I have to admit, it had been a few years since I’d written a western historical romance. When a friend invited me to take part in a multi-author series she was putting together, I had to stop and think about it… for all of five minutes.
Of course I was in. The thrill of having to research specific to the topic of the series drew my interest immediately. Not to mention the notion of refreshing my use of language and syntax. It was a writer’s dream to step into a brand new world in order to create vibrant characters and historically accurate storylines. The additional lure of the sweet and inspirational romance had me jumping feet-first into long-forgotten territory.
One of the first places I turned was to my attic, where boxes and boxes of family archives awaited me. My grandfather was a Methodist minister in the late 1800s through the early 1950s, just after I was born. While he spent most of his career serving three different churches in the small towns of middle Tennessee, he also ventured west on two occasions. The first time, in 1904, was on a steam locomotive and then via stagecoach to the smaller, more distant locations. Then, in 1927 he bought his first car and returned to Colorado via the very rough beginnings of the roadway system we know now.
His journals from both trips provided me with hours of insight I may never have found perusing the internet. I used his accounts of his stagecoach rides in that first sweet historical, Seth’s Secretive Bride, and made sure my heroine got a firsthand experience when traveling to meet her mail-order groom, and in the most uncomfortable way.
I continue to refer to grandpa’s journals, along with historical archives of certain events and locations, with every new historical romance that I write. I also rely on his daily notes of faith when I’m adding a touch of inspirational affirmation to my stories.
Earlier this year, I wrote my first Oregon Trail/wagon train romance. That truly took some research, as well as a smidge of imagination. However, it wasn’t until I began writing my most recent release, Lily’s Luck, that I found myself in totally unfamiliar territory.
Based on the Oklahoma Land Runs of the early 1890s, I found the subject of reassigning land on a first-come, first-served basis fascinating. I devoured everything I could find, and even downloaded a map where I plotted out my hero and heroine’s journey to claim their homestead in the land run of spring, 1892.
My next historical western project, Millicent’s Miracle, is a Thanksgiving Bride book and it brings me back to the Midwest. The characters I’m writing about have already made an appearance in my earlier Oregon Trail book, Ella (Prairie Roses Collection). Now it’s time for them to get their story.
I hope you’ll consider coming along on my western romance journey with me. So far, it’s been a fun ride and I can only imagine it getting better by the book.
The Fillies give a big welcome to Janice Cole Hopkins. She’s a long-time P&P follower and a lover of history as well as historical western romance. Janice writes her own books many of which are series! Now that’s a big Yee-Haw!
As wagon trains began making the trek west, more of the West opened to settlers. The midwestern states were once the frontier to be settled. However, the discovery of gold in California and the rich, fertile land in Oregon brought larger numbers.
To help protect the pioneers against hostile Indians and to give them a trading post along the way, forts were built. Forts Laramie, Bridger, and Hall in what is now Wyoming were constructed of logs, mostly cottonwood. Fort Kearney in Nebraska was built using adobe, sod, logs, and boards. Fort Boise in Idaho first used adobe. Travelers were excited to visit a fort and break the austere, often monotonous life on the trail. Yet, they found the prices outrageous because it cost to transport the goods there.
In my new release, A Few Bumps in the Road, Judith Johnson takes her younger brother and travels along a portion of the Oregon Trail to Kansas as a mail-order bride after their parents die. She meets her intended and his brother at Fort Ferguson, a fictitious fort based on most of the others I researched. Her husband, although handsome and charming, turns out to be a womanizer and has a drinking problem. Judith is determined to make her marriage work, however, and she keeps telling herself her situation could be worse. At least Calvin’s older brother is stable and responsible, providing a home for all of them on the farm. But farm life on the prairie can be hard in 1850, and Calvin’s attitude makes the struggles even worse. But she knew one thing. After the harsh conditions on the Oregon Trail, she never planned to go back, and she hadn’t even gone all the way to Oregon like most of the others were doing.
Although A Few Bumps in the Road is part of the Idioms & Clichés series, like all my books, it can also be read as a standalone. These books are loosely connected by one family’s generations. It is available in print, Audible, and Kindle.
Here’s an excerpt:
Judith’s eyes began to sweep around the fort when she saw a tall man striding their way. Despite his long steps he didn’t appear to be in any hurry to get there.
