Thursday, September 29, 2022

Touting The Central Pacific Railroad website

My post this month is an announcement of my early September release that hasn’t had its day in the sun. With this story set in 1878, I wanted to play with several tropes: secret identity, opposites attract, mistaken identity, woman in jeopardy, across the tracks and figure out how to fit them all in one heartwarming story. Of course, including children in the plot always helps with the cuteness factor.

I always do the research to find the actual train schedules so I can figure out if my characters have lots of choices of departures or if they have to jump through hoops to get to the depot in time. In this instance, I needed the names of several stops before the train reached Denver, and I was lucky to find such a schedule. I have used the website for the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum so many times that I feel I must give it a shout out. Click on the History link and you’ll find pictures of what the inside of a car looked like, how the beds folded down, tons of stuff about the Transcontinental Railroad construction and completion, testimonies of people who rode on the first trains, recommendations on how to pack and what people would expect to see, the actual advertisements that enticed people to travel cross-country, including side trips to new attractions like Yellowstone and Yosemite Parks. In the mid-19th century, trips were either coast also included ship connections to other continents. If any of you have train enthusiasts in your family, I can’t say enough about this website. 

The title is Sabrina, and the novella is book 5 in the Runaway Brides of the West multi-author series. Sabrina Whitmore, daughter of a wealthy railroad investor, has finally found a man who accepts her suffragist work. On the night before her wedding, she overhears her fiancĂ© bragging that if he can’t get her to toe the line after their marriage, he’ll just have her committed to an asylum and take charge of her inheritance. Sabrina escapes the family mansion with her maid and rushes to the Kansas City train station headed toward an aunt in Denver. When she awakens the morning before her arrival, she discovers her maid is nowhere to be found and has stolen her clothes and most of her money. While hunting for her maid, she sees Maeve spirited away by two burly men and is scared her fiancĂ© is hunting her.

Derrick Burkhardt bumps into a woman matching the description of the governess he hired from a St. Louis agency. Needing to get her settled at the ranch before he leaves for the spring roundup, he does all the talking during the buggy ride. When he returns a week later, the ranch is in an uproar over the governess’s unorthodox teaching methods. All Derrick sees are his children at the happiest they’ve been in two years. Will he feel the same when he learns the governess is not who she claims to be? 

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Thursday, September 22, 2022

A One-Horse Open Sleigh - The Difference between Cutters and Sleighs by Jo-Ann Roberts

Growing up in New England, I've spent my share of winter days skating, sledding, making snow angels, building snow forts, and taking ONE forgettable trip down the slopes at Jiminy Peak. 

But I never rode in a sleigh or cutter.

So, what made me incorporate a sleigh into my current WIP? Romance, of course! On my first day of research, I discovered a sleigh and cutter were two different modes of winter transportation in the 18th and 19th century in America.
In the time before automobiles became popular, many people traveled by horse and buggy in the summer and by sleigh in the winter. Instead of having just one type of transportation in the winter months, people often had a couple of types for different purposes. 

Because cutters offered a cozier ride with the couple sitting close together, they were often used for courting. Just the right ingredient for snuggling up to a loved one on a snowy Christmas Eve! The cutter is built lower to the ground and requires more flexibility to ensure the jarring of the road does not break the structure.

The sleigh, though, is large enough to accommodate an entire family or a large group of friends. Sleighs were most often used to transport the family to church or another family member's home. Some companies still use sleighs during the winter months to offer rides to visitors. The construction of the sleigh is sturdier and more rigid. Because the sleigh sits much higher than a cutter, the runners absorb more of the shock and protect the sleigh's structure.

The Portland Cutter

The most popular sleigh in America was designed by Peter Kimball of Maine. With his sons, James and Charles, they championed the sleigh. The straight back offered more wind protection than the Albany sleigh, flat body panels and a goose-neck dash that protected passengers from snow kicked up by the horse. and was less expensive for carriage makers to create, and the simplicity appealed to the Puritan nature of the New England population.

The Portland was a lightweight sleigh made with speed in mind, and in fact these sleighs were often raced. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow even recorded going to watch sleigh races in Boston.

In 1876, Charles moved to New York to begin a partnership with Brewster & Company. The new Kimball-Brewster Sleigh was shown at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, the first official World's Fair in the United States. 

