Wednesday, August 16, 2017

EARLY FORTS: FORT VASQUEZ

Post (c) Angela Raines

Fort Vasquez:



I have a passion for history, and the early history of my adopted state is a strong passion. I hope you will join me as I take a journey through the early forts in Colorado over the next few posts. One such place I visited was the site of Fort Vasquez. This one is located between Greeley and Ft. Lupton in Platteville on Highway 85. This site is not only a reconstruction of the original fort, but is also a welcome center and museum. The museum may be small, but fascinating. The staff is extremely knowledgeable about the fort and the era when this type of business/trading post was important in what was to become the state of Colorado.

With the growth and change in the fur trade industry came the business forts.  Originally the trappers, mountain men, would take their furs to St. Louis and other Eastern cities.  Then there came the rendezvous where the furs were brought to areas closer to the mountains.  Finally the forts, such as Bent's fort began to play a bigger role in the fur trade. Soon there were forts populating the eastern plains of Colorado. Ft. Vasquez was one to these.



Built by Louis Vasquez and Andrew Sublette in 1835 it remained in use, with different 'managers' and owners until 1842 when the structure was abandoned. Over the years it was probably shelter for travelers and other uses we may never know about. The license to operate the fort was obtained in St. Louis, MO. from William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

These business forts traded not only with the fur trappers, but the local tribes in the area. In this case Ft. Vasquez it was the Arapaho and Cheyenne. Unfortunately for the owners of this fort, it never was able to gain prominence due to the competition with other such forts along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains.



During the 1960's college students spent time at the fort on an archaeological dig, It was during this time that more information about the fort came to life.
If you are ever up that way, stop by. You may see a mountain man in the fort along with some of the other people who stopped by while in the area during those early days.

Here is a link to the current site and its offerings: http://www.historycolorado.org/museums/fort-vasquez


Until next time. 

 
Doris Gardner-McCraw -
also writing as Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 

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Every step you take should be a prayer.
And if every step you take is a prayer then you will always be walking in a sacred manner. 
Oglala Lakota Holyman.



Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Release Day for Perfectly Unscripted, Book 9 in Sweethearts of Jubilee Springs


Today I’m proud to announce the release of my second novella in the Sweethearts of Jubilee Springs series. Perfectly Unscripted tells the story of the younger sister of the heroine from my first book.

A fun fact from my research. During the 1870s a controversy was discovered about butter. Most people take this mild condiment for granted. But the 1878 America Dairymen’s Association annual report contained the record of a presentation made at a meeting about a company that was discovered in Chicago to be making butter from beef fat and shipping it to Europe as premium butter from a small town in England. Quite the scandal.


BLURB: Rilleta Northcliffe’s world has already been turned upside-down with her father’s arrest. While traveling to Colorado as a mail-order bride, she is traumatized by a gang of thieves. Only the steady green gaze of a stranger keeps her sane. Dairy farmer Wit Vanderveer wished he could have done more to prevent the blonde’s involvement with the gang. Safely in Jubilee Springs, neither can stop thinking of the other. Is the shared danger the lure between these individuals, or did Rilleta and Wit discover they have much more to offer one another?

EXCERPT: Where is the southbound train? He had to get back to Jubilee Springs to handle the evening milking. Straightening to his full height, he looked over the majority of the heads of the milling crowd. The lines of passengers at the ticket windows were three or four people deep. He added himself to the back of the closest one and bit back a groan. Inactivity never sat well. Nor did time away from the land he’d worked so hard to improve and nurture. While he waited, he glanced around, interested at the travelers who appeared to come from all walks of life.

Outside, a black carriage with gold filigree accenting the doors drove up to the front curb of Union Station and stopped. The driver hopped down and jogged around the back of the carriage.

The matched pair of chestnut horses caught Wit’s eye. Nice form and confirmation, well muscled with luxuriant manes and tails. Someday, he’d add a matched pair for pleasure riding to his stable of Belgian draft horses. Someday.

The driver pulled open the side carriage door, and three well-dressed ladies stepped out in quick succession—a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead. They moved toward the entrance with the driver bringing up the rear as he juggled several satchels and valises.

