Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Autumn in the Thousand Islands

It’s the time of the year when Thousand Islands cottage dwellers close up their summer homes and say goodbye to the St. Lawrence River. While there are still the year-rounders who enjoy the crisp air and autumn beauty, they are few. Yet, the autumn colors in the area are simply spectacular and not to be missed!

Historically, people like the Bournes who built Singer Castle (then called The Towers) on Dark Island, the Emerys who built Calumet Castle on Calumet Island, and the Pullmans who built Castle Rest on Pullman Island, would often visit the islands in the fall, often to hunt and fish. The Bournes even had a duck blind on a separate nearby island.

Yet, I suspect, many of the Gilded Age families returned to enjoy the autumn colors on the St. Lawrence River in their beloved Thousand Islands. The grand cities like New York City, Philadelphia, and others simply couldn’t provide the abundance, wide-range, and intensely beautiful autumn scenery the area offered them.

Leaf peeping in the Thousand Islands is a memorable experience. The densely deciduous forests along the river and on the islands turn vibrant, awe-inspiring colors. Leaves fall into the water and paint an unforgettable tapestry. Bright reds, oranges, and yellows dot the landscape, with more subtle hues of pinks, purples, and peach filling in the autumn color wheel. If you haven’t been to New England in the fall, you won’t regret adding it to your bucket list.

But why is it so beautiful here? Cooler temperatures in late summer combined with plenty of sunshine, often leads to brighter colors. But freezing can kill the leaves prematurely. As you’ll recall from your biology classes, photosynthesis breaks down chlorophyll, yellow pigments in the leaves become visible, and the leaves lose their green color. Reds and purples come from the sugars trapped in the leaves.

Ideally, an early moist growing season, a dry late summer, and a sunny, warm fall with cool nights, create the most stunning colors of the autumn season. And here, along the St. Lawrence River, this is often the case.

The St. Lawrence River autumn usually peaks around the first of October, reflecting these colors on its clear water and multiplying the breathtaking scenery. You can take boat cruises around the color-bursting islands until mid-October to see for yourself. Though timing can vary from year to year due to weather and the increasing length of nights, you won’t want to miss it—at least one time in your life.

About Reagan’s Reward:

Reagan Kennedy assumes the position of governess to the Bernheim family’s twin nephews, and her life at Cherry Island’s Casa Blanca becomes frustratingly complicated. Service to a Jewish family and tending to eight-year-old mischievous boys brings trouble galore.

Daniel Lovitz serves as the island’s caretaker and boatman. When he tries to help the alluring Reagan make sense of her new world, her insecurities mount as her confidence is shaken―especially when she crosses the faith divide and when Etta Damsky makes her life miserable. As trouble brews, Daniel sees another side of the woman he’s come to love.

Finalist in the 2020 Selah Awards, Reagan's Reward will touch your heart.

About Susan:

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books.

Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma, and Katelyn’s Choice have each won multiple awards, and book three, Peyton’s Promise, comes out May 2022 with Rachel’s Reunion in November. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise, and Reagan’s Reward, are also award winners.  

Susan is also a published author of two premarital books, two children's picture books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling around the world. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Alcatraz Escapes Part 2

 By Nancy J. Farrier

Alcatraz Prison, photo by Frank Schulenburg
Wikimedia Commons


Last month I wrote about some of the escape attempts from Alcatraz. Several of you wanted to hear more, so I’m doing two more of the most interesting attempted escapes from Alcatraz prison.


Escape #7


On April 13, 1943, four men made a daring escape from Alcatraz at 10:00 am--an escape that was well planned, but there are always unexpected hindrances.


James Boarman (24) was serving twenty years for bank robbery. Harold Brest (29) was serving a life sentence for kidnapping and bank robbery. Floyd Hamilton (36), who had been friends with the famous Bonnie and Clyde, was serving thirty years for bank robbery, assault, and car theft. Fred Hunter (43) was serving a sentence of twenty-five years, ten months, and nine days for assault and for harboring a criminal wanted for kidnapping.


Hamilton came up with the plan which took the four men several months to prepare. Two of them stole pieces of guard uniforms from the laundry which they
concealed in fuel canisters and hid among other canisters. They planned to use these canisters as floatation devices in the bay. The others worked to saw through the bars of a window in the mat room, covering up their work with grease and paint. When they were ready they waited for a fog-enshrouded day.


