Hi everyone. Jennifer Uhlarik here.

Sometimes when story ideas come to me, they come already fleshed out with details that it would normally take several chapters of writing to discover. My newest novella, Mountain Echoes, included in The Courageous Brides Collection, was this way. When the idea came to me, I knew the story was about a school employee, Hannah Stockton, who is on her way to pick up a new student from a distant town. When the stagecoach crashes high in the mountains, she must lead the survivors to safety. So my setting had to included nearby mountains and known stagecoach routes that cut through those mountains. Doesn’t sound too hard, does it? But wait…I forgot to mention something. Hannah doesn’t work for any old school—it’s a school for the deaf. Oops…that certainly complicated matters. Just how many schools for the deaf were there in the Old West anyway?

Sure, I could have made up a fictional place, but I love research, and if I can find real cities or towns for my settings, it makes the storytelling all the more fun for me. I set out looking at the Rocky Mountains, and particularly Colorado. I could find stage coach routes that went up into the Rockies, but no luck on the school. I checked Arizona and New Mexico, since there are many small mountain ranges there. Again, I could find the proper terrain, the stagecoach lines, but no school.

So…when all else fails, keep looking further west!

I finally found the right place in California. The Sierra Nevada on the eastern side of the state provided the mountain range I would need, and there were any number of stagecoach lines that traveled through those mountains to points beyond. The final piece of the puzzle—the school for the deaf—fell into place when I discovered that in the Spring of 1860, a group of twenty-three ladies met together to to address the growing needs of indigent deaf children in the San Francisco area, which led to the creation of the California School for the Deaf. (Even more exciting to me is that the school is still in operation today!)







With all these pieces in place, I finally settled on setting the story in 1862 since, by then, the school had opened their doors to deaf children not just in the state of California, but also in neighboring states and territories. It gave all the more reason for Hannah to travel across the Sierra Nevada to Virginia City, Nevada (or in that day, Utah Territory).


JEN Pioneer Stage Line Ad

But the research wasn’t over there. I didn’t want to make up details about a stage line. I wanted to use real details—real stage stops, real time frames for traveling, when passengers would’ve eaten meals, and the like. Again, the details weren’t particularly the easiest to find, but I was eventually able to dig up old newspaper advertisements that details the routes and durations of several old stagecoach lines. It was rather fascinating to discover that Pioneer Stagecoach Company had two ways to cross the Sierra Nevada between Sacramento and Virginia City. They had the “Through Line” which would travel the roughly 150-mile route in 24-30 hours, leaving at 6:30 AM and arriving on the other end the following day around noon. Or they had the “Accommodation Line,” which traveled the same route across three days with overnight stays in Placerville and Strawberry. My characters chose the Accommodation Line, by the way.


JEN strawberry_1858









I had a blast researching the details that went into Mountain Echoes, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it! Thanks for letting me share! To celebrate the recent release of The Courageous Brides Collection, I’ll be giving away a print copy of the book to one reader. Please leave me a comment!

JEN COVER The Courageous Bride Collection











Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and finaled in two other competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.


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Pioneer Stage Ad: Credit California Digital Newspaper Collection (
Strawberry Lodge Photo: Credit The Strawberry Lodge (
Author Headshot: Credit EA Creative (
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  1. I love a novel based on facts. If it is about something I know about then it becomes an even more enjoyable story to read.

    I worked with the deaf in California through a performance group. I was the stage director and my talent ranged from hearing, hard-of-hearing, partially deaf and profoundly deaf. It is a totally different culture and I loved working with them all. Signing backstage was difficult because I was in the dark with a pen light to sign on my hands as I signed to the performers.

    I guess I got off subject, but there is also a California School for the Deaf in Riverside, CA which is southern California and last I knew it was still in operation as well.

    I would love to be in your drawing.

    Cindy W.

    • Hi Cindy, I had a close friend in middle and high school whose sister was deaf. That’s where I was first exposed to signing and the deaf culture. I’ve been intrigued ever since. I can certainly see where your experience of signing to the deaf backstage would be difficult, but what a rewarding one too.

      I was aware of the Riverside campus of the California School for the Deaf. They have done so well, they had to move the original campus several times to get more land/building space, and eventually created the second campus. I love that they have such a long history!

  2. I enjoyed your post today. Schools for the deaf are something I normally wouldn’t have thought of. With all of the research you did, I bet it is a very good story. I look forward to reading it.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by, Janine. I sure hope readers will enjoy the story and find it an exciting tale. The research was pure fun, but certainly took time.

  3. What great research – and the fact that the school is still in use today! I agree with Janine, I wouldn’t have thought of a school for the deaf in that era, but I understand it was probably long past needed. I love learning new things from research.

