It was long ago summers that cemented my life-long love of the West and horses and cowboys. Every summer vacation, my father would gather up the family and take us on a road trip to see this gorgeous country (and visit strategically placed relatives.)
Some years, we would go north to the beautiful mountains of Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. I remember driving through the famous tunnel tree before it fell down! (Those redwoods don’t have a very strong root system!) The river was a favorite place—and the water from the melted snow was much colder than the ocean near my house.
Other summers, we would head east. I soon became disenchanted with the long drive through the southwesetern desert. Just too hot and too big! How did our pioneers survive that trip with a horse and buggy?
But when we headed a bit northeast—to Utah and Bryce Canyon or to Colorado and the Anasis Cave dwellings, or to Aspen, or Ouray, what a difference!
All these trips were done without a radio. My father was all about “no bells and whistles” and so it was truly family time. We talked. We told jokes. We reminisced. We made up songs and sang. Usually, we camped with a tent. Sometimes we would haul a small trailer. Most of all, we had fun and learned to appreciate and respect nature (especially that time a skunk wandered into our campsite.)
It is on these family trips that my imagination would take flight and I would envision stories of the pioneers fording a river with their prairie schooner, or living in one of the soddies we passed along the road. I still get a kick from the names throughout the United States – Buzzards Bay, Hangman’s Gulch, and Salt-lick. Surely there are interesting stories in all those places.
My next adventure will be when I head to SEATTLE.My son recently relocated there. Do you remember the song on television’s Here Come the Brides? I just couldn’t resist sending him this…
How is that for a title of a post? I’m not sure it is very catchy.
We’ll have a little fun at the end. Promise!
I often want to include more history than necessary in my stories. (I find it fascinating!) My editor will put a ‘?’ by a sentence to indicate ‘What has this got to do with the story?’ when I include too much research. She reminds me that I am writing a historical romance—with the emphasis on the romance—and not a straight historical novel!
One thing that I needed to know for my new series set in Kansas was the Native American situation and whether it was realistic to have any Indian/Settler skirmishes at the time that my stories take place which is 1878-1880. By this time, Kansas was already a state in the Union. Statehood happened in 1861 and the story of how it came to be is an entire post in itself!
Here is short timeline of things going on in 1870’s Kansas. I strive for historical accuracy and often information like this inspires my plotting. Some things I needed to know:
1. Whether Native American’s lived in the area and if they were friendly or otherwise.
2. When the train service began for shipping cattle to markets in the east.
3. The prevailing attitude about alcoholic beverages. (Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove, the kick-off book to this
series and available now, touches on the subject of alcohol and the twin heroines that run into trouble with their medicinal tonic and takes place in 1879.)
The following list is not exhaustive by any means, but it was pertinent to my new series–
1870 – The Kansas Pacific Railroad extends from Kansas City to Denver. 1871 – April 15 — ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok became the marshal of Abilene. 1872 – June 17 — Hoover’s Bar established in a tent shop five miles west of Fort Dodge.
It was the founding business of Dodge City. Up to then the town had been dry.
Ellsworth became the northern shipping point of the Texas cattle trail. (Succeeding Abilene.)
The Santa Fe Railroad was completed to the Colorado border and succeeded the Santa Fe
Trail as the main transportation route to the southwest. 1873 – The Kaw Indians were removed from their reservation in Morris County to Oklahoma
Grasshopper plague from the Rocky Mountain Locust devastated the corn crop.
Four Kansas railroads shipped 122,914 head of Texas cattle in eight months. 1874 – Mennonites from Russia introduce Turkey Red wheat to Kansas. 1875 – Most of the buffalo in the state have been destroyed. 1876 – Wyatt Earp moved to Dodge City. 1878 – Cheyenne raid in Northwestern, Kansas. In Oklahoma Indian Territory, the Northern
Cheyenne left their reservation and headed north to their lands in Yellowstone. They were
stopped in Northwestern Kansas at Ladder Creek (known as Beaver Creek today.)
