Where Did They Live in the Old West? by Miralee Ferrell

The American frontier, or the Old West, as it came to be known, drew adventurers from all over the world. They came hoping to find a new life, whether that meant staking out a homestead, mining for gold, finding a husband, or starting a business. Whether it was families, single men or women, miners, gamblers, or cowboys, the same thing pulled them—the chance at a fresh start. Beyond that, they all had one need in common—a place to live when they arrived.

For some, like the cowboys, it was simple. They slept on a bedroll under the stars, their horse picketed close by.
 
Others slept in a bunkhouse, often with thin bat-and-board siding that allowed the wind to whistle through the cracks or the knot holes, but always with a cozy wood stove nearby.

Saloons often offered accommodations as well, as they were sometimes attached to or housed within a hotel. Even the independent saloons often provided rooms to travelers who wanted drinks, a meal and a bed. Many saloons provided a free lunch with the purchase of a drink, with the hope the traveler would decide to imbibe a bit longer and possibly spend the night. The Crystal Palace, built in 1879 in Tombstone, AZ, (and featured in my novel, Love Finds You in Tombstone, AZ) is one that provided more than drinks.
 
Of course, no decent lady or family would consider such accommodations, as their reputation would most certainly be ruined. Only ladies of ill repute frequented saloons, so the more genteel women chose a hotel, or a boardinghouse for something a bit longer.

My novel, Blowing on Dandelions, is centered around the life of a boardinghouse. There was more than one type and they catered to all kinds. A boardinghouse/combo hotel in Last Chance, CA, featured in my book, Love Finds You in Last Chance, CA, only took men, and they all slept in a common room on the second.   The average boardinghouse was different than a single family home, often having a large number of bedrooms, a common washroom, a good-sized dining room and a cozy parlor made available to the boarders.

Of course, a bathroom as we understand it didn’t exist in the 1800’s. Most boardinghouses provided a wash bowl, towels, and a pitcher of fresh water per room, along with a chamber pot. In very rare cases you might find some type of rustic indoor plumbing, but typically a bath was drawn by heating and carrying buckets of water to a wooden or tin tub in a wash room. 

Breakfast was almost always included, and oftentimes supper, with some hostesses occasionally offering laundry service as well. Boarders could share a room, and often did, but the more wealthy patrons could choose to room alone. The least expensive rooms tended to be in the top floor, including smaller attic rooms, as heat rises and made sleeping uncomfortable. For the poor, cheap lodging houses provided basic accommodations for low prices. In San Francisco over a century ago, the majority of people frequenting a hotel were either working class or poor, and a passable room might cost 35 cents a night ($8 in today’s currency).
 
Life at a nicer boardinghouse could be quite like home, especially to a lonely widow or single woman struggling to make it on her own. In fact, many boardinghouses in the Old West were owned and operated by women, as it was a respectable way to make a living while keeping your children close by. Warm fires in the parlor and kitchen, reading in the parlor or playing games in the evening, along with story-telling and sharing the happenings of the day, were all common entertainment for the residents.
I’ve always had a fascination for the Old West and the historical research for my novels has become one of my favorite parts of writing. Life was varied in the 1800’s, and often extremely challenging. The more glimpses I get of the strong men and women who made up the West, the more I’m compelled to share their stories.

If you’d like to contact me or see pictures of the settings for several of my historical novels, I’d love to have you stop by my website or my blog. Both can be found at www.miraleeferrell.com

BLOWING ON DANDELIONS
Do Dandelion Wishes Actually Come True? 
 
Katherine Galloway knew this moment of calm wouldn’t last, blown away like the dandelion seeds she scattered as a girl. In 1880, three years after her husband’s death, she struggles to run an Oregon boardinghouse and raise two girls alone. Things don’t get easier when her critical, domineering mother moves in. Katherine must make the situation work, but standing up for herself and her family while honoring her mother isn’t easy. And with a daughter entering the teenage years, the pressure on Katherine becomes close to overwhelming.
Then she crosses paths with Micah Jacobs, a widower who could reignite her heart, but she fears a relationship with him might send things over the edge. She must find the strength, wisdom, hope, and faith to remake her life, for everything is about to change.
                                         
Great news – Miralee is doing a giveaway today!  Two commenters will each receive a copy of her book BLOWING ON DANDELIONS.  So leave a comment and let her know what you think of her post and get your name in the hat.  (Sorry, but Miralee has requested this drawing be open to US residents only)
                              