Mr. Davis took a few steps forward to meet him and extended his hand. Robbie followed Mr. Davis, so Judith did too.
“Good to see you again,” Mr. Davis said. “Allow me to present to you Miss Judith Johnson and her brother Robert, better known as Robbie. Miss Johnson, this is Matthew Miller.”
A momentary flash of surprise flickered over Matthew’s face, but he tipped his hat and nodded. “A pleasure, Miss. Welcome, Robbie. I hope you both will be very happy here.”
She looked around wondering where Calvin could be. She didn’t see another man who fit what she knew of her fiancé.
“Cal woke up not feeling well and needed some extra time. He sent me on out to meet you, but he should be coming along soon.” Matthew must have seen her search.
“I hope nothing’s wrong.”
“No, we came into the fort yesterday evening. Cal woke up with a headache and queasy stomach this morning.”
Judith’s worry deepened, but she didn’t say anything.
“Come and we’ll go over to the building they use for a church. Cal will meet us there.”
You can read more of A Few Bumps in the Road in the Amazon sample and get more information by clicking here.
If anyone would like a free code for an Audible copy for A Few Bumps in the Road, message me on Facebook or email me at email@example.com. (You must have the free Audible account activated to redeem the code.)
For a chance to win a Kindle copy of A Few Bumps in the Road, what do you think would be ONE of the biggest hazards to living on the Kansas frontier in 1850?
Howdy, everyone! Thank you for having me back here on Petticoat and Pistols! I’m thrilled to have another chance to hang out with you all!
I recently had another cowboy book release, The Heart of a Cowboy (and I’m giving away a copy today here!). This one has to do with the very fun and interesting topic of traveling west by covered wagons.
Almost everyone has heard of the Oregon Trail and the many people who traveled to the west in covered wagons (and by stagecoach) over the well-worn route.
The Santa Fe Trail was another such trail to the west. It ran parallel to the Oregon Trail (mostly) but was a more southerly route through Kansas that eventually led to New Mexico (and was also used to reach southern Colorado).
Whether the Oregon or Santa Fe trails, the months-long journey to the west was marked by incredible difficulties. In researching for my book, I read countless diaries and journal entries by many of the brave people who ventured across the country. One classic I read was The Prairie Traveler which was actually a book written in 1859 by an army captain by the name of Randolph B. Marcy. The U.S. War Department asked him to publish a guide for settlers traveling across the American frontier based on his extensive experiences. His little book soon became an essential handbook for those pioneers. They used his advice on how to prepare for the trip as well as what to expect in the open country.
Even with sufficient preparation, good equipment, and an experienced guide, the travelers still faced incredible challenges. The npshistory.com site (National Park Service) indicates that nearly one in ten travelers on the Oregon Trail died on route to the west.
The Heart of the Cowboy tackles many of the hardships travelers had to endure including a near-river drowning, lost livestock, lost people, vicious storms, threats from Confederate Irregulars, danger from rattlesnakes, hot and dry weather, lack of water for both people and livestock, and much more.
One really dangerous aspect of traveling the Santa Fe Trail was the possibility of running out of water. I read an account of this very thing happening to travelers and how they dug down into the dry riverbed, placed their wagon box into the hole, and finally were able to tap into water buried a little deeper in the ground. So, of course, I had to include such an incident in my story too! (Along with many other dangers that really did happen to real-life travelers!)
Such stories of bravery make me appreciate those early pioneers all the more! (And make me grateful for our easy, fast, and comfy modern cars and airplanes!)
Leave a comment on this post if you’d like the chance to win a signed copy of the book! (Sorry, U.S. mailing addresses only.) I will choose a random winner on November 7, this Sunday. To find out more information about the book visit: http://jodyhedlund.com/books/the-heart-of-a-cowboy/
If you had to travel in a covered wagon to the west, what would you like most? Like least?
Jody Hedlund is the best-selling author of over thirty historicals for both adults and teens.
She is the winner of numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award.
Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy teens, and five spoiled cats.
My childhood years were spent on a farm 12 miles from the nearest town (population 1,000) that sat on the banks of the Malheur River in Eastern Oregon.
We usually ventured into town twice a week – once for my piano lessons, and on Sunday for church. Mom usually did her grocery shopping while I pounded the ivories. If my lesson wrapped up early and the weather was nice, I sometimes waited for Mom outside, studying the old buildings, imagining what the town might have been like when they were constructed.
