Monday, June 24, 2019

Gambling in the Wild West

Towns sprung up quickly in the 19th-century American West, sometimes starting out as mining camps, wagon train river crossings, or army fort support areas. Many times these little towns were comprised mostly of men. Those men needed recreation. Usually that recreation consisted mainly of drinking and gambling. It’s no surprise that saloons or gambling halls were the first buildings to go up in these fast growing towns.

These places seemed to appear almost overnight. They might be tents with dirt floors with flimsy tables and mismatched chairs and a make-shift bar. None of these establishments were high class by any means. They didn’t need to be. The activities they offered were enough to draw the clientele needed to keep them going.

Finally, as a rough neck town grew and began to prosper, the rickety shanties were replaced with wooden or brick buildings. Some of the saloons in what would have been considered a city were rather ornate with elaborately carved bars and high class chandeliers.

There was a time when gambling was considered an occupation. While there are professional gamblers today, a gambler back then lived a much different life. And it must be said that any man who decided to leave what he knew in the east and move to an uncivilized place had to be a gambler at heart. It made sense that there were more than a handful of gamblers moving around from place to place and card game to card game.

In the years prior to the War Between the States, gambling along the Mississippi River flourished. Riverboats running up and down the river from St. Louis to New Orleans offered gamblers the perfect place to practice their trade.

The California Gold Rush attracted some of the riverboat gamblers to San Francisco where money was flowing like water. Gambling halls opened all over offering more than card game. These halls were open all day and night and enormous amounts of money changed hands each and every day.
With the success of the halls in San Francisco, more similar establishments started in Nevada City, Sacramento, and other boom towns in the west. Shootings, stabbings, and killings in general weren’t uncommon in the areas near the gambling meccas. Violence finally reached a level that became unacceptable to the people living in the areas.  They called for law enforcement to stop the criminal activities that surrounded the gambling profession.

In the 1860s, the Comstock Lode in Nevada brought men there to prospect and seek their fortunes there. Just like had happened in San Francisco, gambling houses opened up all over. Accounts report that gambling was rampant in Virginia City and surrounding areas. In fact, a report from an agent of the U.S. Geological Survey found that the town of 18,000 people had a gambling house for every 150 citizens.

Gamblers might have been unruly and predisposed to cheating, but that didn’t keep them from holding important positions. One famous gambler in Nevada was William DeWitt Clinton Gibson. William was elected to the Nevada Senate once he slowed his gambling career down. And some of the men who ran the gambling halls also ran banks or held other important financial positions in town.

One of the most important events of the late 1860s was the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The small towns that sprung up along the tracks were the perfect spots for the lower class swindlers to gather. As the railroad moved west, the less reputable gamblers loaded up the tricks of their trade and moved with it ready to take the money of the new and naïve men they would soon meet.

Most of the low rent crowd who preyed on the unsuspecting railroad construction workers were forgettable small-timers, but a few went on to prominence among the gambling men of the West. Most claimed to follow the respected profession of gambling, but really just fleeced their victims with well-honed tricks and crooked gambling games. When the steel rails at last spanned the country, many of these sure-thing gamblers continued to work their swindles on railroad passengers, using the rail center of Omaha as headquarters.

The 1870s brought the great cattle drives from Texas up through Kansas and even further north. Some of the most revered names in Western history are part of this period. Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson, and Wyatt Earp were lawmen and well respected for their fearlessness. All were well known gamblers. History shows that they spent more time at the tables than they did keeping law and order.

It’s no surprise that many of the most prolific gunfighters of the Western frontier were also well known gamblers. And along those lines, men who had developed reputations as good gunfighters were in high demand as dealers at the tables. Where large amounts of cash was changing hands, a man with gun skills and nerves of steel were needed. It wasn’t uncommon for a gambler’s reputation to spread and locals were quick to join games to try to match wits with the likes of the celebrity gamblers.

The truth is, that gambling was romanticized in spite of the danger and lawlessness it brought with it.

In A Life Transformed, our former gambling hero tells how he learned he was a good gambler during his time in the mining camps. Find out a little more about this new Hero Hearts release here:
Ellie Brown is on her own and she's got a successful ranch to prove she'd made her own way without the help of her father or a husband. She's proud of what she's done in spite of the fact that it's been a difficult and lonely road paved with hard work and some disappointment thrown in for good measure.

Ross Miller is an opportunistic gambler who's just won a mighty big pot. Though he has a tough exterior, he's got a soft heart. The pot includes something that will be hard to take away from it's owner, but a deal's a deal. He's going to be sure to get his pay out, but he's trying to find a way to get it without too much damage to the person it will affect - Ellie Brown.

He comes up with an idea that Ellie accepts, though she doesn't really have an option other than to not have a place to live. She goes along with the marriage of convenience, but finds a big hurdle to get over. Ross is handsome and deep down he's kind. As she gets to know him, she realizes he's not the soulless man she thought he was at first.

Can these two put their rocky past behind them and find true love and happiness together?


Find this new release on Amazon. If you prefer to read with your Kindle Unlimited subscription, this title is available there!


Annie Boone writes sweet western historical romance with a happy ending guaranteed in every single story. Inspiration comes in many forms and Annie finds more than one way to make her stories entertain and inspire.

To connect with Annie, find her on Facebook or her website.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

I thought it might be fun to see what books were releasee and popular in the decades of the 1800s, from 1850-1890.  Do you recognize any of them? Have you read them? The below is just a sampling.

So here for your 'reading' pleasure is a selection of books from the past.


Charles Dickens - "David Copperfield"
Nathanial Hawthorne - "The Scarlet Letter"
Caroline Lee Hentz - "Linda"
Susan Warner (as Susan Wetherwell) - "The Wide,Wide World"


Julia Kavanaugh - "Women in France During the Eighteenth Century"
Mary Anne Attwood - "A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery"



R.M. Ballantyne - "The Dog Cursoe and his Master"
Mary Elizabeth Braddon - "Three Times Dead"
Charles Reade - "The Cloister and the Hearth"
Mary Howard Schoolcraft - "The Blacak Gauntlet: A Tale fo Plantation Life in South Carolina"


Ralph Waldo Emerson - "The Conduct of Life"
Gray's Anatomy (2nd edition)



Wilkie Collins - "Man and Wife"
Jules Verne - "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea"
                       "Around the Moon"
Charlotte M. Yonge - "The Caged Lion"
Bret Harte - "The Heathen Chinee"


Henry Maudsley - "Body and Mind"
William Robinson - "The Wild Garden"



Amelia Edwards - "Lord Brackenbury"
Mark Twain - "A Tramp Abroad"
Lew Wallace - "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ"
Rhoda Broughton - "Second Thoughts"


Henry Charlton Bastian - "The Brain as an Organ of the Mind"
Algernon Charles Swinburne - "A Study of Shakespeare"



Kate Chopin - "At Fault"
Molly Elliot Seawell - "Little Jarvis"
Arthur Conan Doyle - "The Firm of Griddlestone"
Mary Elizabeth Braddon - "One Life, One Love"


James McNeill Whistler - "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies"
Algred Thayer Mahan - "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History"

So there you have it, a spattering of books from the past. Of course there were many more. I've left out children and poetry books, although I admit, I enjoy reading them. I wonder if our stories and books will make list one hundred years from now? It's something to think about. I know, in my latest novel, "The Outlaw's Letter", my heroine has a passion for Homer. Below is a short excerpt.

     As she stretched out on the ground, she turned, catching a glimpse of Grant's profile. If she didn't know better, she would swear he was a stone statue. With a sigh, she pulled her blanket to her shoulders and turned her gaze to the night sky. "I always loved Homer's Odyssey," Hetty said, smiling at the memory of herself sitting under the tree, living the adventure in her mind. She wondered now what people would say about her relating to the hero instead of the long-suffering wife. She looked up, hoping Grant would say something. His silence was disturbing.
     "And how do you think he would be as an old man, confined by age, to living within his four walls?" Grant asked, casting his eyes toward Hetty.
     "Never thought about it," Hetty responded. "I imagine he would still be a vital person. I don't think he'd even be slowed down. It wasn't his nature. What about you?"


Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

How Horseshoes Became a Symbol for Good Luck

Horseshoes were not as rare as four-leaf clovers or rabbits' feet during the 19th Century, but were still considered good luck in times when horses were used for daily travel. But why was that?

Ancient Celtic folklore suggests that often the cause of infertility in both animals and human are due to curses from the fae folk. Fairy creatures were mischievous, cunning, jealous, and liked to play tricks on people who have the unfortunate fate to be chosen by them. However the fae folk have one weakness--iron. And horseshoes were made of iron. It was said that the sight of horseshoes on the front door of the family home would chase away the fae folk and retain the fertility of the household.

Additionally, according to Christian tradition, St. Dunstan was a 10th Century blacksmith. He was working in his shop when the devil appeared before him and demanded that Dunstan shoe his cloven hooves. Dunstan did as he was told, but required that the devil be shackled for the job. Once the devil was in chains, he proceeded to hot-shoe the devil and nail the shoes on in the most painful manner possible. When the devil begged to be released from the shackles and the pain, Dunstan agreed to do so only if the devil agreed to avoid any home where a horseshoe was nailed to the door. Once released, the devil ripped off the shoes and swore to never come near one again.

No doubt, anyone who worked with horses frequently during the 1800's would have considered it good luck if their horse kept all their shoes on their feet for the full shoeing cycle of six-eight weeks. And would have considered it bad luck of their horse lost a shoe--as that often meant lameness at least until they could make it down to the blacksmith shop again.

The thought of horseshoes as good luck could be practical, religious, or superstitious, depending on the person you asked!

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Evolution of Women’s Swimwear

 By Barbara Goss

As the summer heat hits full blast, people everywhere are flocking to the water. While the tendency to hit the waves when the going gets hot is not unique to a given time period or people, but what we wear (or don’t) certainly is. From full-on dresses to itsy-bitsy bikinis, plus weird contraptions called bathing machines, you’ll love this history of women’s swimwear.

1858 Bathing Outfit

In the 19thcentury, the times called for swimsuits that more closely resembled a belted dress over long bloomers.  While they weren’t aesthetically appealing, the swimwear fulfilled the primary purpose to conceal the woman’s body. For that reason, the top portion of the swimsuit hung low like a dress to hide the woman’s figure. These suits were made from heavy flannel fabric that was both opaque and sturdy enough to not rise with the water. 

19thcentury women also had the luxury of using a bathing machine. These small, wheeled structures were dragged into the shallow waters so a Victorian lady could prance around the ocean in complete privacy.

My genre is the West in the 19thcentury and I found this fascinating, and used it in The Marshall’s Mission (WIP).  In my book the improvised and used flannel nightgowns with lead sewed in the hems.

In the West, in the 19thcentury women wore a bathing gown in the water. These were loose ankle-length full-sleeve chemise-type gown made of wool or flannel, so that modesty or decency wasn’t threatened.  They were long dresses of fabrics that would not become transparent when wet, with weights sewn into the hems so that they would not rise up in the water.  

1940's Beach Police

Swimming wear has come a L O N G way to today.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Town in Two States

by Shanna Hatfield

The unexpected paths I traverse in the name of research for my books never ceases to amaze me.

Recently, I was digging out a stack of books to begin diving into details for my next sweet historical romance when I unearthed an old book I purchased a few years ago at a used book fundraiser.

As I flipped through it, a photo caught my eye.


What you see in the image is a very tiny town in Nevada (current population less than 100) named Denio. The saloon in the photo shared the building with the town's post office, which happened to be in Oregon.

The town straddles the Nevada-Oregon line on what is now Highway 292. The post office still exists, along with a small library, a community center, and a bar.

Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, many towns popped up in boom-or-bust pursuits, such as mining. Denio was one such town.

Aaron Denio moved to the area in 1885. He was born in 1824 in Illinois and traveled to California in 1860. He worked in milling, farming, and mining. After spending time in Nevada and Idaho at places like Humboldt and Silver City, he realized the need for beef and bread to keep the miners alive and going.

He brought his family to what would become Denio and settled them into a little sod and mud hut he built then began to farm and mine. He opened a station for travels to stop. The post office was established on the Oregon side of the town in 1888 and Denio was the postmaster.

Following WWII, a number of businesses relocated south of the state line to take advantage of Nevada's lack of income tax and more liberal laws in regard to questionable enterprises such as liquor, gambling, and brothels. Eventually, the post office followed, moving to the Nevada side of the line in 1950.

Today, visitors to the area who enjoy a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities like camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, visiting a wildlife refuge, or soaking in the hot springs. It's also a great playground for rock hounds.

The geology of the area was produced by fault uplift, volcanic magma movements, and an ancient inland sea. It's been said the hills are full of opals.

The black fire opal, the official gemstone of Nevada, is found here, too.

The Royal Peacock Opal Mine, owned and operated by the Wilson family since 1944 just south of Denio, is open to the public for pay-to-dig exploration and gem hunting.

What about you? Do you know of any little towns that straddle a state line? 

USA Today bestselling author Shanna Hatfield is a farm girl who loves to write. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances are filled with sarcasm, humor, hope, and hunky heroes. When Shanna isn’t dreaming up unforgettable characters, twisting plots, or covertly seeking dark, decadent chocolate, she hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.
Shanna loves to hear from readers. Follow her online at:
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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Early American Handyman or Handywoman by Kimberly Grist

According to the book, A Museum of Early American Tools by
Eric Sloane, a Blacksmith, was the Early American handyman. The word ”Smith” derived from ‘smite; ‘black’ from ‘black metal
(A silversmith would be considered brightwork). 
In the middle 1800’s he began taking over the farrier’s job of horseshoeing and made nails, hinges, cooking utensils and every kind of tool. Using little more than fire, water, a hammer, and anvil the resourceful village blacksmith provided a vital service converting raw iron into anything imaginable.

Almost everything the pioneers used from the kitchen skillet to farming tools were made from at least partially from iron and, made from hand.

Link by link, chains had to be hammered into shape in the fiery forge. The blacksmith would hammer the parts into shape with one hand while holding the iron in the other. As a result, their right arm was more massive than the other.

Although most blacksmiths were males, in my new release Maggie’s Strength, our heroine learns the trade from her father whose character was born out of my fondness for a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 

The Village Blacksmith was first published in 1840 and describes the daily life of a local tradesman who balances his family life work and family beautifully. Just like the spreading chestnut tree, the smithy’s physical strength is secondary to his character. 

The Village Blacksmith

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands. 

His hair is crisp, and black, and long.
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat, 
He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man 

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow; 
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge, 
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell, 
When the evening sun is low 

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door; 
They love to see the flaming forge,
And near the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church, 
And sits among his boys; 
He hears the parson pray and preach, 
He hears his daughter's voice,
Singing in the village choir, 
And it makes his heart rejoice. 

It sounds like to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise! 
He needs must think of her once more, 
How in the grave she lies;
And with his haul, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Although most blacksmiths were men, in my new release, Maggie's Strength, I introduce a pint-sized young woman who enjoys working alongside her father and brothers in the forge.

Maggie enjoys adding a bit of whimsy to the practical and useful pieces.

Leaving the heavy ironwork to her father, she sketches the designs and pounds out the more intricate pieces, adding swirls and heart shapes.

Although a work of fiction, I was inspired by this hand-forged heart shaped bench, trivet and hall tree created in the 19th century.
Just Released:

Twenty-year-old Maggie Montgomery is a petite young woman ahead of her time. She's had a wonderful childhood and enjoyed spending time with her father and five brothers and is happiest working in the smithy with them. A competent cook and housekeeper, as a favor to the local doctor, she moves in to assist his wife who is struggling to recuperate from a bout of pneumonia.

A tomboy at heart she ignores her mother's plea to dress more appropriately. Until the son returns. A recent graduate of medical school, although handsome, the young doctor is stoic and obviously put out that his father has hired her to help his mother recuperate. Sparks fly and suddenly for the first time, Maggie is concerned more about how she is perceived by others, especially the young doctor. The question is, why? 

Can they get past their first impressions?

Fortunately, she draws on unrelenting strength where iron sharpens iron-forging an unexpected result of the romantic kind.

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