Hi there! Kit Morgan here! It’s so nice to be invited to write for the Petticoats and Pistols Blog. Thanks so much for having me.
Today I want to tell you about a fun project I’m involved in. I love creating entire communities, so when western historical romance author Caroline Lee asked me to help spearhead a multi-author project with her, I was in!
Multi-author projects are difficult at best, especially when creating an entire town, its inhabitants, and the type of town it’s to be. In this case, we had to create a boomtown on a downward slide. A place where the gold was petering out and the miners were leaving in droves. To make things a little easier and have a guide (because lets face it, none of us were around back then) we found a town located near our fictional setting that went through all the same things our town was going to be experiencing. Leadville, Colorado. So we started digging and discovered all sorts of things! (Click on the pictures below to enlarge them.)
The basic story line for our town, which we named Noelle, follows a group of businessmen with a problem on their hands. Now that the gold is petering out, they’re trying to figure out a way to stay, make the town a real town, and not have to lose everything they’ve built up. The answer? Get the railroad to create a spur to Noelle. To do that they need to either find more gold or get folks to settle fast so the railroad will take notice. They go for both. Twelve mail-order brides are on their way while, at the same time, what miners are left work double time to find more gold. The railroad does take notice, but gives the town a deadline to achieve this feat. If Noelle doesn’t meet the required deadline, no spur will be built. And that’s when the fun begins.
But much the same thing happened in Leadville back in the day, sans a mail-order bride scheme to save the town. The town may have run out of gold, but other things saved the day. I’m not telling you what otherwise the surprise will be spoiled should you read the books. Still, towns lived and died quickly in the old west, and Leadville was no exception. This is why it made such a wonderful model for our story line.
By 1880, just three years after Leadville was founded, it was one of the world’s largest and richest silver camps, with a population of over 15,000. Income from more than thirty mines and ten large smelting works producing gold, silver and lead amounted to $15,000,000 annually.
Noelle isn’t quite so prosperous. But we sure are having fun with it! Myself, I’ve written two books that take place in Noelle. The Partridge: The First Day, 12 Day’s of Christmas Mail-Order Brides, and just released, Ophelia A Valentine’s Day Bride.
Our town is still growing and trying to become respectable. Though we don’t expect it to reach to 15,000 people in its first few years, it is growing. Slow but sure, one happy romance at a time.
Have you ever been to a gold rush town? What attracted you? I’m giving away one digital copy of the books above — one to two different winners. Leave a comment to enter.
It’s with a great deal of pleasure that we welcome back to the Junction, our week-end guest blogger. Lena Nelson Dooley, who will share with you the story behind the story and her research for A Heart’s Gift!
Love the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. My first trip to Colorado was in October of 2004, and that’s when I fell in love. I taught a retreat at Silverthorne in Summit County, not far from the Continental Divide. I was mesmerized by the beautiful mountains. The weather turned really cold, and a light snowfall dusted the higher slopes that I could see from the windows of the house where the retreat was held.
If the person I was talking to was between me and the wall of windows, I had a hard time keeping my eyes on that person. The mountains kept pulling my attention away. Breathtaking isn’t a strong enough word for what I saw when my eyes wandered. I decided that I wanted to set a book in Summit County. While I was in Summit County the first time, I bought a book about the history of the area.
A Heart’s Gift came out in December of 2016. When I write, I work hard to make the book authentic to the time period, which was 1893. Silverthorne wasn’t even a town at that time, but lots of both silver and gold mines were located in Summit County. Some small and owned by individual miners. Some had been bought by mining companies and were large enterprises. In addition to the book I bought when I was there, I also looked on Amazon for any historical books. There are at least two series of books that contain not only information, but also actual photographs taken in different time periods.
A treasure trove of details is available online and in books. I used a lot of them to recreate the area in 1893. I bought the Images of America book of photos in Summit County. These included photos of Breckenridge, which was a thriving town with mines and cattle ranches close by. I learned a lot about the area, and I was able to actually visualize the town and surrounding area.
Of course, the characters in my novel and the ranch are completely fictitious. Here are a few of the things that are authentic:
Capital Bank of Denver
Details about a cattle drive
Shipping cattle by rail to Swift slaughter house in Chicago
The baby furniture, the high chair and the cradle (I found these in a historical Sears catalogue I already had)
The Ladies’ Book Club in Breckenridge
The Arlington Hotel (but I fictionalized the owner and the special suite for mine owners)
The Breckenridge Bakery on Lincoln Street that actually did make cream puffs at that time
Vaudeville show – The Face on the Barroom Floor
Stamp mills, throbbing beat
Ladies spent a lot of money on hats
As a reader, I love when there are authentic details in books. I think most other readers do, too. That’s why I do so much research. I want readers like you to get a real picture of the history of the time when my books take place. I’ve written a lot of western historical novels.
I’d love for us to chat some, so I’m going to ask you some questions to get us started.
Do you as a reader like to know that the historical details are authentic?
What time period do you prefer reading about?
Who is your favorite western author?
A Heart’s Gift received the 2017 FHL Reader’s Choice Award for long historicals. I will be giving away one Kindle copy of the book. Even if you don’t own a Kindle, you can download a Free copy of Kindle for Apple (computers), Kindle for PC, Kindle for tablets, or Kindle for Android phones where you can read the book.
