Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Turnvereins—German Men’s Social Clubs

I love using different and unique facts I’ve uncovered while doing research and incorporating making them into a story’s plot. I also like seeing the geography of a place that I’m using as a base for a story locale. Well, I hit paydirt with both of these aspects as I flipped through the pages of Images of America: Comfort, Texas book. Right there on the page was a picture of a non-descript building, but the sign stated “Comfort Turnverein” and an accompanying picture showed a group of men labeled with “Turner Picnic May 1896.”
The sign over the walkway says "Established 1860" Photo by Ruth Kiel

Soon I’d lost an hour on the click-through-the-URL trail to learn more about these social clubs founded soon after immigrants settled in Texas (and many other places—look up “Turner Hall” in Google images and see how many cities had these clubs) The gymnastic movement of the early 19th century is credited to Turnvater (father of gymnastics) Freidrich Ludwig Jahn. The clubs started forming in Germany while the county was occupied by Napoleon’s armies. In addition to advocating fitness, these clubs in America also provided meeting space to discuss politics and the continuation of German ideals.

A peek inside the turner hall in Milwaukee shows equipment that audiences of contemporary gymnastics are familiar with. (what’s missing is the high bar) The men must have dressed up for the picture because I can’t imagine them exercising in dress shirts and bow ties.

In Ione’s Dilemma, (cover reveal below) to be released in January 2017, the hero Morgan is a member of the local club. This location is where he interacts with bachelors in the area, and he uses those contacts to engage in a little bit of matchmaking. More hints in next month's post...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Blog Tour Tuesday ~ Christmas Kiss from the Sheriff

I am so excited to able to announce 
my newest release here at Sweet Americana Sweethearts! 
Just in time for Christmas!

Christmas Kiss from the Sheriff 

by Kathryn Albright

This is the story of Gemma Starling, a woman running from her past. Gemma travels two thousand miles form her former life to flee the crime she committed. As the new schoolteacher in Clear Springs, she tries to blend in, but the sheriff in town is not so easily deceived. Gemma's attempts to avoid Craig Parker only intrigue him more. When her life is threatened, he realizes that his personal feelings for her have far surpassed his professional responsibilities for the case. He cannot lose her...yet does he even know who she truly is?

* * * * * * * 
"I loved this western romance. Ms. Albright provided us with old fashioned romance, a mystery, and Christmas --all of my favorite things."
Teri Donaldson - Amazon Reviewer


    He breathed hard trying to catch his breath while looking back and listening to make sure they weren’t being followed. With any luck on their side, the cougar had been protecting its kill. When they left it would have settled down to eat. He turned back to attend to Miss Starling. “I think we’re oka—”
   She gripped his vest hard, and tucked her face into his chest, breathing hard. Her small shoulders shook.
   Surprised by the sudden change in her, he didn't know what to do at first. "It's okay, Gemma." He looked down on the straight part in her brown hair. Her hat had fallen off during her wild ride and how hug by its ribbons on her back. "We're safe. You're fine."
   Her breaths came in disjointed gasps.
   He didn't know what the heck to do with his arms, flummoxed as he was by her sudden move to cling to him.
   "Is it gone?"
   "I think so." Her hair know was half out of its coil and falling down her back. He breathed in her jasmine scent. What had happened to Miss 'I can do it myself'? He was beginning to realize there was a lot more to Miss Starling than she cared to admit.
   "Wha...what happened?" She spoke into his chest, her breaths still coming in gasps.
   "Not sure. Probably the cat was being protective of its kill."
   "Are we safe?"
   "Yeah." He said it, but he wasn't all that sure. He listened for the big cat, which was foolish since cougars hunted quieter than any other large animal. It would be on them before they knew it wanted them.
   Finally, he slipped his arms around her shoulders and simply held her. It was awkward at first. He felt stiff. She hadn't wanted to close the gap to call him Craig, but here she was in his arms. He didn't know what to make of it. Then she shifted on her saddle, moving closer. He tightened his hold. "Take a big breath and let it out slow."
   She did as he said, her breathing still unsteady, her body still shaking. She was a tiny thing. The only other woman he'd held in his arms was Charlotte who was a good five inches taller than Miss Starling. Bigger frame too. Feeling Miss Starling's shoulders heave with every small gasp made him want to hold her tighter and ease her fear. He brushed the tendrils of hair off her cheek. Her skin felt even smoother than it looked. His fingertips tingled and the urge to repeat his stroke tugged at him.
   After a while, her breath evened out. She pushed away from him, breaking the moment of comfort. "I'm all right now."
   He studied her, liking the way she looked all disheveled with her cheeks flushed and her brown eyes soft and self-conscious.
   She pushed a hairpin back into place.
   He snorted softly. "Don't think that'll do it."
   Her cheeks pinked up.
   She was embarrassed. He found it rather fetching.
   "If I may just take a moment..." She then proceeded to comb out her hair with her fingers.
   The sight of all that rich brown hair flowing loose, the sunlight glinting on it, did odd things to his gut. This was a most intimate part of her day and he was suddenly privy to it. He would have liked to reach out and stop her. He would have liked to do the combing with his own fingers and touch those silky waves. Instead, he gripped his reins tight and simply stared, fascinated.
   She rewound the thick strand with a practiced hand and coiled it again upon her head. She repinned it and then set her hat just so to cover the slightly mussed-up appearance of her hair knot. Her gaze skittered to his as she tied the ribbons under her chin. "I hope my horse was running the right way."
   It took him a moment to pull out of the spell she'd cast over him. He pointed with his chin to the small cross-section of road ahead of them. "Smart horse. Knows the way home."

