I just returned home to the Midwest from my folks place in San Diego.
When my boys were young we would enjoy road trip s, picking out different routes so that we could see the country. We had some amazing trips but we always ended up in San Diego so that they could visit with my side of the family. On these drives, my mind would always wander and I would try to envision what it must have been like for the early pioneers, settlers and Native Americans. All of it became inspiration for the stories that I write.
For many years now I’ve flown. It is just not the same as driving. There is something lost in not being able to roll down my window and smell the sage, or pines, or ocean and feel the wind on my face. When my husband agreed to make the drive this year I was thrilled. I flew out to have a long visit and then he drove out later to spend Christmas with me. My sons also came for a shorter visit. Then together we drove back to the Midwest. It took some planning. We had to dodge El Nino effects and so we stayed SOUTH! Oklahoma roads were completely shut down with ice, Denver was a blizzard, a tornado tore through Texas. and the Mississippi River was flooding all over the place at the time we planned to cross. Never a dull moment. I was glad to get home safely.
How did the pioneers handle this!
I cannot imagine what it must have been like for women in the 1800s. Mail-order brides and those who traveled to a new destination looking for free land to farm or ranch often would never see their loved ones again. They must have experienced terrible bouts of homesickness. It’s no wonder that church and social gatherings played such an important place in their lives. And traveling, they couldn’t check for bad weather on their phone and adjust their route to avoid it the way I could on this trip. I’m so glad I live today and not in the 1800s!
How do you like to travel and where would you choose to go in the
continental United States given the opportunity?
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!
Fellow filly Cheryl Pierson and I spent last weekend at the inaugural Western Fictioneers convention (also known as #WFcon15) in St. Louis. What a great time we had! We met some of the iconic authors in the western genre, learned more than my head can hold during seminars and panel discussions, got to sit around and gab with people we’d only spoken with online previously…and, of course, ate lots of good food. I may never eat again.
You can discover more about Western Fictioneers — a professional organization for authors of western fiction — and the convention here. If we can find Micki Milom, the superwoman who put the whole thing together single-handedly this year, we’re hoping to host another shindig next year, possibly in Fort Worth. Micki appears to have disappeared into the Convention Organizer Protection Program — a wise move on her part.
Instead of the usual post, this week I thought I’d share photos from the convention. Yes, I realize this is a bit like showing home movies to captive relatives, but I can be cruel that way.
Without further ado…
Take a good look at the woman on the left. You may never see her again after this convention. She’s Micki Milom, Nashville singer and songwriter, author of traditional westerns, and ramrod of the convention. Evidently, that smug expression on her face is meant to camouflage her nefarious attempt to strangle western historical romance author and all-around nuisance Jacquie Rogers.
The Living Legends panel discussion featured, from left, Robert J. Randisi, Robert (Dick) Vaughn, Dusty Richards, and Frank Roderus. Between them, the gentlemen have published thousands of stories. For such prolific, popular authors of traditional western fiction, all four men are down-to-earth, funny, charming characters (emphasis on “characters”).
During the Romancing the West panel, authors (from left) Jacquie Rogers, Kathleen Rice Adams, Meg Mims, Kat Martin, and Cheryl Pierson astounded attendees with their… Well, I’m sure we astounded the audience with something, but the “something” probably was our ability to be extraordinarily silly. Couldn’t Micki have found western historical romance authors who possess at least a modicum of decorum?
The most evil thing about the Taming Social Media and Other Necessary Evils panel was the panelists: traditional western authors (from left) JES Hayes, that Kathleen Rice Adams person again, Jacquie Rogers (again), and Tom Rizzo.
Publishers who specialize in western fiction also addressed the madding crowd. From left, Prairie Rose Publications editor-in-chief and co-founder Cheryl Pierson, Pen-L Publishing‘s Kimberly and Duke Pennell, High Hill Press‘s Louella Turner, Mike Bray of Wolfpack Publishing, and Golway Publishing’s Dusty Richards provided insight into what publishers look for when considering authors and their work.
Keith Souter, a medical doctor and popular traditional western author from the U.K., traveled all the way across the pond to present one of the most fascinating seminars during the convention — The Doctor’s Bag: Medicine and Surgery of Yesteryear. The presentation provided a hint of the enormous amount of material Keith covers in his newly released reference book of the same name. He was much too gentlemanly to refuse when I threatened him with a necktie party unless he autographed a copy for me. The book is a fabulous resource for anyone who writes historical fiction. I highly recommend it.
