Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Titan-Haired Heroes and Heroines through History!

    Patty Smith Hall here, and anyone who knows me knows that I have a special place in my heart for redheads. Which is why I choose to feature a family made up of redheaded heroes and heroines in my World War II series with Love Inspired Historical. Titan hair is a unique genetic feature, making up on 1-2% of the population. People with red hair usually have fair skin, light colored eyes and a smattering of freckles--the perfect start for any hero or heroine!

Thomas Jefferson
     The sad part is that there are many misconceptions about redheads or ‘gingers,‘ and different cultures look at them with anything from admiration to scorn. A fiery temper and a sharp tongue is often described as a characteristic of redheads as noted in Anne of Green Gables when Anne was said to have a ‘temper to match her (red) hair.‘ In the Medieval Age, people believed red hair was a sign of moral degeneration and went so far as to kill them for being witches, werewolves or vampires. In the modern age, gingers have been targeted by cartoons and comedians alike, and in Great Britain, ‘Gingerism‘ is compared in the same vein as racism. 
    All this fuss over of two recessive genes!

    Yet, history provides us with a number of redheads who have and continue to influence art, literature and history even hundreds of years after their deaths:

  1. Thomas Jefferson--Author of the Declaration of Independence, one of our founding fathers and third president of the United States.
  2. Ron Howard--I mean, come on! Who in their right mind would have a problem with little Opie, good guy Richie Cunningham from ‘Happy Days and one of the great directors of our time.
  3. Prince Harry--one of the world’s most eligible men and a cutie pie to boot!
  4. Galileo--one of the fathers of the Scientific Revolutions, he introduced the idea of the earth revolving around the sun.
  5. Emma Stone--I first noticed how beautiful this girl was in Zombieland but she blew me away with her turn as a writer opening the door to Civil Rights in 1950 Mississippi in The Help.
  6. Emily Dickerson--An American poet who’s works, not released until after her death, are considered some of the most significant poetry in American Literature.
  7. Queen Elizabeth the First--after surviving four stepmothers, she fought off death at the hands of a couple of Marys(one, her sister; the other, her cousin) to rule for over forty years during one of the most prolific times in English history.
  8. Carol Burnett--A master comedian. Her version of Gone with the Wind is still considered one of the funniest skits of all time!
  9. Vincent Van Gogh--Dutch post-impressionist painter who’s work influenced the world of art throughout the Twentieth century.
  10. King David--Writer, Warrior, King of Israel and one of God’s beloved.        
Queen Elizabeth I

   And the list goes on. Of course, I’ve always known how adventurous and fun-loving gingers can be. God blessed me with a family full of redheads, including my wonderful husband of 29+ years!

Monday, April 29, 2013


Question: Why study the history of the oldest lunatic asylum in history?
Answer: In hopes of never repeating the horrors of the past.
Bethlem Hospital at St George's Fields, 1828
My every day world is spent counseling college students. Nursing students to be exact. But prior to this wonderful position I’ve held for the past nineteen years I also worked in in-patient psychiatric units for adults and adolescents and in out-patient mental health settings. I’ve seen the anguish that mental illness brings to families of an affected love one and the agony that patients suffer because they are sometimes at the mercy of medications that may help, but also bring with them some pretty awful side-effects that can include weight gain, insomnia, dizziness, lethargy, nausea, and a host of other frustrations. Patients and clients just want to feel better and have normal healthy lives, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen and suicide results as a way of seeking relief from unbearable emotional and mental pain.

Melancholia and Mania

Engraving by C. Warren first appearing in Hughson's London of two figures carved by Gabriel Caius Cibber c. 1676. The figures represented, melancholy (on the left) and raving madness or mania (on the right). They adorned the entrance portal to the new Bethlem Royal Hospital (Bedlam) which opened at a site in Moorfields, north London in 1676. (From Wikipedia-in the public domain).

The history of mental illness and perspectives on mental health throughout the world are diverse, fascinating, and often horrific. Mental illness today continues to know no boundaries. It doesn’t care if you’re poverty stricken or wealthy, unemployed or working your dream job. There is no color barrier. Mental illness strikes children, teens, and adults. Young college students sometimes go away to school where they suffer depressions, psychotic breaks, and first bouts of schizophrenia. Almost everyone has been touched by some form of mental illness even if it’s only from seeing what happens in society at it’s worst. You’ve all seen the devastation.

Originally during the reign of Henry III, the hospital that became infamous as Bedlam got it's beginnings as St. Mary Bethlehem Hospital located in Bishop’s Gate in1247 and was not a lunatic asylum at all, but primarily utilized for the collection of alms.(Also referred to as the Priory of the New Order of St Mary of Bethlem in the city of London.) Later, when patients were admitted as insane, the term Bedlam, is the name that was created out of the chaos of Bethlem Hospital. 
In 1676 Bethlem was rebuilt at Moorsfield.
 In the time period of the regency (this is the time period that my Ravensmoore Chronicles take place) and for many years before, the wealthy and aristocratic frequented Bedlam as a place of entertainment and thought it amusing to visit those who suffered from mental illness. If you want to watch a very powerful but disturbing video on the history of Bedlam you can do so here. 

