Friday, June 9, 2023

Name Origins of the Unites States Part II + giveaway

 By Tiffany Amber Stockton

In May, my children and I visited the Pine Mountain Settlement School in southeastern Kentucky. Amazing little place, nestled in the middle of the mountains, miles from any town. You can read last month's post if you missed it.

Today, it's time for the next 10 state name history stories. So, let's go!


Hawaii comes from the Polynesian word hawaiki, meaning place of the Gods. It was, however, originally named the Sandwich Islands by James Cook in the late 1700s.

Idaho has notorious roots in the Athabaskan word idaahe, meaning enemy. It was originally applied to part of Colorado before being given to the Gem State.

Illinois has a silent "s" at the end, because it's of French origin. "Illinois" means "Land of Illini," giving a nod to the Native American population. "Illini" is the Algonquin word for "man" or "warrior." This land east of the Appalachians and south of the Great Lakes became the center of significant battles.

Indiana, as you might expect, stems from the English word Indian. The Latin suffix tacked on the end roughly means "land of the." During the early years of America, many native tribes were well-established in these areas.

Iowa comes from the Dakota word yuxba, meaning sleepy ones.

Kansas references the Kansa tribe, meaning people of the south wind. Makes sense for tornado alley.

Kentucky is yet another state named for the river running through it, inspired by the Shawnee word for on the meadow.

Louisiana, like Georgia, was named for a regent of the times, specifically, Louis XIV of France.

Maine has uncertain origins. Though it's worth noting that Maine was also the name of a traditional province in France.

Maryland is a tip of the hat from King Charles I to his wife Henrietta Maria. Some husbands give jewelry; King Charles gave naming rights to an entire state.

And that's all for today. If you're like me and LOVE puzzles, download this PDF for some puzzle challenge fun. You might be able to solve it on your own without reading the rest of the blogs in this set, or you can save it and add to it in future months. :)


* Which one of these states was the most fascinating to you?

* Do you live in any of these 10 states? If so, did you know this was the origin of its name?

* What do you think might be the origin of any of the other 30 states? (You'll learn about them throughout the rest of the year.)

** 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.

Leave answers to these questions or any comments you might have on this post in the comment box below. For those of you who have stuck around this far, I'm sending a FREE autographed book to one person every month from the comments left on each of my blog posts. You never know when your comment will be a winner! Subscribe to comments so you'll know if you've won and need to get me your mailing information.

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

For those interested in my "fictional" life as an author and industry news about other authors, subscribe to my quarterly newsletter. Receive a FREE omitted chapter from my book, A Grand Design, 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 and four 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.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Dorothy McKibbin: Gatekeeper of the Secret City

by Martha Hutchens

109 E. Palace, image by Martha Hutchens

There’s a little alley in Santa Fe which opens into a courtyard. Today, it hosts a small open-air craft fair.

But in 1943, it became the gateway to a secret city. Welcome to 109 East Palace.

Picture the men and women who arrived here, told only that their work would be crucial to the war effort. Scientists, engineers, craftsmen, and soldiers, all told to report to 109 E. Palace, Santa Fe, NM.

They arrived by private car, or by a military bus that brought them from the nearest train depot. They were tired, dusty, and thirsty. Most probably weren’t happy when they learned they had forty more miles to travel, over roads that meant it would take up to four hours.

Gate from the alley at 109 E. Palace,
Currently at the Los Alamos History Museum
Image by Martha Hutchens

Their first test was simply to find the office. The alley had a fence and a gate. The building that actually opened onto East Palace was a bakery. Many stopped there to get directions. Santa Fe was a small town. Despite government secrecy, everyone knew where strangers in town probably needed to go. Someone was sure to tell them to go through the gate and to the building at the back of the courtyard.

There they met Dorothy McKibbin. She was a friendly face to people who desperately needed to see one.

Dorothy was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. Like many others, she traveled to New Mexico after she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After a year, she was pronounced cured and returned to her home. She married and had a son, but her husband soon died of Hodgkin Lymphoma. Dorothy had enjoyed the climate and scenery of New Mexico, and decided to return there. She worked as a bookkeeper until the beginning of World War II, when her company decided to pursue war-related opportunities and her position was eliminated.