On April 13th, the four prisoners brandished homemade knives and took one of the guards captive. They tied and gagged him. When his superior officer came looking for him, they did the same to him. Then the men stripped to their underwear and covered their bodies in grease to help protect against the chill of the water. They removed the bars and took some of the canisters but not enough since they were hard to get through the window. They slid thirty feet down a cliff face to the water.


The Captain worked his gag loose and yelled for help but the noise of the machinery was too loud. The first guard slid close and the captain was able to blow his whistle, which alerted the other guards. One of the tower guards saw the men going into the water and opened fire. Guards hurried to bring the prison boat around and found Brest hanging on to Boarman. Brest had been shot in the arm, but Boarman was shot in the head. Brest released Boarman, who sank below the waves. Hunter, injured in the slide to the water, hid in a cave and was found by the guards as they circled the island. 


They thought Hamilton had been shot and drowned but he’d gotten away. He returned and hid in the same cave where they found Hunter. After dark, Hamilton tried to swim across the bay but the water was too cold. He stayed hidden in the cave for three days before he scaled the cliff face and climbed back in the prison through the very window they’d used for their escape. The same captain they had tied up revisited the scene and found a bruised and shivering Hamilton curled up next to the radiator. 


Later on, Hamilton embraced Christianity. He ended up serving as vice-president for International Prison Ministry and in his later years he started an organization called ConAid. He was given a full pardon by Lyndon Johnson.


Escape #13


On June 11, 1962, one of the most brilliant escapes happened. Once again, four men worked together to make the plan and figure out the details. 


Frank Morris (35) was known for his escape attempts at every prison where he’d been incarcerated. Brothers, John (32) and Clarence 
(31) Anglin, grew up swimming in the cold waters of Lake Michigan and were also known for their prison escapes, one of which included hiding John among loaves of bread in a truck. Allen West (35), hot tempered and arrogant, was again a noted prison escape artist. The four met in a federal prison in Atlanta before they were incarcerated at Alcatraz.


West discovered a chink in the Alcatraz armor almost by accident. The ventilator cap at the top of the cell house had not been cemented shut. The four men planned to enlarge the air vents in their cells and exit into a service corridor behind the cells. Then they would find a drain pipe to climb to the top, exit through the ventilator, slide down a pipe to the ground, and paddle to freedom on a cobbled together raft.


Once again, it took months of planning and gathering the extensive materials needed. They had to slowly chip away at the air vents in their cells, hiding the evidence, and being quiet to escape notice. Sometimes they played music to cover up the sounds of digging. Every night for four hours and through several months the four of them worked to dig their way out and prepare their escape supplies.


West finagled a job in the top tier of the building, cleaning and painting the space above the cells. Saying he wanted to prevent debris from getting in the cells, he convinced the guards to let him hang blankets around the workspace. The four men, secreted behind the blankets, furthered their plans. They fashioned a raft from some fifty rubber raincoats they’d stolen and using a design found in a popular mechanics magazine. They also made paddles and life preservers.


Loose ventilator cap.
The prisoners were allowed to have musical instruments in their cells, so West ordered a concertina which they planned to use to inflate the raft. Finally, after seven months they had the materials they needed and had broken through the ventilator’s fastening. The escape route was complete.


During this time of preparation, the men stole materials to make dummy heads. They found flesh-colored paint, and stole hair clippings from the barber shop. In the dark and from outside the cell these heads were very convincing.


Heads used to fool guards.
After lights out on June 11th, they deemed the time had come for the escape. They retrieved the heads and put them in their beds with the blankets make to look like a body. They collected everything they’d prepared and headed for the ventilator. West had a problem getting out of his cell. He had cemented a fake grill over the air vent and couldn’t get it out. By the time he reached the ventilator above, the others were gone.


On the morning of June 12th, the guards did their usual rounds. Prisoners were expected to be standing at their cell door but Morris was still asleep, the Anglins were also still sleeping. The guards entered the cell to rouse them and discovered the fake heads. They were very shocked when the prisoner’s heads rolled off the bed onto the floor.


