Sunday, April 30, 2023

California Gold Rush and Determining a Place Name


More than 500 mining camps existed during the heyday of the California Gold Rush, the vast majority of names have been forgotten. Official dates connected with the rush are January 24, 1848-1855. So many immigrants arrived to seek their fortune in the gold fields that California acquired the needed population count to qualify for statehood. One example is San Francisco. The city went from about 200 residents in 1846 to 36,000 in 1852. Can you imagine the sounds of constant construction as homes and businesses went up?

Mining made a progression from single individuals kneeling at the side of a creek or stream, using a pan to swirl a small amount of water and river bottom to discover flakes.

I love that this photo from 1850 shows a woman

The next phrase was the use of sluice or rocker boxes. Here shovelfuls of creek bottom were put into a box that had wire mesh for the bottom held together by a wooden frame. Several people would shake or rock the box to let the water through and then what remained on the wire would be sifted through by hand.

When the majority of the gold flakes and nuggets were gone from the streams, companies bought claims and established operations at the side of a river. Or they dug into the mountains, following a vein or gold to be extracted. Or high-powered hydraulics were use to break up the rocks to locate gold within.

As a historical writer, I like making my stories as true to life as possible. When I start a new story, I debate the issue of using a real place or inventing a fictional location. The freedom of using a real place is that if the story is set in the 19th century—as all mine are—the likelihood that someone will argue about the layout of the town is very small. If I had a habit of incorporating real life figures into my stories, I might be faced with offended descendants. When I have referred to people who lived, I do so in a positive light and as a way to pay homage to the contributions those people made.

My just-released novella, Tilda, is a wagon train story. I knew I wanted both of the protagonists to come to terms with not reaching their hoped-for destinations—Flynn’s was Sutter’s Mill and Tilda’s was Sacramento. In my mind, the fact they alter their goals in the end not only shows personal growth but demonstrates they are more committed to each other.

As a native Californian, I’m familiar with the Sierra Nevada Gold Country (my honeymoon night was spent in a hotel there). What I wanted was a lesser-known name of a town that was in the right region. When the name of a contemporary town is used, readers who might have visited it picture the locale like it is now. I own a book on ghost towns of Colorado and another for Texas ghost towns, which have proved useful in establishing locales for past stories. But I was able to run through a list of towns I’d heard of and picked a name the settlement was known by before official incorporation.  Therefore, the Illinoistown in my story is present-day Colfax, California.

BLURB for Tilda, book 31 in Prairie Roses Collection:

Following her parents’ death, Tilda Torsdotter turns to her cousin, Rakel, for help and joins her family’s preparations to head to California. Tilda’s job will be to assist pregnant Rakel with her two children under age five and receive the protection of Rakel’s husband, Albert. Then Rakel sickens and dies, and Albert looks to Tilda to fulfill her cousin’s duties--all of them.

Flynn Mannix has his eye set on reaching the gold fields of California. An easy-going guy, he’s always made his way doing one task or another but now he wants to make something of himself. Hiring on as a driver on a wagon train seems like the easiest way to reach the west coast. Until he witnesses an inappropriate encounter and steps in. Suddenly, he’s committed to a marriage of convenience with Tilda and responsible for her safety until they reach California. At the end of the trail, will the couple go their separate ways, or will they realize the experience has made their marriage real?

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Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Mother's Friend by Jo-Ann Roberts

If you've been reading my past blogs about products or inventions in the 19th and early 20th century, you know I'm a history nerd and how easy it is for me to go down the rabbit hole when I'm researching a new book. Such was the case when I needed to know about teething medicines for my upcoming release, Winning the Widow's Heart. While it mentions Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup only once, I wanted to make sure the information was accurate.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a first-time mother with a teething baby in the middle of the 19th century. Her cries keep everyone in the household awake for nights on end.

What's a mother to do?

Enter Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup, one of the most successful, famous or infamous medicines from the past and was called the "baby killer" by some.

Charlotte Winslow was a midwife and studied infant teething and other related pains. Sometime prior to 1844, she prepared this highly successful potion for children teething. Soon after, she gave the recipe to her son-in-law, Jeremiah Curtis and his partner Benjamin Perkins, druggists in Bangor, Maine. They manufactured and sold it under the name Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup.

The syrup claimed "to sooth any human or animal", and it quieted restless infants
and small children. Widely marketed in the U.K. and the U.S., the company promoted their product in recipe books, calendars, and trade cards. 


