Saturday, July 11, 2020

A Town Under the River: Bayou Sara, Louisiana

Before the Flood Waters Came
by Martha Rogers

On the banks of the Mississippi just down from the town of St. Francisville, the once thriving port of Bayou Sara, Louisiana now lies at the bottom of the river. Bayou Sara and St. Francisville were the two main villiages of West Feliciana Parish. 

Back in the 1840's and early '50's, my great-great grandfather held a partnership in a shipping company in this town. John Whiteman loved the river and the steamboats that visited the port town daily. His five sons worked with him from the youngest Theodore to the eldest Charles. As a widower, John kept the family of boys together and working until his death in 1859.

This is a map of the area that we found in the archives at the county courthouse when we visited to do family research.

John left his half of the business to his sons, but then the Civil War came along in 1861 and the four oldest boys enlisted as did most of the young men in the area. The port and the shipping business continued in the hands of their partner, and was an important stopping point along the river at that time.

The town of Bayou Sara goes back to the early days of  French colonists in the early 1790's. At one time it was the largest antebellum Mississippi River port between Memphis and New Orleans until Natchez claimed that title. Then Great Britain took over after it defeated France in the Seven Year's War in 1763. Then at the end of the American Revolutionary War, Great Britain ceded what it called West Florida to Spain in 1783, as part of the Treaty of Paris.    

Ponce de Leon re-named the area Nueva Feliciana which means New Happy Land in Spanish. The land had unequaled flora, flowing waters and fertile soil which were the main attractions to the area. The parish itself was diverse in topography as well. In 1810 the area became part of the the U.S. and grew so fast that in 1824, the parish was divided into  two parishes with Bayou Sara on the banks of the river as the main port town that furnished supplies up to Woodville, Mississippi and around the area before the steamboats went on down to New Orleans.

In 1862, gunboat crews tried to burn the town to the ground. They did destroy much of it, but no lives were lost, and the town rebuilt. 

Despite this tragedy, an unusual event involving the Union and the Confederates took place a year later. I posted about this event of the Civil War a year or so ago. It took place in Bayou Sara and St. Francisville in 1863. It is called the "Day the Civil War Stopped." On that day, Union Navy officer John E. Hart, who commanded an attack on the town of St. Francisville from his ship docked at Bayou Sara, became ill and died aboard his ship. Hart happened to be a Mason, and when Confederate officer W.W. Leake, also a Mason, learned this, he ordered the battle to stop for a Masonic funeral for Hart. In a twist of irony, he was buried in the cemetery at Grace Episcopal Church, the same church and town as had been under attack by his orders. This is a picture of John Hart.

The town thrived as a port, but after the war, my great-grandfather Manfred and his brothers sold their interest in the shipping company to their partner and moved away from Bayou Sara. Manfred came to Texas where he practiced medicine until his death in the 1890's.

The town survived the war through the efforts of Jewish emigrants who fled religious persecution in Germany. They settled there and made important contributions to commerce in the lean years following the war. 

The town also survived hurricanes and the flood of 1912. Although businesses and homes were flooded, the waters receded and the town recovered.

 Then, in the spring of 1927, the town finally met its match. The Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers were swollen from months of rainfall that still saw no end. In late April the waters swelled to the point that by May, the two rivers burst through their levees sending mud and water into businesses, homes, and farmland on the banks and on across Louisiana where thousands had to flee the rising waters. Thousands were left homeless, and were never able to return.

This book commemorates the Great Flood

This event, known simply as the Great Flood of 1927 would change the shape of Louisiana forever. Along the banks of West Feliciana Parish, the waters completely covered the town of Bayou Sara and never receded. That port now lies at the bottom of the Mississippi River. You can drive down from St. Francisville to the river and catch a ferry to take you across the broad expanse of water to the other side. Other small towns tried to rebuild, but some never reached the same life they once had.

This marker stands to let others know about the history of the town and port of Bayou Sara.

As we crossed the Mississippi River from the landing to the other side, I thought of my ancestors and the business and home they had now being under all that water. It's a strange feeling to know that a once thriving town is under the water where you are boarding a ferry.

My novel, Love Stays True is set in that area and tells the story of my great-grandfather Manfred and his sweetheart, my great-grandmother Sally Dyer.

In April 1865, the day following the surrender at Appomattox, Manfred McDaniel Whiteman and his brother, Edward, are released in an exchange of prisoners. They are given a few provisions, and they begin a long journey to their home in Bayou Sara, Louisiana.

