State Highway 70, and a branch of the Union Pacific Railround

 

Also during this time the lifelong adventurer did his most well remembered pathfinding. In 1850, Beckwourth discovered what came to be called Beckwourth Pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountain chain. And this discovery is what brought Beckwourth to my attention and set me to researching him. My upcoming series, High Sierra Sweethearts, takes place along this pass.

Beckwourth didn’t just discover a way through those rugged mountains. In 1851, he improved a Native American trail that began near Pyramid Lake and the Truckee Meadows east of the mountains, climbed to the Beckwourth Pass, went along a ridge between two forks of Feather River, and passed down to the gold fields of northern California. The trail spared the settlers and gold seekers, about 150 miles and several steep grades and dangerous passes—including it bypassed the Donner Pass (whew!). This was about four years after the tragedy of the Donner Party

James Beckwourth died at near age 70, while leading a military party to the Crow Tribe in Montana. A tough, adventurous pathfinder to the end.

He has been immortalized with a Postage Stamp and also makes an appearance, slightly altered, in the TV Miniseries Cenntenial and the movie Revenant includes a fictionalize mountain man in the image of James Beckwourth.

 

Updated: June 14, 2017 — 12:55 pm

Time Enough for Locks

Kathleen Rice Adams: Classic tales of the Old West...that never forget the power of love.

tumbler lock

Rendering of an ancient tumbler-style lock.

For as long as there have been haves and have-nots, the haves have sought ways to secure their valuables. History no longer remembers the inventor of the first lock, but invention of the first key is attributed to Theodore of Samos in the 6th century B.C., which leads to the suspicion locks have been around at least that long. In fact, crude locking mechanisms dating to about 2,000 B.C. have been found in Egyptian ruins.

The first devices resembling what we know today as door locks were discovered in the palace of Persian king Sargon II, who reigned from 722 to 705 B.C. They were large, clumsy devices made of wood. Nevertheless, they served as prototypes for contemporary security devices.

The first all-metal locks, probably made by English craftsmen, appeared between 870 and 900 A.D. in Rome. A row of bars of varying length, called tumblers, dropped into holes drilled through the horizontal bolt securing a door or gate. Only the person who possessed a metal bar fitted with pins corresponding to the tumblers could shove the bars upward through the holes, thus freeing the bolt.

Bodie Bank in Bodie, California, mid-1870s

Bodie [California] Bank’s vault, mid-1870s (photo by Dick Rowan, National Archives and Records Administration)

No great advancements in lock technology occurred until about the 14th century A.D., when locks small enough to carry appeared. Traveling tradesmen used the so-called “convenient locks” to secure their money and other valuables.

Although padlocks were known to the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, the first combination lock didn’t appear until the 18th century. Until 1857, most banks used combination locks of some kind to secure their vaults. The secret to combination locks was to create complex series of letters and numbers that would frustrate anyone who tried to disarm the mechanism. The code for the combination lock securing the safe in the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington D.C., for example, required a lengthy series of letters and numbers that provided 1,073,741,824 possible combinations. Because cracking the code by systematically running through all the possible combinations would require 2,042 years, 324 days, and 1 hour (barring a lucky guess), the lock was considered burglar-proof.

Nye & Ormsby County Bank, Manhattan, Nevada, 1906

Vault among the ruins of the 1906 Nye & Ormsby County Bank in Manhattan, Nevada. The bank crumbled (literally and figuratively), but the vault survived.

Soon enough, enterprising criminals figured out combination locks had an Achilles heel: Robbers could hold a bank employee at gunpoint and demand he or she dial in the correct code.

In 1873, James Sargent invented what he called a theft-proof lock. The device combined a combination lock with a timer that would not allow the safe to be opened until a certain number of hours had passed, even if one knew the combination.

By the late 1870s, theft-proof locks were de rigueur in banks all over the U.S. Though they weren’t quite unbreakable — dynamite trumps almost any security measure — theft-proof locks thwarted more thieves than any previous mechanism.

 

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Welcome Guest – Maggie Brendan!!!

While I was writing Trusting Grace and beginning to develop the character of my heroine’s ailing father, it was as if God himself intruded into the sub-plot development with His own idea and what I was about to type totally changed. You know, it’s been said that a piece of an author finds its way into their writing subconsciously. Either way—in my proposal, I had the ailing father suffering from a stroke, but when I began to write about his symptoms it seemed God had other ideas in mind so I went with it. Who wouldn’t when the creator of the world wrote His love story to us?

The centerpiece of my historical romance story is about learning to trust and about finding love again for my heroine and hero who were both widowed. It speaks to the depth of how their characters faced trials through dependence on God. However, as the sub-plot eked onto the page, I finally acknowledged that I would need to do a little research before I went any further—something I hadn’t intended to do. To give you a little background—for five years my husband has suffered from a chronic and rare disease, CIDP, Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. It was clear God wanted me to make CIDP the heroine’s father’s illness and not merely a stroke. Could that have even been a possibility during this historical time frame of 1866? I laughed. I rather doubted it, but to my complete surprise I found that CIDP had its beginning as Multiple Neuritis discovered by Robert Graces in 1843 when little was known about the disease. I also found that some experts believe Franklin D. Roosevelt may have suffered from CIDP instead of polio. Wow, God! You knew all along. I smiled and went back to writing.

So what only started out with a story of love and loss for the hero and heroine also became a story of a father/daughter relationship battling illness with lovingkindness and the resilience of the caregiver, my heroine, Grace. It’s very true that God gives us more grace than we deserve, but even more so when we are facing huge battles whether it is death, illness, loss of love, job, financial or spiritual crisis. It was no mistake that three years before when I sent this series proposal to my editor, I called my heroine Grace.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed while writing was the research and it’s easy to get lost in it. So for all you historical writers of the West, when a random or crazy plot line you think couldn’t possibly work for your story, dig deeper into your research. Hopefully, you’ll be wildly surprised as I was and can add that to your novel.

If my story of love, hope, trust and restoration can help anyone who is a widow or have a spouse with a chronic illness help lift their spirits and give them insight, then I’ve written what I was supposed to write.

I’m giving away a copy of Trusting Grace-only in the US, please-for those who comment. The winner will be randomly selected by Petticoats and Pistols.

Have you been a caregiver for an ailing family member? What was the biggest challenge, and how did you overcome?

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015