His gaze was caught by the slender blonde lady with ringlets that swayed and bounced with each step. Wide-eyed, she glanced in all directions, like she’d not traveled much and the comings and goings of the depot were as entertaining as a circus. For a moment, he lost sight of her through the narrow arched windows as she ascended the steps, even though he rose onto the balls of his feet. Then he spotted her silhouetted in the doorway and couldn’t break his stare. A small straw hat with a white ribbon perched on her head. The cut of her blue dress fit her figure well, and the full skirt swished along the polished parquetry floor.

A throat clearing from behind snapped his attention to where he stood. The line had progressed while he’d been occupied—more like gawking—with the lovely stranger. With one long stride, he closed the gap.

A hiss of brakes sounded followed by three sharp blares of a whistle.

Finally. Wit stepped out of line to check on the engine’s number. As he moved toward the conductor calling passengers for points south, he collided with someone who stepped into his path. The heady scent of lavender tickled his nose, and he reached out his free hand to steady her. “Pardon me.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, sir.” A giggle sounded. “I wasn’t watching where I was going. I’m anxious to find my train.”

The sweet sound, light and airy, rang like a tiny bell in his head. Wit wrapped his hand around a feminine elbow, thin enough his fingertips touched his thumb. Vaguely, he registered this woman was the same young one whose arrival he’d been watching. He looked down into a pair of bluish-purple eyes the color of a Rocky Mountain columbine that grew at the highest elevations of his meadows. When he finally registered the lady’s expression had changed from wide-eyed surprise to frowning concern, he released his grip and gestured his abdication of the right of way. “Please, proceed.”

The woman dipped a curtsey. “I’m obliged. Would you know if that’s the train to Jubilee Springs?” A hand covered in a lace glove waved toward the train. But her gaze roved his face, eyebrows winged high.

His heart stuttered in his chest. This lady is traveling to my town? Not used to being the object of female scrutiny, Wit shuffled his boots and nodded. “That it is, miss.”

“Thank you.” Then she turned and waved a hand. “Missus Millard? This train is the one.” She scurried to rejoin the other two ladies.

Within a few seconds, Wit lost sight of her in the passengers gathering around the conductor. Then he shook his head. Just as well. All his energy should be focused on streamlining the dairy procedures for optimal output. After moving through one car with no aisle seats, he claimed one in the next passenger car. A quick glance at the other passengers located the group of three ladies sitting together at the far end. All he saw of the blonde were the ringlets dangling below her hat. Again, not his business.

The First Female Lawyer in America Passed the Bar Illegally--but She Passed it!

by Heather Blanton

Arabella Mansfield. You’ve probably never heard of her unless you’re from Iowa, but Arabella was the first woman in America to become a lawyer. She passed the Iowa bar in 1869, illegally. Still, Arabella’s milestone proves that behind many a good woman there often stands a supportive man.
 Arabella was actually born Belle Aurelia Babb in in 1846 in Burlington, IA. Only three years later her father left to hunt gold in the west, leaving Mrs. Babb to raise Arabella and her brother Washington on her own. Her father was kind enough, however, to send home some money, enabling both children to attend college. Perhaps since her mother was such a stalwart example of what a woman could do, Arabella never saw a barrier she couldn’t conquer. John Mansfield, her high school sweetheart, was smart enough to realize that and, instead of trying to hold her back, encouraged her to reach for the stars.
After graduating from Iowa Wesleyan College, Arabella taught at Simpson College, but returned home only a year later. She married John and studied law in her brother’s office. Two years later, despite the fact that only white men over the age of 21 were allowed to take the bar, Arabella took the exam and passed it with a high score.
This didn’t sit well with some attorneys in the state and so they did what attorneys do: they challenged Arabella’s status. Fairly quickly, the court ruled women and minorities should not be denied the right to practice law in the state, the first ruling of its kind in the USA. Arabella never used the license she fought so hard to acquire—as she preferred teaching—but she involved herself in the fight for women’s rights till she died in 1911. Not a rabid feminist, she did support the suffragette movement. Arabella resented having her intelligence insulted. Clearly, if women were smart enough to become lawyers, she thought it only reasonable they should have the right to vote.
Thank you, Arabella.

