Monday, June 5, 2023

The Doomed Swedish Warship "Vasa" - Part Two: Raising It from the Watery Depths!

 By Mary Dodge Allen

Painting of the Vasa by Francis Smitheman

Last month I described the doomed maiden voyage of the Vasa. It sank soon after it was launched on August 10, 1628. This warship was one of the most magnificent of its time - with two separate gun decks carrying a total of 64 brass cannons. Its hull was adorned with painted and gilded hand-carved images depicting Swedish history and mythology. 

And yet, the Vasa sank less than twenty minutes after its launch. Why?

Swedish King Gustav II Adolf made many changes to the original warship design. He issued orders to increase the warship’s length, construct an unprecedented second gun deck, and place elaborate wooden carvings on the warship’s hull.

Unfortunately, these changes made the Vasa unstable and top-heavy. When a strong gust of wind filled its sails, the warship leaned far over to port, took on water and quickly sank. To add to the tragedy, officials had allowed the crew to take family members as guests on the first part of the Vasa’s maiden voyage. It is estimated that approximately 50 crew and family members died. The rest of the crew and guests were rescued. To read Part One of my blog... the details of the Vasa's construction and tragic launch, click on this link:

When was the Vasa found... and resurrected?

The warship sat at the bottom of Stockholm harbor, untouched and well-preserved by the darkness and low salinity of the frigid water... until...

September 1956, when shipwreck-hunter Anders Franzen confirmed that he had finally found the Vasa, and that the ship was amazingly intact.

Scale model of Vasa underwater. (Vasa Museum)

Anders Franzen put together a team of experts to work on raising the Vasa. The Swedish Navy assigned Commodore Edward Clason to run the project, and Edvin Falting was chosen to supervise the dive team. Franzen arranged for Bostroms, the largest marine salvage company in Scandinavia, to conduct the lift, working with Neptune Diving and Salvage Company. 

The Swedish royals took a keen interest in the project. The reigning monarch, King Gustav VI Adolf was a trained archaeologist. His son, Prince Bertil became chairman of the foundation created to support the raising of the ship, and the Swedish public also enthusiastically supported the project.

From 1957 to 1959, six tunnels were dug under the Vasa by navy divers. Huge steel cables were pulled through these tunnels and attached to two floating pontoons, named Oden and Frigg. The plan was to fill the pontoons with water, tighten the cables under the Vasa, and then drain the water from the pontoons. In this way, the Vasa could be lifted free of the muddy bottom, as if cradled in a basket made by the cables.

Divers at work (Public Domain)

During the two-years of tunnel digging, divers found many artifacts, including elaborate wooden carvings that had fallen off the hull, and even a brass cannon, which was lifted from the water in September 1958.

Ornate brass cannon from the Vasa. (Vasa Museum)

Diagram of the lift stages. (Vasa Museum)

On August 20, 1959 the first of several lift stages began, successfully liberating the Vasa from the grip of the muddy bottom. This lifting and moving process was repeated eighteen times... until the Vasa reached the shallow depth of 55 feet. 

Over the course of the next several months, divers went to work preparing the Vasa for its final lift -- plugging holes, fitting covers over the gun ports and rebuilding portions of the hull. The decks were cleared of mud and debris to make the ship lighter, and many artifacts were salvaged, such as coins, tools, games, and the bones of passengers who perished.


Facial reconstruction of Vasa passengers found. (Vasa Museum)

Backgammon game found, complete with dice and markers (Vasa Museum)

The Vasa's Final Lift:

On April 24, 1961 – nearly 333 years after it sank – the Vasa was lifted out of the water. Thousands of onlookers lined the shore to watch. People were thrilled to see the ship slowly emerge into sight. TV crews were there, filming the lift, and it was broadcast live across Europe.

The Vasa - lifted from the depths. (Public Domain)

After the Vasa was lifted, it was moved to its own pontoon dockage. Over the next several years, archaeologists and conservators worked on the huge task of removing the remainder of the mud, debris and artifacts. Divers continued recovering hundreds of loose pieces from its decks and hull, while plans were made to house and display the Vasa in its own museum.

