Friday, June 23, 2023

Laramie…A Widely Popular Name


My recent release, Eveleen, is set in Laramie City, Wyoming, in the town’s early days. The word ‘city’ was added because so many other places (mountain range, peak, river, plains, Army fort, county, city) held that name and references to the town needed to be distinguished. The name derives from a French-Canadian trapper, Jacques LaRamie, who disappeared in a mountain range in the area in the 1820s. Hence, the name. Features named after LaRamie are only second to those named after Jim Bridger.

Laramie Peak courtesy Wikipedia

Grenville Dodge served as the chief engineer for the Transcontinental Railroad and was responsible for the initial layout of Cheyenne (1867), Laramie City, Rawlins Springs, Julesburg, and Dale City (all in 1868). A tent city sprang up on the Laramie Plains in early 1868 along the Overland Stage Route, in anticipation of the railroad coming through. Not far away to the south stood Fort Sanders. As was typical, supplies arrived at pre-determined spots, followed within a few days by the arrival of the crews building the tracks. Along with the crews came saloon owners and the ladies of the night who set up their tents, often for as short as a week before moving on. Mr. Dodge labeled the rag-tag settlements as Hell on Wheels* because no law enforcement was present in these gatherings of several hundred people.

from Carbon County Museum website

Possible because of the protected location of the high-plains town being surrounded by mountain ranges, Laramie City dug in roots and remained after the railroad builders moved west in May 1968. The first train arrived on May 4, and by May 10 when regular service was established, permanent buildings were already being built. Lawless and dangerous at first, the town struggled to find an adequate sheriff. The first mayor quit after six weeks because the other council members didn’t support him. The first marshal, “Big” Steve Long, also owned a saloon, Bucket of Blood. With his two half-brothers, he used harsh tactics to force people off their land, often through the challenge of a gunfight. By October, he’d killed 13 men.

My first story in the Rescue Me Mail Order Brides, Treise, featured an honorable lawman who took the job in 1869. I like to think the town was better for Paxon’s presence. In Eveleen, the hero is a dairy farmer, who I see as a settler of the Wild West.

*an acclaimed TV series of this name ran for five seasons starting in 2011


Eveleen Murphy works as a maid in the house of a Philadelphia lawyer. Amiable and fun-loving, she is a favorite in the household. But when her employer’s younger brother moves in, she is confronted at every turn by his unwanted romantic advances. When her cousin’s in danger, she takes in Treise. The women make a plan to answer ads for mail-order brides in the small city. But when jewelry goes missing and Eveleen is blamed, she has to go on the run. With only one letter from a potential husband in hand, Eveleen sets out for Wyoming Territory.

Dairy farmer Bjorn Omdahl has been content to work the family dairy farm with his younger brother. Knowing after his twin’s marriage, Einar will move to his wife’s farm, Bjorn places an ad for a mail-order bride, hoping for an experienced farm woman. The first woman to reply is from the city, and he doubts the wisdom of his communication. When he’d faced with the woman’s arrival at his farm, he has to decide to move her into his home or fund her ticket home. With such a tenuous start, what hope does this relationship have?


Also in Kindle Unlimited

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Preserving History - A Look at Canning Jars

Back in early May, Papa Bob came home with a flat of strawberries. I'd like to report that he toiled in the nearby farm to pick them, but I can't tell a lie. Still, a flat of strawberries is a lot of strawberries!

I offered to make a Strawberry Pie (my first ever!) Yet an over-abundance of berries remained.

I knew I had a jar of Sure-Jell (pectin), jelly jars, and sugar. After making sure the Sure-Jell hadn't expired, I set to work making preserves. A little more than an hour later, 8 jars of ruby-red preserves were cooling on my island.

Every time I make preserves, or receive a gift of homemade pickles, my thoughts turn to pioneer women and food preservation. With different fruits and vegetables coming in abundance, and sometimes overlapping, the women would often find themselves overwhelmed by the endless bounty to "put up". But if they wanted their harvest to sustain them during the winter months, they had to tackle the seemingly never-endless process.

Primitive Canning

When Nicolas Appert, a French inventor, first put up food in glass jars in 1795, he thought it was the exclusion of air that preserved food. He was half right; the other half was his method of placing food in jars, then boiling the sealed jar. Until 1858, canning jars used a glass jar, a tin flat lid, and sealing wax, which was not reusable and messy!

Mason Jars

But in 1858, John L. Mason, an inventor and tin smith from New York City, invented the mason jar. His machine cut threads into the lids making it practical to manufacture a jar with a reusable, screw-on lid. His design, a glass container with a thread molded into its top and a zinc lid with a rubber ring greatly improved the design of his predecessor. The rubber created the seal, and the thread lid maintained it. The jar included his patent: 'Mason's Patent November 30th. 1858'.