Bethlem Royal Hospital is located today in Beckenham, Kent.
What's the last book your read or movie or television show you watched that included issues about mental mental health, past or present?
You will be included in a drawing for Mystery of the Heart when you leave a comment. Don't forget there are other giveaways this month as well.

Jillian Kent explores the darker side of Regency England. Her latest novel, Mystery of the Heart released in January 2013. Her first novel, Secrets of the Heart will introduce you to asylum life, and Chameleon will take you into historic Bedlam itself. But never fear, romance is alive and well in all of Jillian's novels.
@JillKentAuthor on Twitter

Jillian also writes and coordinates, The Well Writer, for the Christian Fiction Online Magazine.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tidbits from St. Augustine

Dec 11/St Augustine
8975 city gates
8976 oldest school house
7550 city gate with the fort behind it

One of the places my family and I visited when traveling from Massachusetts to Florida was St. Augustine, FL. We went through the old fort, Castillo de San Marco, which dates back to the 1672, and visited the oldest wooden school house and Trinity Episcopal Church with their famous stained glass windows. We rode in a Landau Carriage and had the grand tour of the old city. Years later, we moved to an hour and fifteen minute drive from our home to St. Augustine. I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve visited the old city but it never ceases to amaze me.

I have two pictures of the city gates. The first is from a side angle that allows the viewer to see Castillo de San Marco in the background. The second is of the gates themselves in which the traveler would pass through to enter the city. Down this street you’ll find the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the United States. At one time they chained down the schoolhouse with a large chain and anchor to keep it from blowing away in a hurricane. What an interesting tidbit! In the photo below you will see the schoolhouse, the chain and the anchor.

The fort, Castillo de San Marco is the oldest mason constructed fort in the U.S.A. and was made from quarried Coquina, which is a stone like substance unique to the area made from small seashells. The quarry is outside the entrance to Anastasia State Park (great place to camp, btw). The Spanish settled the area; the British came in for a while, then reverted back to the Spanish and finally to the United States.

Ponce de Leon is credited with finding St. Augustine during his search for the fountain of youth. In fact, there is a site/tourist area of the Fountain of Youth. It’s another interesting place to visit. If you drink the water be prepared for the high sulfur content.

St. Augustine during the 19th Century was a port city. The St. John’s River was a major transportation route for the Floridians to sell their cattle and crops. Believe it or not, Florida produced more cattle than Texas until a few years ago. But we’ll get into that and the Florida Crackers in another post.

Finally, I’ll stop with a picture of the Alacazar Hotel which is now city hall and the Lightner museum. It was opened on Christmas day 1888 by Henry Flagler. It’s another interesting building to stop by and enjoy the shops, the koi, the architecture and soak up the days of old. And don’t forget to visit the old swimming pool, which is now a place to sit and visit. With a bit of imagination you can picture just how large this pool was and some of the ladders are still on the walls where the residents could climb up to their floors.

Lynn A. Coleman is an award winning & best-selling author who makes her home in Keystone Heights, Florida, with her husband of 39 years. Check out her 19th Century Historical Tidbits Blog if you like exploring different tidbits of history.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

In Our Own Backyard

by Linda Farmer Harris

This is our second winter in Southwest Colorado. Living for 44 plus years in Texas didn't prepare us for narrow mountain roads, snow/ice, no cell phone reception, limited shopping opportunities, and mud. Now, I know some of y'all are chuckling because this is no big deal to you. It was culture shock for us.

Old-timers' tips were invaluable and we put them into practice. Knowing generally what to expect was very comforting. Along with the sage and timely advice came some tall tales and fascinating facts about Colorado. We heard about the school that had been in our cow pasture, about the stagecoach station three miles east on the banks of the Piedra River, and the Ancestral Puebloans at Chimney Rock on the high mesa a little further up the road.

From our horse pasture, we can see the twin spires—Chimney Rock and Companion Rock, standing ready for the May15 - September 30 tourist season.

Photo Credit: Lin Harris

My love of history kicked into high gear and we started exploring the history in our own backyard. Chimney Rock, on the southern edge of the San Juan Mountains, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1970. On September 21, 2012, it was established as a national monument. Visit http://www.chimneyrockco.org/ for more information about this fascinating piece of history.

Photo Credit: Helen Richardson

The view from the top is breathtaking and worth the hike. The Guides from the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association are extremely knowledgeable and make the adventure worthwhile. It's believed that this site was used as a communication link between 10 Puebloan sites ranging in distance from 2.7 miles to 67 miles. Modern day experiments show that it could have been accomplished. The Ancestral Puebloans probably used signal fires or polished sheets of reflecting mica.

For Perspective— The red "A" designates Chimney Rock, between Durango and Pagosa Springs.

