Those Crazy Texas Town Names

MargaretBrownley-header

As I told you last month, I’m writing a new series based in Texas and I’ve been studying maps. Texas sure does have some odd, charming and altogether weird or funny town names. Here’re just a couple that caught my eye.

City_HallCut and Shoot, Texas
Believe it or not, this town name was the result of a church fight. No one really knows what the dispute was about. Some say it was over the new steeple; others say there was a disagreement as to who should preach there. Still others insist that church member land claims was to blame.

Whatever the reason, the altercation was about to turn violent. A small boy at the scene declared he was going to take up a tactical position and “cut around the corner and shoot through the bushes.”

Later, after the matter was taken to court, the judge asked a witness where the confrontation had taken place. Since the town didn‘t have a name the witness described the location the best way he knew how. “I suppose you could call it the place where they had the cutting and shooting scrape,” he said, and the name stuck.

Ding Dong, Texas (which just happens to be in Bell County)DingDong

As the saying goes, if you find yourself in Ding Dong, you had to be looking for it. Two early residents Zulis Bell and his nephew Berth ran a general store and hired a local painter named C.C. Hoover to make a sign for their business.

Hoover illustrated the sign with two bells inscribed with the owners’ names, and then wrote “Ding Dong” on the bells. No one remembered the Bells but they sure did remember Ding Dong and the name stuck.

jotemdowntexasJot-Em-Down, Texas
This is a small unincorporated community in Delta County, Texas, United States.

The town’s name comes from the name of a fictional store in the Lum and Abner radio show, which aired in the 30s and 40s.

Dime Box, Texas
The name originated from the practice of leaving a dime in the box at Brown’s Mill to have a letter delivered. The practice stopped when a post office was opened in 1877.

The following town isn’t in Texas but I just love the name—and of course the love story.

Total Wreck, ArizonaTotal_Wreck
Total Wreck was discovered by John L. Dillon in 1879.  He named it such because he thought the ledge the mine was on looked like a total wreck. A man once got into a shooting at Total Wreck and survived because the bullet lodged in a stack of love letters he had in his jacket. He later married the girl who wrote the letters!

 

What is the strangest named town you ever visited?

For me it would have to be Monkey Eyebrow, Arizona.

 

“How come no one ever told me that kissin’

is even more fun that fighting a bear?”-A Lady Like Sarah

Want to know more about Sarah?  The eBook is now only $1.99

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Kitty LeRoy: Beloved Tramp

Main Street, Deadwood, SD, 1876
Main Street, Deadwood, SD, 1876

Some real-life episodes in the Old West read like fictional adventures. Some read like tragedies. Some read like romances.

The life stories of a few non-fictional characters—like Kitty LeRoy—combine all three.

“…Kitty LeRoy was what a real man would call a starry beauty,” one of her contemporaries noted in a book with a ridiculously long title*. “Her brow was low and her brown hair thick and curling; she had five husbands, seven revolvers, a dozen bowie-knives and always went armed to the teeth, which latter were like pearls set in coral.”

From all reports, LeRoy was a stunning beauty with a sparkling personality that had men—including both notorious outlaws and iconic officers of the law—throwing themselves at her feet. She was proficient in the arts of flirtation and seduction, and she didn’t hesitate to employ her feminine wiles to get what she wanted.

Often, what she wanted was the pot in a game of chance. One of the most accomplished poker players of her time, LeRoy spent much of her short life in gambling establishments. Eventually, she opened her own in one of the most notorious dens of iniquity the West has ever known: Deadwood, South Dakota. With spectacular diamonds at ears, neck, wrists, and fingers glittering bright enough to blind her customers every night, it’s no wonder LeRoy’s Mint Gambling Saloon prospered.

With her reputation as an expert markswoman, there was very little trouble…at least at the tables.

LeRoy was born in 1850, although no one is sure where. Some say Texas; others, Michigan. One thing is certain: By the age of ten, she was performing on the stage. Working in dancehalls and saloons, she either picked up or augmented an innate ability to manipulate, along with gambling and weaponry skills that would serve her well for most of her life. According to local lore, at fifteen she married her first husband because he was the only man in Bay City, Michigan, who would let her shoot apples off his head while she galloped past on horseback.

Lower Main Street, Deadwood, SD, 1877
Lower Main Street, Deadwood, SD, 1877

A long attention span apparently was not among the skills LeRoy cultivated. Shortly after her marriage, she left her husband and infant son behind and headed for Texas. By the age of twenty, she had reached the pinnacle of popularity at Johnny Thompson’s Variety Theatre in Dallas, only to leave entertaining behind, too.

Instead, she tried her hand as a faro dealer. Ah, now there was a career that suited. Excitement, money, men…and extravagant costumes. Players never knew what character they would face until she appeared. A man? A sophisticate? A gypsy?

