Tag: Kansas

The Smoky Hill River

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I am working on a series of historical western romances for Harlequin that take place in the fictional town of Oak Grove in Logan County in northwest Kansas. The town is situated just north of the Smoky Hill River which has so many interesting stories about it that I wanted to share a few here.

The waters of the Smoky Hill River start in the high plains of eastern Colorado and flow east with many other rivers joining in, until it flows into and forms the Kansas River. From there the water flows into the Missouri River and then on to the Mississippi River.

Kansas MapFor many years, Comanche, Sioux, Kiowa, and Arapaho tribes hunted extensively along the river before being forced out by encroaching settlers. Game was plentiful in the extensive grasslands and fish populated the river.

There are differing stories as to how the river got its name. The Plains Indians, depending on which tribe, called it CHETOLAH OR OKESSE-SEBO. The early English and French explorers called it the RIVER OF THE PADOUCAS. It has since become known as the SMOKY HILL RIVER.

George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938—naturalist, explorer, author, anthologist) said that the name came from a large grove of cottonwood trees along the river on the Kansas/Colorado state line. The trees were very tall and could be seen for miles from the flat grasslands. It is said they looked like a cloud of smoke. The place was a gathering place for many tribes to camp and barter and visit with each other. It was also a burial grounds and a place of refuge for the Indians under Black Kettle of the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864.

James R. Mead’s version differs slightly. He said that the river is named the Smoky Hill because of the buttes along the river, that when seen from afar appear hazy from smoke. James  R. Meade was a trapper and trader in the area during the years of 1850 to 1860.

Logan County,Kansas

The Smoky Hill Trail used by the Native Americans along the river was the shortest, fastest route west across Kansas. In 1858, it was traveled by those heading to the goldfields of Colorado or beyond. The Native Americans did not want to relinquish the rich land and skirmishes with settlers followed. The army set up several forts along the river. A road followed, and then as more settlers came, a railroad. In 1870, the Kansas-Pacific Railway to Denver was completed.

Smoky Hill River

The Smoky Hill River in the area of Logan County where my story takes place is only about three feet deep. Of course, this level changes dramatically depending on the rains and the melting snow. One bit of research I found interesting took place in 1868 when a drought plagued the plains and the river level was quite low. An immense herd of bison—hundreds of thousands of them (enough to cover a thirty-mile area)—came to the river to drink. The first bison were crowded out by the animals that followed, who in turn, were pushed out by those in the rear. It is said they drank the river dry!

I am collaborating with author, Lauri Robinson, in writing the stories of the people of Oak Grove. Laurie has the fortune of having lived in the area for a few years. Since I have never visited Logan County along the Smoky Hill River, I have had to lean on book and internet research of the area for my next three stories. If any of you have been there and have something you would like to add, suggest or correct—please comment! I have a feeling that I will only feel reassured of my information if I get a chance to visit the area myself. A road trip may just be in my future!

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The Bloodiest Trading Post in Kansas

 

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Header for EEBURKE FINAL

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Trading Post, Kansas, near the Marais Des Cygnes River, is about an hour down the highway from where I live. This unincorporated town is reputed to be the longest continuously occupied community in Kansas, established in 1825 as (you guessed it) a trading post with the Osage Indians.

For years I drove by this tiny spot on the map and had no idea of the monumental impact it had on this region and the whole United States.

In 1858, a brutal massacre on “free state” men occurred just a few miles away. John Brown built a cabin close by to protect fellow abolitionists and plotted vengeance on slave owners, which culminated with his raid on Harper’s Ferry Virginia, a year later. From trading post, Kansas Senator Jim Lane and his infamous Jayhawkers launched a retaliatory raid on southern sympathizers in Missouri in 1861.

All this from a little place called Trading Post.door to cabin

I stopped one day and visited the small museum there and found a few interesting artifacts. Here’s the door to the cabin built by John Brown, who vowed to protect “freestate men” in Kansas after the massacre.

Near the museum, a memorial to the massacre victims was erected.

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I also visited the site of the MARAIS DES CYNES MASSACRE, which inspired John Brown to greater violence, spurred Jim Lane to attack Missouri, and arguably lit the spark that started a Civil War.

Did you know?massacre image (1)

Kansas suffered the highest rate of fatal casualties of any Union state, largely because of its great internal divisions over the issue of slavery.

The bloodiest single incident in the Kansas-Missouri border struggles (1854-1861) occurred May 19, 1858, when thirty pro-slavery Missourians seized eleven Kansas ‘Free-State’ men and marched them to a creek bed near Trading Post. The eleven men were lined up execution style and promptly shot, apparently for no other reason than occupying land in a Free State.

The incident shocked the nation and galvanized abolitionists.

A few weeks later, John Brown arrived and built a two-story log “fort” (about 14 x 18 feet), which he occupied with a few men through that summer.  That December he led a raid into Missouri and liberated eleven slaves, killing one white man in the process. Ultimately, he took his fight east to Virginia, where after his ill-fated raid he was captured and hanged.

Later that same year, Kansans rejected a pro-slavery constitution and entered the Union as a “free state” in 1861.

curry print

A Brown follower bought Brown’s property near Trading Post and later, at the site of the fort, built a stone house that still stands there today. The building and grounds are now part of a State Historical Site.
fort site

Visiting this and other historical sites caught up in the bloody conflict, I thought about how the border conflict changed the lives of everyday people for decades to come.

