Monday, August 20, 2018

Quirky Montana Historical Facts

I came across my share of quirky historical trivia while researching the Montana Gold series, set during Montana’s goldrush, a wild and wooly time in the Old Wild West. Many colorful stories attach to place names in particular. Here, for your entertainment are some of the gems I mined in my historical research. 

Quirky Montana Historical Facts 

Montana was Idaho

You read that right. Idaho Territory formed March 4 1863 and covered some of the, er, territory that would become part of southwestern Montana in the present day. Prior to that date, the land was part of Washington Territory.

Image: Idaho Territory Coat of Arms
 The borders shifted again on March 26 1864, at the birth of Montana Territory. One family living in Hell Gate (south of what is now Missoula) held an unusual claim to fame. Their three children had been born in a single house but three different territories.

Image: Montana Territory Coat of Arms

The Ruby River contained no rubies

By Mike Cline [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Early settlers mistook the pretty red gemstones they found in the riverbed and along its banks for rubies. These were in fact garnets. The name stuck, regardless.

Hell Gate Canyon earned its name.

Hell Gate Canyon from Heaven's Gate overlook, Idaho. Image by Dsdugan [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
French trappers named Hell Gate Canyon for the piles of human bones they found within it. The Flathead tribe had to pass through the canyon to reach hunting grounds on the other side. Unfortunately, the narrow canyon entrances made ideal locations for members of the Blackfoot tribe to ambush the hunting parties.

Deer Lodge wasn’t a building.

Hot spring mound in the "Deer Lodge" prairie of the Rocky Mountains.
Color lithograph after G. Sohon.
 [CC BY 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons
Well, okay. There are buildings in the town of Deer Lodge, and Deer Lodge Valley has its share of buildings. However, both the town and the valley were named after a mound. A remarkable landmark in its day, Deer Lodge Mound has less status in modern times. A warm spring (now capped) steamed at the top of the 40-foot-high geologic formation and deposited minerals down its side. This made the mound into a salt lick for multitudes of local deer. The spring steamed in the cold winter air, reminding the local tribe of a lodge with smoke curling above it.

Tell it to the judge.

Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis in a portrait miniature by John Wood Dodge (1807-1893)
 ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Virginia City, Montana was almost named after Jefferson Davis’s beautiful wife, Varina. However, Judge Bissell, a devout Unionist, refused to approve the town charter until the name was changed. The framers of the town opted for the judge’s suggestion of Virginia City, and the charter went through.

The fort that wasn’t.

By Forest Service Northern Region from Missoula, MT, USA
[CC BY 2.0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Major John Owen, a retired army sutler (supply manager), settled in 1850 with his beloved Native American wife in the Bitterroot Valley and there established a ‘fort.’ Really just a trading post, Fort Owen never housed soldiers or heard a shot fired. Major Owen was trusted by the local tribe and settlers alike. He served as Indian Agent to the Flathead tribe between 1856 and 1862.

Uncovering very human stories while researching my books makes history come alive for me. I hope I have given you a small window into the past.

About Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt's unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and whimsy creates breathtaking fictional worlds for readers. Known for her vivid writing, this multi-faceted author writes in the western historical romance, medieval epic fantasy, and romantic suspense genres. 

Janalyn is represented by Wordserve Literary Agency. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA. When she's not writing, she loves to garden and explore the great outdoors with her family.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Thin Blue Line: The Tan and Brown, Oklahoma Highway Patrol

By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Judge Rodriguez

Hello Friends!

Thank you for joining us this month as we start our new series about first responders in our great state.

First allow us to say: we wish to pay our respects to the brave men and women of our military, and let them know our thoughts and prayers are with them, particularly those currently on deployment outside our country and away from their families.

However, we also wish to add our gratitude to those that serve outside of our military forces as well. Also called the Thin Blue Line, this group of dedicated public servants serve to keep us, our families, and our property safe. Our hats are off to you, and our gratitude for all you do, and to your families.

After the different land runs, there was a distinct need for peacekeepers. Until the territory had been opened up for white settlement, “keeping the natives at bay” was handled by the U.S. Army, in particular, the Cavalry. Now that the settlers had been able to form their own towns/cities, it was incumbent on them to create their own force of peacekeepers. The United States Marshall’s service had representatives throughout the territory, but were few and far between.

The different newly formed townships had their own force to keep law and order. However, until control was taken over by the State of Oklahoma in 1915, there was another force that assisted with military control as well. That group was the regional Militia. When the state took over control, it turned in to the Oklahoma Army National Guard.