Guard inspecting escape opening.
The alarm went out and more than 500 FBI and soldiers descended on the island, searching the grounds and the waters in the area. Over the course of the next weeks they found several clues: a receipt with one of the prisoners names on it, black polyethylene with knots tied in it, a makeshift lifejacket covered in bloodstains, and planks lashed together with a rope. A month after the escape a Norwegian freighter spotted a body floating twenty miles from the Golden Gate bridge but didn’t report it for three months. The body is suspected to be one of the inmates but there was no proof.


Only West was recaptured since he hadn’t been able to escape with the others. He was questioned extensively and gave great detail about their plans and escape process. Morris and the Anglin brothers were never found. The manhunt lasted for years until in 1979 they were officially marked as missing and presumed drowned. By this time the prison had been closed for sixteen years. 


Tools used in escape.

This event shocked and terrified the country as people speculated what happened to the three inmates. Clint Eastwood played the role of Morris in, Escape from Alcatraz, a 1979 movie of this escape. The escape has also been featured on Mythbusters and  America’s Most Wanted. The truth of what really happened may never be known.


I am fascinated by the ingenuity of these men and their determination to toil for so long in an attempt at freedom. Braving the cold waters of the bay with the threat of being shot had to be terrifying. Yet they persisted. If you are interested in reading more, I highly recommend Alcatraz Escape Files. The accounts are very detailed but easy to read.

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. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.




Sunday, October 17, 2021

Eleanor Roosevelt: Redefined First Lady


I recently saw several Facebook posts asking what outstanding people you know born in October. That’s a fun way to acknowledge family and friends’ birthdays. But that trigger a question: what famous people were born in October? I reviewed the list, and Eleanor Roosevelt reminded me of my heroine, Angelina, in my new Historical Romance, Angelina’s Resolve. She is carrying on the fight for women’s rights in the mid-1800s while Eleanor Roosevelt did that and so much more in the early 20th century.


Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born October 11, 1884, in Manhattan, New York City, to socialite Anna Rebecca Hall and Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt (Theodore Roosevelt’s brother.) From childhood, she preferred to be called Eleanor. Her mother gave her the nickname “Granny” because she was such a serious child.

She lost both her parents and a brother at an early age and went to live with her Maternal Grandmother Mary Livingston Ludlow. She had a private tutor until she was 15. In 1899, Eleanor was sent to a boarding school in Wimbledon, England,  where she gained confidence from the headmistress who encouraged the girls to be independent thinkers.

Her education ended in 1902 when her grandmother called her home to be present at a debutante ball. Her “coming out party” although beautiful, was horrible for the lonely teen. She’d been away from New York so long that she didn’t know any of the girls her age.

In the summer of 1902, she met her father’s sixth cousin, Franklin Roosevelt. They secretly corresponded, and a romance began. They became engaged on November 22, 1903. Franklin’s mother, Sarah Roosevelt, disliked Eleanor and insisted they keep their engagement secret for a year. She even took Franklin to the Caribbean, hoping he would forget her. That was not to be. On March 17, 1905, they married. Her uncle Theodore Roosevelt gave her away.  

Franklin’s mother set them up in a townhouse in Hyde Park, next to hers. It had a door connecting the two homes. Sarah insisted on running both households and even told the grandchildren, “Your mother bore you, but I am more of a mother to you than her.”

Eleanor and Franklin had six children, but their marriage wasn’t a happy one. Franklin’s first affair would have ended their marriage if not for his mother threatening to disinherit him if he did. The two decided to work things out. Eleanor found her fulfillment in public service and lending her support to organizations that shared her focus on equality for all.

Eleanor's official portrait

If not for Eleanor, Franklin Roosevelt would probably not have been president. He contracted a polio like disease in 1921, leaving him without the use of his legs. His mother advised him to retire from politics, while Eleanor encouraged him to stay the course. She hit the campaign trail on his behalf, propelling Franklin’s career.

Mrs. Roosevelt, always acted on what she felt was right. In 1924, she helped Alfred E. Smith’s reelection campaign for Governor of New York against her cousin Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. He never forgave her.

When her husband became president in 1933, she was depressed at taking on the role of First Lady, which traditionally focused on domesticity and playing hostess. Instead, Eleanor redefined the job of First Lady, making it proactive. She continued her business interests and her speaking engagements in an era when few married women had careers. Eleanor maintained a heavy travel schedule while in the White House. She often made appearances at labor meetings to assure the depression-era workers that the White House was aware of their plight.

