I’d bet you never thought you’d see a quote from Lord of the Rings on the P&P, but I promise it will make sense in a moment.
The full quote is: “A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”
-J. R. R. Tolkien
But why would this quote matter to a bunch of western aficionados? Well, other than that it’s actually a wonderful story, it’s the first thing I think of when I think of time. Gandolf may never have used a watch, but I can practically see him pointing to his wrist and smirking at Frodo as he makes his humorous quip. Or, maybe my imagination just gets the better of me sometimes.
I got to thinking about time pieces (and how fast time flies) when walking with my youngest son down our long driveway a week ago. We were talking about his affection for watches and how he needed a new band, then he asked me a question, one that sent me down a rabbit hole or two.
“Mom, why do they call watches, watches and why is it different from clocks?”
The answer may seem obvious. I mean, it would make sense that there should be a different name for a clock you wear and one that sits there, right? Well, yes and no. Here’s where the word nerd in me gets giddy (I’ve always loved vocabulary). The word clock (older than watch) is derived from the word cloche, meaning bell in French. It is meant to be large, public, and above all, it’s supposed to make noise denoting the passage of seconds, minutes, and especially hours. A watch is meant to be personal, i.e. watched. Interesting, huh?
But all of that is from the 1500’s which is great, but not ‘western’ history, right?
And we’re all about the western history here.
Interestingly, as I was researching the why and how of clocks/watches, I found that they were much the same from the 1500s up until the mid 1800s when they became vastly more precise.
Can you guess why?
The answer is, the railroad. The railroad was, above all, a money making venture and they needed to have precise timing for trains to leave and arrive because the next train’s arrival was dependent on those before it being on time. A late train was a danger to other trains.
So, the time piece that was already incredibly accurate considering the age of the technology, became so metered, examined, and parsed as to be considered “perfect”.
While the very first clocks were created for religious reasons to keep track of prayer times, standardization came with the railroad. Small, portable watches became commonplace around the time of the industrial revolution, when the railroad was in its hay day. Interesting that the watch (whether it is a pocket watch, a chain necklace, a pin on a coat, or later in the 18C on a leather band, watches are in almost every western I read. And now you know why.
I have a collection I just released. The whole series revolves around the town of Redemption Bluff and the outlaws who find their way there looking for a fresh start. From the beginning, the townspeople want the railroad to come through so the town doesn’t dry up like so many other little towns.
I’ll offer a free ebook copy of The Redemption Bluff Collection to one commenter below.
Have you ever had a favorite watch? I still have mine although I haven’t worn it in many years. One of the very first gifts my husband gave me (before he was my husband) was a delicate Black Hills Gold watch.
I’m incredibly excited about my new release that just came out on Friday!
Henley is a sweet historical western romance that is part of the new Love Train series. You’ll see several of our Fillies in the series. In fact, Pam Crooks released Book 1 just a few weeks ago. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read Christiana.
The books can be read in any order. The common thread between them all is that each heroine has a secret, and they all meet their hunky hero on the same train. You’ll see the conductor Henry, a baggage handler Willie, and a cute little pup named Scruffy in each story too.
Henley Jones and Doctor Evan Holt connect when they board the train in Omaha.
Love is a gamble, and heartbreak is a risk she’s willing to take.
Despite her dreams to set down roots, Henley Jones has never had a place to call home. She’s spent her life on riverboats and railroad cars, tagging along with her gambling father. A shoot-out during a card game results in his death, leaving Henley alone and nearly penniless. Out of luck and options, Henley agrees to travel across the country to the newly established town of Holiday, Oregon, to marry a stranger.
A demanding practice in a town clawing its way to respectability keeps Doctor Evan Holt rushing at a hectic pace. He’s far too busy to see to pressing matters like hiring competent help or finding a wife. When one of his patients orders a mail-order bride, Evan can’t decide if the man is crazy or brilliant. From the moment he meets her, Evan battles an unreasonable attraction to the beautiful, charming woman who seems to be hiding something from her past.
In a town flush with possibilities, will taking a chance on love end with heartache or a winning hand? Find out in this sweet western romance full of humor, hope, and love.
I thought it might be fun to share some quotes from the book.
The West was overflowing with gamblers.
They gambled on their dreams, and hopes, and families.
They gambled on opportunities to create better lives, or become better versions of themselves.
