Friday, May 28, 2021

The Underground Railroad Quilt Code

Americans hold a fascination with the Underground Railroad. A few years ago, a TV series titled Underground ran for a couple seasons. Then Colton Whitehead’s book The Underground Railroad won the Pulitzer and National Book Awards. The book is now a series on Amazon Prime that I anticipate watching. Plus recently a series was done on Harriet Tubman’s life. I read the afore-mentioned award-winning book plus a non-fiction title called The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom

But the research book that struck me the most was one called Hidden in Plain View: The Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad. How the book came to be is fascinating because it started with a happenstance meeting in 1994 between an historian named Jacqueline Tobin and an elderly Black woman, Ozella McDaniel Williams, selling quilts in a market building in Charleston, South Carolina. Jacqueline recorded Ozella’s stories of how quilts with messages sewed into the patterns had been used in the U.S. underground railroad and that the tradition came from slaves’ native African countries where the whole cloths themselves contained symbols. Most of us learned about symbols—a particular shape of a weather vane, a lit or unlit coachman’s lantern at the end of a lane, or a painted design over the door of a barn—escaping slaves were told to look for. Or that they used the Big Dipper constellation (the drinking gourd) to guide their path. 

What was shared with Ms. Tobin was how quilts set in a prominent place (a fence rail, a clothes line, an upstairs window) and in a certain position helped escapees along the trail. A quilt of a certain pattern (Jacob’s Ladder was renamed the underground railroad pattern) hung meant the slave had reached a safe place and would be sheltered for the night. A pattern like Flying Geese with multiple triangles could be positioned to point toward the safest route. The Bear’s Paw pattern told of following bear tracks through a mountainous area. Or a quilt with a preponderance of red fabrics could signal danger. In the storytelling tradition of her grandmother and mother, Ozella revealed the Underground Railroad Quilt Code. 

I relied on this information when I wrote Freedom’s Path and had my heroine, Sidonie Demers, doing her small part to aid those along the path from where she lived in Vermont, not far from the Canadian border. For those who like learning about history in an entertaining way, I recommend Hidden in Plain View

Blurb Working as a maid in the Deerbourne Inn gives freedom-fighter Sidonie Demers the perfect cover for helping escaping slaves travel farther along the Underground Railroad. The patterns in her quilts serve as messages directing them to the safest route. The cause is a personal one for octoroon Sidonie whose mother and grandmother escaped bondage years earlier. Army Corporal Colin Crawford arrives in Willow Springs, in disguise as a salesman, to ferret out abolitionist activity. Raised in a state that forbids slavery, he's conflicted about upholding the Fugitive Slave Act but believes in laws and fulfilling his duty. The attraction between Colin and Sidonie is evident and irresistible, but what will happen when their true identities are revealed? 

Link for several formats 

As a young girl, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about fascinating characters having exciting adventures in places far away and in other time periods. In later years, she read and then started writing romances and achieved her first publication--a confession story. Married with 4 adult children and 2 granddaughters, award-winning author Linda now writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor and a bit of sass from her home in the southern California mountains. 
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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Butternut & Blue - What Civil War Soldiers Really Wore by Jo-Ann Roberts


The Civil War lingers in our contemporary American memory in shades of Union blue and Confederate gray.

However, gray was the color of pomp and circumstance, of Lee, Jackson, and Johnston, and the plantation aristocracy. A Confederate foot soldier actually wearing the gray uniform and matching kepi at was something of a rarity, even before the invading Federals and the Union blockade made Southern life a nightmare.

With very few factories to supply uniforms or even yard goods, the Southern soldier relied on the Southern woman’s ingenuity.  From mid-1862 onward, the homespun “butternut” uniform was the more common choice.

 With little access to imported dyes and the manufactured cloth of Europe or New England, the rural Southern army relied on an unofficial uniform of butternut. It took its name from a community of pro-Southern farmers living in the midwestern states, who dyed their garments in walnut or butternut oil. Walnut dyes were simple to produce, requiring only a thicket of American’s common tree. Two bushels of bark colored twenty yards of cloth when heated and steeped.

