Tuesday, August 25, 2020


The building was grand. Opened in 1868, it towered at six stories on Chicago's State Street. Locals nicknamed it the Marble Place because the front was covered completely in marble. For all its grandeur on that October day in 1871, the Field, Leiter & Company store was in trouble. 

Ultimately, the company would become known as Marshall Field's. Today it no longer exists since Macy's bought out the chain fifteen years ago. But, in the nineteenth century, it was the premier department store in Chicago.

That day in October, 1871, company officials learned of a terrible blaze headed their way, literally devouring the city. One of the partners, Leiter, owned a house out of the fire's path, and he was determined to save the costly inventory by moving it to his home. 

How could he do it in time? That involved building a fire in the store.

One of the wonderful things about this tall store was the elevators. An employee raced to the basement and broke up wooden crates to built a fire in the huge boiler. As soon as the elevators were working, employees hustled out goods as well as the company's records to waiting horse-drawn wagons.

They worked all night--loyal employees who wanted to save the company so they'd have a job after the fire destroyed the city. At the moment the last employee exited the lovely marble-faced store, flames shot out each window. The Great Chicago Fire had reached the Marble Palace and consumed it.

The fire totally destroyed the store. Those employees who'd worked tirelessly had saved so much inventory that it was able to repoen in few weeks in a temporary location. Of course, the company rebuilt and went on to be a favorite store in the city for decades.

The Marble Palace plays an early role in my newest novel. Still being written, the novel features a teacher headed west to be both wife and educator. She stops in Chicago and visits this store. What she leaves with is unbelievable! You'll have to wait a while to find out more...

Check out www.marisamasterson.com for information on all of my latest books.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020


Photo property of the author

Lesson Plans - Early Colorado

 Post by Doris McCraw writing as Angela Raines

I was talking with a friend the other day about the richness of the history that surrounds us here in Colorado, as well as other parts of this country. Not the major events, we all know those, but the stories of the smaller, yet important events. To that end, I'll be sharing history, the history that our stories are born from.

I started the series on another blog with 'Acting lessons for Writers' which you can read here. Acting Lessons for Writers

This post will cover the early days of what later became the state of Colorado.

One of the first things I learned about early Colorado was the conflict between General DeAnza and Cuerno Verde. Cuerno Verde had been harassing the settlers in far Southern Colorado near what is now the New Mexico border. In 1779 De Anza traveled up from New Mexico probably through South Park and down Ute Pass. He had running battles along the front range and eventually caught up with Cuerno Verde near the Greenhorn Mountains. Cuerno Verde died Sept. 3, 1779. You can find the marker along near Highway 166. For more on this story: 

Juan Bautista de Anza: The King's Governor in New Mexico

Cuerno Verde - Wikipedia
Photo from en.wikipedia.org

Of course, Colorado was also known for its Fur Trading Forts. The most famous and well known is Bent's Fort, which was located near the Arkansas River near La Junta, Colorado. The current building is a reconstruction of the second fort and well worth a trip to visit. (While there be sure to take in the museums and the Comanche Grasslands, including Picketwire Canyon where you can still see dinosaur footprints.) This is a rich and deep history of the early days of Colorado when the Mountain Men and businessmen such as the Bents, Vazquez, and Rubidoux made their mark on the development of the territory. For more information: 

Colorado Forts: Historic Outposts on the Wild Frontier

The Fur Trade in Colorado

Bent's Old Fort view from the North
Photo from the National Park Service

Of course, no early history would be complete without the journey of Zebulon Pike, who traversed the central and southern part of the Front Range of Colorado. There is even a mountain that bears his name, although he never made it to the top. There is a reconstructed stockade about seventeen miles southeast of Alamosa on the Rio Conejos. You can also visit Pueblo, Colorado where Pike built another stockade during in 1806-07 expedition. An edited version of his diary is available for those who would like to read more. 

The Southwestern Journals of Zebulon Pike, 1806-1807

by Stephen Harding HartArcher Butler Hulbert, et al.

      Pike Stockade
From Colorado Encyclopedia.org

So for those of you who wish to learn more about the rich early history of Colorado here is a start. More lesson plans will be forthcoming.

The book "The Outlaw's Letter" contains later Colorado History. Here is just a small sample:

 "I'd like to check the train schedule when we get into town," Hetty said. "Without Odysseus, train travel would probably be the safest way to head back to Kiowa Wells."

"Station's near the edge o' town," Clover added from the front seat.

"You know you can visit me any time," Hetty offered to Maude and Clover.

