When you picture a western fort from the nineteenth century, do you envision small, perhaps even dilapidated wooden buildings surrounded by a wooden stockade? I did until I visited Fort Laramie. It was the summer of 2004, only a few months after my husband and I had moved from the East Coast to Cheyenne. We needed a break from the unpacking, picture hanging, and other tasks associated with moving into a new house, so we headed for the Fort Laramie National Historic Site.
It was not what I expected. There was no stockade, the buildings were far from primitive, and the way they flanked the central parade ground made it reminiscent of a New England village, not one of the military forts those old Westerns made popular.
As we entered the Visitor Center, the surprises continued, and I found myself fascinated by the elegant lifestyle the officers and their wives experienced during the last decade of the fort’s existence (the 1880s).Houses were surrounded by picket fences, many yards had flower gardens, and women strolled along the boardwalks carrying parasols. There were even birdbaths. Of course, since this was Wyoming with its famous winds, the birdbaths weren’t the typical basin-on-a-pedestal style that you might expect. Instead, they were circular depressions in the ground. As I said, it was not at all what I had expected, but what I saw started my brain whirling, and I knew this would not be my only visit to the fort.
There’s a lot to see. While many of the buildings have been destroyed, a number have been restored to their former glory to give visitors a sense of what life was like at the fort that was a major landmark on the Oregon Trail. The most famous of those buildings is Old Bedlam, the oldest military structure in Wyoming. Curious about the nickname? It was originally constructed for bachelor officers’ housing, and those officers were a little … shall we say rowdy? Later in its existence, it was used as post headquarters, and only a few years ago it was the site of a wedding. I suspect the guests were better behaved than those bachelor officers of 150 years ago.One of the restored houses is the one where Lt. Col. Andrew Burt and his wife Elizabeth lived during their two tours of duty at the fort. If you’ve never heard of the Burts, their story is told in Indians, Infants and Infantry: Andrew and Elizabeth Burt on the Frontier by Merrill J. Mattes, a book I highly recommend to anyone who wants an authentic view of life at nineteenth century forts. The author used Elizabeth’s Burt’s diaries and letters to create a story filled with fascinating details of real life.
What does all this have to do with my current release? Absolutely nothing. A Stolen Heart is set in a charming town in the Texas Hill Country, not on a military fort. Its hero is a sheriff, not a soldier. Its heroine is a schoolteacher who becomes a confectioner, not a woman dealing with tasteless dried potatoes. But Fort Laramie is such a wonderful place that I couldn’t resist taking this opportunity to tell you more about it. If you visit Wyoming, I hope you’ll consider spending a day at Fort Laramie. It’s well worth the detour.
And now to the highlight of the post: the giveaway. I’m offering a signed copy of either Summer of Promise, which takes place at Fort Laramie during its elegant decade, or my new release, A Stolen Heart, to one commenter.
A stolen Heart
The future she dreamed of is gone. But perhaps a better one awaits . . .
From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners—like her. Lydia won’t let that get her down, though. All will be well when she’s reunited with her fiancé.
But when she discovers he has disappeared—and that he left behind a pregnant wife—Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring?
Bestselling author Amanda Cabot invites you into Texas’s storied past to experience adventure, mystery—and love. She more than thirty novels including the Texas Dreams trilogy, the Westward Winds series, the Texas Crossroad trilogy, and Christmas Roses. A former director of Information Technology, she has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages. Amanda is delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian romances, living happily ever after with her husband in Wyoming.