Texas soon bored LeRoy, but no matter. With a new saloonkeeper husband in tow, she headed for San Francisco—only to discover the streets were not paved with gold, as she had heard. While muddling through that conundrum, she somehow misplaced husband number two, which undoubtedly made it easier for her to engage in the sorts of promiscuous shenanigans for which she rapidly gained a reputation.

Although the reputation didn’t hurt her at the gaming tables, it did create a certain amount of unwanted attention. One too-ardent admirer persisted to such an extent that LeRoy challenged him to a duel. The man demurred, reportedly not wishing to take advantage of a woman. Never one to let a little thing like gender stand in her way, LeRoy changed into men’s clothes, returned, and challenged her suitor again. When he refused to draw a second time, she shot him anyway. Then, reportedly overcome with guilt, she called a minister and married husband number three as he breathed his last.

Now a widow, LeRoy hopped a wagon train with Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane and headed for the thriving boomtown of Deadwood. They arrived in July 1876, and LeRoy became an instant success by entertaining adoring prospectors nightly at Al Swearengen’s notorious Gem Theatre. Within a few months, she had earned enough money to open her own establishment: the Mint. There, she met and married husband number four, a German who had struck it rich in Black Hills gold. When the prospector’s fortune ran out, so did LeRoy’s interest. She hit him over the head with a bottle and kicked him to the curb—literally.

Gem Theatre, Deadwood, SD, 1878
Gem Theatre, Deadwood, SD, 1878

Meanwhile, thanks to LeRoy’s mystique—and allegedly no little fooling around with the customers—the Mint became a thriving operation. LeRoy reportedly “entertained” legendary characters as diverse as Hickock and Sam Bass. But it was 35-year-old card shark Samuel R. Curley who finally claimed her heart. Curley, besotted himself, became husband number five on June 11, 1877.

Shortly thereafter, Curley learned LeRoy hadn’t divorced her first husband. The bigamy realization, combined with rumors about LeRoy’s continued promiscuity, proved too much for the usually peaceful gambler. He stormed out of the Mint and didn’t stop until he reached Denver, Colorado.

Folks who knew LeRoy said she changed after Curley’s departure. Despite nights during which she raked in as much as $8,000 with a single turn of the cards, she grew cold and suspicious.

Her grief seemed to dissipate a bit when an old lover showed up in Deadwood. LeRoy rented rooms above the Lone Star Saloon, and the two moved in together.

By then, Curley was dealing faro in a posh Cheyenne, Wyoming, saloon. When word of LeRoy’s new relationship reached him, he flew into a jealous rage. Determined to confront his wife and her lover, he returned to Deadwood December 6, 1877. When the lover refused to see him, Curley told a Lone Star employee he’d kill them both.

LeRoy, reportedly still pining for her husband, agreed to meet Curley in her rooms at the Lone Star. Not long after she ascended the stairs, patrons below reported hearing a scream and two gunshots.

Deadwood, SD, 1878
Deadwood, SD, 1878

The following day, the Black Hills Daily Times reported the gruesome scene: LeRoy lay on her back, her eyes closed. Except for the bullet hole in her chest, the 27-year-old looked as though she were asleep. Curley lay face down, his skull destroyed by a bullet from the Smith & Wesson still gripped in his right hand.

“Suspended upon the wall, a pretty picture of Kitty, taken when the bloom and vigor of youth gazed down upon the tenements of clay, as if to enable the visitor to contrast a happy past with a most wretched present,” the newspaper report stated. “The pool of blood rested upon the floor; blood stains were upon the door and walls…”

An understated funeral took place in the room where Curley killed his wife and then took his own life. Their caskets were buried in the same grave in the city’s Ingleside Cemetery and later moved to an unmarked plot in the more noteworthy Mount Moriah.

The happiness the couple could not find together in life, apparently they did in death. Within a month of the funeral, Lone Star patrons began to report seeing apparitions “recline in a loving embrace and finally melt away in the shadows of the night.” The sightings became so frequent, the editor of the Black Hills Daily Times investigated the matter himself. His report appeared in the paper February 28, 1878:

…[W]e simply give the following, as it appeared to us, and leave the reader to draw their own conclusions as to the phenomena witnessed by ourselves and many others. It is an oft repeated tale, but one which in this case is lent more than ordinary interest by the tragic events surrounding the actors.

To tell our tale briefly and simply, is to repeat a story old and well known — the reappearance, in spirit form, of departed humanity. In this case it is the shadow of a woman, comely, if not beautiful, and always following her footsteps, the tread and form of the man who was the cause of their double death. In the still watches of the night, the double phantoms are seen to tread the stairs where once they reclined in the flesh and linger o’er places where once they reclined in loving embrace, and finally to melt away in the shadows of the night as peacefully as their bodies’ souls seem to have done when the fatal bullets brought death and the grave to each.

