Friday, June 28, 2019

Tracking A Relative in the 1870s

For the past couple of decades, people have become interested in searching for their ancestral roots. Lucky for them, the search is easier with companies like Ancestry, 23 and me, Family Tree DNA, CRI Genetics (to name a few). But what did someone do in the late 1800s when tracking down a relative? My heroine Ciara Morrissey in Dreams of Gold, while still grieving the loss of her mother, discovers a stack of letters in her mother’s possession. She thought he’d disappeared years earlier and is surprised to learn her parents had been in constant contact. Using the address of the most recent letter, she sets out for Wyoming Territory to find her father.

Newspaper articles were also helpful in locating someone. In my research for this story, I discovered that back then just about any snippet of news hit the papers. Relatives visiting from out of town, someone being taken to hospital, a speech given at a garden club meeting, a new hire at a company, someone with an item to be sold, and, of course, engagements, births, and weddings could all be found in a newspaper. One had to be a bit of a detective because many newspapers in the 1870-1880s weren’t organized in the same format as today’s are. I found a personal ad for the sale of a lamp placed at the bottom of a column touting the opening of a bank complete with a list of its officers and their expertise. Obviously, the ad was the right size to complete the column. Pull up an image on Google images of newspapers from a certain year or target a topic like Billy the Kid or Jesse James. You’ll be amazed at what you find surrounding the lead article. Like this one for P.T. Barnum’s circus has an ad for fabric to the left and an announcement of a talk at a literary society to the right. Reading must have been so entertaining.

Dreams of Gold is included in Beneath a Prairie Sky: A Western Historical Romance Sampler, which includes the first chapter of novels by ten authors. A sampler is a great way to discover new authors and try out a story before buying.

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 BLURB for Dreams of Gold

In 1871, Easterner Ciara Morrissey travels west to honor a sacred promise to her mother and locate her fortune-seeking father. Caretaker to her grandparents and mother until their deaths has created a thirst in Ciara to see the wider world.

Sheriff Quinn Riley hunts the Irish charlatan who swindled half of Bull City, Wyoming’s residents. He’ll stick close to the newly arrived opinionated woman. Within only hours, easterner Ciara Morrissey upsets the townspeople by making inquires about his prime suspect. He’s duty-bound to keep her safe but being near the green-eyed beauty sets off a stampede in his heart.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

What did they feed the animals back in the day?

Pets, where would we be without our pets? But for most of history, only the well-to-do could afford to keep pets especially in the cities. 

On farms, dogs and cats had a place as long as they didn't become problems. Dogs could guard the yard and children, but if they got a taste for chicken, that was the end of that.
Cats were expected to eat mice.

So what did they feed their pets back in the day? Table scraps. Maybe a soup bone. Milk. Because it wasn't until after the mid-1800s that a dog food was made. An American electrician in London, James Spratt, saw dogs eating scraps of biscuits the ships were throwing out. So he made a biscuit for dogs made up of wheat vegetables and meat. Spratt also had the first cat food. Spratt's Patented Dog Biscuit later became part of General Mills. 

To get rid of deceased horses, Ken L Ration came up with canned horse meat to feed dogs.

Now, well, grocery stores devote aisles to dog food, and Americans spend more than 72 billion on their pets yearly. 

Dogs and cats are pampered today. I'm sure their cousins from the 1800s would roll their eyes at our pets today. While animals of the 19th century were expected to do their 'chores' - the pets of today work hard to train their people to spoil them.

In my book Sarah ~ Mr. Beasley is a dog who helps her as she teaches school. 
Sarah ~ The next Sweet Historical Romance in the Montana Brides of Solomon's Valley Series.
Sarah has put away her doubts and knows Matt is the one for her. She's also received her letter regarding her intent to teach schools in Shirleyville. She's planning on a wedding but is Matt?
Bridgette continues her genius idea to help outlaws by splitting their rewards with them and then offering to represent them as their lawyer to get them shorter jail sentences. Oh, yeah. Her husband, Sterling, doesn't know about her scheme, but he does wonder why she picked property that backs into the badlands.
The judge and Rachel are settling in to married life, but those kids are keeping them busy.
And then there are Cassidy and Ronan. They are up to something, but no one knows quite what.
Come on back to Solomon's Valley and see what everyone is doing.
A Sweet historical romance with a few twists and turns, fun and faith, and a good time had by all.
Available on preorder on Amazon
 and on Kindle Unlimited

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Small Towns in the Wild West

Small Towns in the Wild West

Many may wonder if the small towns in the days of the wild west were depicted correctly in the movies seen on television and in the theater today. Let's take a look at some small towns and see what the big deal is. The photos show the towns then and present day.

