Have any of you ever incorporated your family history into your writing? Do you like to read books that are based, however loosely, on factual happenings? 

My mom was the oldest of eleven children. She knew everyone in our family and how they were related. Because she and my dad grew up together in a tiny little town in southeast Oklahoma (their high school had a graduating class of twelve), she also knew quite a lot about his side of the family as well.

But when I was younger, I was not interested in the stories she told me.  It was only later, when I
was grown and had children of my own, that I began to wonder and ask questions, and by that time, her memory had already begun to decline.

If you have ever read the book, The Education of Little Tree, (by Forrest Carter) or seen the HBO movie, this story might sound familiar. When Andrew Jackson decided that the Indians were to be assimilated into the white man’s world, he put lots of plans into action that would take years to snowball and evolve into what they eventually became—a truly shameful period in the US governmental policies and procedures. One of Jackson’s plans, besides Removal, that was carried through into subsequent presidencies, was the idea of assimilating Native American children in white homes to integrate them more completely. The Native American children were taken from their villages
and given to willing white families (along with a tidy little government stipend for their troubles) to raise.

My great-great-great grandfather was one of these children.  We don’t know his real name. It was changed when he was delivered to his new “family,” a Presbyterian minister and his wife.  Their last name was Walls.  So his name was changed to Walls, and he was given the first name, David. Forbidden to speak his language, he was forced to forget all the ways of his People, and dress in white man’s clothing, go to white school.  But he was never going to be white, and his place in the world was divided so drastically that he could not fit in anywhere.  Eventually, the Rev. Walls sent David to medical school in Missouri.  When he returned to the small town where he’d been raised, he was a doctor who rode to his patients on horseback. Later, he married and had children, but it was not a happy union and his son, my great-great grandfather, became an alcoholic whose own children, in turn, left home as soon as they possibly could. My great grandmother, his daughter, married at 13.  Her older sister left home one day and never returned. No one ever knew what became of her.  This is a picture of my great grandmother, Josie Belle Walls McLain Martin (1882-1972). She was around the age of 25 when this was taken in 1907. (Not a lot to smile about–she had four children and her first husband had been killed in an accident. She married a man who had 6 children of his own, and they eventually had 7 together…times were really hard.)

I’ve often thought of these children that were abducted by our cavalrymen, and taken away to their white “families”, forbidden everything familiar and forced to adopt completely new and different ways, even down to their speech and childhood games—and their own names. Can you imagine it?  To never be allowed to see your mother and father again. Siblings separated and “given” to different families, their heritage and connection with one another lost forever.  How many tears must they have shed? And how lonely and separate they must have felt, how isolated, even into adulthood…so that most of them, I imagine, never were able to fit in anywhere in the world.

My story, ONE MAGIE NIGHT, first appeared in the 2011 SUMMER COLLECTION, available through Victory Tales Press. It is based loosely on what happened to my long-ago ancestor. I’m very happy to say it will also be available  (as of June 15) through WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER’S “dime novel” gallery  as a single-sell e-book publication for only .99! I don’t have a buy link yet, but if you check my Amazon link it should be on my page shortly after the 15th. I’m very excited about this story because of the personal meaning it has for me, and I’m so glad to see it come alive again in this great .99 e-book venue.

Thanks for stopping by today! I will leave you with an excerpt of ONE MAGIC NIGHT, and a look at the brand new cover (which I am in love with!)


Dr. Shay Logan has just returned to Talihina, Indian Territory, from medical school in Missouri. Shay
hopes to settle down and make a life for himself, but how?  He doesn’t belong to either world, Anglo or
Indian He’s made the acquaintanceof Katrina Whitworth at the July 4th town social, and the attraction is mutual from the very beginning. Shay begins to have hopes and dreams that may be out of the question…but Katrina seems to have stars in her eyes for him as well. Will she risk everything to be with him?

THE SET UP:  Katrina makes a social blunder, and Shay follows her into the woods to apologize to her, but when they return, Katrina’s drunken father humiliates her.  To make matters worse, her former beau shows a side of himself she had not seen before. Can Katrina and Shay have a life together that they so badly want?


As his hand started its descent, Katrina turned away.  But Shay’s arm shot out, grasping Whitworth’s hand and holding it immobile.

“You will not.”

Three words, quietly spoken, but with a heat that could have melted iron, a force that could have
toppled mountains.

Katrina’s father’s face contorted, his teeth bared, finally, as he tried to jerk away. He didn’t utter a word.  He stared up into Shay Logan’s eyes that promised retribution, as the seconds ticked by.  Finally, he lunged once more, trying to pull free, but Shay still held him locked in a grip of steel.  Only when he released that grip was Whitworth freed.