The last Indian raid in Kansas occurred in this year. 1879 – Prohibition is at the forefront of the Kansas legislature. 1880 – Kansas became the first state to pass an amendment prohibiting all alcoholic beverages.
The decade of the 1870’s went a long way in changing Kansas from a windswept open prairie to America’s agricultural heartland. The tranquil appearance of the vast open spaces belies the state’s rough and sometimes bloody path to the Kansas of today. Until I started delving into its history, I knew little about this fascinating state and the people that lived there.
Okay –so now for the fun part 🙂
I’ve started on the last book in the series (I think. It’s never a definite :-0) and I need a name for this cutie pie. I believe this little scruffy pup is going to be a miss not a mister. For a chance at a copy of my latest book, please suggest a name! That’s all there is to it.
My new book, which comes out tomorrow, is about a fictional, newly established town in 1870’s Kansas. The men create a Betterment Committee, banding together to entice women from the east to come there as mail-order brides.
Mail-order brides have been around for ages, although the actual term “mail-order bride” was not in use much until after 1908. It didn’t appear in a major newspaper until 1929 when it was a headline in the New York Times. That first major occurrence detailed the murder of Carroll Rablen by his mail-order bride, Eva, through the use of poison.
The first incidence of enticing women from afar for men in North America was in 1620 with the arrival of the Jamestown Brides. The Virginia Company was made up of men, many who planned to make their fortune in America and return to England. The founders knew that wives and families would make the men establish roots here in the colonies. The ratio there was ten women to every nine men, whereas in the Jamestown Colony the ratio was six men to every one woman.
Ninety middle-class spinsters (single women 30 years of age and older,) came across the Atlantic on a ship hired by the Virginia Company. They were promised a husband and given clothing and sheets as a further means of enticement to make the journey. Most of these women were from the middle class in search of a better life, and indeed they were able to share property with their husband and held a higher status here as the “founding mothers of America” than they had in England.
As men moved west and established towns, they advertised for women to come to help “grow” the towns and settle them. The Civil War played havoc on the notion that every girl would grow up to eventually marry when it wiped out so many men of marriageable age on both sides of the conflict. In the south, the dearth of men was even higher. That is when matrimonial agencies suddenly sprang up and posted advertisements in every major eastern newspaper.
Were these all honest, forthright ads? Of course not.
One incidence I came across in my research fascinated me. Eleanor Barry was an orphan who became a schoolteacher. After answering an advertisement in the San Francisco Magazine, she started corresponding with a Louis Dreibelbis who professed to be a miner in another part of California. After several months of letters back and forth, she agreed to marry him and departed on a train to meet him.
As she neared her destination, four men boarded the train to blow up the strongbox that was filled with gold bullion and money. Eleanor asked that they spare her luggage telling them she was soon to be married. The leader acquiesced, blowing up everyone else’s but hers. It was only after she had reached her destination and married, that she realized the man who had spared her trousseau was the same man to whom she had just said her vows—evidenced by a familiar scar on his face.
In romance novels, there is a huge readership for these types of stories. I think this is due to the Cinderella story-line and the happily-ever-after. The first mail-order bride story that I ever read (and where I first heard the term) was Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan. It was 1986 Newberry Medal winner and Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the 1986 Golden Kite Award. I still remember lines from the book!
Why do you think this type of story is so appealing?
Have you read any mail-order bride stories that you enjoyed and would recommend?
I am excited to share the cover of my newest book with you.
(First ~ a little introduction. By the way, this isn’t the cover…)
When twins, Mary and Maggie McCary are caught selling
their family tonic without a permit, they’re forced to agree to become mail-order brides to stay out of jail. Taking the train to Oak Grove, the pair are separated–
For Mary, falling off the Oak Grove train
into Steve Putnam’s lap changes everything.
Could he be the cowboy to tempt her down the aisle?
And running from trouble, Maggie doesn’t intend to actually marry…
until she shares one sensational kiss with Jackson Miller!
