Friday, June 22, 2018

Cedar Key Lighthouse

Cedar Key Lighthouse, Florida, Photo by Marilyn Turk

By Marilyn Turk 
*Comment at the end for a chance to win a book.

As other authors on this blog have noted, one of the best perks of being a historical writer is being able to visit the places in the story. Although the research is interesting on the internet from the chair in my office, it pales in comparison to seeing a place firsthand.

My series, Coastal Lights Legacy, is set near four different lighthouses on the coast of Florida. Each book takes place during significant events that occurred near or in each lighthouse. The lighthouses are the St. George Island Light during the Civil War, the Cedar Key light after Reconstruction, the St. Augustine Light a few years after the Civil War and the Pensacola Lighthouse during Reconstruction. Naturally, I had to visit each lighthouse to see firsthand what the area was like.

Of course, I couldn’t go back in time, but some things have remained since the 1800’s, the lighthouses, for one. Fortunately, I live in Florida, so these places aren’t too far away for me to visit.

This month, the second book in the series, Revealing Light, was released. Set in Cedar Key, Florida, the story happens shortly after the occupying Union troops left and southerners began to take back control of their state. My main character, Sally Rose McFarlane, who was born at the end of Rebel Light, goes to Cedar Key as a governess to teach the children of a successful town lawyer. However, Sally Rose has a secret she must hide in the changing environment of the area. That’s all I’m going to tell you, so I won’t spoil your reading of the book!

The town of Cedar Key is on the largest island in a cluster of islands known as the “cedar keys” in the Big Bend area of Florida, on the west coast. Also known as The Forgotten Coast, the area is home to places once significant or popular in Florida, but “forgotten” when interstates and progress diverted traffic. Since the Cedar Key Lighthouse is significant in Revealing Light, I had to go see it, right? But that is more easily said than done because the 1854 lighthouse is on an island called Seahorse Key about three miles from Cedar Key. In addition, the island is leased by the University of Florida as a marine lab that houses a dozen or so students in the lighthouse building several times of the year. What’s more, the island is only open to the public twice a year when the lighthouse has a special open house. Otherwise, the island is off-limits to the public due to its protected status as a nesting area for over 200 species of birds.

It just so happened that when I planned to visit Cedar Key,the island was not open to the public. So, to go to the lighthouse, I needed special permission from the university’s director of the marine lab. I contacted the director, and in what I believe is a God-wink, the director allowed me to go so I could do research for my book. Since I didn’t have transportation, he even provided that for me. I  met the island caretaker at a boat dock in Cedar Key, and he took me to Seahorse Key. 

What an amazing experience to view this uncivilized area through my character’s eyes! The caretaker proved to be an invaluable source of information as he pointed out various special features on the island, such as a small cemetery where Civil War sailors are buried and a hidden cistern within the lighthouse building itself.

General Zachary Taylor proposed the lighthouse on the island in 1850 due to its unique height above all the surrounding islands and the heavy commercial traffic in the area. However, it was General George Meade who designed the lighthouse that provided guidance to vessels transporting Florida’s red cedar to the two Cedar Key pencil factories.

By the late 1800’s, the area’s resources had been depleted, and with a new railroad built to Tampa, business shifted south. When an 1896 hurricane wiped out the majority of the commercial buildings, the area economy was lost. In 1915, the light was extinguished, and in 1929, President Herbert Hoover created the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge reserving three of the keys (islands) as bird sanctuaries.

On my trip to Seahorse Key, I had the opportunity to climb the spiral stairs of the lighthouse and step out on the gallery where I could see for miles—islands and water galore—the same sights the characters in Revealing Light saw. During my visit, I also saw shoreline trees filled with so many birds on nests, they looked like flowers. Hearing their symphony of nesting coos was amazing, accompanied only by the splashing of the waves on the beach. I wonder if Sally Rose heard that too?

Guess you’ll have to read Revealing Light to find out.

Leave a comment and your email address below for a drawing to win a copy!

Marilyn Turk writes historical fiction set on the coast. The Gilded Curse, a World War II novel, published in 2016, won a Silver Scroll award and its sequel, Shadowed by a Spy, will be out in July 2018. Rebel Light was the first book of her Coastal Lights Legacy novels which feature stories with lighthouse settings. The second book in the series, Revealing Light, will be published in 2018. In addition, Marilyn’s novella, The Wrong Survivor, will be in a collection called Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides coming out in November 2018. She has also written a book of devotions called Lighthouse Devotions. She blogs about lighthouses and writing on her website @ In addition to climbing lighthouses, Marilyn enjoys boating, fishing, tennis, and gardening.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Bootleggers and Blind Pigs - Prohibition Era Detroit

The Prohibition era conjures images of flappers, Al Capone Tommy-guns, hidden passages, and secret basement speakeasies, otherwise known as blind pigs. I was surprised to learn the impact of illegal alcohol smuggling in Detroit during Prohibition. 