Intellectual property attorney Michael Milom presented one of the most popular sessions during the convention — The “Rights” Side of the Law: Legal Labyrinths. Despite his prowess as a high-powered entertainment lawyer, he quickly lost control of the rowdy herd and abandoned his planned talk in favor of answering a slew of questions from the audience. Michael, who is married to Micki, was gracious about our rude behavior, but as you can see by the metamorphosis in his expression, the lot of us probably should stay out of Nashville for a while.
There was plenty of time for fun, as well.
The Prairie Rose Publications gang whooped it up. (From left, Kathleen Rice Adams and Jacquie Rogers [Who are those women, and why did they keep butting in everywhere?], Keith Souter [who makes a wonderful bank robber, for a Scot], Cheryl Pierson [another outlaw who repeatedly butted in], Micki Milom, and Meg Mims.)
Some of us, like Cheryl Pierson, autographed books. Did I autograph any books? Of course not. My ego may not survive.
The entertainment was entertaining, especially when Micki Milom and Robert Randisi sang a couple of duets. We didn’t have to cover our ears or nothin’! (Micki’s a professional, but Bob was a surprise. He’s actually quite good.)
And there you have it — #WFcon2015 in a nutshell! (Most photos are mine, but thanks to JES Hayes for the image of the PRP outlaws and to Diane Rodes Garland for the image of Cheryl autographing a book.)
UPDATE: I’ve just received word that we kidnapped about a box-full of Dr. Keith’s The Doctor’s Bag — autographed! They’re available for $15 (including postage), which is a great deal considering the paperback version sells for $18.99 on Amazon. Cheryl Pierson has details.
To thank everyone for schlepping through all this rambling, I’ll give two commenters a KINDLE COPY of a very special Prairie Rose release: A Cowboy’s Touch. The boxed set of four full-length western romance novels by Cheryl Pierson, Livia J. Washburn, Kit Prate, and me contains nearly 1,000 pages of spicy love in the Old West, and it’s a steal at 99 cents. To be eligible for the drawing, tell me which of the seminars you would have liked to attend. (All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)
Professional and amateur cowboys intrigue me, as do the equally tough professional bullriders.
Every year I attend 2-3 rodeos, from small regional amateur rodeos in Montana and Arizona, to the National Finals Rodeo held in Las Vegas, and that doesn’t include the PBR (Professional Bull Rider) events I try to attend each spring.
Fortunately, I never lack for company when I’m heading to the rodeo or PBR. My husband and I have a standing date for the NFR in Last Vegas each December and have tickets for the last three nights of competition, and my writer friends Megan Crane and CJ Carmichael are also always up for a rodeo weekend.
I’ve written a variety of rugged heroes, including cowboys and bullriders, and three of my reader favorites were all professional bullriders: Dane Shelly (She’s Gone Country), Cade King (Be Mine, Cowboy), and Colton Thorpe (Take Me, Cowboy).
These three heroes were tough, hardcore alphas. Dane Shelly walked with a permanent limp, Cade King once dealt with his pain by drinking hard, hitting the bottle to numb his exhaustion and pain, while Colton Thorpe has no desire to ever settle down and be a buckle bunny’s sugar daddy.
I may have inherited my love of cowboys and western stories from my grandfather, an engineer and rancher from El Paso, Texas that loved the land so much he owned three cattle ranches in California and would fly his private plane in and out of the different ranches to help with routine chores and round ups. I spent school holidays on his favorite ranch in the Cholame Valley (forty-five miles east of Paso Robles) where the miles and miles of rolling hills and open land made me think anything was possible.
At UCLA I switched from being a Creative Writing major to American Studies where I could combine my love of American literature with American history, culture and art. My senior thesis was on Mark Twain, and it’s impossible to study American culture without being reminded at every turn that the American West, and our Frontier has shaped our national consciousness. Americans are explorers and adventurers and yes, risk takers. We’re fiercely independent and determined to succeed.
I was lucky to study in depth the literature of our West, reading both the classics from James Fenimore Cooper to Willa Cather, as well as getting an introduction to the greats in our popular culture, like Bret Harte, Jack Schaefer, and of course, the one and only Louis L’Amour.
