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:
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 www.alisonhenderson.com. Thanks so much for letting me visit today and share my inspiration with you.