Sleigh races were very popular in the U.S., and Portland Cutters were an early favorite. They gave way at the turn of the 20th century to specially made racing sleighs. BY 1910, a standard Portland Cutter could be purchased for $20. One ornate Portland Cutter built by Kimball and Clement was trimmed in "silk plush had silver mountings and cost $150."

The Albany Cutter (or Albany Sleigh)

In 1836, James Goold of Albany, New York developed a swell-sided cutter. The Albany body and runners were carefully steamed and bent into their unique shape. Known by a variety of names, the design was quickly copied by other sleigh makers. The Albany Cutter (or Albany Sleigh) is recognized as the second most popular sleigh type in America.

The curved body was a painter's paradise. Rich colors were used to decorate the sleighs. Dark or light carmine (red), yellow, blue, even Scotch plaid and purple were used on the body. Trimming was often dark green or crimson. Yet, in 1878, it was reported that "it was formally the custom of sleigh-builders to employ a variety of fancy colors, stripes, and ornaments...but of late, plainness and simplicity have been preferred by city customers".


Albany Cutters vary in size from single horse and pony sleighs to six passenger's sleighs pulled by four horses. Larger sleighs with swell-bodies are sometimes referred to as Hudson Vally Sleighs.

Now that I live in North Carolina, and the probability of a snowfall heavy enough for a sleigh ride is nil, I'll settle in and wait for the Hallmark movies to begin.

"It's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you."



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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

When The Orphan Train Came to Town by Kimberly Grist

By the middle of the nineteenth century, many cities in the United States had large populations living in poverty. As a result, thousands of children lived on the streets of several major cities, and it is estimated that over 10,000 homeless children were living on the streets of New York City at any given time.

[Photos by Jacob Riis, taken in the 1890s]

The children were in search of food, shelter, and money and sold rags, matches, and newspapers to survive. Life on the street was dangerous. As a means of protection, the children joined gangs and were often arrested, and sometimes even those as young as five years old were put in lock-up facilities with adult criminals.

Charles Loring Brace, a minister and founder of the Children's Aid Society, recognized that orphanages were overcrowded with gloomy conditions, and the children did not receive education or training to help them become productive adults. He first came up with the idea of placing needy children with families in the West instead of institutionalizing them.

Brace believed family life could help victimized and neglected children and felt the American pioneers settling in the West could use help, and thus the relationship would be mutually beneficial. Believing that the farmers in the West would welcome the children, take them in, and treat them as their own, he arranged to send the orphaned children to pioneer families.

Many of the children that rode these trains were not orphaned but were children of immigrants with one living parent who had left family in Ireland, Germany, or Italy. With no extended family to lend support, they were left in orphanages.
Photo courtesy of

Orphan Trains as a precursor to the foster care system

So began the “orphan train,” or what was known at the time as “the placing out system,” the system utilized any passenger train that offered reduced fares for children.
Those that started the program felt that relying on the kindness of strangers was a better alternative to a life in an institution or on the street. However, the results were a mixed bag. Reportedly for some, being chosen from the crowd and taken in as part of a family was the moment where their life began. Unfortunately for others, they served as unpaid laborers and were not even allowed to sleep in the house. Others' fate was even worse.

Approximately a quarter million children rode the orphan trains from 1854 to 1929.
Photo: Kansas State Historical Society.

MatchMaker Mix-Up
While developing my story for the Matchmaker Mix-Up Series in Audie's Audacious Bride, I knew I wanted my hero to be a rancher who lived in a remote location. So I thought it would be interesting to have him arrive at the Orphan Train with the idea of taking in one or two teenagers willing to train as ranch hands. Instead, he returns with one youth and his three brothers.

Audie's Audacious Bride

Available for 99 Cents for a Limited Time

#Free On Kindle Unlimited

Faith Fairchild is destitute and has no other choice but to comply with her late father’s last wish—to find a husband through a matchmaking service. As a pastor’s daughter, she trusts his advice but believes hard work and commitment combined with a bit of romance will give her the desired goal of "happily ever after."

Her application reads, “I’m at my best when surrounded by others. My ideal husband will live in town. Perhaps a tailor, shopkeeper, or someone running a diner. I am a hard worker, love to cook and sew, and would love the opportunity of working side by side as partners.”

Ranch owner Audie Harris has one single goal—to make the family ranch a success and secure it for future generations. He needs a wife who understands that the isolation and hard work on a cattle farm is necessary to achieve his goal. With a young sister to raise and numerous ranch hands to feed, his application for a suitable wife reads, "a woman of robust stock, a good cook, and willing to produce a houseful of children."