Whatever may have been the vices and virtues of the ill-starred and ill-mated couple, we trust their spirits may find a happier camping ground than the hills and gulches of the Black Hills, and that tho’ infelicity reigned with them here, happiness may blossom in a fairer climate.

 

Sources:

* Life and Adventures of SAM BASS, the Notorious Union Pacific and Texas Train Robber, Together with a Graphic Account of His Capture and Death, Sketch of the Members of his Band, with Thrilling Pen Pictures of their Many Bold and Desperate Deeds, and the Capture and Death of Collins, Berry, Barnes, and Arkansas Johnson (W.L. Hall & Company, 1878)

The Lady Was a Gambler: True Stories of Notorious Women of the Old West by Chris Enss (TwoDot, October 2007)

Women of the Western Frontier in Fact, Fiction and Film by Ronald W. Lackmann (McFarland & Company Inc., January 1997)

 

 

 

A Kinship with the Old West

J.Lence

Read all the way through this post for information on a giveaway

Hello, Julie Lence here.  I remember many childhood Sunday afternoons watching John Wayne battle outlaws and Indians on the television screen. Most often, his character lived on a sprawling ranch. Sometimes he doled out his own form of justice from the saddle or a jail cell. Confidant and with a swagger in his step, it’s because of him I have a deep love for anything western. But growing up in upstate New York didn’t provide a lot of opportunity to learn about the cowboy way of life. A friend of the family owned horses. His daughters rode in local parades and competed in rodeo-type events at local fairs, but that’s the closest I came to anything western. Then, several years later, the hubby was assigned to Cheyenne Mountain Air Station in Colorado and I found myself in 7th Heaven!

From Pikes Peak to mining for gold in Cripple Creek to ranches outfitted with cowboys, Colorado is not only rich in history, the state has some of the most breathtaking views. More importantly, Colorado has given me something else; plenty of stores and antique shops to browse. Until the hubby and I came west, I always had this restless feeling potbelliedstoveforP&Pblogwhen it came to decorating my home. Something was missing. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I had a nice painting of a cabin situated beneath the mountains. I had color schemes and knick-knacks, but something wasn’t quite right. The things I had didn’t define me, until I stepped foot in Old Colorado City and discovered exactly what I had been missing—everything to do with horses and the west.

It took several years of scouring and shopping, but today I have western prints, replicas of stagecoaches and covered wagons, pottery, blankets and porcelain horses. Sage grows wild in my back yard. Wagon wheels adorn the four corners and the greeting sign near my door is of a cowboy leading a packhorse through the desert. The only thing I lack and really want, and don’t know what the heck I would do with, is a real wagon to put in the yard. Every time I see one, I joke with the hubby to hitch it to the back of the truck and bring it home. Most likely, if he did, the squirrels would build a home for themselves in the bed. But hey, a girl can dream.

As I mentioned, Colorado houses many stores and quaint shops for me to find my next treasure. We also have several western themed museums. Some are state run and some privately run. One such ‘touristy’ museum isn’t too far from me. I like to visit when I can because this museum houses two of the things I hold dear from the old west.

 

potbelliedstoveontrainforP&PblogPotbellied Stoves— Benjamin Franklin is credited with inventing the pot belly stove. A cute appliance used to heat a room, the pot belly stove is made from cast iron and has a bulge in the middle, hence the name. The stove was mainly found in the mercantile or school house, and later on train cars. Some potbellies were equipped with a shelf to boil a pot of coffee or to cook a pot of stew. Franklin is also credited with inventing a large cast iron box that was set on top of the hearth and used for cooking. If I could, I’d fill the house with several of them. Not for the heat they provided, but to add to my collection of all things western.

Stagecoaches—The first of the Concord stagecoaches was built in 1827 by the Abbot ConcordstageforP&PblogDowning Company and weighed more than 2,000 pounds. The Concord had a reputation for being comfortable and sturdy. Each coach built was given a number by the Abbot Downing Company, and used leather strap braces beneath the coach instead of a spring suspension to create a swinging motion verses a jostling, up-and-down motion. At the front and back of the coach, leather boots held luggage and mail. The top of the stage also held luggage, and more than a dozen people if needed. The inside bore three seats of leather and could hold up to nine passengers. Those who sat on the middle seat had no back support and had to hold onto leather straps suspended from the ceiling. Curtains at the windows were also fashioned from leather and rolled up and down.