Salvage crew at work. (Public Domain)

The Vasa had been well-preserved underwater, due to the cold, the lack of salinity in Stockholm harbor, and protection from ultraviolet light on the dark sea bottom. To keep the ship's hull from shrinking and cracking now that it was out of the water, conservators sprayed polyethylene glycol – a waxy substance - on all of its wooden surfaces.

The Vasa Museum Opens:

The Vasa Museum opened to the public in June 1990. It is located in Stockholm, on the island of Djurgarden. In June 2001, I visited this museum with my family. The warship itself is magnificent, and many fascinating artifacts and scale models are displayed throughout the museum. It is well worth a visit.

The Vasa Museum (Photo by author)

Scale model of Vasa leaving port. (Photo by author)

Painted and reconstructed wooden carvings. (Vasa Museum)

Figure on Left: Actual Vasa Warship on display at the museum. 
Figure at Right: Vasa scale model - painted and gilded. (Vasa Museum)

Unfortunately, the Vasa is undergoing a slow process of degradation, deforming a few millimeters every year. Even so, there is no immediate risk of structural failure. In 2004, the museum upgraded its climate-control system to keep the humidity levels stable and to help slow the process of wood warping. An effort is also underway to remove the corroding steel bolts - used in the 1960’s during the original reconstruction - and replace them with bolts made from a higher grade of stainless steel. The conservators are also working on a computerized design for a new support structure. 

There are many ironies with the Vasa. It was well-constructed but not well-proportioned. It was an example of magnificent craftsmanship, and yet it had basic structural faults -- its high center of gravity and the excess weight of cannons and ornamentation on her upper decks made her unstable to the point of being unseaworthy. 

Perhaps the biggest irony: The Vasa warship sank on its maiden voyage in less than twenty minutes, and yet it now exists as the only fully-intact example of warship construction from the early 1600’s. 

Mary Dodge Allen is the winner of a 2022 Christian Indie Award, a 2022 Angel Book Award, and two Royal Palm Literary Awards (Florida Writer's Association). She and her husband live in Central Florida, where she has served as a volunteer with the local police department. Her childhood in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes, sparked her lifelong love of the outdoors. She has worked as a Teacher, Counselor and Social Worker. Her quirky sense of humor is energized by a passion for coffee and chocolate. She is a member of the Florida Writer's Association, American Christian Fiction Writers and Faith Hope and Love Christian Writers. 

Mary's novel: Hunt for a Hometown Killer won the 2022 Christian Indie Award, First Place - Mystery/Suspense; and the 2022 Angel Book Award - Mystery/Suspense.

Click the link below to buy Hunt for a Hometown Killer at

Link to Mary's Spotlight Interview:   Mary Dodge Allen Author Spotlight EA Books

Sunday, June 4, 2023

 By Donna Wichelman

Have you ever visited a historical site that stirred your heart and left an indelible effect on your life? Several places have done that for me, but I confess a particular sympathy toward the Waldensian Valleys of the Cottian Alps in the Savoy region between France and Italy. Today, I continue the series I began on April 4th, 2023 about the Palace of Versailles and King Louis XIV.

Last time, we discussed how Louis's expansion of the Palace of Versailles from a modest hunting lodge into an extravagant residence symbolized his desire to extend France's reign over Europe. In this blog, we'll examine how Louis used his religious policies to advance his belief in the monarchy's absolute divine power and authority by reaching into the realm of religious freedoms across Europe.

Waldensian Headquarters, Torre Pellice, Italy: Donna's Gallery

Louis XIV came to the throne at four years of age in 1643, when his father, Louis XIII, died. His mother, Anne of Austria, annulled her husband's will, appointing a regency council to rule on Louis's behalf in favor of making her sole regent. Anne and her chief minister, Cardinal Jules Mazarin solidified the absolute power of the monarchy, angering nobles and aristocracy alike, who revolted in a civil war called the Fronde. But by 1653, Mazarin suppressed the rebels and, at the end of the decade, negotiated a peace treaty with Spain, making France a leading European power.

Influenced by his mother, who instilled in Louis the fear of "crimes committed against God," and Cardinal Mazarin, who had centralized power on the throne, Louis XIV declared himself God's representative on earth when he began his rule in 1661 after Mazarin's death. He viewed himself infallible and all disobedience or rebellion against the throne sinful.

Louis's self-exultation translated into various indulgences, extravagances, and manipulations, but gave France the economic means to become self-sufficient.

