Starting in the Middle

Back in 2013, I started kicking around the idea for a sweet historical romance. I knew it would involve a mail-order bride coming west from a big city, but I had to decide where she was headed.

That’s when I landed on the idea of using the real town of Pendleton, Oregon, for the setting of the story.  My parents lived in Pendleton during the early years of their marriage (long before I arrived on the scene), but my dad shared such great stories about the area, I decided to look deeper into the history.

That’s when things got interesting and fun!

Located along the Oregon Trail, the city was founded in 1868 and named for George Hunt Pendleton, a Democratic candidate for vice president in 1864. The county judge, G.W. Bailey, suggested the name and the commissioners decided Pendleton suited the town.

In 1851, Dr. William C. McKay established a post office on McKay Creek and called it Houtama. Later, Marshall Station was situated about a half-mile to the east on the north bank of the Umatilla River. Marshall Station was then called Middleton since it rested half way between what was then Umatilla Landing and the Grand Ronde Valley (known today as La Grande).

When the county was created in 1862, the temporary county seat was placed at Marshall Station. The post office was established there in 1865 with Jonathan Swift as the postmaster.

On October 8, 1869, the name was changed to Pendleton. Much of the town proper at that time was owned by Moses E. Goodwin and Judge Bailey. Goodwin arrived in the area around 1861. He traded a team of horses to Abram Miller for squatter rights to 160 acres about three miles from Marshall Station. Goodwin Crossing was a stop for freight wagons. In 1868, Goodwin deeded two and a half acres of his land to the county for a town. A toll bridge that spanned the Umatilla River was constructed along with a hotel, a newspaper, and other businesses and Pendleton began to take shape as a community. In the early days, there was a community well in town where folks gathered.  Some diaries wrote about the delicious, cool, sweet water that came from the well.

In 1872, twenty women started the first church when they began meeting together. The first church building erected in town was the Episcopal Church, constructed in 1875.

One pioneer account claimed the streets were so dusty in the summer, it was nearly up to their knees while the dust turned into a quagmire of mud in the winter. No wonder Pendleton was one of the first cities in Oregon to pave their streets.

If you jump ahead a few decades, Pendleton had become quite the happening place to be by the time a new century rolled around.

Modern and progressive for its time, Pendleton was a unique blend of Wild West and culture. The town boasted an opera house and theater, a teashop, a French restaurant, and a wide variety of businesses in the early years of the new century. On any given day during that time, someone walking down the boardwalk could see well-dressed ladies and gentlemen, as well as Chinese immigrants, Indians from the nearby reservation, miners, ranchers, and farmers. Someone once wrote Pendleton was the only place in the world that had a reservation on one end of town and an asylum for the insane on the other (which they did!).

Pendleton had an enviable railway facility with trains running east and west daily. Telephones as well as running water and sewer lines were available for those who could afford the services.

In the year 1900, it was the fourth largest city in Oregon. By 1902, the population grew to 6,000 and there were 32 saloons and 18 bordellos in the area. If you’re wondering why the town needed quite so much “entertainment,” it was in part because of the sheer number of cowboys, wheat harvesters, sheepherders, railroad workers, and crews of men who descended on the town to work. In 1900 alone, an estimated 440,000 sheep produced more than two million pounds of wool. Pendleton also boasted a maze of underground tunnels where there some of the brothels, drinking rooms, card rooms, and other colorful characters spent their time and money. There was a Chinese operated laundry and opium den, as well as more legitimate businesses like a butcher shop and ice cream parlor.  Today, visitors can tour a small portion of the underground that has been restored through The Pendleton Underground Tours.

By now, you are probably asking yourself what any of this has to do with me starting in the middle.  That book I wrote back in 2013 was my first Pendleton book. I knew before I finished writing it, I wanted it to be a series because I loved the town that existed in my mind (and in history) and the characters I’d created. I decided to call the series Pendleton Petticoats because it had a nice catchy ring to it, and because of the time period, when women still work petticoats (which I would have hated in particular in the summer!).

I released my book Aundy that spring.

Fast forward a few years when I was invited to participate in the epic American Mail-Order Bride series that featured a novella for every state. By the time I joined the project, Oregon was already taken, so I choose North Carolina – the state where my grandpa was born and spent part of his childhood before moving to Oklahoma. Of course, I had to tie the story to Oregon somehow, so the bride in my story, Dacey, is from Pendleton.  I won’t give you any spoilers, but her daughter pops up in Dally, book 8 in the Pendleton Petticoats series, as the love interest for Aundy’s adopted son, Nik Nash.

Then a few years ago, I thought it would be fun to go back and write the story of J.B. and Nora Nash, who were among the early settlers in Pendleton. Gift of Grace was the book was the first in my Gifts of Christmas series.

If you aren’t thoroughly confused yet, I’ll try a little harder. (Just kidding!).

So to recap, I wrote Aundy (technically, the first book in the series) which takes place in 1899, then Dacey which takes place in 1890, and Gift of Grace which takes place in 1870.

Because Dacey and Gift of Grace are part of other series, I decided it might be fun to bundle the three books together.

Ta, da!

You are the first to see the Pendleton Petticoats Boxed Set .

It’s available now on Amazon for $2.99 or through Kindle Unlimited!

Indulge in the romance of a bygone era with three incredible pioneer women.

This boxed set contains two novellas and a full-length historical romance from the Pendleton Petticoats series including Aundy, Dacey, and Nora (Gift of Grace). Strong-willed, courageous women encounter the men who capture their hearts in these sweet western romances full of heart, humor, and hope.

