Monday, November 29, 2021

A Brief History of Lake Superior's Fabulous Apostle Islands (Lake Superior Pearls & Perils, Part One)

In just another month, I will be celebrating the release of Song for the Hunter, a new novel set in a place which people from all over the world have come to admire and enjoy, the magnificent Apostle Islands. The archipelago of twenty-two islands (no, not twelve!) sits off the Bayfield Peninsula, the most northern point in Wisconsin. Twenty-one of the islands as well as part of the mainland are protected by the National Park Service making the area part of the Lake Superior National Shoreline. The Apostle Islands have a vast history of culture and commerce. Let's take a short overview.

Lake Superior is truly an inland sea. It is wild and unpredictable, a blue gem covering 31,700 square miles. It averages 483 feet deep, but at its deepest point is nearly three times that at 1333 feet. By surface, it is the largest lake in the world, and it holds more water than all the other Great Lakes combined, plus three more Lake Eeries. Are you amazed yet? Having claimed hundreds of shipwrecks (including the famous Edmund Fitzgerald which sunk during a horrific storm on my 14th birthday), the lake is said to have taken more than 10,000 lives, and those are the ones history tells us about. Now consider... 

Wild Lake Superior photo courtesy of Dan Grisdale Photography

The islands have been home to the Ojibwe people for some 600 years, at least. Some say thousands. In any event, they consider these islands to be a sacred place, and commerce has traveled the lake by canoe for centuries. Then came the fur traders and voyageurs. 10,000 lives gone to a watery grave probably falls far short of the actual number, or so I would imagine.

Canoes in a Fog, Lake Superior (1869) Frances Anne Hopkins

Although Frenchman Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix is credited for giving the islands their current name--purportedly either to honor Jesus' twelve apostles or to recognize the twelve largest islands--the natives place name for the islands has always been Wenabozho ominisan. Wenabozho is the name of a cultural hero who, they claim, made the islands. The Ojibwe's main village was on Madeline Island, the largest of the islands (and where the adventures in my new novel largely take place). The Ojibwe name for the island is Moningwunakauning which means "home of the yellow-breasted woodpecker". From their village there, and from other villages on the mainland, the people were able to fish all year round, hunt game and collect wild rice in the fall, gather furs in winter, collect maple syrup in the spring, and gather wild edible food all summer long.

Apostle Island Sea Caves, Image by David Hamilton from Pixabay

Europeans also found safety and refuge from Lake Superior's wild waters, as well as gathering resources among the islands. One of Wisconsin's oldest settlements is there on Madeline Island, established by Jesuit priests Claude Allouez and Jacques Marquette in the 1660s. It soon became home to a French trading post, and later when American's won the war against France, was turned over from the North West Company to American Fur Company jurisdiction. 

Historical marker located on Hwy 13 between Washburn and Bayfield WI, looking from the mainland shore toward the island.

Madeline Island, Big Bay State Part;
View from my hero's campsite in Song for the Hunter

Stories of exploration, intrigue, heroism, and intrigue abound about the region both on the water and on shore. Between the French explorers, the fur traders, the voyageurs, and the missionaries, it is a region ripe with history as well as natural beauty. And all this before we even get to the era of the Great Lakes fishing and shipping fleets! (I'll share some of these stories in future posts of Lake Superior Pearls and Perils).

I hope this wets your appetite for a look into the area or maybe a planned vacation to the islands sometime! At the very least, I hope you'll investigate my upcoming book Song for the Hunter. There is also a 2018 novel set one year prior titled Mist O'er the Voyageur.

If you have or plan to read either book, I'd be happy to send you a novelette (pdf or mobi) set between the two stories--a sort of extended epilogue to Mist and a prequel to Song called The Long-Awaited Spring. Just drop me a note with your request and an email address!

Until the next historic tale of Pearls & Perils on the lake,
Song for the Hunter, coming January 4, 2022, pre-order available:

Wed to a trading company partner to escape life in Montreal under her harsh father's thumb, Camilla Bonnet finds herself tragically widowed and pregnant in the Upper Country frontier. When her brother fails to return for her from Fort William, she is cast on the mercy of the trading post owner's family. She also draws comfort from Bemidii Marchal, a M├ętis hunter who soothes away her misgivings as he finds his own refuge on Lake Superior's Madeline Island.

Bemidii’s thoughts of courting a maiden are cut short when he raises his knife against a company man at Fort William’s Great Rendezvous. No one will believe he killed to protect his sister—least of all the beautiful Frenchwoman on Madeline Island who stirs his affections—not when she learns that her brother is dead and Bemidii stands accused of his murder. As the sharp blade of truth divides them, will Bemidii survive the justice of powerful men who are a law unto themselves?

