Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Photo property of the author
As we make our way through this interesting time of staying at home, I'm sure we deal with the fatigue of all the news and frustration of things going so slowly. I know I am, and I still get to work from home. However, being at home has not translated into more writing. On the plus side, I've been able to indulge my love of hiking while still being safe. (For those who follow my personal Facebook posts, you can see some of the places I have traversed)

I thought a look back at some of the challenges faced by our ancestors might be something to ponder. Of course, there were the outbreaks of cholera, malaria, smallpox, and measles. We've all heard of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and the dustbowl from the early 20th century.

But what about smaller areas that had many challenges that we may have forgotten about? I did some research on Vernon County Missouri during and after the Civil War. This was an area that faced many devastating events in a short time.

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History tells us Vernon County was ravaged by many incidents prior to and during the Civil War. 
In December 1858 according to the book "Osages, Bushwhacker's, Etc.”, John Brown and his men came down from Kansas entering Vernon County, Missouri, and attacking three farms. The three farms were that of David Cruise, James Lawrence, and Isaac LaRue. The reason for the raid according to Brown was a slave of the late James Lawrence had sought him out in Kansas, telling Brown that slaves were about to be sold in Texas. Using this reason Brown entered Vernon County and attacked the Lawrence farm. Brown or his men also attacked the other farms during this raid. Although Brown and his associates were indicted for grand larceny and murder by the Vernon County Circuit Court, nothing ever came of that indictment.

From the book, " History of Vernon County Missouri": written and compiled from the most authentic official and private sources", by the end of the Civil War, Vernon County, was “fire-blackened, bloodstained and desolate”. The book also said the people of the county would welcome peace on almost any terms. At the time of the signing of the treaty at Appomattox, the whole county had no more than one hundred families living there. “There was neither town or village. At Nevada City, a dozen small, scattered houses, out of repair; at Balltown, or little Osage, a dozen; at Montevallo, none. Riding from Nevada to Balltown, one did not pass a house.”

What did remain in Vernon County was the rich fertile soil. Many of the returning soldiers took solace in that fact. The country also had timber, water, coal, and stone which could be used to rebuild homes, water their crops, and heat their homes.

Photo property of the author
Into this area families came from other parts of the country, the ex-federal soldiers, searching for a place to call home. A place to find work. This same book on the history of the county said, “Between them [the ex-Union soldier] and the ex-Confederates there was neither clash nor collusion. There was instead a mutual alliance for the rebuilding of the country, and a hearty rivalry as to which of the contracting parties should best discharge their duty.”

According to the county's history, 1875 was the year the county was infested with grasshoppers. To quote, 1875 was the "grasshopper year. In May vast swarms of grasshoppers known as Rocky Mountain Locust, made their appearance in western Missouri and eastern Kansas, devastating vast regions of the country, stripping the earth the vegetation and of almost every green thing. In this county, they were indeed such numbers that in many places the ground was covered with them. Entire fields of wheat and young corn and meadows “a burden," and it seemed as if the mentioned Ecclesiastes was at hand.” The locust swooped in and in just a few hours devoured everything in their path. Although the crops were replanted, and it was a good crop year, to someone who was trying to make a new start, it would be a devastating event. 

I confess I'm sure I would have felt like the world was against me. This small area to me is a microcosm of what life might have been like back in the time I write about. It gives me something to ponder as I research and write the stories my mind creates from these true events. I'm thankful I live at a time when even when I can't hug someone, I can 'converse' with them instantaneously via phone, internet, or facetime. 

In my very first novella, my hero served in the Civil War as a child soldier. Here is a brief excerpt:

Sam awoke from a nightmare shaking and covered with sweat. It was the same nightmare he had been having since the war had ended. He had gotten used to them, but this time it was different. Instead of the usual comrades and other drum and fife boys in his group being blown apart by bullets, cannon fire or bayonets, it was his friends, Clara, Paul, Sally. This one terrified him.

Sam buried the young man and started out, following the tracks of the horses that had been in camp. If Sam was correct the murderer had taken the horses and mules. From the looks of it, the man had made quite a haul.

Pushing ahead as quickly as he could, Sam hoped to find the killer before he had the chance to do anything else. At that thought, Sam went cold. He could see Clara's eyes, those gray/green eyes, telling him to hurry. 

Home For His Heart by [Angela Raines]
$.99 on Amazon
Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Western Writers of America,
Colorado Author League,
Women Writing the West
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

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