Through reading I discovered one of the defining characteristics of the classic Western hero (or heroine) is strength, particularly inner strength, and this strength, and rugged individualism, resonated deeply with me. It’s not enough to say the right thing, but one must do the right thing. Integrity is also essential, as well as having a clear moral compass.
I’m grateful for my academic immersion in the West. It’s definitely been useful for my career, but as I write a contemporary western hero, not a historical one, I’m always trying to broaden my knowledge and deepen my perspective to better ground my character, making him or her as intriguing and relevant as possible for my readers.
To get my characters right, I do a lot of research. In fact, at the very beginning of a new story I do far more research and studying then actual writing.
My research can be broken into one of three categories:
1) Reading: I read every reference book, memoir, and bio I can get my hands on!
2) Interviews: I talk to industry experts (in this case, cowboys, bullriders and family and friends)
3) Observation: I attend live events, soaking it all in and noting every detail possible.
Over the years I’ve collected quite a few books that have become essentials in my Western library. I’ve pulled out a few to share with you here, and have listed four favorites by title and author below.
Favorite Reference Books
King of the Cowboys by Ty Murray and Steve Eubanks
Chasing the Rodeo: On Wild Rides and Big Dreams, Broken Hearts and Broken Bones, and One Man’s Search for the West by W.K. Stratton
Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, & Bull Riders: A Year Inside the Professional Bull Riders Tour by Josh Peter
Rodeo in America: Wranglers, Roughstock, and Paydirt by Wayne S Wooden
Not every lover of westerns needs to be a rodeo fan, but if you enjoy a great rodeo hero or setting, check out one of the titles I’ve shared above (the top three are my personal top three favorites). You can also learn more about the PRCA and PBR, including rankings, schedules and ticket info at http://www.prorodeo.com and http://www.pbr.com.
My next rodeo event? Why, it’s the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in just two months time. And I’ll be attending with my favorite ‘cowboy’, my husband Ty. And okay, he’s not a real cowboy, he’s a professional surfer, but with his Texas roots, he loves the rodeo as much as I do!
Giveaway: Are you a rodeo fan? Have you ever been to a rodeo? I’d love to hear about your favorite event or experience and one of you will win a signed copy of She’s Gone Country and some fun Jane Porter reader swag. Winner will be announced here, in the comments, on Saturday, October 10th so please check back to see if that winner might be you!
Today, we can get around the world in hours. We take for granted that if we want to visit our friends or family anywhere in our country or around the world, we just have to hop in our car and drive a few hours to get to them. Or we can get on a plane and fly there in an even shorter amount of time. But what was it like in 1880 before cars had been invented and the first working plane was another 13 years in the coming?
I found out while doing some research for my fifth novel, The Solid Rock (due out Spring 2016). I’ll share a few of them with you.
By horse, the most you could go without killing the animal is 50 miles, and that’s only on flat ground with a really good horse. In normal conditions, 20-40 miles per day was the limit. A wagon would be even less since the oxen would be pulling all your belongings and most, if not all, of your family. By train you could go up to 50 miles per hour!
In The Solid Rock, my main character, Joshua, travels from Chicago, Illinois to Cheyenne, Wyoming. At first, I was going to have him ride his horse the whole way there. Then I found out how many miles there were between the two cities and how many miles a horse can go. If I had him ride his horse, the man he went to rescue would probably be dead before he got there.
Later in the book, he pushes his horses hard and goes from Castle City, Montana (a ghost town about 60 miles east and a little south of Helena or about fifteen miles north of Ringling) to Cheyenne. He brought more than one horse so he could keep riding even when one of the horses started to get tired. I also found a great map of railroads online and used that to get him from Castle City to Caspar, Wyoming where they could hop on a train directly to Cheyenne. The map is a little confusing, especially since it doesn’t have a lot of the city names on it, but I figured some of them out. Enough to make it workable.
Research can sometimes be tedious, but you can also find out some fun things that are only relevant in your books, but can sometimes be fun to tell others as trivia items. Here are some fun facts I learned while researching The Solid Rock (they may or may not have to do with transportation).
Kate Warne was the first female Pinkerton Detective.
Trains didn’t always go through what are now considered big towns.
