Cheryl St.John: Fanny Wright Led the Way for Equal Rights

Frances Wright grew up as an orphaned Scottish heiress, but instead of leading a life of luxury, she indulged herself in a lifetime of learning. Her prominent calls for reform paved the way for women into the next century.

A Greek scholar as a girl, she wrote and published plays. She and her younger sister Camilla came to America in 1818 to see one of those plays.

After observing her surroundings while traveling, she wrote Views of Society and Manners in America. The book, ahead of its time, was widely read in Europe and established the author’s reputation as a savant.

During her travels, she met former presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The tour gave her a first glimpse at slavery, after which she threw herself into abolitionism and wrote another book. Besides her efforts through the written word, she bought 640 acres of wilderness near Memphis and created a place where slaves could learn skills and adapt to freedom.

Fanny continued writing and lecturing, and in the late 1820s she took a position on equal property rights and equal educational opportunities for women. Ahead of her time, she promoted fair divorce laws and accessible birth control.

Public speaking was an activity reserved for men, and Fanny took sharp criticism. Scandalous gossip was directed at her, preachers denounced her, and the press characterized her as “a female monster whom all decent people ought to avoid.” Tall and imposing, she was eloquent and her speeches effective.

Her signature look was an all-white suit or dress, and she carried a copy of The Declaration of Independence, often referring to it. In 1829 she founded the Workingmen’s Association in New York City and in the 1830s was a supporter of the Jacksonian democracy. In 1831 she married.

After having two children, she wrote a book in 1838 calling for world government. She divorced in 1852, perhaps utilizing those divorce laws she’d fought so hard for, and died a few months later after falling on the ice.

Fanny Wright will live on in history as the first female public speaker and a fierce advocate for women’s rights.

I admire strong women. Meredith Abbot in my October Christmas novella is just that. Daughter of a railroad tycoon, the only thing expected of her is to marry well. She’s doing her best, but a snowstorm and a sexy U.S. Marshal derail her plans. When outlaws ambush their Pullman, Jonah Cavanaugh discovers Meredith is no shrinking violet.

I’d love to send an advance copy to someone who comments today!

Another Cross on a Hill…

During our recent vacation to Lake Tahoe, hubby and I took a DUKW tour of the Lake…both on land and in water. You see, “duck” vehicles are the refurbished amphibious vehicles used on D-Day now used as tourist transport on major waterways.

Interestingly, the acronym isn’t any military jargon at all. “D” indicates a vehicle designed in 1942. “U” means utility, “K” indicates all-wheel drive, and “W” stands for two powered rear axles.  Since we’ve already taken road/water rides around Boston and into the Charles River, and throughout the hills of San Francisco with a drive straight into the bay, we couldn’t wait.

Well, Lake Tahoe fascinates just about everybody, from Ponderosa fans to skiers, hikers, boaters, photographers, residents and tourists of all ages. It’s one of my favorite places on earth. But the first folks to love this place were the Washoe Indians.

The tribe lent its term “tahlah-act” meaning “great mountain” to the tallest peak at the lake, today’s Mt. Tallac at 9,735 feet. Some say the pronunciation is “tayak.”

The Washoe considered the mountain to be sacred, and their legends live on today. Particularly about the cross.


The cross on Mt. Tallac’s northeastern face is visible when the snow begins to melt in the spring. Well, it was a warm summer day when we saw it, but the mountains were still clumped with snow. Folks skied at the surrounding resorts on the Fourth of July. That’s because the winter just past was Tahoe’s fourth-snowiest on record.

The minute I saw the cross on August 9, I knew I needed to post here about it. But the subject mirrors the topic of my filly sister Winnie Griggs’s post of August 22. I didn’t want her to think I was “biting off her” (This was a term my kids always used when one of them copied the other LOL). Should I wait and post my cross blog later on? Then I realized: it’s sacred, marvelous, symbolic, magnificent to know that there are two such hallowed crosses in the West. I decided not to postpone this post.

So. When you check out the cross, it’s actually a “couloir” or series of deep gorges just to the left of the summit.

Many legends abound about the cross. One Washoe belief held that if all the snow melted away, the world would end. Others forecast a season of drought. Still another said the cross disappearing meant the lake would dry up. The tale our DUCK guide shared was if the cross melted, Tahoe would experience a record winter of snow. And was he ever right! After the “cross” melted last year, the winter of 2010-2011 saw 643 inches of  snow. Annual expectation is 300-500. The deepest June snowpack on record was this year’s 71.25 inches on the 13th.