Maude gave Hetty a sad smile. Hetty knew Maude didn't think she'd be welcomed, but Hetty knew everyone would love the woman. Before Maude could reply, Hetty saw a new three-story brick building going up.

"What's that?" Hetty asked.

A passerby hearing the question, shouting the answer, pride in his voice, "That's the new school, and we have a military academy being built also."

"It looks beautiful," Hetty called back, "you have a right to be proud." Looking over at Maude, Hetty caught a look of want and sadness. It gave her an idea.

The Outlaw's Letter (Lockets and Lace Book 15)

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Who Really Robbed the West?

If you watch almost any western on television, there is sure to be a bank robbery. Five masked men, who ride into town, during the day, stroll into the bank and rob it.  

Isn't that what everyone believes happened?

The truth is, NO! Its actually a far fetched idea. Studies show there were fewer than ten bank robberies from 1859 through the 1900 in all the frontier west.  That's 15 states and 40 ears.

In Fact, there were more stagecoach robberies in comparison, 300 during the same years.  These were also not done by a gang on horse back.  Most stagecoach robberies were done by one masked bandit, who would simply step out and flag the stage coach down.   
In Arizona alone, 129 stage robberies took place between 1875 and 1903.

Here is an example of what a stagecoach strong box would have looked like. Not something easily carried by one loan bandit.  There was less chance of these being stolen and more chance that most of the travelers would have been relieved of any jewelry and money.  

Strong Box Antique 1800s Stagecoach Train Cast Iron Safe Bank Vault Original | eBay

See the source image

Jennie Felder has come from Oregon on a mule train, to join her brother in Shasta, California. When she arrives and discovers her brother is running the Gold Dust Saloon, she wants to leave, but has no place to go. Then, her brother gets put in jail, and she must run some kind of business to keep him from losing the building. Against the recommendation of handsome Lance Corte, Jennie converts the saloon into a Tea House. Can she convert Lance’s heart as well?

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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Bing Cherry History

by Shanna Hatfield

While I was digging into research for my current work in progress, I came across an article in an old newspaper about a new variety of cherries called Bing. 

Those delicious, darkly sweet little orbs of summer goodness were developed in Oregon back in the 1800s! 

In 1847, Henderson Luelling transported cherries by oxcart from Iowa along the Oregon trail to the Willamette Valley. 
Courtesy Oregon Hist. Soc. Research Lib

Seth Lewelling (Henderson's brother who changed the spelling of their name), established a commercial fruit tree nursery near present day Milwaukie, Oregon, where the Bing cherry was created. Some say it is his Manchurian foreman, Ah Bing, is the one who actually developed the cherry. At any rate, Seth named the cherry after his foreman. 

Bing cherries are a cross between a Black Republican cherry and a Napoleon, a light-skinned cherry from France that become known as a Royal Ann Cherry in Oregon. 

Courtesy Oregon Hist. Soc. Research Lib

One of the most popular cherries in the world, Bing's have become the most widely planted cherry variety in the United States. It wasn't until the 1990s when other varieties of sweet cherries began to pop up in markets. Until that time, Bing was the only dark red, fresh market cherry grown commercially in the Pacific Northwest and the largest cherry production in the United States. 

It remains the most popular planted cherry in Wasco County, Oregon, the biggest cherry-producing county in Oregon.  Bing cherries thrive in the drier regions of central and eastern Oregon due to a tendency to split open in rainy areas. In spite of its flaws, it continues to be one of the top choices of sweet cherries in the world. 

We love cherries at our house, so I'm sharing an easy recipe with you today. 

Cherry Mint Bruschetta

1 frozen waffle

2 tbsp. goat cheese

6 large cherries

1 tsp. grenadine syrup

1 tsp. chopped mint

Cherries and mint for garnish, if desired

Pit and chop cherries, scoop into a bowl and mix with mint. If you are using fresh mint, right off the plant, it is strong, so you can cut back the amount to 1/2 tsp. Stir in grenadine syrup and set aside.

Toast the frozen waffle until it is crunchy on the outside. Cut into quarters. Top with a sprinkling of goat cheese then spoon on cherry-mint mix.

Serves two.

For more information about my upcoming release or details about my books, please visit my website:

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 seeking dark, decadent chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

Shanna loves to hear from readers. Follow her online at:

ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Newsletter | BookBub | Pinterest | Goodreads | You Tube | Twitter

Monday, August 10, 2020

Mail-Order Bees Part II by Kimberly Grist

 From the beginning of beekeeping in the 1600s until the 1800s honey was an article of local trade. Many farmers and villagers kept colonies of bees to supply their own needs and for friends, relatives, and neighbors.

