Friday, March 24, 2023

Book Review: Hearts West by Chris Enss


A source that I have found useful when writing mail-order bride stories is this slim volume subtitled True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier. The premise of why the author wrote the book is sweet: she didn’t have a date for the Junior-Senior Prom and advertised that fact in the high school newspaper. The ad set out a meeting place and fourteen other girls in the same situation showed up. The one guy who showed up was looking for a different meeting.

The irony here is how the ratio was switched from the late 19th century when American frontier towns experienced a minimum of fifteen men (often as high as fifty) to one woman. An enterprising businessman, Leslie Fraser Duncan, started the Matrimonial News in England in 1870, then opened offices in San Francisco and Kansas City, Missouri, the following year. For a set fee, men could advertise for a wife with anonymity, and the newspaper would facilitate correspondence with women who responded. The goal of the newspaper was stated as: “To cultivate the noble aim of life and help men and women into a state of bliss is our aim.”

The weekly newspaper remained in print through the 1890s, although toward the end, some of the ads were merely pranks. But the newspaper was successful enough to spawn many other similar publications. Each operated in a slightly different way, with some covering regional areas.  

Some women had more time to prepare for the eventual match and would sit for photographs that could be included in a letter to a prospective mate. Others were in a hurry to leave a bad situation, so they responded to several ads and possibly matched with the first man who replied.

The book includes stories of individual women, why they responded to such ads, and the outcome. A few examples of the ads are included.  I value the book because I learned that a wide variety of individuals at various stages of success used these publications which were the early version of ads in the contemporary personals column.

In my forthcoming novella, Triese, part of the Rescue Me Mail-Order Brides multi-author series, she fits into the “in a hurry” category.

Triese O’Hara watches as her father’s newspaper office is vandalized, and he’s beaten and hauled away with the thugs stating they’ll bury him. She needs to disappear far away and with a different last name to escape detection. But she vows to make the man responsible pay.

Sheriff Paxon Waldemarr struggles to control the lawless element in Laramie, Wyoming Territory. After a tragedy, he becomes guardian to his young niece and needs a wife to make a home. When he marries his mail order bride, he has no concept of this woman’s determination to avenge her father’s death. If her actions reflect on his career, how will their marriage survive?

Preorder here

Do you think you would have ever sought out such an arrangement to find your wedded spouse?

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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Spring Cleaning - Tips & Tricks from the Mid-1800's by Jo-Ann Roberts

How do you feel about Spring cleaning? For some it's an opportunity to freshen the home; for others it's not worth something to be bothered about. For years, when I'd return home from school to find the house topsy-turvy, I knew my mother had started spring cleaning. Windows devoid of curtains would be wide open, the beds stripped, the vacuum in middle of the hall, and the combine scents of furniture polish and vinegar hung in the air.

As much as I like an orderly house, I don't go crazy for spring cleaning. 

Except when I'm on a deadline (which is presently the case), I daily dry sweep the floors, clean the kitchen counters, straighten things up, do a load or two or laundry, and make the bed. And whenever my husband pitches in, I consider it a bonus.

Spring arrives this week. So, let's spare a thought for 19th century housekeepers who spent considerable time, elbow grease, and disruption on Spring cleaning. From my research, it appears that many households in the mid-1800s had mixed feelings.

"Spring cleaning! Oh misery! Ceilings to be whitewashed walls to be cleaned, paint to be scoured, carpets to be taken up, shaken, and put down again...I might spring my feet off and not get all that done."                                                                                                                               - Sara Willis Parton

"It must be confessed, however, that after the great turmoil is over, whether it be a week, fortnight, or three weeks of scrubbing, scouring, there is a moment of delightful repose in the family...This is very pleasant, but it is a pity that it should be purchased at the cost of so much confusion --so many petty annoyances."                                                 - Susan Fenimore Cooper

Yet, while you think that Victorians were strict about cleanliness, it was noted in one handbook published in 1899 reminding readers that while cleanliness is important, one should maintain a laid-back attitude about it.

A sentiment I highly embrace.

Here, in no particular order of importance are a few methods our great-great-grandparents used for spring cleaning.

Gilded Frames

Freshen up the shine of gilt picture frames by going over them with a soft brush dipped in water in which three or four onions have been boiled for about an hour." The expert cleaner



"While sweeping, keep all doors shut, that the dust may not spread. And let those who are not active assist in the operations know as little as possible of what is going on. Keep all brooms, brushes, water pails and dust out of the way so as not to endanger people's shins."  The Expert Cleaner 


"If a good wallpaper is soiled, it may be refreshed by rubbing it lightly with a piece of breadcrumb; this is best done by straight long strokes."   The Expert Cleaner.


