Immigrants in the Wild West~Vickie McDonough



When I think of the Old West, my first thoughts are of cowboys, gunfighters and Indians. Pioneers, comes next, and then carving out a life in the wilderness. But one thing that rarely comes to mind is immigrants, but the truth is, the majority of our American towns were settled by immigrants. Being of Irish descent, I’ve had several Irish heroines in my stories and even had one book set in Ireland.


Developing a character from a foreign country takes a lot of research, and for a writer, research is crucial, especially if you’re writing historicals. It’s difficult to get a grasp on the terrain and customs of a location that you haven’t visited, although with the help of the Internet, researching such things is much easier these days. One of the unexpected perks I’ve found to being a writer is getting to take research trips. No, I haven’t been to Ireland – yet, but so far, I’ve visited North Dakota; Fredericksburg, Texas; and most recently; Savannah, GA, and Charleston, SC. But the Fredericksburg trip is what I want to talk a little about today.


round_church1Fredericksburg is a quaint town located in the Texas Hill Country. It was settled by a group of 120 German colonists, and even today, you’ll see the German influence. Probably the most interesting sight is the round German church. The Vereins-Kirche, as it is called, has served as a church, school, fortress, and meeting hall. The structure, also called “The Coffee Mill Church” because of its unique shape, forms an octagon, with sides 18 feet long and high. A copula was built atop the eight-sided roof. A weathercock was placed on the tip, but in 1862 lightening knocked it down and a cross replaced it.


The Fredericksburg colonists planted corn, built storehouses to protect their provisions and trade goods, and prepared for the arrival of more immigrant trains. Within two years Fredericksburg had grown into a thriving town of almost 1,000, and today has over 11,000 residents. This charming town has many sights worth seeing and many delightful places to shop and dine. There is also somewhere around 100 bed and breakfasts in the area, many
of which are housed in homes built in the 1800s and filled with antique white-brick-housefurnishings.
I encourage you to visit if you get a chance.


Before I move on to talk about the reason I visited Fredericksburg, I want to tell you about something else unique to the area. The picture on the right is of a Sunday House. These small houses were usually owned by a rancher or farmer who lived a ways from town. His family would travel to town on Saturday morning for shopping or to sell their wares, maybe attend a dance or gathering on Saturday eve and stay overnight for church events on Sunday.


sunday_house-smSunday Houses were small, usually having only two rooms. Although some, like the one on the left, had 1½ stories. A gabled roof formed an attic, which was usually reached from an outside stairway, (Note the stairs on the far left) that served as the children’s sleeping quarters. The ground floor usually had a single room with a lean-to kitchen behind and a slant-roofed porch. There was no running water or bathroom or bathing facilities. How’s that for a nice vacation home?



In The Anonymous Bride, the first book in my Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, which debuts next April, I have a Sunday House. It’s the residence the town has provided for
their marshal. I just loved those little houses and had to use one in a story.


 The Anonymous Bride is the tale of a town marshal who suddenly has three mail-order brides come to town, each expecting to marry him. The only thing is—he didn’t order a bride.


wild_west_christmas_-_image1I have two new releases to tell you about. Wild West Christmas is set in the Texas Hill Country and is the reason I visited Fredericksburg. This is a novella collection written by four different authors, but the stories are tied together. Wild West Christmas is about the spunky Ames sisters, who live on a ranch with their pa. Since they have no brothers, the sisters help run the ranch. Each gal has a special talent like shooting, tracking or roping. My heroine is Sarah, and her specialty is training horses. She hates being inside doing womanly things. My hero is a half Mexican/half Scottish horse trainer who Sarah’s pa hires to take her place. Needless to say, Sarah is fuming. When cattle go missing, she wonders if the new man is responsible. Has he stolen their cattle, along with her heart? And yes, before I get a bunch of letters, I know that it rarely snows in the Texas Hill Country, but the snow does create a neat effect on the cover. J


