Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The History of Arranged Marriages

This month, I'm happy to welcome my guest and fellow historical fiction author, Linda Matchett, who wrote this post about arranged marriages.

About twenty years ago when living in the Washington, DC area, I worked at a high-tech firm with a young man from one of the Middle Eastern countries. A handsome man, he caught the attention of more than a few of our single, female employees. However, he was not interested in dating because he was engaged. To a woman he’d never met. As was the custom of his family, his wedding would be the result of an arranged marriage. In the span of a few weeks, he returned to his home country, wed, went on his honeymoon, and came back to work.

Having married my best friend, I had trouble relating to the man’s arranged marriage. But according to several recent news reports, the practice is making a comeback; one article stating that “internet dating has exhausted many people.” Another essay indicates the U.S. divorce rate of 40-50% can’t compare to a rate of less than 4% among arranged marriages.

The concept of arranged marriages goes back thousands of years, and there are plenty of stories in the Bible and other ancient literature about these couples. Fast forward to the 1500s and arranged marriages still occurred, especially among royalty and the upper classes in Europe and Asia. The middle classes elsewhere in the world soon followed as an effort to improve their standing in society.

During medieval times, men were sometimes able to choose their bride, but most marriages were political agreements. Husbands and wives were generally strangers, and if love was involved at all, it came after the wedding. Parents of the bride and groom handled the arrangements, with girls typically in their teens and boys in their early twenties. The bride’s family would present a dowry to the groom. After the “deal” was done, a notice would be posted on the door to the church.

Fast forward 200 years, and arranged marriages continued to be in vogue, and were still handled the same way, with money changing hands after the arrangements were complete. However, rather than marrying only weeks or days after the understanding was put into place, the young couple would “court.” Courting allowed young men and women to meet and socialize at a variety of entertainments, such as church, balls, parties, and friends’ homes. Time getting to know each other often enabled the prospective bride and groom to fall in love.

By the early 1800s, arranged marriages were a thing of the past, with only a small percentage of weddings occurring as a result. However, in the U.S. the phenomenon of mail-order brides became prevalent at this time, once again seeing the union of two people who barely knew each other. The West drew men with the promise of fortune, adventure, and a new beginning. Women saw moving west as a chance for the same thing, literally providing a ticket to a new or better life. With the low ratio of women to men, many western states made a deliberate effort to recruit women by promising them liberal women’s legislation about retaining ownership of property upon marriage, the legal right to initiate divorce, and the ability to vote.

Would favorable laws be a good enough reason for you to marry a stranger?

Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, speaker, and history geek. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry and has lived in historic places all her life. Linda is a trustee for her local public library and a volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII. 

Website http://www.LindaShentonMatchett.com or Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/LindaShentonMatchettAuthor 

Love’s Allegiance

With most U.S. boys away at war, Rochelle Addams has given up hope of marrying. Then she receives an offer from a distant relative to consider a marriage of convenience. Conscientious objector Irwin Terrell is looking forward to his assignment at Shady Hills Mental hospital. At the arrival of the potential bride his father has selected for him, Irwin's life is turned upside down.

Inspired by the biblical love story of Rebekkah and Issac, Love's allegiance explores the struggles and sacrifices of those whose beliefs were at odds with a world at war.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/35ubEKF

Monday, October 21, 2019

Defeated Before They Knew They Were at War

After tensed relations heightened over trade and other issues with Britain, the War of 1812 commenced in June of that year. Not a month later, Fort Mackinac fell to the British. In fact, the citizens of Mackinac Island didn’t yet know war had been declared.

Built from limestone and seated on a limestone bluff, the fort guarded the Straits of Mackinac from its post on the island in the northern part of Lake Huron. The original Fort Michilimackinac had sat for many years across the water at the tip of the lower peninsula of Michigan. After the British took over from the French, they decided to build a more substantial fort in a more advantageous position in 1780. At the end of the Revolutionary War, the fort had been ceded to the Americans. 

A drawing of Fort Mackinac overlooking the town.
By Benson Lossing - The Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44850229

The Secretary of War, William Eustis, had yet to get word to commanding officer, Lieutenant Porter Hanks, who’d taken charge of Fort Mackinac that spring, that a war had begun. Eustis had sent letters to inform each outpost of the June 18 declaration of war by regular post! It hadn’t yet arrived on July 17. 

In the meantime, Major General Isaac Brock, in Canada, had learned of the conflict. He gave orders to Captain Charles Roberts, at Fort St. Joseph, which belonged to British forces, to attack the fort on Mackinac Island. The area was key to the Great Lakes fur trade and friendly relations with the Native Americans of the region.