Also viewing himself as a defender of the Catholic faith and all Protestants as disobedient enemies of the throne, Louis fostered a grand sweep of persecution across French-controlled Europe. He revoked the Edict of Nantes, granting freedom of worship and assembly to French Protestants established by his grandfather, Henry IV in 1598, and in 1685 replaced it with the Edict of Fontainebleau aimed at wiping out all Protestantism, particularly the Janesnists of Port-Royal, the Huguenots, and the Waldensians of the Cottian Alps.

The edict destroyed all Protestant churches, closed their schools, and mandated conversion to Catholicism on the threat of death. Thousands died as their children were taken away and given to Catholic parents to raise. Thousands more fled to neighboring countries in exile from their homes.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs dedicates one page to the Waldensians. Yet, they greatly impacted Christian Europe during the second millennium A.D. and helped set the stage for the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Their story of enduring faith and valor high in the Cottian Alps between France and Italy during Louis XIV's reign captivated my attention over a decade ago and set me on a journey that led me to the Waldensian Valleys west of Turin, Italy to talk to local scholars and visit the many museums and sites dedicated to their story.

Monument of  Sibaud, Bobbio Pellice, Italy: Donna's Gallery
Oath of Loyalty among the Waldensian Faithful when they Reached Their Home Valleys, 1689

Some say this courageous group banded together in 1170 A.D., when merchant Peter Waldo took a vow of poverty and appealed to the pope to consider their grievances. Others have suggested that these great men and women of faith came down from the first-century church and carried on the traditions of their ancestors throughout the first two millennia A.D.

After several days combing the Waldensian Valleys, I became convinced their story bore telling. Whether the Waldensian narrative began in 1170 A.D., as is the official church position, or their ancestry is as ancient as the first-century church, it is a real-world drama that breathes life into a steadfast faith that stays the course no matter the cost. The Cave of Faith provides an example of enduring faith where tradition says as many as 300 gathered in secret to worship. When Louis's dragoons discovered them, they were smoked out and died of smoke inhalation.

Cave of Faith, Angrogna Valley, Italy: Donna's Gallery

The tide turned against Louis XIV’s stranglehold on Europe in 1689, when William of Orange began his Glorious Revolution, engaging Protestants to fight for their freedoms and return from exile to their homes. Waldensians know this as their Glorious Return when they marched from Switzerland to their home valleys.

Museum Depicting the Glorious Return: Balsiglia, Italy: Donna's Gallery

A Sketch of Waldensian Soldiers March to their Home Valleys
Museum at Basiglia, Italy: Donna's Gallery

The Waldensian story so inspired me that it took on a life of its own in a contemporary romantic suspense series. I wanted to create compelling circumstances for my protagonists in the present that mimicked a need to run the course and finish the race as their ancestors had done through their enduring faith and courage in the past.

A remnant of Waldensians still exists in their home valleys in Italy, and they are always excited to talk to people about their history. They welcome visitors to step into the past and discover their historical roots. You can learn more about them at the Waldensian Cultural Center Foundation or Chiesa Valdese. 

But one doesn't have to fly to Italy if they live in North America. A community of Waldensians lives in Valdese, North Carolina. Each summer, a theater troupe rehearses the Waldensian history in an outdoor amphitheater dramatic production called From This Day Forward. The visitor can also walk the Trail of Faith, a pathway constructed with to-scale outdoor replicas of the historical sites throughout the Waldensian Valleys. There are also other Waldesnian-related museums in the area. Visit their tourist office to get more information.

Replica of the Cave of Faith, Valdese, North Carolina: Donna's Gallery

An interesting side note about the Waldensian story: In July 2015, Pope Francis made peace with the Waldensian faithful, asking forgiveness for crimes perpetrated by the church in past centuries. It was a monumental moment for the Waldensian Church.

Donna worked as a communications professional before turning to full-time writing. Her short stories, essays, and articles have appeared in various inspirational publications, and she has two indie-published Christian contemporary suspense novels in her Waldensian Series, Light Out of Darkness and Undaunted Valor. 

Weaving history and faith into stories of intrigue and redemption grew out of her love of history and English literature as a young adult while attending the United World College of the Atlantic--an international college in Wales, U.K. She loves to explore peoples and cultures of the world and enjoys developing plots that show how God's love abounds even in the profoundly difficult circumstances of our lives. Her stories reflect the hunger in all of us for love, forgiveness, and redemption in a world that often withholds second chances.