Discovering that one of Jerry's favorite authors, Louis L'Amour, has a ranch in the immediate area was thrilling. Starting in 1966, L'Amour and his family spent summers in Durango, CO. For over ten years, they spent the month of August in Room 222 at the Strater Hotel. He divided his time between writing in the front corner room and hiking in the La Plata or San Juan Mountains.

For Jerry's birthday last year, we stayed in room 222. L'Amour wrote many of his Sackett series novels on the drop-leaf table still in this room.  In honor of the occasion, Jerry read his favorite L'Amour novel while we listened to the ragtime piano in the Diamond Belle Saloon below the room. No wonder there's a lively beat to L'Amour's stories.

Fred Harman grew up in Pagosa Springs, CO. In November 1938, he launched Red Ryder and Little Beaver comics as a Sunday strip and four months later it became a daily strip. Do you remember those comic strips? Did you read any of the Red Ryder comic books? I loved Little Beaver's feather!

Harman promoted Red Ryder as "America's famous fighting cowboy." Harman was one of the original 1965 members of the Cowboy Artist of America and one of only 75 white men in history to be adopted into the Navajo Nation. The Pagosa Springs SUN is the only newspaper in the United States that currently publishes the Red Ryder and Little Beaver comic strip. I get to read the strip every Thursday!

Photo Credit: Lin Harris—used with permission from the Fred Harman Art Museum

 Photo Credit: Lin Harris—used with permission from the Fred Harman Art Museum

The Fred Harman Art Museum in Pagosa Springs houses a large collection of original artwork and memorabilia on the American West. Visit http://www.harmanartmuseum.com/ for more information.

Last year I submitted a novella "Christmas Gold" that incorporated the camels brought from Turkey, Egypt, and Tunis to assist the military in the desert around Fort Davis, Texas. Imagine my delight when I discovered that some of those camels, imported in 1840 and accompanied by Jacob Acabajal, had found their way to Bent County, Colorado. Like the moose that are being repopulated around Bayfield, the camels are still out there and frequently sighted. I've seen the moose. Now, I'm on the lookout for the camels.

Keep your eyes open and look around for history in your own backyard!

Blessings, Lin

Friday, April 26, 2013

One-eyed Charley - Not Your Normal Stagecoach Driver

Hi.  Winnie Griggs here.  While doing some research into stage travel a while back, I came across an interesting footnote about a colorful stage driver named Charley Parkhurst or “One-eyed Charley”.  The reference intrigued me and, as often happens when I do research, I decided to follow this rabbit trail to see where it would lead me.  And it led me to a very interesting story indeed.

Charley was born in New Hampshire around 1812.  Orphaned while very young, Charley was sent to an orphanage, escaped from the orphanage at around age 12 and found a job working in a stable.  There it was discovered Charley had a way with the horses and was promoted to handling teams and eventually progressed to driving coaches.  Charley’s skill was such that patrons were known to specifically request the young driver by name.

In 1851 Charley moved to California following the opportunities that opened up with the gold rush and soon earned a reputation as one of the safest and fastest drivers around, easily handling the ribbons for a team of six.  According to one source looking back over Charley’s career, ". . . in more than twenty years no highwayman had dared to hold up a stagecoach with Charley Parkhurst on the box, for the first two who tried it had been shot dead in their tracks."

At some point, Charley lost an eye as a result of being kicked by a horse.  Not to be deterred
Stagecoach and driver
 by the mishap, Charley wore a black eye black patch from then on, which is the origin of the nickname “One-eyed Charley.”  And that wasn’t Charley’s only nickname - the skillful stagecoach driver was also known as Mountain Charley and Six-Horse Charley.

From all accounts, though known for being honest and fair, Charley was no saint.  The colorful driver’s habits included smoking cigars, chewing tobacco, occasional drinking, card playing, and swearing with great verve when the occasion called for it.

When rheumatism began taking a toll and the railroad expansion made increasing inroads in the passenger transport  business, Charley retired.  Never one to remain idle, the former stage-driver, now past sixty, turned to raising cattle and occasionally hauling freight for neighbors. 

All of the above informtion points to a vivid life that was lived fully and with gusto.  But the most astounding thing about Charley wasn’t revealed until it came time to lay the body out for burial.  It turns out Charley was a WOMAN! 

Her real name was Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst.  From all appearances, co-workers, business partners, neighbors and close friends were absolutely flummoxed at the news.  In fact, Charley had even gone so far as to register to vote in the presidential election of 1868,
long before women were allowed that privilege, which means she may have been the first woman in California to vote.