Butternut dyes all-natural fibers—wool, cotton, and linen, as well as silk. Butternut homespun uniforms were undoubtedly wool rather than cotton, but cotton-wool combinations, called linsey, jeans, hickory cloth, or Kentucky cloth, were also popular.

What color was butternut?  We can see this shade of brown in the work clothes of today’s carpenter, bricklayer, farmer, and the cowboy. Although dyed with synthetic rather than natural dyes, the Carhartt

brand of work clothing is similar to the traditional light brown butternut of the 19th century. With little access to imported dyes and the manufactured cloth of Europe or New England, the rural Southern army relied on an unofficial uniform of butternut. It took its name from a community of pro-Southern farmers living in the midwestern states, who dyed their garments in walnut or butternut oil. Walnut dyes were simple to produce, requiring only a thicket of American’s common tree. Two bushels of bark colored twenty yards of cloth when heated and steeped.

The crudely-made but durable “butternut” uniform was cheaply manufactured across the South by sympathetic civilians, and came to represent the face, in practice if not ideal, of the Confederate soldier up to the end of the war.

 In 1863, William Quantrill, the most famous bushwhacker or “irregular” Confederate guerrilla fighter led his men on a raid of the anti-slavery town of Lawrence, Kansas, burning many of the buildings and killing nearly 200 men and boys. Many of the raiders wore butternut. Years later, if a man appeared in town wearing such a suit he would have been shot—the older residents would at once recall “the hated clothes of the men who dealt death wherever they struck”.

In Book One of my Mended Hearts series, Marrying the Major, part of the plot revolves around U.S. Major Will Chandler trailing one of the raiders who is reportedly planning to ambush General Sherman and General Kilpatrick with the hope of delaying the surrender of North Carolina, thus prolonging the war.  While the facts about the surrender of North Carolina at Durham Station are true, the story about the raider is purely a figment of my own overactive imagination!


The Federals, or Union uniform was far more consistent than the Rebels’ outfits. The North had factories that manufactured cloth and clothing, access to wool, and most importantly, imported indigo and Prussian blue dyes to color it.

Two of the most popular dyes of the era, Prussian blue, a mineral dye, was given the name because of its reputation in dyeing military uniforms, while indigo, a vegetable dye derived from the roots of the indigo plant was more expensive.

Bluecoats identified the hated Federals, or “Yankees”, or “blue bellies” throughout the South. Long after the conflict ended, the shade evoked high emotions. There is a story about a South Carolina girl who pointed out a hitchhiker. Her mother berated him as Yankee, refusing to offer him a ride in her carriage. When he hastened to say he was not, she gave him this advice…

“If you wish much kindness shown to you, don’t travel this portion of the country wearing blue pants".      

By the time the war ended, most rank and file Confederate and Union soldiers had very little which could be called “a uniform” left. The rigors of campaigning wore out clothing and shoes fairly quickly, and although the “rag-tag, barefoot Confederate” remains a prominent Civil War image, in truth, Union soldiers could also be found barefoot in threadbare uniforms as they, too, made their way home.


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

CONSIDER THE BREAD by Marisa Masterson

 The stuff of life--bread. While Christ said, "Man cannot live by bread alone," His statement reinforces to me how important and basic that food is to many diets.

Pushing west, many people did not buy stoves, or if they did, those were flat topped potbelly stoves meant to heat the house and usually having one or two burners on top.

Many people who came to the West to mine for silver or gold had nothing so elaborate as even one of those small stoves. Their small, hastily constructed cabins relied on a fireplace for heat and cooking. While a person could make biscuits and such, the tall loaves these people remembered from the East were beyond their ability to make in the fireplace.

Bakeries, even bakeries in a person's kitchen, supplied the bread, cookies, and pies that brought the flavors of home to persons far from what they knew. No wonder someone running a bakery in these small towns that popped up around mines in Colorado was so welcomed by those living there.

The hero in my upcoming release is a baker in just such a town. Adam relies on two things to make his bread and cookies: a large, cast iron range and brick ovens. 