Lately I’ve wondered how an Iowa city girl ended up writing romances with cowboy heroes. Or, I’ve wondered about the reasons other than the obvious—that cowboys are incredibly sexy. For my first official blog as a filly at Petticoats and Pistols, I’m sharing what fascinates me about cowboys.
For me, a cowboy isn’t as much about the occupation as the state of mind and attitude. Sure when I think of a cowboy, I see a man in form fitting Levi’s or Wranglers. I see dusty, worn cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, but it’s more than that, too. There’s something about the way he moves in a slow, yet deliberate way, that says he’ll take his time with what matters in life. If you’ve seen Scott Eastwood in The Longest Ride, you know what I mean. If not, watch it now. I’ll wait.
Now that we’re done drooling over Scott, back to the topic at hand. Cowboys have a connection to the land that goes deeper than most people’s. That taps into my love of my grandparents’ farm in Decorah, Iowa. I spent hours wandering over that land spinning stories and imaging my life living on a similar place. Writing about my heroes and heroines strolling over their land or walking along Wishing’s streets fill me with the same warm affection. That intense bond with the ZSAER%^land was a big inspiration behind my Wishing, Texas series. For those heroes, their link Ty Barnett’s ranch, The Bar 7 and each other anchor their lives.
As to a cowboy’s attitude and mind-set—people see him as a loner, and he is, but I also see his strong tie to family. Family, however he defines it, is allowed past his guard. When I wrote my first novel for Harlequin, I wanted my hero so desperate for money he’d model in New York. But I wanted something different. What does a cowboy love more than his ranch and horse? His mama. That one detail told me everything I needed to know about my hero.
A cowboy has a sense of honor that factors into every decision. In my first Wishing, Texas book, To Love A Texas Cowboy, Ty Barnett’s world is turned upside down because of a promise to a friend. One he’ll keep even if it means dealing with Cassie Reynolds. This unwavering honor paired with a good dose of Alpha male, makes writing stories with cowboy heroes fun when I turn the tables on them. In To Catch A Texas Cowboy, AJ Quinn’s sick of hearing “let’s just be friends” from women. Poor cowboy. I had a blast torturing AJ giving him what he asked, but not what he bargained for, in New Yorker Grace Henry.
For me, these characteristics make cowboys fascinating, and oh so hero-worthy. Now it’s your turn. Tell me what it about cowboys makes you swoon or say that’s a hero?
I’m giving away a copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy and a wine glass. Post a comment to enter.
Research is one of the most important tools of the fiction author’s trade. Regardless what an author writes—historical, contemporary, fantasy, science fiction—he or she must have some knowledge of the real world in order to create a world in which characters live and breathe.
Good authors don’t beat readers over the head with their research, but what they dig up informs every aspect of their stories. Much of what we discover doesn’t make it into our books. Instead, the information clutters up our heads and trickles out at odd times.
This is one of those times.
Each of the five authors who contributed to Prairie Rose Publications’s new release, the boxed set A Kiss to Remember, uncovered historical tidbits that surprised, charmed, or saddened her. Since all of us are good authors and would never dream of beating readers over the head with our research in our books, we’re taking the opportunity to beat readers over the head with our research in a blog post. We can be sneaky that way.
Without further ado…
Her Sanctuary by Tracy Garrett
Beautiful Maggie Flanaghan’s heart is broken when her father dies suddenly and the westward-bound wagon train moves on without her, leaving her stranded in River’s Bend. But Reverend Kristoph Oltmann discovers the tender beginnings of love as he comforts Maggie, only to find she harbors a secret that could make their relationship impossible.
Tracy: I’m a “cradle Lutheran,” meaning I was born into a Lutheran family, baptized in the Lutheran church… You get the idea. Imagine my surprise when I began researching the history of the church in Missouri and found they’d been in the state a lot longer than I thought. It was fun, though.
Gabriel’s Law by Cheryl Pierson
Brandon Gabriel is hired by the citizens of Spring Branch to hunt down the notorious Clayton Gang, never suspecting a double-cross. When Allison Taylor rides into town for supplies, she doesn’t expect to be sickened by the sight of a man being beaten to death by a mob—a man she recognizes from her past. Spring Branch’s upstanding citizens gather round to see a murder, but everything changes with the click of a gun—and Gabriel’s Law.
Cheryl: Orphanages of the 1800s and early 1900s were mainly what I needed to research. And what sad research it was! The Indian orphanages and “schools” were the worst. The Indian children were forced to “assimilate”: cut their hair, wear white man’s clothing, and speak only English. Punishment was swift and sure if they were caught speaking their native tongues. In essence, they were taught they had to forget everything they knew—even their families—and adopt the ways of the whites completely. This only ensured they would never be wholly at ease in either world, white or Indian.
Outlaw Heart, by Tanya Hanson
Making a new start has never been harder! Bronx Sanderson is determined to leave his old outlaw ways behind and become a decent man. Lila Brewster is certain that her destiny lies in keeping her late husband’s dream alive: a mission house for the down-and-out of Leadville, Colorado. But dreams change when love flares between an angel and a man with an Outlaw Heart.