Lastly, I’d like to mention another Christmas book called A Blue and blueandgraychristams1Gray Christmas. Surrender yourself to the forces of love in four engaging Civil War Christmas romances. Join up with Leah Woods as she searches for her missing fiancé in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Stick to your guns with Arabella Lambert as she pledges her allegiance to pacifist Barry Birch, a man labeled a coward. Ride out the storm with Rachel Thornton as she resists her attraction to the wounded artist James Galloway. Saddle up with Confederate-born Hannah McIntosh as she falls for Chris Haley, an embittered Union soldier. Can these couples forge an everlasting union in the tide of civil war?

Have you read or written about a fascinating immigrant? Or have you stumbled across something interesting while researching your book? Leave a comment about it, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win your choice of Wild West Christmas or A Blue and Gray Christmas.


I’m putting together an email mailing list to announce the release of The Anonymous Bride. If you’d like to be on the list and receive my occasional newsletters, please contact me at  


Thanks so much for allowing me to be a guest again of Petticoats and Pistols. As always, I’ve enjoyed it.

Vickie’s Website

Her Colorado Man is in Stores Now!

9780373295715HER COLORADO MAN
Cheryl St.John
Harlequin Historical
Dec 2009
ISBN: 9780373295715
When eighteen-year-old Mariah found herself pregnant and unmarried in her small Colorado town, she disappeared. One year later, she returned with a baby—though minus the “husband” who had conveniently ventured off to Alaska’s gold fields to seek his fortune….
But now, with handsome adventurer Wes Burrows turning up and claiming to be the husband she had invented, Mariah’s lies become flesh and blood—and her wildest dreams a reality!
Check your local bookstore, Walmart, Kmart or order from amazon

Giving Thanks to All of You!

thanksgivingAnd the winners from Charlene’s Farewell Giving Thanks blog are:


Brenda Mazur –  The Christmas Book Bag filled with books


Melinda E – Alan Jackson’s Honky Tonk Christmas CD


Quilt Lady – Toby Keith’s Christmas to Christmas CD


Pop me an email at and send me your snail mail address.  I’ll be sending your prizes off soon!

Happy Thanksgiving All


And Happy Trails to You – Until We Meet Again!



Giving Thanks to Friends and Fillies … by Charlene Sands

untitled-me-again-cheers-for-wrtrsAccording to Wikipedia, Thanksgiving is a harvest festival and a time to give thanks and express gratitude in general. The holiday is celebrated in Canada and the United States and while it originated due to religion, it is now primarily considered a secular holiday.


While some say that the earliest Thanksgiving celebration happened in 1565 in Saint Augustine, Florida, the Thanksgiving holiday that we all have come to know has been associated with the site of the Plymouth Plantation in 1621. In Canada, the celebration occurs on the second Monday in October and in the U.S., on the fourth Thursday of November. 


As legend has it, the Thanksgiving celebration was a way for the Pilgrims to give thanks to the Indians who taught them how to grow corn, catch fish and survive brutal winters.  It was also a time to thank God for the bounty of the harvest. 


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s a warm and cozy day where families come together to share a bountiful meal and to give thanks for all the good things in their lives.  


So today, I’m giving thanks to all of you who have come by visit me at Petticoats and Pistols through the years.  I’ll be leaving this site as a regular blogger, but I’ll be back from time to time to guest blog and fill in for our wonderful writers here. I will dearly miss every single one of you and your insights and thoughts. fh0000051


I’ve posted some favorite pictures where the Fillies at Wildflower Junction have come together for conventions and just plain old fun.  These are fond memories that will stay with me forever.  Love you, Fillies!


Note the Fillies at the San Francisco Literacy Signing, the five of us, Pat, Stacey, Pam, Kate and myself.  And then there was the High Tea we attended with our editors (around the wagon wheel).  There’s a picture of Cheryl and I (Cher in yellow, me in white) at our Dallas convention and then there’s my dear friend Tanya with hubby Tim, me with my hero, Don before the Brooks and Dunn concert.   BTW as you read this Tanya and I will have gone to the Tim McGraw concert last night. We are both huge country music fans. Go figure!