When the mayor discovers the twins’ side business and their plans
to avoid the bride contract, things begin to fall apart for the sisters. They both have a lot to learn about the men of Oak Grove…and likewise, the men have a lot to learn about these two McCarys!
Join Maggie and Mary McCary in the first book of a new series from authors Lauri Robinson and Kathryn Albright that are all set in the fictional town of Oak Grove, Kansas.
So without further ado… TA DA!!
I absolutely loved collaborating with Lauri while she wrote Mary’s story and I wrote Maggie’s. These are two young women with a penchant for fun and trouble. In Taming the Runaway Bride, the second story in this book, Maggie’s youth and unconventional upbringing make her view of life slightly skewed from other “normal” folk. For her, rules don’t apply in the regular sense. She turns Jackson Miller’s quiet life into one big knot with her shenanigans!
It will be released on May 23 in paperback and on June 1st in eBook form.
Here is the link to Pre-Order
I hope that you enjoy this short excerpt~ Taming the Runaway Bride from Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove
The worst of the screeching subsided as the engine shuddered and then slowed to a turtle’s crawl.
Her three companions created a fair wall with their noses pressed to the glass. Maggie could only see bits and pieces of the town moving by through the spaces between the three—Miss Know-it-all Rebecca, Miss Quiet-and Quaint Sadie, and Miss Gullible Anna. She couldn’t understand why they were excited about a new beginning and gaining a husband along with it. She certainly wasn’t. That’s all her life had been for as long as she could remember—always a new city, a new town, a new horizon. A seed didn’t have time to flower, nor dust to settle, the way her family lived. And she sure didn’t plan to get yoked to a man. A man would only complicate things between her and her sister. He might even separate them.
But while she was here, she would like to see a real cowboy. One with boots…and a Stetson. Or one of those ten gallon hats that the other girls had been giggling about. Did cowboys always wear spurs? These were things a girl should know.
She stored the deck of cards in her satchel. It wouldn’t do to lose them. She might have need of a little spending money or even a little “get out of town” money.
She stepped behind Anna to peer over her shoulder. From this position all she saw was a small sea of dusty and dirty cowboy hats and bowlers. A few men waved faded flags—bleached by the sun and whipped by the prairie wind.
She swallowed. Men. All men. At least thirty of them. She rose to her tip-toes in order to see better.
Some were really young, but most looked middlin’ to old. A few appeared…weathered. One thing was obvious—no two of the men staring back from the station platform were the same. They were all shapes and sizes. And whether they wore big grins or not as they vied for the front row, they all looked curious to see who would be stepping off the train. Some, she noticed uncomfortably, appeared eager—a bit too eager.
With that thought she shrank back and looked in the seat behind her for her sister. Where had she disappeared to so fast? This bride contract had been her idea from the start. She should be here.
“Oh! I see the one I want!” Anna squealed, her voice blending with the last screech of the brakes.
The train shuddered horrendously to a complete stop. With it, a band started up. A band? A trumpet played Oh! Susanna! and was joined by the beat of a drum and the trill of a fife.
Panic seized Maggie. She wasn’t ready for this! “I have to find Mary,” she croaked out. Swaying slightly, she headed toward the back end of the railcar. She wanted to be with her sister when she faced the men gathered outside—not with these women she’d known only a handful of days.
The door before her swung open.
“Well now, Miss McCary,” the conductor said, raising his bushy brows. “A bit anxious I’d say.”
She glared at him. He was in league with the sheriff back in Bridgeport—that scoundrel.
Behind him, a man from the platform climbed the steps, pausing when he arrived at the top as if the exertion winded him. He was dressed in his Sunday best, right down to the gold watch fob and chain dangling from his black satin vest. The suit appeared a bit small at the neck…and other places. Probably cutting off his breath judging by the redness of his face. He peered first at her and then at the other women behind her as he blotted a trace of sweat on his forehead.