As a tribute to Mt. Tallac and the cross, the opening sequence of the seventh through eleventh and final season of the classic Western TV show Bonanza was filmed from the north section of Nevada Beach (across the lake on the east shore) so that Mount Tallac and its snow cross appeared prominently in the background. As the Ponderosa map burned, you could see the Cartwright men riding up to the cameras with the mountain and cross in the back ground.
This beautiful site draws you in no matter where you are in the area. The next day after the DUCK tour, we rode the Heavenly Valley ski gondola and saw Tallac’s breathtaking beauty from the observation deck at an elevation of 9,123. The 360 degree views, of the Lake, the mountains, Desolation Wilderness and Carson Valley are beyond breathtaking.

Has anybody else seen Mt. Tallac and the snow cross?





Idella Smyer: An Uncommon Woman


For every famous or well-known person in the Old West you can find a hundred who were just as tough and resilient but who never got their name in the history books.

Idella Stephens Smyer was one such woman. I recently ran across her when I was reading about some of our local history.

Idella was born in 1871. Raised by her grandfather who reared her as a boy, she rode horses when she had to be strapped in the saddle. She took to horses like a duck to water and started breaking and training them. Sometimes she rode as a jockey in races.

She didn’t care much for schooling and only went a couple of months a year in the fall after they’d gotten the crops in.

At the age of 15 she married Henry Smyer in Decatur, TX in 1885. She and Henry moved to her 80 acre farm. Her grandfather gave her one heifer as a wedding present. That was the start of their herd. Each year they sold the steers but kept all the heifers.

The first of their 14 children, a daughter named Gertrude, came down with malaria. Idella took her everywhere to try to find a cure. Nothing seemed to work until Idella’s brother, Blue Stephens, came to visit. He worked for the huge XIT Ranch in the Panhandle. He persuaded Idella and Henry that the dry climate would cure Gertrude. So they packed up and headed west.

But passing through Jacksboro, Texas, Henry got a job hauling rock for a new hotel. He and Idella bought a tent and lived there three years. That’s where their second daughter whom Idella named John Willie came into the world. How fitting for a woman who lived life so large to saddle her daughter with a man’s name. I laugh every time I read this part and imagine a man asking John Willie to marry him.

Idella’s idea of raising children was to make them as tough as she could and able to take care of themselves in any situation.

By the time she finished with them, they rode wild horses like the wind, hunted wildcats, wolves, and antelopes. They camped out alone on the prairie and they feared nothing.

Neither did Idella. When her third baby was born she was all by herself. Like everything else in her life, she tackled the task and did what she had to do.

The Smyers made it to the Panhandle in 1892. They settled into an abandoned one room house here in Crosby County and took possession. With wood a scarcity, Idella gathered up an armful of cow chips and had a roaring fire going and within an hour was baking biscuits. (I didn’t know this but cow patties burn hotter than wood.)

Their cattle herd got bigger along with the size of their family. To make extra money, Henry took a job as a freighter. That left the ranch up to Idella to keep going. But she tackled it like everything else in her life-without batting an eyelash.

One day a raging wildfire threatened their house and herd of cattle. Idella gathered all the children who were old enough, gave them a bucket of water, and sent them out to help battle the blaze. They saved the house and only lost a few cattle. Another time when a blizzard swept across the prairie and caused her cattle to drift, Idella put her children into bed to stay warm and gave them strict instructions not to light a fire. Then she headed out to round up the cattle by herself. When she couldn’t get them to stay together so she could herd them into the corral, she managed to get them into a field of maize she was growing. Although the Smyers had meant to take the crop to market, it fed the cows and kept them together. Idella worked for hours in the frigid cold hauling warm water from the well to them. She knew cattle that had a full stomach and their thirst quenched would be content. She was right. She lost not one cow whereas her neighbor lost 250 of his herd. And when she finally dragged herself home to thaw out, she found her children up and dressed and a wonderful meal cooked.

(By the time their children married and left and the town of Lorenzo sprang up in their pasture, Idella and Henry sold off 1,000 head of cattle that all began with one lonely heifer.)

