Saturday, July 13, 2024

Trailblazing Americans: Mother-Daughter Duo Competed in the 1900 Olympics

Margaret Abbott
Only once have a mother and daughter competed in the same Olympic event at the same Olympics, and it happened 124 years ago.

Like this year’s Olympic festival, the second modern Olympics competition was held in Paris, France. For the first time, women athletes were allowed to compete in an Olympiad. Tennis, archery, sailing, equestrianism, rowing, croquet, and golf were open to them, perhaps because women could participate in these activities while still dressing modestly.

Even before she unknowingly became
an Olympian, Margaret Abbott gained
recognition as an outstanding athlete
-Boston Globe, 1898
Mary Abbott, a novelist and literary reviewer, and her daughter Margaret travelled to France in 1899. Mary wanted Margaret to study art and culture in Paris, like many socialite women of the time. Both were accomplished golfers back home in Chicago, where Margaret had won several amateur tournaments. When they learned an international women’s golf tournament would be held, both mother and daughter decided to enter.

The event took place in October 1900 at Compiegne, a nine-hole golf course 80 kilometers from Paris. Of the 10 entrants, Mary tied for seventh place, but Margaret won with a score of 47. The Olympics committee eliminated golf after that, so Margaret was the sole Olympic women’s golf champion until 2016, when the sport returned to the line-up. She was also the first-ever female Olympic champion from the United States.

Ironically, Margaret died in 1955 without even knowing she had been in the Olympics. Because the games were overshadowed by the World’s Fair, many athletes were unaware they were participating in Olympic events. When raising her four children with her husband, American writer Finley Peter Dunne, Margaret referred to her victory in a French golf tournament. It wasn’t until some years after her death that a university professor, while researching Abbott’s life, informed her family their mother had been an Olympic trailblazer.

Margaret Abbott at the golf tournament
in Compiegne, France, in 1900
Part of the confusion arose because the Olympics were held in conjunction with the 1900 Paris World’s Fair. The Paris committee did not make clear which events were considered part of the Olympics. Some events were designated as World’s Fair exhibitions and were added to the official Olympic roster after the fact. In addition, the games took place from May to October in numerous locations. Instead of gold, silver, and bronze medals, the awards included various types of prizes such as, according to one report, an umbrella. Margaret received an old, gilded porcelain bowl as her prize.

Despite being unaware she was an Olympian, Margaret Abbott’s name is inscribed on a plaque listing all American Olympics medal winners at the United States Olympic Committee’s headquarters in Colorado.

Though not described as part of the Olympics,
Abbott's win was reported in the Chicago Tribune

Multi-award-winning author Marie Wells Coutu finds beauty in surprising places, like undiscovered treasures, old houses, and gnarly trees. All three books in her Mended Vessels series, contemporary stories based on the lives of biblical women, have won awards in multiple contests. She is currently working on historical romances set in her native western Kentucky in the 1930s and ‘40s. An unpublished novel, Shifting Currents, is a finalist in the nationally recognized Maggie Awards. Learn more at
Her historical short story, “All That Glitters,” was included in the 2023 Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction collection and is now available free when you sign up for Marie's newsletter here. In her newsletter, she shares about her writing, historical tidbits, recommended books, and sometimes recipes.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Playing with Paper

By Kathy Kovach

Kids today have never experienced the thrill of opening a magazine or book to find a toy within the pages. Paper dolls to be cut out had been popular for ages, but just how far back do they go?
Paper dolls have been a form of art from ancient Japanese purification rituals, featuring origami figures in kimonos, to jointed pantins or Jumping-Jack puppets in 18th century France. The latter were popular amongst those in high society and the royal courts. They were often used to satirize nobility.

Around that time, in the mid-1700s, paper dolls as we know them today, with separate clothing and accessories, made their way to the fashion circles of Vienna, London, Berlin, and Paris. Used to showcase the latest trends, wealthy adults entertained themselves, using the dolls not only as a fashion plate but, also, to lampoon popular figures at the time.
Marie Antoinette
The Winterthur Museum of Winterthur, Delaware has an exhibit of French hand-painted figures that showcased coiffures and headdresses for sale at the shop of Denis-Antoine on Rue St. Jacques, Paris. These are dated in the 1780s.

Mass produced dolls were introduced in 1791 with The English Doll, sold in London and a similar one sold in Germany. She was eight inches high and came with a stylish set of underclothes, including a corset, headdresses, and six complete outfits.