“Welcome to Oak Grove, ladies. I’m Mayor Melbourne.” He paused, looking over the four of them. The welcoming mien dissolved and he turned to the conductor. “Where are the rest?”
The man fumbled in his pocket, withdrew a sealed envelope and handed it to the mayor.
Mayor Melbourne pressed his lips together. He slipped his wire glasses from his vest pocket and settled them on the bridge of his nose, bending the ear wires over his ears. Then he broke the wax seal on the envelope and quickly read the contents. If possible his face reddened further.
“Not coming!” he sputtered. “Not coming! I asked for twelve and all that answered the call are these four?”
“Actually, Mayor, that would be five,” Rebecca said from over Maggie’s left shoulder. “Mary McCary is also with us…somewhere.”
“Five, you say? The committee sent enough money for twelve. My brother has some answering to do.” He read the letter again, the perturbed look on his face slowly settling into resignation as he folded the paper and stuffed it in his pocket. “Very well. Ladies? Welcome. Please come meet your town.”
She sensed Anna, Sadie and Rebecca gathering in force behind her. “What about our things?” she asked quickly, hoping to stall a few minutes longer.
“Plenty of men here to see to them,” the mayor said. “Please follow me. As you can see, they are anxious to have a look at …I mean…meet you.”
Behind her, the others pressed forward, prodding her out the door and onto the steps. A blast of warm Kansas wind swirled around her and picked up her skirt.
“Whoo-wee!” a man in front called out. “Got a looker right off!”
Her cheeks heated as she struggled to subdue the billowing purple cotton and then she focused on the gawker, raising her chin defiantly and fixing him with a bold glare. She would make sure never to find herself alone with him.
He grinned. “Got spirit too! She’s mine. Might as well just check her off your list, men. She’s mine! Whoo-ee!”
“Not unless you take a bath and wash off that cow smell, Rader,” someone yelled back. A round of chuckles from a few of the others followed.
Behind her, Sadie, Rebecca and Anna must have crowded into view for a cheer went up from the men. “Hip-hip-hooray!” Several even threw their hats into the air and the small band played louder at a furious pace.
Four strong-looking men stepped forward and with a great deal more enthusiasm than the situation called for, took hold of her upper-arms and whisked her—her body floating through the air—down the last two steps to the platform.
She wasn’t ready for this! Where in heaven’s name was Mary?
I am working on a series of historical western romances for Harlequin that take place in the fictional town of Oak Grove in Logan County in northwest Kansas. The town is situated just north of the Smoky Hill River which has so many interesting stories about it that I wanted to share a few here.
The waters of the Smoky Hill River start in the high plains of eastern Colorado and flow east with many other rivers joining in, until it flows into and forms the Kansas River. From there the water flows into the Missouri River and then on to the Mississippi River.
For many years, Comanche, Sioux, Kiowa, and Arapaho tribes hunted extensively along the river before being forced out by encroaching settlers. Game was plentiful in the extensive grasslands and fish populated the river.
There are differing stories as to how the river got its name. The Plains Indians, depending on which tribe, called it CHETOLAH OR OKESSE-SEBO. The early English and French explorers called it the RIVER OF THE PADOUCAS. It has since become known as the SMOKY HILL RIVER.
George Bird Grinnell (1849-1938—naturalist, explorer, author, anthologist) said that the name came from a large grove of cottonwood trees along the river on the Kansas/Colorado state line. The trees were very tall and could be seen for miles from the flat grasslands. It is said they looked like a cloud of smoke. The place was a gathering place for many tribes to camp and barter and visit with each other. It was also a burial grounds and a place of refuge for the Indians under Black Kettle of the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864.
James R. Mead’s version differs slightly. He said that the river is named the Smoky Hill because of the buttes along the river, that when seen from afar appear hazy from smoke. James R. Meade was a trapper and trader in the area during the years of 1850 to 1860.