"...a feather bed put in the sun for a day will have received almost as much benefit as if it had been sent to be cleaned and steamed. A feather should be put into all the screw holes and crevices of a bedstead, to rid it of dust; and if there is a suspicion of any unwelcome visitors, the feather should be dipped in turpentine."     The Expert Cleaner

The stove

"...moisten some black-lead with a little stale beer, if there is any; if not, water will do. Then with the small round blacking brush, put the lead over every part that is to be blacked...."


"...Dry whiting will polish the glass panes nicely. Weak black tea with some alcohol is the best liquid to wash the glass. Save all the tea grounds then when needed, boil them in a tin pail with two quarts water, and us the liquid on the windows. It takes off all the dust and fly specks. If applied with a newspaper, and rubbed off with another paper, they will look far better than if cloth is used."

P.S. Today, many people still used newspapers to clean windows.


"...Take a flannel cloth and saturate it in sweet unskimmed milk; wipe over the floor whenever it needs cleaning or brightening."      - The Expert Cleaner

Intrigue by these methods, I did some additional research. And, yes indeed, the use of black tea is currently a bonafide way to clean glass surfaces, and skim milk is often used on wood and stone floors in some ancestral homes in England.

So, once you try one or more of these methods, especially the tea and milk, you will not only have sparkling windows and clean floors, but you can relax with a soothing drink!


19th-Century Cleaning Tips for the Modern Era - The New York Times (

Victorian spring-cleaning tips and tricks - Recollections Blog

Spring Cleaning in the 19th Century - Shannon Selin

Spring Cleaning the Old-Fashioned Way | English Heritage (

DIY Black Tea Window Cleaner | Apartment Therapy

Coming soon!


She was branded as a traitor to the Union.
He was her sworn enemy.
A marriage of convenience would be perilous…wouldn’t it?

In the summer of 1864 in Roswell, Georgia, widow Sofie Bishop struggles to manage the small family vineyard on her own. The War Between the States took her husband and her way of life. Now, with her home in ruins her only option was working at the Ivy Woolen Mill. Her woes go from bad to worse when the Yankees arrive on Roswell’s doorstep.
Courteous and kind, Captain Seth Ramsey is not what Sofie expects from a Union officer. However charming he might be, she’s determined to keep her distance. Even when she finds herself branded as a traitor, arrested, and transported north to an uncertain destiny, she didn’t think she could lose much more to the Yankees.
But she was wrong.
Will his vow of love mend her wounded heart? Or would a marriage of convenience be the best she can offer?




Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Those Random Books I Use For Research


Post by Doris McCraw aka Angela Raines

Photo (c) and property of the author

This month I thought I'd list ten of those random books that contain unique information. I hope you all enjoy some fun reading.

1. "I Never Knew That About Colorado" by Abbott Fay

2. "The American Family Keepsake" by The Good Samaritan and all other books in the American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection.

3. "Midas of the Rockies: The story of Stratton and Cripple Creek" by Frank Waters

4.  "Cripple Creek Days" by Mabel Barbee Lee

5.  "The Bad Old Days of Colorado: Untold Stories of the Wild West" by Randi Samuelson-Brown

6.  " A Quick History of Victor: Colorado's "City of Mines" by Leland Feitz

7.  "Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel" by Jeff Smith

8.  "The Prospector: Story of the Lidew of Nicholas C. Creede" by Cy Warman

9.  "Around Monarch Pass" by Duane Vandenbusch

10. "The Cripple Creek Strike" by Emma F. Langdon

Garvin cabin - Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site
Photo (c) and property of the Author

I have used and/or own a number of these books. Yes, I realize most have to do with Colorado, but all are about life and times in the early West. 

In addition to my non-fiction, such as "Under the Stone: Early Women Doctors in Evergreen Cemetery", most of my fiction, which takes place in Colorado is grounded in the history of the state and region I wrote about. To me, having those pieces of history adds realism to the story.

Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay happy, and Stay healthy.


Tuesday, March 14, 2023

I Bet You Dough-Not Know The History of This Tasty Treat by Kimberly Grist


A Brief History Of Doughnuts

Some things just can't be improved, no matter how we try. Well, maybe in the case of doughnuts, we should begin with the removal of its center. 