Horses can’t run fast for long periods of time like you see in the movies. (Wow! Movies are unrealistic? Who would’ve guessed that? [/end of sarcasm])
Allen Pinkerton (the man who started the Pinkerton detectives) ran away from Ireland because he was a wanted man.
Allen Pinkerton also married a young lady who was probably only about fourteen or fifteen, though she claimed to be seventeen.
Thanks for hosting me today. I really appreciate being able to be a guest blogger on the Petticoats and Pistols blog. I’m looking forward to the conversations we can have in the comments. I won’t bore you with a summary of each of my books. You can find out all the details about my three novels and three novellas on my website: http://www.faithblum.com. If you are interested in learning about my new releases, I have a newsletter signup form which you can find here: http://www.faithblum.com/new-releases.html.
Timothy is at his wit’s end. His twelve year old half-sister has run off five housekeepers in almost a year. Since their parents died, she has grown wilder than ever. What can he do? As he looks for a new housekeeper, his eye catches sight of a mail order bride advertisement. One young lady has a younger sister and sounds like a God-fearing woman. Could this be the answer to his dilemma or will Louise run her off, too?
I am also giving away an ebook of any of my novels or novellas currently available to two people who comment below. What is your favorite mode of transportation? Did it surprise you how long it took to get places in the 1880s? Do you have any questions about my books?
Faith Blum is a 24 year old home school graduate who enjoys doing many right-brained activities such as reading, crafting, writing, and playing piano. Her favorite genre to read and write is Historical Fiction, more specifically, Westerns. In the Hymns of the West series, she has endeavored to create clean, fun, and challenging Western stories for the whole family. She currently has three novels and three novellas published. You can find her in various places online: Website | Blog | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter | Amazon
There is tremendous irony in how popular the Western genre of Historical Romance is with today’s readers.
After all, life in the Western United States in the late 19th century was hardly the stuff romantic dreams were made of.
Sweaty saddles, dusty bedrolls, boll weevils in the breakfast bowl, horse flies feasting on your neck and only the most rudimentary levels of sanitation. Not exactly Harry Met Sally.
And during the Gold Rush era, romance was barely mathematically possible as there was a severe shortage of ladies in the bustling, burgeoning Barbary Coast area. The fairer sex were even scarcer in the desolate hills of the Gold Country and the few women who did reside in the region were…uh um…mostly of the working variety.
So why is it that historical novelists such as myself and well informed readers…like you…cling so tightly to the notion there is romance in the air of those Western Skies?
For me, there always was something undeniably, absolutely captivating about the wide open spaces of the West. In fact, in writing In Golden Splendor, the second novel of my Heirs of Ireland series, I discovered the landscapes themselves became a central character in the book.
They became inseparably entwined in the courtship of the story. Here are some examples:
Any good romance starts with our leading lady or man with a yearning in their heart, a sense of aloneness. The great expanses of the unexplored wilderness of the West naturally provoke emotions of deep yearning, always a key to a great romance.
Even at a distance, the ribs of the great beast showed through its patchy and scarred chestnut fur. Through the barrel’s eye, Seamus tracked the young bull as it limped its way over to an aspen tree. The elk raised its head, crowned in mockery by horns uneven and fractured.
Did it catch his scent?
Then the animal relaxed, bared its teeth, and tugged on a low-lying branch, releasing a powdery mist of fresh snowfall and uncovering autumnal leaves of maroon, amber and burnt orange. Brilliant watercolor splashes on a white canvas.
In the deadly stillness of a finger pointed on a trigger, Seamus shared a kinship of loneliness and futility with his prey, whose ear flapped and jaw bulged as it chewed.
What is romance without beauty, whether it is expressed through a perfectly sculpted face or experienced in the depths of a pure heart? When it comes to landscapes of the American West there are few areas on our planet that offer as seductive a setting for an epic journey of the soul.
Can you imagine being the first to capture sights of Yosemite? Long before there were roads and campgrounds?
There spinning beneath them, breathlessly and seemingly miles below, was a valley finely tailored in a stunning cloak of white and generously covered with snow-flocked forestry. It lay at the base of a symphony of granite that reached like grateful hands up to the heavens. Tears of adoration poured freely from great waterfalls that descended with fullness, despite the lateness of the season. Behind this all, the sun lowered its head beneath the distant edge of the crucible, pouring into the sky cottony plumes of pink, rose, and rusted orange.