JOIN ME at a Christmas Extravaganza Facebook Party next week to try and win a copy of the book, not to mention a spree of other prizes!

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Historic Bridges in America – with giveaway By Donna Schlachter

photo source: STRUCTURE Magazine

Mention historic bridges, and for many of us, our minds flash to the old covered bridges in the Midwest. And while many have survived, most were replaced by permanent stone structures after the wood rotted or the bridge succumbed to a flood or, worse yet, the ravages of war.

However, there are still plenty of old bridges in America, so let’s take a cross-country tour and check out a few. The list is by no means exhaustive. A bridge included here doesn’t make it more historically important than one not on it. This blog post simply highlights stories and styles of old bridges.

Constructed in 1804, the Union or Waterford Bridge was the first bridge built across the lower part of the Hudson River. It connected the towns of Waterford and Lansingburg. Burr combined a wooden arch with a truss to strengthen Union Bridge and provide stiffness. This was the first time this kind of building technique was used in the US, and Burr later patented his truss/arch pattern. The bridge is still in use.


photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Kingston Bridge is the second oldest bridge in the county after the Old Stone Arch Bridge. The original wooden bridge was destroyed during the Revolutionary War and rebuilt as a stone arch structure in 1798 as part of the King’s Highway near Kingston, NJ. Although the bridge is more than 220 years old, it still retains its original roadway grade and is still being used today.

Skippack Bridge is an eight-arch stone bridge built in 1792 in Lower Providence Township, PA, and is thought to be the oldest bridge in the United States that retained its original dimensions. Before the bridge was built, several attempts were made to build a bridge connecting the eastern and western parts of Montgomery County starting in 1762. Funkites, exiled Mennonites who supported the Revolutionary War, sought religious and political refuge in this area. It is still in use today.

Sewall’s Bridge in York, Maine is one of the oldest wooden bridges in America, and it is the earliest wooden pile-trestle bridges that has an authentic construction record and builder’s drawings still in existence in America. The original was in use for 173 years, before being replaced in 1934 by a modern wooden pile bridge, and is still in use today.


The Smithfield Street Bridge is Pittsburgh’s oldest bridge in a city dubbed “City of Bridges”. The iconic lenticular truss bridge officially opened on March 19, 1883, and is the second-oldest steel bridge in the United States.

Mackinac Bridge, dubbed the “Mighty Mac,” spans the confluence of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. This suspension bridge is newer than the others in this post, but still more than 60 years old. Five miles of swaying deck carry drivers over the swirling Straits of Mackinac. First opened in 1957, the bridge offered travelers an alternative to the existing ferry. On a windy day, the bridge can shift more than 30 feet side to side. For a good look at the bridge in real time, check out the official bridge cam.

Beautiful bridges come in all styles, shapes, and sizes. Constructed of stone, wood, or cast iron, these relics of the past call us to adventure. Check out these and other historic bridges, and make plans to stop along the way to learn their histories and their stories.

Giveway: While there are no physical bridges mentioned in Justice for Julia, there are emotional spans to cross. Leave a comment to be entered into a random drawing for a print (US only) or ebook copy.

About Justice for Julia:
 A woman doctor in 1868 is wrongly accused of medical malpractice, and she flees into rural Iowa in search of a new start. A loving father snatches his daughter from her abusive mother, and heads west, hoping to keep her safe and him out of the clutches of the law. Can they really begin a new life? Or will they be forced to return to the  bad situations they both escaped from?

Donna writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published almost 50 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of several writing communities; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; blogs regularly; and judges in writing contests.


Saturday, November 27, 2021

Winnifred the Brave, and a very special Corona typewriter.

By Jennifer Z. Major

I barely knew her, Mrs. Winnifred H. But she was special to our family and she taught me a lot without ever knowing that she had any influence on me whatsoever. She passed away before I finished high school, and we inherited a few of her things. 
By "a few" I mean three full stories of her belongings, plus the full basement, in an old Victorian home in Vancouver. 
One of those "things" is her ancient portable Corona typewriter. It's in my new office with all my books, some important trinkets of my travels, and a room full of peace and quiet.

Another one of those things we inherited is the table upon which I'm typing on my sturdy HP laptop, which is 100 years of technology ahead of that old , gracious Corona. It's a 50 inch round, Empire Era Sapele (ribbon mahogany) dining table, with a thick centre post, and four smaller corner posts, and a footrest. It's a bit of a collector's item. I sent of photo of it to Antiques Roadshow US and they went a bit squirrely over it. I'm thrilled that the table that Winifred used as she hosted and fed people in her giant Victorian rooming house in Vancouver is now part of my storytelling career.