Today there is a monument on Charley's gravesite that reads "Charley Darkey Parkhurst (1812-1879) Noted whip of the gold rush days drove stage over Mt. Madonna in early days of Valley. Last run San Juan to Santa Cruz. Death in cabin near the 7 mile house. Revealed 'one eyed Charlie' a woman. First woman to vote in the U.S. November 3, 1868."  Note: The information about being the first woman to vote in a US election has been disputed.
Reading this remarkable story had the writer in me imagining story after story to account for what had led Charley to lead such a curious life.  Some of my questions
  • Had she taken the disguise as a child in order to land the stable boy job and found herself trapped for a lifetime by her own deception? 
  • Had she become so enamored of the freedom afforded her as a man that she was unwilling to give it up? 
  • Was she running from something in her past and was afraid to resume her true identity? 
  • Did she ever long to throw off her disguise?
Another piece of this intriguing puzzle that spurs the imagination - it was said that those who went through Charley’s possessions found baby clothes. Wow, if true does this ever raise questions.
  • Did she have a baby?  And if so, when - after she reached California or was it part of the reason she headed west? 
  • What happened to the child - did the baby die or did she find a home for him/her? 
  • Who was the father and under what circumstances was the child conceived?
So what about you?  Did this snippet of Charley’s history cause you to start spinning tales in your head about what her life might have been like?  What aspect most captured your imagination?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cowboys of the Wild East?

When I moved to Florida in the early 1980’s, the town I lived in consisted of a few main roads, a smattering of stores, a fair number of houses, all surrounded by lots and lots of cow pastures. It’s only thirty years later as I research the background for a possible new story that I recognize the depth of historical significance those cow pastures hold.
Statue of Juan Ponce de Leon, St. Augustine, FL
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

Florida’s cattle history starts all the way back in 1521, when Juan Ponce de Leon set foot in Florida for the second time. He’d originally come in 1513 and claimed the land for Spain, but didn’t stay long. He returned in 1521 with 200 settlers, as well as horses, cattle, and pigs. But tensions between the Spaniards and the Native American tribes inhabiting Florida’s peninsula became hostile and fighting broke out. When Ponce de Leon was shot with an arrow, the would-be settlers quickly abandoned their animals and sailed for Cuba, where their leader died.

About 40 years later in the 1560’s, more Spanish arrived in Florida and managed to settle the land. The surviving horses, cattle, and pigs that had been left by Ponce de Leon’s crew years earlier had become wild, roaming free among the thick scrub covering Florida. The newly-arrived settlers brought more livestock, and by 1600, horses and cattle were prevalent among the Spanish missions and ranches that had come to Northern Florida. Spanish vaqueros worked the ranches, developing a strong cattle industry here.

In the 1760’s, Spain briefly lost control of the land to Britain, but regained it 20 years later at the end of the American Revolution. During that time, both the Seminole Indians and a restless group of British colonists moved into Florida. The whites were a wild bunch who tended to buck authority every chance they got. The Spanish governor in the 1780’s described them as “nomadic like Arabs,” and “distinguished from savages only in their color, language, and superiority of their depraved cunning and untrustworthiness.” They immediately took to the wild cattle roaming free in the Florida scrub, falling back on the traditions of their Celtic ancestry—free range cattle herding. They became known as “Crackers.”

Cow whip made by George Mills,
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
Photo by Robt. L. Stone
Today, we think of that term as derogatory and demeaning. It originally meant a braggart or boaster. But there was a dual meaning. In Florida, where the wiregrass and palmettos were so thick, it was impossible to use a lariat to rope cattle like those further west did. Instead, the Florida cow hunters (as they preferred to be called) used bullwhips that cracked like a gunshot in the air above the cattle they were herding. The sound could be heard for miles before the small herds were seen.

From the late 1700’s all the way through the end of the 1800’s, the Florida cow hunters ruled the scrub. They hit their heyday after the Civil War, just as the western cowboys did. They would sometimes drive their small, often scrawny cattle north into neighboring states to sell, but more often went south to the Fort Myers, Florida, area, where they’d load them on ships to sell in Cuba. They might not have to drive them as far as their western counterparts, but the work was every bit as hard. They worked with smaller herds, and rather than letting them roam free while on the trail, they would bed the cattle down in large corrals erected along their trail.

Artist and author Frederic Remington wrote an article for Harper’s Magazine in 1895 about these men, in which he painted a rather dark and dreary picture. He portrayed them as a sorry lot, unscrupulous and prone to violence and thievery. And some probably were. But so were some of the western cowboys Remington was more familiar with. Plenty of the Florida cow hunters were hardworking, honest men who took pride in their jobs.

Despite the often negative connotation of the “Cracker” name, the descendants of these historic Florida figures take great pride in their heritage and are fighting even today to keep that heritage alive with places like “Cracker Country” at the Florida State Fairgrounds, or the “1876 Cow Camp” at Lake Kissimmee State Park. I so appreciate these efforts as I research an upcoming story, but beyond that, just to learn one more fascinating tidbit of history from the state I’ve called home for most of my life.

So let's hear from you. What is the most interesting thing you’ve discovered about your local history? Leave me a messsage, and you'll be entered into the drawing for this quilled paper cross shadowbox, handmade by me, to be given away tomorrow. Also, you'll be entered in the $25 Amazon giftcard drawing, to be given at the end of the month. The giftcard is being given by several of the "surprise giveaway" authors this month, so check the sidebar and go back to leave messages on giveaway authors' posts to increase your chances for the giftcard.

