Friday, June 22, 2018

Research Trip To The Past

Last month, my husband and I enjoyed a short, four-day vacation to the Grand Canyon. We’d visited on a car trip with two of our children years ago but found driving through the South Rim frustrating because of the high volume of traffic. Well, lots had changed. Not about the canyon itself--the gorge is still as beautiful and majestic as ever. Plus we were reminded more than once that the Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. 

The tour package included a night at a historic hotel with dinner and breakfast buffets in Williams (the closest city to the national park), a bus tour of the sights, a night in a hotel inside the park, and the feature we looked forward to most--the train ride. In our minds, the two-hour-and-fifteen-minute ride would pass quietly as we either viewed the scenery or read our chosen books. The ride itself went off like clockwork, but the management of the company must believe the passengers need entertainment for almost the entire ride.

Once I realized the tone, I settled back and listened to cowboy banjo music, entertaining facts shared by the conductor, accordion music by an energetic senior citizen, and a pseudo train robbery. (The conductor even coached us on how to respond and what to say.)  We got into the spirit and played along.

The shuttle buses running within the park allow visitors to see the exhibits at their pace. I enjoyed not hassling with traffic and having to avoid unpredictable pedestrians. Clouds and a cold wind arrived close to sunset so we viewed the spectacular color display from inside a restaurant.

Theoretically, I knew the canyon was long--approximately 275 miles. But listening to the bus guide give the facts and figures made me realize what a shock early explorers must have felt when arriving at the edge. Depending on where in its length they encountered the gorge, they might have had to travel for almost two weeks to get around it. Think of the native peoples and the stories they created to explain such a geological feature.

The Grand Railway Hotel (Williams) is a great example of the accommodations provided to travelers many years ago—high ceilings, detailed woodwork, huge dining room, and efficient, friendly staff. Built in 1905 on the canyon’s south rim, the El Tovar Hotel is a national landmark and was originally a Harvey House (the subject of a future blog post). Just sitting on the porch made me feel like I’d been transported in time--especially as I listened to the Hopi flute player and let the plot ideas float in my head.

I’d love to hear suggestions for great spots to visit in the western states. One lucky commenter wins an ecopy of my only historical romance set in the same state as the Grand Canyon: Libbie, Bride of Arizona.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

MARKETING THE OLD FASHIONED WAY? #SweetAmericanaSweethearts @renawomyn1

I want to let the readers of this blog know: I'm celebrating my birth month with a gift to one person who comments on this blog, or any of the others I've written between June 15, and July 1, 2018.
There will also be one major winner chosen from the comments on all the blogs post for this time frame.
Standing Out from All the Rest
photo copyright by the author
Today advertising is pretty ubiquitous. We see in everywhere. How do you stand out in the crowd?  Was it any different back before 1900? A look at some of the old Colorado newspapers may give a hint of the way people got the word out about what they had to offer.

Take these advertisements from the Aspen Tribune in 1898

The description of the fishing outfit fascinates me. A split bamboo pole, aluminum reel and silk line. Now that's a fishing pole.

Do any of these sound familiar? Can you imagine it being too hot in Aspen at 8,000 feet? Makes you wonder what the rest of Colorado's weather was like that year.

I love this advertisement from Colorado Springs in the late 1800s on the sale of Shirt Waist. What was interesting, the business, Hibbards, was a staple in Colorado Springs from 1892-1996 and was one of the last independent department stores in the area.

Then there is Mrs. R. Eslick who opened a photo gallery in Julesburg, Colorado in 1898. Photography was not just a man's job. There were more than a few women who took up the business of photography. Julesburg was once known as the wickedest city in the West, according to the towns website. For more information on Julesburg Click Here

Of course we mustn't forget the physicians. These three appeared in the Central City, Colorado newspaper in 1873. Colorado had a plethora of physicians when it was just a territory, then even more as the population grew and it became a state. Early on Colorado was not only known for the wealth that was in the ground, but the clear, dry air that aided many in recovering from various illnesses.

And these in the Rico, CO. newspaper in 1882. Located in the southwestern part of Colorado in Delores County, you can read more of the towns history Here

Now we don't want to forget having fun. Here are two pieces from the Opera House in Julesburg, Colorado in 1898. So many towns had their opera houses. They were the place to not only see shows, but also traveling variety acts.

So as you can see, marketing is still marketing no matter what the year. Sometimes I think the best way to get a feel for a town I am writing about, or using as a template is to read and study the advertisements in their papers. Now that so many are available online, it is so much fun to read.