One building, in particular, always fascinated me. It was made of stone and the oldest building in town.
Through the years, I learned more about the Stone House, as it’s called.
Built in 1872, this sandstone structure was the first permanent building in Malheur County, Oregon.
Jonathan Keeney had previously settled there, near the banks of the Malheur River where pioneers on the Oregon Trail crossed it, and enjoyed the hot springs bubbling nearby. He sold his property to Lewis and Amanda Rinehart, who replaced the log house Keeney had built with the sandstone house. The house opened to all on New Year’s Day 1873 with a grand ball upstairs.
Just picture how welcoming that lone two-story house would have looked to weary travelers. After crossing the Snake River, it was about twenty miles across sagebrush-covered hills to reach the Malheur River. In the summer, it would have been miserable. Hot. Dry. Dusty. With mile after mile of sagebrush, rocks, hills, and not much else.
In fact, one weary traveler is said to have perished (supposedly from thirst) not far from the river, given up his battle to survive just a few yards too soon.
But on the other side of the Malheur River stood the Stone House. In fact, many referred to the community as Stone House for years, until the town was incorporated as Vale.
The house became a wayside stop for travelers until the early 1900s. It was a stage stop where travelers could wait to board. And during the Bannock Paiute uprising of 1878, it served as Field Headquarters to General O.O. Howard as well as a refuge for settlers on outlying ranches and farms.
Amanda Rinehart was known as a gracious hostess, welcoming visitors to her home.
Originally, the house had six “rooms” downstairs: a main lobby area for passengers waiting for the stage with a curtain separating it to create a space for women and children. The dining room took up most of the first-floor space, with a sizeable kitchen, a pantry, and the Rinehart’s bedroom. Upstairs was originally a ballroom which was then converted to rooms for guests. And the stairs to reach the second story were located outside.
Today, the Stone House is a museum that reminds of us the past. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
When I was invited to participate in the Regional Romance Series again this year, I thought about how fun it would be to write a romance set in the community of Stone House before it became the town of Vale. A few old records refer to the town as Rinehart’s Crossing, and I loved the way Romance at Rinehart’s Crossing sounded. All those times I sat and imagined the stories of the buildings in town were finally going to be put to use as I envisioned the Rinehart’s Crossing of my story.
Before I started writing, I made a trip to visit the Stone House and took my dad along. He had a grand time because he knew the volunteer working there that day and they farmed at least two acres while I wandered through the rooms, snapping photos of the things on display.
Like this horse hair coat (which I mention in the story!).
And just look at all the neat antiques in the kitchen.
I will proudly note the stove was donated by my dad to the museum. When I was very young and we lived in what we called the “old house” it had a place of honor in our dining room. The stove originally belonged to my sister-in-law’s grandmother. It was sitting out in a shed and she asked Dad if he wanted to buy it, so he did. I love to think of all the meals it cooked and all the memories it holds.
This enormous hook was used with the ferry at the Snake River Crossing. The volunteer (thanks, Gary!) gave a detailed description of how the hook worked, and how the ferry could be adjusted to flow with or against the current.
When we finished up at the museum, we drove a few miles out of town to Keeney Pass, named for Jonathan Keeney, were you can actually stand right on the Oregon Trail. With the dried weeds and grass, it’s a little hard to see, but where the dip is on the right and left are the actually ruts made by the wagons that rolled through the area. I get goose bumps every time I go out there, picturing the hot, tired, weary travelers as they head up another hill to see the river and a little town in the distance.
It was fun for me to write about an Oregon Trail town, especially one where I grew up!
Tenner King is determined to make his own way in the world far from the overbearing presence of his father and the ranch where he was raised in Rinehart’s Crossing, Oregon. Reluctantly, he returns home after his father’s death to find the ranch on its way to ruin and his siblings antsy to leave. Prepared to do whatever is necessary to save the ranch, Tenner isn’t about to let a little thing like love get in his way.
Austen – After spending her entire life ruled by her father, Austen Rose King certainly isn’t going to allow her bossy older brother to take on the job. Desperate to leave the hard work and solitude of the Diamond K Ranch, she decides a husband would be the fastest means of escape. If only she could find a man she could tolerate for more than five minutes.