In 1847, Hanson Gregory claimed to have been dissatisfied with the greasiness of doughnuts twisted in various shapes with raw centers. While working on a lime-trading ship, the sixteen-year-old claimed to have punched a hole in the dough's center with the ship's tin pepper box. Upon returning home, he taught the technique to his mother.

Spring forward to today, I don't know about you, but I find it almost impossible to pass by Krispy Kreme when the "Hot Now" sign is flashing. But when associating in years gone by, I was reminded of accounts during the Civil War, where civilian ladies distributed the treats by the dozens to regiments on the way to war.

The Feast of Doughnuts

The ladies of Augusta, Maine, distributed over fifty bushels of doughnuts to the Third Volunteer regiment before their departure for the war in 1861. A procession of ladies, headed by music, passed between double lines of troops to present the welcome treats. (The Civil War in Song and Story by Frank Moore)

19th-century homemakers preferred to make twisted doughnuts because it saved time during the cooking process. Little House on the Prairie fans may recall how much Laura Ingalls Wilder's future husband Almanzo loved them. Based on the account from Farmer Boy, how much Laura Ingalls Wilder's future husband Almanzo loved them. 


"Almanzo took the biggest doughnut from the pan and bit off its crisp end. Mother was rolling out the golden dough, slashing it into long strips, rolling and doubling and twisting the strips. Her fingers flew; you could hardly see them. The strips seemed to twist themselves under her hands, and to leap into the big copper kettle of swirling hot fat." (Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Almanzo's Mom's Doughnut Recipe

Approximately 900g olive oil – for frying doughnuts

(Almanzo's mother would have used lard)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sour cream

2 1/4 cups flour

powdered sugar  

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over low heat until it reaches 375˚f / 190˚CIn the meantime, add sour cream, egg, baking soda, and salt to a large bowl and mix well. Add 1 cup of plain flour and mix. Slowly add the rest of the flour until you have a dough that can be rolled out. Flour your board and roll out the dough in a long rectangle shape that is 4 inches (10 cm) by 16 inches (40 cm) and about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick. Cut the dough into 1/2 inch (1.2cm) strips by 4 inches (10 cm) long. Grab the two ends of the long rectangle strip and twist, then pinch the two ends together to make a twisted circular shape. Place 2 – 3 doughnuts at a time in your pan and fry until golden brown on both sides. Once cooked, remove the doughnuts and place them on a paper towel. Sprinkle both sides immediately with sugar. 

Sweets for The Sweet (Or Sometimes Not so Sweet)

In my new release, A Match for Gabe, our heroine attempts to appeal to her rather grumpy husband through his stomach and makes this tasty treat. 

New Release

Carrie Ann Dixon's impulsive nature has cost her a teaching position. Destitute, she agrees to seek the help of a matchmaker. She believes there's a happily ever after within reach for everyone, and she'll work hard to make her dream come true. Casting her past failures aside, she's thrilled with the idea of moving west and requests a match with someone who embraces adventure and will be enthusiastic about building a romantic relationship.

Gabe Russell, former soldier and regimented rancher isn't looking for love. Instead, he needs a cook, housekeeper, and babysitter for his four younger siblings. Hence, his request to the matchmaker includes, "My desired match should be a no-nonsense, hard-working woman who knows the importance of following a schedule.

Monday, March 13, 2023

The Bloomer Women Who Walked to Wyoming Territory by Zina Abbott












While researching Wyoming Territory history for my recent book, Lauren, I came across an account of two women who made an impact on early Wyoming history. I saved their story for Women’s History Month.

Mary Jane Bloomer was born in Mina, Chautauqua, New York in 1842. She was the daughter of Alice Willing-Bloomer. She was married three times.

She and her first husband, James Morey, moved to Galina, Illinois, prior to the American Civil War. One of her aunts lived there. She became a friend of the Grant family. When the Civil War came, James Morey served as an officer under U.S. Grant. For a short time, Mary Jane served as Grant’s personal secretary. During the war, her husband was shot in the head, but survived. His discharge papers stated he suffered a "brain hernia," which meant that his brains were hanging out of the hole in his head. He was admitted to an insane asylum in Washington D.C. where he later died. He was buried at Arlington Cemetery.
In 1867, with her husband totally disabled and unable to support her, Mary Jane abandoned him. She and her mother, who was also widowed during the Civil War, walked from New York to Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory, with an oxcart and Mary Jane's three-year-old son, Frank Morey, who was born in Ohio during the Civil War.
Both mother and daughter knew General Grant, General Rawlins, General Sheridan and other officers from the Civil War era. Since many also ended up being in charge of the Transcontinental Railroad construction, it is assumed they were offered work before leaving New York for Wyoming Territory. Still,  it was a heroic undertaking for two women to travel alone with a child that far into a frontier. Many white men there were rough and uncouth, and many hostile Native Americans, very unhappy that the stagecoach routes followed by the railroad crews disrupted their hunting grounds, would kill any white person they came across they considered an enemy.

