Back in 2013, I started kicking around the idea for a sweet historical romance. I knew it would involve a mail-order bride coming west from a big city, but I had to decide where she was headed.
That’s when I landed on the idea of using the real town of Pendleton, Oregon, for the setting of the story. My parents lived in Pendleton during the early years of their marriage (long before I arrived on the scene), but my dad shared such great stories about the area, I decided to look deeper into the history.
That’s when things got interesting and fun!
Located along the Oregon Trail, the city was founded in 1868 and named for George Hunt Pendleton, a Democratic candidate for vice president in 1864. The county judge, G.W. Bailey, suggested the name and the commissioners decided Pendleton suited the town.
In 1851, Dr. William C. McKay established a post office on McKay Creek and called it Houtama. Later, Marshall Station was situated about a half-mile to the east on the north bank of the Umatilla River. Marshall Station was then called Middleton since it rested half way between what was then Umatilla Landing and the Grand Ronde Valley (known today as La Grande).
When the county was created in 1862, the temporary county seat was placed at Marshall Station. The post office was established there in 1865 with Jonathan Swift as the postmaster.
On October 8, 1869, the name was changed to Pendleton. Much of the town proper at that time was owned by Moses E. Goodwin and Judge Bailey. Goodwin arrived in the area around 1861. He traded a team of horses to Abram Miller for squatter rights to 160 acres about three miles from Marshall Station. Goodwin Crossing was a stop for freight wagons. In 1868, Goodwin deeded two and a half acres of his land to the county for a town. A toll bridge that spanned the Umatilla River was constructed along with a hotel, a newspaper, and other businesses and Pendleton began to take shape as a community. In the early days, there was a community well in town where folks gathered. Some diaries wrote about the delicious, cool, sweet water that came from the well.
In 1872, twenty women started the first church when they began meeting together. The first church building erected in town was the Episcopal Church, constructed in 1875.
One pioneer account claimed the streets were so dusty in the summer, it was nearly up to their knees while the dust turned into a quagmire of mud in the winter. No wonder Pendleton was one of the first cities in Oregon to pave their streets.
If you jump ahead a few decades, Pendleton had become quite the happening place to be by the time a new century rolled around.
Modern and progressive for its time, Pendleton was a unique blend of Wild West and culture. The town boasted an opera house and theater, a teashop, a French restaurant, and a wide variety of businesses in the early years of the new century. On any given day during that time, someone walking down the boardwalk could see well-dressed ladies and gentlemen, as well as Chinese immigrants, Indians from the nearby reservation, miners, ranchers, and farmers. Someone once wrote Pendleton was the only place in the world that had a reservation on one end of town and an asylum for the insane on the other (which they did!).
Pendleton had an enviable railway facility with trains running east and west daily. Telephones as well as running water and sewer lines were available for those who could afford the services.
In the year 1900, it was the fourth largest city in Oregon. By 1902, the population grew to 6,000 and there were 32 saloons and 18 bordellos in the area. If you’re wondering why the town needed quite so much “entertainment,” it was in part because of the sheer number of cowboys, wheat harvesters, sheepherders, railroad workers, and crews of men who descended on the town to work. In 1900 alone, an estimated 440,000 sheep produced more than two million pounds of wool. Pendleton also boasted a maze of underground tunnels where there some of the brothels, drinking rooms, card rooms, and other colorful characters spent their time and money. There was a Chinese operated laundry and opium den, as well as more legitimate businesses like a butcher shop and ice cream parlor. Today, visitors can tour a small portion of the underground that has been restored through The Pendleton Underground Tours.
By now, you are probably asking yourself what any of this has to do with me starting in the middle. That book I wrote back in 2013 was my first Pendleton book. I knew before I finished writing it, I wanted it to be a series because I loved the town that existed in my mind (and in history) and the characters I’d created. I decided to call the series Pendleton Petticoats because it had a nice catchy ring to it, and because of the time period, when women still work petticoats (which I would have hated in particular in the summer!).
I released my book Aundy that spring.
Fast forward a few years when I was invited to participate in the epic American Mail-Order Bride series that featured a novella for every state. By the time I joined the project, Oregon was already taken, so I choose North Carolina – the state where my grandpa was born and spent part of his childhood before moving to Oklahoma. Of course, I had to tie the story to Oregon somehow, so the bride in my story, Dacey, is from Pendleton. I won’t give you any spoilers, but her daughter pops up in Dally, book 8 in the Pendleton Petticoats series, as the love interest for Aundy’s adopted son, Nik Nash.
Then a few years ago, I thought it would be fun to go back and write the story of J.B. and Nora Nash, who were among the early settlers in Pendleton. Gift of Grace was the book was the first in my Gifts of Christmas series.
If you aren’t thoroughly confused yet, I’ll try a little harder. (Just kidding!).
So to recap, I wrote Aundy (technically, the first book in the series) which takes place in 1899, then Dacey which takes place in 1890, and Gift of Grace which takes place in 1870.
Because Dacey and Gift of Grace are part of other series, I decided it might be fun to bundle the three books together.
You are the first to see the Pendleton Petticoats Boxed Set .
It’s available now on Amazon for $2.99 or through Kindle Unlimited!
Indulge in the romance of a bygone era with three incredible pioneer women.
This boxed set contains two novellas and a full-length historical romance from the Pendleton Petticoats series including Aundy, Dacey, and Nora (Gift of Grace). Strong-willed, courageous women encounter the men who capture their hearts in these sweet western romances full of heart, humor, and hope.
Nora – Ready to begin a new life far away from the dark memories of the Civil War, J.B. and Nora Nash head west and settle into the small community of Pendleton, Oregon. A devastating tragedy leaves them at odds as they drift further apart. Nora blames J.B. for her unhappiness while he struggles through his own challenges. Together, will they discover the gift of grace and rekindle their love?
Dacey – A conniving mother, a reluctant groom, and a desperate mail-order bride make for a lively adventure. Dacey Butler arrives in North Carolina only to discover Braxton Douglas, her would-be groom, has no idea his mother wrote on his behalf, seeking a bride. Braxton has his work cut out for him if he plans to remain unaffected by the lively, lovely Dacey. Will the promise of hope be enough to keep her from leaving?
Aundy – Desperate to better a hopeless situation, Aundy Thorsen leaves behind city life to fulfill a farmer’s request for a mail-order bride. A tragic accident leaves her a widow soon after becoming a wife. Aundy takes on the challenge of learning how to manage a farm, wrangle demented chickens, and raise sheep, even though her stubborn determination to succeed upsets a few of the neighbor, including Garret Nash. Will she prove to him that courage sometimes arrives in a petticoat and love has a mind of its own?
For a chance to win a mystery prize, just post an answer to this question:
If you could set a fictional story in a real town, what place would you choose?