The largest producer of paper dolls was the United States manufacturer McLoughlin Brothers, founded in 1828. These were fashioned from wood blocks and engraved in the same way as metal plates. Sets were sold for ten cents each. They were the first to add tabs as opposed to wax to attach the clothing. McLoughlin Brothers was eventually sold to the Milton Bradley company in 1920.

Enjoy a relaxing step back in time as the McLoughlin dolls are showcased in this video:
In November 1859, Godey’s Lady’s Book set a precedent when it included a black and white doll on one page and another with costumes for children to color. Other women’s magazines followed suit for many years afterward.

The famed American artist Anna Mary Robertson Moses, known as Grandma Moses (1860-1961) also got into the game when, as a child, she would paint her own dolls and dress them. Many children created their own play, especially during hard times, but I imagine Anna Mary’s were spectacular.
The paper doll trend continued with smaller enterprises in the 1880s. Dennison Manufacturing Company added crepe paper to create dimension.

Newspapers also saw the potential to draw readers in by engaging creative play. The Boston Herald offered two adult women dolls, one blonde and one brunette. Additional fashion dolls could be ordered. Subsequent issues contained additional costumes that fit the previous dolls. That’s one way to keep your readership up!
Mrs. Higgerson
Ladies Home Journal
By the early 20th century, it was clear the paper doll trend was not going away soon, and both European and American publishers offered books with cut-out dolls. Children would enjoy the stories and then act them out using the dolls. Magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Pictorial Review, and Good Housekeeping created beloved characters that became popular throughout the early 1900s.
Cartoonist with the Ladies Home Companion Rose O’Neill had a dream one night that spawned a popular trend in the “Kewpie” doll. The name is derived from Cupid and resembles a darling pixie with a cherub face. Besides a comic strip and physical toys, the Kewpie Kutout also became a paper doll within the pages of the magazine where Rose worked.

Just as the Europeans had done in the 1800s, America picked up the advertising trend of using paper dolls in magazines to creatively hock their wares. Lyon's coffee, Pillsbury flour, Baker's chocolate, Singer sewing machines, Clark's threads, and Hood's sarsaparilla utilized the paper doll in the early 20th century. From 1930 to mid-century, the practice continued with such goods as nail polish, underwear, Springmaid fabrics, Ford cars, the soaps Fels Naphtha and Swan, Carter's clothing for children, and many more.
In the 1940s-1950s, comic books got into the act. Early comics were full of adventure and appealed to boys, but with the popularity of paper dolls, publishers saw an untapped market. Storylines were created to accommodate cutouts with decidedly feminine plots. Introduced in 1945 was Patsy Walker, the Patsy and Hedy series in Atlas Comics, as well as, the Millie the Model series which ran to 1973. A Date with Judy came out in National Periodical Publications beginning in 1947 and ran to 1960. And so cut-out paper dolls continued throughout the 20th century with D.C. Comics, Fawcett, and Archie Comics.
Queen Holden designs
Queen Holden is considered the greatest of all time (or GOAT as the kids say today) in the field of paper doll artistry. She enjoyed the heyday years, also considered the “Golden Age of Paper Dolls” spanning 1930 to 1950. She started with Whitman Publishing, drawing children and families, along with the popular movie stars of the time, including Judy Garland. Some argue that her fashion dolls were the inspiration for Barbie who came along mid-century.

Having been born at the end of said Golden Age, I remember playing with paper dolls only a little, but by the ‘60s, Colorforms had replaced the paper with vinyl. My favorite was the weather-themed one, where I could dress the child in the appropriate clothing for each of the seasons. And of course, my Barbie couldn’t be matched for keeping up with the fashion trends. Now, all of this has probably been replaced by an app on a tablet. It’s a shame that those simpler times are gone. But should we lose our electricity for a while, we need only to draw a doll on paper and create our own fun.


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.
To buy: Amazon

Kathleen E. Kovach is a Christian romance author published traditionally through Barbour Publishing, Inc. as well as indie. Kathleen and her husband, Jim, raised two sons while living the nomadic lifestyle for over twenty years in the Air Force. Now planted in northeast Colorado, she's a grandmother and a great-grandmother—though much too young for either. Kathleen has been a longstanding member of American Christian Fiction Writers. An award-winning author, she presents spiritual truths with a giggle, proving herself as one of God's peculiar people.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

The Stamp Act Protests in Savannah - Part I

1760s Christian Camphor House
by Denise Weimer

My post last month set the scene of Savannah in the 1760s, poised for revolution. The fuse for rebellion was lit in the decade before a shot was ever fired with a series of increasingly repressive acts levying taxes for Britain.