Claire – Two thousand miles of travel. Two thousand miles of listening to her parents bicker about the best place in Oregon to settle. Two thousand miles of dusty trails, bumpy wagons, and things that slither and creep into her bedding at night. Claire Clemons would happily set down roots that very minute if someone would let her. What she needs is her own Prince Charming to give her a place to call home. When a broken wagon wheel strands her family miles from civilization, she wonders if handsome Worth King, the freighter who rescues them, might just be the answer to her prayers.
Kendall – Anxious to escape her mother’s meddling interference, Kendall Arrington leaves her society life behind, intent on experiencing a Wild West adventure. Hired as the school teacher in a growing town on the Oregon Trail, Kendall hopes to bring a degree of civility and a joy of learning to the children of Rinehart’s Crossing. However, the last thing she expects to find is a cowboy with shaggy hair, dusty boots, and incredible green eyes among her eager students.
Will love find the three King siblings as Romance arrives in Rinehart’s Crossing?
Read all the books in the Regional Romance Series featuring historic locations, exciting drama, and sweet (yet swoony) romance!
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They made their way to Missouri to join a wagon train company. Hopeful Americans and immigrants alike longing for a better life. The free land in the West, and especially in Oregon, seemed the stepping stone to that life of plenty.
Just imagine that first day of walking the hundred miles to the other side of the continent. Here’s how I pictured it for my latest heroine in Beau’s Elegant Bride:
The oxen slowed even more than their typical crawling speed. One even tried to snatch a mouthful of grass from beside the road. Using the small whip in his hand. Beau carefully snapped it above their heads. At the same time, he crooned a command.
“Giddup now. Day’s not done.”
The cattle resumed their walk, pulling slightly faster. It seemed they were no happier to be on this trail than Francy was. Never in her life had she imagined to feel any kinship to stupid beasts.
While more than an estimated 400,000 people left from Missouri on wagon trains for Oregon, very few made it to that spot. Only about 80,000 actually settled in Oregon.
If you’ve played the popular Oregon Trail game, you might think these overlanders simply died. That works for a game, but is historically untrue. Very few actually passed away.
The trail ended some pioneers’ dreams merely because of broken wagons. If a traveler didn’t bring an extra axel, he had to settle near where he was stuck. That is, if someone couldn’t help repair the wagon.
Even then, discouragement might have been enough to make the man decide to stay on the plains. After all, land for farming could be claimed there and if a man had served in the Union Army during the war between the states, he could stake a claim for little or nothing.
As wagons reached the Rocky Mountains, travelers could see distant towering shapes growing daily larger. Imagine how intimidated those people felt. Already tired from crossing the plains, they saw those distant peaks and knew they needed the energy to get over the mountains. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Oregon-Trail
At the junction of the Raft and Snake Rivers, trails verged to other parts of the country. These promised a bit easier going or even the chance to settle and leave the trail behind.
Denver had a boom of miners. The young city, not much more than a collection of tents as you can see by this picture, desperately needed the produce from farmers.
Many settlers veered toward the land available there. Word had been passed to these travelers that the soil was good. The promised of building a home and even planting a late summer garden lured some from their goal of Oregon.
My characters in Beau’s Elegant Bride consider this very thing:
Panic flashed through her. “Do you think we might farm near the Crooks? Are they going all the way to Oregon?”
“Might be we could change plans. The Crooks are leavin’ the company and followin’ the South Platte in a few days.”
“Are there mountains that way?”
Beau squeezed her tighter and rested his chin on her head, not something easily done as they were similar in height. With her head bent against him, he managed it. “I’d need to study my map or ask William Crook ‘bout it. He says the people in and around Denver need farmers bringin’ in vegetables.”
News from California circulated in the East about the rich soil and crops that could be grown. California, with its warmer temperatures or even the promise of gold, also had some separating from the wagon trains to make up a smaller train as they headed away from the company to take a southern trail.
Where did all the settlers go? The easy answer is they simply settled, lived, and helped change the face of our nation.
Now it’s your turn. Do you think you’d have had the strength needed to stay on the path to Oregon? Or would you have stopped or veered off course long before? I’m giving away an ebook copy of Beau’s Elegant Bride to three (3) lucky commenters.