I hope you all keep reading and writing and supporting westerns!  Don’t forget to enter our Cowboy Under the Christmas Tree Contest too!








Happy Trails and Happy Reading !






 And as a parting gift I’ll be picking 3 names randomly from today’s comments to receive either a Toby Keith or Alan Jackson CD of Christmas songs and to one lucky winner, a beautiful Christmas Tote filled with signed books from me and other fabulous authors.  Check back later in the day to see who’ll win the prizes …


Giving Thanks for All of You!



Vickie McDonough is Coming Around the Bend!

anonymous_brideHello all you little darlings,

The Fillies are busy dusting and spiffing up the joint for Miss Vickie McDonough. She’ll arrive Saturday.

Miss Vickie plans to talk about the old town of Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country. If the reasons for immigrants building a Sunday house spark your curiosity, be sure to head on over here. Miss Vickie will shed some light on the practice.

And while Miss Vickie is here, she’ll fill us in on her brand spanking new book called THE ANONYMOUS BRIDE. Looks like a humdinger!

Plus, Miss Vickie comes toting prizes. Two to be exact.

So light a fire under your get-along. Come sit a spell and get your name in the pot.

We’ll save you a seat!

Cheryl St.John: The Perfect Cup of Tea

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. ” ~C.S. Lewis

cheryl_stjohn_logo.jpgI’m not an expert on types of teas. I just love tea and everything related, like china cups, chintz pots and pretty sugar bowls. We always associate it with the English, but tea originated in China over 5,000 years ago. The Chinese were aware of the health benefits we’re only beginning to recognize today. Later, Buddhist priests carried tea seeds to Japan. The first European to personally encounter tea and write about it was a Portuguese Jesuit Father in1560. The Portuguese developed a trade route by which they shipped their tea to Lisbon, and then Dutch ships transported it to France, Holland, and the Baltic countries. As far back as the 1600s tea was tremendously popular in France.

The first Queen Elizabeth granted permission for the British East India Company to begin trade routes and ports, which later led from spices to tea, cotton and other commodities. Coffee tea and chocolate were exotic beverages, which caused a revolution in drinking habits.

tea_table_Before tea, beer or ale was the preferred morning drink. At first valued for their curative powers, they were soon counted among the necessities of daily life, and the utensils used in their preparation and service became essential as well. The practice of tea drinking arrived in colonial America with colonists from both England and the Netherlands and was established by the mid-seventeenth century, evidenced by the number of tea wares recorded in household inventories. The earliest of these were undoubtedly imported from abroad, but American silversmiths began producing teapots by the start of the eighteenth century.

In the 1760s, the British imposed that pesky tax on tea, and colonists took to smuggling tea or drinking herbal infusions. Outraged merchants, shippers, and colonists staged demonstrations, culminating in the famous Boston Tea Party. Paul Revere’s ride and the first shots fired at Lexington were but a year and a half away.
tea-party-sandwichesPolitical hostilities were eventually resolved, and Americans once again enjoyed tea time. Moreau de Saint-Méry, a foreign visitor to Philadelphia in the 1790s, noted the warmth and hospitality of these events. “The whole family is united at tea, to which friends, acquaintances, and even strangers are invited.”

Queen Elizabeth II continues a tradition started by Queen Victoria in 1860 and opens the palace gardens once a year to host three afternoon tea parties, each attended by 8,000 people! I’m all for an afternoon tea party, but I usually plan something a little less grand.