Christmas Kiss from the Sheriff
Copyright 2016 by Kathryn Albright
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
* * * * * * * *

Kathryn Albright writes sweet historical romance. Her stories celebrate courage and hope with a dash of adventure. Kathryn's stories have been finalists in the distinguished RWA Golden Heart and the HOLT Medallion as well as several other industry contests. She enjoys hiking, long road trips with her husband and being caught up in a great story. She lives with her family in the rural Midwest.

Kathryn's Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


This week's Blog Tour Tuesday features 
Bridgeport Holiday Brides 
Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 Series - Book 5
by Zina Abbott

About the Book:

With the arrival of Beth Dodd’s sister, Hazel, in California, Beth and her fiancĂ©, Val Caldwell, are now able to make wedding plans.  Thanksgiving seems to be a good time to tie the knot and bring the Caldwell family together, as well, but when Val’s older half-brother, Edwin, and his family show up for the wedding, things fall apart. Edwin’s advice to Val to wrest control of Beth’s holdings and absorb them into the Caldwell Ranch leads to bad blood and fisticuffs between the brothers. Will Beth call the wedding off to protect what she’s worked so hard to gain?

As Beth’s younger sister, Hazel, realizes she’s falling in love with Val’s younger brother, Luther, she learns the feeling is mutual. Luther has bought a ring and plans to announce their engagement at Thanksgiving, as well. But Beth has a stormy relationship with her future brother-in-law, and believes her sister is too young to marry. Headstrong and determined to control their own destinies, will happiness also be possible for these BRIDGEPORT HOLIDAY BRIDES?


“How do you like California so far, Hazel? It compare all right to Ohio?”
          “Still ain’t used to them high mountains cuttin’ off the sun afore the day’s over, but other than that, it’s right fine. Bethie’s place has got a wild feel to it, but I like it.”
          “Good. We have some refinement, but it is still not as settled out here as back east. Oh, Luther said to tell you he hopes to get over here a bit later. One of us was needed to check on a problem in the west pasture, and he drew the short straw. But, I know he is looking forward to seeing you again.”
          Val bit his tongue. Only a sense of loyalty to his brother kept him from blurting the truth that Hazel was all Luther had talked about on the trip up and back from Lundy.
          Hazel immediately perked up and her face brightened into a big smile. “I’d be right pleased to see him. How long you reckon afore he gets here?” Then, glancing at the frown on Beth’s face, she looked down and said demurely, “Reckon I’d like to see him again, too.”
          Val burst out laughing. “Oh, he’ll be by, don’t you worry.


Trot on over to my Zina Abbott Books blog where I am featuring Bridgeport Holiday Brides as part of the Turkey Trot Blog Hop. CLICK HERE for an opportunity to enter to win a digital copy of Bridgeport Holiday Brides or an Amazon gift card.


 Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her novel, Family Secrets, was published by Fire Star Press. Her novelette, A Christmas Promise, and the five novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine, A Resurrected Heart, Her Independent Spirit, Haunted by Love  and Bridgeport Holiday Brides were published by Prairie Rose Publications.

Please sign up for Zina Abbott’s newsletter by CLICKING HERE.


Monday, November 21, 2016

The Cowboy’s Mobile Home - The Chuckwagon

We’ve all heard the stories and seen the movies about the cowboys herding the cattle and spending weeks on the trails.  The lonesome life of the cowboy is almost as legendary as the stories they surely told around the fire.

While the cowboys were crucial and necessary to drive the cattle, life on the trail become much more bearable with the invention of the chuckwagon.  

Charles Goodnight - Inventor of the Chuckwagon

 via Wikimedia Commons
Before 1866, a cowboy would have to rely on food they could pack in their saddle bags, or find along the way.  Charles Goodnight, a cattleman himself, understood the need for sufficient food to feed the hungry men along the way as markets opened up further away, requiring long time on the trails.