I will leave you with an ad from the Sierra Journal in 1883, the newspaper for Rosita, Colorado that Helen Hunt Jackson used as the setting for her children's story "Nellie's Silver Mine". Helen visited Rosita many times and loved the beauty of the area, which shows in her use of the town and surrounding area in the book.

Until next time, have a wonderful beginning of summer. Enjoy the stories the Sweet Americana Sweethearts have to offer, and have fun. And of course I must advertise my latest story in the Lockets and Lace series that was released early this year. If you haven't read this series, it's great way to spend summer afternoons in the hammock, sipping tea...ahhh!

Purchase Here

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Member of National League of American Pen Women,
Women Writing the West,
Pikes Peak Posse of the Westerners

Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Monday, June 18, 2018

Engagement rings of the Victorian Era

By Sophie Dawson

As I write I find myself researching what may seem odd. In this case I was needing to describe a wedding ring for my upcoming book, Wanted: Bookkeeper, in the Silverpines series. Joel and Tilde are marrying and Joel is giving her there rings his birth mother wore. These were from the 1870’s. Wanting to be fairly accurate in the style and possible stones, I did some google searches. 

The variety of stones, gold and styling varies through the years and by the prosperity of the groom. 
“The character of presents given to each other by an engaged couple, should be in strict accordance with their position in life and pecuniary means at disposal. Love should not be measured by the costliness of its tokens. A rich man may spend a little fortune on an engagement ring, whilst a poor man may only be able to afford a simple band of enchased gold, to be worn afterwards as a keeper to the wedding ring itself. There is no greater folly than making extravagance in present-giving before marriage a burden to be afterwards defrayed by stint of living and privation of necessaries.”

I didn’t really find much about the wedding ring itself. Seems the wedding band is pretty much what we think of it today. 
One popular ring of the mid Victorian era that I wouldn’t want is the snake ring. Prince Albert gave one to Queen Victoria and whatever she did soon became all the rage.

It wasn’t until the 1870’s that diamonds were often used in rings. In 1867 the diamond mines were opened in South Africa and the stones became more available. Even then most rings were clusters of small stones.

So what did I decide to use as the engagement ring for Joel? Since his father is a sheriff of a small Iowa town, I figured a modest ring would be best. So this small ruby with gold fluting fit the bill nicely.
The character of Joel Richards is first seen in Giving Love book 3 of the Cottonwood series. His story continues is Wanted: Bookkeeper part of the Silverpines Series coming August 28.
Ring photos from:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Birds of Baker City

by Shanna Hatfield

The heroine in my soon-to-be-released book in the Baker City Brides series really loves birds. Not just the put out bird seed and admire her feathered friends kind of admiration.

No, Delilah Robbins makes a career from studying birds, sketching birds, writing about birds, and creating a haven for birds in her yard.

 During the time period of this story, the Audubon Society had not yet formed although protecting waterbird populations was a hot topic among many ornithologists.

The slaughter of millions of waterbirds, particularly egrets and other waders, for the millinery trade, led to the foundation of the Masschusetts Audubon Society in 1896 by Harriet Hemenway and Mina Hall.

By 1905, the National Audubon Society was founded, placing the protection of gulls, terns, egrets, herons and other waterbirds high on its priority list for conservation.

In the story, Delilah belongs to the American Ornithologists’ Union. The AOU was founded in 1883 out of concern for bird conservation and interest in developing the field of ornithology in North America. 

It is said those early efforts led to the formation of the
Audubon Society as well as the Biological Survey (known today as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)  At one time, the AOU was the largest ornithological society in the Western Hemisphere and one of the oldest organizations in the world devoted to the study and conservation of birds. The AOU archives are housed at the Smithsonian Institution.

As a dedicated ornithologist, it was easy to picture Delilah, pencil and sketchpad in hand, sitting on a tree limb and watching one of her beloved birds.

I happened upon an old book, written during the Edwardian era, that offered a list of birds found in Baker County during the 1890s. 

Among the expansive list were sandpipers, mourning doves, turkey vultures, various hawks, osprey, owls, kingbirds, magpies, crows, meadowlarks, finches, sparrows, sage thrasher, swallows, chickadees, juncos, robins, bluebirds, and calliope hummingbirds. 

If you’ve never seen a calliope hummingbird, their colors are quite spectacular and they are listed as the tiniest North American bird.

In the story, Delilah makes a mixture of sugar and water to attract hummingbirds to her yard. 

Lightning and Lawmen will release June 28!

Here's an excerpt from the story:

Whatever was in the tree certainly didn’t belong there. Snatches of brown stood out among the green leaves. A few more feet closer and he concluded the intruder in the tree was of the human variety, most likely a boy. Why wasn’t the youngster in school?