There were always horses to be broken and trained on the Smyers’ farm. In true Idella fashion, she let each child select a horse of their own. The only stipulation was that they break it themselves. And they always did.

Idella had both physical and mental strength. She could brand, rope, and bulldog. She could tail up a weak cow or dose a sick one. She could do anything with a horse and horses had a special place in her heart.

The woman who coupled a merry laugh and a great sense of humor always used her own brand of language-decent but strong. But there was a steely glint in her eye that promised she could hold her own against anyone.

Idella Stephens Smyer died on October 27, 1953 at the age of 83. (She outlived Henry by 14 years.) She had no complaints. She’d lived a full life and had done everything she ever wanted.

Do you have anyone in your family tree that bears a resemblance to Idella?

My mother comes to mind. She was the strongest woman I’ve ever known. I’ve seen her roof a house; fix a car; wipe away tears; kill a chicken, pluck, and cook it; pick and hoe cotton and rear five children while she did it. There was nothing my mother couldn’t do. She was my hero and my friend.

It’s not too late to order from Amazon. Just click on the cover.

House on the Rock

Just north of Dodgeville, Wisconsin, atop a rocky bluff with a view of a tree-filled valley, sits an architectural marvel of unique rooms, streets, gardens and shops called “House on the Rock.” Envisioned, designed and mostly built by architect Alex Jordan Jr., this house is an amazing combination of talent and whimsy. Built, literally, into the rock, with trees in many places growing through the floor and ceiling the rooms wind around the natural landscape, creating wonderful vistas and cozy, cushioned nooks just begging for someone to build a fire and snuggle in with a good book.

The house isn’t one structure. It’s a complex of buildings surrounded by gardens and forest, including the Gate House, the Organ Room, the Doll House Room, and the world’s largest indoor carousel, which boasts 269 handcrafted animals, 20,000 lights and 182 chandeliers. The most incredible (and mildly unsettling) space is the Infinity Room, a steel and glass “needle” that extends 218 feet out over the scenic valley and 156 feet above the forest floor, with 3,264 windows overlooking the valley. More than 140 of those 156 feet are unsupported, hanging in mid-air.

My husband and I concluded our recent vacation to beautiful Door County, Wisconsin, with a side trip to House on the Rock. My dh had been many years ago, but this was a new destination for me. Based on half-remembered reminiscences about the place, and a short piece on the History Channel or Discovery Channel, I expected a grand house with sweeping rooms and awe-inspiring views. Instead I was completely charmed by low ceilings with natural rock walls, the glow of dozens of tiffany-style lamps, and tiny spaces crammed full of art and books and thousands of whimsical creatures either made by Mr. Jordan or commissioned by him to fill a particular spot in the house. All the while we were walking through the structure, I kept repeating ‘I’d love to curl up right there with a book’ or ‘don’t you just want to settle in and talk or debate with friends?’

By all accounts, Mr. Jordan loved to do just that. He enjoyed company and hosted many parties.

I think my favorite spot was the room where a small organ, a harp and a piano were crowded together and overshadowed by a great winged dragon.

If you haven’t seen this delightful architectural marvel, add it to your bucket list. I will definitely be going back.

Filly New Release Update – September 2011


Listed below are the upcoming releases from our talented writers here at Wildflower Junction.  To purchase any of these fine books, just click on the book covers.  And to learn more about the authors, click on their names.

A Log Cabin Christmas Collection
Multi-author anthology

From author Margaret Brownley: SNOW ANGEL

The moment schoolteacher Maddie Parker walked into the tumble-down log cabin schoolhouse, she knew coming to Maverick,Texas was a mistake.  Now she’s stuck at school with three of her rowdiest pupils during a blizzard and in terrible danger of becoming unglued. Sheriff Brad Donovan is fit to be tied.  What kind of teacher would keep pupils after school in such weather?  It’s up to him to rescue them-no easy task.  For now he’s stuck at the schoolhouse with no means of escape.  But while the storm rages outside, hearts are thawing inside. Was it fate or bad luck that brought them together? Or could this have been God’s plan all along?