A well fed crew would be much easier to manage, so he took a Studebaker surplus Army Wagon and made it into something that would be able to hold the necessary supplies for the trips.  

One of the first things added was a large box attached to the rear of the wagon that had a hinged door.  When the door opened, it would make a table so the cook could use it to prepare the food.  Everything was right inside the pantry, with shelves and drawers added for the gear.

Over time, the design was improved, with heavier running gear to be able to make if over the rough terrain on a cattle drive.  The design became so sought after, Studebaker make a wagon called the “Round-Up” by the year 1880.

Many people have believed that the name “Chuck” was used as it was a popular nickname for the name Charles, the man who came up with the initial design.  However, it is actually a slang term for food, as used by meat merchants in England for their cheaper foods.

Chuckwagon - More Than Just for Food

The chuckwagon would also carry many other necessary supplies for a cattle drive, such as medicines, bedrolls, horse tack, blacksmith tools, rain slickers and other personal items of the cowboys.

One side of the wagon had barrels for water to last at least 2 days, while the other side had a large toolbox that had everything needed for repairs.  Everything was covered with a canvas cover that kept everything inside dry.  Some of the wagons would even have large tents that could be stretched to cover the spot for cooking and for the men sitting around the fire.

Since wood was a necessity, the cowboys would pick up dried logs and pieces they would find along the way, placing them under the wagon in a storage area usually made of out canvas, that was stretched like a hammock.

But, the chuck wagon wasn’t just the mobile kitchen.  For many cowboys, it was their home away from home.  The chuck wagon was the hub of the camp, and for some men, it was the only place they had to really call home.

The stories told sitting around the fires next to these chuckwagons would be worth their weight in gold to hear them today.  One can only imagine the life these cowboys led, and the importance these chuckwagons on the long cattle drives.

I’m currently finishing a story that has featured a chuckwagon driven by a very unlikely “cowboy”.  It will be released in January, along with some other books as part of a secret project, so if you’d like to learn even more fun facts about life on a cattle drive, make sure you look for that book!

Find Kay P. Dawson…

Click the links below to see the books by Kay P. Dawson, including her latest release in the Love's a Gamble Series, "A Drifter's Fortune"

Kay also has a fun FB group just for fans - you have to request to join, so send your request to

Join us for some fun discussions, great contests and special offers just for fans of Kay P. Dawson.

**Get a free book by signing up for the mailing list at

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Post by Angela Raines author

When we write, it's the story that matters as we strive to get words on paper. The characters are running around in our heads, each clamouring to be heard. We don't usually stop to consider the periphery events or common day things that may or may not be time appropriate. There have been some amazing posts on the subject. Here is a few others that some may not have thought of in Colorado. So, really? Is that True?

Telluride Colorado had an AC power plant (Ames Plant) run by water built in 1891. It supplied the electricity to the Gold King Mine 2.5 miles away. The success of this plant helped the company win the Niagra Falls Power Plant in 1895. (This plant is still in service today) For more on this subject:

February 24, 1879 the Denver Telephone Dispatch Company opened for business. This was the seventeenth such company in the nation. Its initial base was 161 customers.

There were thirteen forts built in Colorado between 1833 and 1887. The earliest was Bent's Fort along the Santa Fe Trail and the latest was Fort Logan 1887. Many of these were non-military such as Bent's, Pueblo, Vasquez. Of the thirteen Bent's fort is listed twice, there being two sites, Bent's Old Fort and Bent's New Fort. Fort Garland was the first military fort, built in 1858 and commanded by Kit Carson.
Corner of rebuilt Fort Vasquez
Between 1870 and 1932, Colorado Springs had seven railways systems either in town or was a terminus for the rail lines. Colorado Springs was also the location of Tesla's Experimental Station which operated in 1899. It is said during one experiment Tesla blew the power grid for a major portion of the town.

Pikes Peak as seen from Colorado Springs
Both Colorado College and the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind began in 1874, two years before Colorado achieved statehood. The Deaf and Blind school was begun by Jonathan R Kennedy, the maternal grandfather of actor Lon Chaney, who was from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Grand Mesa is the largest flat top mountain in the world. Located near Grand Junction, Colorado, the mesa is 11,333 above sea level.

Colfax Avenue in Denver is the longest continuous street in America. It's history goes back to the gold rush of 1859. 