I mention this group because, in 1911 when the Oklahoma Department of Transportation was created, they needed a group to be able to base the law enforcement training on. Starting with the first class of graduates in 1937, The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has been tasked with keeping law and order on the state and federal highways of Oklahoma.

The uniform of the Highway Patrol is partly based on that of the Regional Militia, with brown trousers, and a tan stripe going down the side, and with (originally) cavalry boots. This is much in the style of the traditional uniform for the US Cavalry and their blue trousers with the yellow stripe.

In the first nine months of operation, the troopers issued over a quarter of a million warnings and had over five thousand arrests. In the last eighty years, however, the role for the Highway Patrol has migrated into other arenas.

Today, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol has been tasked with Public Information Services, Capitol Patrol / Capitol Security, Marine Enforcement (in particular, they handle water safety on the rivers and lakes in the state), Training, Bomb Squad, SWAT, Motorcycle safety (the “flying squadron” or “mobile cavalry squadron”), Aircraft Safety, Special Operations (formerly Criminal Interdiction, whose team members , and Audits on fraudulent drivers licenses.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is currently under the Department of Public safety. With 800 Troopers statewide, OHP is considered one of the top law enforcement groups in the country, with some of the most up to date equipment, and personnel training.

We hope you join us in paying respect to the fine men and women that put their lives on the line every day to ensure that the highways and byways of this great state are kept as safe as possible. Please join us next month as we start discovering the other part of the Thin Blue Line: Oklahoma Police Departments.

Born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, Alanna Radle Rodriguez is the great-great granddaughter of one of the first pioneers to settle in Indian Territory. Alanna loves the history of the state and relishes in volunteering at the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. Her first published story, part of a collaborative novella titled Legacy Letters, came out September 2016. Alanna lives with her husband and parents in the Edmond area. She is currently working on a historical fiction series that takes place in pre-statehood Waterloo, Oklahoma.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Apolinaria Lorenzana

Apolinaria Lorenzana

I came across a fascinating woman while doing research. I had never heard the name, Apolinaria Lorenzana before, but there she was with a story I could resist researching more and sharing with you. The amazing accomplishments she made in the early 1800’s in California.

Cardinal Lorenzana
Photo by Mariano Serano
The beginning of Apolonaria’s story is both ignominious and incredible. Her record begins in 1793 at an orphanage, the Royal House for Abandoned Children, in Mexico City. This house had a turnstile next to the entry door where abandoned children could be left by placing them on the turnstile, turning it so they would be inside and then leaving. Apolinaria came to the orphanage that way with no name and no papers. Just a child.

Apolinaria was turned over to the woman in charge who took her to the chaplain. Together, they decided on her age and her ethnicity, putting her in the Spanish lists. Her last name had already been determined. All the children in the orphanage had the same last name—Lorenzana—after the cardinal archbishop, who began the Royal House, but now resided in Spain. 

The teachers at the Royal House were diligent to teach the children skills that would help them when they were out in the world. In late 1799, the school sent sixteen children north to California. All the children had the last name of Lorenzana, as did their teacher, who accompanied them. She was also an orphan taken in at the Royal House.

After a difficult sea voyage, their ship docked in Monterey, California. The
Spanish Frigate mid-1800's
Photo by Heribert Mariezcurrena
children were given to families, and the process was later described by Apolinaria as being treated “like puppy dogs.” Apolinaria was adopted by a family who lived in Santa Barbara, while many of her friends went to San Diego. 

All of the children suffered over this treatment, but Apolinaria determined to make the best of her situation. She worked hard to master writing and other skills, which she then began to teach to other children. For the rest of her life, she would continue to teach girls to read, write, sew and other necessary apptitudes they would need. 

Apolinaria moved to San Diego where she became an instructor at a school and worked at the mission. She had many responsibilities, including bartering for and bringing supplies from the incoming ships. She would board the ships to receive what the mission ordered and also purchase any additional products she deemed important for the mission.

In 1831, Apolinaria moved onto some land owned by the mission and became a ranchera – a rancher. The mission ended up noting they did not need that plot of land and deeded it over to her in 1840. She only lived there part time, but had others living there working the land for her. In 1843, she received a second land grant, where she constructed dams and raised crops like barley and wheat. 

Mission at San Diego
Photo by Bernard Gagnon

Apolinaria was known for her charity work. She helped at the mission by nursing the sick. She was always available and willing to help anyone in need. People noted her heart for others and knew her by this. 

In her later years, after the Americans won California, Apolinaria was tricked into signing papers giving her lands to an American. She ended up living in poverty and having to accept the charity of others. She denied having signed over her lands, but didn’t have the power or authority to fight the claim. 