Guest Blogger
Updated: May 10, 2013 — 1:17 pm

32 Comments

  1. hi there Miralee. Glad to see you here visiting with the Filly’s. Good place to be. I love the era you write about. For many years that was almost all I read. And, I loved blowing on the Dandelions. I love the cover on your book. I would like to ramble over to your blog and look at the pictures of the old west. I sure hope this is my lucky day and can win your book. Love to all of you gals. Please drop my name into that stetson. And, then I’ll be wishing it is the one drawn out. God bless you all. MAXIE mac262(at)me(dot)com

  2. Thanks for sharing the info on the accommodations in the old West. I’ve read so many books featuring boarding houses. I didn’t realize that a lot of them were dormitory style. It’s hard to imagine life without indoor plumbing. I’ve heard of bath houses too. Do you have any info on those establishments? I’m heading over to your website. Welcome to P&P!

    My grandfather was a small town doctor. His office was attached to the house, right off the kitchen. He lived on Main Street. Unfortunately I never met him. He died when my dad was 11 at the age of 60 from complications of diabetes. It’s hard to imagine a time without insulin. I remember playing in his office when I was a young girl. He had a roll top desk with all the little compartments. Outside the door to his office was a porch that went around the house. It even had a porch swing.

    I’d love to read how Micah and Katherine find and follow their path to love in BLOWING ON DANDELIONS. I agree that wishes can come true. Your book does have a pretty cover too.

  3. Good morning Miralee. I really enjoyed reading your post this morning. I have always been fascinated with the Old West as well. I always enjoy learning new things about it. Thank you.

    I would love to win a copy of your book Blowing on Dandelions. The think the cover is beautiful! Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  4. I loved reading this post. I have found a new author. I’d love to win a copy of Blowing on Dandelions.

  5. The information on boarding houses was very interesting and somewhat new to me. Thanks for sharing!!

  6. I enjoyed your fascinating post. Learning about the Old West is always enjoyable. The cover of Blowing in Dandelions is perfect. Best wishes.

  7. Your photos and post was very interesting. Thanks for this unique information. Your novel sounds captivating and special.

  8. A great post which was also very informative. Your book is enthralling and the cover a delight.

  9. Very interesting about boardinghouses. Love the design of your new book.

  10. I can’t wait to read your book since i have visited Tombstone many times. The first time was back in the late 50’s before Tombstone was tourist-friendly. It had no paved streets and i got to tour back inside the Bird Cage Theatre. Now you can only enter the lobby. We even went inside the Courthouse which is now condemed and crumbling and falling down. We toured the old Schefflin silver mine. Was more like the real town.

  11. Wishes came come true. The book captured my interest since it is the Old West. What a fabulous post that I enjoyed.

  12. Welcome, Miralee! We’re thrilled to have you come sit a spell with us. It’s always nice to get to know an author I’ve never read. And your subject is so interesting. I didn’t know that much about boardinghouses even though I’ve written stories that briefly had them in it. I knew about the lack of indoor plumbing and just assumed that there were outhouses in back of these establishments. And of course, there were always chamber pots. I’d sure hate to have been the person who had to empty those. Yuck! But life in boardinghouses was interesting. I’m sure many became like family to those who were far from home and missing their loved ones.

    Congrats on the release of your new book. The tidbit about the story hooked me. I’m going to have to have it.

  13. I am fascinated by everything about the old west, thank you for the interesting blog.

  14. Thanks for sharing with us today Miralee! 🙂 Great photos… I am amazed with the one that shows the ladder to the second floor… BLOWING ON DANDELIONS sounds wonderful… beautiful cover!

  15. Hi ladies!! It’s so nice to be here and get to visit with all of you. I think this is my first blog appearance I’ve had where every post included a comment on my book cover. That’s awesome, thank you!

    This is my first book using a boardinghouse as the primary setting, so the research was fun for me, as well. I enjoyed hearing some of your comments about your own history and about your love for the Old West. Me too! I grew up reading every Zane Grey western I could get my hands on, and own all of them now.

    Joye, you mentioned looking forward to reading my book because it’s set in Tombstone….this one (Blowing on Dandelions) is actually set in Baker City, OR., not far from the original Oregon Trail. The one you’re thinking of with the photo shown is a book I wrote a couple of years ago that is still available, Love Finds You in Tombstone, AZ. It’s definitely a western, and while it’s a stand alone, it’s also a spin off of another of my books, Love Finds You in Last Chance, CA.

