Pardon Me – What Did That Say?


Right out of the chute, let me say how thrilled I am to be joining Petticoats & Pistols as a new Fillie! I’ve loved this site since the day it opened and now I get to be here among these fabulous western writers on a regular basis.

I love history. That’s no surprise, of course, to anyone who knows me. I not only enjoy writing about the past, but researching those bits and pieces that make the historical story I’m writing realistic, interesting and accurate.

Research comes in many forms. I can spend hours in a library, hunting through books. Or online, looking for one particular fact. But my favorite type of research is the kind I didn’t plan. 

salt-war-markerIn my trips to research a story, I’ve come across some fun facts. Did you know there was a salt war in Texas? Neither did I was researching for this blog. Bonus: I discovered the Texas Historic Sites Atlas while looking for a picture of the marker.

Were you aware there was a Revolutionary War battle in St. Louis, Missouri? That’s right, halfway up the mighty Mississippi. The Battle of Fort San Carlos wastl-arch1s fought when British-led Sioux, Sac, Fox and Winnebago warriors attacked a newly built French entrenchment in May of 1780. That historical fact came from a local newspaper article my mother forwarded.

Ever heard of Crash, Texas? It’s a town that was built for the express purpose of allowing spectators to witness a train crash up close and personal. A fripony-express-statueend sent me that news story.

Then there’s the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race, begun in 1848 and revived in 1977. I found out about it when researching the coach stops along the Santa Fe Trail after visiting the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Do you read the footnotes and attributions at the end of a historical research article? You might take a stroll through the archived blogs right here at Petticoats & Pistols –the Fillies have shared some wonderful research.I love running across obscure information while I’m researching something else. And you can find some of the most interesting—and mostly useless—tidbits in some unlikely places. ebay® is one place that surprised me. I found some cool info on china and crystal and Texas artifacts there while researching my latest release, Touched by Love.

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Now, you’ll have to excuse me. There’s a museum website I just heard someone mention.

What’s the most unusual fact you discovered in the most unlikely place?

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27 thoughts on “Pardon Me – What Did That Say?”

  1. I’ll have to think about that. I love finding all types a interesting bits of information. Will have to think about the most unusual fact and place. be back after work tonight.

  2. Hello Tracy,

    Loved the post. Welcome to the site. No facts here just an admirer of all these posts. Have a great day.

  3. Welcome to the fillies, Tracy! Great blog. In researching my latest book, about the 1906 San Francisco quake and fire, I came across so many interesting tidbits. Here’s a favorite–after the city burned, the safes in the banks were so hot that they couldn’t be opened for days. The president of the Bank of Italy had foreseen this and smuggled a big cart of gold and cash out of the city under a load of oranges. After the fire, his bank was the only one with money to lend. The Bank of Italy prospered and eventually changed its name to…Bank of America.

  4. Hi Tracy, welcome to the site. I love your books. I find interesting facts just reading books. My husband and I love to travel and we have come across a lot of historical mile markers.

  5. I cannot think of anything off the top of my head. But I loved your post, gets you to thinking about all the historical facts you do not know. But that is what I love about reading historicals, especially westerns, you learn some great facts while reading your favourite author. So thanks all of you historical writers for futhering my education.

  6. Good morning!

    Sorry for the delay in getting started – I’m on a writers’ retreat in Arkansas and it’s too beautiful to hurry. lol

    Welcome Patricia and Roberta. You don’t have to have facts. I’m thrilled you took the time to stop by today.

  7. “…smuggled a big cart of gold and cash out of the city under a load of oranges.”

    Elizabeth, what a great piece of info. A lot of those most prosperous in the west would have a similar story, I would think. Right place, right time, and excellent planning.

  8. Judy A., thank you for your kind words! I’m glad you like my stories.

    My dh and I love to travel, too. We haven’t done as much now that we live on a lake, but my research is always a great way to get him out of the house.

  9. Hi Kathleen O.

    I’m with you. I love learning while I’m reading–although I have to remind myself to double check my facts. Since it’s fiction, we authors like to take “literary license.” 🙂

  10. Hi Tracy – a writers retreat sounds lovely! Great post. As for as unusual places to do research, this may sound a bit goulish, but I often find names for my secondary charcters by strolling through old cemetaries. Gives a great feel for the names that were used in past eras.

  11. Winnie, that isn’t ghoulish at all–at least not to me. I love wandering through cemeteries. I’ve gotten character names that way, too, and story ideas come from my overactive imagination making up the details of one of those names.

  12. Good morning, Tracy. This little tidbits of history are like bits of gold when I’m reading. I love where my imagination takes me.

    I watched a show once on the travel channel about the guy who started the company that makes Twenty Mule Team Borax. It was soooooooo cool.

    Everyone was going to…I hope I’m remembering the details right…I think it was the San Francisco gold rush. And this one guy, for some reason, turned aside from the gold and marched forever out into the desert and found this oasis and all this borax.
    He made a fortune. But it was so far out in the desert he could hardly get it to civilization without his horses pulling the wagons, dying of thirst.
    So he started using these twenty mule teams because that spread the weight of the borax and didn’t put such a load on the mules and he could make it from the oasis watering hole to the next water source and still haul a big load.

    I just found that fascinating. Why did he go out there? What germ of genius made this guy recognize that borax could make him a lot of money when the rest of the world was so crazy for gold.

    I think there’s a novel in that. The guy build a mansion at this oasis and it’s stil lthere and it’s a vacation spot now, stunningly beautiful, this huge water-rich oasis in the middle of that awful desert.

    Here, I googled and found this tidbit.