In March of 1943, she met Robert Oppenheimer, who offered her a job as a secretary. She accepted, not knowing what the job would entail, just like the majority of Manhattan Project workers.

She probably didn’t know what her job would entail on any given day for the rest of the war. She filled out passes that allowed newcomers to enter Los Alamos. She operated two cantankerous phone lines between her office and the lab. She babysat children and pets so that mothers could make the most of their one day of shopping a month. She guarded top secret papers, and warned newcomers that the words “Los Alamos” were classified. She knew where people on The Hill—the nickname for Los Alamos to this day—might find whatever they needed, if it could be found. Whether it was rope for a makeshift fire escape from a second floor apartment or a dentist that would make room in his roster for a last minute appointment, she could find it. 

Deposit Photos

Dorothy spent a large part of her time in an office filled with boxes. Anyone from Los Alamos knew they could leave their purchases at her office. She also arranged for twice daily deliveries to The Hill. If you needed something that you couldn't find in Los Alamos (which was most everything!), a call to Dorothy would have it delivered later that day. For a large part of the project, people were only allowed to leave Los Alamos for one day in a month, so this was a lifesaver.

Dorothy hosted many weddings at her house, because churches didn’t like to have a wedding where neither the bride nor the groom could give their name.

Dorothy was called the First Lady of Los Alamos, but I think she was the laboratory’s mother hen.

The office in Santa Fe remained open until 1963. When it closed, Dorothy retired.

Plaque at 109 E. Palace
Image by Martha Hutchens

Today there is a plaque commemorating this unique place. It reads, “All the men and women who made the first atomic bomb passed through this portal to their secret mission at Los Alamos. Their creation in 27 months of the weapons that ended World War II was one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time.”

Dorothy McKibbin was a large part of this story.

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?

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The Tallest Man in the Civil War

by Michelle Shocklee

I know a thing or two about tall people. Although at 5'6" I'm considered average height for a woman, my men, on the other hand, are not average at all. Take a gander at my gang below! Hubby is 6'8. Youngest son is 6'6". Oldest son is 6'10". Yes, they all played basketball. No, the air isn't any better "up there." Yes, they get tired of telling strangers how tall they are. No, it isn't easy to find clothing that fits. 😵

Back in the 1800s, a fellow by the name of Henry Clay Thruston probably received a lot of the same questions my guys get today. But back then, the world didn't have NBA players on TV who are often well over 7 feet tall, making us all aware that being tall isn't quite as unusual as it used to seem.

Let me tell you a tall tale. (Heehee, I couldn't resist.😂)

Henry Clay Thruston (center)
Public Domain
Henry Clay Thruston was born on May 4, 1830 in South Carolina. His father, Street Thruston, served in the American Revolution. It is said that his grandfather was well over seven feet tall. Henry had four brothers, all of them over 6'6". However, at somewhere between 7'2" and 7'7" (no one can agree on how tall he really was), Henry was by far the tallest. The family moved to Missouri in 1833. Wanting to try his hand at panning for gold, Thruston traveled to California in 1850. Whether he struck it rich or not remains to be seen. He returned to Missouri via the Isthmus of Panama, then Cuba, and then back to Missouri a few years later. In 1853, he married a distant cousin, Mary Thruston, and they had four children. 

We don't know what type of work Thruston did prior to the war, but when the Civil War errupted, it is clear he had Southern sympathies. He enlisted in George Butler’s Morgan County Rangers of the Missouri State Guard (MSG), a state militia organized by the Missouri legislature that fought with various Confederate forces. Thruston participated in several battles with Butler, then joined the Missouri Fourth Calvary and served under General John Sappington Marmaduke. He participated in the Camden Expedition and was wounded in the side at Poison Spring on April 18, 1864. He was also engaged in fighting at Jenkins’ Ferry. Thruston concluded his Civil War career by fighting in General Sterling Price’s Missouri Raid in 1864. 