    I’d love to have you all stop by my website, thank you!! I do have a number of pictures that were taken on site at the various places I visited to research for my books. I’ll be adding a page for Blowing on Dandelions very soon.

    I wish you all could win a book!!! But at least we’re giving away two, so your chances are a little better. If any of you pick a copy up, I’d love to have you shoot me a note, or stop by my Author page on FB and let me know. http://www.facebook.com/miraleeferrell

  16. Miralee–I’ve loved all of your books! They are so well written and well researched. I would love to win your newest book–Blowing on Dandelions.

  17. Hi Miralee,

    Welcome to the Juction. What a fascinating, informative post. I love the idea of a woman running a boarding house for other women so she could keep her children close. I never really thought of that before. Excellent insight!

  18. Miralee,

    I have read all of your books that have been available at Barnes and Noble, and I have read a couple of books in paperback. I have enjoyed them thoroughly and look forward to when you have new ones out. I especially like the ones that are set in Oregon because, with your well-written descriptions, it is easy for me to imagine being there at that place and time. Keep up the great work! I would love to read your newest book, “Blowing on Dandelions.”

  19. Avatar

    i would really love to be a winner of one of your books, thanks for a chance
    jcisforme@aol.com

  20. Love reading about the old west! Glad that I didn’t have to live some parts of that life(no runningg water,no bathroom)!

    Love the covers of your books.

  21. Hi Miralee, Thanks for a chance to win a copy of your book. I have read several of your books and loved them, have the ones I have not read on my to read list.
    Blessings,Tina

  22. Hi Maralee.
    Last spring my brother took me to a ghost town in New Mexico and I thought of it when I read your post. My husband and I have traveled all over the west and I often wondered about the people that traveled that same area in covered wagons! How did they do it? Even when they came to towns there wasn’t always a lot to offer.
    Can’t wait to read your book.
    Judy

  23. Avatar

    Love the cover of “Blowing on Dandelions”. Baker City, Oregon is a beautiful town and the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center east of town is fantastic.

  24. Yes, Oregon IS a beautiful state, and the area where Blowing on Dandelions takes place is set in a valley between two beautiful mountain ranges. Truly breathtaking!

    I’m so tickled to hear that a large number of you have read at least one of my books. Cool! I sure hope you all get a chance to read this one, as well. I truly believe it’s the best that I’ve written…and the best part, it’s the first of a three book set…each is a stand alone, but they all contain the same characters set in the same town, so you get to continue on with people you’ve come to enjoy.

  25. What a great post, I really enjoyed it. Your book sounds fabulous and I would love to read it. Thanks for sharing with us today.

  26. I enjoyed your post and have a great interest in the Old West as well. Actually, I have an interest in anything from the 1800’s, especially stories that share how ordinary people lived and I often wonder if I were transplanted back to that time period, how long I would last.

    I look forward to reading your books one day, would love to win a copy of Blowing On Dandelions. Thank you!

  27. I just finished reading miralee’s book Blowing on Dandelions. It is a must read. It is a page turner.

  28. Hi Miralee,
    I can’t wait to read “Blowing on Dandelions. My ancestors homesteaded in Washington and Oregon back in the early 1800’s, and my Grandmother ran a boarding house near Skamania after my Grandfather died. I’ll so be able to relate to your book; besides, I always enjoy your books! Good luck with sales. K.C.

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    I will be adding your book to my Goodreads list along with some of your other books that I found on your website. Your post was very interesting. Do not put my name into the drawing as I don’t live in the US.

  30. This is my kind of book! I love western romance! I believe I was born during he old days in another life! I could just see me laying on my bedroll under the stars! I would be in heaven! I would love for a chance to read your book! I also love your cover, it’s beautiful. Thanks for the chance.

  31. I enjoyed the post, thank you. I love books set in this time. I wish I would have lived in that time. The life was so much simpler. I will be sure to visit your website to read more.

  32. Ladies, thank you all SO much for your awesome comments, for visiting my web site, and for your interest in my new book, as well as my other western romances. It’s been such an honor to spend the weekend with you and get to send free books out to our winners, Ellie and HilltopFarmwife. Yay!!!

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