Detroit police inspecting equipment found in a
clandestine brewery during the Prohibition era
{PD} National Archive
From the mid-1800s, the temperance movement worked to outlaw sales of alcohol in Michigan. They hoped to reduce crime and improve family life. At the end of 1916, Michigan was the first state to amend prohibition into the state constitution. It took effect in May of 1917.

Soon the criminal element were happy to take over the control of alcohol sales through bootlegging and smuggling. Individual states had their own laws and in 1918, Congress enacted a temporary law to limit the sales of beverages to those with an alcohol content of 1.28% or below. By 1920,
the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the sales of alcoholic beverages altogether. While wine could be used for religious purposes and alcohol could be owned and consumed privately, local laws could be much stricter. 

Detroit, circa 1920, {PD}

Detroit, a short distance across the river from Windsor, Ontario, Canada became a prime hub for smuggling liquor. Whether by boat, driving across the frozen river in winter, or walking across with bottles stowed in their boots (Real bootlegging!), it was a short distance to bring in the illegal substance from a foreign country. The bootlegger’s trick to sneaking the hooch across the ice safely was to drive slowly and not overload the car! Around 70% of hooch illegaly smuggled into the U.S. during Prohibition came through Detroit.

Thousands of speakeasies sprouted up across the city and the Motor City became also known as Whiskeytown. Gangster activity mushroomed over the next decade. 

Detroit's notorious Purple Gang, {PD}

The notorious Purple Gang, led by Abe Bernstein and his brother, included other members of his family, and their former reform school friends. They controlled most of the gambling, drug, and alcohol trades in the city. 

If the Purple Gang caught a smuggler on their way back to Detroit with a load of booze, they held up the driver at gunpoint, killed them, and took over the vehicle. Known for their violence, they murdered at least 500 of their rivals. Fear of retribution caused local police to often turn a blind eye to the gang’s activities. They truly held Detroit in a grip of fear and terrorism.

Even Al Capone, feared their violent tactics, and struck up a partnership rather than engage in turf wars with them. The Purple Gang made sure Capone received his share of the Canadian whiskey he was so fond of.

Al Capone, {PD}
In 1931 due to suspicions of alleged betrayal in the Purple gang, three of its members were murdered in the Collingwood Manor Massacre. Three of the gang’s leadership was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Afterward, in-fighting and rivalries brought a collapse to the gang. By 1935, a rival Sicilian mob controlled the underbelly of the city.

By then, law enforcement was doing their best to curb the 
. Discouraged by the increase in crime and the desire for an increase in jobs through legal manufacturing of alcohol, the issue of Prohibition came to the forefront once again. In 1933, Michigan repealed its own Prohibition amendment. By the end of the year, December 5, to be exact, Prohibition was repealed across the nation.

Raid at Elk Lake, Ontario, {PD}
Detroit eventually became known again for the strength of its automobile industry. A decade later, it would be called “the arsenal of democracy” by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for the manufacturing of equipment used in World War II.

Does your city or town have a "hidden" history that might not be well known to others outside the area? Please share!

Kathleen Rouser is the award-winning author of Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and its sequel, Secrets and Wishes. Kathleen wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She lives in Michigan with her hero and husband, Jack, and the sassy tailless cat who found a home in their empty nest. Connect with Kathleen on her website at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter @KathleenRouser. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Vigilantes of Montana

Boot Hill, Virginia City, Montana. Outlaws were buried separately from the town's decent folk. By Basenjik [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Men came to Bannack, site of the first discovery of gold in present-day Montana, in 1863 for a number of reasons. Many hoped to make their fortunes in gold, find adventure, and enjoy the freedom of the American West. Others were fleeing justice or on the take. Greed sparked crimes.