The syrup was sold in bottles about five inches tall by one and one-quarter inches in diameter.

The primary ingredients were morphine, alcohol, water softener, and aqua ammonia. 

Eww! I can't even begin to imagine what this may have tasted like! 

A teaspoon of the syrup had the morphine content of twenty drops of laudanum. It's inconceivable that the dosage suggested was that a month-old baby receive no more than two to three drops, and children six months old and up were to be given a half teaspoonful three or four times a day is alarming! The recommended dosage for children with dysentery was similar to the amounts already given but was to be repeated every two hours until improvement was noticed.

So, it isn't hard to understand why so many babies who were given this concoction went to sleep only to never wake up gain, coining the syrup's nickname, "the baby killer". However, many parents swore by the syrup as evidenced by the following letter written by a Massachusetts father...

Dear Sir: I am happy to be able to certify to the efficiency of Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup, and to the truth of what it is represented to accomplish. Having a little boy suffering greatly from teething, who could not rest and at night by his cries would not permit any of the family to do so, I purchased a bottle of the Soothing Syrup, in order to test the remedy, and, when given to the boy according to the directions, its effect upon him was like magic; he soon went to sleep, and all pain...disappeared....Every mother who regards the health and life of her children should possess it.                     Mr. H.A.Alger, Lowell, Mass.

Once the Pure Food and Drug Act passed in the U.S., Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup was forced to remove morphine from their syrup and remove "soothing" from the brand name. Even so, the syrup was sold until the 1930s.

So, the question begs to be asked: Why would a parent give their child such lethal medication?

Ingredients in 19th and early 20th century medicines weren't stated as they are today nor did people understand the full effects of these ingredients. So, without this information, people living in the era of Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup put their trust in druggists and doctors about the medicines they were prescribing. Yet even those who had medical training may not have known the full effects of certain drugs.

It's easy to understand how a product like this syrup would have appealed to weary parents looking for a cure-all for fussy babies and infants. 

Thankfully, advances in today's modern medicine ensure that such a loss of so many children as a result of this syrup, and other drugs like it, does not happen again.

Disclaimer: Before you think that I had my heroine give the baby several doses of the syrup, please let me assure you, no babies were harmed in the telling of this story.  

New Release!

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. 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?

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Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Doc Susie's Colorado Contemporaries


Post by Doris McCraw/Angela Raines-author

Photo property of the author

I've spent more time looking at the larger picture of the women doctors who received their license to practice medicine around the same time as Susan, Doc Susie, Anderson, who started her practice in Cripple Creek, Colorado in 1897. She did not move to Fraser, Colorado until 1907 where she earned her 'fame'.

While the list is fairly long, I thought I would share some additional names and their contributions to Colorado and medicine from the latter part of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. 

Dr. Josepha Williams and Dr. Madeline Marquette opened a private hospital and sanatorium in Denver in 1889. In 1892 they added a nursing school to the Hospital/ Sanatorium. Dr. Williams was the superintendent of the facility. On a side note,  Dr. Williams married Canon Charles Winfred Douglas a musician and Episcopal priest in 1896.

Dr.Genevieve M Tucker wrote "Mother, Baby, and Nursery: A Manuel for Mothers" published by Roberts Brothers, copyright 1896. She practiced in Pueblo, Colorado. Around 1898 she was elected president of the Colorado Homeopathic Medical Society.

Dr. Ida Putnam began her practice in Chicago, but in 1898 she received her Colorado license and began a practice in Telluride, Colorado.

Dr. Florence Sabin was a research doctor who did much to advance the area of medical research. Her accomplishments are too numerous to list here. If you wish to know more: 

Dr. Rose Kidd Beere was written up in the “History of Colorado” edited by Wilber Fiske Stone. She participated in the Philippine War of 1898-99 and WWI. She was unable to travel to the Philippines as a doctor so she gathered women to go there as nurses. 

From Find a Grave Website

Dr. Mary Elizabeth Bates, whom I have spoken of before. As you know she was the first woman intern at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. In the book “A History of Surgery at Cook County Hospital” by Patrick D. Guinan, Kenneth J. Printen, James L. Stone, and James S.T. Yao, we find in the nineteen months she worked as an intern she worked in the morgue, took part in fourteen amputations. Of her time there she later said “...the first six months were hell, the second six months were purgatory, the next six months were heaven; when it came time for me to leave, I wept bitter tears.”

These are just a few of Doc Susie's contemporaries. The stories of these women along with those who preceded them have given amazing gifts to this researcher.