Clamped Glass-Lid Jars (Lightning Jars)

Another type of canning jar was the 'Lightning' or wire ball jar. Invented in 1882 by Henry Putnam of Bennington, Vermont, these fruit jars used a glass lid and a metal clamp to hold the lid in place. These 'lightning jars' became popular because no metal (which could rust or break the seal) came in contact with the food and the metal clamps made the lids easier to seal and remove (hence, the 'lightning' name).
Basically, a wire loop and levers operated to clamp down securely onto the lid and close the jar. The 'Putnam' jars were made by at least 11 glass companies, some being made into the early 1900s. Aqua was the most commonly seen color, as was typical of utilitarian glass of the time period.

Fun Fact:  It's likely that 'White Lightning' derived its name from the fact that bootleggers used these jars to store their product!

Atlas Jars

The Atlas E-Z Seal is a type of lightning jar. The difference is a raised lip to help keep the jar from cracking. This was called the "strong Shoulder" and was similar to the mason jar. Hazel-Atlas Glass Company was in operation from the late 1800s until 1964.

                                                                                    Photo courtesy of Jo-Ann Roberts

Ball Jars

Meanwhile, in 1880 in Buffalo, NY, William Ball and his five brothers borrowed $200 from their uncle and were soon in the business of manufacturing wood-jacketed tin cans for the storage of oil, lard, kerosene, and paint. Four years later, the brothers began making glass home-canning jars, the product that established
Ball as a household name. The brothers moved the company from Buffalo to Muncie, Indiana, in 1887 to take advantage of abundant natural gas reserves essential to making glass.

Kerr Jars

At the turn of the 20th century, Alxander Kerr found the Hermetic Fruit Jar Company, featuring the Economy and Self-Sealing jars. The Economy jars were among the first wide-mouth jars and were easy to fill. They also incorporated elements from two 1923 patents held by another inventor, Julius Landsberger...a metal lid with a permanently attached gasket. This made the lids easy to use and inexpensive.

In 1915, Kerr invented a smaller, flat metal disk with the same permanent composition gasket. The lid sealed the top of a mason jar; a threaded metal ring held the lid down during the hot water process. This allowed re-use of old canning jars together with inexpensive and easy to use disposable lids. This two-part system transformed home canning safety and is still in use today.

Eco-Friendly Uses in the Modern World

As one of the most useful containers on the planet, the mason jar has skyrocketed in recent years for its huge range of uses, and it all started with canning.

Pinterest and DIY users have discovered the lure and nostalgia of vintage mason jars, turning them into solar lights, pantry organizers, kitchen and/or bathroom decor, Christmas luminaries, and centerpieces for a rustic country-style wedding.

                  Photo courtesy of Jo-Ann Roberts                             Photo courtesy of Jo-Ann Roberts

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

JUMPING OFF - Mississippi River Towns


JUMPING OFF - Mississippi River Towns

Post by Doris McCraw
aka Angela Raines

Photo property of the Author
In the expansion of the West, the journeys began somewhere. Some people sailed to the West Coast, others came from Mexico while others came West across the plains. In order to reach those plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the coast they had to cross the Mississippi River. Additionally, commerce and travel in the early days depended on waterways. So important was this route that canals were built to connect various rivers and bodies of water.

This post will look at some of those river towns, especially between the years of 1800-1860 in the states of Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri.

Most know of St. Louis, now known as the 'Gateway to the West', but there were other towns that had their fair share of river traffic.

Galena, Illinois, in the northern part of the state, is located on the Fever River, deep enough for steamboats to navigate when they began running along the upper Mississippi. The town began because of lead. Founded in 1818, it was an important port and trading post until the Civil War. On a side note, General Grant arrived in 1860 and lived there until the war. He returned in 1879 and remained until 1881.

Nauvoo, Illinois, is best known for the jumping-off point of the Mormons (LDS) on their westward trek to Salt Lake City. The town, however, had other iterations being located on the northern part of the Des Moines Rapids. Since the rapids were unpassable with heavy ladened boats, they were offloaded downriver in another river town, Warsaw, Illinois, and reloaded near Nauvoo to continue their northern journey.

Kaskaskia, Illinois - Wikipedia

Kaskaskia, Illinois, has a unique history. When the current site of the town was founded, and at one time the territorial capital of Illinois, the Mississippi River was three miles away. By 1881, when the Mississippi flooded yet again, the town found itself an island on that mighty river, for the channel along the river had changed.

LeClaire, Iowa, has a long history, located where the Mississippi makes a turn to the West. It is also near the beginning of rapids in that area. It also had a boatyard and built a number of riverboats.

Guttenberg, Iowa, like Galena, Illinois had lead which was mined. There was also a ferry, and later it became a rail town serving the farms in the area.

Fort Madison, Iowa, began life as a fort, the spot having been recommended by Zebulon Pike during his expedition to locate the headwaters of the Mississippi in 1805.

Hannibal, Missouri, is probably best known as the hometown of Samuel Clemmens (Mark Twain) and Margaret Tobin (Margaret 'Molly' Brown). It was primarily a steamboat landing and after the Civil War, a landing for the logging taking place in Minnesota and Michigan.