The three arrived at Fort Laramie. The following spring, the two women worked on the railroad construction sites as cooks. They started from the newly formed town of Cheyenne west to Carbon, not far from present day Elk Mountain. (It is now gone, but, at the time, was a lively city due to its role of providing coal for the railroad.)

 In late 1868, Mary Jane married her second husband, William Stimpson, a merchant from England, in Cheyenne. They appeared on the 1870 census operating the Union Pacific Railroad Percy Station, Carbon County, Wyoming near Fort Halleck (north side of Elk Mountain) and Carbon. Her mother, Alice, was operating the nearby Dana Station.

In 1868 the next Station to the west near Fort Steel was called Benton. Benton was recorded in history as perhaps the worst of the worst "Hell on Wheels" towns along the Railroad Construction. There was no law enforcement of any kind in this short-lived town.  It was essentially three large brothels and several bars. It attracted every evil character known in the west with every kind of indecency you can imagine going on. Every weekend the town was filled with drunken railroad workers, miners, professional gamblers, swindlers, and cowboys engaging in hard drinking, gambling, open prostitution, fights, gun battles, murder etc. In only four months of existence, the graveyard at Benton interred over hundred dead, most of them due to shootings.

The residents of Percy Station, which included both Mary Jane Bloomer Stimpson and her mother, Alice Willing-Bloomer, got fed up with the murders and cleaning up after Benton Station. They literally gathered up a lynch mob of people mostly—from Percy and some friends from Carbon and Fort Halleck. Heavily armed, they traveled to Benton.

The operators of Benton found out that the mob was on the way so they quickly packed up and fled to the west down the tracks. Only one brothel operator stayed to protect his establishment. When the mob arrived the operator managed to shoot one of the lynch mob before he was killed. The mob then burned the entire town to the ground.

Freighters picking up supplies for railroad

In October of 1868, Alice Willing Bloomer traveled from Percy Station to Fort Halleck to pick up supplies. While on the trail, she witnessed a band of Indians attack a freight train of five men hauling ties to Percy Station. The men killed three of the men and two others managed to shoot their way into a ravine and escape toward Fort Halleck. The three dead freighters were the first three burials in the town of Carbon to the west.

Drawing of Fort Halleck north of Elk Mountain

The Indians drove the oxen into the lake and hamstrung them. They left the livestock in the water to bleed to death. They then took the mules and fled before soldiers arrived from Fort Halleck. This became known as the Bloody Lake Massacre. Bloody Lake, two-and-a-half acres, is now dried up most of the year. It is north of both Elk Mountain and the former Fort Halleck. This incident became known as the Bloody Lake Massacre.

The lake was given its name by John Sublette, a government scout turned construction worker turned rancher, was in the Percy area and would soon be responsible for the naming the lake. According to his obituary printed in December 1928, he was a participant in an “Indian uprising,” with a non-specified number of U.S. soldiers in October 1868. The soldiers didn’t fare too well, but Sublette survived. He named the lake because of the gore that discolored it that day.

Map courtesy of Google Maps

Alice Bloomer saved arrows from the site, which were passed down through the family. She became a primary source of information regarding what took place. The discrepancy between her description of freighters versus Mr. Sublette’s description of soldiers is probably due to the fact she viewed the scene from a distance. Frontier soldiers, unless they were part of a formal review, often did not wear regulation uniforms while performing other duties.

Alice died four years later on August 1, 1872. She was buried in a shallow grave surrounded by sandstone slabs. Her burial place is identified by descendants as “Turtle Rock” ridge, the location where she witnessed the battle between the Indians and the freighters. Based on her assumed line of travel and the locations of the former Fort Halleck and former Percy Station, I was unable to identify on the map a location the family identified as Turtle Rock. However, the family is working with the Bureau of Land Management to erect a historical marker at her gravesite.

There is more to Mary Jane Bloomer Morey Stimpson’s story—she was quite the entrepreneur—but I will save that for next month’s blog post.


Lauren, Book 2 in the Rescue Me (Mail-order Brides) series, takes place several years after these incidences. However, Mary Jane was still alive and active in that general region of Wyoming Territory during the timeframe of this book, which is available. To read the book description and find the purchase options, please CLICK HERE.