The Smoky Hill Trail used by the Native Americans along the river was the shortest, fastest route west across Kansas. In 1858, it was traveled by those heading to the goldfields of Colorado or beyond. The Native Americans did not want to relinquish the rich land and skirmishes with settlers followed. The army set up several forts along the river. A road followed, and then as more settlers came, a railroad. In 1870, the Kansas-Pacific Railway to Denver was completed.
The Smoky Hill River in the area of Logan County where my story takes place is only about three feet deep. Of course, this level changes dramatically depending on the rains and the melting snow. One bit of research I found interesting took place in 1868 when a drought plagued the plains and the river level was quite low. An immense herd of bison—hundreds of thousands of them (enough to cover a thirty-mile area)—came to the river to drink. The first bison were crowded out by the animals that followed, who in turn, were pushed out by those in the rear. It is said they drank the river dry!
I am collaborating with author, Lauri Robinson, in writing the stories of the people of Oak Grove. Laurie has the fortune of having lived in the area for a few years. Since I have never visited Logan County along the Smoky Hill River, I have had to lean on book and internet research of the area for my next three stories. If any of you have been there and have something you would like to add, suggest or correct—please comment! I have a feeling that I will only feel reassured of my information if I get a chance to visit the area myself. A road trip may just be in my future!
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Much has been written here on Petticoats and Pistols about the advent of the Stetson, cowboy hats, and bowlers. I wanted to balance that with a look at
Women’s Hat Fashions.
It seems there weren’t many professions for women in the 1800s where they could make a respectable living on their own. School teachers abound in many western historicals. The other occupation I’ve noticed is that of a milliner.
I’ve always had a thing for hats. I’m sorry that they aren’t worn more in today’s world. I love seeing the hats worn by Princess Kate and Queen Elizabeth. I have never see the Queen without a hat. Such elegance!
It seems in the past everyone wore hats. Why? What made them start wearing hats in the first place? Was it due to necessity? Or is a hat simply a frivolous accessory like a tie or jewelry? And other than for certain events like the Kentucky Derby, why don’t people wear hats today?
The first known example of a hat is from a tomb painting in Egypt – ca. 3200 BC. In the Middle Ages, the church decreed that all women must cover their hair. In 1529, the term “millaner” was first recorded. It referred to the haberdashers—men who traveled to Milan, Italy to obtain the best and most popular straw products for hats.
Hatmaking and millinery is the designing and manufacture of hats, with the term “milliner” more closely associated with the making of women hats. In the past, a millinery (owned by men and women) sold all types of clothing to men, women and children, including undergarments, neckerchiefs, handkerchiefs, ties, coats, and hats. It is only more recently that the term has become specialized for women’s hats more than anything else.
Throughout the years, hats have served several functions for women:
A declaration of lifestyle. (Ex: Catholic nuns and their habit)
Protection from the elements. (Ex: Sunbonnets)
Protection from unwanted male attention. (Ex: Bonnets)
A declaration of social status. (The rich often wore larger, more expensive hats.)
It can also reveal personality and etiquette. (Don’t you love it when a gentleman tips his hat to a lady?)
In early 1800’s America, bonnets were popular. Their brims increased in size until the late 1830s and some also sported netting or veils. In the 1840s, brim size began to decrease to reveal more of a woman’s face and hair. A ribbon frill or bow was often placed at the back of the bonnet to cover any exposed skin at the neck as this was considered an erogenous area. (Hence the high collars on dresses too!)
The tradition of wearing hats to horse racing events began with the Royal Ascot in Britain. They enforced a strict dress code for those attending the races. This tradition was adopted at other horse racing events. In 1875, the first Kentucky Derby initiated the largest hat fashion event in America. To this day, to attend without a hat is considered a social faux pas.
In the late 1890s, hat brims once again increased in size, some becoming so large that a woman would lose her balance.
Hats were decorated with feathers, stuffed birds, silk flowers, lace, bows and ribbons. In Florida, 95% of the egret population was killed off for their beautiful white plumes to decorate hats for women. In 1901, early environmentalists pushed for President Theodore Roosevelt’s help to pass a law making it illegal to shoot the birds.