Monday, August 14, 2017

ARKANSAS RIVER by Zina Abbott



Arkansas River between Canon City and Pueblo, Colorado



In the first three books I have written for the Sweethearts of Jubilee Springs historical western series, my characters, as they approach the fictional town of Jubilee Springs, they watch the Arkansas River as the train follows along its banks and crosses the river prior to it arriving in town. Andrea Dalton in Aaron’s Annulment Bride has difficulty visualizing the racing river in Jubilee Springs as being the same one that passes within a day’s ride south of her father’s ranch near Ellsworth, Kansas. Catherine Everett in Cat’s Meow is also intrigued, but not to the same extent since she is focused on keeping a kitten entertained while on the train. However, towards the end of the book, she is promised a quick swim in the snowmelt of the river. Bessie Carlson in Bargain Bessie also compares the Arkansas River to the Wabash River she knew back in her childhood home in Terre Haute, Indiana.


I personally did not know there was a river named the Arkansas until I had occasion to travel the highways along its banks to visit family in Colorado, Oklahoma and Fort Smith, Arkansas. Here is what I learned about this ribbon of water that sweeps eastward from the Rocky Mountains across the plains until it empties into the Mississippi River.
 
Yancopin Bridge before the Arkansas River empties into the Mississippi River.
The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. It generally flows to the east and southeast and crosses the states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Its source is the snowpack of the Sawatch and Mosquito mountain ranges high in the Arkansas Valley of Colorado near the mining town of Leadville. It then flows east into the Midwest plains of Colorado, Kansas, then turns southward into Oklahoma and Arkansas. The Arkansas River’s mouth is at Napoleon, Arkansas where it joins the Mississippi River.
 
Arkansas River headwaters

At 1,469 miles, the Arkansas River is the sixth longest river in the United States and the second longest tributary in the Missisippi-Missouri river system.

The river banks have been home to many native tribes since the vast herds of buffalo traveled to it for water. That changed as white settlers moved west, killed off the herds of buffalo, drove the native people onto reservations, and developed the area.

The first Europeans to see the river were members of the Spanish Coronado expedition on June 29, 1541. Also in the 1540s, Hernando de Soto discovered the junction of the Arkansas with the Mississippi.

The Spanish originally called the river Napeste. "The name "Arkansas" was first applied by Father Jacques Marquette, who called the river Akansa in his journal of 1673. The Joliet-Marquette expedition traveled the Mississippi River from Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin towards the Gulf of Mexico, but turned back at the mouth of the Arkansas River. By that time, they had encountered Native Americans carrying European trinkets, and feared confrontation with Spanish conquistadors.

An 1840 Steamboat

On March 31, 1820, the Comet became the first steamboat to successfully navigate part of the Arkansas River, reaching a place called Arkansas Point, about 40 miles (64 km) above the confluence of the Arkansas and the Mississippi Rivers.


The Santa Fe Trail followed the Arkansas through much of Kansas, picking it up near Great Bend and continuing through to La Junta, Colorado, although some travelers chose to travel the more difficult Cimarron Cutoff where it separated in Cimarron, Kansas. The trail later connected with the Cimarron River, one of the larger tributaries of the Arkansas River.

Arkansas River - Salida, Colorado

White settlers had plans for the Arkansas River bigger than watering buffalo.  In the 1880s, Charles "Buffalo" Jones, one of the co-founders of Garden City, Kansas, organized four irrigation companies to take water one hundred miles from the Arkansas River to cultivate 75,000 acres of land. By 1890, water from the Arkansas was being used to irrigate more than 20×103 acres of farmland in Kansas. Colorado also used the water from this river. By 1910, irrigation projects in Colorado had caused the river to stop flowing in July and August. Disputes over water rights for the Arkansas River affected both states for years.

The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System begins at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa on the Verdigris River, enters the Arkansas near Muskogee, and runs via an extensive lock and dam system to the Mississippi River.

Through Oklahoma and Arkansas, dams artificially deepen and widen the river to build it into a commercially navigable body of water. As I traveled along this river, I personally found it hard to reconcile the narrow, racing river we drove alongside on our way down from Canon City to Pueblo, Colorado (See my image I used for this blog post header), to the wide expanse of river in eastern Oklahoma that appeared more like a large lake. The dams were the reason.

Today when I travel through eastern Oklahoma, the river looks like this.

Arkansas River at Van Buren, Arkansas
While I was researching an earlier blog post about Fort Smith, Arkansas, I learned in earlier centuries, the river flowed many feet below the city as shown in this 1856 photograph. 
Arkansas River by Fort Smith, Arkansas - 1856

However, in modern times, this area known as Belle Point, an early docking locality, is almost level with the water.