Tanya: The research that fascinated me the most was meeting and getting to know Dr. John Henry Holliday. What a guy. I’ve quite fallen in love with him. This handsome, soft-spoken, peaches-n-cream Southern gentleman can bring me to tears. He died slowly from tuberculosis for fifteen years after losing his beloved mother to the disease when he was 15. Talented pianist, multilingual, skilled surgeon who won awards for denture design… Most of his “deadly dentist” stuff was contrived. He needed a bad reputation to keep himself safe from angry gamblers. I was thrilled and honored both when he asked to be a character in Outlaw Heart.
The Dumont Way by Kathleen Rice Adams
The biggest ranch in Texas will give her all to save her children…but only the right woman’s love can save a man’s tortured soul. This trilogy of stories about the Dumont family contains The Trouble with Honey, a new, never-before-published novella. Nothing will stop this powerful family from doing things The Dumont Way.
Kathleen: Did you realize George Armstrong Custer was part of the Union occupation force in Texas after the Civil War? Neither did I. While I was double-checking my facts about Reconstruction-era Texas, I ran across that little tidbit. Texans may not have liked him any better than any other Yankee, but they were grateful for his kindness. During his five months in Texas, Custer was disliked by his own men because he strictly enforced Army regulations about “foraging” (read “stealing”) and poor treatment of civilians. I must admit I’m one of those who tended to view Custer as one of history’s real-life bad guys, but that one tidbit softened my impression. Funny how little things can make a big difference, isn’t it?
Yesterday’s Flame by Livia J. Washburn
When smoke jumper Annabel Lowell’s duties propel her from San Francisco in 2000 back to 1906, she faces one of the worst earthquakes in history. But she also finds the passion of a lifetime in fellow fireman Cole Brady. Now she must choose between a future of certain danger and a present of certain love—no matter how short-lived it may be. “A timeless and haunting tale of love.” ~ The Literary Times
Livia: I really enjoyed learning about the firefighting companies in San Francisco. The massive earthquake in 1906 was followed by an equally devastating fire, and there were a lot of heroes among those early firefighters.
Have you ever been surprised, charmed, alarmed, or vexed by something you’ve read—in either fiction or non-fiction? What was it? We’d love to hear! One brave soul who shares her or his discovery in the comments will win a digital copy of the brand-new boxed set A Kiss to Rememberbefore it’s available to the public! The five books comprise more than 1,000 pages of heart-melting western historical romance…and that’s a fact.
A couple of autumns ago, Hubs and I visited Colorado during peak aspen season and found ourselves in Leadville.
Well, you don’t just find yourself in a place two miles high…we went on purpose, had a great visit and lunch in a historic saloon. Finding Wild West memorabilia all over the walls of the Silver Dollar Saloon (formerly The Board of Trade) told me I had to set a story in this “Cloud City” breathing and seething with history, and somehow, Doc Holliday would play a part.
And I found out some stuff I thought I’d share. Please leave a comment today for a chance to win an e-copy. What info about Doc Holliday did you find most interesting?
1. John Henry Holliday, was born in Griffin, Georgia, on August 14, 1851, with a cleft pallet. His uncle, physician John Stiles Holliday surgically repaired the newborn’s defect and possibly the baby was named for him. The doctor’s first cousin Dr. Williamson Crawford Long was the anesthesiologist. John Henry Holliday most likely had a slight life-long speech impediment.
2. John’s beloved mother Alice died of tuberculosis when he was 15. His father’s remarriage only three months later to a woman just a few years older than John added to his terrible loss.
3. His father Henry Burroughs Holliday was a planter, druggist, and a soldier who moved the family near the Florida-Georgia line when he realized their home in Griffin GA was in the warpath of U.S. General Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea.
4. John Henry Holliday had been close friends with his first cousin Martha Anne “Mattie” Holliday since childhood, and after his father’s second, unpopular marriage, he spent even more time with her family. Romance bloomed, to both families’ displeasure. Although John eventually went west and Mattie joined a convent using the name Sister Mary Melanie, the two were in touch his whole life. Mattie is said to have burned his letters upon his death. The great granddaughter of her step-uncle named a character Melanie after her in her one and only novel. A character in love with a first cousin. The author, Margaret Mitchell. The book—Gone With the Wind.
5. I don’t know if the nature of John’s birth defect influenced his decision to become a dentist, but his family’s status required a respectable profession. One of 26 candidates, he graduated from Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery during its 16th commencement ceremony in 1872. His thesis was titled “Diseases of the Teeth.”
6. In 1873, John H. Holliday and his partner Dr. John Seegar won dentistry awards for “best set of teeth in gold”, “best set in vulcanized rubber”, and “best set of artificial teeth and dental ware”. (From “Facts Any Doc Holliday Aficionado Should Know and Probably Doesn’t” by Susan Ballard)
7. Not long after graduation, John Henry Holliday set up practice in Atlanta. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and given the prognosis of a short life. It is highly likely he contracted the incurable disease from his mother. To improve his condition, he headed to the drier climes of the west. Eventually, wracking coughs during dental procedures and extractions helped him accept that dentistry was not for him and he needed to seek anther profession.
8. He discovered a natural ability for gambling. Which meant developing gun fighting and knife skills to protect himself against disgruntled opponents. His reputation spread. Tall but often pale and frail from his illness, he encouraged and maybe even embellished stories about the “deadly dentist” out of self preservation. Supposedly he aimed overhead or for the hand or arm, so as to disarm, not kill, an opponent.