What does he get? “I asked for a practical woman with ranch experience, and they send me a Southern Belle who has more petticoats than she does sense.”

Can this mismatched couple blaze a trail to form a partnership of the romantic kind?
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.
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Monday, September 12, 2022

Turners in 19th Century St. Louis and Beyond by Zina Abbott






Turners are members of German-American gymnastic clubs called Turnvereine. They promoted German culture, physical culture, and liberal politics. Turners were the leading sponsors of gymnastics as an American sport and the field of academic study.

In Germany, in the early 19th century when Germany was occupied by Napoleon, a major gymnastic movement was started by Turnvater ("father of gymnastics") and nationalist, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn. The Turnvereine ("gymnastic unions"; from German turnen meaning “to practice gymnastics,” and Verein meaning “club, union”) were not only athletic but also political. The origins of the movement were similar to other ethnocentric "national gymnastic" organizations in Europe. The men not only practiced gymnastic movements for physical fitness, but they were also participants in various national movements for independence. The Turner movement in Germany was generally liberal in nature, meaning they did not hold to the old doctrine of division of classes with the ruling, moneyed classes being superior to and controlling the working class. Many Turners took part in the Revolutions of 1848. Because of these revolutions failed, and its members and leaders were subject to arrest and imprisonment, many fled to other countries, primarily the United States.

Besides serving as physical education, social, political, and cultural organizations for German immigrants, Turners were also active in public education and labor movements. They gave German immigrants a way to assimilate into American culture and politics and allowed them to stay fit and healthy in an urban environment that did not always accommodate exercise. Turner clubs were leading promoters of gymnastics in the United States as a sport and as a school subject.

Germans throughout the United States, including the “Forty-Eighters”, tended to be strongly opposed to slavery. Many were Republicans for that reason. During the 1850s, when it became apparent that armed conflict might break out in the United States, many German-Americans used the Turner Halls as opportunities to meet, plan, and prepare.


Robert J. Rombauer discussed the shooting club in his book The Union Cause in St. Louis in 1861: “Soon after the organization of the society a rifle section was formed with about fifty members, who were pledged to military obedience when in service; they elected their officers and instructors and bought their own rifles; took up regular weekly drills, arranged target practices and trial marches to neighboring cities.”

German Volunteers protecting the St. Louis Arsenal for the Union

It was the men from this club that largely made up the German Brigade under In the Camp Jackson Affair when a large force of German volunteers helped prevent Confederate forces from seizing the government arsenal in St. Louis just prior to the beginning of the Civil War.

Nationwide, about 1000 Turners served as Union soldiers during the Civil War. Anti-slavery was a common element. Many Republican leaders in German communities were members. They provided the bodyguard at Abraham Lincoln's inauguration on March 4, 1861, and at his funeral in April 1865.

Milwaukee Bundesturnhalle, Circa. 1900

After the Civil War, the national organization took a new name, Nordamerikanischer Turnerbund, and supported German-language teaching in public high schools, as well as gymnastics. Women's auxiliaries were formed in the 1850s and 1860s. The high point in membership came in 1894, with 317 societies and about 40,000 adult male members, along with 25,000 children and 3000 women.

In St. Louis, there were two Turnvereine of note in the city, one on the north and one on the south.

The first Turner Hall was built at 1926 Salisbury on the North Side in the Hyde Park neighborhood during 1870.  Hyde Park was originally a German enclave called Bremen.  As it fell out of use, as many buildings in the north of St. Louis did, it eventually was demolished.


Interior of south St. Louis Turnvereine

The second Turner Hall was built at 10th and Carroll Street on the South Side in the La Salle Park neighborhood during 1884. Although no longer used for gymnastics, it has never been vacant. Most recently, it was converted into condos.



The Concordia Gymnastic Society was founded in 1875. It was named after Concordia Park on the near south side of Saint Louis. Facilities in the park were used for the initial activities of the organization. In 1877 Concordia moved to its first home located at 13th and Arsenal.

There was also a ladies' class of the German immigrant athletic society formed at the Concordia Turnverein. It was later called the Concordia Gymnastic Society.

In the United States, the Turner movement declined after 1900, and especially after 1917 when the United States entered World War I, at which time there was a violent backlash across the country against anything perceived to be German.