The Civil War focused the government’s attention away from the settlers’ pleas to tame the West. Those living in the Wild West felt justifiably abandoned. The dearth of law-and-order was never more keenly felt than in the gold camps, where gold dust, prostitutes, and rot-gut whiskey combined to lead men astray. Bannack was one of the most notorious. The first-hand accounts I read while researching the Montana Gold series confirm this. Lucia Darling, who established a school for the town’s children in 1863, gave a scathing report in her diary. “Bannack was tumultuous and rough. It was the headquarters of a band of highwaymen. Lawlessness and misrule seemed to be the prevailing spirit of the place.”

Word-of-mouth held that a gang of road agents known as “The Innocents” had murdered one hundred men. Some believed that the leader was none other than Bannack’s Sheriff Henry Plummer and that several of his deputies were among the outlaws. This naturally did not instill in them feelings of security. The gang was said to operate out of the Rattlesnake Ranch, twelve miles from Virginia City, another boomtown that in 1865 would steal the title of territorial capital from Bannack.

People were fed up with the scourge of road agents who held up stagecoaches carrying gold between Bannack and Virginia City and robbed riders who dared to venture onto the roads. After the brutal murder of a well-liked Dutch miner named Nicholas Tbalt, matters came to a head. Nicholas had ridden off with a bag of gold and simply vanished. On December 21, four days after the discovery of the unfortunate man’s body, a group of vigilantes tried and hanged George Ives for the crime. Two days later, prominent citizens of Bannack and Virginia City formed the Vigilance Committee of Alder Gulch, headquarted in Virginia City.

A slew of lynchings followed as the vigilantes hunted down at least 20 suspected road agents. They left a scrap of paper with the numbers “3-7-77” on each hanged man. Many theories have been ventured as to what these numbers meant. Some claim it gave the dimensions of a grave. Whatever their meaning, the warning these numbers gave was well understood by anyone who found them painted on their tents or cabins. Today, members of the Montana Highway Patrol still wear these numbers.

On January 10, 1863, vigilantes hanged Sheriff Henry Plummer alongside two of his deputies. I used first-hand accounts to paint this scene in Hills of Nevermore (Montana Gold, book 1). Some feel that justice was served; others that the vigilantes hung the innocent. Today, historians disagree over Sheriff Plummer’s guilt or innocence. On May 7, 1993, Montana’s Twin Bridges Public Schools initiated a posthumous trial for Henry Plummer. It ended in a hung jury and the declaration of a mistrial.

The lynching of Jack Slade on March 10, 1864 in Virginia City raised eyebrows. Jack hadn’t actually murdered anyone, although he’d terrorized the entire town by riding his horse down the main street with his guns blazing while drunk. Not long after Jack’s death, government-sanctioned law and order came to Montana. Vigilante violence continued sporadically until 1867, but it became an increasing cause for concern. Miners in Bannack asked the vigilantes to desist, promising to return any judgment they meted out five-fold. 

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.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

US Navy, and Marine Corps: Anchors Away, IN OKLAHOMA?

Wikipedia, Public Domain

By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Judge Rodriguez

Heya, there!

Thank you for joining us this month as we explore the history and influence of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in the great state of Oklahoma. If you have been following this series, so far, we have covered the history and influence of both the US Army, and Air Force. This is our second to last post in the series about the history of the Armed Forces and the influence they had in the state of Oklahoma.

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.

What, you may ask, is possible for the influence of the Naval and Marine forces on such a land-locked state? That’s a very good question. In fact, other than a naval battle being fought during the War Between The States (WBTS), there were neither naval, nor marine engagements on our soil.

In fact, the truth of the matter is those different branches have less effect on our state, than the state has had on THEM. As far back as the WBTS, we have had naval vessels named after the State, municipalities, and people from here. The first vessel that was named after something in Oklahoma was the Gunboat Class Cimarron I SwGbt which was commissioned in 1862. The next was the Monitor Class Neosho I commissioned in 1863.

Wikipedia, Public Domain

Since the WBTS, there have been 23 other vessels named after the State, towns, and people from Oklahoma. This includes the USS Oklahoma BB37, which was commissioned 1916. It sunk during Pearl Harbor, recovered, and the superstructure sank in the Pacific while it was being moved back to San Francisco in 1947.

USS Oklahoma wearing experimental camouflage, circa 1917
Wikipedia, Public Domain

There have been two vessels named the USS Oklahoma City. The CL91, went through multiple reclassifications and was abandoned for about twenty years before it was sunk as target practice by a South Korean torpedo in 1999. The SSN 723, being one of the first nuclear powered submarines, was launched in 1985 and commissioned in 1988. SSN 723 is still in service today, its home base in Guam.