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won the 2012 CWOW Phoenix Rattler, 2012 ACFW First Impressions, and 2013 FCWC contests, all in the historical category. She is also the winner of the 2013 Central Florida ACFW chapter's "Prompt Response" contest. In addition to writing, she has been a schoolteacher of English, literature, and history, as well as a marketing director. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sea Faring Heroine - Mary Patten!! By MaryLu Tyndall

I came across this story while researching Lady Pirates. It's an incredible tale that I won't have time here to cover in depth.  But I hope you'll find it as fascinating as I did. Especially because it happened in the year 1856 when women still had few rights.

It happened on board a ship named Neptune's Car, which was a magnificent clipper ship carrying a valuable cargo of iron, sheet lead, and mining machinery from New York to the California gold fields. The captain was Joshua Patten, a 29 year old hardened seamen with vast experience upon the seas. Tired of being without him for the first two years of their marriage, Mary Patten convinced her husband to bring her along on this voyage. Her husband was happy to comply. The ship set sail from New York on July 1st 1856 and sped southward under full sail. During the early days of the voyage, at Mary's request, Joshua was happy to teach his wife the art of Navigation. He taught her about winds and tides. He showed her how to calculate the ship's position with a sextant and chronometer, how to work out the correct course and how to keep a daily log of the ship's progress.  She didn't realize how valuable these skills would be to her very soon.

The storms off Cape Horn during October 1856 were so ferocious that one experienced sea captain was forced to retreat and take cover at Rio De Janeiro after his sails were torn to shreds and ten of his crew had been washed overboard.  Soon the Neptune's Car sailed into the midst of this "perfect" storm. Joshua Patten spent 8 days without sleep, trying to keep the ship afloat and ice from forming on the rigging.  Exhaustion overtook him and he finally collapsed on the deck. When Mary, his young wife, was called above, she instructed the men to bring him below and lash him to his bunk. After several hours, he seemed to be getting worse and Mary assumed he must be gravely ill.  Now what was she to do?

Usually the first mate takes over for the captain, but Joshua had removed the first mate due to negligence and replaced him with a man who had no idea how to navigate. To make matters worse, when the crew discovered the captain's condition, the original first mate tried to incite a mutiny!  Mary knew she had to do something quick or she'd lose the ship and its cargo to either a mutinous crew or the storm.  So, ordering all hands to muster on deck, she came above to address the crew.

Try to picture the scene with me. Mary was only 19, a petite woman with black hair and what one observer described as "large, dark, lustrous eyes and very pleasing features" She wore a long gown that was tossed to and fro in the wind and clasped a shawl about her shoulders.  A few weeks earlier she had learned she was pregnant. The crowd of men that faced her were rough, hardened sailors who had spent years at sea and had never taken an order from a woman. The ship bucked and leapt over massive swells, drenching them all in sea water, as the wind screamed and howled through the rigging. And through it all, this little lady climbed the ladder to the quarterdeck, planted her boots on the heaving deck, gripped the railing, and addressed the mob.

What she said exactly we do not know, but her job was to persuade these men to remain loyal to her husband and to herself and to deliver the cargo to San Francisco safely.  Somewhere in the howl of wind and sting of rain, she accomplished the impossible and the crew agreed to follow her orders.   She decided to head southeast out of the storm and into colder waters. Finally when the sun broke through the clouds she was able to get a good reading on their location and discovered they were 250 miles south of the Horn.  The waters were freezing and they spotted icebergs in the distance (certain death for any ship!)

Mary set double watches at night and put her keenest eyes in the tops during the day to navigate through the ice. For four long, frightening days, Neptune's Car eased her way west until finally they were free to head north into warmer waters. Mary's husband had two brief periods of recovery in between severe relaspses, one in which he lost his sight and the other in which he became deaf. Now Mary, at four months pregnant, was in full command of the ship. For the next 50 days, she did not even undress, sleeping in her clothes and focusing all her attention on getting to San Francisco.

In early November, they sighted the bay and on November 15th, Mary insisted on taking the helm and steering the salt-stained vessel into port.  Below, read a portion of the letter addressed to her by the Union Mutual Insurance Company, the underwriters for the voyage.

Nor do we know of an instance on record where a woman has, from force of circumstances, been called upon , or assumed command of, a large and valuable vessel, and exercised a proper control over a large number of seamen, and by her own skill and energy, impressing them with a confidence and reliance making all subordinate and obedient to that command

Pretty cool, huh?  And what's even cooler to me is that my maiden name is Patten. Hmm. Wonder if we are related?

For more stories about women's heroic adventures at sea, check out my new release, Forsaken Dreams!!  about a group of disgruntled Southerners who flee America after the Civil War and set sail for Brazil to start their own Southern Utopia!

Order from AmazonBarnes and Noble, Christian Book.com

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Those Intolerable Acts -- and e-book giveaway, by Susan Page Davis

   During the years prior to the American Revolution, the colonists found a lot to complain about. Uppermost were the laws the British Parliament seemed to delight in passing—laws that interfered with colonists’ business and made their everyday living less pleasant.

   Usually these laws caused more discomfort in some colonies than others. For instance, the Quartering Act was enacted in 1765. It required that the colonies provide housing for troops in the settled parts of North America. For places where there were no British troops, this caused no trouble at all. But in New York, it was another story.

   The British Army’s headquarters in North America was in New York City at that time, and this new law did not go over well there.

   New Yorkers hadn’t minded providing housing and some supplies during the French and Indian war—the redcoats were there to do them a service and protect them from the French. But in the mid-1760s, it was a different matter.

   Now the British requisitioned supplies from the colonists, but they were not protecting them from a foreign enemy. Parliament attempted to compel New York to build or maintain barracks. They requisitioned food, beverages, candles, and fuel for the troops. New York’s legislature refused to vote the funds in 1766.  They said they would consider the crown’s requests, but would not pledge to honor them all.

   This led to another law, forbidding the New York legislature to take any actions until it complied.

   Later, when the British troops became more active, the Quartering Act reached out to annoy more people. If public barracks, vacant buildings, or taverns were not available where the soldiers went, the colonists were still required to house them. Sometimes this meant troops staying in private homes. The colonies were required to contribute cider or beer, firewood, candles, and other supplies for the British soldiers. They had to furnish wagons and carts for military transport at prices fixed by the British.

Many colonists felt these laws went too far, stripping them of their rights as Englishmen and requiring them to pay taxes they’d had no say in (“taxation without representation”).

   After the Boston Tea Party in 1774, Parliament passed a series of laws that came to be known in the colonies as the Intolerable Acts. Some of these laws were clearly meant to punish the city of Boston.

Boston was singled out for several penalties. The colonists had dumped 342 chests of tea belonging to the British East India Company into the harbor. In response to this wanton destruction, Parliament passed the Coercive Acts. The Boston Port Bill took effect on June 1, 1774. Under this new law, the Boston harbor was closed to everything but British ships until the British East India Company was compensated for its loss. Nothing was allowed to be taken into the city but food and firewood. 

In addition, the Massachusetts Government Act said the British governor would now be in charge of all town meetings in Boston, which effectively did away with town meetings. The authority of the royal governor was increased—and General Gage, the British commander of the troops in North America, was appointed governor. There was no more self-government in Boston.

Samuel Adams wrote in a letter, “…it appears that we have been tried and condemned, and are to be punished…”

Also part of the Intolerable Acts was the Administration of Justice Act, which said British officials could not be tried for crimes in colonial courts. They would be taken back to Britain for trial. This stripped the colonists of power over the officials sent to them by Britian. Even if the officials murdered colonists, the Americans couldn’t take them to trial.

   The Quebec Act was also passed during this time, extending the boundary of Quebec into the Ohio Valley, and thus shutting off expansion by the 13 colonies south of Quebec. It recognized the Roman Catholic Church as the established church in Quebec, which many of the predominantly Protestant colonists took as an affront. Direct rule for Quebec was a further insult to the other colonies, to which it was denied.

Up and down the Atlantic coast, British colonists in America were fighting mad.

Thanks for stopping by! Today I’m giving away three copies of my new novella, Revolution at Barncastle Inn. Modern day folks get a glimpse of what the Quartering Act meant to the colonists when “redcoats” are quartered at their hotel. Add a little romance, faith, and fun. Comment below with your email contact info to enter. This e-book can be downloaded to your Kindle, Nook, computer, or other reading device.


Monday, April 22, 2013

The First Oklahoma Land Rush

By Vickie McDonough

**Today is the 149th anniversary of the first Oklahoma land run, thus I though it would be a good day to tell you all about this unique historical event.**

Rome, we all know, wasn’t built in a day, but the city of Guthrie, Oklahoma, was. Or, to be more accurate, it was “built” in a few hours. On Monday morning, April 22nd, 1889, Guthrie was an unpopulated stretch of prairie land where coyote, wolf and deer roamed freely, but before sundown, it was a town of at least ten thousand. In the few hours after the cavalry bugles were blown indicating the start of the land run, streets had been laid out, town lots staked off, and steps taken toward the formation of a municipal government. That evening, the campfires of ten thousand people flickered on the grassy slopes of the Cimarron Valley.

That day, nearly two million acres of land opened up to white settlement the in Unassigned Lands of the Oklahoma Territory. Initially considered unsuitable for white colonization, Oklahoma Territory was thought to be an ideal place to relocate Native Americans who were removed from their traditional lands to make way for white settlement in other states. The relocations began in 1817, and by the 1880s, what is now the state of Oklahoma was home to nearly 40 tribes, including the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Comanche, and Apache.