You can find out more about Donna at 

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Maihaugen - Open Air Museum: Inside Out

Inside a house at Maihaugen washboard grater table

Beauty and wonder exist inside the structures of the Open Air Museum just as they do outside. Peering into the main rooms and lofts of these 190 buildings gives visitors a chance to imagine what everyday life was like for Norwegians in the 1700s and 1800s. More than 50,000 items are catalogued at Maihaugen. They also give a glimpse into how the lives of these individuals unfolded. In the image above the washboard indicates 1864. Washing clothes was a chore, literally and figuratively without our modern conveniences. How do you suppose they used the other implements shown in that photo?

To consider an upper-class family’s home and lifestyle, peek into the main room of the House from Mytting. Up to date with all the latest of the 19th century, the people who lived here enjoyed furniture from urban craftsmen and from their travels. The interior was divided into rooms, which made cleaning easier. Not to mention the outdoor privy which kept the interior tidy as well. 

If you are thinking this furniture and decor looks a bit fancy for a house with grass growing on its roof, your thoughts are in line. The exterior of this dwelling was first built in 1760 but was erected in Sandvig's garden in 1897. The final placement at Maihaugen occurred in 1904. (You can read about the founder of this museum, Sandvig, in the last post.) The furniture collections evolved over those 137 years and do not reflect the original pieces from 1760. Those would be more in line with what you can see in some of the upcoming houses.

The House from Vigstad has a half-loft. It has building dates of 1709, 1813, and 1904. This “Akershus style” features decorative paintings on its doors and cupboards. These motifs came before carvings of later dates. The paintings are true examples of what existed in the later portions of the 18th century. The main area was a workroom for craftsmen who created bentwood boxes that could hold food and small objects.

Before the days of assisted living or nursing homes, the younger generation took over the farms and moved their parents into adjoining structures so they could care for them. If you read Amish stories, you may recall the “Dawdi Haus.” Similarly, in Norway this “Nystua” or New House was built in 1787. It has a room with a bedroom connected to the main house for this purpose.

New House with living room and bedroom for the older parents to live connected to the main house

In 1860 the New Education Act passed, requiring a permanent school in each township if there were enough children. This was the end of the ambulatory school system. This School House was finished in 1863. Notice the teacher’s quarters attached to the school room. This benefit gives a whole new meaning to commuting to work, doesn’t it?

This Winter House was built at the end of the 17th century. It gained new decorations and was moved in 1785. Less people lived on the farm in the winter. Smaller structures were therefore fitting. Children slept in a half loft. There was a drying cupboard fitted with slate shelves between the fireplace and the wall. A stove from 1758 made by Baerum Ironworks sits in the room. Notice the nifty niches to store dishes near the ceiling and the clock attached to the wall.

The last structure for this post is the Per Gynt Loft. It was built around 1620. Yes, you read that correctly, 1620, and it is still standing where it was re-built. As a frame of reference, the Mayflower left England in August of 1620.

The room you see on the ground floor of the loft stored grain. Upstairs the living room with fireplace served as a guest room for any season of the year. Anders wanted to include the character Peer Gynt inspired by a Norwegian Folk Tale, so he named the loft Per Gynt.

Next month is the last visit to Maihaugen. We will look inside the Lieutenant's House, talk about Norwegian farms of the era, and glance at some glorious doors. Which structure boasted your favorite interior from the post above? Were there any tools or implements you recognized and could share their purposes?

As a child, Rebecca loved to write. She nurtured this skill as an educator and later as an editor for an online magazine. Rebecca then joined the Cru Ministry - NBS2GO/Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO, at its inception. She serves as the YouVersion Content Creator, with over 80 Plans on the app.

Rebecca lives near the mountains with her husband and a rescued dog named Ranger. If it were up to her, she would be traveling - right now. As a member of ACFW and FHLCW, Rebecca learns the craft of fiction while networking with a host of generous writers. She is working on her first fiction novel. This story unfolds from the 1830s in Northern Georgia.

Rebecca and fellow blogger, Cindy Stewart, traveled to Europe on a writing research trip. They met many people and interesting characters during their journey. Rebecca captured the images shared in this post, except for the troll... he is still at large.