“You presume too much, Doctor Logan, unless you are assuming the care and responsibility of my

“Papa! Oh, please!” Katrina felt herself dissolving into a puddle of less than nothing beneath
stares of the townspeople of Talihina.  What had started as an exciting, beautiful evening had become an embarrassing nightmare.  It was torture to think that she was the cause of it all.  How she wished she had stayed home with Jeremy as she’d first planned, before Mrs. Howard had volunteered to keep him company.

Now, Papa was saying these things that she knew he would regret later.  It was always this way when he drank too much.  These accusations had gone beyond the pale of anything he’d ever said before.  But Shay Logan wouldn’t realize that.  He wouldn’t know that Papa would be sorry tomorrow.

Evidently, there was one thing Shay did recognize, though.  She saw the very slight flare of his nostrils as he drew in the scent of alcohol on her father’s breath, and in that instant, there was a flash of understanding in his eyes.

“You’ve had too much to drink, Mr. Whitworth,” he said in an even tone.  “I will overlook your behavior
toward me because of that, but not toward your daughter.  She has done nothing, yet you would strike her, and cause her shame.”

“She’s my daughter,” Whitworth replied sullenly.

“But not your property, Whitworth.  Never that.  You owe her an apology.”

“No, Shay, really—” Katrina began, then as her father whirled to look at her, she broke off, realizing her
mistake.  ‘Shay,’ she had called him.  As if she had known him forever.  As if she was entitled to use his given name freely.  As if she were his betrothed.

“‘Shay’ is it, daughter?  Not, ‘Dr. Logan’Shay.”  He spatt the words out bitterly.  He drew himself up, looking Shay in the face. “I’ll not be apologizing to her—or to you.  And I’ll expect nothing less than a wedding before this week’s end.  Do you understand me, Doctor?”

Shay had lost any patience he might have harbored.  “You understand me, Whitworth.  You will not dictate to me, or to your daughter on such matters of the heart.  As I say, the alcohol has got you saying things you’re going to regret, and—”

“Threatening me, are you?  Threatening me?”

“Truman.”  Jack Thompson stepped out of the crowd and smoothly came to stand beside Katrina.  “Let’s put this…unfortunate incident…behind us, shall we?”  He confidently tucked Katrina’s hand around his arm.  “I can see that the church auxiliary ladies have almost got everything set up
for this wonderful Independence Day meal—” he frowned at Mrs. Beal, nodding at the picnic tables behind her.  She jumped, motioning the other ladies to resume the preparation.

He gave a sweeping glance around the group of onlookers.  “I, for one, am ready to eat! How
about you all?”

Katrina was swept along at his side as he walked toward the tables, speaking to acquaintances and
friends, laughing and…and seething with tense anger the entire time.  She could feel it in his body, with every step he took and the tightness of his grip as he covered her hand with his. Katrina glanced back over her shoulder, hoping to catch a glimpse of Shay, but the crowd blocked her view.

“Smile, my dear,” Jack gritted into her ear.  “I’m hoping we can still salvage your virtue, no matter what happened, really, between you and the good doctor.  If I see him near you again, I’ll kill him.”

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A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 40 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
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  1. That is such a sad part of our history. I can only imagaine what these children went through. And their parents…..how horrible.

    Will be buying this book and looking forward to the story.

  2. Hi Cheryl!

    Enjoyed your post! What a fascinating piece of history, but also very sad, too. Can’t begin to imagine what the Native children’s parents went through and how they would have to always wonder about their child.

    I think it’s wonderful that you know so much about your family’s history. What a fabulous idea to make it a story. Best wishes for continued success!

  3. Hi Connie,
    Yes, it is so sad, for sure. As far as I know, my g-g-g grandfather never saw his family again after he was taken from them. I love this story because writing it around the 4th of July was really interesting–living in OK all my life, and knowing how hot the summers are, I can’t imagine living back then through those months! I will keep you posted, Connie–it should be out on June 15th. Thanks so much for coming by today!

  4. Sarah!
    So good to see you here today. I know a lot about my family history because I guess SOME of what Mom tried to tell me must have stuck in my brain, and I have an aunt who is our family historian and knows EVERYTHING. She is a blessing, for sure. Oh, yes, can you just imagine how heartbreaking that had to be for the family AND the child? Awful. Thanks so much for popping in today, m’dear–I know you are busy!