9. He could handle his liquor, but the tales of him consuming three bottles a day were highly exaggerated. As are the numbers of his purported massacres. Holliday most likely killed 2 men and wounded 8 others. No legal reports or newspaper accounts support anything else. Some believed Holliday accepted his diagnosis of a short life and lived dangerously because he didn’t have much time left anyway.
10. Oh, not that he didn’t make enemies. And friends such as Wyatt Earp. Truth is, Holliday was very much a part of the 30-second shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, and was himself wounded. Not long after, he was accused of killing Frank Stilwell, the man who murdered Wyatt’s brother Morgan in cold blood. Wild with grief and vengeance, Wyatt and Doc did pursue the man but Wyatt fired the fatal shots. Doc let loose two bullets after the fact. He willingly stuck by Wyatt on his ride for bloody retribution.
11. After embalming, Morgan Earp’s body was dressed in Holliday’s own blue suit before beginning the funeral cortège from Arizona to the elder Earps’ home in Colton, California.
12. Doc ended up in Denver by 1882. When The Territory of Arizona tried to extradite him, Colorado’s Governor Frederick Pitkin refused. Safe in Colorado, Doc spent time in Leadville at exactly the same time I set my story Outlaw Heart, 1885. This was shortly after a jury acquitted the popular Doc from shooting a man he actually did shoot. I found I simply could not tell Doc to stay silent when he asked for a speaking role in my story.
13. In addition to Mattie, Doc found romance with Mary Katherine Harony, but their complex 10-year on and off relationship deserves its own blog and I’ll do one on her in the near future.
14. Whatever his crimes, misdemeanors, and reputation, the flaxen-haired, elegant John Henry Holliday was easily likable, had many friends, inspired loyalty from just about anyone, and ever remained a gently-spoken, easy tempered charming Southern gentleman. He died of his long illness in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, on November 8, 1887, at only 36 years old.
I hope you enjoy meeting my highly, and apologetically fictionalized version of Doc Holliday in OUTLAW HEART, which releases tomorrow and is available for preorder. Please leave a comment for a chance to win an ecopy…what was the Doc fact that most surprised you?
Outlaw Bronx Sanderson, saved from the hangman five years before, trudges two-miles high to Cloud City to find absolution and forget the wrongs caused by a redheaded widow up in Canada.
Then Lila Brewster enters his new world and opens his heart to new possibilities. But this flame-haired beauty married to a memory won’t break the vow she made to a dead man. How can Bronx convince her, and himself, the time is right to take a chance? Especially when her brother-in-law blusters into Leadville with impossible demands.
Here’s a little excerpt, when Bronx first meets Doc Holliday:
Bronx ran past a laundry and four saloons before he stumbled into one called the Board of Trade.
Not many noticed him, which was a good thing, but not many men crowded the tables, either. Then again, most were likely still digging or sweating or otherwise earning their wad. Guilt shoveled through him. He ought to be finding an occupation himself instead of lollying an afternoon away with a red-headed widow, and now, taking the edge off because of it.
The place was civilized, though. Tall dark paneled walls with a long horizon of mirror behind the bar.
“Take a seat, newcomer.” A somehow familiar face invited Bronx to a faro table. The voice wore a silky drawl, the hand tapped the chair next to him. “Welcome to this fine establishment.”
Bronx nodded, polite, for sometimes the impolite invited gun fighting. “Thanks but kindly. Not a gambling man,” he said, meaning it, despite eager for masculine company.
Instead of a red-headed widow.
“Well now, sit anyway. You look like a Kentucky bourbon man, if I may be so bold. My tab is yours.”
The brown mustache and smooth-cut hair. Many a wanted poster described just this face. Oh, and Bronx had studied them all for years, since turning outlaw at fifteen. Been both proud and terrified when his own face showed up on one. Recognition niggled like fleas. Then familiarity smacked him hard as legend became life. Asa’d been right.
“John Henry Holliday. You’re John Henry Holliday.” Bronx sank to the chair, out of breath like he’d been running fast on a hot day. The deadly dentist.
“Pleased if you’d simply call me Doc. So many already do. I’m charmed to meet you, I’m sure.” Doc Holliday raised an empty hand from his belt.
Bronx half rose and shook it, found his words. “Doc, then. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. Bronx. Bronx Sanderson.”
Pleased how easy his true name slipped off his tongue, Bronx relaxed against the hard back of the chair. Nodding at the barkeep for a second glass, Doc filled it up half.
Bronx raised it in a toast of sorts, while Doc Holliday studied him, careful, finally tapped a fingernail on his front tooth. Eyebrows clenched together over a fine-looking nose if Bronx might say so himself. But his neck twitched where his hair lay against it when Doc Holliday’s eyes narrowed.
“I’m recalling such a name from my Arizona days,” Holiday mused. “And yourself on a poster or two. Yet…I was led to believe…” He took a long drink. “…a man with your face and name died in a jail break in Prescott. Just hours before getting your neck stretched. It was a sad thing, dying just as one got free.”
For a flash, Bronx’s thoughts turned black at the momentous day. The jailer’s granny had believed in him, tucked the key in a cake. Seems like she’d spread a lie to keep him safe all the way through…
Bronx clenched his fists in disbelief. Who had she buried in his stead?
“You did not know?” Doc Holliday stared at him, thoughtful, like he was thinking many thoughts himself. “So you have been someone else. Someplace else. Four, five years now?”
Nodding, Bronx gulped a huge swallow. Shuddered as the raw brew struggled down his tight throat.