At home Sallie Dyer is waiting word of her beloved Manfred. Though just a young girl when Manfred left, Sallie has grown into a caring young woman who is determined to wait for her love--despite her father’s worries that she is wasting her life on someone who may never come home and suggests a local young man now home from the war.

On their journey Manfred and his brother encounter storms and thieves and are even thrown in jail. Will he make the journey home before someone else claims Sallie’s hand?

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and multi-published author from Realms Fiction of Charisma Media and Winged Publications. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009. She is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. ACFW awarded her the Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Her first electronic series from Winged Publications, Love in the Bayou City of Texas, debuted in the spring of 2015.  Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their twelve grandchildren and five, soon to be six great-grandchildren. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

Fort Union – Safe Haven on the Santa Fe Trail

By Suzanne Norquist

Imagine traveling by wagon along the Santa Fe Trail for weeks with another hundred miles to go when you run across a massive adobe structure on the prairie. Fort Union, New Mexico.

What a welcome sight. The largest military base within five-hundred miles in any direction served travelers—both military and civilian. The over-sized flagpole in the center was a ship’s mast designed to survive high winds that frequented the area.

The structure housed a military post, arsenal, supply depot, and hospital. It functioned as a government-run small town with hundreds of residents. Like any small town, it contained a store and various forms of entertainment. The military provided necessary supplies, but “extras” could be found at the sutler’s store—candy, spices, underwear, paper, tobacco, patent medicines, and canned meat, to name a few.

The store was a favorite hang out with it’s card tables, billiards, and even a bowling alley. One could pick up a meal in the restaurant or have a glass of wine or beer.

The fort housed reading rooms and occasionally put on dramatic and musical productions. Its band provided music for entertainment as well as military occasions.

Officer’s families lived at the fort. Their quarters were large and comfortable. Two apartments shared a kitchen and dining room. Quarters were assigned by rank.

Officer’s wives directed social activities. The dining room was actually a wide hall, which was superb for dancing. The quartermaster would stretch canvas over the floor and decorate the wall with flags to make a beautiful ballroom.

Marian Sloan Russell traveled the Santa Fe Trail several times and married an officer stationed at Fort Union. In her memoir (Land of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along The Santa Fe Trail . Normanby Press.), she describes when she met her husband.

“It was at Fort Union in the year of 1864 that I first met Lieutenant Richard D. Russell. I was rounding a corner rather suddenly, my green veil streaming out behind me. The wind was blowing my hair in my eyes and I was trying to keep my long skirts where they belonged when suddenly he stood before me. That was the moment the whole wide, world stood still. My tall, young lieutenant stood and smiled at me while I struggled with my skirts, veil and hair. Then on he marched with his company, taking my ignorant young heart right along with him. For days the memory of his smile came between me and my prayers. Almost immediately he made an opportunity to be formally presented.”
They married at the little fort chapel, and for a time, she was the only white woman living at the fort.

Enlisted men weren’t allowed to marry or have children without permission. Often permission was granted if the wife would be a laundress. The married couple was given an eighteen by twenty foot one-room apartment in an area known as Suds Row.

For these families, the fort provided a safe haven in hostile territory. For travelers on the Santa Fe Trail, it brought a welcome bit of civilization to a vast prairie.

The site is now a National Monument.

Suzanne Norquist is the author of two novellas, “A Song for Rose” in A Bouquet of Brides Collection and “Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection. Everything fascinates her. She has worked as a chemist, professor, financial analyst, and even earned a doctorate in economics. Research feeds her curiosity, and she shares the adventure with her readers. She lives in New Mexico with her mining engineer husband and has two grown children. When not writing, she explores the mountains, hikes, and attends kickboxing class.

She authors a blog entitled, Ponderings of a BBQ Ph.D. 

“Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection
Four historical romances celebrating the arts of sewing and quilting.

Mending Sarah’s Heart by Suzanne Norquist
Rockledge, Colorado, 1884
Sarah seeks a quiet life as a seamstress. She doesn’t need anyone, especially her dead husband’s partner. If only the Emporium of Fashion would stop stealing her customers, and the local hoodlums would leave her sons alone. When she rejects her husband’s share of the mine, his partner Jack seeks to serve her through other means. But will his efforts only push her further away?