  5. Hey, Cheryl. Good to see you here again. Personally, I haven’t used family history in a story but I have thought about writing a book about my, and my husband’s families. Oh, the stories I could tell! My dad’s family came to this country before the Revolutionary War. My mom’s family settled in Ohio from Germany as did her dad’s family. my mom’s family relocated to Nebraska around 1900. I started finding out about my family’s history when I was in my early 20’s. I have a younger brother who is doing the research now and emails me interesting tidbits about our ancestors. All possible fodder for stories but more importantly, information to be saved for the next generations coming along so they know their roots.

  6. I knew about the practice, having read it in the many history books I have on Native Americans. It makes one truly ponder though about the fact this had to be one of the cruelest things one man could do to another…and it’s fact and not fiction. Thanks for sharing such a huge piece of yourself.

  7. This sounds like a great story Cheryl. And it is wonderful to know when reading it, one can feel your ancestors behind the story.. I look forward to adding this to my tbr list..

  8. Isn’t it horrible what humans do to each other – we are all the same but so many prefer to dwell on minor differences (sigh). My husband’s uncle has spent half his life researching his roots and has an enormous amount of information. My husband isn’t really interested but I am. One of my dad’s cousins did one on their side of the family and we were to get a copy of it but unfortunately do to distance and the passing of some relatives, it was lost to us. Your book sounds like something I would enjoy reading!

  9. Andrew Jackson’s treatment of the Native Americans was appalling. Unfortunately, I’m sure some well meaning families took in the Indian children thinking their suffering would only be short-term and that they would be better off in the long run. Although I’m not sure if I’ve read any accounts where the children turned out happy and whole. And their poor parents. To know that their children–and an entire generation–was lost forever. So sad.

    Cheryl, keep me posted on when the book is available. It sounds like Shay is another one of your wounded heroes whom I’ll fall for.

  10. Carole, I love learning about my family history. My dad’s great grandfather married a woman whose name was “Rita” — we thought for years she was of Hispanic descent, but recently someone discovered that her name was shortened from “Jarita” (sp?) and that her family were immigrants from Germany who were traveling through Texas. Her family split off from the others and stayed put when the rest of the group went on toward New Braunfels. Anyhow, she and my ancestor were married and he was a cowboy on the Chisholm Trail, but he would only work it twenty miles to the south of where they lived, and twenty miles to the north. That way, he never had to travel any farther from their home than a 20 mile stretch.

  11. Hi Catslady,
    That is too bad about you all not getting your copy of the genealogy! I feel like everyone should have any info I have, and I certainly am thrilled that my aunt on my mom’s side of the family is into this researching. She is so good at it, and very good to share what she finds with those of us who are interested. I just got a new scanner, so I will be able to share with her anything I might have that she doesn’t — can’t imagine there would be anything like that, but you never know!

  12. Hi Keena,
    The U. S. Gov’t. paid a stipend to the families who took these kids in…I’ve been told that might be one way of proving what I need to to be added to the rolls. Yes, it really is sad to think about being separated forever! And how hard it must have been on those children. I’ll keep you posted, for sure, Keena–I don’t think I physcially wounded Shay…but you’ll love him all the same–he does get into a brawl.LOL

  13. Mary,
    This is one thing that is never talked about in history classes, even HERE in Oklahoma where so much of it happened! I have Indian friends who will not carry a $20 bill if they can help it because it has Andrew Jackson’s picture on it. I’m always so glad to share about my Oklahoma roots and love it when I can incorporate it into my writing.

  14. I know how you feel about wishing you had asked more questions about your heritage while you had the chance. Me, too.
    Hard to believe such a wonderful story as One Magic Night could sell for a mere 99 cents. Now that’s a real bargain.
    You’ve never written a story I didn’t love, Cheryl. Keep ’em coming.

  15. Sarah,
    You are a dear friend. WIll you please let everyone know that I didn’t pay you to say that last line? LOLLOL Yes, how I wish I had paid attention better–how well I remember thinking, “Oh Lord, I’ve heard this before!” and tuning it out rather than seizing the opportunity to ask questions, but as a young person those things don’t mean much…not until you get a little older. Thanks so much for coming by today. You know I appreciate your support!

  16. Cheryl, the practices of taking Indian children from their homes was abominable. I read about it quite a few years ago and even wrote it into a story that never sold. Some of the things the white man did just makes me sick. I can’t imagine an Indian mother having to lose her children this way. And like you said the Indian children couldn’t adapt to the white man’s ways. It was too foreign a world.

    Love the new cover! It’s really really nice. And that excerpt left me wanting far more. Wishing you lots of success, dear Filly sister.