Both the potbellied stove and the stagecoach are featured in my work, Debra’s Bandit. Debra manages Revolving Point’s mercantile. She uses the potbellied stove daily to provide coffee and tea for her customers while they shop or spend a few extra minutes chatting with her. The stagecoach brings newcomers to the fire-stricken city weekly. One new arrival in particular has Gage running for cover every time he encounters the husband-hunting Jessie Kane. No way in hell is he going to end up with her noose around his neck.

 

Excerpt from Debra’s Bandit:

Debra's_BanditWith the icy sensations continuing to prick the back of his neck, Gage ushered Jessie across the thoroughfare and up the steps to the boardwalk.

“So this is Revolving Point,” she said, looking around at the empty lots lining both sides of the street. “It’s not much.”

“Had more businesses last year. Saloons. A couple of hotels. The fire burned them to the ground.” He assessed the street ahead of them. Deserted, except for Earl at the far end of town. He’d brought the stage to a halt in front of the livery and now climbed down from the driver’s box. “Folks like it this way. Quiet.”

“You don’t?” She arched a brow.

“Got a bed to sleep in and food to eat.” And Debra to fuss over me. His gut wrenched at that and he turned his attention to the plate glass window they passed—Miller’s. He peered over the swinging doors and saw the doves still sat at tables talking. He’d spent his first night in town with Trudy seeing to a need. Then he’d learned Debra was here and had ceased any further involvement with Miller’s girls.

Debra won’t be fussing over me much longer. A week at most. Then he wouldn’t see her again for a long time.

“Mayor Randall told me about the fire in the wire he sent me. You must be one of the people he mentioned who didn’t flee, who stayed behind to save your home and help rebuild.” Jessie’s comment intruded on his thoughts as they stepped off the boardwalk and crossed the intersection.

“Irishmen are doing most of the rebuilding.” He’d learned long ago never to reveal anything about himself to a stranger. But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t pry into someone else’s affairs. Man or woman, he preferred to know about those who crossed his path. Especially when someone raised his suspicions as Jessie’s smile had outside the telegraph and mail. Even now, calculation still lingered in her eyes, and with no ring on her finger, he concluded she searched for a husband. “Where are you from?”

“Virginia.”

“You’re a long way from home.” Gage ushered her up the steps to the next boardwalk, the sound of voices and a fiddle playing wafting toward him from the eatery at the next intersection. “What do your folks think about you coming all this way by yourself?”

“They’re dead. There’s no one but me.” She looked up at him, her eyes soft. “I hope to rectify that with this job the mayor has given me. I want a home of my own. I couldn’t hold onto Pa’s farm. The work and taxes were too much. If I save the money I earn, I can hire those Irishmen you mentioned to build something for me here in town.”

And find someone else for your husband while they do

 

Debra’s Bandit is available in both print and e-book format.  You can order your very own copy from Amazon by clicking on the book cover image above.

Thank you, fillies, for having me as a guest on your blog today. It is always a pleasure to visit with you and your readers. As an added bonus for your readers visiting with me today, I am giving away three e-book copies of Debra’s Bandit.

Julie

Kathryn Albright – San Diego’s Cobweb Emporium

9780373298150What would you do if you entered a restaurant and found the ceiling crawling with spiders?

One thing I like about reading historical romance is learning real history along with a great story. While doing research for my newest book I came across this “fun” fact that I just had to include in The Gunslinger and the Heiress.

Tillman Augustus Burnes, an Irishman known for his larger-than-life personality, grew up in San Francisco. There he came to appreciate the infamous Cobweb Palace at the end of Meiggs’ Wharf where spiders had transformed the saloon with swags of cobwebs decorating the ceiling and upper walls.

When ‘Till’ came south to San Diego for health reasons he got his first job at the Last Chance Saloon on 5th Street. He saved up his money until he could buy his own saloon, naming it The Phoenix, located just one block from the docks. He opened his doors for business in 1875 and started collecting spiders to decorate his new place. He also hunted and trapped small animals and birds in southern California to display in cages, and bought exotic animals off sailors coming from South America. At one time, his menagerie housed a coyote, a bear, an anteater, and a monkey, along with exotic birds.

San_Diego_train_station_1888
Early San Diego Train Station – featured in book

The bear, Bruin, caused a few incidences quite honorable to a bear, but not appreciated by humans. Till chained him outside the saloon to a tree. One particularly hot day, a group of children taunted Bruin by poking him with sticks. Aroused from his nap and angered, the bear broke loose of his chain, scaring the children and creating havoc until a few men lassoed him. After that, Till had an iron cage built and brought the bear inside the saloon. That worked for a while, until a customer who liked Bruin and regularly let the bear lick the beer off his face fell out of favor with the bear and had the tip of his nose bit off. After that (and the ensuing lawsuit,) Bruin retired to Till’s home, far away from people who would bother him (and visa versa.)