Mrs. H started life in a small town in Ontario. Newboro, surprisingly enough, is mere miles from where our friends M&M live. I had no idea until I read one of the letters that came with the typewriter. I've kept these letters for years, but never read the ones from 1892, which were written in frail cursive. Let's just say that while I can read cursive, this letter was written on mourning paper, and describes the last days of a man who I think is Winnifred's father, but I'm not entirely sure. But the letters are still fascinating, and heartbreaking.

Anyway, so why do I call her Winnifred The Brave? 
Well, the first hint is the typed letter was written in 1918.
Miss Winnie packed up a steamer trunk (yes, I have that, too), snuck out of Newboro, made it to Kingston, then made it to (I think) Montreal, jumped a ship, and sailed to Africa to become a missionary.
But wait, what was happening in 1918?
At the time, they called it "The War to end all wars".
Even though the Armistice would come that November, World War One was still ravaging the planet, and the shipping lanes were prime targets. But her calling was stronger than anything that could hold her back, including the very real possibility of going down with the ship during a sea battle.

When I read it, I had to try and keep it together.

These letters were typed on "my" Corona, left in the house, and discovered by her parents after she'd snuck out in the middle of the night.
Can you imagine their emotions? Their daughter, who was probably less than 25 years old, had run away from home to cross the world and serve somewhere in Africa.
As you can see in the letter, she had a vague idea of what she was getting herself in for. But I doubt, with everything in me, that she had any idea of the life ahead of her.

Here's to you, Winnifred, for being braver than the doubt, stronger than the fear, and more faithful than the naysayers ever thought you were capable of.


Jennifer Zarifeh Major is a direct descendent (on her mother's side)of Oman Norquay, who arrived from the Orkney Islands on ship to Hudson's Bay in 1830, and his Cree wife Mary. Her father is an Arab immigrant who grew up on a street named after a man who served with Lawrence of Arabia.

She writes historical fiction based on Navajo history. You can find her on Twitter under @Jjumping and on Instagram under Jennifermajorwriter, and at 

Jennifer and her friend, and trouble-making Navajo mentor, Theodore Charles (USMC retired, M.Ed Biola University) whose grandfather was a prisoner of the US Army at Bosque Redondo, at the age of seven.

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Woman Behind Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

 By Cindy Regnier

Sarah Josepha Hale
 Yesterday, most Americans celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, the day we traditionally eat a turkey dinner and give thanks for the blessings we have and will receive. I’m sure you learned in school about the First Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims and Indians. You probably also learned that then President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863. 
Lincoln's proclamation

Mr. Lincoln is sometimes referred to as the Father of Thanksgiving, but have you ever heard of the Mother of Thanksgiving? Her name is Sarah Josepha Hale. Mrs. Hale doesn’t have a mention alongside President Lincoln in most history books, but she was nevertheless an integral part of the 1863 proclamation.

Civil War
The Civil War Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863
came at great cost to this nation and it was mentioned in Lincoln’s proclamation as follows: I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, …to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving... And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him …, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

Even so, it probably didn’t come to his mind to make this declaration because of the battle or even the story of the Pilgrim’s feast, It was, in fact, the result of the prodding of Sarah Josepha Hale, best known for her role as the editor of Godey's Lady's Book, 

and as the author of the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb. As early as 1827 as editress (as she preferred to be called) of Boston Ladies Magazine, Mrs. Hale wrote essays calling for Thanksgiving to be celebrated as a national holiday. By 1946 as editress of Godey’s she called for a letter-writing effort by readers to initiate the undertaking. She wrote to Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan in her attempts. Finally on September 28, 1863, 36 years after she began her quest, she wrote to President Lincoln pleading for this holiday to be established.

With this “bug in his ear” and the aftermath of Gettysburg fresh in his mind, President Lincoln succumbed to the many requests he had received from Sarah’s supporters and directed his Secretary of State, William Henry Seward,
William Henry Seward

to write the proclamation. The new national holiday was considered a unifying day after the stress of the Civil War. Before Thanksgiving's addition, the only national holidays in the United States were Washington's Birthday and Independence Day. Hale's efforts earned her the nickname "Mother of Thanksgiving".

Bunker Hill Monument

Mrs. Hale supported many causes in her tenure as editress of Godey’s including founding the Seaman's Aid Society and working to preserve Mount Vernon. She raised funds for the Bunker Hill Monument, wrote poetry and prose and established what would now be called a craft fair, Boston’s Quincy Market. Hale advocated for the economic independence of women focusing on the education and development of women She remained the editor of Godey's Lady's Book until it was sold, in 1877. She died in 1879 at the age of ninety-one.

Sarah Hale monument Newport, NH
Enjoy your turkey leftovers and with a nod to Sarah Josepha Hale, let me know your favorite Thanksgiving tradition. Mine is all the leftovers!