  17. Cheryl,
    I’ve lived most of my life in a bubble, and I’m always amazed when I hear of things like taking children from their parents and giving them to strangers to raise. For this program to have been fair, white children should have been placed in the Indian homes – but that was never on the table, was it?

    Your excerpt was enticing. I love your premise.


  18. Oh, Linda, it’s too bad that story didn’t sell. Any chance you might try again? (HINT HINT!!) Yes, I’ve often wondered about his parents…did he have brothers and sisters who were farmed out, too? I don’t know, We will never know. I love that cover too! Karen M. Nutt does a lot of my covers with Western Trail Blazer and she always does such a marvelous job. So glad you enjoyed that excerpt…Katrina is so mortified, but also thrilled–what girl WOULDN’T want a handsome hunk to stand up for her? Thanks so much, Linda, for all your support!

  19. Hi Maggie,
    No, of course, we would NEVER put white children in an Indian home! But there’s a book ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN, that is written on the premise of what might have happened if the gov’t. had sent white women west to marry Indians and achieve this “assimilation”. SUCH A GOOD BOOK. It’s written as if it really happened, from a woman’s POV (by a man, no less) and is just one of the most phenomenal books ever, IMO.

    So glad you liked the excerpt/premise! This was a fun one for me to write on several levels.
    My gr gr gr grandpa “Dave” finally gets his happy ending.

  20. Cheryl, I understand that some unscrupulous doctors tell an Indian mom that her baby died and then give the baby up to a white couple looking to adopt. Some people, as my mom used to say, “He wasn’t worth the bullet it would take to shoot him.”

  21. Hi Cheryl, Hope I’m not too late. Just came online. This is a subject that is known first hand by my husband. He was sent to a “Misson” school in 1932, when he was 5. It was across the mountains from his home. He had no clue where he was or how to get home, if he ran away. At that time, it took three days to get there. He was there until 1941, when he graduated from 8th grade. Many of his school mates committed suicide because they couldn’t speak to their families when they returned home. Their relatives couldn’t speak English. They were outcasts. They took up alcohol and killed themselves that way. My husband was able to come back because his Mother could speak enough English. He worked as a cowboy all through his teen years, locally. But he had very bad memories of that place. Their treatment to become “assimilated”. Our children have written many school and college papers on the subject that are fascinating to read.
    I have thought about writing about this chapter in his life, but I can’t get past the sadness.
    Thanks for sharing your story. Very interesting.

  22. Mary J, I am SO glad you posted your comment! It’s never too late in cyberspace! LOL I check my comments for several days after my blog day just to make sure I haven’t missed one. Has your husband read The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter? It’s a book about a litte boy about that age who is taken and placed in a school far away from his home. Oh, it is so good! I have a good friend who was placed in an orphanage as a young girl because her father died and her mother could no longer care for her. These stories are so heartbreaking, but it’s important that we don’t ever ever forget the PEOPLE that this happened to. I can truly imagine that MANY of your husband’s classmates committed suicide. It’s understandable, because it would be so lonely at such a vulnerable stage of their young lives. And thank goodness your husband’s mother could speak English well enough to communicate.I’m so glad to hear from you. I’ve found sometimes that writing about the sadness helps me to get past it. When I lost my parents (within 3 weeks of one another) about 4 years ago, I was just devastated. I was an orphan in the world! It was hard to think of it like that, but that’s what I felt. I wrote them letters. And I still do, from time to time. I most always feel better after I have written one because I get my feelings out–things that are too hard to talk about. I hope that at some point you will write that chapter in your husband’s life, because we should always remember. Thanks again so much for coming by! I’m so glad to know that you’re thinking of writing that story.

  23. Wow, Cheryl. My mother’s grandfather (her mom’s dad) was Blackfoot Indian, we think. It was odd, because rumor has it, he was ‘adopted.’ But my mom’s family lived near Carlisle, PA (Shippensburg area), where some schools were set up for these Native American children (see here: http://www.enotes.com/native-americans-reference/native-americans) and were adopted out to white families. Now I’m wondering if Grandma’s relatives took money to ‘help’ out someone who’d basically been kidnapped. Weird thing is…I was born in Carlisle. I’d always wondered about my relatives from there. LOL! Thanks so much for this information. I sent it on to my sister, to give to my uncle, who’s the family historian.

  24. Markee, THAT is really going to be a “skeleton in the closet” to uncover, isn’t it? The great Jim Thorpe, who was from Oklahoma, lived in Carlisle. His family is petitioning to get his body back and have it buried here. There may be school records you can access, and also I’ve learned that some records still exist for the stipends that were paid to the white people who took these kids. This is so interesting! Thanks for coming by, Markee!

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