She endeared herself to the public when a protest group of World War I veterans marched on Washington for the second time in two years, asking that veterans bonus certificates be awarded early. President Hoover had sent the police with tear gas to disperse the crowd. But the next year, Eleanor met with the protesters at their makeshift camp and listened to their concerns and even sang army songs with them. The meeting defused the tension and a marcher later said, “Hoover sent the Army, but Roosevelt sent his wife.”

During her husband’s time in office, she became an important connection to the African American community. Although Franklin wanted to placate the south, she was very vocal in her support of civil rights. She complained the New Deal programs discriminated against African-Americas who receive a smaller share of relief money. Eleanor spoke against Japanese-American prejudice, and the internment camps during World War II.

Mrs. Roosevelt used the media more than her predecessors, even having her own radio show. She held 348 press conferences and wrote over sixty articles during her tenure as First Lady. In addition, she began a syndicated newspaper column entitled “My Day” that ran six days a week from 1936 until her death in 1962 as well as an advice column, “If You Ask Methat first appeared in The Ladies Home Journal and then McCalls.

 President Truman appointed her as a delegate to the United National General Assembly. In April 1946, she became the first chairperson of the United Nations Committee for Human Rights.

A car struck the former first lady in 1960 and complications from her medical treatment led to her death on November 7, 1962, at 78. President Kennedy ordered all flags at half-mast in her honor. Eleanor Roosevelt did her part to propel the cause of equality for all.

I am giving away one e-book copy of Angelina's Resolve to one lucky commenter.Who is your favorite Historical figure and why?

Cindy Ervin Huff is an Award-winning author of Historical and Contemporary Romance. She loves infusing hope into her stories of broken people. She’s addicted to reading and chocolate. Her idea of a vacation is visiting historical sites and an ideal date with her hubby of almost fifty years would be an evening at the theater.

Visit her website: www.cindyervinhuff.com


Angelina’s Resolve

Architect Angelina DuBois is determined to prove her worth in a male-dominated profession by building a town run by women, where everyone is equal, and temperance is in the by-laws. Contractor Edward Pritchard must guard his heart as he works with the beautiful, strong-willed yet naïve Angelina. He appreciates her ability as an architect, but she frustrates him at every turn with her leadership style. When the project is completed, will it open doors for more work or make him a laughingstock? Can two strong-will people appreciate their differences and embrace their attraction as they work to build the town?



Saturday, October 16, 2021

Did Great Awakening Inspire the American Revolution?

By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

Did the First Great Awakening ignite more than a spiritual passion for Christ Jesus? Did it also awaken a fervor for a nation not yet created that would coexist without a king or queen—a nation for God?

The Puritans who left England in 1630 did not leave their ancestral home and property to brave the stormy Atlantic for financial gain, prestige, or success. They carried a heavier burden. One they could never shrug off. The vision of a better tomorrow for their children, their grandchildren, and their hope to be a beacon of light, an example to the world of how a Christian should behave and live. It was a vision higher than the stars, chosen for a cause they could have never conceived.  

"A model of Christian charity," said Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In one of his speeches, he summed up their mission with a reading from Matthew 5:14,16 “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (KJ)

His eyes sparkled with excitement. ""We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us."   Winthrop's immortal words have lived on throughout the ages inspiring presidents, statesmen, and the American Dream.

However, in the 1700s the American colonies were religiously divided. Winthrop's high ideals were trampled into oblivion. New England belonged to the congregational churches, the Middle colonies were made up of Quakers, Anglicans, Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, the Dutch Reformed, and Congregational followers; the Southern colonies were mostly members of the Anglican Church, with Baptists, Presbyterians, and Quakers thrown in with good measure.

By the late 1700s, many preachers witnessed the sudden upheaval of their congregations’ indifference from being a beacon of Christian light—to a social club. Preachers began reemphasizing Calvinism beliefs, which is a theology that was introduced by John Calvin in the 16th century, stressing the scripture, faith, predestination, and the grace of God.