For a Free Preview, click here:

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The World's First Rodeo

By Tiffany Amber Stockton

Last month, I took you back to the formation of the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado, yet another amazing geological formation. If you missed that post, you can read it here:

This month, let's look at an event that also attracted a lot of people, but instead of geological formations, the attraction is more of a performance and animal nature.


One of many proud signs near town
The year was 1869. The day was July 4th. Just 2 months after the historic joining of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads, creating the first transcontinental railroad in the United States. For Deer Trail, Colorado, when the rest of the country was celebrating Independence Day, this little town was holding the world's first rodeo. Although Santa Fe, N.M., Pecos, TX and Prescott, AZ also claim to have held the first rodeo, Deer Trail has it on record and documented as being the first.

Kansas Pacific Railway train
Deer Trail was founded when the Kansas Pacific Railway built a station there in 1870. It soon became a shipping point for grain, livestock, and eggs, but the rodeo has been the town's claim to fame for 150 years. Despite several severe snowstorms and a flood, the town incorporated in 1920 and reached a thriving level during that decade. Unfortunately, the Great Depression caused a significant decline, and from that point forward, the annual rodeo is what has kept the town alive.

Bronco Bustin' at the Rodeo
The historical significance and the account of the event was written about by a reporter in the “Field and Farm” magazine. Local ranch hands looking for a way to settle bets on who was the best at various cowboy fundamentals is how the idea of the rodeo got started. Folks from all the area ranches came with their most notorious broncs and best cowboys to the “Bronco Bustin’ Contest”. The prize was a suit of clothes, which was awarded to the Champion Bronc Buster of the Plains, Emiline Gardenshire of the Milliron Ranch. Emiline rode fifteen minutes on the back of Montana Blizzard, a horse known for being the worst outlaw of the bunch.

Deer Trail's claim to fame
Deer Trail, Colorado, about 45 miles east of Denver along East Colfax Avenue, has been recognized as the Home of the World’s First Rodeo by the Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame, Colorado State Legislature, the History Channel, Guinness Book of World Records and many other publications. So, if you're looking for a rodeo to attend, come to Colorado and visit Deer Trail in July.


* Have you ever attended a live rodeo? If so, when and where?

* If you were to participate in a rodeo, what event would you like to do?

* What topics would you like to see covered in future posts?

Answer any or all of the following, or leave any comment or question you'd like below. Come back on the 9th of August for my next appearance.


Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those childhood skills to become an award-winning and best-selling author and speaker who is also an advocate for literacy as an educational consultant with Usborne Books. She loves to share life-changing products and ideas with others to help better their lives.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children and two dogs in Colorado. She has sold twenty (23) books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on Facebook and GoodReads.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The History of Matches

by Misty M. Beller

In my post last month, I wrote about how early American frontiersmen built fires before matches were widely available. Now let's talk about matches themselves! 

Sulfur-head matches, circa 1828, lit by dipping into a bottle of phosphorus

Matches in Ancient Times
Sulfur matches have been around in one form or another for almost 1500 years. A note in the text Cho Keng Lu, written in 1366, describes a sulfur match, small sticks of pinewood impregnated with sulfur, used in China by "impoverished court ladies" in AD 577 during the conquest of Northern Qi. 

A book called The Records of the Unworldly and the Strange written by Chinese author Tao Gu in about 950 stated:
"If there occurs an emergency at night it may take some time to make a light to light a lamp. But an ingenious man devised the system of impregnating little sticks of pinewood with sulfur and storing them ready for use. At the slightest touch of fire, they burst into flame. One gets a little flame like an ear of corn. This marvelous thing was formerly called a 'light-bringing slave', but afterward when it became an article of commerce its name was changed to 'fire inch-stick'."
"Modern" Matches
The first self-igniting match was invented in 1805 by Jean Chancel, assistant to a Parisian professor. The head of the match consisted of a mixture of potassium chlorate, sulfur, sugar, and rubber. The match was ignited by dipping its tip in a small asbestos bottle filled with sulfuric acid. Connection between acid and the mixture on the stick would start the fire and release very nasty fumes into the face of the user. This kind of match was quite expensive, however, and its use was also relatively dangerous, so Chancel's matches never really became widely adopted or in common use.