Watch for the release of my novella, "Gift of Forgiveness" coming this Holiday Season

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at – and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Amazon author page:

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hunewill Sawmill on Buckeye Creek

In Haunted by Love, my fourth book in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Hazel discovers the presence of a "haint" in her room at the stagecoach inn, Leavitt House. She asks the innkeeper’s wife, Eliza Leavitt, to tell her about this specter. As part of Charlotte’s story, her husband explains why he must leave in the dead of winter to search for work as a sawyer:

          “Bodie still goes strong, and always needs milled lumber. They are even thinking of building a railroad to Bodie because the Standard and other mines in the region must look farther away to find their wood. The mill will have business even after the mines in Lundy close up. But, Charlotte, I cannot continue here as a mere wood chopper. I have more skill than that. I need to get in a position where I can make the most use of what I can do or we never will have our own home.”
          Charlotte rubbed the ache in the small of her back. The expression on her face revealed she was still not convinced.
          Realizing his wife’s thoughts, Swen continued, “I tried to get on with Hunewell Mill, because his mills are much closer to Bridgeport. Even if I had to live up at the mill through the week, we could have our home here in Bridgeport. But, he has all the men he needs right now. I’ll look Lundy over to see if it a good place for us until I can get on with Hunewell.”

The Hunewell Mill I patterned on the Hunewill Sawmills owned by Napoleon Bonaparte Hunewill, a prominent businessman in Mono County. A trip I took along the Buckeye Creek trail almost two years ago took me to the site of the upper sawmill site. Although no buildings or other evidence of the mill remains, the following is the information from the marker:

Site of Hunewill Upper Sawmill
Buckeye Canyon – 1863

Napoleon Bonaparte Hunewill and his wife Esther arrived in San Francisco fro Maine in 1859, and early in 1861 they came to Aurora. Late fall found them building a home at Buckeye Hot Springs. In 1862, N.B. Hunewill had the Eagle Creek Lumber Mill in operation. The demand for lumber was so great that in 1863 the upper mill was opened. Seventy-five men were employed at the two mills. Wagons piled with lumber each pulled by 16 oxen, headed for the Hunewill lumber yard in Bodie where the lumber was quickly used in residences and in the mines. The tree you now see in this area are second growth. Evidence of the log slice on the north side of Buckeye can still be seen.

         Dedicated September 10, 1988, Bodie Chapter No. 64, E. Clampus Vitus

Mr. Hunewill was not the first to own this mill. From The Story of Early Mono County by Ella M. Cain [1872-1966] written in 1961 we read:

“The most urgent need of the early settlers in Big Meadows was for lumber. There was abundant timber in the surrounding mountains and several sawmills driven by steam were quickly built and put in operation. I. P. Yaney erected in the canyon a saw mill which bears his name today. The Twin Lakes mill was built by Z. B. Tinkum, and the Robinson mill by George Robinson on Robinson Creek. Two sawmills were built in Buckeye Canyon by N. B. Hunewill. 

Buckeye Creek

More details may be found in Frank S. Wedertz’s book, Mono Diggings:

The mill and property of Roberts & Company was located in Buckeye Canyon. In 1862, the mill became the Buckeye Mill Co. which went through the hands of Berry, Towle, and finally the sole property of N. B. Hunewill. A second Sawmill in Buckeye Canyon was owned by Mayberry and Hill.

What did running a large sawmill operation entail? The following from Mrs. Cain’s book gives us some clues:

The first white women to live in what is now Bridgeport were Mrs. Vaughn and Mrs. Parsons, who were Cooks at this [upper] Hunewill sawmill.

Oxen teams were used to do the hauling and many hundred oxen could often be seen grazing in the green meadows.

McKay's Clipper Mill, Courtesy of Sierra Nevada Logging Museum

Also from Mr. Wedertz:

In 1879 they left a contract for 8000 oxen shoes with a Reno blacksmith: 2 tons of iron. Such was the business during the Bodie boom. He will also acquired their interests in 1878 and and in 1878 built The Eagle Mill, which ran day and night and turned out 30000 feet of lumber per day and still could not meet the demand from Bodie and Bridgeport, although they ran three ox trucks of 36 oxen and employed 30 men. The manager was Jack Dennison. As many as 10 teams with 40,000 feet of lumber left the Eagle Mill for Bodie.

A major problem, trouble with Grizzlies at the corrals.

The sawmills, oxen, wagons and corrals may be gone, but I assure you the bears are still there. Several years ago I went on an overnight hunting trip to this area with my husband, although the only thing I shoot with is a camera. Our accommodations were top cabin—the cab of his pick-up. I wrote, did needlework and took photos while he and his ATV went in search of game. The road up to the restroom I used warned of the danger of bears. I did not go there by myself at night.


Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. Her novel, Family Secrets, was published by Fire Star Press. Her novelette, A Christmas Promise, and the five novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine, A Resurrected Heart, Her Independent Spirit, Haunted by Love  and Bridgeport Holiday Brides ]now on preorder] were published by Prairie Rose Publications.