Despite all the animals and spiders, Till prided himself on keeping a clean establishment. By 1885 the spiders had built a respectable foot-thick wall of webbing over the ceiling. Visitors came from far and wide to see the amazing zoo, stuffed animals, and the spiders at work. The Phoenix was a city landmark and sailors and captains alike made sure to stop there frequently. While running the saloon, Till started other ventures—a stage line down to Mexico and personally escorted tours into the back country.

Before one of these tours, his bartender became sick. Till learned of a bartender vacationing in the city and hired him on the spot and then left quickly on the scheduled tour. Ten days later he returned only to find the industrious man had cleaned out every last cobweb in the place, destroying his endeavor of ten years.

Of course nowadays the health commissioner would frown on such a place. But how about you? What is the most unusual sight you have come across in your travels?

Albright_Kathryn_Color_Closeup_For-InternetComment for a chance to win Kathryn’s newest book The Gunslinger and the Heiress. She’ll be giving away three copies today. (With apologies, but Continental United States only.)
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

From her first breath, Kathryn Albright has had a passion for stories that celebrate the goodness in people. She combines her love of history and her love of a good story to write novels of inspiration, endurance, and hope. Visit her at www.kathrynalbright.com, on Facebook , Twitter, or Goodreads.

Nuns on the Frontier

threesisters
An early re-enactment of the 1869 journey from Galveston to San Antonio undertaken by three Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. The journey resulted in the formation of what is today the largest congregation of women religious in Texas.

When the sun rose on Sept. 9, 1900, the island city of Galveston, Texas, lay in ruins. What would come to be called The Great Storm, a hurricane of massive proportions, had roared ashore from the Gulf of Mexico overnight, sweeping “the Wall Street of the Southwest” from the face of the Earth.

Over the following weeks, rescuers pulled more than 6,000 bodies from the rubble, piled the remains on the beach, and burned them to prevent an outbreak of disease. Among the departed, discovered amid the wreckage of St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum, were the bodies of ninety children ages 2 to 13 and all ten Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. In a valiant, yet ultimately futile, attempt to save the children from floodwaters that rose to twenty feet above sea level, each sister bound six to eight orphans to her waist with a length of clothesline. The lines tangled in debris as the water destroyed the only home some of the children had ever known.

Sister Vincent Cottier and two of her young charges at the orphanage in Galveston. All three perished during The Great Storm of 1900.
Sister Vincent Cottier and two of her young charges at the orphanage in Galveston. All three perished during The Great Storm of 1900.

All that survived of the orphanage were the three oldest boys and an old French seafaring hymn, “Queen of the Waves.” To this day, every Sept. 8 the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word worldwide sing the hymn in honor of the sisters and orphans who died in what remains the deadliest natural disaster ever to strike U.S. soil.

Established in Galveston in 1866 by three Catholic sisters from France, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word is a congregation of women religious. Not technically nuns because they take perpetual simple vows instead of perpetual solemn vows and work among secular society instead of living in seclusion behind cloistered walls, they nevertheless wear habits and bear the title Sister. Today the original congregation is based in Houston, but back then Galveston seemed an ideal spot for the women to build a convent, an orphanage, and a hospital. On January 7, 1867, they opened Nazareth Academy in Victoria, Texas. In 1883, the federal Bureau of Education praised the academy as one of six Texas schools providing “superior instruction of women.” By 1869, the sisters had founded a second congregation in San Antonio. From there, they expanded to other cities in Texas, including Amarillo, and even farther west, all the way to California. In 2014, the sisters operated missions in Ireland, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Kenya in addition to the United States. They continue to operate Nazareth Academy, but as a coeducational school serving children in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Two postulants from the Congregation of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, ca. 1890.
Two postulants from the Congregation of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, ca. 1890.

Armed with faith instead of guns, the sisters did their part to civilize Texas’s notoriously wild frontier. They did not do so without significant hardship. Catholics often were not well-tolerated in 19th Century America, although in Galveston the sisters were admired and even loved for their industry and benevolence. That benevolence led to the deaths of two of the original three Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, who perished during Galveston’s yellow fever epidemic of 1867.

As a Galvestonian, the history of the island city and its diverse people fascinates me. I continue to hope for inspiration that will grow into a story set here, where the past overflows with tales of adventure dating back well before the pirate Jean Lafitte built the fortified mansion Maison Rouge on Galveston in 1815. In the meantime, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word provided the inspiration for the heroine in a quick read, The Second-Best Ranger in Texas, which is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and .

TheSecond-BestRangerInTexas_200x300

 

A washed-up Texas Ranger. A failed nun with a violent past. A love that will redeem them both.

Thanks so much for stopping by. As a token of my appreciation, I’ll give a copy of The Second-Best Ranger in Texas, in the winner’s choice of e-fomats, to one of today’s commenters.