This approach to match-making was further refined in the proceeding decades, culminating with the 'Promethean Match' that was patented by Samuel Jones of London in 1828. His match consisted of a small glass capsule containing a chemical composition of sulfuric acid colored with indigo and coated on the exterior with potassium chlorate, all of which was wrapped up in rolls of paper. The immediate ignition of this particular form of a match was achieved by crushing the capsule with a pair of pliers, mixing and releasing the ingredients in order for it to become alight.

Friction Matches
The first successful friction match was invented in 1826 by John Walker, an English chemist and druggist. Several chemical mixtures were already known which would ignite by a sudden explosion, but it had not been found possible to transmit the flame to a slow-burning substance like wood. While Walker was preparing a lighting mixture on one occasion, a match which had been dipped in it took fire by an accidental friction upon the hearth. He at once appreciated the practical value of the discovery and started making friction matches.

John Walker, inventor of the friction match

The price of a box of 50 matches was one shilling. With each box was supplied a piece of sandpaper, folded double, through which the match had to be drawn to ignite it. Walker named the matches "Congreves" in honor of the inventor and rocket pioneer Sir William Congreve. Between 1827 and 1829, Walker made about 168 sales of his matches. It was, however, dangerous, and flaming balls sometimes fell to the floor burning carpets and dresses, leading to their ban in France and Germany.


In 1829, Scots inventor Sir Isaac Holden invented an improved version of Walker's match and demonstrated it to his class at Castle Academy in Reading, Berkshire. A version of Holden's match was patented by Samuel Jones, and these were sold as lucifer matches. These early matches had a number of problems—an initial violent reaction, an unsteady flame, and unpleasant odor and fumes. Lucifers could ignite explosively, sometimes throwing sparks a considerable distance. The term "lucifer" persisted as slang in the 20th century (for example in the First World War song Pack Up Your Troubles) and matches are still called lucifers in Dutch.

Phosphorus Matches
Lucifers were, however, quickly replaced after 1830 by matches made according to the process devised by Frenchman Charles Sauria, who substituted white phosphorus for the antimony sulfide. These new phosphorus matches had to be kept in airtight metal boxes ,but became popular and went by the name of loco foco in the United States, from which was derived the name of a political party.

Those involved in the manufacture of the new phosphorus matches were afflicted with phossy jaw and other bone disorders, and there was enough white phosphorus in one pack to kill a person. Deaths and suicides from eating the heads of matches became frequent.

The New York Times report dated January 29, 1911

The Safety Match
The dangers of white phosphorus in the manufacture of matches led to the development of the "hygienic" or "safety match". The major innovation in its development was the use of red phosphorus, not on the head of the match but instead on a specially designed striking surface.

Johan Edvard and his younger brother Carl Frans Lundström (1823–1917) started a large-scale match industry in Jönköping, Sweden around 1847, but the improved safety match was not introduced until around 1850–55. The Lundström brothers had obtained a sample of red phosphorus matches from Arthur Albright at The Great Exhibition but had misplaced it and therefore they did not try the matches until just before the Paris Exhibition of 1855 when they found that the matches were still usable. In 1858, their company produced around 12 million matchboxes.

The safety of true "safety matches" is derived from the separation of the reactive ingredients between a match head on the end of a paraffin-impregnated splint and the special striking surface (in addition to the safety aspect of replacing the white phosphorus with red phosphorus). 

We still have a number of different match types available today, but the safety match is most widely used. I'm curious, how many of these match types have you heard of? 

Misty M. Beller is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic mountain stories, set on the 1800s frontier and woven with the truth of God’s love.

For a limited time, you can get one of Misty's bestselling novels free here:

Love's Mountain Quest 
After her son goes missing, Joanna Watson enlists Isaac Bowen—a man she prays has enough experience in the rugged country—to help. As they press on against the elements, they find encouragement in the tentative trust that grows between them, but whether it can withstand the danger and coming confrontation is far from certain in this wild, unpredictable land.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Roswell Incident of 1947: What's it all about

By Michelle Shocklee

I'm a New Mexico girl, born and raised. My daddy was born in Roswell in 1921, so the small town in the eastern part of the state is quite familiar to me. But ever since the events of a hot summer night in 1947, the town hasn't been the same.
Brig. Gen. Ramey & Col. Dubose identify debris
found near Roswell, NM in July 1947

Sometime between mid-June and early July 1947, rancher W.W. “Mac” Brazel found wreckage on his property in Lincoln County, New Mexico, approximately 75 miles north of Roswell. Stories of "flying saucers" and "flying discs" had already appeared in the national press that summer, leading Brazel to believe the wreckage could be something of that nature. He brought some of the material--rubber strips, tinfoil, and thick paper--to Sheriff George Wilcox of Roswell, who in turn brought it to the attention of Colonel William Blanchard, the commanding officer of the Roswell Army Air Field. Several officers from the air field arrived at the ranch on July 7 to gather more debris. 