While researching I ran across some fun facts about the history of beekeeping and found that bee-hives were among the popular products of foraging during the Civil War. The article below tells of a time when such foraging was part of at least one practical joke. 

"Bee-hives were among the most popular products of foraging. The soldiers tramped many a mile by night in quest of depositories of sweets. I recall an incident occurring in the Tenth Vermont Regiment - once brigaded with my company- when some of the foragers, who had been out on a tramp, brought a hive of bees into camp, after the men wrapped themselves in the blankets, and by the way of a joke, set it down stealthily on the stomach of the captain of one of the companies, making business quite lively in that neighborhood shortly afterwards."


Source: Image and Article from;

Hardtack and Coffee; Or, The Unwritten Story of Army Life: Page 246, By John Davis Billings 1887

Commercial Beekeeping 

The 19th century saw the revolution in beekeeping practice completed through the perfection of the movable comb hive by Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth. Langstroth designed a series of wooden frames with a rectangular hive box. 

This invention enables the beekeeper to inspect and remove honey without destroying the comb. The emptied honey combs could then be returned to the bees intact for refilling.

Other beekeepers used his methods and began producing honey on a commercial scale. By the late 19th century the price of a box of bees could be as much as sold for the same amount as a calf or sheep, more than a hog. 

New Release:

In my new release, A Beekeeper for Christmas, she's whimsical and fun-loving, he's gruff and likes to keep things simple. Has the matchmaking agency made an error in judgment? Can affection soften two stubborn, opinionated individuals forging a relationship of the romantic kind?


Here's a snippet:

Twenty-nine-year-old Moses Montgomery pulled the wagon in front of his parents’ Gothic Revival-style house with its pointed arches and window shapes. He passed the reins to his brother, Matthew. “I don’t mind telling you I’d rather be mucking out horse stalls than heading into the house to see what our mother wants.”

“Not just Mama. I overheard our brothers’ wives talking about an upcoming women’s auxiliary group meeting. The ladies in town are working harder than ever with the matchmaking service out of Tennessee. Their goal is to marry us all off.” Matthew grinned and motioned with his thumb toward the gray wooden structure trimmed in white. “Fair warning, our sister-in-law, Memphis, has a friend she wants to match you up with back at the orphanage where she grew up.”

“Not some kid, I hope.” Moses pushed his hat to the back of his head and scowled.

“I didn’t ask her age. But Memphis knows you well enough not to try and introduce you to some silly miss. Just hear her out. You can always decline.”

“I’m not opposed to the idea. We order things all the time from a catalog, so why not a wife?”

About Kimberly Grist:

Kim has enjoyed writing since she was a young girl. However, she began writing her first novel in 2017, "I wear so many hats working inside and outside the home. I work hard, try harder, and then begin again the next day. Despite my best efforts, sometimes life just stinks. Bad things happen. I need and want an outlet, an opportunity to relax and escape to a place where obstacles are met and overcome." 

Fans of historical romance set in the late 19th -century will enjoy stories combining, History, Humor, and Romance with an emphasis on Faith, Friends, and Good Clean Fun. 

Connect with Kimberly:

The Fort at Monument Station & Capt. John B. Conyngham by Zina Abbott


This post could also be sub-titled “Just when you think you’ve finished your research, you discover there is more.”

While applying my proofreading edits – not writing or self-editing –my proofreader corrected the name of one of my characters, originally spelled, Capt. Conynham. Puzzled, I went back to my only online source from the very limited online sources I found for Fort Monument. I had spelled the name the same way it was in the single article in which I found the name of the fort commander at the time of my story, Mail Order Penelope.

All right. I love research. Even though I had only 24 hours until I MUST upload my manuscript to Amazon or suffer dire consequences, I was game.

I went back online and looked up the surname as my proofreader spelled it. I came across Captain John Butler Conyngham. The article which clarified that he was the Conyngham associated with the fort did not focus on the fort or the military man in charge. It seems, while Capt. Conyngham was stationed by Monument Rocks, he and Mr. Minor discovered a prehistoric fossil. Said fossil, a type Tylosaurus proriger, was the first found in that part of western Kansas. He turned it over to Professor Louis Agassiz during the latter’s August 1868 visit to the region.


Later on in the article about the fossil, I found a short biography of Capt. Conyngham and a few details about Fort Monument I did not have before. In addition, I was able to capture a better image of the Monument Station that housed the fort.

Drawing by Pvt. J. Stadler, 5th Infantry (stationed at Fort Wallace)

I had seen this image before in a print book. I knew about the wooden above-ground building with its cook shack off to the side. This building served the stage company employees and passengers as well as being the headquarters for Fort Monument.