A Snapshot of Denver History

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Mustang sculpture at Denver International Airport?
Spooky demon mustang sculpture that greeted me outside the Denver airport.

This past week, I flew to Denver for a work conference. I had never been to the Mile High City before, so I was eager to learn more about it’s illustrious history. Here are some fun facts I learned:

  • Denver is one of the few cities in history that was not built on a road, railroad, lake, navigable river, or body of water when it was founded. It just happened to be where the first few flakes of gold were found in 1858.
  • The first permanent structure in Denver was a saloon.
  • Both Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull have dined at Denver’s Buckhorn Exchange, a restaurant that’s still one of the most popular in the city.
  • Buffalo Bill’s Grave is situated just outside Denver.
  • Local boosters named the frontier mining camp on the South Platte River “Denver City” after Kansas Territorial Governor James Denver in hopes of gaining political favor. Unfortunately, Denver had retired by the time they named the town.
  • There were originally three separate towns, with three separate names, where Denver now stands. In 1859, the other names were dropped in return for a barrel of whiskey to be shared by all.
  • Denver is known as the Mile High City because the 13th step of the state capital building in Denver is exactly one mile above sea level.

(The above facts were taken from this website.)

  •  The name “Denver City” became simply “Denver” in 1865 when it became the Territorial capital.

One of the few historic buildings I did recognize while downtown was the classic Brown Palace Hotel. I did not have the chance to walk through it, though I would have loved to. But here are some more fascinating tidbits about it’s historic significance:Brown Palace Hotel Denver 2

  • The Brown Palace Hotel opened its doors in the heart of downtown Denver on August 12, 1892. The hotel has remained open and welcomed guests every minute of every day since opening.
  • Every U.S. president has visited The Brown Palace since Teddy Roosevelt (1905), with the exception of Calvin Coolidge.
  • Except for crackers and sandwich bread, the hotel prepares all of its own baked goods in a unique, carousel oven – catalogued at more than 65 years old. The oven is one of only three in the world known to be in existence and is still used every day.
  • President Eisenhower hit a wayward golf ball while practicing in the room and made a dent in the fireplace mantel in the Eisenhower Suite. It remains today in a shadowbox as a souvenir.

(For more fun facts about the historic Brown Palace Hotel, visit their website here.)

What is the most interesting fact or souvenir you’ve picked up while on a trip?

Have you ever been to Denver?

Wenzel Friedrich And His Horn Furniture

Photo WG2 smallHi!  Winnie Griggs here.

Like several others have already mentioned here, I had a great time at the RWA conference in San Antonio last month.  But I made it even more fun by tagging a family vacation on the front end.  Hubby and I, along with three of our kids and our son-in-law, arrived in the city the Saturday before the conference and spent three days seeing as much of what San Antonio.

We visited a lot of cool places and I posted pictures of some of them on my facebook page if you’re interested in checking them out.

But the one I want to talk to you about today is the Buckhorn Museum.  We arrived around 12:30 so we went to the restaurant area first to grab a bite to eat.  And that’s when I discovered where the place got it’s name.  There were horns and antlers displayed everywhere, and I do mean everywhere.  I’ve never seen so many in my life.  Then, when we went into the museum itself we found numerous displays of furniture that used horns as part of the construction.  Curious, I took a number of photographs and then did a bit of research on the subject when I got home.

It seems that most of the furniture pieces were constructed by a gentleman by the name of Wenzel Friedrich.  Mr. Friedrich was born in Bohemia in 1827.  By 1853 he had made his way to Texas and settled in San Antonio..  A year later he married one Agnes Urbanek and together they had seven children.  Their youngest son, Albert Friedrich, is the man who would one day found the Buckhorn.

Wenzel had several jobs after he traveled to Texas but eventually resumed his work as a cabinet maker, something he’d received some training in in his home country.  By 1880 he had his own business and was listed in the city directory as a manufacturer of horn furniture.  I couldn’t find anything that explained WHY he started making horn furniture, but apparently he was quite good at it.  He received gold medals for his craftsmanship in a number of shows, including the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition of 1883, the New Orleans Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884-85 and the Southern Exposition of Louisville, Kentucky in 1886.  And his furniture was prized overseas as well, making its way into the hands of such  dignitaries as Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm I and Otto von Bismarck.

Wenzel passed away in 1902, but his furniture endures.  Today you can find examples in museums throughout the USA.

Below are some of the pictures I took of this unusual furniture.

 

Composite horn furniture

 

So what do you think?  Do you like the look of these?  Would you like to have pieces like this in your own home?

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The Harvey Girls

Cynthia

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Cynthia is giving away a copy of An unconventional Lady

to one lucky responder.