The Traditional West
Multi-author anthology

From author Cheryl Pierson: THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

Jericho Dean has one thing on his mind: revenge for the murders of his wife and two little girls.  As he closes in on the ruthless gang of Comancheros, he is joined by an odd cowboy, Freeman Hart, who possesses some powerful magic. He won’t use it to stop Jericho from his mission, but doesn’t offer to help him, either. The two men come upon the outlaw band as they are attacking another homestead, and Jericho must make a decision. Will the relentless pursuit of vengeance destroy him, or will he find redemption and a reason to live in the eyes of three orphans who are left with no one to care for them but him?

Stealing Jake…and a Kindle Giveaway with Pam Hillman

To get your name in a drawing for the KINDLE Pam Hillman is giving away to celebrate the release of her ebook, click the picture above and obey. But go there, and then COME BACK HERE to learn more about Pam’s exciting new western romance. Pam is also giving away an ebook copy of Stealing Jake to P & P readers today. You do NOT have to have a Kindle or other reading device to win, but read on to find out details.

Now here is Pam Hillman talking about her visit to:

The Natchez Trace


I called my mother and said, “I’m going on a research trip. Wanna come along?”

She jumped at the chance, and the two of us spent a couple of days in Natchez, Mississippi, established in 1716 and one of the oldest European settlements in the lower Mississippi River Valley. We traveled down the Natchez Trace, stopping at some of the sites along the way. I video-taped much of what we saw, and have this long-running commentary in my Southern drawl that definitely needs editing!

Here are a few of the stops along the way with pictures, and part of my running monologue, with a few of my mother’s thoughts on our adventure thrown in.


This is part of the old Sunken Trace, also known as the Natchez Trace and The Devil’s Backbone. This spot is about 40 miles North of Natchez. In one area, the trace forked, then came back together. I can only assume that at some point the road had become so bad that travelers carved out another route, then merged back into the original road.

The trace began as a series of paths for hunters. By 1733 the French had mapped the land showing an Indian trail linking Natchez to the northeast. Ohio River Valley farmers floated their crops and products down the Mississippi river to Natchez and New Orleans, sold the flatboats for lumber, then returned via the trace.

To give you a better idea of how worn this trail had become before falling into disuse in the early 1900’s, here is a picture of my mother standing at a distance on the trail itself. You can see where the road merges back together on the left of this picture.


We were there about nine in the morning on July 9. It was very still, and the temperature was still fairly comfortable, but getting a little steamy. There were no birds, no squirrels, or other animals out and about at that time of day. Mama informed me that if we had gotten there earlier, we would have heard the birds chirping, possibly seen squirrels running around, so I bow to her wisdom. But deep in those canyon walls of the trace, the crickets and grasshoppers created a constant chirping like the muted roar of a distant stream.

I can just imagine all sorts of trouble on that trail. Can’t you?

Our next stop was Mount Locust. It is one of the only inns left standing that dotted the old trace along the 500 mile route between 1785-1830. It has been restored to its 1810 appearance when travel on the trace was at its peak. Mount Locust is about 15 miles north of Natchez and was the first stand on the road toward Nashville. We arrived at Mount Locust about 10 in morning and the temperature had climbed with the sun. It was hot and muggy, and you could cut the humidity with a knife. 

Ranger Rick was on duty at the gift shop, and he and I had a great time chatting about the area. My poor mother had to put up with me traipsing all over the grounds taking pictures and videotaping. Her self-guided tour ended before mine, and she high-tailed it back to the gift shop to wait me out with Ranger Rick and the AC!

Mount Locust was considered lavish for a frontier home of the time period since most homes were crude one room log cabins. A couple of things I’d like to point out. The beautiful green fields surrounding Mount Locust were probably filled with crops when it was a working plantation and a stop for weary travelers.


I also included the picture of the table setting. The small table in the back is set with horn cups. Little things like horn cups seem to get lost in the big picture when writing historicals. But just as little foxes can spoil the vine, little details can make your story shine.

 And my favorite picture of the entire trip is this one that I took of the arbor. I fell in love with the arbor. The canopy of trees plus the greenery over the arbor created a cool breeze even on such a steamy hot day. This picture is now my wallpaper on my laptop.

And when I get a chance to work on my wip

set in the area, all I have to do is look at that picture and I am IN Connor and Marie’s world.

Split Rail Fence

I could go on and on, but I’m afraid this has gone too long already.