The Sweepstakes Rules posted on P&P apply.
A retired high school English teacher, she and her husband reside in Saginaw, Michigan. Her sweet historical romances focus on her home state of Wisconsin. Inspiration to write came in part from hearing family stories about her pioneering Wisconsin ancestors.
Oregon fever had gripped the county for years. Lewis and Clark accounts started it then others fueled the flames with claims of fertile soil and a temperate climate. Books were written and Congressmen and Senators proposed legislation offering free land in Oregon that finally passed in 1850.
But a fly called The Rockies flew into the ointment. The mountain range stood in the way and must be crossed.
The union of commerce and faith helped blaze the trail west. A merchant by the name of Nathaniel Wyeth and Methodist-Episcopal Missionary Jason Lee set out in 1834 for Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Wyeth had made the trip two years prior and guided Lee to his proposed mission. He promised mountain men that he’d bring trade goods to their next rendezvous.
The Wyeth-Lee party was the first group to traverse the entire Oregon Trail as it’s known today, though not all the way by wagon. They left those at For Hall and packed mules, traveling by foot the rest of the way.
A few more brave souls made it the following years, even two white women were among the number.
Two events spurred even more folks to go west. Missionary Marcus Whitman coming east in the winter of 42’-3 to confer with his mission’s board members, and the Senate passing the Linn Act.
The house narrowly defeated the bill, and it wasn’t until 1850 that it finally did pass, but the vote had been so close, folks figured it would pass soon enough. Plus, if Whitman could make the trek in winter, then traveling in spring and summer shouldn’t be any hill for a stepper.
Over 875 pilgrims met then left from Elm Grove a dozen miles out of Independence, Missouri for what became known as the Great Migration of 1843.
Before the western exodus by covered wagons ended—mostly due to the completion of the intercontinental train—over more than half a million people traveled over the Oregon and California Trails to start a new life.
Oxen were favored over mules and horse to pull the wagons for the bovine could survive on poorer quality feed and were better to eat if the need arose. They cost less as well. Teams of seven pair were common, and some train captains required that many.
Early on, no unaccompanied females were allowed. That fact has been fodder for many an Oregon Trail book, mine included.
Being a former goat fancier—my husband Ron got tired of feeding my girls—I used the death of a milk goat to throw Ruth and Logan together in my latest Prairie Roses offering, RUTH, book eight in the multi-author collection.
Hopefully, I showed the extra hardship of caring for two infants on the journey west. Nappies alone had to have been awful, on top of cooking and seeing to the other chores.
Ever hauled water out of a river? The trains paralleled the Platt most of the way but being close to water proved imperative.
A lot of the immigrants couldn’t stand the wagon’s rough ride and ended up walking the entire two thousand miles. A drover walked beside the main ox, keeping him in line and up to speed with voice commands and a stick he used to prod the animal.
His partner in pulling, the off ox knew his place as did the others. Best not even think about putting an animal in the wrong position. If sojourners did have mules or horses pulling their wagon, then someone had to be driving them.
Prairie Schooners were preferred over the more spacious Conestoga because of the sheer weight. Imagine packing everything you’d need to start over in the wilderness in a fourteen-by-four-foot wagon and head out for parts unknown.
Oregon Fever must have been some kind of powerful bug.
GIVEAWAY – Answer the following question to be in the running for the e’copy of REMI, my first Prairie Roses story.
What one luxury item could you not stand to leave behind, and what would you be willing to leave to make room for it?
RUTH released on May 3rd, my 71st birthday! It’s a story of redemption and second chances. I’m so grateful that we serve a God of second chances! Here’s the back-cover copy for it:
The Lord works in mysterious ways. Fleeing heartache, shame, and betrayal, Ruth finds all her plans are thwarted until the untimely death of a goat that gives her hope! Hired as a wet-nurse for Logan’s motherless son, she rejects his marriage-of-convenience proposal, hoping to find true love at the trail’s end. Going West (in what was later called the Great Migration of 1842) satisfies the widower’s wanderlust, and even though she turns him down, he determines to prove his love is true. Come along on this infamous journey of love and adventure.