Connect with Rebecca:

Friday, June 2, 2023

The Life of Lewis Latimer, American Inventor and Patent Draftsman

Blogger: Amber Lemus

While researching inventions, I came across a biography for an American inventor by the name of Lewis Latimer. His story is astounding, and he is almost never heard of, so I wanted to share his story with you all today.

Lewis' story really starts with his parents, Rebecca and George Latimer. The couple escaped slavery in Virginia by fleeing to Chelsea Massachusetts in 1842. Since George was the son of a white man and an enslaved African American mother, his skin was light, and he had many of the white features. His wife posed as a servant of his, and they escaped safely, but George's former owner put out a reward for his capture. When he and his wife reached Boston, he was immediately recognized by a colleague of his former slave owner. A few days later, he was arrested.
Lewis' Father, George Latimer
Public Domain

The news of his detention sparked a great conflict in the State of Massachusetts. Latimer was represented by Samuel Sewall, who organized meetings that came to be known as the "Latimer Meetings." According to some sources, Fredrick Douglass was also involved in George's defense. The trial ended with George purchasing his own freedom from his former owner for the price of four hundred dollars. However, the case led to fundraising, petitions, and even the 1843 Liberty Act which is sometimes called the "Latimer Law."

After that case was settled, George and Rebecca settled in Chelsea to raise their family. On September 4, 1848, Lewis was born, the youngest of four children. During his younger years, Lewis spent time in his father's barbershop. But the happiness was not to last.

When Lewis was 10 years old, his family had to be split up. With the ruling of the Dred Scott case, slaves who had escaped to freedom had to prove that they had the consent of their former owners to become free. Lewis's father had no such proof, so he fled, leaving his family behind and hoping that his absence would make the family less of a target. Lewis's mother decided it would be best to further split up the family, so she sent Lewis and his brothers to a farm school.

At the age of 16, Lewis joined the United States Navy, and served aboard the USS Massasoit during the Civil War. He received an honorable discharge on July 3, 1865 and gained employment as an office boy in a patent office. This is where he began to show his true potential.

Lewis Latimer
Public Domain

Lewis quickly learned how to use the tools of drafting and sketching, and his boss started noticing his talent. He was promoted to draftsman, and then head draftsman, his earnings increasing with each promotion. Lewis's creativity was sparked by drafting sketches of other's inventions, and he began to tinker with some of his own.

In 1873, Lewis wed Mary Wilson Lewis, but it would be ten years before they were blessed with children. They did end up having two daughters, Emma Jeanette in 1883, and Louise Rebecca in 1890.

In 1874, Lewis registered his first patent, along with his coworker Charles M. Brown. Together, they had developed a system for water closets in rail cars. A couple years after that, Lewis was hired by Alexander Graham Bell to draft the drawings that would be needed to register the patent for Bell's telephone.

In 1879, Lewis moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut and started working for a competitor of Thomas Edison, the US Electric Lighting Company owned by Hiram Maxim. It was here that he made his most well-known innovation. He was working on improving the filaments inside the light bulbs so they could last longer and be more cost-effective. Lewis successfully invented a modification to the filament process that made it more durable, and therefore more affordable to the public. These filaments were substantially safer than gas lamps, but also less harsh than some of the prior inventions such as arc lights. His invention transformed the average American home after nightfall.

Lewis was an incredibly intelligent man, who could speak and translate into German and French, and could teach workers how to create a light bulb from beginning to end, including the glass blowing formation of the bulb. He registered several patents during his lifetime, including a fore-runner to our modern day Air Conditioner.

After leaving the US Electric Lighting Company, Lewis went on to work with Thomas Edison, became a patent inspector, an expert witness, an author of several books, a teacher, and a member of the Board of Patent Control.

Despite many societal challenges, Lewis was able to become a successful inventor and was respected in his field. He was accepted into the Edison Pioneers, an exclusive group of 100 innovative minds, and he was the first person of color to attain that honor. He was also an early advocate of Civil Rights

Lewis Latimer passed away on December 11, 1928 at the age of 80, but his legacy remained. There is a museum in New York with his family's home dedicated to the inventor, the invention program at MIT is named after him, as well as several schools also being named in his memory. Finally, Lewis was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2006. 