Most importantly, they gambled in the high-stakes game of love,
putting their hearts on the line, with no idea if they’d win or lose.
The child was as cooperative as a drunken donkey in a dynamite shack.
I’m starting to think there are rocks and tree stumps
smarter than Evan Holt.
Love might be the toughest gamble you’ll make, but it’s worth the risk.
Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I apologize for reprising a previous post but I’m knee deep in tax filing prep right now. And since I have nineteenth century railroads on the brain (I’m part of the Love Train series author group some others have mentioned here) I thought this post from back in 2009 would be fun to look at again. So here we go.
There are articles and headlines aplenty to be found around the topic of health care, but would it surprise you to learn that one of the early adopters of employer-based health care was the railroads?
While the vast majority of nineteenth century workers had to find and pay for their own medical care, the railroads were developing a unique and valuable benefit for their employees.
Because the nature of railway work and travel conditions led to a higher-than-normal likelihood of injuries not only to railway workers but also passengers and bystanders, some form of available medical services became a necessity. The problem was only exacerbated when the transcontinental railroad opened, greatly expanding long distance overland travel opportunities. As an ever increasing number of people traveled the rails across unsettled territory, territory that never seen trained physicians or even the most rudimentary of medical facilities, the railroad companies had no choice but to hire their own physicians and create medical facilities along their routes.
Thus was born the era of train doctors. Most of the physicians who answered this call were actually general practitioners who could also perform surgery. And because of the unique dangers railroad workers faced, the so-called train doctors found themselves dealing with types of injuries which few had dealt with before. They were pioneers in the development of trauma care under primitive conditions, developing techniques and treatments that eventually found their way into routine medical practice.
From the outset, most of these practitioners expressed concern over the conditions and equipment they had to work with, as well as the ability to see their patients in a timely manner when minutes could literally mean the difference between life and death.
One tool that resulted from the drive to get stop-gap care to workers who sustained injuries in remote areas, were special packs devised by railway surgeons to be carried on all trains. These packs were stocked with basic emergency supplies such as medicines, sterile dressings and basic implements. These were, in fact, the precursors of the modern day first aid kit. Train doctors also promoted training key railroad workers in the use of these materials so that the injured party could be given appropriate first line aide until a proper physician could be reached.
As for facilities, early on railroad doctors tried using hotel rooms, spare rooms in private homes or even back porches for emergency medical care, but such rooms not only lacked the necessary equipment, their use also resulted in a large expense for the railroads who not only paid for the use of the room but also faced cleaning and replacement costs for bloodstained linens and furniture. As an alternative, the train doctors pushed for the development and use of hospital cars which could serve both as properly equipped surgical stations and as the actual transportation for seriously ill or injured patients.
As could be predicted, the adoption of such cars greatly improved the survival rate of the seriously injured railroad worker and eventually evolved into highly sophisticated facilities. They had room enough to handle the care of three to four patients at one time as well as house a fully equipped operating room. They were scrupulously maintained in order to provide a clean environment in which the surgeon could effectively perform his duties, stabilizing his patients before sending him or her on to a regular hospital.
Speaking of hospitals, the railroads were also very influential in establishing such facilities along their routes. In mid-century it was remarked that a person traveling from St. Louis to El Paso would traverse 1300 miles without passing a single hospital. And this was only one of numerous such stretches in the country. The first railroad to respond to this glaring need was the Central Pacific Railroad which opened its own hospital in Sacramento in 1869. Other railroads quickly followed suit, establishing their own hospitals along well traveled routes.
Dr. C.W.P. Brock, President of the National Association of Railway Surgeons, was quoted as saying: Mr. Greeley’s advice to the young man to “go west” may be followed with great benefit by railway surgeons from the older sections of our country; and when they have seen the superb hospitals and the practical workings of the system they will say, as the Queen of Sheba said after seeing the splendors of King Solomon, “that the half had not been told.”
On a more practical front, another surgeon was heard to estimate that “the daily cost per patient at a railway hospital runs from 40 to 60 cents, compared to $1.00 to $1.50 at a city or contract hospital.”
Train doctors for the most part were very progressive in the medical field. They endorsed the emphasis on sterilization and overall cleanliness in patient care well before such thinking was met with universal acceptance. They were also progressive in their attitude toward embracing women into their profession.