In my most recent book, Bee Sting Cake by Brunhilde, several of the earlier chapters take place in St. Louis, Missouri, where my hero Carl Becker, and his family live. At one point, he was asked why he had not been home for supper when a particular conversation took place. He responded that he was at the Turnvereine, like he usually was on a Monday night. Although he wistfully wished that the shooting club would start up again, probably at the time of the story in  1873, the Turnvereine once again focused on gymnastics, as well as political and social discussions.

Bee Sting Cake byBrunhilde has been released and is now available as an ebook, plus it is available at no additional cost with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. To find the book description purchase link, please CLICK HERE




Thursday, September 8, 2022

Fried Apples and Apple Harvest

The apples across the road from us are almost ready for harvest. The big wooden packing boxes have been hauled in and the color on the apples deepen by the day.  There is the promise of the glorious, spicy scent in the air that only happens in the autumn when the apples are ready to harvest.

I love apples and could happily eat one every day. 

My mom used to fry apples sometimes, and they were so, so yummy. 

Fried apples go back a long way into culinary history. 

During the Civil War, they were a favorite sweet side dish or dessert, cooked in cast iron and sweetened with honey, brown sugar, or molasses. 

My grandma, Southern born and raised, brought the recipe with her when she and my grandpa moved o the Pacific Northwest in the early1940s. She taught my mom to make it, and Mom taught me. 

When I make fried apples, it takes me back to happy days spent in the kitchen with the my mom when cinnamon lingered in the air, and fall settled like a cozy blanket over our farm.

 Fried apples are awesome as a dessert or side dish, and they are also tasty for breakfast.  They go great with pork or chicken dishes or anytime you want something delicious to add to the table. You can spoon them over vanilla ice cream, serve along side spice cake or just enjoy the spicy, caramel goodness all by itself. These are also really easy to make. Serve them warm, though. They just aren't the same when they get cold. 

Here are the simple ingredients. Plan on half an apple per person.


Slice and core your apple, leaving the peel on. You can do this while your butter is melting in the skillet. I like to use a cast iron skillet for the apples.


Once the butter is melted, add apples, cinnamon and sugar. 
Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally.

Cook until the apples are tender and the cinnamon, butter and sugar 
have created a beautiful caramel sauce on the apples.

Then enjoy! Just look at all that caramel-y deliciousness.

Fried Apples 
 1 apple 
 1 tbsp. butter 
 1 tsp. cinnamon 
 1/3 cup brown sugar 

 Wash apple then core and slice. I like medium-thick slices (about 1/3 inch). Melt butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. When melted, add apples, cinnamon and sugar. Stir until apples are coated. Cover and simmer until apples are tender (about 15 minutes) and the sauce is thick and makes you want to eat it with a spoon. Inhale the fragrant scent and enjoy!

Join me for the a celebration of autumn and sweet historical romances 
on September 22
on Facebook! 
The grand prize is a $100 Amazon Gift Card. 
Be sure to save the date and join in the fun!

USA Today bestselling author Shanna Hatfield grew up on a farm where her childhood brimmed with sunshine, hay fever, and an ongoing supply of learning experiences. 

Today, Shanna draws on her rural roots to create historical and contemporary sweet romances filled with hope, humor, quirky small-town characters, realistic heroes, and women of strength. 

When this award-winning author isn’t writing or testing out new recipes (she loves to bake!), Shanna hangs out at home in the Pacific Northwest with her beloved husband, better known as Captain Cavedweller. 

Follow her online at, on Facebook or BookBub.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

WHAT MADE AMERICA SWEET? by Marisa Masterson

 How would you answer if I asked what was the most widely used sweetener in the 1800s in the United States? Would you guess sugar? Maybe honey? Both would be wrong.

Up until 1919, molasses sweetened what most Americans ate and drank. Sugar was very costly. Also, the taste of molasses was preferred in dishes since it went well with salt.

So why don't we still mainly use molasses? Why does the typical diet of someone in the United States include refined sugar.? (And too much of it!)

Partially, the answer to that happened after World War I. Refined sugar prices took a major nose dive. People learned to love the sweeter flavor of the refined crystals. Many stopped using molasses entirely.

Per ounce, sugar remains cheaper than molasses. I don't see us as a society returning to our roots of using molasses, and sparingly at that. That flavor from our past is all but lost today.

Speaking of molasses, that's a flavor my kids expect at Christmas. Every year, I bake the traditional molasses cookies with raspberry thumbprints. It's a recipe I was given my a dear friend. And it's the only molasses cookie I like.

You can discover more about the recipe in my upcoming book.