BIO – Award-winning, Christian author Caryl McAdoo prays her story brings God glory. Of her best-selling novels, readers love her historical Christian romance family sagas most, but she also writes Christian contemporary romance, mysteries, Biblical fiction, and also for young adults and mid-grade booklovers. The large majority of reviewers award her stories five-stars and praise Caryl’s characters, even praying for them at times. The prolific writer loves singing the new songs God gives her almost as much as penning tales—hear a few at YouTube! Married to Ron fifty-three years next month, she shares four children and twenty-one grandsugars. The McAdoos live in the woods south of Clarksville, seat of Red River County in the far corner of Northeast Texas, waiting expectantly for God to open the next door.
The Oregon Trail was a route from Missouri to Oregon spanning about 2000 miles, and deemed too difficult for women and children until 1836 when the first white woman, 28-year-old Narcissa Whitman, crossed the Rockies with her newly-wedded husband (proving that women are tougher than believed!). Still, it wasn’t until over half of a decade later that the “Great Migration” really began, setting thousands out on this journey to the west. By the early 1850s upwards of 50,000 people traveled this trail every year!
While the journey was not easy and not everyone arrived at their destination, statistics show only around 400 settlers were killed by natives between 1840 and 1860. Cholera and other diseases presented much greater risks (they estimate 20,000 died in all).
But what if someone became lost from their group? That is the question that pestered me as I drove through the Rockies several years ago. A woman, maybe a pregnant woman, lost from the trail and her wagon train late in the season. That was the birth of Heart of a Warrior, my new release.
The Man She Fears Is Her Only Chance For Survival . . .
All Christina Astle wants is to reach Oregon before her baby is born, but the wagon train is attacked, and her husband killed, stranding her in a mountain labyrinth. Raised in the East, within civilization’s embrace, survival is not a skill she’s learned. Neither is evading the lone warrior dogging her trail.
Disgusted by the greed and cruelty of men like his white father, Towan has turned to the simpler existence of his mother’s tribal people. He is not prepared for the fiery woman who threatens to upturn his entire life … and his heart.
For More Info or To Purchase, check out the following links:
So how about you? Have you ever found yourself lost? How did you react? Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card.
To keep from freezing in the Great White North, Angela K Couch cuddles under quilts with her laptop. Winning short story contests, being a semi-finalist in ACFW’s Genesis Contest, and a finalist in the International Digital Awards also helped warm her up. As a passionate believer in Christ, her faith permeates the stories she tells. Her martial arts training, experience with horses, and appreciation for good romance sneak in there, as well. When not writing, she stays fit (and warm) by chasing after four—soon to be five!—munchkins. http://firstname.lastname@example.org
Years ago, a dear friend invited me to spend the weekend with her at her parents’ home in Sherman County, Oregon. I’d never been in that part of the state, but quickly fell in “awe” with the rolling hills of wheat and sky that stretched forever. A few years after that, I found myself driving through the area and when I entered the tiny town of Grass Valley, the idea for a book began hopping around in my head. By the time I got home, I could hardly wait to get started writing it.
And one book led to another, until there were six in the sweet, contemporary Grass Valley Cowboysseries. The stories are all set in and around Grass Valley, focusing on the Thompson and Morgan families.
The cowboys in the stories are the kind of heroes that give you happy daydreams (and may even make you swoon). They can be tender, teasing, flirty, furious, mischievous, rascally, protective, and proud, and that’s all before breakfast!
I’ve often thought about how fun it would be to write about the first families who came to Grass Valley, at least the families connected to those in my stories.
The settlement of Grass Valley began with the establishment of a few stock ranches. Settlers began to arrive in the area and were soon plowing the cattle-sustaining grass to plant wheat fields. Dr. Charles R. Rollins, a physician from New Hampshire, is credited with establishing Grass Valley when he arrived in the area with a small party of pioneers. Dr. Rollins had an easy time choosing a name for the location since the rye grass grew thick and tall in the alkaline soil. Rollins built a large two-story hotel, which included a clinic from which he prescribed and sold medicine. The town of Grass Valley was officially established in 1878.
I knew train service didn’t arrive in the area until around 1900, so I started digging into more history.
If you look at the map above, you see the John Day River, the Columbia River, and the Deschutes River make up the boundaries of quite a large area. Reportedly, Dr. Rollins was the only physician “between the rivers” for a while as communities popped up around the county.