In the late 1880’s in both America and England, fine hotels introduced tea rooms and tea courts. Served in the late afternoon, Victorian ladies and their gentlemen friends met for tea and conversation. These tea services became the hallmark of the elegance of the hotel, such as the tea services at the Ritz in Boston and the Plaza in New York.

teacups_In 1904 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, trade exhibitors from around the world brought their products. A tea plantation owner named Richard Blechynden had planned to give away free samples of hot tea to fair visitors, but a heat wave hit. No one was interested. To save his investment of time and travel, he dumped a load of ice into the brewed tea and served the first iced tea.

Four years later, tea merchant Thomas Sullivan of New York developed bagged tea quite by accident as well. He wrapped samples and delivered them to restaurants for their consideration. The restaurants brewed the samples in the bags to avoid the mess of tea leaves, an a marketing opportunity was born. I must agree I much prefer bags over loose tea, too.

tea-partyIt’s difficult to get a good cup of tea while traveling or eating out, because restaurants serve you a cup of hot water and a teabag. Pooh. Real tea is brewed in a pot. True aficionados will even quibble over the type of pot and the blend of leaves.

How to make the perfect pot of tea:

Unless your tap water has a lot of chlorine, use tap rather than filtered water. Tea adheres to the minerals in tap water for a better flavor.

Make sure your teapot is clean and run HOT water in it and put the lid on so the pot is heated. A tea cozy is a good investment, but several insulated hot pads will do in a pinch.

I use an electric kettle to heat water, but for years I used a stovetop kettle or a heavy saucepan. Bring the water to boiling. (Unless you’re steeping green tea. With green tea, you want to extract the nectar, not cook the leaves.)

hall_crocus_large_8_cup_medallion_tea_pot_and_lidThe rule of thumb is one tea bag per cup of tea or person. You can estimate by measuring how many cups your teapot holds. I buy family size tea bags and I prefer Luzianne brand. To one family size bag I add one or two flavored bags, such as India Spice Chai, Bengal Spice or Apple Cinnamon, depending on how much flavor or spice I want.

When water is hot, pour standing water out of your teapot, place the teabags in and pour the hot water over. Place the lid on your pot and cover with the cozy or insulated pot holders to keep the heat in while the tea is steeping. This process is known as the “agony of the tea” and is quite beautiful to watch if you’ve ever seen it through a glass pot. Let stand for about 4 minutes.

When you pour your first cup, enjoy the aromatic scent. Sweeten if you like or add lemon or milk (not cream). There’s nothing like a steaming cup of fresh hot tea.

stjohn.jpgI drink three or four pots a day, summer and winter, and I much prefer it over coffee. Scones are my treat of choice when I host a tea party, but biscotti or a cookie will do. If you want to hold a tea party, simply pick up a few pretty cups and a tablecloth at your local thrift store. Set a vase of flowers on the table and enjoy the company of your friends.



We Can Make That Work




Have you ever imagined what it must have been like to pack up your most prized possessions and head off to start a new life in a place you’ve only heard or read about? I’m not sure I would have had the nerve to climb into a wagon, turn west and snap the reins, confident that over some distant hill, their version of a new life waited.

old-villageI just returned from a lovely vacation in Hawaii, where I spent some time learning about the history of the islands’ inhabitants and wondering about those who discovered and settled these lush piles of volcanic rock.

Just imagine it – they loaded canoes, tackled thousands of miles on the open ocean, finally found a safe harbor to land, climbed to the highest point and looked out over rolling hills of rich black—lava?

Since the earliest settlers came from the Polynesian Islands to the south, they left their beautiful, lush homeland, rich with all kinds of vegetation, and landed on a serierock-ffitis of rocks that had less than 1000 native plant species. Still, they adapted, survived and flourished.

That ability to adapt is what, in my mind, makes those who settled the Hawaiian Islands much like those who settled the old West. For instance, on Hawaii, the big island, the teenagers have adapted. Because the lava is too rough and porous for spray paint, they use small water-smoothed white rocks to get their message across.

donkey-crossingEven the animals have adapted (behind that sign, for as far as you can see, is lava and salt grass).