Doc burst into laughter. “So…how many know you’re back here? From whenever you came back from?”
“Uh, three. No, four including you and two ladies at the boarding house.”
“Well, if they’re proper females, they likely won’t suspect you have been a wanted man. And the improper ones, well. Likely they can be bought off.”
“I won’t be showing them my face, there.” Bronx huffed. “I need to save my coin. But truth is Doc, I didn’t kill the U.S Marshal. They were folks in Prescott out to get me.”
Doc grunted, amused, as his mouth touched his glass. “Always the same story, my friend. Never quite one’s own fault. But I won’t say a word. We’re a brotherhood of sorts, are we not?”
In January 1991, “Doc Susie, The true story of a country physician in the Colorado Rockies” was given to the world. This biography of Dr. Susan Anderson began the legend of the lone woman doctor who gave up so much to follow her dreams. This legend became a myth when “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” hit the airwaves in 1993, two years after the release of the book. Both were full of drama and pathos.
But was Dr. Anderson the norm for women doctors, or is there more to the story? Susan Anderson , born January 31, 1870, received her license to practice medicine in Colorado in 1897 and the bulk of her story takes place in Frasier, Colorado after 1907, where she was the lone doctor, and never married. To put this in perspective, Colorado had women physicians as early as 1873. Dr. Alida Avery came to Denver, Colorado in 1874 from Vassar, where she taught and was their physician for nine years. Like Doc Susie she also remained single.
In 1876, according to relatives, Dr. Harriet Leonard arrived in Manitou Springs, Colorado, with husband and children. By 1878 she was joined by Dr. Julia E. Loomis, Dr. Esther B. Holmes and shortly after Dr. Clarabel Rowe in Colorado Springs. All four of these women were married and practiced their chosen career, along with the sixteen other doctors in the area in the late 1870’s. Dr. Loomis went to medical school in her 50’s. None of these women, who appear to have been married prior to going for their medical degree, could have achieved their goal without a least some support from their husbands.
In 1881 when Colorado started licensing physicians, women were licensed the same as men. Dr. Edith Root of Denver, Colorado may have been the first to receive her license. Her license number was 82.
Between 1870 and 1880 Colorado saw the arrival of many physicians, which included a number of women. This may have in part been due to Colorado being touted for a climate known for helping those who suffered from consumption. Note, consumption was not just TB, but any wasting disease. There was another spurt from 1890-1900. Yes, many of these women congregated in the larger towns, to include the boom towns of Leadville, Cripple Creek and Victor. Once the floodgates were opened, women physicians made their way to Colorado. Many became involved in the suffrage movement, while others worked to better the conditions of others. Dr. Caroline Spencer of Colorado Springs and Dr. Alida Avery worked for the rights of women. Dr. Mary Helen Barker Bates helped start a hospital in Leadville. Dr. Kate Yont worked in the Italian community with the naturalization process in Denver. Some carried guns, others didn’t have to, but all have stories waiting to be told.
So you see, while the story of Dr. Susan ‘Doc Susie’ Anderson is a wonderful story, it is by far not the norm for women doctors in the state of Colorado. There were many before her who also followed the dream of helping people in need.
Doris McCraw has been researching the women doctors in Colorado prior to 1900 for some time. Finding the stories of these pioneering and determined women is a passion. Doris also writes fiction under the pen name Angela Raines where she tells the stories of strong women and men who find the strength to love, much like the women doctors who followed their dreams.
Author Page: http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL
What do you think was the biggest challenge for those early female doctors?
Four lucky readers will win one of these delightful e-books. The rest of us can order by clicking on the covers.
I am a history buff with a weakness for historic buildings, and in particular, historic hotels.
My dad, a history and political science professor, passed his love of history to his kids and years after studying American Lit & History at UCLA, I went back and got a teaching credential so I could teach English and Social Studies to junior high and high school students.
Whenever I travel, I try to stay in one of the oldest hotels in a town, or one of those fascinating historic buildings that have been turned into a hotel today, preserving a bit of the past while making the building relevant for today’s generation.
In my Taming of the Sheenan series, my hero and heroine in The Tycoon’s Kiss, are both preservationists. Troy Sheenan, a hi-tech tycoon in the Silicon Valley, never forgot his roots in Marietta, Montana and has bought the turn of the century Graff Hotel and restored it to its former glory after the hotel had been abandoned for twenty plus years. Renovating the Graff has nearly bankrupt him, but he had to do it because the hotel was too big a part of Montana history to let it be demolished. Fortunately, he meets the new Marietta librarian, Taylor, who is equally passionate about Montana history, including the town’s 19th century library and my tycoon and book girl fall in love with each other in part because they both love Montana’s rugged history.
Thinking back, I could have happily written an entire story just about American Frontier buildings, except I don’t think my romance readers would have been happy with me f I’d left out people and romance completely.
I’ve used Marietta’s Graff Hotel as a setting many of my Sheenan Brothers stories, but it plays a central role in my brand new release, A Christmas Miracle for Daisy.
In A Christmas Miracle for Daisy, single dad, Cormac Sheenan, and his four-year-old daughter Daisy are living at the Graff during the holidays while their Paradise Valley log cabin style home is being remodeled to make it ‘child-safe’. Cormac isn’t big on Christmas and festivities and Marietta has become Christmas town, with the handsome old Graff featuring daily visits with Santa Claus.