In addition to surgery dealing with railroad-related injuries and general trauma care, railway surgeons also took on the role of an overall health care provider. They treated a wide range of illnesses, performed routine checkups, delivered babies and advised on safety, health and sanitation issues.
Alas, the train doctors are no more. There were a number of factors that contributed to the eventual demise of the once highly effective and indispensable system. Key among them was the change in government regulations and the explosion of medical advances in the 1950s. The last of the railroad hospitals were sold or closed in the 1970s and the remaining train doctors retired, joined other practices or set up private practices of their own.
But these dedicated men and women left an enduring legacy. Their trade journal, The Railway Surgeon, though it reinvented itself a number of times, remains in print today under the name Occupational Health and Safety
The modern day specialty of occupational medicine can trace its roots to these surgeons. They also helped to shape modern medical practice, especially in the area of trauma study and care. They were pioneers in front line field care, in the stabilization and transport of the seriously injured, in overall trauma care and in the development and use of the modern day first aid kit.
All but forgotten by the vagaries of our national memory, train doctors nevertheless played a major, but largely unsung, role in making the settlement of the western frontier a safer proposition for all who travelled through or eventually settled in the surrounding areas.
Thanks for your patience in allowing me to reprise an older post. As a reward I’d like to offer a chaoice of any book from my backlist to on (or more!) of the people who leave a comment here.
Are you ready for an adventure in the rugged Colorado mountains? Let’s take a journey back to 1899 with Cassandra McKenzie and Quinn Morgan, the duo out for justice in my latest release, The Case of the Copper King.
When Samantha St. Claire pitched the series and invited me along for the ride, I knew my original choice for a setting was not going to work. The historically rich town of Durango was not the original setting, but as Cassandra (aka Casey) and I were getting to know each other, we couldn’t agree on several things, and where she would spend most of the book was among our disagreements.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, Durango is a railroad town in southwestern Colorado, and Silverton is a small mining town to the north. Durango was quite different today from what it was in my youth, but what has not changed is the intriguing history of a wild west town filled with contradictions and tales of both survival and prosperity.
I couldn’t wait to get started on the research, and I have no problem admitting that it distracted me from the writing on numerous occasions.
Durango, founded in 1880, was constructed because of the gold beneath the rocky mountain soil and built on the backs of miners, prospectors, bankers, and enterprising men and women who found various ways to make a profit off the land, and off the people who worked the land.
My memories of a babbling creek beneath a footbridge behind the house, walking around on all fours with the horses in the pasture, brunch at the Strater Hotel, and playing tourist at nearby resorts were not going to give me the foundation I needed for an 1899 setting. After months of research, I realized those youthful recollections were quite valuable when it came to Casey’s character. When she stepped off the train in Durango or rode into Silverton on the back of her mare, I was right there with her, seeing through her eyes, the hustle, dust, and color of those booming mining towns.
Durango and Silverton, like settings in many books, became secondary characters. From dusty streets to grand hotels, stockyards to caves, and saloons to sporting houses, Casey and Quinn experienced both the unsavory and the beautiful during their adventures.
If you haven’t been to these fascinating towns in Colorado, I highly recommend them. In the meantime, you can join the intrepid crime-solvers and experience a bit of how life might have been when a plucky Pinkerton and a bounty hunter with a conscience join forces.
If only the Rocky Mountain Funnel Cake Factory had been around in 1899, we could have had some real fun in Silverton.
Have you been to Durango or Silverton? If so, what is one of your favorite memories from your visit?
I’ll be giving away both a of The Case of the Copper King and The Case of the Peculiar Inheritanceto one random winner!
For a chance to win, leave a comment about one of your favorite western-related memories, or what wild-west era town you’d like to visit today.
To read an excerpt of The Case of the Copper King CLICK HERE.
Award-winning author MK McClintock writes historical romantic fiction about courageous and honorable men and strong women who appreciate chivalry, like those in her Montana Gallagher, British Agent, and Crooked Creek series. Her stories of adventure, romance, and mystery sweep across the American West to the Victorian British Isles, with places and times between and beyond. She enjoys a quiet life in the northern Rocky Mountains.
To purchase The Case of the Copper King CLICK HERE.