Light Bulb by Lewis Latimer
Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Lemus inspires hearts through enthralling tales She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".

She lives near the Ozarks in her "casita" with her prince charming. Between enjoying life as a boy mom, and spinning stories out of soap bubbles, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples.

Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!


Thursday, June 1, 2023

Saved by the Silk: A Miraculous Parachute Escape from WWII

by Cindy Kay Stewart

Over a million Allied airmen flew missions over occupied Europe during WWII. Many of their planes were shot down, but the parachute played a pivotal role in saving the lives of tens of thousands of these troops. Fascinating stories of miraculous parachute drops abound. Today's post covers a few experiences of Royal Air Force (RAF) flyers. If you missed the previous stories, you can find them here and here and here.

The British Stirling Heavy Bomber (Public Domain)

After his Stirling Bomber was shot down by flak over France in 1944, Flight Engineer Joseph Cashmore baled out from below 300 feet. The flight was halfway across France and traveling at 300 feet to avoid radar detection when searchlights revealed its presence to the enemy. After the ensuing bombardment destroyed the plane, the pilot ordered his men to bale but then rescinded the order while he attempted to bring the Stirling higher. He wasn't successful.

Each crew member prepared to jump. Cashmore went to the rear floor escape hatch and kicked the locking handles that were preventing the hatch from opening. They broke off. Cashmore and the flight sergeant beside him each insisted that the other jump first. By the time Cashmore exited, the bomber was in its last dive.

After pulling his ripcord, Cashmore "felt a sharp jerk as the harness tightened between his thighs and a thud, after which he knew no more." He came to but had no injuries. "He had landed in a depression which contained the only patch of deep snow in the whole field." 

The French Underground rescued Cashmore, but the Germans captured him escaping near the Swiss frontier. After the war, he returned to England and was appointed Warrant Officer-in-charge of an enemy prisoner-of-war camp. Unteroffizier Heinz Ulrich was a prisoner there and, after learning that Cashmore had flown in Stirlings, bragged to Cashmore that he had earned an Iron Cross for shooting a Stirling down in 1944. 

The date was March 4th, the same night Cashmore had been shot down. Cashmore grabbed a map of France and had Ulrich point out where the kill had taken place and at what time. Both answers, along with other descriptions, matched up with Cashmore's ill-fated flight. Ulrich was the man who had ended Cashmore's active participation in the war. The two became friends, and after Ulrich's release, they corresponded for several years.

Return on July 1st to read more stories of miraculous parachute escapes during WWII. 



Mackersey, Ian. Into the Silk: The Dramatic True Stories of Airmen Who Baled Out - and Lived. Sapere Books.


These true, heartwarming stories portray the love and bravery shown by many individuals who risked their lives to save those in danger and help win WWII for the Allies. Some found themselves at the mercy of their conquerors but managed to escape. Others sacrificed their lives. From snow-covered Norway to Japanese-occupied China, from remote northern Russia to the flatlands of Belgium, larger than life stories give credence to the adage that truth is stranger than fiction. 

Click here to download this free e-book by subscribing to my newsletter. 


Cindy Kay Stewart, a retired high school social studies teacher, and current church pianist and inspirational historical romance author, writes stories of hope, steeped in faith, and grounded in love. Her manuscripts have won the Touched by Love Award, the First Impressions contest, and the Sandra Robbins Inspirational Writing Award. They've also finaled in the Maggie Award of Excellence and the Cascade Awards, and semi-finaled in the Genesis contest. Cindy is passionate about revealing God’s handiwork in history. She resides in North Georgia with her college sweetheart and husband of forty-two years. Her daughter, son-in-law, and four adorable grandchildren live nearby. Cindy’s currently writing a fiction series set in WWII Europe.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Crush, Texas -- a City For Just One Day by Vickie McDonough


One of my favorite tasks as a writer is going on research trips and discovering interesting tidbits of history. While researching End of the Trail, the final book in the Texas Trails series, I learned about a unique historical event. It’s called “The Crash at Crush” and is the brainchild of George William Crush, a passenger agent of  the Missouri, Kansas, & Texas Railroad, also known as “the Katy.”