Major General Isaac Brock
By George Theodore Berthon (1806-1892) - From the Provincial Archives of Ontario, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8470695
As Roberts readied his troops, Brock rescinded the order. Then he sent the go-ahead. The orders were alternated again. Then Roberts was told to follow-through according to his discretion. Concerned the Native Americans may get tired of waiting and move on he went ahead. He took his men—a combination of British troops, warriors from five different Indian tribes, and Metis men to their destination using a schooner called the Caledonia, a flotilla of canoes, and a few bateaux crafts to Mackinac Island. 

Recent map of Mackinac Island.
By Eric Gaba (Sting - fr:Sting) - Own workSources of data:NASA SRTM1v2NGDC Great Lakes BathymetryUSGS 24k topographic mapsLandsat7 ETM+ imageryToponymy: map by James Faasen, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6976994
The fort was at a greater disadvantage from the back since higher bluffs stood behind it. The British force had an easy place from which to sneak up on the fortification and the perfect vantagepoint to set up their cannons. The fort only had seven guns, one which was a cannon, and the only one which could shoot far enough to reach the harbor. They were also at a disadvantage since their only source of fresh water was outside the fort’s walls and could be easily cut off. 

The British released a man they had captured, allowing him to go into the town to tell the people to evacuate and that they would be protected from attack. He informed the town doctor who fled to the fort to inform Lt. Hanks that the British had arrived and planned on attacking Fort Mackinac.

Where the British landed. (c. 1898)
By Unknown - https://collections.carli.illinois.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/nby_teich/id/871, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67036751
Though he planned on fighting the enemy, a few of his soldiers and some of the townspeople convinced Hanks to avoid wasting their lives. He was also concerned that the people in the fort might be massacred. When Roberts called for his surrender around noon on July 17, Hanks conceded the victory to him. Fort Mackinac had been captured—without a fight. 

Britain’s defeat of Mackinac helped rally Native Americans to fight for the British and led the way for the defeat of Fort Detroit further south. While Lieutenant Porter Hanks waited at Fort Detroit to be court-martialed for cowardice, he was instantly killed by cannon shot during its siege. Though the United States tried to recapture Fort Mackinac in 1814, it was the Treaty of Ghent at the end of the war which returned the fort to American control.

Fort Mackinac today (2014).
By N8huckins - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34708926
Today it is a proud part of the Mackinac State Historic Parks system and many tourists climb the steps to see the fort each year. Fort Mackinac’s gleaming limestone walls and buildings add historic charm to the beautiful island where cars are banned, and time almost stands still.

Kathleen Rouser is the multi-published author of the 2017 Bookvana Award winner, Rumors and Promises, her first novel about the people of fictional Stone Creek, Michigan, and its sequel, Secrets and Wishes. She is a longtime member in good standing of American Christian Fiction Writers. Kathleen wanted to be a writer before she could even read. She longs to create characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. She lives in Michigan with her hero and husband of thirty-some years, and continues on the elusive quest to brew the perfect cup of coffee to enjoy while she is writing. Connect with Kathleen on her website at kathleenrouser.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kathleenerouser/, and on Twitter @KathleenRouser.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

True Stories of the Orphan Train

I’m in the process of deciding which book idea I want to write next. One of those is an Orphan Train story. That got me to wondering if I could find some true stories of children who were “placed out” via the Orphan Train. I found a bunch, but I’m only sharing a few today.

Between 1859 and 1921, somewhere close to 200,000 children were part of an experiment called “placing out,” started by Charles Loring Brace. Trains left big cities like New York and Boston with groups of youngsters who were sent to the Midwest in hopes of finding a good home for orphans who had once lived on the streets. Some were lucky and found happy homes, but many children were taken in simply because a farmer or businessman needed additional help. For those children, life was difficult. Here are a few of their stories:


Charles Frederick

Charles Frederick was a six-year-old orphaned German boy who didn’t speak English. After taking the train to Rockford, Illinois, he and several other children were loaded into a covered wagon by John Nelson, a farmer, and driven to Durand. There, the children were divvied up. Charles went to the Lennon family. He later told his son that he worked hard on the Lennon farm and occasionally got to attend school, but he never felt loved. At age 17, Charles told the Lennons he was going to the outhouse, but instead, he grabbed the sack of clothes he’d previously tossed out the window and took off running. He never returned. He got a job working for farmers then later moved to Rockford, where he met his wife. He held various jobs. In 1960, he moved his family to California. He died at the age of 80 in 1962. 


A fourteen-year-old boy named Frank told his widowed mother that he wanted a little sister with blue eyes and brown hair. Just a month later, Mary Jane Baade joined the family. Mary Jane was only 26 months old when she rode the Orphan Train. She had been placed in a Catholic institution when she was only two weeks old. The nuns stitched clothing for the children in their care from bed sheets. 

“When I got off the train, my brother was looking for me,” Mary Jane said.

“There she is!” she heard Frank yell. And from that day forward she was, at last, part of a family. Frank and his mother, Adelaide, took the little girl home to St. Libory, where Frank carried his little sister everywhere.