Despite all she suffered toward the end, Apolinaria still reached out to others when she could. She loved children and enjoyed helping them to learn. Her heart for helping others is what made her such a special person and someone I wanted to write about.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Apolinaria. I found it fascinating that all the children in the orphanage had the same last name. What did you find interesting?

Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website:

Friday, August 17, 2018

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come, Thou Feet of Restless Youth

Back and forth. Seen and not seen, peeking and hiding.

On Sunday morning, my shiny black patent-leather shoes popped from beneath the wooden pew where I sat with my parents in our very proper church, and then they disappeared. My feet didn’t yet touch the floor, but boy, could they swing those shiny shoes. Back and forth. Peeking, hiding.

Unless we were singing.

Then I’d stand next to Mother in those stiff “good” shoes, propping my own hymnal on the back of the pew ahead of us, pretending to read the words.

In fact, church may be the place I first learned to connect letters and sounds and phrases, for music has a way of winding the words around your heart strings and tuning them in with your brain.

I learned the melodies and verses to many old hymns in our traditional church, and they’ve stayed with me over the years that have swept me into the musical freedom of contemporary worship. As a pianist/keyboardist on my church’s worship team, I love and play it all, both the old and the new.

But one song in particular lodged deep inside my childhood experience with its lilting notes that seemed to dance like a butterfly on a clear summer day:

“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

It was the melody that embedded in my young heart, tugging the lyrics along with it. Only later did those words take on meaning. Perhaps one has to experience the floods and fires of life and trudge through the mud and ash before one really understands the cleansing power and need of the Fount.

According to several hymnals, the tune is a Traditional American Melody from John Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second, 1813. However, credits the melody for “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” as the tune “Nettleton,” penned by “Anonymous.” Footnotes mention Asahel Nettleton (1783-1844) as the possible originator of the tune.

Asahel Nettleton, by Samuel Lovett Waldo (1783-1861) & William Jewett (1789-1874) 
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Though little-known today, Yale-graduate Nettleton was the Billy Graham of the 1820s, according to author and Pastor William P. Farley. This quiet and unassuming evangelist from Connecticut saw the advent of the telegraph and railroads, and the exploration of Lewis and Clark, all linchpins of our nation’s development. He also lived during the ebb and flow of the second Great Awakening of the 1790s through the 1830s (historians debate the actual dates). He died in 1844 at the age of 61. 

Robert Robinson, by Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Stanzas 1 – 2 of the song are credited to English clergyman Robert Robinson in 1758 and stanza 3 to Martin Madan in 1760. Several variations of the stanzas exist, as well as a fourth and fifth verse, and the song rests today in the public domain.

It also rests in the corners of my memory, and thus wended its way onto the pages of my recent release, An Unexpected Redemption.

Redemption is the theme of “Come, Thou Fount,” and so it naturally flowed from my mind, through my fingers, and into the heart of Elizabeth (Betsy Parker) Beaumont. In the story, she credits her mother with teaching her the song, and perhaps I am that mother since I gave birth to the fictional Betsy and her impulsive nature.

Certain phrases thread through her struggle, such as,

“Streams of mercy, never ceasing,” 

“Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, Mount of Thy redeeming love.” 

“Hither by Thy help I’m come; And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, 
Safely to arrive at home.” 

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.”

Regardless of a few obsolete words from centuries 
past, these confessions can touch the core of a seeker, one who may have wondered on restless childish feet, coming at last to the merciful Fount.

One can certainly hope.

My most favorite rendition of this song is by the very modern David Crowder band that presents it with rich Old World flavor. It can be found here. Bypass the quick ad and listen with your eyes closed.

Let your heart be lifted.

And then let me know if there is an old hymn that has made its way across the years and into the corners of your memory.


Wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters, Davalynn Spencer writes cowboy romance. She is an ECPA and Publisher's Weekly bestselling author and winner of the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction. And she’s fairly certain her previous career as a rodeo journalist and crime-beat reporter prepared her for life in Colorado, wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley. Connect with her at 

Shattered by her father’s fatal choice, na├»ve Betsy Parker elopes with a faithless beau who abandons her for the Dakota gold fields. After taking a job as a type-writer for a prestigious Denver law firm, she rebuffs the advances of a senior partner who fires her and sullies her character. In a desperate bid to redeem her reputation and independence, she returns home to face her toughest critics—the people she grew up with, a rugged lawman who threatens to steal her heart, and the one person unwilling to forgive her.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Building a Story World: Part Fact, Part Fiction

by Pam Hillman

Creating a story world is like being captivated by a stranger’s face through a rain-soaked window, or traveling through an unfamiliar countryside blanketed in heavy fog. There’s a hint of what’s on the other side of the glass or the haze, but you can’t see everything clearly. But because of that very thing, your imagination is given the freedom to paint the picture you most want to see in your mind.

