South Pass is a bleak, sagebrush-dotted valley amid the high country of southwestern Wyoming. The place isn’t much to look at but it played a vital role in the history of the Westward migration. Here’s why. South Pass is the lowest point on the Continental Divide between the Central and Southern Rocky Mountains. At an elevation of 7,550 feet, the pass furnishes a natural crossing point of the Rockies and has historically been the route for the Oregon California Trail and Oregon Trail during the 19th century. If you go there now, you can still see the deep ruts where the wagons passed.
South Pass City sprang into existence as a stage and telegraph station on the Oregon Trail during the 1850s. In 1866 gold was discovered in the vicinity, and a year later prospecting began. Prospectors and adventurers quickly arrived. Within a year the community’s population had swelled to about 2,000.
At one time or another, most of the West’s legendary figures would have passed through the place. One of those who arrived in 1869 was Esther Hobart Morris. In 1870 she was the first woman in the U.S. to serve as a Justice of the Peace. A young barmaid who worked there came to be known later as Calamity Jane.
By 1870 most of the gold had played out, and the population of South Pass had dwindled to about 100. With the coming of the Union Pacific Railroad, the area had also lost its importance as a migration route. Over time, South Pass City became a ghost town.
At the end of the 20th century steps were taken to renew the community and turn it into a historic site. As a result the community today consists of two areas: South Pass City, in which a handful of residents live, and South Pass City State Historic Site, which preserves more than 30 historic structures dating from the city’s heyday in the 1860s and 1870s. In 1970, the community was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
So why am I telling you all this? Because my new Western time-travel romance, CHRISTMAS MOON, now available in Amazon in Kindle format, is set in and around South Pass, both past and present. Here’s a summary:
Pregnant, unwed and down on her luck, history teacher Emma Carlyle is facing the worst Christmas of her life. Needing some research for her master’s thesis on legendary Wyoming lawman J.D. McNulty, she makes a Christmas Eve drive to South Pass City, where J.D. was buried. Heading home, she loses her way in a storm. After her car vanishes, she ends up in 1870, half-frozen and in labor, on the doorstep of a remote mountain cabin. When J.D. himself opens the door with a pistol in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other…well, let’s just say that sparks start flying. These two lost souls are clearly meant for each other. But there’s one problem. Emma has studied everything about J.D.–and she knows he has only a few weeks to live.
Elizabeth Lane has penned a sensual time travel romp that will delight the reader from beginning to end.
More about the story next month. Meanwhile, you can find an excerpt and purchase link on my web site, http:// www.elizabethlaneauthor.com .