The brick oven from colonial times continued to be used in bakeries through the 1800s. Often these usually rounded ovens had no door on the front. It might be difficult to see in the image, but the man is using a paddle to remove the bread. The flat paddle was an essential baker's tool to put the loaf in and remove it.

Wherever men mined, hand pies were also in demand. (In Wisconsin and Michigan, we call them pasties.) 

From A Bride for Adam--

Long hours spent alone in his bakery meant he made the money needed to prove the business to be a success. Once, he even advertised for an assistant, hoping that would allow him to spend more of his morning baking. No one wanted to work for a baker when they could dig up a fortune in silver on the mountain. 

That left him alone, struggling to keep up with his customer’s demands. Adam knew he could make even more money if he sold hand pies. Miners asked for the meat pies and sweet, fried pies. Perhaps, when Elspeth came, he would have time in his day to also make those. If she took over baking the cookies rather than pies, he could—  

The pies could easily be made in the brick ovens. These savory treats filled with vegetables and meat could be easily wrapped in a handkerchief and stuffed into a pocket. Body heat would keep the meal somewhat warm until the miner stopped for his meal.

So, when you think of a town in the Old West with its livery, mercantile, jail, and saloon, consider one more business. For many such places, a bakery was essential. After all, bread is the stuff of life.

Adam Collins knew his bride. No matter that the women were identical twins, he would know Elspeth at a glance. So why was he sure that he held Elizabeth's hand as they stood before the preacher? Could he still say, "I do," not knowing who he married?

Available for pre-order today!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021


 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Are you someone like me who gets excited when you find a special place when you're history hunting? Have you walked into that unexpected museum to find a treasure trove of unique history? That is exactly what happened to me when I walked through the doors of the Pikes Peak Trolley Museum and Restoration Shop located at 2333 Steele Dr. in Colorado Springs, CO. 

One of the trolleys (The Birney #135) 
in the process of being restored.

This small, but powerful, museum, is located in the roundhouse of the Rock Island Railroad which was one of the many railroads to serve Colorado Springs in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The museum itself tells the story of the trolley system that served Colorado Springs from its beginnings in the 1880s through the early 1930s.

Notice on the side of The Birney

While there I was welcomed by volunteers who love to share their knowledge and passion for trolleys and for some, railroads. Any question I had was answered in-depth and when possible, with visual representation. I was even given a lovely view of "The Polar Express", a miniature moving train system based on the beloved book of the same name.

Not only do you get to see photos and paraphernalia of those by-gone days, but you can also watch work being done to restore these amazing vehicles. Each trolley comes with its own history and if you speak with the volunteer who has been researching that particular one, you are lucky. It was while touring one of these I learned that not only Colorado Springs and Denver had trolley systems, but Aspen and Leadville did also. It is something I will be researching as I continue to write stories that take place in my adopted state.

Replica of a ticket office at the Museum

These sometimes forgotten transportation systems were so much a part of the growth of the towns and cities in the west. I know I will be writing more about this wonderful piece of history. 

In the meanwhile, think about how you might have ridden trolleys if you'd been alive back then. How would you have felt moving along in an open trolley as it took you through town, or to the sites that made the town famous? Oh, the possibilities.

What ticket buyers may have seen as they purchased their tickets.

All photos were taken by the author with the kind permission of the museum.

If you want to know more about the museum here is a link:

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Author of the "Agate Gulch" novellas and "Kiowa Wells" novels.
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

(c) Doris McCraw All Rights Reserved. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021



Buried Treasure in the Old West

By Annee Jones

            If you’re like me, you love tales of adventure, intrigue, and romance!  The Old West is a fascinating part of American history that is rich with all three.  Did you know that there is actually buried treasure still waiting to be found in the western part of the U.S.?  Here are some true stories of outlaws and their missing loot:

William Coe:

 “Captain” Bill Coe settled in the area of Oklahoma known as “No Man’s Land” in 1864.  This strip of land was not included in any state and was therefore not under any type of law or order.  It became a haven for outlaws, including Coe, who became the leader of a gang of rustlers.  He built a fortress with rock walls 3-feet thick to protect himself and his gang members.  The building was so big that it contained a bar and living quarters for the men and their “soiled doves.”  The building earned the name “Robber’s Roost.”  Coe escaped during a raid and hid out in a woman’s bunkhouse in New Mexico.  The woman’s 14-year-od son rode to alert the authorities who returned to the site and captured Coe, who allegedly said, “I never figured to be outgeneraled by a woman, a pony, and a boy.”  One report indicates that Coe and his men stole over half a million dollars in gold and Spanish coins and buried them in a place called “Flag Springs Arroyo.”  The exact location of this site is unknown.  None of the gold has been found to date, although searches continue to this day in Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico. 


Sam Bass:

Bass was born in 1851 and was an orphan by the time he was 13 years old.  He worked at a sawmill in Mississippi before arriving in Denton, TX (my hometown!), in 1870 where he worked on a ranch.  In 1877 he and his gang held up a Union Pacific train in Big Springs, Nebraska.  They took over the train depot and destroyed the telegraph before escaping with over $60,000.  He committed several more robberies before he was shot dead by a lawman at age 27.  Supposedly, Bass hid his loot in Texas caves or within hollows of trees.  A map was found that is said to lead to the some of the treasure.  Researchers believe much of it is probably buried somewhere in State Park, which makes it off-limits to metal detectors.  However, it is likely that Bass hid the money in multiple locations in central Texas.


If you decide to hunt for treasure yourself, please follow the “Treasure Hunters Code of Ethics:”

  -       - I will respect private property and will do no treasure hunting without the property owner’s permission.

-       I will fill in all holes I dig.

-       I will not damage natural resources, wildlife habitats, or any private property.

-       I will use thoughtfulness, consideration, and courtesy at all times.

-       I will build fires in designated or safe places only.

-       I will leave gates as found.

-       I will remove and properly dispose of any trash that I find.

-       I will not litter.

-       I will not destroy property, buildings, or what is left of ghost towns and deserted structures.

-       I will not tamper with signs, structural facilities, or equipment.

-       And, finally, the most important one of all — I will have fun!!


Robber’s Roost painting by Wayne Cooper

About Me:


Annee Jones is an inspirational romance novelist who enjoys sharing her heart and imagination with others.  She is passionate about writing stories that offer hope and encouragement and likes to think of her books as “romance filled with faith and a sprinkle of fairy dust!”

Annee is also a professional book reviewer for Publishers Weekly in the genre of faith-based fiction (fun tidbit: she writes many of the editorial reviews you see on Amazon).

Professionally, Annee works as a disability counselor where she helps her clients navigate through complex medical and legal systems while rediscovering their wholeness in Spirit.

Connect with Annee here:

Available For Pre-Order Now:


Thursday, May 13, 2021

A Ship of Dreams ... That Didn't Sink


The romantic adventurer in me sometimes wonders what it would have been like to cross the ocean in a grand ship like the Titanic, only one that didn't sink and end in tragedy.

In Crumpets and Cowpiesthe first book in my Baker City Brides sweet romance series, Oregon rancher Thane Jordan reluctantly travels to England to settle his brother’s estate. He arrives to find he’s inherited much more than he could possibly have imagined, including a niece and nephew he didn't know existed. They live with their incredibly beautiful and maddeningly proper aunt.

 Lady Jemma Bryan has no desire to spend a single minute in Thane Jordan’s insufferable presence much less live under the same roof with the handsome, arrogant American. Forced to choose between poverty and being separated from the children she adores or marriage to the man, she travels across an ocean and America to reach his ranch in Oregon. 

The solicitor who handled Thane's brother's estate booked the newly formed Jordan family in first class accommodations on a ship called Teutonic.

Researching the Teutonic gave me hours of delight as I learned about this incredible ship.


Sister ship to the Majestic, both keels were laid in 1887 as part of the White Star Line. The Teutonic was built under the Auxiliary Armed Cruiser Agreement. An extremely fast ship, she set a transatlantic crossing record twice. Teutonic was the first armed merchant cruiser and one of two White Star Line vessels ever armed with guns. The Teutonic was one of the first ships in the White Star Line to offer second class accommodations. The ship was in service from 1889-1921.