New Madrid, Missouri, was founded in 1789. Probably best known as the center of the earthquakes that rocked the Mid-West during 1811-12. There was also a Civil War battle on an island near the town, known as the Battle of Island Ten.

Sainte Genevieve, Missouri, was part of a series of settlements by the French during the early to mid-1700s. It was a river port, shipping iron ore, marble, and granite from the mines in Missouri.

There are many stories of towns in this tri-state area. Below are links for those who want to spend time learning about the Mississippi River and the towns whose life and death are closely tied together by this waterway.

Other resources you might like:
"The History of Warsaw Illinois" by Brian Stutzman
"Cahokia- Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi" by Timothy R. Pauketat
"On Shaky Ground: The New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812" by Norma Hayes Bagnall

Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay Happy, and Stay Healthy.


Friday, June 16, 2023

Tulare Lake- It's B-a-a-ck! by Zina Abbott





When I began research on my Mail-Order Mama book about two years ago, I decided to set the story in Sonora, California, where I recently had visited to do some research. One of the elements of this series was that the characters were to arrive at their destination by stagecoach. Even though I set my story in 1885, after railroad tracks reached many localities—including in California—stagecoach travel to Sonora was no issue. The train did not arrive there until 1899.

I found a great map that showed stagecoach routes throughout California from the 1850s to 1860s. Still helpful, since many stagecoach routes in the foothills and mountains still existed in later years. However, what really drew my attention was the big blue lake at the south end of San Joaquin Valley. I have lived in San Joaquin Valley for over fifty years, and I knew of no lake in that location. Curiosity piqued, I began my research.

That big blue dot was Tulare Lake, the largest lake by surface dimension west of the Mississippi River—larger than the Great Salt Lake or Lake Tahoe. It was the second-largest freshwater lake entirely in the United States based upon surface area.


Tulare Lake was at one time part of Lake Corcoran, which covered the Central Valley of California. 600,000 years ago. Although it is not known how, a new outlet formed in the present-day San Francisco Bay, which rapidly carving an outlet through Carquinez Strait. This drained the lake, leaving the Buena Vista Lake, Kern Lake, and Tulare Lakes as remnants.

1772 Southern San Joaquin Valley showing Tulare Lake

In 1773, Commandant Tagus, an Emissary for the Spanish Governor and the first white man to view the lake, named it "Los Tules." In 1825, the lake became public knowledge when the legendary Jedediah Smith led the first band of white settlers into the San Joaquin Valley.

 It was also called La Laguna de los Tulares by Spanish explorers, and covered more than 1,200 square miles. The Spanish word tulare refers to a field of tule rush, which aptly described the lake. This section of the southern San Joaquin Valley was the lowest in elevation. It was also the terminus of the Tule, Kaweah, Kings and Kern rivers.

Each spring, the area was transformed into a marsh full of tule elk and antelope, honkers, gray, and Canadian geese. Yokut hunters fished for salmon, perch and sturgeon using rafts and canoes made from the thick tule reeds. The women waded far into the water to dig for clams and mussels.

Riverboat Alta stranded on Tulare Lake

The lake was so bountiful that white settlers named the area Mussel Slough. In the 1870s, commercial fishermen went on the lake in schooners and steamboats to catch terrapin turtles, which were served as delicacies in San Francisco restaurants.

Shows early irrigation plans

Canals built to serve more and more agriculture affected the flow of the rivers so that Tulare Lake gradually grew smaller and, at times, dried up. Water was also diverted for municipal use. As the lakebed dried up, it was converted to agricultural uses. Canals and dams were built in an effort to keep it that way.

1854 California map by John C. Fremont shows Tulare Lake

However, in years of heavy rainfall, and heavy snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east, the lake reappears. In spite of multiple dams and reservoirs in the mountains and foothills, and diversion canals to funnel the water away from developed farmland, Tulare Lake reappears. 2023 has been one of those years. The Boswell Company, the biggest farming operation in the world, lost thousands of acres of crops to this year’s flood. I recall news reports a couple of months ago telling of dairy farmers moving 7,000 head of cattle within two days to save them from the flood. Even last night’s news—months after the worst of the flooding—featured houses sitting in the middle of the lake with water about four feet up the front doors and windows. Tulare County has allocated money to buy their own air boat instead of relying on those loaned by Pacific Gas and Electric, the local utility.

Tulare Lake Expedition before 1880

In the past, when there has been extensive flooding to the point Tulare Lake reemerged, it took a year or more—in some cases, close to two years—for the lake water to recede so the farmland could be reclaimed. This is one of those years.

Tulare Lake – it’s b-a-a- ck!


In September, I will be publishing a new book set in Sonora, California, titled A Watchman for Willow. It is part of the Mail Order Papa series, and will be a companion book to my Mail-Order Mama book, A Lawyer for Linton.

To find the book description and purchase options for A Lawyer for Linton, please CLICK HERE


A Watchman for Willow is currently on pre-order. To find the book description and pre-order purchase link, please CLICK HERE