Whether in the old West, or the islands, the settlers took what they found in their new location and used it to make a home–a life. This resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze and humble me. I guess that’s why I write westerns.

Aloha, y’all.

Be sure to tweet us ~

Kate Bridges Asks: What Would You Have Been in 1850?

katebridgessmallerwebphoto.jpgHello, friends! It’s been a while since I’ve visited and I’m glad to be back to catch up with everyone.

One of the things that excites me about writing historicals is researching the occupations from way back when. Some of the jobs sound so adventurous.

In Wyoming Territory, women got the right to vote earlier than in most other places. In 1869, in fact. When the Territory debated whether to join the Union, the other states asked Wyoming to drop the right for women to vote as a precondition for joining. The men of Wyoming refused, and in 1890, Wyoming became the 44th state of the Union anyway. Hooray for those dashing Wyoming men! As a result of getting the right to vote, women of Wyoming got to serve on juries, be judges, lawyers, court bailiffs, and all sorts of fascinating occupations much sooner than their Eastern counterparts.

gunsOne of my earlier books involved a female gunsmith (THE SURGEON, 2003). That was fun to research. I discovered that not everyone in the Wild West could afford to own an expensive Smith & Wesson or Colt Revolver. Everyday guns (why does that sound odd?) were made by the local clockmaker because he owned some of the same intricate tools needed, and had an eye for detail. In my story, the heroine grew up with a father who held that occupation, and she and her brother picked up the trades. She tries to stick to clockmaking and shuns the weapons, but her expertise is needed in the climax of the book when she has to help the hero deliver several guns custom made (by her) to the villain, with her brother’s life in the balance.

Thinking about livelihoods is what sparked the idea for my current book, ALASKAN RENEGADE.


The heroine is Victoria Windhaven, a nurse stuck in the middle of nowhere who has to do more than what’s required of her since no doctors are around to help. Victoria sets off on a dangerous medical journey through the Alaskan wilderness and needs a bodyguard to protect her. Unfortunately, he’s a man from her past – Brant MacQuaid. Several years ago in St. Louis, he left her sister standing at the altar and Victoria has never forgiven him.

Brant is the son of a governor who has shunned his father’s political footsteps to become a bounty hunter. His family has disowned him for it – but he was traumatized by the murder of his best friend and figures this is his chance to bring criminals to justice in his way. Accompanying them on the trip is an inexperienced and scared young medical student who has a crush on Victoria and complicates everything – also provides some comic relief. The medical student is being pushed to become a doctor by his father, but is trying to decide if that’s who he really wants to be in life. The villain himself is in dire need of medical help for his own injured father, and it becomes a tense showdown for the three travelers to decide if they’re going to help the villain or do him in….and in the meantime battle who they’ve become in their young lives, and the occupations they’ve set out for themselves. And, of course, the wilderness is a very romantic backdrop for the love story!

Here’s a photo of the place I set the story. Isn’t it beautiful?


If you were living in those times, what would you have been?

A judge? A traveling photographer? Candy maker? Railroad worker? Tinsmith? Bootmaker? Explorer? Mapmaker? Casket-measurer (I just threw that one in for fun.) Inventor of fancy notions? Printing press owner? Bar-keep? Saloon girl? Dancer? Restaurant owner? Deputy Marshal? Tailor? Gold miner?

firetruck  clock plants

If I couldn’t choose writing, I would have liked to have been an apothecary. There would have been lots of research and thinking involved, plus I’d get to run my own business and help people in need. And I’d love to work with all those pretty bottles. Being a judge would’ve been interesting, too, although I’m not sure I could control my temper. I’d be like a Judge Judy giving all the criminals lectures. “Did your mama raise you to play with guns? Take your hands off your holsters and stand up straight when you’re talking to me!”

For anyone who leaves a comment or question today, you’ll get your name put into a drawing for a free autographed copy of ALASKAN RENEGADE.

To read an excerpt visit