What happens next is a mixture of facts and legend, with a healthy dose of conspiracy theory thrown in for good measure, which continues to this day. 

On July 8, the RAAF released a statement, writing that, “The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff's office of Chaves County.” This statement was published in the local newspaper. 

Apparently, that wasn't a good idea. The RAAF changed their story the next day. The mysterious object found on the ranch was simply a harmless, high-altitude weather balloon, they claimed. Nothing to see here, people. 

Picture of Jesse Marcel, the head intelligence officer on the case. "Not a flying disc."
With government officials declaring the mystery wasn't all that mysterious, the story quickly faded. It wasn't until the 1970s and 80s, when UFO researchers began writing books with speculations of a cover-up, did interest in the Roswell Incident begin.  All sorts of claims were made, including those of alien bodies being recovered and hidden at an Air Force base. 

It wasn't until 1994, forty-seven years after the debris was found, that the truth (I assume) came out.

In July of that year, the U.S. Air Force released a report in which they conceded that the “weather balloon” story had been bogus. According to the 1994 explanation, the wreckage came from a spy device created for an until-then classified project called Project Mogul. The device—a connected string of high-altitude balloons equipped with microphones—was designed to float furtively over the USSR, detecting sound waves at a stealth distance. These balloons would ostensibly monitor the Soviet government’s attempts at testing their own atomic bomb. Because Project Mogul was a covert operation, the new report claimed, a false explanation of the crash was necessary to prevent giving away details of their spy work.

Aliens and UFOs have become big business in Roswell. You can't 'swing a cat' without hitting an alien or spaceship. People come from around the world to do their own investigating and to see the sights. Whichever story you believe--the government cover-up of an alien crash site or the government's admission to secret spying--Roswell is still an interesting little town to visit. 

Your turn: have you been to Roswell? What'cha think about all this UFO stuff?

Michelle Shocklee is the author of several historical novels, including her September 2020 release, Under the Tulip Tree. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Visit her online at

Releasing 9.8.20; PREORDER available now!

Sixteen-year-old Lorena Leland’s dreams of a rich and fulfilling life as a writer are dashed when the stock market crashes in 1929. Seven years into the Great Depression, Rena’s banker father has retreated into the bottle, her sister is married to a lazy charlatan and gambler, and Rena is an unemployed newspaper reporter. Eager for any writing job, Rena accepts a position interviewing former slaves for the Federal Writers’ Project. There, she meets Frankie Washington, a 101-year-old woman whose honest yet tragic past captivates Rena.

As Frankie recounts her life as a slave, Rena is horrified to learn of all the older woman has endured—especially because Rena’s ancestors owned slaves. While Frankie’s story challenges Rena’s preconceptions about slavery, it also connects the two women whose lives are otherwise separated by age, race, and circumstances. But will this bond of respect, admiration, and friendship be broken by a revelation neither woman sees coming?

Monday, July 6, 2020

Margery Williams and The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit, published nearly one hundred years ago, remains a popular children’s book, receiving many awards as well as landing on several “greatest books” lists. Written by Margery Williams Bianco as her first children’s book after publishing several adult novels, the story contains themes seen in many of Bianco’s books: that of toys coming to life and the ability of inanimate objects and animals to express human emotions.

Born one hundred and thirty nine years ago, Margery Winifred Williams was the second of two daughters of highly accomplished parents, so it is unsurprising that Margery gained success in her own right. Both girls were encouraged to use their imaginations, and her father was known to provide vivid descriptions of characters when reading to them.

When she was seven years old, her father passed away, and the family moved to America two years later. Scholars and critics would later discuss the pervasive elements of sadness and death in her books, but Williams felt these topics were important for children’s development.

A desire to make her living as an author propelled Margery to return to London and submit her adult novel The Late Returning. Published in 1902, when she was nineteen years old, the book didn’t do well.  Two more adult novels, The Price of Youth and The Bar also didn’t sell well.