Deadwood, South Dakota

Image result for deadwood south dakota   Image result for deadwood south dakota

During the 1870's, gold was found in Deadwood. A town rose up almost overnight, but it wasn't a typical western town. It was quite wild and not safe for a woman to be there alone. It was a rough town, with gambling, prostitutes and vigilantes taking the law into their own hands. 

Virginia City, Nevada

\\\\Image result for virginia city nevada 
Image result for virginia city nevada 
This town struck it rich with gold mining in the mid 1800's. Another town that rose up from the gold mining days, where men toiled over mines and many left empty-handed. Those who struck gold spent their money on the luxuries the town offered. 
Denver, Colorado
Image result for denver colorado western townImage result for denver colorado western town 
What a difference. Who knew this mountain town would grow to be such a big city? Known as a cowboy town, Colorado is located in the Southe Platte River Valley on the western edge of the High Plains. 
When I wrote my book series, The Pistol Ridge series, I wanted the feel of a real western town. Studying these old west towns was fun and educational. My stories take place in a fictional town called Pistol Ridge in Montana Territory in the 1870's. It's a story where the townsfolk ran off the dirty sheriff and the town pulls together whenever something happens. Everyone looks out for one another. Perhaps that is not what truly happened in these old western towns, but I'd like to think so. It's why I created my own fictional town and the stories created are inspirational and sweet romance. 

Here is the premise of the series:Pistol Ridge is a small remote mining town near Nevada City, Montana Territory, where a dirty sheriff had held the town hostage by ordering his thugs to steal a percentage of their earnings to keep law and order. But, the women, holding a secret society, went looking for a hero. They found him and cleaned up the town with the help of several men, brothers in arms, who came to help their former commander.

Now, seven men are looking for somewhere to hang their hats. Will Pistol Ridge be the place to find reprieve for their weary souls? I loved writing about these men and women in this old western town.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Before writing my newest release, Manny’s Triumph, I set out to research lumber camps. What I came across changed my novel’s conflict completely.

Human trafficking has been in the news for some years now. PBS’s Frontline recently featured sex trafficking in an episode. This became a hot issue in the late 1880s in Wisconsin. I had no idea that once upon a time there weren’t sufficient laws to protect women or punish the victimizers.

An example of a cartoon that ran
with a newspaper article in 1886.
In 1886, newspapers began reporting about young girls enticed with promises of fame by theater agents, something I mention in my novel. These “agents” would then be forced into work as dance hall girls to pay for their costumes and the cost of their travel. The girls would wear risqué clothing and socialize with the men while selling high-priced drink. The bartender physically abused any female who refused. At this point, tales of prostitution didn’t enter into the newspaper reports.

This image accompanied Minnie Pine's
story in the St. Louis Globe.
That changed with Minnie Pine. She came from a good family and had traveled to Iron Mountain, Michigan to be a waitress. According to an article in the St. Louis Globe Democrat (January 24, 1887), the young woman reported that she’d been taken to a heavily guarded brothel. Two women held her down while men used her sexually. Though I’d like to know how she escaped, since that seems like “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say, I couldn’t find those details. Julia Howden had a similar experience in Wisconsin. She was lured by an advertisement for a respectable job and ended up in a brothel guarded by armed men and dogs. (Daily InterOcean, Oct. 28, 1887)

Because of actual victims’ stories, one would believe the law would help. Julia Howden’s imprisonment took place in Marinette, Wisconsin. The prosecutor visited the brothel and decided it was a pleasant place. Hah! He didn’t see any need for the law to be involved.

Dr. Katharine Bushnell
Enter Dr. Katharine Bushnell, a real person who I include as a character in my book. This woman tirelessly traveled around Northern Wisconsin interviewing people and visiting logging camps. She rallied supporters of her cause to help young women such as Julia Howden and Minnie Pine by petitioning lawmakers. Though the governor seemed unwilling to do anything, eventually a law nicknamed the Kate Bushnell law was passed in Wisconsin. For the first time, it was illegal in the state for unmarried women to be abducted and forced into prostitution. Married women, incidentally, were not covered by this law.