Want a pair of ruggedly handsome Horsemen to charge into your life for a few hours and get your heart pumping with adventure and swoon-worthy romance? Let me introduce you to Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks – the heroes of The Heart’s Charge, my latest release. These men are seasoned ex-cavalry officers with a calling to help those in need. Even if those who need them are homeless children society deems beneath their notice. And when they team up with a pair of passionate women who run the local foundling home, more than one heart will be charging into the fray.
When I first starting researching this story, I knew I wanted it to be set in a small town that was relatively secluded. Enter Kingsland, TX – a town surrounded on three sides by water. Kingsland was founded at the place where the Colorado and Llano Rivers meet, and during the time period for my story, the only way to get into town from the east was to cross a bridge built for the railroad.
I love to study old town maps when I am setting a story in a real place, but Kingsland, TX was never incorporated, so I had a difficult time finding any historic maps of the area. I reached out to the Chamber of Commerce, and they were kind enough to point me in the direction of local historical John Hallowell. Mr. Hallowell generously shared his research with me, including some photographs and personal recollections of that railroad bridge being used for pedestrian traffic. School children crossed it to get to school. People traveling from Burnet County would leave their horses or wagons on the Burnet side then cross the bridge to conduct their business in Kingsland. All of these facts fueled my imagination as I plotted.
However, the most colorful piece of history I uncovered was the fact that people vividly remembered mistiming their crossing on this bridge, and having to make dramatic climbs onto the support piers in order to avoid being hit by a train. I knew I had to use this tidbit at some point in my novel.
I visited Kingsland during the course of writing the book, and I saw the bridge in question. It still stands today, though a few additional concrete pillars have been added over the years for extra support. Note how there is no railing or trestles or anything to add stability for the people who crossed this bridge. And the Colorado River is no trickling stream. Falling in would spell disaster. Yet school children crossed it every day! I was brave enough to walk out on the bridge to the edge of of the shore, but that was as far as I dared. I had no desire to act out the scene I was plotting in my head, especially since I had no idea if the tracks were still in use.
Here is the start of the scene that was inspired by this bridge research, a scene that would become one of my favorites in the entire novel.
Katherine clutched Mark’s arm. It didn’t matter if Alice could recognize the man or not. She was putting herself in his path, and if he spotted her, she could be taken, just like the others.
“We’ve got to get to her. Now!”
Mark nodded but took the time to shake the porter’s hand in thanks. Katherine didn’t. Leaving the men behind, she hoisted her skirt above her ankles and sprinted across the platform and down into the street. People turned to stare as she raced past, but she paid them no mind. Her only thought was to follow the railroad tracks and get to the bridge.
Mark called out to her, but she didn’t look back. He’d catch up soon enough. Nor did she hesitate to mount the tracks and start across the bridge. People crossed this bridge on foot every day. Heavens, children from Hoover’s Valley walked across it every morning to come to school in Kingsland.
Once on the bridge, she hiked her skirt up a bit more and watched the placement of each hurried step. There were no railings and no trestles to protect her from falling into the Colorado River below should she lose her balance.
“Kate!” Mark called, much nearer now. “Stop!”
She lifted her head to judge how far she’d come. Almost halfway. And there, across the river, she spied a pair of horses at the end of the bridge. A small child in boy’s clothing moved between them. Alice! Katherine’s heart soared.
“I see her!” She halted momentarily and glanced over her shoulder, her excitement building.
Mark stood on the tracks at the edge of the bridge, waving her toward him. “Come back!” he yelled.
Go back? No. They had to go forward. Get to Alice before she was lost to them again. She shook her head and resumed picking her way across the bridge. Faster now. Nearly at a run. Alice was on the other side. In danger. Nothing else mattered.
But two-thirds of the way across, she realized she was wrong. Something else did matter. Something barreling toward her with such speed that the tracks convulsed beneath her feet. The deep, haunting moan of a train whistle pierced her ears and her heart.
The 6:50 from Burnet. Heading straight for her.
I’ll be giving away 2 copies of The Heart’s Charge today.
For a chance to win, leave a comment about a favorite bridge-related memory or about a bridge you would love to visit one day.
Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. According to my This Day In History Calendar, today is the 152nd anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad (May 10, 1869), an event that had a profound effect on everything from commerce to the environment of this country.
So today I thought I’d share a bit of history and trivia around this event.