If you could wipe the glass clean or burn away the fog, you might discover that the story world in question is part fact, part fiction.

This is true of the story world I created for my Natchez Trace Novel series set in the 1790s. Each story begins in Natchez-Under-the-Hill, touching on some of the aspects of the seedy wharf and making reference to actual streets that were already laid out at the time. Governor Gayoso, his future wife, Elizabeth Watts, and his secretary, Stephen Minor, make cameo appearances.

My characters travel along the Natchez Trace, stopping at a tavern called Harper’s Inn. This particular inn is fictional as I wanted it to be a very rough establishment. Mount Locust, on the other hand, which was a very respectable inn and is still standing to give visitors a look at what inns (also referred to as stands) of the day consisted of, is also mentioned, giving anyone familiar with the area a yardstick by which to gauge where my characters are as they travel back and forth along the trace.
Mount Locust

It felt natural to include Mount Locust in my story world. My characters don't spend much time there, but each book mentions the inn and the characters pass by it several times during the course of the series. It's a good landmark to give authenticity and a benchmark location.

Breeze Hill Plantation is fictional, but if pressed, I could take you twenty miles north of Natchez along the old trace, find a hill surrounded by rolling countryside, and claim it as the spot where Breeze Hill would have stood. The plantation home itself is based loosely on the floor plan and design of Linden Hall, part of which was constructed in 1785 and is located in Natchez proper to this day operating as a Linden Hall B&B. Most of the other plantations, homes, and businesses sprinkled throughout the series are fictional.

Linden Hall, circa 1785

Another thing I found was the floor plans for Linden Hall. They were invaluable in picturing where the rooms were back in the day and assigning said rooms to my characters. Again, Breeze Hill is fictional, but the floor plan and the U-shaped house is real. As I wrote both The Promise of Breeze Hill and The Road to Magnolia Glen, I kept the floor plans and the location of the outbuildings close at hand.

Why use a real location? Readers are anchored in the story when an author uses a real town, country, or geographical location that they are vaguely familiar with to set the stage. It might be as broad as “the Mojave Desert,” or “London, 1845”.

With the reader anchored solidly in fact, the author can then add in a fictional ghost town or fort at the edge of the desert, a small millinery tucked on an unnamed side-street in London, or even an entire plantation along the Natchez Trace in 1791.

And then the fog lifts, allowing the reader to see the story world clearly.

Hop over to JustRead Publicity Tours and join the tour for a chance
to win a basket of goodies, including print copies of both
The Promise of Breeze Hill and The Road to Magnolia Glen. Hosted by Pam Hillman and JustRead Publicity Tours

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

MMMadness with great GIVEAWAYS!

Welcome to the Mid-Month Madness Party! Four of the Heroes, Heroines, and History (HHH) bloggers will be your hostesses. We hope you enjoy the party! Summer is winding down but it's still hot so wear something fun and cool. We have sweet tea and lemonade with lots of ice and of course finger foods, brownies, cake, and some healthy veggies. So kick back and visit with us today. Feel free to ask us questions about our books, writing, or our lives. And we'd love to hear what's going on in your neck of the woods, along with what you like to read. 

Scroll through all our books and when you get to the bottom of the page you'll see the great giveaways for the blog party. Each author contributed to the prizes.

Be sure to leave a comment with your email address so we can let you know if you win. You can also check the side bar where we list winners. Thanks! And enjoy the party.

Don't forget to hop over to the Facebook Party for more prizes! 


Avice Touchet has always dreamed of marrying for love and that love would be her best friend, Philip Greslet. She’s waited five years for him to see her as the woman she’s become but when a visiting lord arrives with secrets that could put her father in prison, Avice must consider a sacrificial marriage. 

Philip Greslet has worked his whole life for one thing—to be a castellan—and now it is finally in his grasp. But when Avice rebuffs his new lord’s attentions, Philip must convince his best friend to marry the lord against his heart’s inclination to have her as his own. 

