I have so enjoyed the year I’ve spent here with all the Petticoats & Pistols fillies and readers. This is such an amazing community of book girls, all with such love for the western romance genre.
I’ve made great friends and have learned so much, too, and am constantly being inspired by the women in this community, their stories and posts.
Unfortunately I need to peel away for the coming year as I juggle personal and professional commitments, and doctors orders to do less and get more rest. “Doing less” does not come easily for me but in this case I must listen and try to slow down a bit, which means deferring some writing opportunities and shifting professional resonsibilities so my family can still have a functioning wife and mom.
I will miss you all, and hope I can return now and again so say hello and share more adventures with you!
In my last blog I wrote about the Mission La Purisima on the Camino Real in California. I promised to write more about it and some personal things that have happened in the ol’ haunted mission. Before I publish, what I think is an intriguing finish to my personal story about the La Purisima, I wanted to explore some more places along the King’s Highway that I’ve visited or became intrigued with.
I’m gonna bet if you make any Tex-Mex or even Mexican dishes you’ve used Ortega brand products. Here’s my story about Ortega Adobe, Ortega Chili Company, and a mysterious little girl.
The picture to the left is one of the middle class adobe homes and also one of the last houses of its type still standing in California. Built in 1857 by local rancher Emedigio Ortega, he raised nine of his children.
In 1897, one of his sons began the Ortega Chili Company that exists today. Obviously, the international company has outgrown the small three room house.
The building has been used as a Mexican restaurant, a Chinese laundry, a pottery shop, an employment agency, a VFW hall, a speakeasy, the Ventura police state, and lastly, a boy’s and girl’s club. In the 1960’s it became an historic museum. The tiles on the roof were purchased from the Old Mission San Buenaventura after the earthquake of 1857.
Now for the more interesting part of this mission, as I promised.
Supernatural events have become a part of the adobe museum’s crew’s jobs. Staff have caught a glimpse of a man with a derby hat standing on the porch. A visitor who believes she has a psychic gift saw a ghostly little girl in the house standing in the doorway. She had a dark shawl over her head. The house also has a very cold spot in the largest of the rooms where some have heard voices! The story of soft music emanating from a phantom guitar remind us of the history and many different lives that have passed through this house and of some spirits that may have chosen to stick around.
The Ortega Adobe isn’t a mission but I found its story very interesting. I love going to California and this year, as many of you all know, I spent over two months in central California in order to celebrate graduation and birthdays for my grandchildren. I’m eager to write more about my adventures.
Earlier this month when I wrote about the Mission La Pursima, which you haven’t heard the last of, I received a lot of wonderful comments on missions, so I’ll ask you the same question … please share with us any of your experiences on missions, the Camino Real, and ghosts.
To one lucky reader who comments, I’ll give you a choice of one of my eBook’s, including any anthology I’m in or one of my short stories. I’m looking forward to reading all of your comments.
If I asked you to name the maker of the oldest revolver in existence, who would you say made it? Colt? Smith & Wesson? You’d be wrong.
The oldest revolver know to exist in the world today was made in 1597 by German weapons blacksmith Hans Stopler and it is in the collection of the Maihaugen Folk Museum in Lillehammer, Norway.
The revolver belonged to Georg von Reichwein, a well-known officer who made his name defending Norway in the wars against Sweden in the early 1600s. Reichwein bought or received the revolver in 1636, according to the inscription on the gun stock, the year he was promoted to major and was put in charge of the forces stationed at the Bergenhus fortress in Norway. The gun is ornately decorated, with mother of pearl and engravings, so it’s doubtful it was meant for daily use.
Though it may be the oldest known revolver, it is definitely not the earliest one ever made, because the craftsmanship and sheer refinement of the weapon says it was built on well established conventions.
Like other guns of the era it is a flintlock, but instead of a single barrel and chamber, it uses a rotating cylinder with eight chambers and a fixed barrel. Each cylinder has a sliding cover to protect its flash pan and prevent chain fires — lighting up more than one charge at a time. That’s a bad thing!
The big difference in this revolver? It must be manually rotated! You point, pull the trigger, rotate the cylinder to the next chamber and repeat. According to the museum curator, the revolver was “made to injure other people. Not necessarily to kill, because in war at that time the most important was to injure other soldiers.”
It saddens our hearts to announce that our Filly sister, Jane Porter, will leave us. This talented lady became a part of our little family very quickly so it’s going to hurt like heck to say goodbye to her. Jane will always be welcome here. All she has to do is say the word. We’re fighting her departure tooth and nail but we wish her well in everything she does. If you happen to cross her path, give her a big ol’ smile and a hearty wave. She sure will appreciate it. It’s really gonna be lonesome around the corral though.
Jane will post one last blog on Wednesday, August 31st. Be sure to watch for it and tell her how much you’ve enjoyed knowing her.
Today I’m giving away a copy of Prairie Summer Brides, which includes my story, The Dog Days of Summer Bride. P&P giveaway guidelines apply.
Fire is very much on my mind this month for two reasons; One, California has been plagued with massive wildfires this summer. None were close to me, but the air quality has been poor and there were days when we couldn’t see the sun because of smoke-filled skies.
The second reason that fire is on my mind is due to a fire in the fictional town of Two-Time, Texas (book three of my Match Made it Texas series) and I’ve been writing and rewriting the scene all week.
During the 19th century, fire was one of the biggest environment threats facing the nation. Something as simple as a dropped candle or overturned lamp could wipe out an entire town or city in a flash.
When a fire broke out in those early days, a bell (usually the church bell) rang, and volunteer firemen dropped what they were doing and raced to join the bucket brigade. Volunteers were a mixed bunch and included immigrants and native-born, merchants and laborers.
Being a volunteer fire-fighter was considered an honor and united men in a brotherhood of masculinity and skill. It provided men from all walks of life with an elevated social status.
Surprisingly, women started serving as volunteer firefighters as early as 1818. The first known woman to do so was a black slave named Molly Williams.
The main challenges firefighters faced in those early days were poorly constructed wood buildings and lack of equipment and training. The appearance of fire insurance companies in the mid-1800s created yet another challenge.
Some fire brigades were either owned or paid for by insurance companies. Homes and businesses with paid fire insurance were issued a fire mark plaque. These fire marks were made out of metal and placed outside doors. The payment to insurers would help support fire-fighting brigades. The fire brigade that arrived at a burning building first would get the insurance money.
Competition between brigades was so severe, that fistfights often occurred while a building burned to the ground. If that wasn’t bad enough, the New York city companies sent runners ahead to cover fire hydrants with barrels to prevent other brigades from using them.
Firefighting has come a long way since the first volunteer fire department in America was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1736. Fire equipment back then was basically leather buckets for dousing flames with water and linen bags for collecting valuables from inside of burning houses.
I was surprised to learn that today, more than two-hundred and eighty years later, sixty-nine percent of the firefighters in the United States are volunteers. Unfortunately, their numbers are dwindling. It’s getting harder to recruit new members. People no longer live in the heart of town like they once did, so distance is a problem. Also fewer people are willing to take time away from work and family to run into burning buildings without pay. (Can’t say I blame them, there.)
Despite these challenges, modern volunteer firefighters are well-trained and save taxpayers millions of dollars a year. Best of all, fistfights are now a thing of the past. Firefighting sure isn’t what it used to be and we can all thank God for that.
Are the firemen in your town volunteers or professionals?
Hi everyone and Happy Wednesday! I was fortunate to be able to spend the past weekend in my favorite
city, San Francisco, with my family. I love the history of this city, so thought I’d share a bit about the lost ships for those that are unfamiliar with this rather unique facet of the area.
Before the California Gold Rush, San Francisco was a quiet port, with a population of several hundred
people. After the rush, the population swelled to more than 42,000–25,000 of which arrived by water. Ships poured into the harbor, dropping off would-be prospectors, miners and speculators as well as people starting businesses to support the gold miners.
Many of the ships that anchored in the harbor never set sail again. At one point there were more than 500 ships in the harbor, many of which were totally abandoned. Eventually some of the ships were refurbished and put back into service, while others rotted away at their moorings.
A ship-breaking yard, known as Rotten Row, began operation. Crews of mostly Chinese workers would break down ships and sell the wood and metal, or re-purpose the ships into bars, businesses, hotels and storage units. There is even record of a jail and church being build out of refurbished ships.
As business boomed in San Francisco, the locals wanted to fill the shallow part of the harbor in order to allow larger ships to unload cargo in the deeper parts. The easiest way to do this was to sell water lots, which the owners were required to fill with material to bring it above sea level. In order to have title, the owner needed to have real property on the lot and an easy way to do that was to sink a ship on it, prior to filling. Another ways to get a water lot was to sink a ship on it first, and then lay claim to the land around the ship as part of the salvage. Many ships sank in the dead of night.
The original coastline of San Francisco began where the hills hit the water.The flat areas that now make up the Embarcadero and Financial District were once underwater. Eventually a seawall was built in 1871, creating the current shoreline. Between the seawall and the original coasts are the remains of as many as 75 buried ships.
The Old Ship Saloon, still in operation, opened in 1851 in the hull of the Arkansas. Original patrons had to walk up a plank to enter the saloon.
The most inland known ship, the Niantic, was beached on the corner of Clay and Sansome Streets in the Financial District in 1849 and served as a storehouse until the fire of 1851 leveled her to the ground and she was buried.
The ship Euphemia became the local prison in 1850. During the day the prisoners would work on a chain gang and in the evening return to the ship to be locked in the hold. The conditions on the Euphemia worsened throughout the year and eventually a new prison was built in 1851. The fate of the Euphemia was unknown until her remains were dug up in 1921 at the corner of Battery and Sacramento streets. [Note: There is still some controversy as to whether that particular ship is the Euphemia.] In 1925 the store ship Apollo was discovered nearby.
More recent discoveries have been made and most have been reburied, with buildings going in over the top of them.
The ship Rome was discovered while building a Muni tunnel at the foot of Market Street. The ship was too large to excavate, so the tunnel was built through the hull of the ship.
If you’re ever in San Francisco, strolling along the Embarcadero, remember than you may well be literally walking over the top of the ships that helped build the city.