Dugan moved directly beneath the tree and looked up. A grin spread across his face and his eyebrows rose toward the brim of his hat. The person in the tree might be dressed like a boy, but with a curvy backside like that, and a long tendril of wavy brown hair escaping the cap tugged on their head, he had no doubt he was staring up at a woman.

But what woman would wear britches and climb trees? This one shimmied up to a branch where he could see a bird’s nest close to the end of it. She straddled the branch and inched her way forward.

The only female he could think of who’d do such a thing was on a train heading east. Wasn’t she?

When the woman stretched out on a limb, trying to get a better view into a bird’s nest, he caught a glimpse of her profile and sucked in a breath.

“Delilah?” he asked in baffled wonderment.

The woman gasped as she whipped her head around to look at him. She lost her grip on the branch and would have fallen if she hadn’t quickly regained her composure and wrapped her arms around the branch.

“What in Sam Hill are you doing up there?” Dugan shifted so he could get a better look at her face.

After spending her formative years on a farm in eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.
Shanna loves to hear from readers. Follow her online at:
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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Imperfectly Perfect

Have you ever met someone you were drawn to and later realized they were different in some way? It's happened to me more than once.

In college I had a friend who had lost his thumb. I'd known him all semester and never noticed. Then one day I saw him in the cafeteria and he reached out his hand to shake mine. It was the hand without a thumb. I wasn't expecting him to not have a thumb and I jumped back just a little. I felt so bad about showing my surprise. He didn't react at that time, but we did talk about it some time later. He said he was so used to people being surprised that he rarely even noticed it. I didn't ask how it happened and still don't know his story, but I remember being amazed at his ability to not be affected when others might have a less than polite reaction.

The story that's so close to my heart is of  a friend from high school who had a deep scar beside her chin. She was very conscious of it and usually covered it with a hand or kept her head turned away. Funny, when I met her I didn't notice the scar. It was only later when I noticed her hand on her face that I realized what she was trying to cover up. I never asked her how she'd gotten it because it seemed like such a difficulty for her and I didn't want to upset her.

I saw her twenty years after we graduated, at a reunion of course, and it was so wonderful to reconnect. It turned out she'd moved away from our hometown, too, and we now lived only a few miles apart. Over lunch a few months later, she confided about how upsetting the scar had been during her fragile teenage years.

She'd grown to accept it as an adult mainly because of how the man who would become her husband reacted to it. She told me she'd mentioned it and he'd laughed. He told her he could certainly see the scar, but he saw inside her heart much easier. He told her he loved every inch of her, even the scar.

She'd gotten the scar when she fell off her bike riding with her cousins. He reminded her how important her cousins were to her happy childhood. He reminded her what a joy it must have been to ride the dirt roads of her youth with kids she loved.

She told me she wished she hadn't been so self-conscious when she was a teenager. She laughed when she said that now the scar was a happy memory rather than a stain on who she was. I loved it that she could change her thoughts about something that had been so difficult for her when we were in high school.

My inspiration for Christina and Mitchell in the Colorado Matchmakers series, is partially from my old friend and how she struggled with what she thought made her inferior. Her name is Christina, though her husband's name is Bart, not Mitchell.

In my story, Christina Bristol is half Sioux. She wasn't accepted in her home town and neither was her mother. When she meets Mitchell Powell, the world changed for both of them. Mitchell had a birthmark on his cheek. Once he was on his own, he chose to work on cattle drives that kept him out in the wilderness with just the company of a few cowboys. He was more comfortable there where he didn't feel so self-conscious.

Here's a tiny snippet about what Mitchell thought when he realized that Christina was truly a special woman.

Christina Bristol was a remarkably beautiful woman, inside and out. She was clever, passionate, and kind. Her life had been rough, from what she had told him so far, about her mother and growing up part Sioux. She even trusted him with her other name, Mahpiya. Life was good here and her happiness made his heart sing. And she never shunned him. Suddenly he appreciated her even more for telling him the truth.

Writing this story was a sweet experience for me. I remembered my conversations with my friends and tried to give Christina and Mitchell some of the experiences and feelings and thoughts I heard from my friends. We all know that looks have nothing to do with who a person really is. It's all about the heart. I'm thankful to have had these people in my life.

The Colorado Matchmaker series is about how lonely people are brought together by Susannah Lucas, a childless woman in Rocky Ridge, Colorado. Unable to have a family, she turned to helping people find each other when their chances to find happiness and love were slim. Each story is a stand alone story with a happy ending and can be read in any order. Christina and Mitchell is the sixth book in the series.