Then in 1749 Jonathan Edwards, in his plain no-nonsense tongue, spoke in a way every person could understand, denouncing the belief of many that stated good works or church attendance might save a soul.

Edwards boldly denounced this and exclaimed that "God was an angry judge, and humans were sinners!" His strong conviction had people flocking to listen—and this sparked what became known as the Great Awakening in the American colonies.

One of his emotional sermons, titled "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," turned man, woman, and child toward God. The truth of his words fell upon fertile soil and inspired hundreds of conversions, documented in a book titled, Narratives of Surprising Conversions.

This spiritual flame grew brighter when George Whitefield, a minister from Britain, toured the colonies and preached up and down the Atlantic coast. He covered 5,000 miles and peached over 350 times! People gathered by the thousands to hear him.

Nathan Cole describes Whitefield's preaching in Middletown, Connecticut:

"…as I drew nearer it seemed like a steady stream of horses and their riders, scarcely a horse more than his length behind another, all of a lather and foam with sweat, their breath rolling out of their nostrils in the cloud of dust every jump; every horse seemed to go with all his might to carry his rider to hear news from heaven for the saving of Souls…"

Religious skeptic Benjamin Franklin listened intently to one of Whitefield's sermons and soon he and Franklin became fast friends.

Here are the major themes of the First Great Awakening:

All people are born sinners. Sin without salvation will send a person to hell. All people can be saved if they confess their sins to God, seek forgiveness, and accept God's grace. All people can have a direct and emotional connection with God. Religion shouldn't be formal and institutionalized, but rather casual and personal.

Before the Great Awakening, ministers represented the upper class, and these plain-talking faiths that emerged were more democratic, the message being of greater equality. The Great Awakening was "national," and one that all the colonies shared. This helped to break down the differences between them.

Not so with England. America and their cousins across the crystal blue seas became further divided. The revival in America broke the social order of church hierarchy and focused on the individual.

Free, bondservant, or slave; men, women, and children filled with the Holy Spirit spoke freely about God's grace to one another and shared how He had changed their lives. Christ was personal and real; He shared their lives, dreams, and future—and this new faith gave them hope of a brighter future amidst the oppressive taxes of King George.

As John Adams later said, "The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations."

Thomas Paine wrote his pamphlet, Common Sense, in plain talk. Like Edwards and Whitefield, Paine sought to have his message read and understood. Paine said, "It was a kind of secular sermon, an extraordinarily adroit mingling of religion and politics."

John Winthrop promised that the Massachusetts Bay Colony would be like "a city upon a hill," but it took the First Great Awakening to open the floodgates of Christ's outpouring of His Holy Spirit that enabled the American colonists to believe in Christ's forgiveness of sins and have a personal relationship to believe God's promises. They began to see themselves as chosen for a greater cause.

The First Great Awakening provided the colonists their revolutionary ideology—they wanted no king or queen on their throne—only the God they trusted for life, liberty, and eternity would do.


(Last Stanza)

Our fathers' God to Thee,

Author of liberty,

To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King!

By Samuel Frances Smith

Destiny Four Book Series: Writing America's story one truth at a time.

The complete 4-book historical Christian fiction series!

Get whisked into the lives of the McConnell women in this historical Christian fiction series by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield. Follow these strong women from the days of the Civil War through the epic battle with Hitler. Discover what has inspired readers all across the world as these four books are brought together as a set for the first time.

"The message of the Destiny series is even more applicable to today than when it first released. Praying for America’s repentance and to embrace God like never before." Debra B.


“My readers inspire my writing!”

Catherine is an award-winning author of the inspirational historical romance Wilted Dandelions, Destiny of Heart, and Waltz with Destiny. Destiny series includes Swept into Destiny, Destiny’s Whirlwind, Destiny of Heart, and Waltz with Destiny.

Her history books: Images of America; The Lapeer Area, and Images of America: Eastern Lapeer County. 

Her short stories have been published in Guidepost Books, Baker Books, Revell, CrossRiver Media, and Bethany House Publishers.

She is a longtime Michigan resident. Catherine lives with her husband of 45 years, has two adult children, and has four grandchildren.

See https://www.CatherineUlrichBrakefield.com for more information about her books.


U.S. History Massachusetts Bay — "The City Upon a Hill"


Great Awakening; Journal of the American Revolution