USS Oklahoma City SSN 723 Assignment Patch
Wikipedia, Public Domain

While there are very few resources that need to be protected in this land-locked state, there are naval bases and reservist centers here. The Strategic Communications Wing 1 is located on Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City. They employ more than 1300 active-duty sailors, and 100+ contractors to maintain, train, secure, and operate the resources of the USN here in Oklahoma City.
Unfortunately, other than recruiting information, of which Oklahoma is ranked #3 per capita with approximately 7% of the populace enlisting in the different branches, there is little to no information on the Marine Corps, and their involvement in this state.

But you better believe it they have an impact of families and Oklahoma pride. Those who are in the Navy and Marine Corps, along with any of the other Armed Forces, are the pride of the families, the heart of Oklahoma.

Join us next month as we wrap up this series, with the US Coast Guard. Thank you, and have a safe and blessed 4th of July.

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.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Spanish Language in the Old West and a giveaway

With Nancy J. Farrier

Have you ever wondered where our western terminology comes from? I was surprised to learn that many of our familiar words in the west originate from Spanish and the early Spanish and Mexican people. I wanted to share a few of those words with you.

Rancho is the origin of our word for ranch. The Spanish rancho was a large holding of land where cattle and horses were raised. The Ranchero or rancher was the owner. The ranchos in California were land grants generally made up of 14 square miles.

Vaquero, one who takes care of the cattle, became Cowboy in English. The literal translation of vaquero is cow and man. The vaquero, like the cowboy, was a rough, hard-working man who endured hardship to do his job. They hired on for trail drives or to work the ranch.

Corral is spelled the same in both Spanish and English but the pronunciation is different. Both refer to a pen or enclosure for animals.

Cañón is where we get the English word, Canyon. Cañón is a tube or pipe. If you

visit some of the canyons in the west, you can understand the how that word came to mean the landform. There are many beautiful canyons in the west.

Vigilante is another word spelled the same in Spanish and English but the pronunciation is different. In Spanish, a vigilante is a watchman or guard. In English, the word has come to mean anything from someone who protects or guards to someone who seeks out vengeance. 

Mostrenco is thought to be the origin of the word Mustang. The original use of the word referred to roaming cattle that were unclaimed, but came to mean

horses that roamed free.

Bronco, the same in Spanish and English, means rough or coarse in Spanish. When we think of the bucking bronco, we understand how the term relates to horses before they are broken to saddle. A horse that’s never been ridden before certainly is rough when a cowboy tries to ride them.

Lazo means bow, knot or tie in Spanish. Lazo changed to lasso in English. The lasso is a versatile tool used by the cowboy in a variety of ways. To rope a cow
or horse. To tied up an animal. To lead an animal. The lazo or lasso was also used to entertain.

Rodear in Spanish means to go around. Rodear became rodeo in English. At fiestas, the rodeo was a way for the vaqueros to show off their skills and challenge one another. The modern day rodeo is still a way for the cowboy to demonstrate the skills he is adept at performing. The arena is the perfect place to show off the meaning of “to go around.”

Estampida became Stampede in English. In the old west, on trail rides, a stampede was something to inspire fear. Crazed animals running flat out would trample anything in their path.

There are many more terms we borrowed from the Spanish language, but these are a few that are common in western historical fiction. Which ones were new to you? Do you have any others to add to the list? I am doing a giveaway of my newest release, The Ranchero’s Love. Leave a comment and include your email address to be entered in the giveaway.

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? 

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:

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Royal Gorge War

In the Old West, the fastest gun usually won the fight and the first to claim a right-of-way usually won the passage.

But not always.

Sometimes things escalated into war. Even a quiet one.

The Royal Gorge War, or Railroad War, was fought along Colorado’s stretch of the Arkansas River 140 years ago following the discovery of silver in Leadville. Two major railroads wanted first dibs on the commerce generated by such a find, and they raced to clear a rail bed and lay track to an elevation of more than 10,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains.

Trouble was, the Rockies are called “rocky” for a reason.

The quickest way to wealth followed the Arkansas River through a solid-granite gorge just west of Cañon City. At its narrowest, the gorge pinched down to 30 feet with sheer rock walls rising nearly a quarter of a mile. There wasn’t room for a footpath at that point, much less two railroads.

In 1878, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway had a terminal at Pueblo, Colorado, 35 miles east of Cañon City, gateway to the gorge, referred to at the time as the Grand Canyon of the Rockies. Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad already had tracks in the Arkansas River Valley that ended much closer to Cañon City, only three-quarters of a mile east.