First a timeline of key events:
1832 – Dr. Hartwell Carver made his first push for construction of a railroad to connect the east coast to the west coast. That proposal didn’t make it through, but Dr. Carver didn’t give up and over the next several years continued to write articles supporting his proposal.
1853 – Congress commissions a survey of 5 possible routes. These were completed by 1855
1862 – The Pacific Railroad Bill signed by Abraham Lincoln. The act offered government incentives to assist “men of talent, men of character, men who are willing to invest” in developing the nation’s first transcontinental rail line.
1863 (Jan) – The Central Pacific Railroad breaks ground in Sacramento. They lay the first rail in October of that same year.
1863 (Dec) – The Union Pacific Railroad breaks ground in Omaha. But because of the Civil War it isn’t until July of 1865 that the first rail on the eastern end is laid.
1869 – Transcontinental Railroad completed
Now on to some other Interesting facts and trivia:
The railroad line followed a route similar to that used as the central route of the Pony Express primarily because this route had been proven navigable in winter.
There were two main railroad companies involved in constructing the historic line. The Central Pacific Railroad received the contract to construct the line from Sacramento to points east. The Union Pacific Railroad was awarded the contract to forge the path from Council Bluffs, Iowa west. As noted above, construction began in 1862 and in the early days the place where the two legs would meet up and become one was not decided.
As the project neared completion, President Ulysses Grant set Promontory Point Utah as the place where the two rails would meet. On May 10, 1869, the final spike was driven and the Transcontinental Railroad was deemed complete.
The final spike driven is often called the Golden Spike. However the spike was actually gold plated, a solid gold spike would have been much too soft to drive into the rail.
The total length of the rail line was 1,776 miles. 1086 miles was laid by the Union Pacific crew and 690 miles by Central Pacific. At the time of its completion it was one of the longest contiguous railroad in the world
The chosen route required 19 tunnels to be drilled through the mountains. This was no easy task during this time period and it managed to push forward barely a foot per day. Even when nitroglycerin was introduced to blast through the rock it only increased their progress to 2 feet per day.
When completed, the Transcontinental Railroad allowed passengers to cross the country in just one week as opposed to the four to six months it had taken before.
The fare to travel from Omaha to San Francisco was $65 for a third class bench seat, $110 for a second class seat and $136 if you wanted to ride first class in a Pullman sleeping car.
And there you have it, a short and sweet lesson on the Transcontinental Railway. So what about you, do you have any experience with trains and railways you’d like to share? If not, would you like to ride a train someday?
My only personal experience was on a vacation to the Grand Canyon – we road the train from Williams AZ to the south rim, a trip of about 2 hours. It was a really fun addition to our vacation experience.
Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a choice of any book from my backlist.
No western romance trope is more cheesy or more famous than the old Damsel on the Railroad Tracks trope. Which is why when I recently wrote a scene that ended with my heroine stuck on a railroad bridge with a train heading for her, I just had to giggle. I promise the scene is ripe with tension and believability. There is no mustachioed villain cackling in the background. And she’s not actually tied to the tracks. She doesn’t even scream for help. Though our hero is still called upon to rush in to make a daring rescue.
So how did this trope get started and how has it endured so long in tongue-and-cheek fashion?
Most people credit the damsel on the tracks to the melodramas of silent movies. However, the first time it appeared with significant impact was on stage in an 1867 play called Under the Gaslight by Augustin Daly. By 1868, the trope reportedly could be found in five different London plays all running at the same time, and remained a theatre staple for decades. But here’s the kicker. In the original story, it is a man who has been tied to the railroad tracks and a woman who rescues him!
This trope became so popular in the theatre, that even though there are no original silent movies that use this plot in a serious fashion, several used it for comedic effect. The most notable of these spoofs was a Keystone Komedy called Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life from 1913. Note the top hat and impressive mustache on the villain. Those become staples of the trope.
Some of you will probably remember watching the classic cartoon The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, either when it aired in the 1960’s or in reruns in the 1970’s like I did. This was a silly spoof that used over-the-top villains to hilarious effect. One of the main characters on the show was the dim-witted yet heroic Mountie named Dudley Do-Right. His nemesis Snidely Whiplash wore a top hat, sported a curvy mustache, and had a tendency to tie damsels to railroad tracks. Hence the trope was preserved for a new generation.