Rosalinda knows she will never escape her past, both the choices forced on her and the mistakes she’s made. She longs to find a place to live in peace—where she can learn to mother her children and where Lucio Armenta won’t be a constant reminder of the love she can never have. Lucio wants to marry. However, Rosalinda, the only woman he’s ever been attracted to, doesn’t meet the ideals he’s set for his future wife. When he discovers she, and her adorable brood, are accompanying him to his sister and brother-in-law’s, he objects. An objection that is overruled. When secrets from Lucio’s past are exposed, and Rosalinda faces choices no woman should have to make, will their growing love, and their faith, survive? 

When a fiery social crusader interrupts a slave auction, a horse trader and his twin brother are set on a collision course with war – – brother against brother. Can the passion that severed ties lead to a love that overcomes hate? 

Russ Fleming shows up at the Lodge where Kaitlyn Bronson is event planner, and her world shatters with the memory of his rejection seven years earlier. When he seeks her forgiveness and tries to explain, she rejects him. Even though she still loves him, she can’t forget how he left to join a ski team with no explanation. Even after he reveals his past and the reason for his abrupt departure, the forgiveness doesn’t come. Kaitlyn’s conflicted feelings wreak havoc in her soul until she sees the truth behind her own attitude and takes the path to the top of the hill where she can conquer her fears. 



Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 5 horses, 3 dogs, cat and miniature donkey.
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Nancy grew up on a small farm in the Midwest amidst a close knit family. She came to love farm life including the cooking, gardening and canning, but not so much the cleaning house part. In school she often got in trouble in history class for hiding a fiction book in her text book to read during the teacher’s lecture. Nancy was shocked to later discover she had such a love for history. Now Nancy lives in Southern Arizona and loves to research and include bits of history in her books. She is a Christian and enjoys encouraging her readers in their faith.

Kathleen L. Maher has had an infatuation with books and fictional heroes ever since her preschool crush, Peter Rabbit. She has a novella releasing with BARBOUR in the 2018 Victorian Christmas Brides collection, featuring her hometown of Elmira, New York. Her debut historical, Bachelor Buttons, blends her Irish heritage and love of the American Civil War. She won the 2012 ACFW Genesis contest for her Civil War story, releasing this summer under a new title The Abolitionist’s Daughter. Kathleen shares an old farmhouse in upstate New York with her husband, children, and a small zoo of rescued animals.

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Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to four, soon to be five. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years at the college level supervising student teachers and teaching freshman English. She is the Director of the Texas Christian Writers Conference held in Houston in August each year, a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and a member of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive.
Find Martha at:                          
Twitter:  @martharogers2                               
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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Insurance Maps for Research?

Gabrielle Here:

Sometimes I don't know what I enjoy more, writing or researching history. That's probably why the Heroes, Heroines, and History blog is such a good fit for me. 

I use many different resources for my research. Some of the more common are pouring over old newspapers, savoring the mundane details in a long-forgotten journal, and studying non-fiction books. But there are several other ways to go about research. Just this past weekend, I attended the Rendezvous at Grand Portage, Minnesota where people reenacted the voyageur culture from the fur trade during the years 1730-1790. I've seen a lady reenacting Betsy Ross and working on a flag at her home in Philadelphia, I've spoken to people portraying the original Pilgrims at Plimoth Plantation, and I've interacted with guides at Abraham Lincoln's home in Springfield, Illinois. Besides visiting museums and historical sites, writers can also interview people, go through original letters, and even watch period dramas (though I still check the facts presented there). 

But an unusual way I've discovered to find unique details is to look at old insurance maps.

I chuckle whenever I think about the people who created those stuffy insurance maps over a hundred years ago. They probably had no idea someone would come along and treat them like a long-lost treasure.

Here's a picture of my work station. The papers on the left are copies of insurance maps from the 1890's. The maps give amazing detail about the buildings in Little Falls, Minnesota, where I've set several of my books. It's a great resource to discover what types of businesses were in town during 1898. There were at least three cigar factories, two breweries, numerous millinery shops, dress makers, confectioneries, bakeries, hotels, cobblers, tailors, livery stables, banks, schools, churches, an opera house--not to mention flour mills, lumber mills, a paper mill, three brick yards, two iron works, blacksmiths...the list goes on and on! 

The maps give specific details about how the buildings were heated, if they had electricity or gas, if there were watchmen on duty, when the buildings were in operation, etc. They also indicate if the building had outhouses or indoor plumbing.

These maps have been invaluable to me over the years as I write my stories. Something as simple as an insurance map can become a priceless glimpse into the past. It makes me wonder what future generations will use to study our current culture.

Your Turn: if you're a writer, what is the most unique item you've used for research? If you're a reader, what kind of details do you enjoy in historical fiction? What's something unique you've learned by reading?

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by real people and events.

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