  4. Awesome research. I didn’t think about schools for the deaf at all. It’s very interesting. I’ve always been drawn to the West and the 1800′ s ever since I was a little. Absolutely love this time period. Maybe I lived it in a past life. Lol. Thanks for the chance to win your wonderful book. ??

    • Hi Melissa, thanks so much for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed learning about the research process for my story and hope you’ll enjoy the story itself. Of course the West is a favorite time period of mine as well! 😉

  5. Hi Jennifer! Welcome to P&P and thank you for coming. Your post is so interesting. Trying to find just the right piece of information is often daunting. I laughed at your comment about making things even harder by making the school one for the deaf. Ha! I do these things a lot and wonder why on earth I do. But I applaud you on working until you made all the pieces fit. It sounds like a great story and one I’d enjoy.

    Thank you so much for visiting. Wishing you much success.

    • Thanks for the welcome, Linda. I’m giggling myself, because I also tend to lace together all kinds of daunting details in my stories. It’s just a given for me that I’ll find the most bizarre details to put into a story, then spend months trying to find the historical backing to make it work. LOL

  6. Wow Jennifer, you sure did your homework on this story!! To not only find the perfect mountain range, but a school for the deaf…it’s like God lead you to just what you needed for this story at just the right time! 🙂 I love reading how and where an author does their research. And I love learning history through fiction. Thanks for sharing such an interesting post today, I learned a thing or two right along with you! Makes me want to read this collection even more 🙂

    Thank you for the chance to win!

    • I’m so glad to know I inspired and informed you, Trixi. I do believe that God led me to this story and all the details I would need to tell it. Amazing how He works! Hope you’ll enjoy the collection.

  7. One of the great things about reading (especially historicals) is all the research you authors put into your work. It’s the best way to learn in a pleasurable way. Thanks!!!

  8. How interesting!! Thank you for sharing this wonderful peek into your research and writing process, Jennifer! I can’t wait to read The Courageous Brides Collection and appreciate the opportunity to win a copy!

  9. Wonderfully interesting post. Thank you. By nature I love research too.
    Now you have me really intrigued about “Mountain Echoes” ! Thanks again.

  10. There is a school for the deaf in the town about three mile from me, so you see a lot of deaf people around town. I think they should teach sign language in public school because it would really be nice to know how to sign. Your book sound fantastic and I can’t wait to read it.

    • I absolutely love the idea to teach sign language in public schools, Quilt Lady! I have always wanted to learn to sign. I have attempted twice in my life, but both times, it was a matter of not having a partner to practice with. The first time, I was a teen, and the second, I was going through my divorce in my 20’s. If I could talk my hubby into it now, I’d be in heaven!

  11. Thank you for posting today, so very interesting, and I love the historical details. Look forward to reading this book.

    • Hey Amber, great to see you. You can check your favorite local bookseller. If they don’t have it in stock, most stores will order a book for you. Or it’s available on Amazon, Christian Book Distributor, and other online bookstores.

  12. This is so exciting! I always love when authors do research to back up their writing; it makes the read that much more authentic. You’re so talented and creative! I can’t wait to get my copy of your new book.

  13. Jennifer, it was really interesting to learn all of the history and process that you took while determining your setting. I think it’s fantastic that you picked a real deaf school. I’m shocked there was a real one. Cool. Can’t wait to read it!
    Becky B.

    • Thanks, Becky. I was very surprised there was a real school for the deaf in the west in those days as well. I knew there were several back east, but had no idea there might be one in the west at the time. It was a pleasant surprise, for sure!

  14. I love all your real facts that make up this story! What a challenge to dig through the research.

  15. Really enjoyed reading the article. Gee, when do you find time to write you do so much research? However, it does sound really interesting
    Can’t wait to read the book

    • LOL, Joye. Sometimes it’s a challenge to know when enough is enough where the research is concerned. But I have learned that there comes a point when you have enough groundwork to start the writing, and then you can fill in with more research on the details that present themselves as the story unfolds. It’s a balancing act, for sure!

  16. Jennifer- You stole your brother’s horse book…Wow! I love western books also & all the research the goes into writing them. The old days were hard to live, make a living & find a spouse. Enjoy our vacations to the Tampa area in the winters.

    • Yes, I did swipe my brother’s “horse” book, Lois, and I wonder if he’s forgiven me for it yet…LOL Glad to find a kindred spirit who loves those westerns! And fall/winter is the best time to come to the Tampa area. Right now, it’s just too hot–temps in the mid-90’s, but with the heat index, it feels like 105-108!

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