That spring, with silver in their sights, Santa Fe rushed a crew to the mouth of the gorge and began grading for a track bed. The D&RG frowned upon what they considered usurpation and sent crews to the same site. But it was too late. Santa Fe workers blocked their entrance into the narrowing passage, and the war was on.

Roughly 300 men worked in the gorge for Santa Fe, and the D&RG tried to thwart their progress by building stone forts at the opposite end of the gorge. A Civil War veteran by the name of James R. DeRemer designed dry-laid rock breastwork for fighting battles, and several of these DeRemer Forts cropped up along the river, including one at Texas Creek, complete with gun ports and great views of the track. D&RG sympathizers sabotaged Santa Fe graders by rolling rocks down on them and stealing tools. The guerilla-type warfare lasted nearly two years.

The courts intervened and gave D&RG the right-of-way. However, shareholders feared financial ruin and convinced management to lease the line to Santa Fe. Santa Fe built up business away from Denver, and the mood swung from bad to worse. D&RG sought to break the lease and win an injunction barring Santa Fe from operating the line. “Troops” were mustered.

ALT="Bat Masterson 1879"
U.S. Marshal, Bat Masterson, 1879
Wikipedia Public Domain
Railroad lawyers on both sides argued the case in Colorado courts, and the fracas eventually landed in the Supreme Court who ruled for D&RG. Santa Fe quietly hired a U.S. Marshal, former Kansas sheriff, W.V. “Bat” Masterson. With the help of his pal, J.H. “Doc” Holliday, Masterson gathered about 60 men (some accounts say 150), including gun slingers like Ben Thompson, “Dirty” Dave Rudabaugh and “Mysterious” Dave Mather, and took over the Santa Fe roundhouse in Pueblo.

In June 1879, R.F. Weitbrec, treasurer of the D&RG, met with Chief Engineer J.A. McMurtrie, Sheriff Henly R. Price, and Pat Desmond, a deputy with the Rocky Mountain Detective Association, seeking a way to oust Masterson and his men from the roundhouse.

A cannon at the state armory in Pueblo seemed like a logical weapon to appropriate, but the D&RG boys quickly discovered that Masterson and his bunch already had it at the roundhouse, aimed right at them.

D&RG’s McMurtrie, Price, and Desmond rounded up fifty men and passed out ammunition and rifles. History says they stormed the telegraph office on the Santa Fe station platform, crashed through the doors, and sent Masterson’s men scrambling out the back windows. Then the fifty headed for the roundhouse.

Apparently, McMurtrie and Masterson discussed the situation, and Masterson told his men to stand down.

The battle was over.

Though there was little gunfire at the roundhouse, one of Masterson’s men was allegedly shot in the back and another reportedly lost a front tooth, later replaced with a shiny gold substitute free of charge by Masterson’s compadre, Doc Holliday.

ALT="The iron bridge or hanging bridge of the Royal Gorge, 1879."
The Iron Bridge, also known as the Hanging Bridge,
suspended from the granite walls of the Royal Gorge
in 1879. Gurnsey, B. H. (Byron H.), 1833-1880,
Photographer. Wikimedia Commons

At the narrowest point in the gorge, tracks had to be suspended above the water, and an incredible piece of engineering enabled the construction of the hanging bridge, attached to shear rock walls along the north side of the gorge. Kansas engineer, C. S. Smith, designed a 175-ft. girder held by “A” frames that anchored it to the walls. Cost: just under $12,000 – a lot of money in 1879.

In 1880, both railroads signed the “Treaty of Boston.” The right-of-way went back to D&RG, and they paid Santa Fe $1.8 million for the railroad it had built in the gorge, the grading it had completed, materials, and interest.

The line reached Salida on May 20, 1880 and pushed on to Leadville in July.

A decade later, the access allowed passengers to cross the continent via rail. Over time, alternative routes opened up, and passenger service ceased in 1967.
ALT="Passengers standing along the hanging bridge of the Royal Gorge in 1908."
The Hanging Bridge at the bottom of the Royal Gorge in 1908.
(Photo: Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center)

Today, the area that prompted such struggle, both in and out of court in the 1800s, is called the Royal Gorge. The local Royal Gorge Route Railroad follows the famous route through the gorge on a two-hour round-trip train ride enjoyed by tourists from around the world and area residents alike.