(Sorry, due to postage and customs, giveaway is for US only.)

*Due to technical difficulties on Saturday, we invited Cynthia to extend her stay at the Junction through Monday. So you still have time to get in the drawing for her fabulous new book. YeeHaw!

Scottish immigrant, Fred Harvey, was disgusted by the service and food preparation by restaurants along the Santa Fe railroad and decided to make a difference. He opened his first location in Kansas and restaurant service along the railroad would never be the same. Harvey was known for hiring local contractors to make the hotels fit their surroundings.

 

Harvey advertised in Eastern and Mid-western newspapers and magazines for single moral women between the ages of seventeen and thirty to be waitresses in his Harvey Houses. Over one hundred thousand women worked in his employ until the mid-1950s. While the women were told what to wear, what to do, how to wear their hair, and not to marry during their six-month contract, these brave women loved their independence. Over half of them chose to stay out west and help settle the country after their contracts were up, earning them the name “Women Who Tamed the West”.untitled

 

The women had to be of good moral character, have at least an eighth grade education, display good manner and be neat and articulate to work in his restaurants. In return for employment, the Harvey Girls would agree to a six-month contract, agree not to marry, and abide by all company rules during the term of employment. If hired, they were given a rail pass to get to their chosen destination. Harvey Girls were the women who brought further respectability to the work of waitressing. They left the protection and poverty of home for the opportunity to travel and earn their own way in life, while experiencing a bit of adventure.

 

untitled 2I chose to write a series of four books, spread out over the time span of the Fred Harvey Company to enlighten readers as to these brave, hard-working women. In An Unconventional Lady, the story takes place at the El Tovar Hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon. This hotel is still running today with its waitresses still dressed in the familiar uniform of Harvey girls.

 

www.cynthiahickey.com

Multi-published and Best-Selling author Cynthia Hickey had three cozy mysteries and two novellas published through Barbour Publishing. Her first mystery, Fudge-Laced Felonies, won first place in the inspirational category of the Great Expectations contest in 2007. Her third cozy, Chocolate-Covered Crime, received a four-star review from Romantic Times. All three cozies have been re-released as ebooks through the MacGregor Literary Agency, along with a new cozy series, all of which stay in the top 50 of Amazon’s ebooks for their genre. She has several historical romances releasing in 2013 and 2014 through Harlequin’s Heartsong Presents. She is active on FB, twitter, and Goodreads. She lives in Arizona with her husband, one of their seven children, two dogs and two cats. She has five grandchildren who keep her busy and tell everyone they know that “Nana is a writer”.

An Unconventional Lady cover

State Trivia Week – Louisiana

Photo WG2 smallHi.  Winnie Griggs here, and I’m pleased to be sharing some fun facts about my home state of Louisiana with you.  Though I’ve moved around within its borders, I’ve been proud to call the Pelican State home for my entire lifetime.

Here are just a few things you may not know about my home state:

 

Structures:

  • Louisiana’s state capitol building is the tallest in the United States.  The building is 450 feet tall and has 34 floors.  The Capitol is surrounded by 27 acres of formally landscaped gardens.
  • Louisiana is home to the longest bridge over water in the world.  The Lake Pontchartrain causeway is 24 miles long and connects the city of Metairie with St. Tammany Parish.
  • The Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans is the world’s largest enclosed stadium.
  • Morgan City, La is home to the world’s largest heliport.

Entertainment:

  • The first Tarzan movie, Tarzan of the Apes , was filmed in St. Mary Parish .
  • The staircase at Chretien Point, in Sunset, was copied for Tara in Gone With the Wind
  • The nation’s first opera was performed in New Orleans in 1796.
  • The name “jazz” was first given to the music of New Orleans about 100 years ago.
  • Elvis got his start playing at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport.
  • The first opera performed in America was in 1796 in New Orleans
  • Grand Isle’s Tarpon Rodeo, established in 1928, is the oldest fishing tournament in the U.S.
  • Grambling’s Eddie Robinson is the “winningest” football coach in college history.
  • The nation’s oldest community theater, is Le Petit Theatre de Vieux Carre, is in New Orleans and  dates from 1919.