In 1969, Ray Stevens released a song called Along Came Jones which reached #27 on the billboard charts. My husband and I are big oldies fans, so we love this silly song and have even shared it with our kids – successfully perpetuating the trope into the future.
Do you remember any of these songs or shows?
Besides the top hat and mustache, what are other villain elements that have become cliche over time?
Speaking of damsels and railroads, my Harvey House Brides novella collection, Serving Up Love, is on sale this month for only $1.99.
Grab a copy while you can!
Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I have a book due at the end of this month and the last few weeks heading toward a deadline are always pretty intense for me. So I hope you will forgive me for pulling out an old post and dusting it off to share once again. This one appeared during my first year as a filly, 2009. Wow, hard to believe I’ve been part of this fabulous fun group for 11 years now!! Time really does pass fast when you’re having fun 🙂
‘Saving’ The West
I came across an article when researching circuit preachers for a minor story thread in one of my books. The article covered a unique tool utilized by missionaries who were attempting to do their own brand of ‘taming the west’ – namely Chapel Cars.
These were railroad cars that were modified to serve as traveling churches. They rode the rails from town to town, shifting over to sidings for as long as they were needed, then continuing on to the next stop. They included modest living quarters for the missionary and, if he had one, his wife. The rest of the space was utilized for the church itself.
Most western movies and tales glorify the gun-toting lawman or vigilante, portraying them as the tamers of the wild and woolly west. In actuality, the peace-minded missionaries who rode the rails played a larger, more influential part in bringing peace to the lawless west than any of their more aggressive counterparts. They traveled in their mobile churches to remote areas of the country, bringing spiritual direction and a civilizing influence to people who were starved for something to offset the violence and loneliness of their existence.
These Chapel Cars traveled throughout the west and mid-west – including North Dakota, Nevada, Minnesota, California, Louisiana, Texas, Oregon and Colorado. They stopped at mining towns and logging camps, tent cities and newly established towns, bringing their gospel message and the reminder of civilization to people who had seen neither for a long time – if ever.
And, given the unfettered existence of those in the camps and towns, their appearance was surprisingly well received more often than not – especially by the ladies of the area. The arrival of these Chapel Cars signaled not only the chance to attend Sunday services, but brought with them someone to perform weddings, funerals, baptisms and also a welcome excuse for social gatherings. In addition, many a rough and tough cowboy who would have balked at attending a traditional church, seemed to feel differently about these side rail services. In fact, the very novelty of the Chapel Car brought folks from miles around just to have a look.
Of course, they didn’t always receive a warm welcome. There are recorded instances of the Chapel Cars being pelted with eggs and refuse, defaced with graffiti and even set on fire. But these were rare instances and the cars and their custodians survived to continue their mission.
These repurposed rail cars were furnished with pews, a lectern, an altar table and in some cases an organ. Depending on the construction, they could seat over 70 people inside. The Chapel Car was a multipurpose unit, serving as a home, church, Sunday School, social hall, library and meeting place. They carried bibles and tracts which were distributed all along the lines. The missionary and his wife, in addition to their usual ministerial duties, were expected to function as singer, musician, janitor and cook. They helped organize permanent churches, including raising the necessary funds and helping to construct the buildings.
There are records to support the existence of eleven Chapel Cars in all, though there is some evidence there may have been as many as seventeen. Of the eleven known cars, three were utilized by Catholics, seven by Baptists and one by the Episcopalians.
Chapel cars remained in use throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With the advent of World War I, however, the railroad tracks had to be kept clear for troop movement. In addition, new regulations prohibited the railroad companies from giving ‘free rides’ to the Chapel Cars, something that had been common practice up until that time. And as paved roads and the automobile became more prevalent it became easier for folks to travel longer distances on their own to attend church. Thus, the Chapel Cars that had brought their spiritual message and civilizing influence to the rough and tumble west faded into history.
So, where’s the most memorable place you’ve attended a church service?
And on the good news front, Love Inspired is re-releasing one of my previous titles this month in a 2-in-1 volume with former Filly Cheryl St.John. Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a signed copy.
SECOND CHANCE FAMILY
Mitch Hammond is a man of his word. And as far as Cora Beth Collins is concerned, that’s a problem. The stubborn sheriff has vowed never to love again, for fear of wounding someone else. The most he can offer Cora Beth is marriage in name only. And with no other way to adopt two runaway orphans and keep her patchwork family together, she accepts.