My new Christmas story is a riff on Miracle on 34th Street, and so I don’t need to tell you the challenges everyone faces. Cormac is a non-Kris “Krinkles” believer, while Daisy knows without a doubt that Kris is the real thing. Santa needs to pull off a miracle but its not easy without magic and faith.
I loved using the Graff for a Christmas setting because I could fill the dark paneled lobby with a soaring fir tree, and put garland and red ribbons above doorways and add weekend holiday teas to the hotel’s restaurant menu. I also added another historic building to my Marietta, Montana collection with the addition of the turn of the century “Crookshank Department Store”, a big brick building on Marietta’s Main Street. I’m also sharing a couple Pinterest links to boards featuring Marietta decked out for Christmas, along with the great turn of the century buildings I love so much:
As you can tell, when researching, I spend considerable hours pouring over histories and pictures of my favorite old hotels of the West so I thought I’d share some of my favorite recommendations with you. I’ve been able to stay at each of these places, too, and am including a link so you can visit, either in person or as an armchair traveler…which sometimes can be the best way to travel!
Five of Jane’s Favorite Historic Hotels of the West
The historic Grand Union Hotel was opened in 1882, seven years before Montana became a state. However, within a year two new railroads opened—the Northern Pacific and the Canadian Pacific Railroad to Calgary—and overnight the hotel and town declined. Just two years after it was opened, the bankrupt hotel sold at a “sheriff’s auction” for $10,000. The hotel struggled on through the 20th Century, before closing in the 1980’s and then undergoing a multi-million remodel over a period of years before reopening in 1999, making the Grand Union Montana’s oldest operating hotel.
Spokane’s 1914 Davenport Hotel is one of my favorite hotels in the West. It was built to be a destination spot where guests could escape from the noise and chaos of the outside world for the Davenport’s elegance and refinement. The hotel was nearly demolished in 2002 but saved at the last minute for an extensive renovation that has once again made the Davenport the place to go west of the Cascades.
The Oxford Hotel – Denver, CO
Opened to the public in 1891, the Oxford Hotel was built by Colorado brewer
Adolph Zang with the newest technology, and stunning grandeur with oak furnishings, silver chandeliers and frescoed walls. The newest technology meant that all guest rooms had rare creature comforts: steam heating, electric and gas lighting and bathrooms with separate water closets. The hotel was updated a number of times over the next seventy-five years, but restored to its former glory in the 1980’s to the tune of $12 million.
Browns Palace Hotel is the second oldest hotel in Denver, opened just one year after the Oxford Hotel and name for its owner, Henry Brown. The hotel was designed around an atrium—one of the features I love best about this hotel—and features a gorgeous afternoon tea (my favorite thing to do when traveling…).
The historic Sacajawea dates back to 1910 and was renovated one hundred years later, after spending almost a decade boarded up. Unlike the big city sandstone and red brick hotels, this is a white painted beauty in a small, rural community thirty miles outside Bozeman. I’ve been here several times, if not to overnight, then for a fantastic steak dinner in the hotel’s handsome dining room. I could write an entire blog about Three Forks, MT as it factors hugely in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, as well as being a key stop on the Milwaukee Railroad.
(Plus one extra favorite from my childhood, The Wawona Hotel outside Yosemite, near the Mariposa Grove, a station stop in 1856 with rustic accomodations that were replaced in 1879 with the 25 room hotel. Just 90 minutes from my home in Visalia, the Wawona was a magical Victorian period two-story hotel with lots of crisp white paint and picturesque verandas overlooking the lawn. I could picture the horse drawn carriages at the turn of the century arriving with guests from San Francisco and Los Angeles. The hotel today has 104 guest rooms and has been operated by the Park Service since the 1930’s, and remains my first hotel love….with the Awahnee Hotel in Yosemite valley as a very close second! http://www.yosemitepark.com/wawona-hotel.aspx )
Do you enjoy staying in old hotels or visiting historic buildings? Leave a comment for a chance to win this fun prize and I’ll be back to pick a winner on Sunday, the 6th of December!
It is such an honor to be visiting the Petticoats and Pistols blog today. Is it all right if I have a fan girl moment here for a few moments? (Pretend I’m super squee-ing and getting all excited!) Phew! I’m done. No, okay, wait… EEE!!! I’m so happy to be here with so many of my favorite authors!!
Okay, now I’m really done, because you didn’t invite me here to say how fabulous you are! You wanted to hear about some cool historical stuff.
I write books set in Leadville, Colorado. My husband’s family settled there near the dawn of the 20th century. Since then, they’ve maintained ties to the area. It’s one of my favorite places, and I’m so glad to be able to share it with my readers.
Leadville’s claim to fame is the silver boom that happened from 1879 until 1893. During those years, what amounts to billions of dollars in today’s money came out of the Leadville area. Some of the wealthiest families in America, such as the Guggenheims, found their start in Leadville. Doc Holliday spent some time in Leadville, as did Molly Brown of the Unsinkable Molly Brown fame. It always surprises me when I read something about Leadville and find the name of one more famous person who spent time there.
It’s tempting to base my books on real history, and in some ways, I do. But I also fictionalize things and change them up a bit because many of the old-timers, folks who have generational ties to Leadville, know the stories, and in some cases, have differing versions of the story.
For example, the story of Baby Doe Tabor’s later years. Baby Doe Tabor, if you’re not familiar with the story, is a rags to riches to rags tale. She married Horace Tabor, one of Leadville’s wealthiest men, after his scandalous divorce from his first wife. They lived extravagantly, and were ill-prepared for the silver crash in 1893. Overnight, the Tabors lost everything, and when Horace died, Baby Doe was left penniless.
As the story goes, Horace’s deathbed wish to Baby Doe was to “hang on to the Matchless.” The Matchless was one of Tabor’s silver mines, and Horace believed it would someday make money again.
Many historical sources say “hang on to the Matchless” was not what Tabor said, however, after Horace’s death, Baby Doe ended up living in poverty in a little shack at the mine. She became a recluse, and had little contact with the outside world. She allowed very few people to come visit her, and this is where the old-timers all have a tale to tell.
One of the few people allowed to visit Baby Doe was the grocery delivery boy, who would occasionally bring her groceries. I’ve met so many people who will tell you that their relative was the delivery boy. Of course, I have it on very good authority from my husband’s late great-aunt, that the delivery boy was her brother! But if only one delivery boy was allowed access, you can see where that might be a problem!
So, as you can see, real history, real people… well, let’s just say it’s safer to make it up!
But there are always touches of the real in my books, because what I love about Leadville is the adventurous spirit that comes with living in a rough place in a rough time. After all, isn’t that what makes the west so great?
Now it’s your turn… do you have any fun historical claims to fame? Even if you don’t, I’d love to hear a fun history story passed down in your family. Share your story for a chance to win a copy of The Lawman’s Redemption.
If you’re interested in seeing some more of our family historical ties to Leadville, stop by my website, where I have some fun videos posted in the extras section:
Former deputy Will Lawson is fighting to regain his reputation—and Mary Stone is his only lead to the bandit who framed him. Now that he’s tracked Mary to Leadville, Colorado, Will needs the proud beauty to reveal her past. Instead, his efforts spark a mighty inconvenient attraction…
Mary’s only real crime is that she once believed an outlaw’s lies. Still, she fears disclosing the truth to Will may land her in jail—and leave her young siblings without protection. Now she must choose between honesty and safeguarding her family. And if Will does clear his own name, can he convince the woman he loves to share it?
Have you ever talked to a fence post? Not a treated, fancy white four-by-four or steel post. I mean a real fence post that’s been around for a while. An old twisted cedar leg that some rancher stuck in the ground a hundred years ago or more.
I walk by them every morning on my trek up the gentle slope toward the lip of the Arkansas River Valley near Cañon City, Colorado. Most of the time I find new wire stabled to the old fellas. But occasionally I’ll spot a length of rusty devil rope hanging on.
And that’s when I stop and visit. Crazy? Sure. But I can name a few people a whole lot more prickly that I’d rather not talk to. And they don’t have half the stories the old cedars have.
“Who planted you here? A cattleman sick to be fencing the land, or a homesteader eager to keep the cows from his crops?”
“Was he single? Did he have a sweetheart? Did he ride by every season to check on you, see how you were holding up?”
“Did he have a handlebar mustache? Carry a rifle or a sidearm?”
When I bend close to the weathered creases and knots, and feel the sun peeking up over the hills, I can almost hear the creak of saddle leather and the soft riffle of grass against a horse’s lip.
But times have changed and they changed people, or maybe it was the other way around.
It doesn’t take much to imagine one of those cowboys hunting out a good cedar stand, limbing the longest leg with a sharp ax, and replanting the tree as a post. Makes me wonder if some of those cattlemen felt tamped in like the cedars, with their open range stitched into sectioned acres.
The first cowboys who drove their “Mexico” cows into the high parks of this country didn’t pack fencing tools in their saddle bags. This was open range and barbed wire had not yet been invented. However, a good man would string wire, or board off a garden plot for his missus if he had one. A missus, that is.
In my upcoming novella, The Columbine Bride, fencing plays a subtle role in the story of young widow Lucy Powell and her neighboring rancher Buck Reiter. She isn’t too happy about him riding up into the timber to snake down a long pole behind his horse. But she doesn’t mind his help when it comes to fencing off her garden.
But fences don’t keep everything out—or in—and when Buck takes a liking to Lucy and her two young’uns … well, you’ll just have to wait and see.
The Columbine Bride is the sequel to last year’s The Snowbound Bride. It releases in book 4 of The 12 Brides of Summer collection from Barbour on Sept. 1. However, a special printed collection will be at select Walmart stores July 14 in Old West Summer Brides.
Set in 1886 Colorado in the high park country above Cañon City, the tale of this hard-working couple came fairly easy to my writer’s heart.
Guess I talked to enough old cedar posts over the winter.
Leave a Comment to be entered in the drawing for The Snowbird Bride in e-book form. And look for 12 Brides of Summer in September!
– e-book version Book 4 of three stories, including “The
BIO: Davalynn Spencer writes inspirational Western romance complete with rugged cowboys, their challenges, and their loves. Her work has finaled for the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, the Selah, and the Holt Medallion. Davalynn teaches writing at Pueblo Community College and at writing workshops. She and her own handsome cowboy make their home on Colorado’s Front Range with a Queensland heeler named Blue. Connect with Davalynn online at www.davalynnspencer.com and http://www.facebook.com/AuthorDavalynnSpencer
Life is full of little ironies. Every so often, a big irony jumps up and literally grabs a person by the privates. Just ask late Texas lawman Cap Light.