This staircase reminds me of Titanic (also a White Star Line ship). Teutonic sailed on the route from the home port of Liverpool, England, to New York City. Each week a ship sailed from Liverpool on a specific day, commonly Wednesday or Thursday. 

From there, they would stop at the small port of Queenstown, Ireland, to pick up more passengers. As many as eight hundred Irish immigrants might board in the single stop. After Queenstown, the ship would then begin the long voyage to New York, almost 2,500 miles of open sea. Once passengers were disbursed at either the White Star Line pier in New York or the immigration center at Castle Garden, the ship would be prepared for her return voyage.

This is one of the staterooms from the ship. Look at the side rails on the bed and the beautiful furnishings.

Teutonic dining saloon 

And this was the first class dining saloon. In the story, this is where Thane, Jemma, and the children took their meals, unless they ate in their room.


Here's a Second Class menu card from 1907.

teutonic 2 

 I confess, I spent hours and hours admiring photos of the Teutonic, dreaming about what it might have been like to be a passenger on such a grand ship.


“Goodness gracious.”

The awe resonating in Jemma’s tone caused Thane to glance down at her as they followed a white-coated sailor to their stateroom aboard the Teutonic. The grand staircase, constructed from tempered and mellowed English oak, loomed before them as an impressive sight.

“It’s quite something, isn’t it?” Thane bent slightly and whispered in her ear as the sailor led them down a hall to their room. When Thane asked Weston to make their travel arrangements, he assumed their friend would book second-class staterooms, since the Teutonic was the first ship in the White Star Lines fleet to offer an option between first class and steerage. Much to his surprise, the man reserved them one of the best staterooms on the ship, or so their guide proclaimed.


You can read about Thane and Jemma's experience onboard in Crumpets and Cowpies

Through Sunday, you can get the digital download for FREE! 

A hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure, Shanna Hatfield is a USA Today bestselling author of sweet romantic fiction written with a healthy dose of humor. In addition to blogging and eating too much chocolate, she is completely smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

Shanna creates character-driven romances with realistic heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.

Find Shanna’s books at:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Apple | Audible

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

A Mother's Kiss- History of opiates as an Rx for Children

The use of opiates in the United States can be traced as far back as the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620. It is believed that physician Samuel Fuller would have carried laudanum, an opiate used as a pain killer, anti-diarrheal, and sleep-inducing among the Pilgrims.

By the American Revolution, opium was a common medical tool and by the mid-19th century, opiates were the main ingredient in pain killers, even in teething powders.



One such product, Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, was a morphine and alcohol  mixture, marketed to parents of fussy children as a “perfectly harmless and pleasant” way to produce a “natural quiet sleep, by relieving the child from pain.”

Bayer Aspirin Company made heroin available in a small bottle for ailments such as suppressing a minor cough.

Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, many doctors were slow to heed the warnings about the dangers of opiate addiction of a shortage of other treatments, and inadequate medical instruction

Educating doctors was key to fighting the epidemic. Medical instructors and textbooks from the 1890s regularly delivered strong warnings against overusing opium.

In my new release, A Baker for Bear, when widower Barrett Montgomery fires his housekeeper for dosing his daughters with "soothing syrups", he's forced to accept his family's interference and at least entertain the idea of a mail-order bride.
New Release

A debutante with a stammer, a compulsive widowed blacksmith with two young daughters. Will they find a way to coexist or even better, forge a romantic partnership?

Ada Pike longs to leave the life of a socialite and use her skills as a baker to love and nurture a family. A move to the country will perfectly suit her first steps into life on her own.  

Barrett Montgomery rejects the idea of a mail-order bride. What he needs is a housekeeper- someone he can fire if things don't work out the way he likes. Can a matchmaking agency work miracles to bring two people with opposing goals together? Will they find a way to coexist or even better, forge a romantic partnership?   

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, emphasizing Faith, Friends, and Good Clean Fun. 

Connect with Kimberly:

Amazon Author Page: