Casper, Wyoming…not as big as I thought

Research is tricky.

I once set a book such that it passed through Fort Laramie, Wyoming and the research I did sort of contradicted itself. I wrote it up best I could

Finally, when the book was done and I turned it into my editor, her comment was, “Did you know they moved Fort Laramie three times? And none of those are by Laramie, Wyoming.”

No, I didn’t know that. Yes, I’ll revise.

I once set a book in Fort Union, New Mexico. The only think I needed was…what fort is close to my story because I needed my characters to go to a fort. They stayed a day. No big deal.

So a fort is a fort is a fort right? They entered the stockade gates and searched for the commander.

Except Fort Union had no stockade. In fact, in 1878, the time of my book, it was barely a fort. It was a storage place for supplies. The west was settled for the most part. There were mostly warehouses and very few soldiers. Yes, I’ll revise.

So in my most recent book, Braced for Love–and all my books–I create a fictional town, in this case Bear Claw Pass, Wyoming, and set it near a real town, in this case Casper, Wyoming. It’s the CAPITOL. Sure Wyoming was still a territory, still it stands to reason that the future capitol of a state would have SOMETHING going on. (Mary responding to one of the comments below. This is WRONG. Casper is NOT the capitol of Wyoming. Duh! Thank you for the correction. But it is typical of my error. Even when I KNOW the right thing sometimes the wrong thing makes it into print!)

Nope. 

The key research line I found was about Fort Casper…and this sentence. The town of Casper itself was founded well after the fort had been closed. Instead of this bustling western town I found a quiet little place with the potential for growth because railroad tracks were coming through.

Research will trip you up if you make assumptions and I sometimes do make assumptions and they make it into print, then I just have to hope readers make assumptions along the lines I did and don’t notice, or they are forgiving.

 

So my next series is going to be set somewhere I’ve never written about before, California, near Sacramento and Yosemite, about twenty years after the Gold Rush. You know what? Big cowboy area. I’m having fun researching it and getting off onto side tracks. And learning, learning, learning. Especially I have a woman inventor and as much as we look at that time as being primitive, the industrial revolution was ON. New stuff coming as fast as they old patents aged out. I read once, there were over 100,000 patents taken out just for automobiles.

Guns…the history of guns is the history of America. The fortune that could be made by improving on the design. Every tiny step of progress could make a man a millionaire.

All this industry was built on inventions from before, and others would build on what was new. It’s fascinating reading. The four-stroke cycle engine isn’t invented yet in my books but it is THEORIZED. You get that. A man theorized it would work and it was wild. Explosions, inside a steel box, pushing pistons up and down. It took fifteen years before someone made this theory work.

Anyway, I’m kicking off what I hope is a journey of discovery for my inventor, genius heroine and her very confused cowboy hero who thinks his ranch is the best run place in America (not that he’s ever travelled). She wants to improve it by making explosions inside a metal container? It sounds dangerous and honestly, ridiculous. And she may be smart but it all sounds stupid to him. But he is fond of his pretty, energetic little wife so okay, go on and invent things, just be careful.

Hot and cold running water? Um…turns out that’s nice.

Irrigation on his ranchland? He liked that idea. 

I’m enjoying myself in that series, trying to write my way around the whole Casper, Wyoming debacle in my current Brothers in Arms series, and generally loving exploring history.

 

 

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25 thoughts on “Casper, Wyoming…not as big as I thought”

    • One of the tricky parts for me, Debra, is I find some super cool thing and can build a whole world around it, then later I can’t find what I KNOW I read somewhere. I try to save links and names and info….but as an official member of the Scatterbrained Society of America (we can’t seem to ever have actual meetings!) it’s hard.

  1. Read watch is so vital and fun to see what once was… I went to Casper last summer and it’s not a very big town, I thought it would be bigger. I wonder when They moved the Capital from Casper to Cheyenne?
    So I had to go look. This was what I found.
    On July 25, 1868, the United States organized the Territory of Wyoming. Territorial Governor John Allen Campbell arrived in Cheyenne on May 7, 1869, and named Cheyenne the temporary territorial capital. Cheyenne has remained the only capital of Wyoming. On December 10, 1869, the first session of the Wyoming Territorial Legislature met in Cheyenne. That day, the legislature passed and Territorial Governor Campbell signed an act to re-incorporate the Town of Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory, and an act granting white women the right to vote, the first U.S. state or territory to grant suffrage to women.

    Thanks for this wonderful blog.

    • Okay, wait, I said Casper was the capitol. I know it’s not. But that’s a terrific example of my confusion because I just wrote a book with CARSON CITY being the capitol of Nevada and ever since I’ve had Carson and Casper mixed up. In fact, I’m NOT going to change my blog post because it’s a perfect example. I have found the word Carson in this book when I meant Casper. shaking my head

  2. It’s funny how years ago when I wasn’t much of a reader I had no idea how much research went into writing a fiction book. I just thought fiction was just a made up story and historical facts & such didn’t matter. Duh. I’d love the research now but wouldn’t have when I was young. I’d love to take a trip to Wyoming or California!

    • We actually had a trip planned. I just wanted to visit the area, see what the mountains looked like. Sure I can search online, get pictures and everything. But it’s NOT the same. And then Covid happened and I’ve never gone anywhere again! 🙁

  3. Welcome. I know what you are talking about with research. My son who got his bachelors and masters in history ran into a lot of those problems. In fact now he when he researches something, he will check it three times from different sources. Thank you for sharing today. Thank you for sharing the price drop.