Many of the details about William Sidney “Cap” Light’s life have been obscured by the sands of time. His exact birth date is unknown, though it’s said he was born in late 1863 or early 1864 in Belton, Texas. No photographs of him are known to exist, although there seem to be plenty of his infamous brother-in-law, the confidence man and Gold Rush crime boss Soapy Smith. Several of Light’s confirmed line-of-duty kills are mired in controversy, and rumors persist about his involvement in at least one out-and-out murder. Even the branches of his family tree are a mite tangled, considering the 1900 census credited Light with fathering a daughter born six years after his death.
What seems pretty clear, however, is that Light survived what should have been a fatal gunshot wound to the head only to kill himself accidentally about a year later.
Light probably lived an ordinary townie childhood. The son of a merchant couple who migrated to Texas from Tennessee, he followed an elder brother into the barbering profession before receiving a deputy city marshal’s commission in Belton at the age of 20. Almost immediately — on March 24, 1884 — he rode with the posse that tracked down and killed a local desperado. Belton hailed the young lawman as a hero.
For five years, Light reportedly served the law in an exemplary, and uneventful, fashion. Then, in 1889, things began to change.
In August, while assisting the marshal of nearby Temple, Texas, Light shot a prisoner he was escorting to jail. Ed Cooley tried to escape, Light said. Later that fall, after resigning the Belton job to become deputy marshal in Temple, Light shot and killed Sam Hasley, a deputy sheriff with a reputation for troublemaking. Hasley, drunk and raising a ruckus, ignored Light’s order to go home. Instead, he rode his horse onto the boardwalk and reached for his gun. Light responded with quick, accurate, and deadly force.
The following March, Light cemented his reputation as a fast and deadly gunman when he killed another drunk inside Temple’s Cotton Exchange Saloon. According to the local newspaper’s account, Felix Morales died “with his pistol in one hand and a beer glass in the other.”
Light’s growing reputation as a no-nonsense straight-shooter served Temple so well that in 1891, the city cut its budget by discontinuing the deputy marshal’s position. Unemployed and with a wife and two toddlers to support, Light accepted his brother-in-law’s offer of a job in Denver, Colorado. By then, Jeff “Soapy” Smith was firmly in control of Denver’s underworld. After the Glasson Detective Agency allegedly leaned on one of Smith’s young female friends, Light took part in a pistol-wielding raid meant to convince the detectives that investigating Smith might not be healthy.
In early 1892, Smith moved his criminal enterprise to the nearby boomtown of Creede, Colorado, where he reportedly exerted his considerable influence to have Light appointed deputy marshal. At a little after 4 o’clock in the morning on March 31, Light confronted yet another drunk in a saloon. Both men drew their weapons. When the hail of gunfire ceased, Light remained standing, unscathed. Gambler and gunfighter William “Reddy” McCann, on the other hand, sprawled on the floor, his body riddled with five of Light’s bullets.
Despite witness testimony stating McCann had emptied his revolver shooting at streetlights immediately before bracing the deputy marshal, a coroner’s inquest ruled the shooting self-defense. The close call rattled Light, though. He took his family and returned to Temple, where in June 1892 he applied for a detective’s job with the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railroad. His application was rejected — possibly because his association with Smith and lingering rumors about the McCann incident overshadowed the stellar reputation he had earned early in his career. According to a period report in the Rocky Mountain News, “Light’s name had become a household word, and for years he was alluded to as a good sort of a fellow ? to get away from. He was mixed up in many fights, and after a time the ‘respect’ he had commanded with the aid of a six-shooter began to fade away. It was recalled that all his killings and shooting scrapes occurred when the other man’s gun was elsewhere, or in other words, when the victim was powerless to return blow for blow and shot for shot.”
With his life apparently on the skids, Light developed a reputation of his own for drunken belligerence. With no other options, he returned to barbering in Temple until, during one drinking binge in late 1892, he pistol-whipped the railroad’s chief detective — the man Light blamed for the end of his law-enforcement career. During Light’s trial for assault, the detective, T.J. Coggins, rose from his seat in the courtroom, pulled his pistol, and fired three .44-caliber rounds into Light’s face and neck. Although doctors expected the former lawman to die of what they called mortal injuries, Light fully recovered. Adding insult to injury, Coggins never faced trial.
It’s unclear how well Light adapted to circumstances after the Coggins episode or why he was traveling by train a year later. What is clear is that his life came to a sudden, ironic end on Christmas Eve 1893. As the Missouri, Kansas & Texas neared the Temple station, Light accidentally discharged a revolver he carried in his pocket. The bullet severed the femoral artery in his groin, and he bled to death within minutes. He was 30 years old.
In a span of fewer than ten years, Light’s brief candle flickered, blazed, and then burned out. Though once hailed as a heroic defender of law and order on the reckless frontier, not everyone was sorry to see him go. An unflattering obituary published in the Dec. 27, 1893, edition of the Rocky Mountain News called him “a bad man from Texas.” Beneath the headline “Light’s Ready Gun. It Took Five Lives and then Killed Him,” the report noted “‘Cap’ Light of Belton, Texas, shot himself by accident the other day … thus [removing] one who has done more than his share in earning for the West the appellation of ‘wild and woolly.’”