Interesting note: It is said that during one of the battles, a cease-fire was briefly called so Henry Clay could have his picture taken with David V. Buskirk, one of the tallest men in the Union army at 6'10". 

Henry Clay Thruston (right)
Public Domain
When Thruston's military career came to an end at Shreveport, Louisiana in June 1865, he walked home to Missouri. In 1871, Thruston and his family moved to Texas to farm. It wasn't long, however, when he received an offer from P.T. Barnum & Bailey for a job only he could do: travel the country with the circus as The World's Tallest Man (which may or may not have been true at the time) and as The Texas Giant. When the circus held shows in the South, Henry draped the Stars & Bars over his shoulders. If they were in the North, he'd dress up as Uncle Sam. 

Like most tall people, he had his limits when it came to jokes at his expense. A much shorter man is said to have asked him that dreaded question, “How’s the weather up there?” (My guys get that one a lot!) Thruston let fly a large ball of spit at the man and then said, “It’s raining!” Oh my!

Henry Clay died on July 2, 1909 from a massive heart attack. Following his death, an editorial in the Mount Vernon (Texas) Optic Herald read: “He was our friend and we shall miss his cheering words and hearty handshake. Colonel Thruston was a kind and generous friend, a citizen of strong prejudices, and intense patriotism. His family loses a devoted father and we extend to them heartfelt sympathy in their dark hour of bereavement.” Thruston is buried in Mount Pleasant, Texas.

Henry Clay Thruman, Public Domain

Your turn: Tell me how tall you are! Would you want to be taller or shorter, or are you just right? 

Michelle Shocklee
 is the author of several historical novels, including Count the Nights by Stars, winner of the 2023 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 grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Visit her online at


*2023 Christianity Today Book Award Winner*

1961. After a longtime resident at Nashville’s historic Maxwell House Hotel suffers a debilitating stroke, Audrey Whitfield is tasked with cleaning out the reclusive woman’s room. There, she discovers an elaborate scrapbook filled with memorabilia from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Love notes on the backs of unmailed postcards inside capture Audrey’s imagination with hints of a forbidden romance . . . and troubling revelations about the disappearance of young women at the exposition. Audrey enlists the help of a handsome hotel guest as she tracks down clues and information about the mysterious “Peaches” and her regrets over one fateful day, nearly sixty-five years earlier.


Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Geraldine Dishroon: In a Class By Herself

The logistics of war can be convoluted, and despite the fact that intensive study and thought goes into the plans, some aspects can be overlooked. This seems to be what occurred with regard to the evacuation of the tens of thousands of wounded US soldiers as well as those suffering from the exotic diseases associated with duty overseas. Ground transportation wasn’t always available or feasible because of the terrain in such places as Alaska, Burma, and New Guinea.

However, it would be nearly a year after the attack at Pearl Harbor that the problem was remedied. “The decision to employ nurses for flight duty, first had to overcome opposition from high-ranking officials in the army—the branch of service from which the flight nurses would be selected—who, even before America’s entrance into the war, anticipated a resulting shortage of nurses available for other kinds of work.” (Beyond the Call of Duty, 1) Finally, on November 30, 1942, military leaders came to agreement and the air surgeon of the Army Air Forces put out an appeal for nurses to volunteer for air evacuation duty.

Training for the nurses occurred at Bowman Field (Kentucky), the first commercial airport in the US, founded by Abram H. Bowman who became interested in aviation during WWI. TWA and Eastern airlines called the airport home until the Second World War when the facility became known as “Air Base City.” Over 1,600 bomber squadron recruits underwent basic training in ninety days. The school for flight surgeons, medical technicians, and flight nurses also took up residence.

With a final rating of 96.5, Second Lieutenant Geraldine “Jerry” Dishroon was the first class’s honor
Photo: Library of Congress
graduate, and as such went through the line first to receive her diploma. A story that has become legend and regularly repeated is that Brigadier General Fred S. Borum realized as Jerry stepped forward that no one had thought of an insignia for the nurses and unpinned his miniature flight surgeon’s insignia and pinned it onto Jerry, noting that future nurses would receive something similar with an N superimposed on the wings. However, according to Grace Dunnam, Jerry’s chief nurse, indicated that “Jerry just happened to be standing there when Grant decided to present his wings to a flight nurse.” However, the incident actually occurred, it was no doubt a highlight to the event for everyone.

In addition to being in top physical condition, nurses learned crash procedures, survival training, and the effects of high altitude on wounds. By July 1943, Jerry would be serving with the 806 Medical Air Evacuation Squadron in England. Because the aircraft used for evacuation also carry military supplies, they were not allowed to display the Red Cross which would have indicated their non-combat status. Because of the lack of markings, they were vulnerable to enemy attacks. Later in an interview, Jerry said, “We were just another airplane. We were an open target.)

Nonetheless, twenty-eight-year-old Jerry raised her hand to volunteer to serve at Normandy, and on D+6 in June 1944, she was part of the first air evacuation team to land on Omaha Beach after the invasion at Normandy. A massive aircraft, the C-47 was typically used as a cargo transport to fly over the “Hump” (the Himalayas) as well as carrying paratroops and towing gliders. Because of its size, the C-47 was one of the main aircraft used to transport the wounded out of the field. Each plane carried twenty-four ambulatory patients, eighteen to twenty litter patients, or a combination thereof, and one nurse.

Nat'l WWII Museum
Throughout the summer, each nurse made two or three trips per day to recover the wounded, and records indicate an astonishing 20,000 patients being airlifted in just three months. According to Jerry, “We picked them up right on the beachhead. We were getting patients who had been wounded not thirty minutes before.” By war’s end she’d earned three air medals. Discharged in September 1945, she married Lt. Colonel William Brier and had five sons. After his retirement, she took a refresher course in nursing and worked in ICU in addition to volunteer work with the Red Cross and other organizations. She passed away in 2002 in Cheyenne, WY.

I love to fly, but I'm not sure I'd volunteer to evacuate wounded. How about you?


The Mechanic & The MD

All’s fair in love and war. Or so they say.

High school and college were a nightmare for Doris Strealer and being an adult isn’t much better. Men won’t date a woman of her height, and they don’t understand her desire to repair car engines rather than work as a nurse or a teacher. When her father’s garage closes, and no one will hire a female mechanic, she joins the Red Cross Motor Corps, finally feeling at home. Until she comes face to face with her past in the form of Ronald McCann, the most popular boy in school.

On the brink of a successful career as a surgeon, Ron’s plans crumble when he’s drafted and assigned to an evacuation hospital in England, the last place he expects to run into a former schoolmate. The gangly tomboy who was four years behind him in high school has transformed into a statuesque beauty, but a broken engagement in college leaves him with no desire to risk his heart ever again.

Will the hazards of war make or break the romance between this unlikely couple?

Purchase Link:

Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. A volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII, Linda is a former trustee for her local public library. She is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry (of Star Spangled Banner fame). Linda has lived in historic places all her life, and is now located in central New Hampshire where her favorite activities include exploring historic sites and immersing herself in the imaginary worlds created by other authors. Learn more about Linda and her books at

Monday, June 5, 2023

The Doomed Swedish Warship "Vasa" - Part Two: Raising It from the Watery Depths!

 By Mary Dodge Allen

Painting of the Vasa by Francis Smitheman

Last month I described the doomed maiden voyage of the Vasa. It sank soon after it was launched on August 10, 1628. This warship was one of the most magnificent of its time - with two separate gun decks carrying a total of 64 brass cannons. Its hull was adorned with painted and gilded hand-carved images depicting Swedish history and mythology. 

And yet, the Vasa sank less than twenty minutes after its launch. Why?

Swedish King Gustav II Adolf made many changes to the original warship design. He issued orders to increase the warship’s length, construct an unprecedented second gun deck, and place elaborate wooden carvings on the warship’s hull.

Unfortunately, these changes made the Vasa unstable and top-heavy. When a strong gust of wind filled its sails, the warship leaned far over to port, took on water and quickly sank. To add to the tragedy, officials had allowed the crew to take family members as guests on the first part of the Vasa’s maiden voyage. It is estimated that approximately 50 crew and family members died. The rest of the crew and guests were rescued. To read Part One of my blog... the details of the Vasa's construction and tragic launch, click on this link:

When was the Vasa found... and resurrected?

The warship sat at the bottom of Stockholm harbor, untouched and well-preserved by the darkness and low salinity of the frigid water... until...

September 1956, when shipwreck-hunter Anders Franzen confirmed that he had finally found the Vasa, and that the ship was amazingly intact.

Scale model of Vasa underwater. (Vasa Museum)

Anders Franzen put together a team of experts to work on raising the Vasa. The Swedish Navy assigned Commodore Edward Clason to run the project, and Edvin Falting was chosen to supervise the dive team. Franzen arranged for Bostroms, the largest marine salvage company in Scandinavia, to conduct the lift, working with Neptune Diving and Salvage Company. 

The Swedish royals took a keen interest in the project. The reigning monarch, King Gustav VI Adolf was a trained archaeologist. His son, Prince Bertil became chairman of the foundation created to support the raising of the ship, and the Swedish public also enthusiastically supported the project.

From 1957 to 1959, six tunnels were dug under the Vasa by navy divers. Huge steel cables were pulled through these tunnels and attached to two floating pontoons, named Oden and Frigg. The plan was to fill the pontoons with water, tighten the cables under the Vasa, and then drain the water from the pontoons. In this way, the Vasa could be lifted free of the muddy bottom, as if cradled in a basket made by the cables.

Divers at work (Public Domain)

During the two-years of tunnel digging, divers found many artifacts, including elaborate wooden carvings that had fallen off the hull, and even a brass cannon, which was lifted from the water in September 1958.

Ornate brass cannon from the Vasa. (Vasa Museum)

Diagram of the lift stages. (Vasa Museum)

On August 20, 1959 the first of several lift stages began, successfully liberating the Vasa from the grip of the muddy bottom. This lifting and moving process was repeated eighteen times... until the Vasa reached the shallow depth of 55 feet. 

Over the course of the next several months, divers went to work preparing the Vasa for its final lift -- plugging holes, fitting covers over the gun ports and rebuilding portions of the hull. The decks were cleared of mud and debris to make the ship lighter, and many artifacts were salvaged, such as coins, tools, games, and the bones of passengers who perished.


Facial reconstruction of Vasa passengers found. (Vasa Museum)

Backgammon game found, complete with dice and markers (Vasa Museum)

The Vasa's Final Lift:

On April 24, 1961 – nearly 333 years after it sank – the Vasa was lifted out of the water. Thousands of onlookers lined the shore to watch. People were thrilled to see the ship slowly emerge into sight. TV crews were there, filming the lift, and it was broadcast live across Europe.

The Vasa - lifted from the depths. (Public Domain)

After the Vasa was lifted, it was moved to its own pontoon dockage. Over the next several years, archaeologists and conservators worked on the huge task of removing the remainder of the mud, debris and artifacts. Divers continued recovering hundreds of loose pieces from its decks and hull, while plans were made to house and display the Vasa in its own museum.

Salvage crew at work. (Public Domain)

The Vasa had been well-preserved underwater, due to the cold, the lack of salinity in Stockholm harbor, and protection from ultraviolet light on the dark sea bottom. To keep the ship's hull from shrinking and cracking now that it was out of the water, conservators sprayed polyethylene glycol – a waxy substance - on all of its wooden surfaces.

The Vasa Museum Opens:

The Vasa Museum opened to the public in June 1990. It is located in Stockholm, on the island of Djurgarden. In June 2001, I visited this museum with my family. The warship itself is magnificent, and many fascinating artifacts and scale models are displayed throughout the museum. It is well worth a visit.

The Vasa Museum (Photo by author)

Scale model of Vasa leaving port. (Photo by author)

Painted and reconstructed wooden carvings. (Vasa Museum)

Figure on Left: Actual Vasa Warship on display at the museum. 
Figure at Right: Vasa scale model - painted and gilded. (Vasa Museum)

Unfortunately, the Vasa is undergoing a slow process of degradation, deforming a few millimeters every year. Even so, there is no immediate risk of structural failure. In 2004, the museum upgraded its climate-control system to keep the humidity levels stable and to help slow the process of wood warping. An effort is also underway to remove the corroding steel bolts - used in the 1960’s during the original reconstruction - and replace them with bolts made from a higher grade of stainless steel. The conservators are also working on a computerized design for a new support structure. 

There are many ironies with the Vasa. It was well-constructed but not well-proportioned. It was an example of magnificent craftsmanship, and yet it had basic structural faults -- its high center of gravity and the excess weight of cannons and ornamentation on her upper decks made her unstable to the point of being unseaworthy. 

Perhaps the biggest irony: The Vasa warship sank on its maiden voyage in less than twenty minutes, and yet it now exists as the only fully-intact example of warship construction from the early 1600’s. 

Mary Dodge Allen is the winner of a 2022 Christian Indie Award, a 2022 Angel Book Award, and two Royal Palm Literary Awards (Florida Writer's Association). She and her husband live in Central Florida, where she has served as a volunteer with the local police department. Her childhood in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes, sparked her lifelong love of the outdoors. She has worked as a Teacher, Counselor and Social Worker. Her quirky sense of humor is energized by a passion for coffee and chocolate. She is a member of the Florida Writer's Association, American Christian Fiction Writers and Faith Hope and Love Christian Writers. 

Mary's novel: Hunt for a Hometown Killer won the 2022 Christian Indie Award, First Place - Mystery/Suspense; and the 2022 Angel Book Award - Mystery/Suspense.

Click the link below to buy Hunt for a Hometown Killer at

Link to Mary's Spotlight Interview:   Mary Dodge Allen Author Spotlight EA Books

Sunday, June 4, 2023

How Did Louis XIV's Belief in the Divine Power and Authority of the Monarchy Reach into Religious Freedoms in Europe?

 By Donna Wichelman

Have you ever visited a historical site that stirred your heart and left an indelible effect on your life? Several places have done that for me, but I confess a particular sympathy toward the Waldensian Valleys of the Cottian Alps in the Savoy region between France and Italy. Today, I continue the series I began on April 4th, 2023 about the Palace of Versailles and King Louis XIV.

Last time, we discussed how Louis's expansion of the Palace of Versailles from a modest hunting lodge into an extravagant residence symbolized his desire to extend France's reign over Europe. In this blog, we'll examine how Louis used his religious policies to advance his belief in the monarchy's absolute divine power and authority by reaching into the realm of religious freedoms across Europe.

Waldensian Headquarters, Torre Pellice, Italy: Donna's Gallery

Louis XIV came to the throne at four years of age in 1643, when his father, Louis XIII, died. His mother, Anne of Austria, annulled her husband's will, appointing a regency council to rule on Louis's behalf in favor of making her sole regent. Anne and her chief minister, Cardinal Jules Mazarin solidified the absolute power of the monarchy, angering nobles and aristocracy alike, who revolted in a civil war called the Fronde. But by 1653, Mazarin suppressed the rebels and, at the end of the decade, negotiated a peace treaty with Spain, making France a leading European power.

Influenced by his mother, who instilled in Louis the fear of "crimes committed against God," and Cardinal Mazarin, who had centralized power on the throne, Louis XIV declared himself God's representative on earth when he began his rule in 1661 after Mazarin's death. He viewed himself infallible and all disobedience or rebellion against the throne sinful.

Louis's self-exultation translated into various indulgences, extravagances, and manipulations, but gave France the economic means to become self-sufficient.

Also viewing himself as a defender of the Catholic faith and all Protestants as disobedient enemies of the throne, Louis fostered a grand sweep of persecution across French-controlled Europe. He revoked the Edict of Nantes, granting freedom of worship and assembly to French Protestants established by his grandfather, Henry IV in 1598, and in 1685 replaced it with the Edict of Fontainebleau aimed at wiping out all Protestantism, particularly the Janesnists of Port-Royal, the Huguenots, and the Waldensians of the Cottian Alps.

The edict destroyed all Protestant churches, closed their schools, and mandated conversion to Catholicism on the threat of death. Thousands died as their children were taken away and given to Catholic parents to raise. Thousands more fled to neighboring countries in exile from their homes.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs dedicates one page to the Waldensians. Yet, they greatly impacted Christian Europe during the second millennium A.D. and helped set the stage for the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Their story of enduring faith and valor high in the Cottian Alps between France and Italy during Louis XIV's reign captivated my attention over a decade ago and set me on a journey that led me to the Waldensian Valleys west of Turin, Italy to talk to local scholars and visit the many museums and sites dedicated to their story.

Monument of  Sibaud, Bobbio Pellice, Italy: Donna's Gallery
Oath of Loyalty among the Waldensian Faithful when they Reached Their Home Valleys, 1689

Some say this courageous group banded together in 1170 A.D., when merchant Peter Waldo took a vow of poverty and appealed to the pope to consider their grievances. Others have suggested that these great men and women of faith came down from the first-century church and carried on the traditions of their ancestors throughout the first two millennia A.D.

After several days combing the Waldensian Valleys, I became convinced their story bore telling. Whether the Waldensian narrative began in 1170 A.D., as is the official church position, or their ancestry is as ancient as the first-century church, it is a real-world drama that breathes life into a steadfast faith that stays the course no matter the cost. The Cave of Faith provides an example of enduring faith where tradition says as many as 300 gathered in secret to worship. When Louis's dragoons discovered them, they were smoked out and died of smoke inhalation.

Cave of Faith, Angrogna Valley, Italy: Donna's Gallery

The tide turned against Louis XIV’s stranglehold on Europe in 1689, when William of Orange began his Glorious Revolution, engaging Protestants to fight for their freedoms and return from exile to their homes. Waldensians know this as their Glorious Return when they marched from Switzerland to their home valleys.

Museum Depicting the Glorious Return: Balsiglia, Italy: Donna's Gallery

A Sketch of Waldensian Soldiers March to their Home Valleys
Museum at Basiglia, Italy: Donna's Gallery

The Waldensian story so inspired me that it took on a life of its own in a contemporary romantic suspense series. I wanted to create compelling circumstances for my protagonists in the present that mimicked a need to run the course and finish the race as their ancestors had done through their enduring faith and courage in the past.

A remnant of Waldensians still exists in their home valleys in Italy, and they are always excited to talk to people about their history. They welcome visitors to step into the past and discover their historical roots. You can learn more about them at the Waldensian Cultural Center Foundation or Chiesa Valdese. 

But one doesn't have to fly to Italy if they live in North America. A community of Waldensians lives in Valdese, North Carolina. Each summer, a theater troupe rehearses the Waldensian history in an outdoor amphitheater dramatic production called From This Day Forward. The visitor can also walk the Trail of Faith, a pathway constructed with to-scale outdoor replicas of the historical sites throughout the Waldensian Valleys. There are also other Waldesnian-related museums in the area. Visit their tourist office to get more information.

Replica of the Cave of Faith, Valdese, North Carolina: Donna's Gallery

An interesting side note about the Waldensian story: In July 2015, Pope Francis made peace with the Waldensian faithful, asking forgiveness for crimes perpetrated by the church in past centuries. It was a monumental moment for the Waldensian Church.

Donna worked as a communications professional before turning to full-time writing. Her short stories, essays, and articles have appeared in various inspirational publications, and she has two indie-published Christian contemporary suspense novels in her Waldensian Series, Light Out of Darkness and Undaunted Valor. 

Weaving history and faith into stories of intrigue and redemption grew out of her love of history and English literature as a young adult while attending the United World College of the Atlantic--an international college in Wales, U.K. She loves to explore peoples and cultures of the world and enjoys developing plots that show how God's love abounds even in the profoundly difficult circumstances of our lives. Her stories reflect the hunger in all of us for love, forgiveness, and redemption in a world that often withholds second chances.

You can find out more about Donna at 

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Maihaugen - Open Air Museum: Inside Out

Inside a house at Maihaugen washboard grater table

Beauty and wonder exist inside the structures of the Open Air Museum just as they do outside. Peering into the main rooms and lofts of these 190 buildings gives visitors a chance to imagine what everyday life was like for Norwegians in the 1700s and 1800s. More than 50,000 items are catalogued at Maihaugen. They also give a glimpse into how the lives of these individuals unfolded. In the image above the washboard indicates 1864. Washing clothes was a chore, literally and figuratively without our modern conveniences. How do you suppose they used the other implements shown in that photo?

To consider an upper-class family’s home and lifestyle, peek into the main room of the House from Mytting. Up to date with all the latest of the 19th century, the people who lived here enjoyed furniture from urban craftsmen and from their travels. The interior was divided into rooms, which made cleaning easier. Not to mention the outdoor privy which kept the interior tidy as well. 

If you are thinking this furniture and decor looks a bit fancy for a house with grass growing on its roof, your thoughts are in line. The exterior of this dwelling was first built in 1760 but was erected in Sandvig's garden in 1897. The final placement at Maihaugen occurred in 1904. (You can read about the founder of this museum, Sandvig, in the last post.) The furniture collections evolved over those 137 years and do not reflect the original pieces from 1760. Those would be more in line with what you can see in some of the upcoming houses.

The House from Vigstad has a half-loft. It has building dates of 1709, 1813, and 1904. This “Akershus style” features decorative paintings on its doors and cupboards. These motifs came before carvings of later dates. The paintings are true examples of what existed in the later portions of the 18th century. The main area was a workroom for craftsmen who created bentwood boxes that could hold food and small objects.

Before the days of assisted living or nursing homes, the younger generation took over the farms and moved their parents into adjoining structures so they could care for them. If you read Amish stories, you may recall the “Dawdi Haus.” Similarly, in Norway this “Nystua” or New House was built in 1787. It has a room with a bedroom connected to the main house for this purpose.

New House with living room and bedroom for the older parents to live connected to the main house

In 1860 the New Education Act passed, requiring a permanent school in each township if there were enough children. This was the end of the ambulatory school system. This School House was finished in 1863. Notice the teacher’s quarters attached to the school room. This benefit gives a whole new meaning to commuting to work, doesn’t it?

This Winter House was built at the end of the 17th century. It gained new decorations and was moved in 1785. Less people lived on the farm in the winter. Smaller structures were therefore fitting. Children slept in a half loft. There was a drying cupboard fitted with slate shelves between the fireplace and the wall. A stove from 1758 made by Baerum Ironworks sits in the room. Notice the nifty niches to store dishes near the ceiling and the clock attached to the wall.

The last structure for this post is the Per Gynt Loft. It was built around 1620. Yes, you read that correctly, 1620, and it is still standing where it was re-built. As a frame of reference, the Mayflower left England in August of 1620.

The room you see on the ground floor of the loft stored grain. Upstairs the living room with fireplace served as a guest room for any season of the year. Anders wanted to include the character Peer Gynt inspired by a Norwegian Folk Tale, so he named the loft Per Gynt.

Next month is the last visit to Maihaugen. We will look inside the Lieutenant's House, talk about Norwegian farms of the era, and glance at some glorious doors. Which structure boasted your favorite interior from the post above? Were there any tools or implements you recognized and could share their purposes?

As a child, Rebecca loved to write. She nurtured this skill as an educator and later as an editor for an online magazine. Rebecca then joined the Cru Ministry - NBS2GO/Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO, at its inception. She serves as the YouVersion Content Creator, with over 80 Plans on the app.

Rebecca lives near the mountains with her husband and a rescued dog named Ranger. If it were up to her, she would be traveling - right now. As a member of ACFW and FHLCW, Rebecca learns the craft of fiction while networking with a host of generous writers. She is working on her first fiction novel. This story unfolds from the 1830s in Northern Georgia.

Rebecca and fellow blogger, Cindy Stewart, traveled to Europe on a writing research trip. They met many people and interesting characters during their journey. Rebecca captured the images shared in this post, except for the troll... he is still at large.

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