 Scribbling in notebooks has been a habit of Cindy Regnier since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Born and raised in Kansas, she writes stories of historical Kansas, particularly the Flint Hills area. Cindy is married to her husband of 38 years, has two grown sons, a son residing in heaven, and two beautiful daughters-in-law. Her experiences with the Flint Hills setting, her natural love for history, farming and animals, along with her interest in genealogical research give her the background and passion to write heart-fluttering historical romance.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Where Was The First Thanksgiving in The New World?

By Jennifer Uhlarik

Welcome--and Happy Thanksgiving to each of you!


Most everyone has heard the story of what is touted as the First Thanksgiving on American soil. In case you haven’t, the very abbreviated story goes that the Pilgrims sailed “across the pond” from England and settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. After a very hard winter, the Pilgrims planted corn with the help of the Wampanoag Indians in 1621. At the successful harvest that fall, the Pilgrims and the local Indians held a great feast, which included turkey, fresh vegetables, and fruits, and they all gave thanks to God for safely seeing them to the New World, helping them through that first winter, and allowing them to learn to live in their new surroundings.


But was this truly the first Thanksgiving on American soil? Some historians say no, that it happened fifty-six years earlier and some twelve hundred miles further south in St. Augustine, Florida.


St. Augustine—really?


That’s what some say.


Pedro Menendez de Aviles

Last month, I told you about the building of the Castillo de San Marcos—the oldest masonry fort in America, which stands guard along the bank of the Matanzas River in St. Augustine. If you read that post, you’ll recall the name Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles. He was the Spanish admiral who brought eight hundred colonists to this new area in order to give Spain a colony in the New World where its treasure fleet could defend itself and Spain’s North American territories against other European powers.


As the story goes, on September 8, 1565, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles waded ashore in what would become St. Augustine—to the fanfare of cannon fire and trumpets. On dry land, the admiral kissed a cross Father Francisco Lopez held out toward him, then gave a brief speech in which he proclaimed the land for God and country. The good Father then led the newcomers in an impromptu Catholic Thanksgiving mass. The whole while, members of the Timucua tribe stood by and watched the events. When, not long afterward, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles proposed a feast, the Spanish colonists gathered what stores they still had aboard their ships, and the Timucuan Indians filled in with alligator, bear, wild boar, turkey, oysters, shrimp, and the various vegetables they grew, like beans, squash, and pumpkins.


So was this the first real Thanksgiving in America?


Well…maybe not!


If you go back even one year earlier and just a few miles north of St. Augustine,

Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere

there was an earlier Thanksgiving feast. In what we now know as Jacksonville, Florida, a group of French Huguenots led by explorer Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere wished to celebrate the founding of Fort Caroline. It was June 30, 1564. The fort would stand on a bluff overlooking the banks of what we now call the St. Johns River. Once again, the Timucuan Indians stepped in and provided food to supplement the meager supplies of the French Huguenots, much the same as with the St. Augustine feast. They sang psalms, offered prayers of thanksgiving, and asked God to continue His goodness toward them. 


So was the 1564 feast the first American Thanksgiving?


It’s so hard to say. Explorers had been coming to this land even before this point, and it’s entirely possible that someone may have beat the French Huguenots to the punch, even as they beat the Spanish to the punch…just as the Spanish beat the Pilgrims. But one thing we can be sure of, this land has seen many people groups come across her shores, and many of them have paused to thank God for His many blessings.


It’s Your Turn: What are you thankful for this year?


Award-winning, best-selling novelist Jennifer Uhlarik has loved the western genre since she read her first Louis L’Amour novel. She penned her first western while earning a writing degree from University of Tampa. Jennifer lives near Tampa with her husband, son, and furbabies.



Love’s Fortress by Jennifer Uhlarik


A Friendship From the Past Brings Closure to Dani’s Fractured Family


When Dani Sango’s art forger father passes away, Dani inherits his home. There, she finds a book of Native American drawings, which leads her to seek museum curator Brad Osgood’s help to decipher the ledger art. Why would her father have this book? Is it another forgery?


Brad Osgood longs to provide his four-year-old niece, Brynn, the safe home she desperately deserves. The last thing he needs is more drama, especially from a forger’s daughter. But when the two meet “accidentally” at St. Augustine’s 350-year-old Spanish fort, he can’t refuse the intriguing woman.


Broken Bow is among seventy-three Plains Indians transported to Florida in 1875 for incarceration at ancient Fort Marion. Sally Jo Harris and Luke Worthing dream of serving on a foreign mission field, but when the Indians reach St. Augustine, God changes their plans. However, when Sally Jo’s friendship with Broken Bow leads to false accusations, it could cost them their lives.


Can Dani discover how Broken Bow and Sally Jo’s story ends and how it impacted her father’s life?


(NOTE: This blurb does not yet match bookseller’s descriptions, but it IS the same book).