Designed to offset the cost of the French and Indian War, the April 1764 Sugar Act taxed molasses imported from any country outside the British Empire. Molasses was used in the distilling of rum, a huge industry in the colonies.

The September 1764 Currency Act aimed to pay for stationing ten thousand troops in America. Many of these helped protect the frontiers at the request of the governors. The act forbade the printing of paper money in the colonies and issued a “call in” date for old bills, many of which were not equalized throughout the colonies. With items from England costing more and little hard currency in circulation, inflation ensued.

The crowning grievance lay in the March 1765 Stamp Act, which was considered unfair because it was an internal tax not having to do with business outside the colonies. It required an imprint on official papers or a small blue paper affixed with tin foil to a document, including bills, calendars, warrants, deeds, court documents, commercial papers, degrees, newspapers, pamphlets, ads, almanacs, indentures, appointments, and even cards and dice. Anyone breaking the Stamp Act would be tried in admiralty court in Nova Scotia. Colonists objected to not having a local trial by their peers and because English parliament, not the local upper and lower houses, had set the tax.

Parliament swiftly followed in May 1765 with the Quartering Act requiring provincial assemblies to victual and billet British soldiers in barracks, inns, or uninhabited buildings. Most colonists felt capable of defending their own frontiers and resented the large standing army that remained after the French and Indian War, partly to satisfy the sons of noble families with commissions.

As early as February of 1765, Prime Minister Grenville met with Benjamin Franklin and other representatives of the colonies to discuss objections to the Stamp Act. Little headway was made. Isac BarrĂ©, an Irish politician who had served in the colonies during the French and Indian War, took up the cause of the patriots and coined the term “sons of liberty.”

Sons of Liberty flag
Soon, colonists were forming Sons and Daughters of Liberty groups. They developed their own flag to represent the nine colonies which attended a Stamp Act Congress held in New York during the month of October. The Georgia governor refused to call the assembly into session prior, preventing the state from sending delegates. However, the Commons House sent a supportive letter and a recorder to take notes.

Next month, we’ll look at the chaos that ensued in Savannah following the Stamp Act Congress.

A Conflicted Betrothal
, Book Four of the Scouts of the Georgia Frontier, When Savannah erupts into protests following the passage of the Stamp Act, Georgia Royal Ranger Ansel Anderson is summoned from his frontier post to provide intelligence to his father’s friend, a Loyalist judge. To obtain the land grant he needs, he’s also to court the man’s daughter, an ardent Patriot. Patience Scott has no intention of letting herself fall for a sworn King’s Man…until anonymous letters threatening those loyal to the governor corner her into agreeing to a betrothal. Will their attraction survive their conflicting loyalties?

Denise Weimer writes historical and contemporary romance from her home in North Georgia and also serves as a freelance editor and the Acquisitions & Editorial Liaison for Wild Heart Books. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses.

Connect with Denise here:

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Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Round And Round We Go — By Suzanne Norquist

With summer in full swing, our minds turn to carnivals, fairs, and amusement parks. Who doesn’t want to take a turn on the carousel or the Ferris wheel?

Carousels didn’t start as a leisure activity but as a military training tool. The concept goes back to the sixth century Byzantium Empire but was popularized in the twelfth century for young soldiers.

There was no platform under riders’ feet as we have today. Baskets (representing horses) hung from poles that extended from a rotating center—probably like the flying chairs at modern carnivals. Riders would toss perfume-filled balls back and forth. If the ball broke, the perfume would cover the soldier, and the smell would embarrass him all day.

By the seventeenth century, the game had turned to jousting. Riders would collect small rings with their lances. Around this time, carousels started appearing at fairs and special events. Wooden horses replaced the baskets.

The floor was added in the mid-nineteenth century, making the ride accessible to the less adventurous. Carousels began to resemble the ones we see today.

People or animals provided power for the machines until 1861. That is when Thomas Bradshaw built the first steam-powered mechanical roundabout. It was larger and faster than those that had gone before. A journalist made the observation: “. . .the wonder is the daring riders are not shot off like cannonballs, and driven half into the middle of next month.”

By 1870, Frederick Savage, an agricultural machinery producer, decided to build fairground machines instead of farm equipment. He added different kinds of movement, such as pitching and rolling for boats.

Like carousels, Ferris wheels, sometimes called “pleasure wheels,” were reported in the sixteen and seventeen hundreds. However, they were less common.