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


Thursday, April 13, 2023

Pulp Fiction Leads to Pink Pistol Magazine


Eleven bestselling, award-winning authors, all members of Petticoats & Pistols blog for western romance, combined their talents and efforts to create a sweet romance series that honors the influence Annie Oakley had over women during her reign as “Little Sure Shot.”

In the new series, a one-of-a-kind pink-handled pistol is gifted to Annie Oakley. The pistol comes with a legend, one promising that whoever possesses it will find true love. Annie passes the gun on to one of her students and sets the whimsical journey in motion that starts with In Her Sights by Karen Witemeyer. The pistol travels from woman to woman from 1893 to the modern day until the series concludes with USA Today Bestselling Author Jessie Gussman’s contemporary romance Pistol Perfect.

 I like to say the series is kind of like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

When we were talking about ways to promote the book, Pam Crooks and I started discussing creating something like the old pulp fiction novels that were popular in the 1920s-1940s.  How fun would it be to make our own magazine.

So we did. 

You can get the first two issues of Pink Pistol Magazine absolutely free! Each issue includes excerpts from the new series, author interviews, recipes, games, and more! 
Pink Pistol Magazine Volume 1 here
Pink Pistol Magazine Volume 2 here 

My contribution to the series is Love on Target, a sweet romance set in 1894.


Will romance hit its mark when true love is the target?

 Desperate for a fresh start, Rena Burke journeys from Texas to Oregon with only her father’s pistol and a plodding old mule for company. She takes a job working with explosives at a mine, spends her free time emulating her hero Annie Oakley, and secretly longs to be loved.

 Saddlemaker Josh Gatlin has one purpose in life and that is his daughter. Gabi is his joy and the sunshine in his days. Then he meets a trouser-wearing woman living life on her own terms. Rena is nothing like his perception of what he wants in a wife and mother for his child, but she might just prove to be everything he needs.

 When tragedy strikes, will the two of them be able to release past wounds and embrace the possibilities tomorrow may bring? 

Also, be sure to enter my giveaway for a Love on Target Prize pack!

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 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.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Travel Essentials- What's a Mail-Order Bride to Do?


Go West, Young Man

By the 1800s, mostly male settlers answered the call to head west following stories that painted a picture of a land of milk and honey. A shortage of females developed as they searched for gold and plowed up the prairies building shelters out of sod. While back east, the opposite problem occurred. In many cases, answering an ad to become a mail-order bride was a literal ticket for a chance at a new life. Is it any wonder that advertisements like this became common?
Courtesy of Glacier National Park Photo Archives, photo HPF 9871.

In 1851, One California Paper pleaded:

“We want an emigration of respectable females to California: of rosy-cheeked ‘down east’ Yankee girls—of stout ‘hoosier’ and ‘badger’ lasses, who shall be wives to our farmers and mechanics, and mothers to a generation of ‘Yankee Californians.’ ” Quoted by Chris Enss in his book Hearts West: True Stories of Mail

Travel Essentials

American Etiquette Rules of Politeness, written by Walter Houghton in 1883, gave lots of advice, and some specifically included travel: “There is no situation in which a lady is more exposed than when she travels, and there is no position where a dignified, lady-like deportment is more indispensable and more certain to command respect.” Mr. Houghton also recommended carrying a sponge, tooth and nail brushes, and soap in an oilskin bag.

William Addis designed the more modern toothbrush in England around 1780. The handle was carved from cattle bone, and the brush was made from pigs' hair. In 1844, the first 3-row bristle brush was designed. The first U.S. patent for a toothbrush was filed in 1857.

Safety- What's a Lady to Do? 

Another recommendation from the American Etiquette Rules of Politeness was to carry money in a strong pocket made in your upper petticoat, only reserving a small sum for incidental expenses in your dress pocket.
A pair of pockets from the early 19th century.

Safety First- Looking Beyond Mr. Houghton's Recommendations-Pocket Pistols

The pocket pistol, also known as the Queen Anne pistol, originated in the mid-17th century as a small, concealable coat or pocket pistol. This style was used during the 18th century, evolving from a weapon reserved for the wealthy to a common sidearm in broader use as more and more manufacturers made them by the start of the 19th century.

The boot pistol was another version of the muff pistol produced from 1800 until the 1850s became popular with the Union army officers during the Civil War. These types of weapons were also frequently used by women because they were concealable in a purse.