By 1889, much of the free land in America had been snatched up. Americans began pressuring the U.S. government to allow white settlement in the Oklahoma Territory. On March 3, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison announced the government would open the 1.9 million-acre tract of the Unassigned Lands for settlement, precisely at noon on April 22nd. With only seven weeks to prepare, land-hungry Americans quickly began to gather around the borders of the irregular rectangle of land. By the appointed day, more than 50,000 hopefuls, sometimes referred to as Boomers, were living in tent cities on all four sides of the territory.

At 11:50 a.m. on April 22nd, 1889, soldiers signaled the Boomers to form a line. When the hands of the clock reached noon, cannons boomed and bugles rang out, and the race began. With the crack of hundreds of whips and yells of a myriad voices, thousands of Boomers streamed into the territory in wagons, on horseback, penny-farthing bicycle, and on foot. It’s estimated that 50,000 to 60,000 settlers entered the territory that day. By nightfall, thousands of settlers had claimed town lots or the one of the many160-acre quarter sections of land. Towns like Norman, Oklahoma City, Kingfisher, and Guthrie sprang into being almost overnight. By the time Guthrie was only one month old, it had a hotel, general stores, three newspapers—and fifty saloons.

Guthrie, OK - just five days old
The pioneer spirit battled the American lust for land. The first Oklahoma land rush was plagued by greed and fraud. Many of the U.S. Marshal deputies sent in early to stake out the towns, illegally staked their own claims before the race began. Other settlers, called “Sooners," entered the territory before the legal date and time and snatched up prime land.

All total, there were five land runs for former Indian lands in Oklahoma. The government attempted to operate subsequent runs with more controls, eventually adopting a lottery system to designate claims. By 1905, white Americans owned most of the land in Indian Territory. Two years later, on November 16, 1907, the area once known as Oklahoma Territory, joined with the Indian Territory and entered the Union as the new state of Oklahoma.

Never before in the history of the West has so large a number of people been concentrated in one place in so short a time.

I was born and raised in Oklahoma, and the topic of the land runs has always fascinated me. I love the scene from the movie Far and Away, where Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise ride in the land run, so it’s probably no surprise that the first book I had published was partially centered around the 1889 land rush. Sooner or Later is still available in eBook format.

Now that you know what Boomers and Sooners are, the next time you hear the University of Oklahoma football chant "Boomers, Sooners!" you'll understand the meaning behind it. :)

Surprise! I'll give one lucky commenter a copy of The Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner.

Coming July 1st: Whispers on the Prairie

When Sarah Marshall’s wagon breaks down near a stage stop at the mouth of the Santa Fe Trail, marriage proposals fly in faster than the incessant wind, but only one man interests her—and he’s not proposing.

Ethan Harper’s well-ordered life is thrown into turmoil when an uppity city gal is stranded at his family’s stage stop. Now his two brothers and every unmarried male in the county are wooing Miss Priss. When one brother proposes, Ethan is in turmoil. Is it because she’s the wrong woman for his brother Aaron—or the right one for Ethan?

Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of 27 books and novellas. Her novels include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series and Long Trail Home and End of the Trail in the Texas Trails series. Her novel, Long Trail Home, won the Inspirational category of the 2012 Booksellers’ Best Awards. book in an exciting new series set in 1870s Kansas. To learn more about Vickie, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April is Autism Awareness Month: The history of disability treatment in the US by Kathleen L. Maher

April is Autism Awareness month. The latest statistics indicate that as many as 1 in 50 boys (1 in 88 people in general) have a form of autism. To honor people like my charming, creative, and sensitive son, I salute the journey with all of its bumps and twists toward compassionate and enlightened treatment of disability. 

This photo depicts a turn-of-the-century facility, prosperous from the outside. It has landscaped grounds, crisply painted exterior, a fine-graveled drive, all surrounded by a working farm. Its large and sprawling buildings appear well maintained. Who would guess that inside, in the recesses of the basement, that the indigent and people whom society regarded as "idiots" or “lunatics” were routinely chained by night in cells, and worked in farm labor by day?

What remains of this building, a buckling behemoth of brown brick, now lies less than two tenths of a mile from my home in upstate NY. Sadly it is not unique among its kind. Built in the mid nineteenth century, places like this promised refuge to the poor and mentally challenged. "Alms houses" like these flourished under the progressive, benevolent movement of the late 1800’s.
By 1880  almost 140 of these institutions had been built by private philanthropists across the US, such as the elaborately gardened Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts, (pictured at right) incidentally which occupied the same grounds as the Salem witch trial of a prior century. It was hoped that a beautiful facility, inspiring vistas, exercise, and fresh air would rejuvenate the mind and spirit. This philosophy bore the term "moral treatment."

As private money dried up and populations came into complexes but never left, states assumed responsibility for the upkeep of these sprawling institutions and their residents. Staff-to-patient ratios fell from plumb, and the spa-like atmosphere gave way to labor camps and prisons. Facilities like these became "snake pits" and asylums, warehouses for populations as diverse as geriatrics, alcoholics, the mentally challenged, and the criminally insane.