Just as the thorn to the rose, the territory of the West can prove to be the perfect villain in the story, an antagonist who challenges our heroes to the core of their being:
Now also coming into clarity was the gruesome evidence of the trail’s savagery. Lining either side of the pathway were the tragic debris of failed crossings. Sun-blanched rib cages and scattered bones of oxen, horses, mules, as well as broken wagon frames and wheels with missing spokes. Even more haunting were the discarded dolls and toys and even cribs, a reminder of how death dealt no better hands to the young.
The Ephemeral Moods
This scenery of the West as well can prove to be a treasured palette for authors, allowing us to shift emotion and moods of a story.
The harbor fog drifted in as they weaved between the ghost ships, amidst the lofting smells of dead fish, rotting wood, and mildew. The waves splashing against the hulls and moans of bending timber and strained ropes added to the eeriness of the evening. The farther they were from the shoreline, the more desolate and forbidden became this naval graveyard.
Characters of Strength
But the rich scenery is far from the only tool of the Western-themed novelist. Also in romancing the West a writer can tap into the deep complexity and intrigue of those who would respond to such a Manifest Destiny in their lives.
What great romance awaits such complex characters!
Which is why in the blending of all of this mostly male humanity, the woman who approached appeared so extraordinary and so out of place. She was dark enough in skin color to be Mexican, but her facial features were European, with high cheeks and taut skin. Her hair flowed freely, brown and straight and nearly all the way to her glistening silver belt buckle. She glanced at Seamus with playful and alluring eyes.
Yet rather than being dressed in the bright, ornamental dresses off the painted ladies in town, she was dressed more as a man, with leather leggings, a red plaid shirt, spurred boots, and a black flat-brimmed hat. Most notably, she swayed with confidence and strength.
The Pen is Yours
What about you? What do you think makes the American West such a perfect accompaniment for romance?
One of the commenters who answers Michael’s question will win an autographed copy of his or her choice from the Heirs of Ireland series: Flight of the Earls, In Golden Splendor, or Songs of the Shenandoah. Click on the book covers above to find out more about each book. The winner will be announced Sunday evening (Aug. 23).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael K. Reynolds’s debut novel, Flight of the Earls, about the Great Irish Potato Famine was a finalist for RT Book Reviews 2013 novel of the year award in the category of Inspirational Romance. In Golden Splendor, set during the San Francisco Gold Rush, earned fourth place as Forewords Best Historical Novel of 2013 and Songs of the Shenandoah, the Civil War-era conclusion to the trilogy was a Top Pick in RT Book Reviews, as well as a finalist for RT’s Book Reviews Book of the Year and was the Gold Award Winner as Forewords Best Historical Novel of 2014.
Chappell Hill, Texas — founded in 1847 on 100 acres owned by a woman — is located roughly halfway between Austin and Houston on part of the land Mexico granted to Stephen F. Austin in 1821. Mary Haller, the landowner, and her husband Jacob built a stagecoach inn on the site, at the junction of two major stagecoach lines. Soon, other folks from the Deep South migrated to the area and planted cotton, for which the climate and soil were perfectly suited.
By 1856, the population had risen to 3,000 people, eclipsed only by Galveston and San Antonio. The town included a sawmill, five churches, and a Masonic Lodge, in addition to two of the first colleges in the state — one for men and another for women. A railroad line followed soon after.
During the War of Northern Aggression (otherwise known as the American Civil War), the men of Chappell Hill served in both Hood’s Texas Brigade (infantry) and Terry’s Texas Rangers (cavalry), participating in most of the major battles of the conflict. Two years after the war ended, in 1867, many of the Chappell Hill men who survived the fighting perished in a yellow fever epidemic that decimated the town and the rest of the area around the Brazos River.
Chappell Hill never recovered, plunging from one of the largest, most vibrant communities in the state to little more than a memory.
Today, with a population of 300 in town and approximately 1,300 in the zip code, Chappell Hill is an unincorporated community that retains its fighting spirit and independent nature. A May 2008 special election to determine whether the community would incorporate drew two-thirds of eligible voters to the polls. Incorporation was defeated by a vote of three to one.
Widely regarded as one of the best historically preserved towns in Texas, Chappell Hill maintains its landmarks with admirable zeal. The Stagecoach Inn has been in continuous operation since the doors first opened. Main Street is listed as a National Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places. Restored homes, churches, and businesses offer tours to visitors, and the annual Bluebonnet Festival and Scarecrow Festival attract tourists from all over the state.