During a meeting at her publishers, she met Italian bookseller Francesco Bianco whom she would marry in 1904. The couple moved to Turin, Italy were they had two children Cecco and Pamela. They lived in Italy for many years, and Francesco joined the Italian army during WWI. He came home safely, but deprivation was a major issue in Europe. Having retained her US citizenship, Margery received permission to return in 1921.

The following year, her first American work, The Velveteen Rabbit, was published. Chronicling the story of a stuffed rabbit’s desire to become real through the love of its owner, the story has been republished numerous times. In addition, quite a few adaptions have appeared over the years in radio, television, stage, and film.

Beginning in 1925, Margery would publish one to two books each year until her death in 1944, but none would receive the level of fame or recognition enjoyed by The Velveteen Rabbit.

Have you read this childhood classic?


About Murder at Madison Square Garden (A WWII Whodunit)

Theodora “Teddy” Schafer’s career has hit the skids. With any luck, a photo spread with Charles Lindbergh at will salvage her reputation. After an attempted assassination of Lindbergh leaves another man dead, Teddy is left holding the gun. Can she prove her innocence before she's locked up up for a murder she didn’t commit?

Private Investigator Ric Bogart wants nothing to do with women after his wife left him, but he can’t ignore the feeling he’s supposed to help the scrappy reporter arrested for murder. Can he believe her claims of innocence and find the real killer without letting Teddy steal his heart?

Purchase Link:

Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did ordinary things in days gone by. A volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII, Linda is also a trustee for her local public library. She is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and was born a stone's throw from Fort McHenry. Linda has lived in historic places all her life, and is now located in central New Hampshire where her favorite activities include exploring historic sites and immersing herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors.  Visit her at

Connect with Linda:  Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Twitter ~ LinkedIn

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Reach for Success Board Games

by Anita Mae Draper

Popular board games of the early 19th century were based on geography and morality and provided more of a few hours education than entertainment. In the latter part of the 1800's however, and spurred on by the industrial revolution, immigration to the new world provided a way for a person to shed his old life and start anew. The reach for success became the goal of life.

The Checkered Game of Life board. Wikipedia, Public Domain

Milton Bradley, a successful Massachusetts lithographer with a strong set of moral values, created the Checkered Game of Life in 1860. As you can see in the above image, the players of the board game started at INFANCY in the bottom left and traveled through life facing many of the challenges people face, such as college, honor, ambition and influence. Sprinkled in the game are pitfalls such as disgrace, poverty, prison, and even suicide. However, the major difference between this game and other board games was that the Checkered Game of Life ended WEALTH as the goal.

Yes, wealth appears to be the goal if one starts at INFANCY and follows the row to the right, then up one row and left, etc. A player received 50 points for landing on HAPPY OLD AGE, followed by MATRIMONY and then WEALTH. 100 total points and you'd win the game. The Checkered Game of Life was commercially successful and appeared in Milton Bradley's 1889-90 catalog of Games, Sectional Pictures, Toys, Puzzles, Blocks and NoveltiesThe Milton Bradley Company was a major game manufacturer well into the 20th century, long after the death of its founder in 1911. 

Milton Bradley Company Game Catalog, 1889-90. Public Domain

In 1960, the Milton Bradley Company created an updated version to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first sale of the Checkered Game of Life. The name was shortened to the Game of Life, grimmer parts like the suicide spot were deleted, and goals reflected 1960 culture. Paper money was added to give a tangible feel of making, losing, and keeping wealth. Instead of a flat board, the updated game was played on a 3D (three dimensional) board that included a built in spinner and plastic playing pieces. A "car" that looked like a open-air bus had 6-8 holes designating seats. A blue or pink peg, depending on the gender of the player, sat in the driver's spot and picked up his "family" as he traveled along the track of life. Many versions followed this 1960 one, modernizing the game with the times which is probably why it is one of the most successful board games of all time. 

The modern Game of Life. Courtesy of New England Historical Society. CC BY-SA 3.0
If you have played the Game of Life, how did it go for you? 

If you don't like any of the current versions of the Game of Life that appear in today's market, there are numerous versions you can print off and tweak to your own heart's content. 

If you like board games, you might like my previous posts on this topic:

May 5, 2020 - Geographical Board Games
Jun 5, 2020 - Virtue Board Games


Anita Mae Draper lives on the Canadian prairies where she uses her experience and love of history to enhance her stories of yesteryear's romance with realism and faith. Readers can enrich their story experience with visual references by checking Anita's Pinterest boards. All links available on her website at