Arkansas River at Belle Point, Fort Smith, Arkansas

Here is what the river looks like flowing under the railroad bridge in Fort Smith today.
Railroad Bridge, Fort Smith, Arkansas

Flooding in 1927 severely damaged or destroyed nearly every levee downstream of Fort Smith, and led to the development of the Arkansas River Flood Control Association. It also led to the Federal Government assigning responsibility of flood control and navigation on the Arkansas to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE).

Many of today’s large cities have built up along the banks of the Arkansas River before it joins the Mississippi. Here are photos of some others.

Arkansas River, downtown Pueblo, Colorado

Arkansas River, Wichita, Kansas
Arkansas River, Tulsa, Oklahoma



Arkansas River, Little Rock, Arkansas


I have three novellas in the Sweethearts of Jubilee Springs series available.



Book 6:  Cat's Meow

Book 7:  Bargain Bessie

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Homesteading on the Prairie

By Kathryn Albright
Tales of Courage & Hope
 * * * * * * * * * * 
In writing my next book in the Oak Grove Series, The Prairie Doctor’s Bride, I had to do some research into homesteading on the prairie.

The early inhabitants of Oak Grove, a fictional town set along the Smoky Hill River, lived in tents made from the canvas of their prairie schooners, but with the Kansas-Pacific Railroad now established all the way to Denver (1878), the small town was growing and wooden structures were springing up as the train brought supplies from the east and wood from the Rocky Mountains. The town prospered with the nearby stockyards that shipped cattle (up from the drives in Texas) to the miners in Colorado and to Chicago.

However, some who lived out of town on 160 acres of their own, were farmers who’d come west with nothing but a dream to take advantage of the government’s Homestead Act of 1862. Requirements to own a plot of land by this means included:
1.       Must be at least 21 years of age.
2.       Must be a citizen or an immigrant with the intention of becoming a citizen.
3.       Must pay a filing fee (usually at the Land Office in the nearest town where it was also determined that no one else had claimed that particular parcel of land.)
4.       Must farm the land and live on it for five years before gaining the official deed to the property.
5.       Must build a home within six months. (Requirements in some states included the minimum dimensions of the home, one glass window, and also building a well.)



On the open prairie, it seemed that all weather was extreme. On arriving, many of the “sod busters” began by building a small dugout into the side of hill, just to escape the relentless wind, sun, snow and rain. Since there were no trees or large stones for construction material, the settlers would use their mules, oxen, or horses, and a special plow to cut rectangles of sod, 18” x 24” (weight = 50 pounds) to use as “bricks” for their home. These would be set so that the roots could grow and intermingle into the next row of sod, creating a very strong wall.

The base of a soddie was wide and the walls would then taper inward slightly to allow for settling. Most had a dirt floor, but later a puncheon or plank flooring might be used. On the inside, the walls would be plastered with mud to create a smooth appearance. Open windows were covered with oil cloth. A fireplace for cooking would take up one wall of the house.

The roof caused the most concern in the building process. Wooden poles, laid across the rim of the sod house, were then overlaid with bundles of brush. On top of the brush, more sod blocks were placed. Dirt clods dropping form the roof was a problem as well as other insects and an occasional snake. If the sod became too wet after a hard rain it could cave in. Every few years, depending on the severity of the weather, the roof would have to be replaced. Structures had one to three rooms and were surprisingly very snug and warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

With all the difficulties they had to face, the years of too much or too little rain for their crops, less than 50 percent of homesteaders achieved the five-year requirement and acquired the deed to their land. Those who did not, went back home or traveled further west. Although most homesteaders consisted of a husband and wife and often children, a single woman or widow could also homestead and work to own the land. Once source reported that women made up to 12 percent of the homesteaders in the Rocky Mountain area.

From 1862 to 1900 over 600,000 claims to homestead were filed. The Homestead Act ended in 1976 for the contiguous 48 states and in 1986 for Alaska.

 * * * * * * * * * *
Learning these facts helped me form the basis of my fictional character’s life on the prairie. I was worried that the land would not be hers after her husband died, but was gratified to know she could hold on to it and it would be there for her son, and her son’s son if he chose that same life. That is why she fights for it so fiercely. The Prairie Doctor’s Bride, a sweet western historical, won’t be available for a few more months, but it is available for pre-order here ~ 


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