    The saga of the twenty mule team began more than a century ago in the arid deserts of California’s Death Valley. But the same spirit of enterprise, innovation and service that gave rise to the world-famous “Twenty Mules of Death Valley” continues on to this day at Borax facilities worldwide.

  13. Hi Tracy, welcome to the P&P! We are always happy to have new fillies join us here and I am looking forward to your post. Your post today was very fascinating. I would have never thought to look at ebay for history facts. I guess you learn something new everyday. Thanks for sharing your info with us and we are happy to have you here.

  14. It seems I have known this fact forever, I don’t
    know which teacher shared the information with us.
    It may have been Mrs. Forcheimer in the fifth grade. ( Although I think she was still Miss Robertson when she taught me, she married before she taught my sibs. ) The information: Texas is the only state in the Union to have actually been a Republic, a country of its own. Even more interesting, in the negotiations that joined Texas to the United States, Texas retained the right to leave the Union if ever its citizens
    voted to do so! So far, we’re still together!

    Pat Cochran

  15. Hi Tracy, welcome to the Junction. It’s so great being a filly here with you. I too love historical snippets. When I found out about Rocky mountain locusts appearing in the Plains, I had to use grasshoppers in my first book. Someday I’ll use the “hopper dozer” a machine designed to scoop them up 🙂 in a plot.

    Writers retreat in Arkansas…sounds wonderful.

    I look forward to many wonderful posts from you!

  16. Hi Tracy!

    Welcome to the fillies! Great post! I think the most incredible thing I have found in my research was how the Iroquois influenced our Founding Fathers with our own Constitution and the fact that a Constitution and Confederation that freed an entire people and guaranteed them rights and peace was here in America long before the white man stepped foot on this continent. So our ideas of freedom have a base here in America that was unusual in the world at that time.


  17. Hi Tracy,
    Welcome officially to P and P! Great to have your here.

    The facts that come to mind for me, is the research I did in Virginia City, Nevada. I spoke with a woman wo ran a silver jewelry shop about the local prostitutes. She was very forthcoming about the history of the brothels in and around the city. She told me that many of the now-prostitutes are mothers, with husbands and some were on the school council, etc. (I was shocked and still wonder about that)

    It got me so fascinated about the origins of brothels and the whole profession, I wrote two books stemming from that one conversation. One about a young dressmaker, sewing gowns for the prostitutes in Virginia City,(Abducted at the Altar) the other about a minister’s daughter accused of murder, hiding out in a brothel. (The Courting of Widow Shaw)

    It’s amazing what sparks the imagination!

  18. When my uncle died recently, we went to visit his grave and wandered around the cemetery (which I love doing!). His ashes were buried in an old pioneer cemetery near the homestead. We came across a grave with the same last name as my husband, whose family also homesteaded in the area. When I got home, I did a little research and found out the stone we came across was, indeed, a great uncle who died before his father was born, so he’d never heard anything about him. It was interesting to me that these two families had to know each other back at the turn of the 20th century as they both homesteaded in the same “neighborhood.”

  19. Hi Tracy! I almost always read the attributions to a book first, mostly because it’s such fun to see how an author weaves in the history. The details set the stage for me.

    I haven’t used this in a book yet, but one of my history quests concerns the San Francis Dam, located 40 miles north of Los Angeles. It ruptured in 1928 and did terrible damage.

    I’d lived in the area all my life and had never heard of the tragedy until I stumbled on a book about Los Angeles and water. The next weekend, my husband and I took the kids and drove through the canyon where the dam collapsed. We saw the broken concrete upclose. It was amazing.

  20. Hi Mary! I knew about the 20-mule team Borax, but I didn’t realize the mansion was still standing. Wouldn’t that be an interesting research trip?!

    Quilt Lady, thanks for the welcome. I’m excited to be a Filly, let me tell you. The ebay thing was a surprise to me, too. And it reinforced that we should never stop being curious, no matter what we’re doing.

  21. Pat, your teacher was correct. And Texas is still rather proud of the fact that they are a Republic and can break from the Union should the citizens vote to do so.

    Tanya–hopper dozers? Really. Now you know I’ll have to look into that. lol

  22. Karen, I knew that about the Iriquois. We’ve forgotten so much that we’d learned.

    Charlene, I had a similar conversation, except about a women’s mental hospital in St. Joseph, MO. I’m still waiting to write that book!

  23. Luann, that’s cool. Have you found any other family info about that great uncle?

    Vicki, that would make a very exciting setting/action scene for a book. I’ll be waiting to read it. lol

  24. I found it interesting and terrible that the English used Ireland as a source of slaves. Starting with 30,000 sold in 1625, the trade flourished until almost 1800. Between 1641 and 1652, the english killed 500,000 Irish and sold 300,000 into slavery in America and the West Indies. In that decade, Ireland’s population went from 1,500,000 to about 600,000. In the 1700’s, Australia was added to the destination for the white slave trade. The English systematically destroyed a nation’s families and population. Children as young as ten were taken from their families and sold into slavery. The British Empire has a multitude of sins to atone for.

  25. Hi Tracy! Sorry I’m straggling in late!! I couldn’t get online yesterday morning and then it was FAIR TIME–local fair is big biz in a small town *lol*.

    Sending out my heart-felt WELCOME TO THE FILLIES!! I’m so glad you’ve joined us 😀

    Don’t you just love research?! I’m always amazed at all the history that is out there waiting to be rediscovered 😉 One fun thing about being a historical author in a small town is that folks love to share their local history. I have yet to write a western based on my hometown, but there’s sure enough interesting tales and tidbits to write one…someday 😉

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