In an effort to better promote their railroad, Katy officials agreed to Crush’s unusual suggestion of crashing two retired train engines. The locomotives, Old No. 999, painted bright green, and Old No. 1001, painted a vibrant red, were displayed prominently during tours throughout the state and the “Monster Crash” was advertised all the summer of 1896. The event was free, with the exception of the train fare to deliver attendees to Crush, which cost $2 for a ticket from anywhere within the state.
George Crush chose a shallow valley fifteen miles north of Waco for the location, and in early September, five hundred workmen laid four miles of track for the collision run, built a grandstand for attendees, three speaker's stands, two telegraph offices, a stand for reporters, and a bandstand. A restaurant was set up in a borrowed Ringling Brothers circus tent, and a huge carnival midway with dozens of medicine shows, game booths, and lemonade and soft-drink stands were built. Lastly, a special depot with a platform 2,100 feet long was constructed along with a painted sign, informing passengers that they had arrived at Crush, Texas.

Twenty thousand people were expected, but by early afternoon on September 15, somewhere between 40-50,000 had arrived. At 5:00 P.M., engines No. 999 and 1001 backed off to opposite ends of the four-mile track. George Crush trotted a white horse to the center of the track and raised his white hat. After a long pause, he whipped it sharply down. A huge cheer rose from the crowd, and the locomotives lunged forward, whistles shrieking as they barreled toward each other at a speed of 45 mph. In a thunderous, grinding crash, the trains collided. The two locomotives reared up like wild stallions as they rammed together. Contrary to predictions, both boilers shattered, filling the air with hot steam, smoke, and pieces of flying metal. Spectators turned and ran in a blind panic. In the end, several people were killed and at least six others were injured seriously by the flying debris.

The wreckage was toted away, with souvenir hunters claiming pieces of the debris, booths and tent were removed, and by nightfall, Crush, Texas ceased to exist. The Katy railroad settled all claims against it, and George Crush was fired that same day, but he was rehired the next day and worked for the Katy Railroad until he retired. Here’s a link to a YouTube tale of the crash and some cool historic photos:  

I hope you enjoyed the story of the Crash at Crush. What’s the most interesting historical event you’ve read about?

Gambler Gabe Coulter is confronted by a drunken cowboy who wants his money back. Gabe refuses and a gunfight ensues. The dying man tells Gabe the money was for his wife and son. Though the shooting was self-defense, Gabe wrestles with guilt. The only way he knows to get rid of it is to return the money he fairly won to the man’s widow. Lara Talbot sees Gabe as derelict like her husband and refuses his help. But as she struggles to feed her family, she wonders if God might have sent him to help. 

Available on Amazon / Free KU

Vickie McDonough is the CBA, EPCA and Amazon best-selling author of 54 books and novellas. Vickie grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Vickie’s books have won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best, OWFI Best Fiction Novel Award, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice awards. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, making cards, gardening, reading, and traveling. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

BOOK DAY May 2023

May Your Reading Dreams Come True

With One of These Blooming Reads




2023 SELAH Award Finalist!

The Quilting Circle (Book 5)

A Sweet Historical Romance Series

By Mary Davis

Will Cordelia abandon her calling for love? Cordelia wants to escape the social norms for her society station. Unless she can maneuver her father into relinquishing her trust fund, she might have to concede defeat—as well as her freedom—and marry. Every time Lamar finds a fascinating lady, her heart belongs to another. When a vapid socialite is presented as a prospective bride, he contemplates flying off in his hot air balloon instead. Is Lamar the one to finally break the determination of Cordelia’s parents to marry her off? Or will this charming bachelor fly away with her heart?




By Debbie Lynne Costello

A broken heart, controlling father, and intrusive Scot leave Charlotte reeling. Accused of stealing an heirloom pin, she must choose between an unwanted marriage and the ruin of her family name. With her and her sister’s futures at stake, Charlotte must navigate through injustice to find forgiveness and true happiness. Eager to find the traitor who caused the death of his brother, Duncan comes to America attempting to fit into Charleston society. But when the headstrong Charlotte catches his eye, Duncan acquires a second mission—winning the lass's hand. After several spurnings, he uses unconventional ways of winning her heart.




By Terrie Todd

In the dead-end Canadian town of Bleak Landing, Irish immigrant Bridget O’Sullivan lives in a ramshackle house as the Great Depression rages. The fiery redhead lands a job at a garment factory, the first step on her journey to shed her past and begin anew. When her father dies, Bridget―now a striking and accomplished woman―returns home to claim her inheritance. But she has no identification to prove her stake, and no one in town recognizes her―except her old nemesis, Victor Harrison. Now a war veteran, can Victor prove he’s a changed man worthy of Bridget’s forgiveness and more?




Four Stories of Romance Beneath the Pines

Naomi Musch, et al.

“Not for Love”

By Naomi Musch

A mail-order husband might be the craziest idea Maggie’s ever had—or the best. When widow Maggie Duncan sends a letter up north to the logging camps in search of a hard-working husband—in name only—to help her save her farm, she knows she’ll have to sort through all kinds of comers. Not until Jack McCallister shows up does Maggie figure it’s safe to set aside her scattergun. But she’s discomforted by the way Jack settles in as though the farm—and her heart—are already his. After all, she has no expectation of ever marrying for love again.




Mail Order Brides Book 17

By Kimberly Grist

A hopeless romantic, Abilene is on the run again, dreaming of her happily ever after- an understanding husband, a house in the country, and peace. Sheriff Mark Joseph believes that love only leads to heartache and is not worth the risk. The last thing he needs is a wife. Long work hours with a healthy dose of danger are the best antidote to a broken heart. Will Abilene find a way to penetrate the barriers of the sheriff’s heart?




By Michelle Shocklee

1961. After a longtime resident at Nashville’s Maxwell House Hotel suffers a stroke, Audrey is tasked with cleaning out the reclusive woman’s room. She discovers an elaborate scrapbook filled with memorabilia from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Love notes on the backs of unmailed postcards inside capture Audrey’s imagination with hints of a forbidden romance . . . and troubling revelations about the disappearance of young women at the exposition. Audrey enlists the help of a handsome hotel guest as she tracks down clues and information about the mysterious “Peaches” and her regrets over one fateful day, nearly sixty-five years earlier.




A Time-Slip Novel

By Kathleen E. Kovach, et al.

A secret. A key. Much was buried on the Titanic, but now it's time for resurrection. Follow two intertwining stories a century apart. 1912 - Matriarch Olive Stanford protects a secret after boarding the Titanic that must go to her grave. 2012 - Portland real estate agent Ember Keaton-Jones receives the key that will unlock the mystery of her past... and her distrusting heart. Review: “I told my wife to move this book to the top of her reading list... This titanic story is more interesting than the one told in the Titanic movie... She will absolutely love it.”




By Mary Dodge Allen

2022 Christian Indie Award Winner, First Place – Mystery Suspense

2022 Angel Award Winner – Mystery Suspense

While Roxy is working her mail route, a sinkhole opens up, uncovering the car used in her husband’s murder, years earlier. Roxy turns amateur sleuth, using her photographic memory to piece together clues, and her relationship with the town’s handsome detective grows close. When the killer takes Roxy captive, she must use her wits to survive.




By Janalyn Voigt

The first three western historical romance novels in the Montana Gold series are marked down, but hurry. The sale ends soon. Purchase the books, today.

Hills of Nevermore (book 1) - Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish preacher bent on protecting her?

Cheyenne Sunrise (book 2) – After her wagon journey goes terribly wrong, a woman disillusioned in men must rely on a half-Cheyenne trail guide.

Stagecoach to Liberty (book 3) – A young Hessian girl must decide to trust a handsome Irish stranger or remain with her alarming companions.




By Linda Shenton Matchett

Pledges can’t be broken, can they? Finally out from under her father’s tyrannical thumb, Maeve Wycliffe can live life on her terms. So what if everyone sees her as a spinster to be pitied. She’ll funnel her energies into what matters most: helping the less fortunate and getting women the right to vote. When she’s forced to team up with the local newspaper editor to further the cause, will her pledge to remain single get cropped?




By Johnnie Alexander, et al.

Two Novellas in One! When Polly Matthews and her brother opened their own detective agency in 1938, she expected to be an equal partner, not a secretary. So when they receive an assignment from the owner of a pottery manufacturing company, Polly jumps into action. Jasper Kane is determined to find out who’s stealing his designs. He’s surprised to find that the beautiful, intriguing new office clerk is actually the undercover detective he hired. Thrown together by chance, can they catch the culprit and shape a new life together?