Should you wish to read further, I relied heavily on an article by Bonnie Shucha for the William and Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice (Volume 23, issue 1) and

To learn more about the author and her novels, please subscribe at

You can also visit Marisa's website at

An excerpt from Manny's Triumph (a sweet romance)

Later that evening she paused outside of the office door. Earlier the man behind the desk, Silas, directed her to a room at the very top of the hotel and left her there to settle in. A meal arrived for her so she hadn’t needed to leave the room. For all of her misgivings after speaking with the owner, she started to feel hopeful again. She had a room to herself, a job, and a full belly.

Now, she could be content with something to read before settling in to sleep. That’s when Silas’s newspaper came to mind. Deciding to see if he left it at the front desk, she crept down the backstairs.

To her relief, no one stood behind the counter. She nosed around freely. Not seeing the paper, she searched the lobby, hoping someone might have left a paper on one of the small tables placed by the sofas. Then she spotted a folded newspaper on the chair next to the office.
Hearing voices behind the door, she moved to quickly grab the paper and leave. Her ears caught the words “the new girl” and she couldn’t resist. She stopped to eavesdrop.
“…weren’t planning to make another trip to Hurley this month. LeClaire won’t be down for at least two weeks. Since that trouble with the Fuller girl, we can’t leave her with Shirleen. You’ll need to take her up to Hurley tomorrow.”
Since the other person spoke quietly, Carlene couldn’t make out the response to those words. What she heard next chilled her. “Don’t leave her without getting the money from LeClaire. He’s sure to buy a lovely little virgin like her, but he’ll try and cheat you since we didn’t arrange the details ahead of time. I wish she wrote like the others did so I could have the brothel owner here.”
A voice that she recognized as belonging to the desk clerk whined, “Why can’t the boss deliver her, Mr. Halderson?”

At that point, she heard footsteps and rushed to hide behind the plant. She put thoughts of the day aside and focused on the here and now.
Peering through the plant’s leaves, Carlene decided that the girl knocking on the office door must be a maid. At the knock on the door, her boss opened it and brusquely asked, “What is it?”
 “Sir, are you wanting me to take a uniform to the new girl’s room?” the maid asked.
“No, I’ve decided she won’t be staying with us Gretchen. If you’ve finished your jobs get to your room now.”
She wasn’t staying? So, the two men had been talking about her. Tomorrow they’d sell her if she stayed here. What would she do?
Since she poured over every newspaper she could get ahold of, she been aghast at news about the white slavery rings in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan. She’d read many editorials criticizing Governor Rusk for refusing become involved with the problem. To actually be trapped by white slavers after reading about them came as a terrible shock to Carlene. Forcing away the terror that held her immobile, she tried to form a plan.
Sister Mary Boniface had advised her about this. “You answer an advertisement at the risk of your virtue,” she’d warned. With that warning in mind, Carlene had asked Sister Magdalena to read through the job notices in each paper with her. She wanted wise counsel on which jobs would be safe.
Both women knew that white slavers lured young women with the promise of theater jobs. That had been reported in more than one paper. Carlene had never heard of entrapping young women by advertising for maids. What a pickle she was in now!
The lobby was quiet again and Carlene decided it was time to leave the camouflage of the potted plant. Poking her head out to be sure no one was there she left the safety of the large plant. Before racing up to her room, she moved first to grab the paper off the chair.
Drats! The man took it with him. She had wanted to check the job notices she felt sure she’d find in it.
Sneaking back up the rear stairs and to her room, she stealthily entered it and locked the door. She refilled her carpet bag with her few possessions she unpacked only a few hours ago. Done, she unlocked her door and peered out into the hall. Seeing it empty she crept down the stairs and into the kitchen. She would exit using the back door in that room.
She slipped into the room and stopped. A maid stood directly in front of her. The girl’s gaze darted from the bag Carlene held to her terrified face. With a pitying glance, she nodded her head and pointed to the door with her chin.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Carlene escaped into a small garden at the back of the hotel. Keeping close to the building, she inched along in the shadows until she reached the boardwalk that ran along the street.
She needed a disguise and a ride to the lumber camp.

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.

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