William Somers built three fifty-foot-high wheels in 1891 in New York and New Jersey. He received a patent for the steam-powered wooden machine in 1893. Although he thought people would find them slow and boring, those who had never been up in a skyscraper were amazed at the view from the top.

George Ferris, a 33-year-old bridge engineer from Pittsburg, designed and built the first actual Ferris wheel. He raised money for construction and contributed some of his own funds.

It was constructed in Chicago in 1893 as part of the World’s Columbian Exposition. This monstrosity was made of steel and stood 264 feet (about twenty-six stories) tall. It was intended to rival the Eiffel Tower of the 1889 Paris Exposition. Although not as tall, it was a mechanical wonder. Over two thousand people could ride at one time, and two revolutions took twenty minutes.

The attraction opened to much fanfare and operated flawlessly throughout the exposition. An amazing feat.

Afterward, operating without the regular stream of visitors was too expensive. And neighbors complained about the noisy steam engine. It was relocated a couple of times before being dismantled for scrap.

Ferris faced several lawsuits. Somers sued him for patent infringement and won the first round of litigation. Ferris won on appeal. Apparently, the steel structure was significantly different from the smaller wooden one.

Ferris’s investors also sued, as did the exposition, causing him to file for bankruptcy. However, his legacy lives on because who hasn’t heard of the Ferris wheel?

Over time, both Ferris wheels and carousels evolved, using lighter materials and more efficient power sources. But they have continued to thrill riders, young and old alike.

So, next time you enjoy a Ferris wheel or a carousel, remember all the creativity that brought these inventions to life.


”Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection

Four historical romances celebrating the arts of sewing and quilting.

Mending Sarah’s Heart by Suzanne Norquist

Rockledge, Colorado, 1884

Sarah seeks a quiet life as a seamstress. She doesn’t need anyone, especially her dead husband’s partner. If only the Emporium of Fashion would stop stealing her customers, and the local hoodlums would leave her sons alone. When she rejects her husband’s share of the mine, his partner Jack seeks to serve her through other means. But will his efforts only push her further away?

Suzanne Norquist is the author of two novellas, “A Song for Rose” in A Bouquet of Brides Collection and “Mending Sarah’s Heart” in the Thimbles and Threads Collection. Everything fascinates her. She has worked as a chemist, professor, financial analyst, and even earned a doctorate in economics. Research feeds her curiosity, and she shares the adventure with her readers. She lives in New Mexico with her mining engineer husband and has two grown children. When not writing, she explores the mountains, hikes, and attends kickboxing class.


Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Wedding Cake in a Library?

__By Tiffany Amber Stockton__

In June, a few wedding traditions received the spotlight focus. One of them was about saving the top layer of a wedding cake, and since this month is *my* anniversary, I thought I'd share a little about a piece of wedding cake from over 150 years ago!

Library of Congress, Not Only for Books

America’s Founding Fathers loved reading. What a fantastic pastime. :) I'd say our writers and readers on this blog are in good company with them. To encourage and support this love, Congress funded its own library. Philadelphia and New York City housed some of the earliest American libraries. When Congress moved to Washington, D.C., President John Adams created the Library of Congress in 1800 to help keep legislators informed. The library started with 3,000 books, mostly legal texts, but British soldiers destroyed it in 1814 when they burned parts of the city. President Thomas Jefferson helped rebuild it.

Today, the Library of Congress holds over 173 million items and adds nearly 10,000 new materials every day. Can you imagine the task of cataloguing all those materials? And not all of them are books. This might be hard to believe, but the Library of Congress also has a piece of wedding cake from the 1800s.

For many reasons, celebrity weddings have always fascinated Americans. Take Charles Stratton, aka General Tom Thumb, for example. Known for his small stature at only 3 feet 4 inches tall, Stratton had a successful career singing, dancing, and acting. He worked with the famous showman P.T. Barnum, who called him the "smallest man alive."

In February 1863, Stratton married Lavinia Warren, also diminutive in stature, in a grand New York wedding to which Barnum sold several thousand reception tickets. Given the inflation rate from then to now, the total take from the sales would be in the millions today. Those with tickets could meet the newlyweds and receive a boxed slice of brandy-soaked wedding fruitcake as they left.

After Stratton's death in 1883, Lavinia's career struggled. In 1905, she sent a then 42-year-old slice of her wedding cake to an actress and her editor husband with a letter saying, "The public thinks I'm not alive." Lavinia continued to perform into her 70s, even starring in a silent film with her second husband, "Count" Primo Magri.

Today, two pieces of their wedding cake still exist—one at the Library of Congress and another at the Barnum Museum in Connecticut.