When you think of the old west, bicycles probably don’t come to mind. I mean can you honestly picture John Wayne chasing down bad guys on a tricycle or boneshaker? Yet, the bicycle craze that hit the country in the 1890s was just as prevalent in the west as it was in the east.
The new craze not only changed the way people got around, but also the economy. An editorial in the Fort Macleod Gazette in the early 1890s stated, “If this craze for bicycle riding continues much longer our livery stable men will have to close down.” The same lament could be heard from hatters, dressmakers and carriage workers.
Not only did cowboys, sheriffs and outlaws join the wheeling club, but so did women
One Texas newspaper in 1895 issued this warning regarding female bicycle riders: “We have been watching the course of events with breathless anxiety and Nebuchadnezzar himself never saw the handwriting on the wall more distinctly than we see it now. The bloomer is coming sure enough.”
One Kansas newspaper lamented that “Women wear their trowserettes even when their machines are left at home.” While some were criticizing women’s attire others like Susan B. Anthony declared bicycles “Have done more than anything else in the world to emancipate women.”
Head over Handlebars
Bloomers aside, muddy dirt roads and wooden sidewalks made for a wild ride. Newspapers regularly reported people taking a “scorcher” and “being knocked senseless” or “carrying an arm in a sling.”
One Texas town responded by adopting the following regulations:
1.Anyone riding a tricycle or relocopede must be supplied with a bell or horn that must be rung at all crossings. 2.Any persons riding a tricycle at night must have a suitable lantern. 3. It is especially prohibited for three or more riders to ride abreast 4. No person or persons shall rest their bicycle, velocipede, or tricycle against a building (including saloons) where the vehicle will be on sidewalks
Some cities imposed a speed limit in town, usually four miles an hour. Fines could be as high as twenty-five dollars. The ordinances created as many problems as they prevented. Not only was there suddenly a shortage of cowbells but the noise created by them posed another problem.
It wasn’t just riders that gave sheriffs and marshals a headache, but a new kind of outlaw—a bicycle thief. Bicycles were also used as getaways and one thief led his pursuers on a merry chase through Sacramento.
Hold on to Your Stetsons
An Arizona Territory newspaper reported that cowboys in Three Rivers, Michigan “have discarded their horses for bicycles in herding cattle. Cowboys in Arizona would have a happy time herding cattle on bicycles.”
Cattle didn’t always take kindly to bicycles as one doctor found out when he unexpectedly ran into a herd of cattle. He ended up with a broken shoulder blade and his $100 bike in ruins. Things got so bad that some insurance companies announced they would charge double for bikers.
Some lawmen like Arizona Sheriff Donahue decided to fight fire with fire and announced that he was the proud owner of a “handsome nickel-plated bicycle” and was in negotiations to purchase a Ferris wheel bike for his under-sheriff. John Wayne will never know what he missed.
I don’t know how it is where you live but the bicycle craze has hit my town big time and I recently caught my husband drooling over a $1000 bike. How are wheeling conditions in your town and have you joined the pack?
New on Amazon today!
A Bicycle Built for Two
Everything goes to hades in a handbasket when Damian Newcastle rides into Amanda’s life.
No one can pedal a bicycle around turn-of-the-century New York without a license, so Amanda Blackwell’s cycling school has become all the rage. The innovative establishment provides an income for the independent miss and her brother Donny, a special child. But in one afternoon, everything goes to hade in a handbasket. Amanda’s uncle is suing to put Donny into an institution and Damian Newcastle, the man she has every reason to hate, rides into her life to ruin everything.
Right after Christmas we took a little trip to Travel Town in a well-known park in our area that houses locomotives from the earliest days of travel. It was thrilling to see the steam and wood-burning engines attached to railcars that once barreled down the tracks with intent to reach the next city on the route in due and expected time.
We peeked into dining cars and strolled inside of rail cars that once accommodated many a traveler. It really got me to thinking about the cost of things way back when. What could the average American traveler afford? How much have costs changed over the years?
In 1869 Railroad First Class Fare from coast to coast including meals cost $250 to $300 round trip.
