Alison Henderson: Trouble on the Border

Those of us who love American history are acutely aware of the devastation the Civil War brought to the Southern states, but we don’t always remember the effects of the conflict on the Border States, where slaveholders rubbed shoulders with abolitionists and bloodshed often ensued.

I grew up in Kansas City on the border of Missouri (a “slave” state) and Kansas (a “free” state), and reminders of the conflict still remained in many neighboring towns when I was a child. One of my father’s law partners owned a farm in Lane, Kansas, with a small house that had once been a stop on the Underground Railroad. I was always fascinated by how little the building had changed during the hundred-plus years since the last slaves passed through on their way to freedom. Whenever we visited, I half-expected to run face-to-face into John Brown. For me, a trip to that farm was like a step back in time.

The small town of Weston, on the Missouri side of the state line north of Kansas City, is the setting for my new historical, Harvest of Dreams. Weston represented the other side of the conflict. Around 1840, farmers from Kentucky settled the area and founded the town, bringing with them their heritage of tobacco farms and slaves. The Southern influence was so strong the county later became known as “Little Dixie.” During the war, Union and Confederate troops took turns commandeering supplies from the citizenry until there was nothing left to take. By the time the war ended, the local economy was in tatters and freed slaves accounted for a significant portion of the population.

The setting was ripe for rootless men to form outlaw bands and take what they wanted by force. Some of those men had pillaged the area during the war under the command of guerrilla leaders such as the infamous Silas Gordon and William Quantrill–among them Frank and Jesse James. The James brothers were local boys, born in Clay County. They were credited with the first daylight armed bank robbery in peacetime in U.S. history—the robbery of the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, MO, on Feb. 13, 1866, and continued to plague citizens and lawmen alike until Jesse’s death in 1882 at the age of 34.

The drama and conflict of this time and place made it the perfect backdrop for my first novel, Harvest of Dreams, released yesterday by The Wild Rose Press. Here’s a little bit about the story:

Alone on her farm in the middle of a blizzard, young widow Lisa McAllister labors to give birth to her first child. Help arrives in the strong hands of a stranger wearing a six-gun. Lisa has no reason to trust this man who makes a living by violence, even if he is on the right side of the law. Men and their guns have already claimed the lives of her father, brother, and husband, and she’s determined to protect her son at any cost.Jared Tanner, a security agent for the stagecoach, has been on his own since he was twelve. Against his better judgment, his feelings of protectiveness toward Lisa and her baby turn to something deeper, and he is tempted by the possibility of a family of his own. Can their tender new love survive when an act of ultimate violence threatens to tear them apart?I loved researching this book. As I walked the old brick streets of Weston and gazed at the numerous antebellum buildings still standing, I saw the town through the eyes of my heroine in 1866.

What local historic landmarks inspire your imagination? Please share your comments, and one lucky winner will receive a copy of Harvest of Dreams. I also invite you to visit me on the web at Thanks so much for letting me visit today and share my inspiration with you.

Alison Henderson

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32 thoughts on “Alison Henderson: Trouble on the Border”

  1. I’m a fellow Henderson from Missouri although I’m in the Southwest corner. Battle fields always make me stop and think about what’s happened there. Some years ago we went to Pea Ridge Arkansas and it’s hard to walk around there and not think of the loss of human life.

  2. Welcome Alison, what a lovely post,its so interesting to here from people from different parts of the country,you made it sound like I was just right there,cant wait to read the book!

  3. It is wonderful living in an area rich with history. I grew up in the northeast corner of NY, rich in history from the French and Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Forrt Ticonderoga was and is a favorite. We now live ib NE Tennessee in the state’s oldest town and it is the Revolutionary War and the Civil War that are the focus. The Davey Crockett Birthplace is just a few miles from our house. When we travel, it is always the historic sites we focus on.

  4. Hi Alison!
    thanks for coming by and sharing!
    your book sounds really interesting–thanks for giving us a shot at winning a copy!
    i can’t think of a historical place right off the top of my mind…but i do love daydreaming about my very own home built in 1870 and what life was like here then.
    to know well over 100yrs ago someone could have sat right where i am now
    though not typing on a computer 🙂

  5. Hi Alison,
    What an interesting post! I’m from Minnesota, so the Civil War seems far removed from us Northerners. But my brother lives in Virginia where they are apparently still fighting the Civil War (“the war of Northern Aggression”). So interesting to hear about those towns caught in-between.
    A local landmark in my area is the Kelly Farm. It’s amazing to think of what those people went through to settle the land and then live off it.
    Good luck with your book. It sounds great!

  6. Good Morning Linda, Vickie,Patricia and Tabitha! Thanks for stopping by so bright and early. It’s wonderful to hear from other history buffs. I think sometimes we get so captivated by foreign settings we miss the history all around us.

  7. Alison!!!! It’s so GREAT to see you here. Yee-haw! Just seeing your picture sweeps away the years and brings back memories.

    Everyone, Alison and I go back so many years I can’t even remember how many. She was in one of my early critique groups and is so darn smart and dedicated, I never had any doubt she’d get herself published one day.