“They were such wonderful times,” she said.

Mary Jane was one of the lucky ones who had been chosen ahead of time. She didn’t have to stand in line and be poked and prodded by prospective parents.

Cliff and Myrtle Jennings

Cliff and Myrtle Jennings were born in Brooklyn, New York. They lived in a comfortable home with a father who was an electrician and their mother, who was a homemaker. When Myrtle was five, her father died. Although they had wealthy grandparents, two years later, they ended up in the Home for the Destitute in Brooklyn. A 1910 census showed that the brother and sister were “inmates” at a Brooklyn industrial school. They were just nine and ten then. Because the boys and girls were separated, the siblings only saw one another through a hole in a wooden fence. The places they lived were rough, and the children were often punished. 

Three years later, the Children’s Aid Society found a home for the siblings in Wheeler, Arkansas. The started their Orphan Train ride on February 27, 1912. Although Cliff was nearly two years older, he and Myrtle were about the same size. The belief by officials that they might be twins is what kept them from being separated.

Ben Shreaves and his wife took in the siblings. While Ben was kind, his wife wasn’t, and she punished Cliff and Myrtle harshly. They felt more like unpaid servants than family. They were eventually settled with a different family who was kind and loving.

At the request of her grandparents, Myrtle later returned to New York. Her reunion with her mother was disappointing. After her grandparents' death, she returned to the Midwest and lived with the P.C. Morgan family. Morgan was the agent who rode West with her and Cliff on the Orphan Train. Myrtle married his son. They moved to Oklahoma, but during the Dust Bowl years, they relocated to California.

Cliff also married and made his home in Mounds, Oklahoma. He and his wife, Lola, had two sons. In 1984, he died in Tulsa. Although they faced hardships, both Myrtle and Cliff were grateful for the chance to create a new life, thanks to the Orphan Train.

Gabriel Coulter lived a comfortable life as a successful gambler, but a confrontation with a disgruntled cowboy leads to a family man dying in Gabe's arms. Though it was self-defense, the only way Gabe knows to get rid of his guilt is to return the money he won to the man’s wife.

Lara Talbot sees Gabe as a derelict like her husband and wants nothing to do with him--not even the much-needed money he's offered her. But as she struggles to provide for her family and makes plans to claim property in the upcoming Oklahoma land rush, she wonders if God might have sent the meddling man to help.

Vickie McDonough is the best-selling author of 50 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 and the Inspirational Choice awards. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, doing stained glass projects, gardening watching movies, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Clothing: Is it Garb, a Costume, or Cosplay?

Victorian Grand Bustle made on a White Treadle Sewing machine
By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Judge Rodriguez

Hello Friends!

Thank you for joining us once again as we delve into the history of this great state, we call home: Oklahoma.

For the last several months, we have been delving into the history of several buildings in Guthrie. This month, we will take a short break from the norm, and I will explain why, later. As we have both been freely open with, we work at the Edmond’s 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse, as guides to visitors. We are their resident “Living History Re-enactors.” What is that you ask? Why, we dress in garb, tell whoever asks about the climate of the town of Summit, Indian Territory, now Edmond. Mind you, this is not just climate as far as the weather, but is socio-political and historical as well.
Judge in what we consider garb

There’s that word again. Garb. What IS this “garb” we keep mentioning? Well, as defined by most historians, garb is the clothing worn by others during their time period. Now, that’s not to say we raided a museum, but we made our own clothing by using materials they had back then, and methods that have survived since. Before you ask, yes, our clothing was sewn on a treadle sewing machine, and our footwear is hand-stitched.

Judge and I at the Medieval Ball, 2019
These outfits we consider more costumes

So, what’s the difference between garb and costumes? Garb is using the same materials, the same methods and even, according to some groups, the same amount of time as making the clothing as they did back in the day. Costumes are clothing INSPIRED by a time-frame, or event. This is not to say that costumes are any less effective in story-telling, but that there is something to keep it from being garb. Most of the times, it is a difference in the materials and methods, like using rayon instead of muslin, and being made on a modern-day sewing machine. 
Vest made on a White Treadle Sewing machine with period pattern

Muslin shirt sewn with period pattern on a modern machine
Some groups refuse to accept not having made your own material as your outfit being a costume. They are commonly insist on the perfection of the clothing, before they tend to accept the person as being a living history re-enactor. 

Then you have cosplay. This is a term that has been bandied about for the last number of years. What is it, you ask? Cosplay is a combination term of costume and play. This type of outfit is an artistic expression of something. This could be a character in a popular t.v. show, or possibly a movie, or a book. This type of an outfit is only limited by your imagination and resources.

My Cosplay...Going Narnian
at Life.Church At The Movies, 2010
For anyone that is looking at making or buying an outfit of any type, we always recommend you keep three things in mind. 