Wow, that’s sounds like a small fortune to me for most folks. Yet, coach fare (squeezing everyone into a crowded, smoky car) from Omaha to San Francisco was a more affordable $32.20. First Class Airfare today, is probably equally as costly in relation, whereas coach fare being more affordable. Yet, by 1886, less than twenty years later, First Class Rail fare between Kansas and California dropped to $12.00
A coal-burning locomotive
I suppose fluctuations have to do with supply and demand. Just like today when a product is new and innovative, the cost skyrockets. The very first video camera/recorder we owned cost close to $800.00 whereas today, more than twenty years later, we can buy a much more advanced camera for less than $100.00
Here’s a list of some other costs I found interesting:
In 1874 Doc Holiday charged $3.00 for a tooth extraction in his Dallas dental practice. (I’m going to the dentist this week…for him to just look inside my mouth is about $100.00)
In 1875 Wyatt Earp earned $60.00 a month as police officer in Kansas.
In 1880 Pat Garrett earned $10.00 a day as special deputy US Marshal.
In 1869 admission to a concert at a fair in Lincoln, Nebraska cost fifty cents. (compared to the last Tim McGraw concert ticket I purchased at $125.00 … okay Tanya Hanson knows that’s not true…it was more like $150.00)
In 1880 the standard price of an infant delivery in Madison, Nebraska was $10.00 with an additional charge of $1.00 for a house visit outside of town. (We all know how much it costs to have a baby these days)
About $8.00 worth of staples today
Butter was 18 cents per pound
Sugar was less than 1 cent per pound
Cheese (who doesn’t love cheese?) was 7 cents per pound
Rice was 6 cents per pound
Eggs were 20 cents a dozen.
Seeing these prices and how costs have gone up, don’t you wonder what a loaf of bread will cost in the year 2099? How much will it cost to have a baby or buy a car? What have you noticed lately that’s skyrocketed, ie: the cost of movie tickets these days? To offset these costs, post a comment here and be entered to win a FREE book.
You have your choice of my printed book, Secret Heir of Sunset Ranch or the Kindle/Nook version of The Cowboy Contract. And be sure to look for my next Harlequin Desire, the conclusion to the Texas Cattleman’s Club titled,
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Below is a blog I originally posted on this site back in February 2012. It was the result of one of those serendipitous research footnotes.
And be sure to read on down to the bottom where I have details of my giveaway.
The other day I was doing a bit of research into ferry travel in the nineteenth century and came across a little snippet of information that immediately sent me down a rabbit trail to find out more. Did you know that ferry boats were powered by horses at one time? I didn’t. Of course I knew about the horses and mules that walked along the banks of the Erie canal tethered to barges that they pulled along.
But this is something entirely different. These boats had either a turntable or treadmill type device mounted on or below the deck of the ship. These platforms were connected to a gear which was in turn connected to the paddle wheels that propelled the boat forward. When horses walked on the platforms of these mechanisms it set the whole thing in motion.
A number of these horse-powered boats, of several different designs, could be found on the waterways of North America starting in the late eighteenth century and continuing through the early years of the twentieth century. They reached their heyday in the 1840s and 1850s.
During the early years of our country they were used on any number of rivers and lakes in the northeast, especially Lake Champlain and the Hudson River. From there their use spread west to the Great Lakes, to the Ohio and MississippiRivers as well as other waterways that fed from these. Of course they were generally only used for journeys of a few miles.
These boats came in various sizes. One of the largest was powered by eight horse and could carry 200-plus passengers at about the same speed as a steamboat of its day.
There were a number of factors that led to the decline in the use of horseferrys, most notably the industrialization that occurred in America during the latter part of the nineteenth century. With the expansion of bridge construction and railroad networks, there was less need for ferrys of any sort. And when the internal combustion engine came along the death knell was finally sounded.
The only known surviving example of one of these horseferrys sits beneath the murky waters of BurlingtonBay on Lake Champlain. It was discovered during an underwater archaeological expedition in 1894 and today is part of Vermont’s Underwater Historical Preserve System. It has also been added to the national Park Service’s National Register of Historical Places.
So is this something you already knew about? And are there other unusual ways you’ve heard of animals being used to power man-made devices that you’d like to share?
And in honor of the upcoming release of A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS, the third book in my Texas Grooms series, I’ll be giving away the small tote bag pictured below and a choice of any of my books, including the new one.