    • You have a son with two degrees in history? Wow, does he somehow works with it? I met a guy in a museum with a masters in frontier history. Who knew you could be so specialized. He was fun to talk to.

      • Well he sorta uses it. From the time he was a toddler, he loved to watch the history channel instead of Barney or Sesame street, etc. “Those are not real” was his comment when I asked why not. Wow but that sure set the stage for where his brain worked. He wanted to be a professor at a university where wanted to learn and write history books for schools. But all the teachers said he was too factual and the books wouldn’t sell. My husband and I told him that there were other people out there that would rather have the facts instead of all the fluff, soooo, write your books and love doing it. Well he couldn’t get a job as a professor. So he looked into history museums around the USA. No one would hire him because he didn’t have experience. Sigh. Talk about discouraging. He finally found a job that he was hoping was part time. A company started up and they did background checks, drug tests etc. for employers. Because he started on the ground floor with them, he learned every department and then started training others in those departments as the company grew. It has now been six years and he loves what he does. There is a lot of research involved and this he loves. He looks at it as a history research because he researching someone’s background. From t he time he was 13 he reenacted Civil War. His wedding was Civil War themed (even the guests) for the last seven years he and his wife also reenact WW2. He does a lot of research making sure things are correct. He and his wife sew garments and sell them. My son, for the men and my daughter in law for the women. I have so enjoyed watching this young man grow and become someone so very special to not only me, but to everyone he meets

      • Oh and from the time he was in high school to now, he makes models of WW1 and WW2 vehicles and people and dioramas. He does a lot of research to check that the coloring etc. is correct. He has changed a lot of directions because they were incorrect. Artistic licensing at its best here. LOL I love this boy

  4. Loved your post, Mary. Research is definitely tricky. Especially when different sources give different information. Sometimes the best thing you learn isn’t from books, it’s from people. I’ll never forget giving a talk at a small town library early in my career. I had only published two books and was working writing on Short-Straw Bride. That book is set in Palestine, TX, and since it is spelled just like the Palestine in the Middle East, I assumed it was pronounced the same. When I started talking about my upcoming project, however, an older, bearded gentleman in blue denim overalls in the back of the room raised his hand. “You ever been to Pal-es-teen?” Oh, my. How ignorant I must have looked. Powerful lesson, though, about the dangers of assumptions. I thanked him for correcting my pronunciation and made a point to practice saying it in my head over and over until it stuck. Keeps a person humble. 🙂

    • We have towns in Nebraska named Juanita and Wauneta. Juanita is pronounced June-ee-AT-ta. Wauneta is pronounced Juanita. LOL I got three other examples of towns that pronounce their names weird. Wait, no, four.

    • Thanks Caryl! 🙂 Makes me want to dive back into research. I’m learning such fascinating stuff about inventions. Do you know the first somewhat car-ish invention was in China in the 1600s!!??

  5. I love research. And having lived in both Wyoming and California, as a kid, teen, I got the pleasure of taking Wyoming history in 4th grade, and California history in 8th grade. And unfortunately I don’t remember much about either. But both areas are so full of history, small towns, Forts, that you just want more.
    I enjoyed your blog, and sometimes the mistakes made just make the book even more interesting.

    • Hi Veda. I’m Nebraska and Nebraska history was standard, as was a field trip to Lincoln, Nebraska the state capitol. I don’t remember that much either. I know quite a bit but I picked it up later!

  6. Wow, I enjoyed reading your post, and Thank you all you authors for all the research you go through for your Great books! Have a great rest of the week and stay safe.

    • Research is fun but it’s a time sink. I’ll have one tiny question to look up and four hours later, somehow, I’m reading about baby albino goats (or something!!!)

  7. Thank you so much for sharing. I am not familiar with the towns and forts in the West in the 1800’s.

  8. We visited Ft. Davis, Text several years ago. It sits in the open, spread out in the open not far from a cliff that overlooks it. Not what one would picture as a good location for a secure fort. It was then that the Hollywood inspired picture of a stockade style fort was shattered. It seems that, yes, that was the main style of fort out West. It is being nicely restored and is worth the visit. It got me thinking about the images and assumptions we have of our history. Movies have done much to build the image of time periods and as we are discovering, those images are so often inaccurate and far from the truth. Our own assumptions are just as faulty. We often connect the dots of time, place, and events missing the mark by wide margins. It is good to use real people, places, and events in stories, but as you discovered, it is very easy to get tripped up by the facts. Safer to make up as much as you can. You are lucky to have a knowledgeable editor to catch some of the slip ups. That being said, most writers have forgiving readers that will give them a break and let things slide. A good story is still good story even if a few details are a bit off.
    We travel as much as we can and I research and plan quite a bit before heading out. We are sometimes caught by surprise, like Ft. Davis, when expectations due to what we thought we knew prove so very different from the reality. I just consider it all good learning experience and something I am not likely to forget.
    This series and the next sound like they are good and enjoyable reads. Take care and enjoy your research for your next books.

    • Patricia, so interesting!!! I remember someone saying once, if the TRUTH is different than John Wayne or Louis L’Amour…no one’s going to believe you if you put in the truth. So just go with Wayne and L’Amour. 🙂

  9. I loved your post, Mary! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has to backtrack when things in reality don’t quite align as planned in the imagination. I love the cover of your book and am excited about your new series!

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