I knew about the two dugout buildings – such structures were common on the Kansas frontier during that era – but this was the first source that specified the two buildings were used as barracks for the company of soldiers from the 38th Infantry that were stationed there, not for the stagecoach and Army livestock and feed. Based on information about other stations on the Smoky Hill Trail, I though those structures were underground corrals and a storage barn for hay and forage. In other stations along this line, tunnels led to underground corrals and feed storage.

My book was already read and proofread, yet I got this vital detail wrong. REWRITE !

I put the infantrymen inside the dugouts with the windows. I came up with dugout corrals and feed storage caverns similar to what was described for other stations. Like some stations built close to the banks of the Smoky Hill River, in my story, the corral for livestock was dug into the riverbank. Whether this was the case, I don’t know. The details might be available out there somewhere, but I did not find them as part of my research.

Monument Rocks National Natural Landmark, Kansas ctsy Art Davis
Fort Monument was also known as Fort Pyramid because of the nearby rock formation which reminded many of the Pyramids in Egypt. It was established as a stagecoach station for the Butterfield Overland Despatch in 1865. Because of the increased attacks by the hostile Native American tribes – mostly Cheyenne, but also Arapaho and Sioux – who resented the arrival of white men settling on their buffalo hunting grounds, the Army sent military support to many stations. This was in addition to Fort Ellsworth (later Fort Harker), Fort Fletcher (later Fort Hays), and Fort Wallace on the Smoky Hill Trail in Kansas. Some stations had between five to ten soldiers assigned for protection and to provide escort. Others, like Monument, had a company or more of men assigned.

 During the three years of its existence as a military post (1865-1868), several commanding officers and their men were sent to Fort Monument. Shortly before the time of my story in October 1867, Lieutenant David Ezekiel brought to Fort Monument Company I of the 38th Infantry, one of two “colored” infantry regiments comprised of black soldiers that were formed after the close of the American Civil War. Lt. Ezekiel was replaced by Capt. John B. Conyngham as commanding officer, but Lt. Ezekiel stayed as the second in command. Once the Union Pacific Railway-Eastern Division reached the Monument Rocks area, its tracks were laid several miles to the north. Since Fort Monument was charged with protecting railroad crews and the stagecoach stopped serving Monument Station once Monument became the “End of Track,” Capt. Conyngham moved his entire command thirty-five miles to the north-northwest to what became known as the town of Monument.

The 38th Infantry had several companies also assigned to Fort Hays. The photo below of what is labeled the Hays City Overland Stage Kansas City shows an escort of members of the 38th Infantry riding on top as escort.

Black soldiers of the 38th Infantry at Hays City station riding escort

A bit about John B. Conyngham, much of it taken from the

25th Anniversary publication

of the Yale College Class of 1846 published in 1871

and from Find-a-Grave:


He was born on September 29, 1827, at Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.  He studied law three years at Wilkes Barre, and opened an office there.  In Dec., 1851, he removed to St. Louis to practice law. 


When the American Civil War broke out, he "enlisted as a private at the first call for three months' volunteers in the 8th Penn. Regiment, and was chosen 2nd Lieutenant of his company."  At the close of the three months, he re-entered the Army for three years as Major of the 52nd Pennsylvania Volunteers; was afterwards promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and then to Colonel, which office he held when mustered out with his regiment, July, 1865.

He was wounded in a night attack on the fortifications in Charleston harbor, taken prisoner, and confined a number of months in the prison camps at Charleston, Macon, and Columbia." 

He was present at the College Commencement, 1865, and soon after went to Montana.  Having returned, he "entered the regular Army with the rank of Captain in full, and the brevet of Lieutenant Colonel."  He was the commanding officer of Fort Monument between 1867 and 1868 when the fort was abandoned. Near the beginning of 1871, while stationed at Fort Clark, in Texas, he suffered from apoplexy, followed by Bright's Disease of the kidney.  He lived to reach Wilkes Barre, where he died May, 28, 1871 at the age of forty-four. He never married.

I hope you enjoy reading Mail Order Penelope which is currently on preorder and will be released this coming Friday, August 14th. In particular, I hope you enjoy how I portrayed Capt. Conyngham, Lt. Ezekiel, and fictional members of the 38th Infantry in my scenes that take place at Monument Station / Fort Monument. PLEASE CLICK HERE for the book description.

Please click on the book titles for Mail Order Roslyn and Mail Order Lorena, my other two novels I wrote as part of the Widows, Brides and Secret Babies series.







Trails of the Smoky Hill by Wayne C. Lee and Howard C. Raynesford; Caxton Press; Caldwell, Idaho: 2008