Mitch is doing the honorable thing. So why does it feel so wrong? Despite his intentions, Mitch is starting to want more from Cora Beth…and from himself. For in her trusting eyes he sees everything he hopes to be—as a lawman, a father and a husband.
At the end of January, I had the chance to travel to historic Jefferson, Texas for a writer’s retreat. It was a history-lover’s delight! We stayed in an 1867 home, shopped in a 19th century mercantile, and stopped in at the oldest continuously run hotel in Texas. It was at the Excelsior Hotel, that we secured a tour of the authentic 1888 Pullman car stationed across the street.
Pullman cars offered sleeping berths for train travel in the 19th century. Usually only the wealthy could afford this luxury. But if you found yourself in the super-wealthy category, you might be able to afford a custom-built private sleeping car for personal use. Such was the case with railroad tycoon, Jay Gould.
Believe it or not, this tiny town of 2,000 was once the 4th largest city in Texas. Back at the height of the riverboat era, Jefferson was a bustling port with a thriving cotton culture and a population around 8,000. Jay Gould came to town and tried to convince them to let him run his railroad through Jefferson. Unfortunately, the town wanted nothing to do with his Yankee money and turned him down. Mr. Gould predicted the destruction of the town on his way out and decided to build his railroad through the tiny town of Dallas instead. Rather ironic that the town that once sent Jay Gould away made the effort to secure his Pullman car as part of their history years later. Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20.
The Pullman car was a wonder to behold. The lighting was both electric and gas. Electricity would be generated while the train was in motion, and gas would be piped in when the train was stationary.
You will notice jay birds featured in much of the decor. Jay Gould used the jay bird as his symbol. It was even part of his signature visible on the register in the Excelsior Hotel. You will see it etched into the glass globes around the lights and most decadently on the side of his bathtub.
Here are other pictures I took. You might see some authors you recognize along the way.
Even today this would be a luxurious way to travel.
What museums have you visited that made you want to travel back in time?
Nothing is more fascinating than the temporary towns that sprang up as the intercontinental railroad worked its way across the United States. For the most part, they were dirty and contained the dregs of society. But the fascination lies in how much people could tolerate in the way of creature comforts for some pretty good money. The buildings were comprised of nothing but canvas or sod and provided temporary homes for the workers and as the tracks progressed, so did the town. The businesses just pulled up stakes and moved, following the iron ribbon cutting across the prairie.
These places had just about everything—dentistry, hardware supplies, saloons, mercantiles, cafes. And of course, dance halls and prostitutes.
Most of the workers were single and veterans of the Civil War. They needed a job and the railroad needed men. All nationalities worked together.
The town of Benton, Wyoming was one such temporary town. It only existed for three months but it had a population of over 3,000. It had twenty-five saloons. I can’t even imagine this many people.
But many of the merchants were visionaries and saw great opportunity, therefore built sturdy structures. They stayed put when the temporary establishments moved on. They had faith that as long as the tracks remained, the people would come. It was also an exciting time for land developers, but such an atmosphere also planted seeds for the unscrupulous who cheated people out of their hard-earned money. They’d sell them land they didn’t own or they’d sell the same land to several different people which resulted in a nightmare.
Everyone wanted to cash in on the wealth that the railroad created.
A few of the cities that got temporary starts were: Billings, Laramie, Cheyenne, Reno, Tacoma, Fresno, and North Platte, Nebraska. There were hundreds more.
The historical western series Hell on Wheels was set in temporary towns as the Union Pacific laid down tracks in the race to Promontory Point where they drove the golden spike.
Fortunes were made and lost in creating the transcontinental railroad.
The human toll was staggering. Fifteen thousand men worked to build it. 1,500 died. White men earned $35 a month and that included room and board. The rest made $25 plus room and board. Using today’s inflation rate, that $35 amounts to $657.32. Not much at all for the amount of backbreaking, dangerous work those guys did. The conditions were deplorable.
In which sector do you think the new boom will come from? Oil? Land? Technology? Maybe colonizing Mars or other planets?
Margaret Brownley and I have Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms releasing on October 3rd. Six stories that will warm your heart and put you in the Christmas spirit. I’ll offer several in giveaways next month so be watching!