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, Twitter, or her website.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Iroquois Beadwork in Art and Dress

In the bright sunlight, glass beads probably appeared to sparkle like magic to the native 16th century Haudenosaunee, what most know as Iroquois Indians. Prior to the introduction of glass beads, the Indians made beads out of bone, antler, stone, shell, quills, and pottery shards. Women used beads to decorate clothing, including moccasins and baby carriers as well as clothing.

From the time of first contact of Europeans and the indigenous people of North America, and largely through the work of well-meaning missionaries, a slow process of acculturation began to undermine the spiritual foundations of the Northeast woodland people. Conflicts from King Philip's War to the American Revolution facilitated the work of the missions, destroying not only the Indians' ancestral ties to the land, but their economic base as well, forever altering the lives and arts of these indigenous people.

Man or woman's headdress - Mohawk
But it was in the early 17th century when the Haudenosaunee world and the Western world began to interact that the tastes of Iroquoian mothers, aunties and grandmothers turned to what we know today as raised Iroquoian style beadwork.

The indigenous women loved the delicate look of the English lace the women wore. While they could not acquire things like lace or the materials to create it – they had liberal access to white glass beads via the trade network and learned to use these delicate beads on dark backgrounds to replicate the look of lace.

The end of the Revolutionary War and beginning of the 18th centry saw the beginning of two events that would affect the Northeast—tourism and, especially in Paris, fashion.

The traditional ways of sustaining disappeared with the coming of the Europeans. Indian women, wisely assessed what they could do to appeal to this encroaching white population in order to support their families. They used their skills with beadwork to make items to trade and sell. It allowed them to display their technical skills and artistic vision to incorporate symbols and motifs that represented the sacred relationship of the natural world. They shared this beauty with others around the globe.

Even in the 19th century through to today, Iroquois women, and a few men, continue to produce beautiful pieces of Iroquois beadwork. Although beadworkers live on all of the reservations, the majority live on the Tuscarora Reservation near Niagara Falls and on the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal. Often they use patterns passed down from their 19th century ancestors.  

The back of the stereo card says “Group of Indian Women at Bead Work. Scene on Goat Island, Niagara.”

“Goat Island during the summer season is much frequented by vendors of souvenirs of the Falls, for few can pay a visit her without carrying away some little article of curiosity as a remembrance thereof; hence those who keep shop “under the shade of the greenwood tree,” drive a considerable and profitable trade. Amongst them the Indian women are conspicuous, as seated on the sward they curiously contrive purses, pincushions, needle-books, slippers, caps, and other numerous articles in elegant bead work, which for beauty of design and neatness of execution is unsurpassed. In the neighbourhood of Niagara in times past, ere the white face set foot upon their territory were the hunting grounds, of the Seneca Indians, and it is the remnant of this scattered tribe that gains a subsistence by the manufacture and sale of fancy articles upon the ground where at one time the tribe held undisputed sway. About four miles from Niagara, is a small Indian village, where the old laws and customs of this people are still observed to a limited extent, the inhabitants electing their chief and looking up to him as the patriarch of the flock.”
You may find Zina Abbott's books on her Amazon Author Page by CLICKING HERE.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Texas Man of Vision ~ Ferdinand Von Herff

by Kathryn Albright

Some individuals are larger than life. Ferdinand Von Herff was such a man. He was an educated man of vision, fortitude, discipline, and benevolence, and Texas is the better for the legacy he left. 

Ferdinand Von Herff
Ferdinand was the oldest of seven children, born in Germany into the noble Von Herff family. He had a thirst for learning, diligence and an analytical mind. In 1843 he graduated from the University of Giessen with a Doctor of Medicine degree. At 23 years of age, he was appointed the position of surgeon in the Hessian Army. He soon became recognized for his treatment of eye injuries and also for the rapidity of his surgical amputations. He was known for keeping his instruments and operating area clean with the use of plenty of soap and water even though this was before the advent of germ theory.

Germany was going through industrialization and the country was swept with a liberal form of socialism. A group of dispossessed noblemen formed a society that offered those in the middle and lower class the opportunity to emigrate to America (Amana Colonies, Brook Farms and Shakers.) In 1847 Ferdinand Von Herff traveled with 33 emigrants to Galveston and then north to the Llano River where they established the colony of Bettina. Although he came primarily as a colonizer, he brought his microscope, surgical instruments, and ether to Texas. He’d always had an affinity for languages and learned Apache and Comanche. He also discussed with them their particular cures and treatments. Despite the rough land and its inhabitants, Von Herff comported himself as a gentleman.