Other celebrity weddings have also drawn massive crowds. In 1956, thousands gathered to watch the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco. More recently, the 2011 royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton attracted millions of viewers worldwide, with thousands lining the streets of London.

Fun little facts:
  • Charles Stratton began performing for audiences at the age of 5.
  • It cost $75 to attend the Stratton-Warren wedding in 1863.
  • Queen Victoria's wedding cake weighed 300 pounds.
  • The most expensive wedding cake slice sold at auction for $29,900.


* What do you think makes celebrity weddings so fascinating to the public?

* If you could ask Charles Stratton or Lavinia Warren one question about their lives and careers, what would it be?

* If you could submit an item to be housed in the Library of Congress, what would it be and why?

** This note is for our email readers. Please do not reply via email with any comments. View the blog online and scroll down to the comments section.

Come back on the 9th of each month for my next foray into historical tidbits to share.

For those interested in my life as an author and everyday gal, what I'm currently reading, historical tidbits, recommended reads, and industry news about other authors, subscribe to my monthly newsletter. The latest edition was just sent out last week. Receive a FREE e-book of Magic of the Swan just for subscribing.


Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning, best-selling author and speaker who is also a professional copywriter/copyeditor. She loves to share life-changing products and ideas with others to help improve their lives in a variety of ways.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children, one dog, and three cats in southeastern Kentucky. In the 20+ years she's been a professional writer, she has sold twenty-six (26) books so far and is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on Facebook and GoodReads.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Japan's Kanto Earthquake--More than the Ground Shook

by Martha Hutchens
image by czamfir, deposit photos
Japan is known for its earthquakes. There have been many earthquakes there between 7 and 9 in magnitude. In 2011, one of the five strongest earthquakes since record keeping began hit the country, measuring 9.1 on the Richter scale. But I want to tell you about a different earthquake, one that may well have contributed to history in ways beyond mere destruction.

In 1859, Yokohama was founded as Japan’s first “foreign settlement.” By 1923, it had a population of close to 500,000. It was a base of foreign trade and foreign ideas. It was a place of optimism and mingling cultures.

In 14 seconds, that all changed.

On September 1, 1923, at 11:58 am, the ground shook. Fourteen seconds later, it stopped, and nearly every building in the city lay in ruins. Minutes later, a 40-foot tsunami hit. Fires came next, and with the water lines disrupted by the quake, the fire departments could do nothing.

image by Wolterke, deposit photos

Many retreated to the river, which turned out to be the largest scene of carnage. A 300-foot fire tornado, called a “dragon twist” killed nearly 44,000 people there. The total death toll would be close to 140,000.

This earthquake also devastated Tokyo and the surrounding area.

There were heroes, certainly far more than we will ever know. A US Ensign freed a woman trapped in rubble and carried her to safety, only seconds ahead of the flames. The captain of the Empress of Australia took on hundreds of refugees. Most significantly, Taki Yonemura, chief engineer of a wireless station 152 miles northeast of Tokyo, spent the next three days broadcasting reports to a station in Hawaii. From there, the world learned of the tragedy.

What followed was one of history’s “if onlys.”

image by microgen, deposit photos

The world responded with a massive relief effort, led by the United States. The first US vessels sailed from China the very next day. Within a week, dozens of warships were on their way in a mission of peace.

But somehow, it all went wrong. The Japanese expressed resentment toward the West, and the West expressed resentment toward Japanese ingratitude. A golden opportunity to draw the two countries closer together was squandered. Eighteen years later, Japan would bomb Pearl Harbor.

Many things went wrong inside Japan after this earthquake. Rumors of Korean poisoning wells spread, and as many as 6000 Koreans were killed. (Japan had occupied Korea in 1905.)

Many Europeans lived in Yokohama, and many of those were either killed or left after the earthquake. The move toward Japanese fascism accelerated after the earthquake. Many believed that Japan’s embrace of “Western decadence” had invited divine retribution.

image by icholakov01, deposit photos
Did this change in attitude contribute to Japan’s entry into World War II? Historians are divided, and the complete truth will probably never be known. But this natural tragedy definitely changed the feeling of optimism and openness that had characterized Japan before it hit. And war is definitely right around the corner.

Martha Hutchens is a transplanted southerner who lives in Los Alamos, NM where she is surrounded by history so unbelievable it can only be true. She won the 2019 Golden Heart for Romance with Religious and Spiritual Elements. A former analytical chemist and retired homeschool mom, Martha is frequently found working on her latest knitting project when she isn’t writing.