The character of the hero in my upcoming novel, Fugitive Hearts, is shaped by this tragedy, which leads him down a path of vengeance first, and then to the pursuit of justice.

Read more about it here:

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“Sheriff…I just shot my husband.”

Hotel owner Claire Daines is a respected member of the community. Until she shocks the entire town by rushing into a saloon wearing only her nightclothes and confessing to very inebriated lawman.

Is she a killer? Is she crazy? Or is she covering up something worse?

For years, Claire hushed up her husband’s dangerous condition to guard his reputation. When tragedy strikes, she puts her own life at risk when she vows to keep another terrible secret.

Sheriff Frank Garrity must get to the truth, although the tough, hard-drinking lawman hides his own secrets and would rather walk a lonely path than face his demons. But as Frank unravels Claire’s subterfuge and unlocks her heart, he’s torn between his desire to save her and his duty to bring her to justice.

Will he bring her to justice…or into his heart?

“Pure romance and passion that will steal your breath!”

Linda Broday, New York Times Best Selling Author

Coming July 28, 2015

Available for pre-order on Amazon

Other books in the series:

http://www.amazon.com/E.E.-Burke/e/B00EDYK9AU

Today, I’ll be giving away a free eBook in the Steam! Romance and Rails series: A Dangerous Passion. Just comment to enter the drawing.

Linda Hubalek Introduces Brides With Grit

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Linda_HubalekHello from the Kansas prairie! I’m honored to be a guest blogger on Petticoats and Pistols today, because this site features a group of authors I’ve admired for a long time.

 

Today I’m blogging about my new historical romance series, Brides with Grit. Set in the Ellsworth, Kansas area during 1873, the town’s top cattle drive year, these sweet western romances combine sweet clean love stories with cowtown history.

 

I also live close, so it was handy for me to explore the area, and envision the vast herds of cattle that dotted the hills almost a century and a half ago.
Ellsworth-1873One can find a vast amount of information on the internet about the cattle drives which went through Kansas in the 1870’s. Here’s some interesting tidbits, written by F. B Streeter in 1935, for an article in the Kansas Historical Quarterly.
As a means of advertising the new trail and the shipping points on the line, the Kansas Pacific issued a pamphlet and map entitled, Guide Map of the Great Texas Cattle Trail from Red River Crossing to the Old Reliable Kansas Pacific Railway. The writer has located only two editions of this pamphlet: one issued in 1872, the other in 1875. To quote from the 1875 edition:


Drovers are recommended to make Ellis, Russell, Wilson’s, Ellsworth and Brookville the principal points for their cattle for the following reasons: Freedom from petty annoyances of settlers, arising from the cattle trespassing upon cultivated fields, because there is wider range, an abundance of grass and water, increased shipping facilities and extensive yard accommodations. Large and commodious hotels may be found in all these places, and at Ellsworth, especially, the old “Drovers’ cottage,” so popular with the trade for years, will be found renovated and enlarged.

Drovers Cottage-1872

 

Ellsworth became the principal shipping point for Texas cattle on the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1872. The first three droves of longhorns that season arrived in Ellsworth early in June. These droves numbered 1,000 head each. Two weeks later a total of twenty-eight herds, numbering from 1,000 to 6,000 head each, had arrived and many more were on the way. The fresh arrivals contained a total of 58,850 head of longhorns. These, together with over 40,000 head which had wintered in the county, made a total of more than 100,000 head of Texas cattle in Ellsworth county. 


That season 40,161 head were transported from Ellsworth, or one fourth of the total number marketed over the Kansas Pacific…Besides those shipped by rail from Ellsworth, about 50,000 head were driven to California and the territories from that place. In the months of June and July more than 100,000 head of beef and stock cattle changed hands at Ellsworth. Drovers found buyers on their arrival, enabling them to close out at a good price and return to their homes.

 

The prices paid for cattle that season were as follows: $19 to $22 for beeves; $15 to $18 for three-year-olds; $9 to $10 for two-year olds; $12 for cows; and $6 for yearlings.
My first thought on reading this? Wow! That’s a lot of cattle to surround the little town.
My second? Dust, manure and flies…and a good setting for a western romance…
cattle drive

The first three books in the eight book series are available now on Amazon, and more titles will be released during the year. Here’s the titles and taglines for the first five books.

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Rania Ropes a Rancher – Book 1

She can ride, rope, handle livestock and children—and he wants her as his ranch wife. But will danger rip them apart, or rope them together?

Millie Marries a Marshal – Book 2

This mail-order bride arrives to find out her groom has died! So, she moves into the town marshal’s house—and into his heart.

Hilda Hogties a Horseman – Book 3

She bought his homestead out from under him with her horse race winnings…and now he wants it back.

Cora Captures a Cowboy – Book 4

She has just days to convince the cowboy into marrying her, or its back to Boston as another man’s bride.”

Sarah Snares a Soldier – Book 5

She leaves her groom at the altar, because there’s a soldier who has snared her heart. But can she catch him as he marches away?

* * *

Sound interesting? I’ve had fun writing these stories, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading them too—without having to worry about the dust, manure and flies…
What’s your first thought when you hear the words “cattle drive?”

Please leave a comment for a chance to win one of two Kindle copies of Rania Ropes a Rancher.
Many thanks from the Kansas prairie…
where I’m writing love stories for you to enjoy

Linda Hubalek

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Linda_HubalekLinda K. Hubalek lives in Kansas and writes endearing historical fiction and romance stories about the strong pioneer women who homesteaded on the Kansas prairie during the 1800’s.

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