Originally, I’d wanted to set the story in 1878, when Grass Valley was established, but getting my characters there was proving to be a challenge. So, I kicked the timeline up to 1884 when train service ran all the way across the country and made a stop in The Dalles. From there, it was simple enough to board the stagecoach that ran daily from The Dalles to Canyon City to the southeast. Just to reach Grass Valley took most of the day with stops at stations to switch out the teams for fresh horses. I could just picture a cast of characters bouncing along on that long ride, eager to reach Grass Valley.
When I was asked to participate in a new project with three other authors, I knew it was time to write the story of the first Thompson to arrive in Grass Valley.
I’m so pleased and happy to be part of the Regional Romance Series with our own Kit Morgan, as well as Kari Trumbo and Peggy L. Henderson. What makes this series so fun and unique is that each of us is writing three connected stories that are bundled into one book. If you purchase all four books in the series, you actually get twelve (12!) brand new romances!
I can hardly wait for you to read these stories, because they were ridiculously delightful to write! Oh, boy, did I have a good time! Mostly because of Taggart Thompson.
He is a rascally, good-looking rancher who fancies himself to be quite the matchmaker. And the real matchmaker is ready to throttle him!
What’s a matchmaker to do when the husband-to-be rejects the bride?
Again . . .
Widowed as a young wife, Cara Cargill turned her head for business and love of romance into a successful mail-order bride enterprise. She’s never had a problem matching couples until one mule-headed man continues to refuse to wed the women she sends to meet him in Grass Valley, Oregon. In an effort to make a match he’ll keep and uphold her sterling reputation, Cara is desperate to find the perfect bride.
Daisy – When her fiancé leaves her at the altar, Daisy Bancroft knows it is far past time for a change. Her dearest friend, Cara, offers to send her to a newly established town in Oregon, where possibilities abound and the grass is rumored to be as tall as a man’s head. Daisy arrives with plans to wed Tagg Thompson, only to find the obstinate rancher has foisted her off on his best friend.
Birdie – Tired of waiting for her Mister Right to magically appear and whisk her away to a happily-ever-after, Bridget “Birdie” Byrne convinces her sister, a renowned matchmaker, to send her as the bride to Tagg Thompson. The man who greets her upon her arrival isn’t Tagg, but Birdie is certain she’s finally discovered the man she is meant to marry.
Cara – Fed up with Tagg Thompson and his refusals of every bride she’s sent to Grass Valley for him to wed, Cara decides to meet the exasperating man in person. Her feet are barely on the ground in the rustic town before she’s nearly bowled over by a herd of stampeding cattle and swept into the brawny arms of a cowboy with the bluest eyes she’s ever seen.
At the rate you’re finding me a wife, I may be too old to have any kids by the time I get married. Speaking of children, Sally Oliver, she was the first bride you sent, wanted me to pass on the news to you that she and her husband, Mr. Buster Martin, will be parents in March. Good thing you’ve got me to help find these women a happy home.
Are you sure you know what you’re doing? You came highly recommended as one of the top matchmakers in the country, but if you have this much trouble with everyone who engages your services, I don’t see how you stay in business.
Please let me know when you have another bride ready to send my way. I look forward to making her acquaintance, and can only pray she’ll be better suited as a ranch wife than the last four you sent.
Mr. T. Thompson
Grass Valley, Oregon
What do you think? Will Cara find a bride to please Tagg?
The Fourth of July was celebrated big time in the Old West. From mining camps to wild cow towns, those early settlers used the day to whoop it up with dances, speeches, parades, foot races, and turkey shoots. Not to be left out, even American Indians celebrated the day with pow-wows and dances.
Some celebrations even took place in remote areas. In 1830, Mountain man William L. Sublette, on his way to Wind River with 81 men and 10 wagons, celebrated the holiday next to a large 130-foot-high rock. Claiming to have “kept the 4th of July in due style,” Sublette named the large boulder Independence Rock.
Located in what is now Wyoming, the rock became a signpost for travelers on the Oregon and Mormon trails. Companies arriving at the rock by July fourth knew they had made good time and would beat the mountain snows. Celebrations included inscribing names on the rock and shooting off guns.
Not every community celebrated with guns and fireworks. In 1864, a mining town in Nevada decided to celebrate its first fourth with a dance. Music, flag, and dance committees were formed. Of the three, the music committee was the most challenging as the only musician was a violinist who had an affinity for whiskey. His drinks had to be carefully regulated before the celebration.