During the 18th century, wealthy travelers concealed small single-shot pistols in the pocket of a coat as protection from highwaymen. Overcoat pistols with a turn-off barrel were designed for women to carry in their muffs or purses.

Affectionately known as the "Baby Dragoon" and made without a loading lever, Colt turned out about 15,000 between 1847-1850, and the public loved them. This pocket model became the most successful of all of Colt’s percussion revolvers.
Original Remington Model 95 derringer

When tucked into a vest or coat pocket, a derringer would not produce any more of a bulge in one’s clothing than would a pocket watch. Some manufacturers marketed their small firearms directly to the ladies. In 1866, Charles Converse and Samuel Hopkins manufactured approximately 800 pistols and sold under the trade name of “Ladies Companion.”

The 19th-century vest-sized pocket pistol was the double-barrel Philadelphia Deringer. The Rimfire Remington Model 95 was widely popular and overshadowed all other designs, and became synonymous with the word "Derringer." It is estimated that 150,000 were produced between 1866 and 1935. The Remington double-barrel derringer design is still being manufactured today.

New Release:

In my upcoming new release, our heroine is on the run and as nervous as a long-tailed cat on a porch filled with rocking chairs. Regarding travel, she'll follow her cousin's advice and ask to be seated next to another woman, preferably with children or a matronly appearance, and fade right into the background.

A hopeless romantic, Abilene is on the run again, dreaming of her happily ever after- a trustworthy and devoted husband, a house in the country, and peace.
Sheriff Mark Joseph learned the hard way that love only leads to heartache and is not worth the risk. The last thing he needs is a wife. Long work hours with a healthy dose of danger are the best antidote to a broken heart.

The Bloomer Women Who Walked to Wyoming Territory Part 2 by Zina Abbott


Last month, I shared a blog post about two early Wyoming Territory women which I learned about as part of my research 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, focusing on the mother, Alice Willing Bloomer. This month, I wish to finish with more details about the daughter, Mary Jane Bloomer Morey Stimpson Richardson. You may find the previous post by CLICKING HERE.

Mary Jane Bloomer’s three husbands were the following, the second two marriages taking place after her move onto the Wyoming Territory frontier:

Marriage to Charles Norman Morey 1857
Marriage to William G Stimpson 1869
Marriage to William Richardson 1880

At the end of the Civil War, Mary Jane Bloomer Morey, finding herself destitute after her husband suffered a disabling brain injury as a result of his war service, put him in a home for the insane and looked for a means to support herself and her family. Her mother, Alice Willing Bloomer, who was widowed because of the war, and Mary Jane’s three-year-old son, Frank Morey, traveled to Leavenworth, Kansas, where, for a time, they worked at the Dexter Hotel.

Mary Jane's mother, Alice, was suffering from consumption. At wars end, it was widely proclaimed that consumption could be cured by moving west to the high and dry climate. They walked with a hand cart to Grand Island Nebraska in the middle of February 1868.  The ladies then rode a train to the new town of Cheyenne near the end of the tracks.  They next rode the train to the Dale Creek Bridge construction site, then they walked about twenty miles to Fort Sanders, arriving on March 4th. There, they stayed for a short time while the town of Laramie was platted out and started building.  As soon as the first hotel, the "Frontier", was completed, the ladies took over management of the eating establishment there.

In August 1868, railroad officials offered Mary Jane a job operating the services at Percy Station north of Elk Mountain. It was also the time when she married her second husband, William Stimpson, a merchant from England. They boarded the train to Cheyenne for the wedding. Percy Station was a loading point for ties from the Elk Mountain area. Mary Jane had Chinese employees in her kitchen, and she soon learned to speak Chinese and several Indian dialects. 

By 1873, business at the Percy Station had greatly decreased, so it closed. Mary Jane and William Stimpson purchased the old Overland Trail Stage Station at "The Crossings" on the Medicine Bow River, which thirty later became known the town of Elk Mountain. This location served as a way-point for early American settlers heading west along the Overland Trail and other routes.  There, Mary Jane operated a boarding house, toll bridge, supply store, and tavern. Local histories are full of stories about Indian fights, bandits trying to rob the store, and Mary Jane sitting on the bridge with a shotgun in order to "collect" the toll bridge charge from immigrants moving up the Overland Trail.