The settlement failed after the first year. No one among the professionals had much experience with or wanted to work a plow and the colony lacked leadership and direction. Yet despite the hardships, Von Herff became convinced that Texas was a land of potential and opportunity.

He had taken a leave of absence from the Hessian Army to make the journey and he’d also left a fiancĂ©e back in Germany. At the end of that same year, with his funds dwindling, he traveled home, married Mathilde Kingel-Hofer (a noble), and resumed his commission as a surgeon.

At the completion of his military service in 1850, Von Herff made plans to build another Utopian community, however he could not drum up interest among the German lower class who no longer wished to be managed by aristocrats. So, he gathered his medical supplies along with his wife and her clavier (she was a gifted singer and pianist,) and emigrated to Texas with his wife. They dropped the “Von” from their name which denoted nobility and became simply Herff.
Spanish Governor's Palace - San Antonio 

What a shock for the genteel Mathilde to contend with primitive living conditions, dusty, unpaved streets, flat adobe buildings and the occasional marauding Comanche and Apache. She was often homesick. To help with finances, Mathilde started giving voice and piano lessons.

Herff’s early patients were the indigent and he often had to barter for his services. Surgeries were done in farmhouse kitchens and outside under the shade of a tree, with people waving branches to ward off flies. Peering at cistern water with his microscope, he found many small moving bodies that he called “animalcules.” He removed them by boiling the water before using it for surgery. As he had in the Prussian Army, Herff became known for his careful, quick surgical technique and his cleanliness.

1856 Microscope

In 1854, he used chloroform for the first time for anesthesia when he surgically removed two large bladder stones from a popular Texas Ranger. This was done in an operating theatre with a crowd watching. With the ranger’s quick recovery, Herff became famous.

Herff was a Union sympathizer during the Civil War, as were many of the Germans living in Texas. Resistance to the southern cause was considered treason, and so for a brief time at the start of the war he served in the Confederate Army as a surgeon. Even so, he was threatened, although never physically harmed. His main allegiance was to medicine and helping his fellow man.

In 1865, he took his six sons (a seventh son died in infancy) and wife back to Germany to visit family and to tour Europe for two years. He exposed his sons to the character of German discipline, education, and corporeal punishment. He was a devoted husband and father.

In 1867 he and his family returned to Texas and he took up his practice again. Cholera and diphtheria ravaged the country at this time. He fought local superstition of hospital’s as places to die and a lack of interest and funds, to start San Antonio’s first hospital in 1869 (Santa Rosa Hospital.) Herff had compassion for the less fortunate and treated everyone with respect, no matter their ability to pay, their skin color, or their political views. He was active in civic affairs, enjoying discussions of philosophy and politics, truly interested in other’s point of view.

Lipan Apache

During the last of the Lipan Indian raids in 1888 where many of the neighboring San Antonio ranches and farms were raided and burned, the Herff property was spared. It was only afterwards that a white feather was discovered pinned by an arrow to the gatepost, a testament to the respect they had for him.

Among his patients were three state governors, noted ministers, top generals, some of the wealthiest people in the country, and the President of Mexico.

Mathilde passed away in 1910 and Ferdinand two years later at the age of 91. Their sons became well-respected professionals in their fields of architecture, banking, medicine, and law. 

Besides establishing the hospital, here are a few of Ferdinand Herff’s most notable accomplishments:
  • He was sought out for his adept treatment of arrows wounds. James H. Cook rode 130 miles to have an arrow removed from his calf by Herff.
  • A man disemboweled in a livery fight, his intestines mixed with dung and filthy straw, recovered after Herff spent thirty minutes meticulously washing the injury and then sutured him back up.
  • Herff removed cataracts from the eyes of an Apache chief successfully. (In appreciation, the chief gave him a young Mexican woman. The woman later married one of his good friends.)
  • At the age of 84, he performed emergency surgery in a farmhouse kitchen using spoons as retractors to remove an ectopic pregnancy.

He is known for many “firsts” in Texas:

  • First cataract operation – 1847
  • First perineal lithotomy – 1854
  • First hysterectomy – 1856 (and perhaps in the U.S.)
  • First diagnosis of uncinariasis (hookworm parasites) – 1864
  • First appendectomy – 1878
  • First gastrostomy – 1879

What a legacy one man's vision and industry left for Texas and the United States!

I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit about this historic figure. I imagine he would have been an interesting man to talk to, likely with many more stories to tell than what is recorded about him!

Resource:  Early Texas Physicians 1830-1915, Edited by R. Maurice Hood, M.D. Published by State House Press, Austin, TX. 1999.

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Kathryn's latest historical western is The Prairie Doctor's Bride.