The engineering marvel of the hanging bridge remains intact, and supports trains to this day (
Today's Royal  Gorge Route Railway traversing
the 139-year-old Hanging Bridge.

ALT="Book cover for Straight to My Heart"
Read how ranching families may have been affected by the Royal Gorge War in Straight to My Heart. In this second installment of The Cañon City Chronicles, old enemies might become new friends—and more—until Whit Hutton tries to tell Livvy what a woman can and cannot do on her grandfather's cattle spread.

Davalynn Spencer writes about cowboys, their business, and their brides. For more information, connect with her at

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Wattle Fencing

by Pam Hillman

Like many of the HHH bloggers, my blog posts come out of some obscure fact that I need while writing my novels. Today’s blog is no exception. I needed to know a bit about wattle fencing for the latest novel I’m working on.

In colonial times, wattle fencing was the best way to protect the garden from rabbits and other critters intent on eating up a family's food plot. While some fences were built to keep wild animals out, some were built to keep domesticated animals in.

Anyway, as soon as the subject of wattle fencing came up, I knew I had to at least have a working knowledge of the process. But before I get to that, let me tell you what wattle fencing is, and a bit of the history behind it.

Most of us probably associate wattle fencing with medieval times, but it’s still in use in some parts of Europe and other parts of the world today. Historically, these fences were utilitarian, but there are many instances where they are merely ornamental. It’s a great way to build a fence if the goal is to keep out small animals. And in some cases, the fences can become living hedges capable of turning away larger animals.

Wattle fencing can be made from a variety of wood, but one of the best options is willow. By using sturdy willow posts about two feet apart, and weaving flexible willow saplings — “suckers” or “withies” — in and out of the posts, gardeners down through the ages have created strong, sturdy blockades to keep rabbits and other small animals out of their food plots.

Depending on the type of animals attacking their gardens, they might have to build a taller fence with sturdier materials. Even if the fence is already completed and is only three to four feet tall, smaller limbs and twigs can be added to the top to form a taller barrier that might turn away a deer.

Now, the cool part about willow fences. Willow tends to take root and suckers will grow up, twining in and out of the fence. All this extra growth might not be aesthetically pleasing to someone who just wants a pretty fence, but I imagine any farmer’s wife who was fortunate enough to have their wattle fence take on a life of its own was happier than a pig in a wallow.

If the posts took root, then maintenance would be so much easier, keeping those unwanted critters out of the precious vegetable garden that had to feed the family for the winter.

Some farmers even took the idea of a small wattle fence a step further and “pollarded” or “coppiced” willow trees so they would have a supply of sucker growth to keep their fences in repair and to construct other willow crafts (as in rocking chairs and baskets).

The best time to build a willow fence is in the springtime when the suckers and new growth are green and supple. It's much harder to work with come summer as my poor characters found out. But even in summer, willow can be soaked to make it more pliable.

There are some amazing examples of woven wattle fences on the internet and I would love to post them here, but don't want to infringe on anyone's copyright. I pinned several here on this Wattle Fencing Pinterest board. Enjoy! 

And then I found this video where these ladies made a wattle fence. The end is really cute. Love the moss they added.

All this research (and the video!) has me itching to make a wattle fence. Hmmm, I suppose I need to plant a garden first.

Have you ever seen a wattle fence, or possibly even built one yourself?

I'm so excited to let y’all know that The Road to Magnolia Glen, book #2 in my Natchez Trace Novel series released last week. Squee! To celebrate, Tyndale is hosting TWO really cool giveaways.

Click HERE to enter!

They’re also hosting a kitchen-themed giveaway at, including a set of colorful bowls, Mason Jar measuring cup set (which is the cutest thing ever!), and a copy of both The Promise of Breeze Hill & The Road to Magnolia Glen. You can enter this giveaway HERE. Ends in six days (I’m not sure if that’s the 18th or the 19th, so don’t put it off and miss out.)

Enter Goodreads Giveaway!

They’re also giving away ONE HUNDRED digital copies on Goodreads. Wow! Hop over to Goodreads to enter the giveaway HERE. Ends June 30th.

Even if you already have a copy of both (or either) books, feel free to enter. If you win, you can gift the books to your BFF. (I’d keep the bowls and the Mason Jar measuring cups if it was me. Just sayin’)

And thanks to everyone who's read and reviewed my books. I love to hear from you, so if you've posted a review, blogged about one of my books, or given me a shout-out on a social media platform, let me know. I love to share what you share!