 

Natural Resources and Flora:

  • Louisiana is the number one producer of crawfish, alligators and shallots in the nation.
  • Louisiana produces 24% of the nation’s salt, the most in the country.
  • There are 117,518 oyster reefs in Louisiana waters.
  • The salt mine at AveryIsland, the oldest salt mine in the Western Hemisphere, was discovered in 1862.
  • Toledo Bend Reservoir offers 185,000 acres of bass fishing paradise.
  • The oldest salt dome in the Western Hemisphere was discovered in AveryIsland in 1862
  • Saint Martin Parish is home to the world’s largest freshwater river basin, the AtchafalayaBasin; the basin provides nearly every type of outdoor recreational activity imaginable.
  • The TunicaSwamp, near St. Francisville, boasts the nation’s largest bald cypress.
  • Louisiana has the largest variety of plant and animal species of any of the Gulf states.
  • Louisiana’s 6.5 million acres of wetlands are the greatest in the nation.
  • Steen’s Syrup Mill is the world’s largest syrup plant, producing sugarcane syrup.
  • The AmericanRoseCenter, located in Shreveport, boasts 20,000 rose bushes.
  • The world’s most complete collection of camellias is at the JungleGardens in AveryIsland.
  • Redwing, La, has a cherry tree that sprouts from a cedar tree trunk.
  • Louisiana has 15 State Historic Sites, 17 State Parks, and 1 State Preservation Area.

Historical Trivia:

  • The oldest city in the entire Louisiana Purchase Territory is Natchitoches, founded in 1714. Which Street Carmeans Natchitoches (a beautiful city where I spent my 4 college years) is celebrating its tri-centennial.
  • Baton Rouge was the site of the only American Revolution battle outside the 13 Colonies.
  • The first commemorative railroad spike to be driven by a woman was the golden spike commemorating the completion of the east-west Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific Railroad.  It was driven at Bossier City on July 12, 1884, by Julia “Pansy” Rule.
  • The St. Charles Avenue streetcar in New Orleans has been operating since 1835, which makes it the oldest line in the world.  It is also one of the two only mobile national monuments in the nation.

 

There you have it, some of the lesser known facts about Louisiana.  I hope I brought you something new.  Let me know what surprised you in this list or caught your fancy.

My Southwest Vacation – And A Giveaway!

Hi!  Winnie Griggs here.  Last month I told you about our planned family vacation to the southwest part of the country.  Well, this month I thought I’d share a little of what we saw and did while we were there.

The first stop on our trip was Vegas and it was the only destination where all 12 of us were in attendance.  Here is a picture of the whole crew shortly after we arrived. 

Several of us were not really into the whole casino thing but there were lots of other things to do.  Our first night we went to see Jersey Boys – great musical!!  The next day we went out to tour the Hoover Dam.  It was an amazing place and I learned lots of interesting and fun facts – some day soon I’ll do an entire blog on it.

 In the photos below, the picture on the right shows me and hubby standing at the state line – hubby is in Nevada and I’m in Arizona.

Another place we visited was the Ethel M Chocolate Factory.  I didn’t get any pictures of it – too busy sampling the wares :).  But there was a beautiful cactus garden next door, and I did take several picture there.

 When we left Vegas, two of our number – my brother and his wife – headed home.  My two daughters stayed over an extra half day but eventually connected back up with us at the Grand canyon.  So there were eight of us  in two cars traveling together.   The scenery for our drive was amazing and  we made a couple of roadside stops to enjoy the view.  Here we are at one of them.

 

 Next stop was the Grand Canyon and WOW!  It was everything I’d heard it was and more.  My sister scored us reservations at Bright Angel Lodge which was literally right on the rim.  Here is the amazing view I had when I stepped outside my cabin.  (Just wished they would have trimmed the bushes).

 

I was told that pictures really can’t do justice to the Grand Canyon, and I now believe that.  But of course I took a whole slew of them anyway :).  Here’s some of the sunrise.

 

And here are a few others I couldn’t resist showing you

 

 When we left the Grand Canyon we lost two other members of our group – my daughters spent an extra half day there and then headed home.  For those of us still roadtripping, our next stop was Sedona.  Again, fabulous scenery everywhere you looked.  We took a ‘Pink Jeep’ tour and had a fabulous time – our tour guide was really entertaining!

 

Of course I have tons more pictures but I’ve probably given you much more than you wanted already :).

So now, on to the giveaway!  I learned just a couple of weeks ago that my September release, Handpicked Husband, was nominated for an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award!!!  I’m super excited and very honored to be in such august company as the other nominees.  So to celebrate, I’ll be giving away a copy to two of today’s commenter.

Here’s a short blurb of the book:

Can she drive away not one, but three suitors?

 Free-spirited photographer Regina Nash is ready to try.  But unless she marries one of the gentlemen her grandfather has sent for her inspection, she’ll lose custody of her nephew.  So she must persuade them – and Adam Barr, her grandfather’s envoy – that she’d make a thoroughly unsuitable wife.

Adam isn’t convinced. Regina might be unconventional, but she has wit, spirit and warmth – why can’t the three bachelors he escorted here to Texas see that?  He not only sees it, but is drawn to it.   His job, though, is to make sure Regina chooses from one of those men – not to marry her himself!

 Can Reggie and Adam overcome the secrets in her past, and the shadows in his, to find a perfect future together?