1. Know your audience. You can’t get away with cosplay in a group of re-enactors, unless it was previously set up. 

2. Know your history. Make sure you know the difference if you are wearing a costume, garb, or cosplay. 

3. Know what you yourself want. If you look at buying garb, or even making it yourself, remember it is YOUR outfit, not to be completely defined by someone else. That is not to say others can’t influence your decisions, but that YOU need to be final authority of what it is you want. Each group, each region, each person has their own definitions. Times change along with language.

We hope you have enjoyed this article on the differences between the types of outfitting.

OH! Almost forgot. Why, you ask, the change from the normal routine? That is because we celebrate our 5th anniversary today in the place that we wed. We did an article about the historical wedding and the historical traditions we did, you are more than welcome to click here and read it. We are working at the Territorial Schoolhouse today between 1 and 4 p.m and invite anyone to come along for a rousing discussion of history and clothing.

Wedding Day, Oct 19, 2014
Edmond, Oklahoma 

Happy anniversary, my love. 

Happy anniversary, beloved.

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. Judge was born and raised in Little Axe, Oklahoma, the son of A.F. Veterans. Judge and Alanna love the history of the state and relish in volunteering at the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. Her second published story, part of a collaborative novella titled 18 Redbud Lane, is now available. Alanna and Judge live with her parents in the Edmond area. They are currently collaborating on a historical fiction series that takes place in pre-statehood Oklahoma.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Oracle Bones and Dragon Bones

By Nancy J. Farrier

What are Oracle Bones? What are Dragon Bones? There aren’t dragons except in fantasy books, right? What do these have to do with history?

Shang Dynasty Scapula
By Babelstone
Wikimedia Commons
Oracle bones first came into use in the Shang Dynasty of China, or that is the earliest they have been traced. Back then, if someone wanted to find out their future, or to get a hint what their deity wanted, they would go to a fortune teller to ask their question and hope to get an answer.

The fortune teller would carve the question into a piece of bone. The preferred bones to use were the scapula, or shoulder bone, of an ox and the plastron, or undershell, of a female tortoise. (The female was preferred because the underside of the shell was flat instead of the more curved shape found in the male’s shell.) 

Tortoise Shell Plastron
By BabelStone
Wikimedia Commons
The inquiry was carved into the prepared piece of bone and the bone placed near a firepit to gather heat. Sometimes a hot poker was used on the bone instead of the proximity to the blaze of the fire. The shell was heated until it cracked. Once a crack formed, the fortune teller could see the answer in the way the crack ran through the question. Then the person would know what to do.

What questions might be asked? Should I take my crop to market now? Should I find a wife for my son? Should I sell my cow? Any question they had where they needed direction, would be fair to ask on an oracle bone. Most of those inquiries came from the wealthier class.

Once the answer was received, and often interpreted by the king, the answer and date were also carved into the bone fragment and kept. Some were tossed into a pit with other oracle bones, which were later dug up and the practice, long forgotten, was discovered again.

Wang Yirong
Wikimedia Commons
So, what are dragon bones? In 1899, Wang Yirong, the Chancellor of the Imperial Academy, became ill. He was sent for treatment, and the treatment of choice at that time was ground up dragon bones. Dragon bones were said to have magical properties for healing and had been used for years. They were a common treatment. 

The dragon bones given to Wang Yirong were not properly ground up and still had larger pieces of bone mixed in. Wang and a friend began to examine the bone fragments. They were astonished to find ancient Chinese writing on the pieces. They hurried back to the apothecary and got more of the dragon bones. From there, the excitement spread and they began searching for more of the bones, which were found to be from oxen and turtles, not dragons.

Oracle Bone Pit
By Chez Cåsver
Wikimedia Commons
It is thought these were some of the earliest of Chinese writings and they show how the Chinese figures used today developed. Not only are they important in the development of the language, but they also have information on the history of the early dynasties that had been lost. 

The records on the bones were very exact. The information would start with the date the question was asked. Next would come the actual question and then the answer would be recorded. Also, they would include if the answer turned out to be correct or not. 

Incomplete Bone
Wikimedia Commons
In the incomplete bone at the right, a diviner asks the Shang king if there would be misfortune over the next ten days. The king replied that he had consulted the ancestor Xiaojia in a worship ceremony. The answer is not included on the bone fragment.

From the oracle bones, historians have discovered many facts. Information about the king’s court, about cities and taxes, the types of crops and trade, marriages and customs. Many of the bones have been found and recovered. The earlier bones hold the best information because they were carved and not written on with ink, which would decline over the years and fade. 

Have you ever heard of an oracle bone? Have you ever seen one? I find them fascinating and would love to have the opportunity to see these in person even if I can’t decipher what they say. What an interesting find.

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.