Since the town lacked a flag, the flag committee pieced one together from a quilt. Fortunately, a traveling family camping nearby provided the blue fabric. The family included a mother and four girls, which meant more women for the dance. The problem was the girls had no shoes, which would have made it difficult to dance on the rough wood floors. The miners solved the problem by taking up a collection of brogans, and the dance went off without a hitch.
William “Buffalo Bill” Cody made history in North Platte, Nebraska on July 4, 1882, when he mounted an exhibition of cowboy “sports.” This was the beginning of his Wild West shows and what we now call a rodeo.
Not to be outdone, Dodge City did something different two years later for the Fourth of July to attract attention and business; It hosted the first professional Mexican bullfight on U.S. soil. Though the event was a financial success, it was not without controversy. Many, including Henry Bergh, founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals, denounced the sport as barbaric.
Compared to the rest of the country, Denver’s first Fourth of July celebration was oddly subdued. Drinking or carousing was not allowed. Instead, the Declaration of Independence was read, followed by prayers, “chaste and appropriate oration” and wholesome band music.
This year, most public celebrations have been canceled. But we Americans will find a way to keep “the 4th of July in due style.” Just like they did in the Old West.
How are you and your family celebrating the Fourth this year?
He may be a Texas Ranger, but he only has eyes for the outlaw’s beautiful daughter.Amazon
Secrets of My Heart comes out March first and is part of the Willamette Brides series (a sequel to the Heart of the Frontier series which came out several years ago). The story deals with three women who are caught up in the racial conflicts of 1879 Oregon. As I researched for this story, I kept finding a lot of issues that reminded me of problems we’re continuing to deal with today.
For instance, did you know that early in Oregon’s history, exclusion laws went into place that made it illegal for African Americans to even take up residency in Oregon Country. Wagon train masters signed agreements to not allow blacks in their trains. In one of the museums I visited they had a display that told the story of former slave Rose Jackson who was forced to hide in a specially made wagon box all day, every day, as the wagon train came west. She was only able to come out at night after everyone had gone to bed.
There were three exclusion acts – Peter Burnett’s Lash Law was one of these that called for African Americans to be expelled from Oregon, and if they refused to go, they were to be lashed. The law was rescinded in 1845 when it was determined lashing too harsh. The next exclusion law was made in 1849 and stated, it was unlawful for any “negro or mulatto” to enter or reside in Oregon Territory. It was rescinded in 1854. The third and final exclusion act was passed in 1857 and actually written into Oregon’s Bill of Rights. The clause prohibited African American from being in the state, owning property, and making contracts. Oregon became the only free state admitted to the Union with an exclusion clause in its constitution. It wasn’t repealed by voters until 1926, with final racist language not removed until 2002.
While the exclusion laws were generally not enforced, they hung as a threat over the heads of African Americans who feared that at any given moment new laws might be passed to strip away their possessions and force them from the state. This was especially driven home when the Fourteenth Amendment issue came up.
The Fourteenth Amendment which grants citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States, including former slaves, was ratified by a very narrow margin in 1866. Oregon then rescinded that ratification in 1868. The Fourteenth Amendment in Oregon was not re-ratified until 1973. They also refused to ratify the 15th Amendment which allows African American men the right to vote. That law wasn’t ratified in Oregon until 1959. For more information go to:
Of course, along with these laws, were laws against the Native Americans. Including making it illegal for whites to marry a person who was at least half Native American or even a quarter black, Chinese or Pacific Islander. This law wasn’t rescinded until 1951.
Learning about these laws and the problems they caused was quite fascinating and reminded me that as Solomon said in the Bible there truly is nothing new under the sun. It also reminded me that as Christians we should love others as Jesus loved us and when we do that, it allows for no prejudice or negativity based on the color of our skin.
I hope you’ll enjoy the series.
Soli Deo Gloria
What do you think would be the hardest part of traveling the Oregon trail in a covered wagon?
Tracie is giving away a print copy of Secrets of My Heart to one person who comments today.
Tracie had an unexpected travel engagement arise today and will not be available to respond to comments here today, but she welcomes readers to contacted her directly at email@example.com or through her website http://www.traciepeterson.com.