Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Most Important Journey

Oregon Map Clatsop County
Oregon Map

Oregon Coast 1905

Janet Chester Bly 

When my three sons and I determined to finish the novel Stuart Brannon's Final Shot my late husband Stephen Bly began, we had quite a challenge. Could a committee create fiction? We had the passion and four months to find out.

That included research, crafting the rest of the story, and turning in the manuscript of 77,000 words.

So we divvied out the 1905 research. 

The Places

I toured the Oregon coast, from Seaside to Astoria to study the sights, smells and sounds and historical details. The law enforcement. The layout of the town sites. The Salt Works Lewis & Clark memorial. How to catch razor clams and the greens and fairways of the Gearhart golf course.

I also learned all I could about gray whales, snakes and wild horses. Even discovered the rare presence of a cougar around 1905 through old newspaper accounts.

Lewis & Clark
I ventured to Fort Clatsop where explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark wintered in 1805 and scanned their journals. Found transcripts in a museum of an interview with a family member who had lived on that site. I investigated the Portland Lewis and Clark Centennial celebration of this event in 1905.

Each of the sons probed at least one other topic. Choices included Europe and assassinations. England's weddings and royalty. Goldfield, Nevada with its mining and labor unions. Panama and the canal project, with connections to France, Nicaragua and Colombia.

The controversy and intrigues of the Panama Canal project formed a large part of the plot.

“I’m going to make the dirt fly,” President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed.
And he did.

It's alleged he supported a revolution that pressured support of that project when Congress balked. Then there was the war to win against malaria and yellow fever, as well as gold to be mined.

We learned once more that on-location research is vital to save making fatal research mistakes.

Two weeks before deadline, we learned we had to make a substitute for the island we'd chosen for a major scene. Any old island would do for us. But we discovered none existed off the Oregon coast. No islands anywhere, only rock outcroppings. After some time of panic, we considered the Tillamook Head promontory near Seaside, a late addition to our landscape scheme. I hiked it, studied the history, asked questions of local historians, and made the change.

The People

We settled on the Clatsop tribe for the Indian characters.

We gathered biographies on famous golfers and historical persons, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill Cody and W.C. Fields.

We needed to know about orphan farms and Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.

We also had to study horse behavior, to determine the hero's interaction with his out-of-control black stallion.

Gearhart pioneer Narcissa Kinney died before our story begins, but her presence permeates the city. For one thing, she made it a dry town, which it remained more than seventy years after her death.

Narcissa also brought culture in the form of a 200-acre Gearhart Park that included an auditorium for traveling circuit speakers and fiery orators, Broadway hits and bands such as John Philip Sousa's. Inspired by the Chautauqua movement, more than four hundred cities across the country sponsored these same events. President Theodore Roosevelt called them, “the most American thing in America.”

Narcissa’s husband, Marshall Kinney, instigated the links golf course on the north side of Gearhart. My husband loved playing on the grass-covered dunes so much he determined to set a story there. Gearhart Golf Links opened circa 1892 and ranks the second oldest course in the west.

Products and Inventions

Early 1900s auto horn
We found ads about cigars and cigarettes, clothing styles and golf equipment in old newspapers. We had to learn western genre basics like types of guns and knives, about flashlights and lawnmowers, telephones and walking sticks. 

In our study of trains, we uncovered railroad land controversies. We searched out transportation, such as motor cars and boats, bicycles and fire trucks. We wondered if 1905 autos had horns. Found out a few did.

The main scene begins on a train. The railroad opened up more tourists for the seacoast village of Gearhart, Oregon, tucked between crashing surf and Pacific forests.        

Culture and Events

We delved into Victorian era artwork and books, plays and music, crimes and diseases and also the politics of 1905. We studied the Spanish-American War, especially the U.S.S. Maine explosion in the Havana, Cuba harbor.
Creating a historical story begins with facts, the truth in fiction.


Janet Chester Bly has authored 31 nonfiction and fiction books, 19 she co-authored with
Janet with sons: Aaron, Michael, Russell
Christy Award winning western author Stephen Bly. Titles include The Hidden West Series, The Carson City Chronicles, Hope Lives Here, and The Heart of a Runaway. Stuart Brannon's Final Shot was a Selah Award Finalist. She resides at 4200 ft. elev. on the Idaho Nez Perce Indian Reservation. Her 3 married sons, Russell, Michael and Aaron, live down the mountain in Lewiston with their families.


 Stuart Brannon's Final Shot by Stephen Bly with Janet Chester Bly, Russell Bly, Michael Bly, 
Stuart Brannon's Final Shot
and Aaron Bly

Book blurb: 
Two orphans flee Tillamook Head. One of them is branded a hero. Dare they tell the truth and risk the wrath of a dangerous man? 
Meanwhile, ex-lawman Stuart Brannon searches for a missing U.S. Marshal at the request of Teddy Roosevelt. Who can deny the president of the U.S.? 
And his old friend Lady Harriet Reed-Fletcher convinces him to grapple to learn the game of golf on behalf of a celebrity charity tournament.


  1. Janet, I'm so glad you joined CFHS! Thanks for being here. Looking forward to all you have to share in the future.

    1. Jennifer: It's a privilege to be a part of the team here on this great site. Thanks for the welcome!

  2. Hi, Janet! What a special journey you have detailed. Thank you for sharing this fascinating history, as well as your family's beautiful legacy! I look forward to learning more from you each month!

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

  3. What a great post! The history and family legacy was just fascinating. Thank you, Janet!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

  4. That is a lot of research! I've seen some of the Lewis & Clarke sites in WA and been to the Oregon Coast at Seaside and Astoria. Sounds like a wonderful book. sharon, CA wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

  5. Britney, Melanie and Sharon: Thanks much for your notes. Greatly appreciated.

  6. I'm going to spend 4 days at the Oregon Coast starting today. Since I live in Portland it isn't very far to go. I love the Oregon coast! I'm also reading Stuart Brannon's Final Shot.