I have. I do it all the time. I find it’s a wonderful way to escape from the modern world and delve into the past. And every now and then I come across a real gem.
Like this one.
I found an article that tells a few of her feats as sheriff. “Oh! I didn’t do so much. The people elected me sheriff. The work had to be done and I did it.” The article goes on to say how she stopped two murderers from escaping her jail cell and “jailed the most notorious of the river rats”. Another newspaper article, one from Oklahoma, claims this same woman was their first female sheriff as well.
Eventually she and her husband moved to Texas before they returned to Michigan where she died of pneumonia at the age of 80. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but after speaking with second cousins who grew up under her tutelage, they say she was the sweetest and kindest lady they’d ever known. I can only imagine what it would have been like to spend my summers with Sheriff Gates. One has to wonder what kind of woman it took to keep the peace and take down 'river rats' and what kind of man stood at her side while she did it. I’ve been told the pair were very much in love. Of course, I know their lives weren’t always filled with roses as one of their sons, my great great grandfather, died a tragic death and caused a great mysterious scandal, but that’s a blog post for another day and another time as the event continues to affect those still among the living.
By changing a few details here and there, Estella’s life would make a wonderful historical romance. Just think, a female sheriff, rough and rugged lumberjacks, river rats, murderers and a hero who looks like Kurt Russell and is confident enough in his manhood to accept her chosen occupation. Yeah, I think it’s a story I’d love to read. In fact, I think I'd love to write it. ;)
Do you research your ancestry? Have you ever come across really interesting tidbits?
Her debut novel, The Guardian’s Promise, released from Love Inspired March 2014. Her second book, The Warrior's Vow, released July 2014.
* This blog post is adapted from a blog I wrote for Hearts Through History on October 22, 2011.