    Excellent post. Growing up in western Nebraska, I’d found Buffalo Bill Cody’s ranch was a big boost to my imagination. The grounds are beautiful, and the ranch has a huge horse barn that was a tribute to Cody’s skill and talents for his Wild West Show. I always marveled how someone so famous would’ve lived right outside the town where I was growing up.

    Beautiful cover for your book, Alison. Wishing you much success, and thanks so much for visiting us in the Junction this weekend!

  8. Your book sounds great! Would love to read it. The thing that has inspired me about the wars is my father-in-laws research of burial sites. He has found some really old sites that have a lot of history and have them recorded in a book he put together. Now my daughter in Texas has begun to look at old sites as well.

  9. Congratulations on your release, Alison!! This book sounds awesome! I can’t wait to read it.

    I can’t think of any one historical site that inspires my writing, but I do love to read about what it was like so many years ago.

    Have a great day.

  10. Enjoyed reading the comments. I grew up on the Santa Fe Trail in southern Colorado. My grandfather’s ranch was about 20 miles from the Old Bent’s Fort. I heard a lot of stories aout that duing my early years.
    I now live in Arizona where there are a lot of inspirations from the Apache Trail to the Navajo Nation, and old Tombstone.

  11. Stacy and Tami, Thanks so much for your support!

    Pam, I’m soooo glad you stopped by. It hasn’t been THAT long (what’s 15 years between friends?). Everyone, Pam is the one who taught be about point of view, for which I and my editor are eternally grateful.

    Patsy and Joye, I’m delighted to hear from other history lovers. Thanks for visiting.

  12. I enjoyed this fascinating post. Where I live there are many historic towns and sights which I find interesting. All of the Pueblos are wonderful to visit and there captivating sights.

  13. Alison, welcome to the Junction! We all hope you enjoy it and come back again and again. I love the cover of your book. The soft colors and amazing graphics make it stand out. Plus, the blurb is a sure draw. I’ll be putting it on my list.

    The small town of Lincoln, New Mexico is one of the places that stir my imagination. The Lincoln County Wars happened there and it’s also Billy the Kid’s stomping grounds. I can close my eyes and imagine what it was like during that time. A lot of the buildings are the original ones. The town has such an atmosphere about it.

    Wishing you lots of success!

  14. Hi Alison,
    What a wonderful post. Even though I’ve not so far been “led” to write a historical novel, I love history. You mentioned Jesse James and we live 12 miles from Northfield, MN where they claim The Defeat of Jesse James. (He got away after a bank robbery in town but half his gang was decimated.) I love things like that–but it’s hardly important in the scheme of slave history and human rights issues. I can’t wait to read your book, it sounds wonderful!

    Congratulations on the release and here’s to hundreds of sales!!

  15. Hi Alison, best wishes with the new release. Terrific cover and excerpt. I had a fictional cousin of Jesse James as my first books’s hero. I love MIssouri history…had ancestors there. That piece of Underground Railroad must have been wonderful to see. Good to see you in Wildflower Junction today!

  16. Congrats on your release! I am not a writer, but when looking at places, sometimes I do wonder what things were like many years ago…

  17. It’s great to hear from so many friends today at the Junction. I’ve really been looking forward to this – much more fun than starting the bittersweet task of cleaning up my garden for the year. Thanks to everyone.

  18. I love reading about history and about places I have visited so this sounds like a book I would truly love!

  19. Hi Allison,

    Your book has a beautiful cover. I love reading about history but my favorite is anything Native American. I hope to read some of your work. I write Native American mystery/romance.

    Walk in harmony,

  20. Your book sounds great! Local things around here that inspired my imagination would be the Perryville Battelfields and also a Shaker Villege near by. I am not a writer but I can imagin some of the things that went on in these places many years ago!

  21. Congrats on the release, Alison — my first time travel book was a Jesse James book, too (set in Northfield, MN). I have a love for historical fiction as well, although lately I’ve been writing contemporary mysteries.

    Enjoy your release and have fun writing more!

  22. I’m a Yankee from up North (PA) with lots of battleground sites such as Fort Pitt and Fort Ligonier. But I enjoy hearing about both sides of the Civil War. Actually I like anything historical and your book sounds wonderful.

  23. Hi Alison,
    I enjoyed reading your post and your book sounds like one I would enjoy reading.
    I live in Cheyenne, WY and all I have to do is walk down the sidewalk, downtown, and just imagine how it was in the 1800’s. We have The Plains Hotel from 1911(The Inter-Ocean Hotel in the 1800’s), The Atlas Theatre, The Hynds building where Tom Horn was held, put on trial and then hung. About an hour and forty-five minutes away is Fort Laramie. I feel so forunate to have history all around me.

  24. Hi Alison,
    Wonderful blog.Being an Aussie I am not quite up with all the places mentioned, but I do write historicals and love history. Jesse James and his gang, have a very similar history to our most famous bushranger (outlaw) Ned Kelly.

    Absolutely beautiful cover, one of the best I have seen, and that is saying something. Loved the excerpt too.



  25. Thanks so much, everyone! I love the cover, too. It’s probably a bit of a throwback-not edgy at all-but SO beautiful.

    And Margaret, how lovely to hear from you all the way from Australia! Our countries were both shaped by the concept of the frontier and have so much in common.

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