My mother and I enjoyed the rest of the trip immensely, touring King’s Tavern, Ellicott Hill (1797), Natchez Under-the-Hill, and a host of other places.
Mary, thank you for inviting me to Petticoats and Pistols. I’ve had a blast transcribing my video footage for the P&P readers. Just wish I could have shared more, but y’all meet me under the arbor.

Wooden Cantine

 We’ll share a cool glass of lemonade chilled in the nearby well and chew the fat until the sun goes down.

Stealing Jake

When Livy O’Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of  Chestnut, Illinois, where she’s helping to run an orphanage. Now she’ll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff’s deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy–literally–while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town–as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off–Jake doesn’t have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can’t seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn’t willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

The winner of the Kindle will also receive 8 books (and counting) on the Kindle.
And read Pam’s blog Calico Trails

Award-winning author Pam Hillman writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and the Gilded Age. Her debut book, Stealing Jake, won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest and was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart contest. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and family.  


Pam on the web:

My website:

My blog:

Group blog:


Stealing Jake is an ebook ONLY. But, you do NOT have to have a Kindle or Nook or device like that to get it. It will download to your computer if you get the Kindle/Nook/etc app for your PC, MAC, iPad or cell phone. Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a ecopy of Stealing Jake.

Or…click the cover below to buy.


Say Cheese!

Ever wonder why people never smiled in those 19th century family portraits? Some will tell you that since photography was such a rare occurrence, people wanted to treat the special occasion with appropriate dignity. Others propose that sitting for a photograph took so long back then, no one could manage to hold a decent looking smile without it slipping. But there’s another possibility. What if the serious miens of our ancestors were due to the fact that they wanted to hide their teeth?

Yesterday, my 13 year-old daughter got braces. These days, teens are more likely to wear them than not. It’s almost a rite of passage. After all, no one wants to endure the unsightliness of crooked teeth if there is a way to improve upon what nature wrought. But what of those poor Victorian souls who were stuck with misshapen smiles? Did they have any recourse?

By the mid- 1800s, dentists had begun exploring the realm of orthodontia and developing treatments for their patients. But in these early days, the deformity (or the patient’s vanity) would have to have been of significant proportion to motivate someone to submit to such creative dental inventions.

The instrument on the right was reportedly used to correct a crossbite in a 15-year-old girl in 1859. The telescopic bar across the bottom could be gradually lengthened to widen the palate while adjustable spur screws were used to reposition the incisors. The poor girl had to wear this contraption for several months. Can you imagine? I hope she had gorgeous teeth when she finished the process.

If the dear girl had waited a few years, she might have been able to try out one of the lovely specimens below. The one on the left is a head cap designed in 1866 for extra-oral traction. A gold frame covered the incisors, and elastic straps connected it to the beautiful head cap. Plop a bird and few feathers on that, and she could have started a new millinery fashion. But if she really wanted a cap to stop traffic, she could wait a few years more, and in 1875 become the proud owner of the tooth regulating machine on the right. Just think of the five wagon pile-up that would ensue on main street when she stepped out in such a gripping piece. The steel rod was attached to the crooked tooth by an elastic ring. Then they would tighten the elastic strap between the head cap and the steel rod in order to produce the necessary traction.


By the turn of the century, braces had become more humane. Dentists figured out how to wrap bands and wires around teeth. In order to do this, though, they needed malleable metal. So what did they choose? Gold, of course. Fourteen- to 18-karat gold was commonly used for wires, bands, clasps, etc. And you thought braces were expensive now! Just think what it would be like if your teenager had a mouth full of gold. Thank heaven for stainless steel and modern advancements!

All in all, I must say I’m thankful to be a 21st century parent. And my daughter is much happier with the results this way, too.

Welcome Pam Hillman


Hello Darlings,

Saturday the Fillies will host Miss Pam Hillman.

Miss Pam is so excited to have published her first novel and we’re excited for her. Seeing the final results of a story for the first time simply takes your breath away and gives you goosebumps all the way down to your toenails.  Just ask anyone who’s toiled long and hard at putting words on paper.

STEALING JAKE looks like a dilly of a story. What’s not to like about a cowboy who gets his pocket picked? Especially if he’s a tall handsome fellow, not to mention being the sheriff.

The Fillies would sure welcome your help in making Miss Pam feel right at home. Let’s show her the kind of hospitality we’re famous for.

Shake the wrinkles out of your bustle and saddle up for a day of fun.