Nora –  Ready to begin a new life far away from the dark memories of the Civil War, J.B. and Nora Nash head west and settle into the small community of Pendleton, Oregon. A devastating tragedy leaves them at odds as they drift further apart. Nora blames J.B. for her unhappiness while he struggles through his own challenges. Together, will they discover the gift of grace and rekindle their love?

Dacey – A conniving mother, a reluctant groom, and a desperate mail-order bride make for a lively adventure. Dacey Butler arrives in North Carolina only to discover Braxton Douglas, her would-be groom, has no idea his mother wrote on his behalf, seeking a bride. Braxton has his work cut out for him if he plans to remain unaffected by the lively, lovely Dacey. Will the promise of hope be enough to keep her from leaving?

Aundy – Desperate to better a hopeless situation, Aundy Thorsen leaves behind city life to fulfill a farmer’s request for a mail-order bride. A tragic accident leaves her a widow soon after becoming a wife. Aundy takes on the challenge of learning how to manage a farm, wrangle demented chickens, and raise sheep, even though her stubborn determination to succeed upsets a few of the neighbor, including Garret Nash. Will she prove to him that courage sometimes arrives in a petticoat and love has a mind of its own?


For a chance to win a mystery prize, just post an answer to this question:

If you could set a fictional story in a real town, what place would you choose?


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After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky western heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

63 thoughts on “Starting in the Middle”

  1. This sounds so amazing. I love how you explained everything. You did a wonderful job and actually made it very understandable. If I could set a story in a real town, I’d love to set it in Gardiner, Montana. Why? Well I love WY , MT, and Yellowstone. This town sets at the very north entrance of Yellowstone. So the best of all 3 places. It’s a small town and I think it would have an amazing story to tell.
    If I had to choose another place, I think Syracuse, Kansas, which sits on the Arkansas River would also be a neat place to write about in the 1800s with the Plains Indians and it’s not too far from the Sand Creek massacre of Site.
    You have a Blessed and wonderful Wednesday. Love & hugs

  2. Wonderful blog! So full of rich history! I love reading about the history of towns and how they came to be.

    I would have to write about Ouray, Colorado. I went there last August for work and absolutely fell in love with the town. It is alive with history and mining camps and even has a hotel where John Wayne filmed the movie True Grit. There was also a scene in the movie that took place in the mountains of Ouray but the tour guide said they built their own rocks for the scene because the real rocks didn’t look real enough! Lol I thought that was pretty funny.

    I’m headed over to Amazon to buy the Pendleton Petty oats series! Have a great day!

    • Hi Dale,
      I love reading about the history of towns, too. Oh, that town has such a ruggedly beautiful setting. Great choice. And so neat about the John Wayne history tied to it, too! Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy the books!

  3. I would choose Cincinnati, Ohio where I grew up. Founded in 1788, it has a rich history and was once on the edge of the western frontier.

  4. This is an interesting post. Sometimes starting in the middle makes for a wonderful project. This happens to me a lot while quilting. LOL
    Apple Valley, CA I grew up on a ranch there. There seemed to be a lot of history. Roy Rogers and family lived close by. In part of the Mojave desert. In 1915, Max Ihmsen, publisher of the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper, developed 320 acres of prize winning apples and pears that made Apple Valley famous

    • How neat you grew up near Roy Rogers and his family. Apple Valley sounds like a lovely place. I can envision several fun stories that could take place there. And so fun to know you sometimes start in the middle while quilting. Thank you!

  5. I would pick Stowe Vt. It’s small town charm and ski slopes would make a great storyline.

  6. Oh my, Ms. Shanna, what an awesome blog post! I love all this historical info!

    What a hard question! More modern day I’d write it with my Hometown of Stephenville, Texas, Cowboy Capital of the World with lots of cowboy & rodeo scenes. I’d put lots of characters in it based off of some of our very own professional rodeoers!

    Now a Historical is much harder for me since I’d want to visit the area I would be writing about & in my current life scenario that just ain’t gonna happen. Okay, after some thought and keeping it in Texas so I can drive to research I’m going to go with putting a fictional town in the near facility of Bandera, Texas. Why?… it is known for bloody battle between Apache and Comanche Indians and the Spanish Conquistadors and was named for its red bandera (meaning banner or flag) that was flown to define the boundary between hunting grounds. Most famous as the staging area for the last great cattle drives of the late 1800’s. So I’m thinking Indians, cattle drives, cowboys, soldiers & Conquistadors would make an awesome Historical Western!

    I have read Pendleton Petticoats series and need to since I see it’s a favorite of your series’ for many of your followers! So many books, so little time! I love your books though so it’s on my radar!

    • I loved your answer, Stephanie. These would make such neat stories with great characters. Thanks for sharing. And if you do decide to read the Pendleton series, this boxed set is the best place to start. You’ll have all the background for the rest of the series! Thank you so much!

  7. oh that’s a tough one but my very small town of Russellville IN looks like the old western ghost towns – so it would be well fitted for a cowboy story! Thanks!

  8. I love digging into the history of real places, Shanna. Pendleton’s history is rich and colorful. It makes perfect sense for you to use it as a backdrop for your books. I bet those underground tours are wild. 🙂

    • Hi Karen,
      The underground tours are such fun. They used to do a living history version of it twice a year and had actors throughout the tunnels. It’s a really cool place to visit.
      Thank you for stopping in today!

  9. I’d set it in St. Mary’s, FL. A small town with some good restaurants and things to do, but close to big cities, too.

  10. Cloudcroft, New Mexico, I love going there to the mountains and staying in a cabin. Have a great rest of the week and stay safe.

  11. I enjoyed your post, it is very interesting, Thank you so much for sharing this info. with us.

  12. I love Pendleton! I’ve driven through there many times and stopped a time or two! In answer to your question, I’d have to say Solvang, California! It’s such a cool little town with lots of history!

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