Over the turn of the century and the subsequent decades, new options in treatment came and went, including psycho-surgery, electroconvulsive therapy (which is still being performed in certain cases), and the wave of antipsychotic drug therapies of the mid-20th century.

But during WWII, a breakthrough in humane treatment came through an unlikely source. Conscientious Objectors, pacifist men of religious conviction, were exempted from the war and relegated to civic duty. Many thousands of these men came to serve in these asylums and found deplorable, cruel and violent conditions. Under the influence of their unique blend of faith, compassion, and pacifism, they invented humane and dignified methods to manage the care of these patients.

In the last several decades has there been a move away from institutionalization to community based residential care facilities. Reporter Geraldo Rivera got his start as a young journalist by exposing the horrors at a Long Island asylum called Willowbrook. This media exposure, plus the move to include parental advocacy, brought about a more homelike and enlightened atmosphere for people with neurological and psychological issues. Finally, the introduction of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Applied Behavior Analysis brings hope that integration is possible for all individuals into society.

Kathleen L. Maher’s novella Bachelor Buttons releases May 1 as part of a Civil War sesquicentennial collection by Helping Hands Press. She won the 2012 ACFW Genesis contest, and finaled in several others since 2009. Represented by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency, Kathleen blogs about New York State history.  She and her husband live in a 100-year-old farmhouse in upstate NY with their three children, two Newfoundland dogs and a tuxedo cat. 

Kathleen is offering a pdf copy of her novella to one lucky commenter today, plus an Irish goodie basket.

Friday, April 19, 2013


By Laurie Kingery

Hello Christian Fiction Historical Society readers! For my spot this month I'd like to discuss the old-fashioned medicine shows that sold patent medicines and so-called miracle elixirs in small towns across America, and especially in the old west during the 1800's. My interest in this subject stems from research I did for a character in a future "Brides of Simpson Creek" series book for my publisher, Love Inspired Historicals. As my story (title yet to be thrashed out with my publisher <g>) begins, my hero, Nate Bohannan, is an assistant to an unscrupulous medicine show man who arrives in Simpson Creek to sell his so-called "Cherokee Marvelous Elixir" to the credulous of the town, make a profit, and skedaddle. Robert Salali uses all the tricks of the quintessential snake oil salesman, the supposed connection to arcane Native American lore, the energetic pitch full of hyperbole and claims to miracle cures, the fake testimonials from supposedly satisfied customers who've been relieved of an unbelievable list of ailments ranging from the everyday catarrhs, piles, and dropsies to the psychiatric, hysteria, catatonia and the like. 

These medicine show pitchmen, frequently addressed as "Professor" or "Doctor" were also known as "snake oil salesmen." "Snake Oil" has come to represent any sort of fraudulent concoction, and its purveyor a charlatan.  One famous snake oil salesman was cowboy Clark Stanley, who supposedly used snakes slaughtered back in Abilene, Texas. Snake Oil when used topically (on the skin) actually did promote some comfort from sore muscles and aching bones, but taken internally, it could cause great harm. When Stanley's products were seized in 1917 and analyzed, it was found to contain only beef fat, kerosene, red pepper, turpentine and camphor, but not a trace of real snake oil. Ironically, "patent medicines" usually were not patented at all, but trademarked.

Medicine shows frequently involved musical acts to attract the interest of passersby from as far away as possible, demonstrations by a "muscle man" of amazing strength, supposedly due to the elixir, horsemanship acts, pow-wows, and invocations to dark spirits. The more organized shows, sent out from the East on various routes simultaneously, involved real Indians, frequently Kickapoos who had supposedly divulged the secret recipes of their concoctions for the good of mankind, but even the one-man shows frequently claimed to be using Indian recipes.
The pitchmen had often planted shills within the crowd who, when the Professor called for "unsolicited testamonials," would come to the front and testify how the elixir had helped them. The pitchman would also offer to demonstrate the miraculous powers of the elixir, and fake "victims" would come forward, hobbling with supposed lameness, for example, only to be "cured" by whatever potion the medicine man was peddling.

The potions often contained a sizeable percentage of alcohol, and even more dangerous ingredients such as turpentine, calomel (a popular patent medicine of the time containing mercury), morphine, opium and cocaine. But many other patent medicines were safe and later became branded items such as Listerine, Milk of Magnesia, Bayer Aspirin, and Vix Vapo-rub.

Doctors, such as my hero in THE DOCTOR TAKES A WIFE (Love Inspired Historicals, 2011) were critical of the dangerous kinds of patent medicines, and they finally won the battle in 1906 when the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed into law, which required ingredients to be listed on the container and made misleading advertising illegal. In 1938 another law was passed that required testing of a product for safety before it was sold. In 1968 tests for effectiveness were required.

I hope you've enjoyed this look at medicine shows of the 1800's and their pitchmen. I'm obliged to Kathy Wieser of LegendsofAmerica.com for her information and the use of the first picture and the picture below. Another great reference is Lotions, Potions and Deadly Elixirs by Wayne Bethard.

                           Blessings, Laurie Kingery