A bit of trivia: January 15th marks the unofficial National Hat Day. This was started by hat enthusiasts for no other reason than to celebrate their favorite hats.
What about you? Do you like hats? What type? Would you like to see a comeback or do you think their time has passed?
Comment for a chance to win a copy of my story ~His Springtime Bride which is part of the Anthology. (I’m ready for spring!)
About a year ago, a group of authors I blog with at another blog ~ Sweet American Sweethearts ~ decided to collaborate with a collection of stories that were loosely connected. We brainstormed and found that many of us enjoyed the pioneer craft of quilting. Out of that brainstorming session came the Series ~ Grandma’s Wedding Quilts.
Grandma Mary’s traditional gift to each of her grandchildren on their wedding day was a hand-pieced and hand-stitched quilt, made with love and woven with memories, wisdom, and a family legacy of enduring love. Starting in present day with the prequel, Hannah, the assistant curator at a museum, opens a trunk that has been donated and discovers an unusual sampler quilt. The strange connection she feels to that quilt leads her on an investigation that will eventually mean more to her personally than she can ever realize.
Even though the rest of the books in the Series are historical Western romances, my “granddaughter” Gloria, ended up in the east. This happened when her father, Stephen Palmer, left Grandma Mary’s ranch looking for a better shipping price for their cattle. He traveled east to negotiate with the big railroad tycoons and ended up marrying one of their daughters and settling down to help run his wife’s family business.
While the great west was being explored and settled, many other things were happening back east. The Gilded Age was in full swing with all of its disparities between the upper class and the lower. In the book industry, stories that went on to become classics were being published.
Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ
The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin
The many westerns of Zane Grey ( Riders of the Purple Sage.)
It was also at this time that Tin Pan Alley in New York City was forming. Printed music for the masses increased in popularity as pianos, built right here in America, became more affordable to everybody. Popular music at the time of my story takes place included ~
Where Did You Get That Hat?
Home on the Range
Oh, Promise Me!
The Washington Post (march)
Down Went McGinty
My Old Kentucky Home
Gloria’s Song is a story I have wanted to write for a long time–a story of disparity between the classes and the common thread of music that can speak to a person’s soul no matter how rich or poor one might be. I dedicated this book to my mother, whose name just happens to be…Gloria. My mother’s family hails from the Alexandria, Virginia area of the country where I have set this story. Much like the Gloria in my story, my mother is a well-versed pianist (and also a red-head) although that is where the similarities end.
“Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it a rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul.” —AUTHOR UNKNOWN.
BLURB: GLORIA’S SONG ~ Book #11 in the GRANDMA’S WEDDING QUILTS Series
Gloria Palmer has always done the proper thing expected of her as the daughter of a shipping tycoon. The approval of her family and friends mean everything. And yet, when the perfect suitor offers for her… she hesitates.
Colin McDougal has little use for those living on the fancy side of the trolley tracks. He is too busy managing the family pub and, in his spare time, writing down the lively tunes in his head. So, when Miss Palmer asks for his help to prepare for a music audition, he is flummoxed. What does he know of highbrow music?
But with each practice session, their feelings for each other grow. When it comes time for Gloria to make a choice between what is proper and what she desires, will she realize that if music can cross class lines, it might also be able to harmonize two hearts?
You will want to enjoy the love stories of Gloria’s siblings and cousins! There are eleven in all! And remember to start with the prequel which sets up the entire series.
These Sweet Historical Romance Novellas and Novels are from Eleven USA Today Bestselling, Amazon Bestselling, and Award-winning Authors. Each book of this series is a sweet, clean (wholesome) romance, and each is complete with its own happily-ever-after.
To celebrate my new release, I would love to gift a copy of this ebook to one lucky person who comments. Sorry, I don’t have any print copies yet.
To enter the giveaway, just mention a favorite song that you have always loved from your childhood.