Martha’s current novella is set in southeast Missouri during World War II. It is free to her newsletter subscribers. You can subscribe to my newsletter at my website,

After saving for years, Dot Finley's brother finally paid a down payment for his own land—only to be drafted into World War II. Now it is up to her to ensure that he doesn't lose his dream while fighting for everyone else's. No one is likely to help a sharecropper's family.

Nate Armstrong has all the land he can manage, especially if he wants any time to spend with his four-year-old daughter. Still, he can't stand by and watch the Finley family lose their dream. Especially after he learns that the banker's nephew has arranged to have their loan called.

Necessity forces them to work together. Can love grow along with crops?

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Tullahoma, Tennessee: How a Railroad Workcamp Became a Town ~ by Michelle Shocklee

It's cool how research for one novel leads to the development of another novel. As an author of historical fiction, I often say research breathes life into my books. I spend a LOT of time reading history books, biographies, and online articles on topics related to the story long before I write the first words of Chapter One. Only a small portion of what I read actually makes it into the book, but sometimes an unused nugget turns into a vast mine of great ideas! 

When I was doing the research for my novel Count the Nights by Stars, I needed to know about the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis railroad, the oldest railroad in Tennessee. Not only did the characters ride the train several times, but Pricilla's father was a railroad executive, making it necessary for me to get my facts right. (I blogged about the NC&StL here.)

That research introduced me to the town of Tullahoma, Tennessee. 

And that introduction led me to eventually write All We Thought We Knew, my new book that will release in October 2024!

Like many towns across America, Tullahoma probably would not exist if it hadn't been for the railroad. In the 1840s, Tennessee was growing. In order to connect Nashville with towns spread across the state, a railroad was created--the Nashville & Chattanooga. Miles and miles of track were needed, which in turn required hundreds and hundreds of workers.   

1903 Railroad map showing Nashville and Tullahoma, Tennessee

Life in a Railroad Camp

Laying track and living in and among the railroad construction camps was often very difficult. Railroad construction crews were not only subjected to extreme weather conditions, they had to lay tracks across and through many natural geographical features, including rivers, canyons, mountains, and desert. Like other large economic opportunity situations in the expanding nation, the railroad construction camps attracted all types of characters, almost all of whom were looking for ways to turn a quick profit, legally or illegally. Life in the camps was often very crude and rough.

One such camp was located in present day Tullahoma in 1852. A man named Peter Decherd donated the land for the railroad right-of-way and named one station Decherd, after himself, and the other as Tulkahoma. It was later changed to Tullahoma after Decherd's favorite horse, which had been named for a Choctaw chief captured by Decherd's grandfather. The word Tullahoma means "red rock."

Life in Tullahoma

In 1863, Tullahoma served as the headquarters for the Confederate Army of Tennessee. That year the Union Army undertook the Tullahoma Campaign, defeating Confederate forces and taking control of Middle Tennessee. Federal troops occupied this area for the duration of the war. As a result of the campaign, Union forces also captured Chattanooga.

After the war, Tullahoma recovered slowly but began to prosper due to the railroad. In 1939, US 41A was built, making it easier to travel from Tullahoma to Nashville. During World War II, Tullahoma was chosen as the site for a large military installation. That installation, Camp Forrest, is the setting for my novel. (I'll blog about Camp Forrest and its fascinating history in October!) After the war, the Arnold Engineering Development Complex replaced Camp Forrest and became a major development and test center for the Air Force, as well as NASA.

Today, Tullahoma is a quaint but growing community. Here are some pics I took of the town from a recent research trip. 

Your turn: Are there any communities in your area that began as a railroad camp? Have you ever considered how many towns might not exist if the railroad hadn't gone through that area? 

Michelle Shocklee 
is the author of several historical novels, including Count the Nights by Stars, winner of the Christianity Today Book Award, and Under the Tulip Tree, a Christy Awards and Selah Awards finalist. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two sons and mother-in-law to two beautiful daughters, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Visit her online  at

Releases October 1, 2024

Ava must put her life back together after her husband is killed at Pearl Harbor. A job at Camp Forrest provides income, but it also puts her in contact with Enemy Aliens interned on the military installation. Can she trust the German medical student whose friendship means more to her than it should?

Mattie ran away from the pain when her brother was killed in Vietnam. Now she’s back in Tullahoma facing another devastating loss. Yet it is the bundle of WWII letters Mama insists she reads that makes her question everything she thought she knew about herself.

Click HERE for Preorder information!