Relationship of Elk Mountain and Medicine Bow, both along Medicine Bow River -  courtesy of Google Maps


In 1874, a daughter the Stimpsons named Mary Alice was born. In 1876, four years after Mary Jane's mother’s death, William Stimpson also died. He had been growing progressively weaker, and it was suspected he had cancer. This forced the family to move to Carbon, where Mary Jane worked at a boarding house. The only record of his death is the listing in Mary Jane’s family Bible.

Not long after William Stimpson’s death, the Trabing Brothers, who already owned a store in Rock Creek along the Union Pacific Railroad line, which was located about twelve miles north of present day Rock River, decided to expand their mercantile empire by  purchasing the store at "The Crossings" from the widow, Mary Jane. More details about the Trabing Brothers businesses may be found in a post I wrote for another blog. Please CLICK HERE.

The summer after Custer's battle at Little Big Horn, the Bozeman trail re-opened. The Trabing Brothers decided to be the first to open a store in northern Wyoming and chose a site at Crazy Woman Creek.  August Trabing hired Mary Jane to be the store manager. 


Not Mary Jane, but, yes, women did drive ox teams










Mary Jane drove two wagon loads of supplies with her fifteen-year-old son, Frank Morey-Stimpson, and five-year-old daughter, Mary Alice Stimpson, . Again, with no protection and traveling alone, Mary Jane headed to Fort Fetterman and on up the Bozeman Trail to the Trabing Trading Post Store on Crazy Woman Creek, arriving in good order while the store was still under construction in the fall of 1877.

While at Crazy Woman Creek, Mary Jane's daughter died of scarlet fever in 1878. She was probably buried somewhere near the old store site.

While working at the Trabing store at Crazy Woman Creek, Mary Jane was also robbed by a gang, which was later identified as the Big Nose George gang. This could have been around the same time as the attempted railroad derailment outside of Medicine Bow in August, 1878, which was thwarted by an observant section crew foreman.

Mary Jane also acted as the area doctor, housed Moreton Frewen, the Englishman who brought the first cattle to northern Wyoming, and dealt with freighters and stage coach drivers, including Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock.

Mary Jane operated the store at Crazy Woman Creek for just over a year, before the Trabing Brothers moved the location to what would soon be the town of Buffalo.  In the 1880 census there are only five families in northern Wyoming who were not connected with the military. Among those five families was Mary Jane and her son, Frank Morey.

William Richardson, a coal miner in Carbon and a good friend of William Stimpson, received the news of Mary Jane’s daughter’s death. Richardson,was an immigrant coal miner from West Auckland, Durham, England. He rode north to Buffalo and brought Mary Jane back to Carbon. There they were married. Mary Jane then had three more children while she was between the ages of forty and forty-four: Thomas Darrow Richardson, Edward Richardson, and Willing Gay Richardson.

Eventually, the family moved back to Elk Mountain. Several incidences of Mary Jane’s life include fighting off three renegade Indians and killing one in hand-to-hand combat at the ranch, "engineering" the irrigation for the Medicine Bow River Valley, building a post office, and challenging a neighbor to a gunfight when he threatened the family.

A newspaper article states that "the first irrigation ditch was built out of the Medicine Bow River by (Mary Jane) Mrs. Richardson and is still known as the "Garden Ditch". She also owned a toll bridge, store, hotel and saloon at Medicine Bow Crossing Station, today known as the town of Elk Mountain."   We do not believe this date could be correct as she did not move to "the crossing" until after 1870. A more reliable date for the garden ditch at Elk Mountain would be 1878.  A quote from the same article, "From a reliable source it was learned that it was a fact that Buffalo Bill, for some reason or other was ejected from the hotel by Mrs Richardson."

Mary Jane Bloomer Morey Stimpson Richardson died at the age of sixty-nine on December 21, 1910 in Elk Mountain, Carbon County, Wyoming. Elk Mountain played a crucial role in supporting the coal mining and timber industries vital to the Union Pacific Railroad's success. Many families settled here, immigrating from Finland, Sweden, and other European countries, bringing with them a rich diversity of cultures and traditions. She was buried in Elk Mountain cemetery.


, Book 2 in the Rescue Me (Mail-order Brides) series, takes place several years after, some of these incidences. However, Mary Jane was still alive and active in that general region of Wyoming Territory during the timeframe of this book. The incident with Big Nose George robbery would have taken place at the same time as Lauren’s story. To read the book description and find the purchase options, please CLICK HERE.  

Mary Jane Bloomer Morey Stimpson Richardson was still in the region at the same time as my story, Ellie, from the Runaway Brides of the West series. To find the book description and purchase options, please CLICK HERE.