Saturday, January 31, 2009

"American girl; farmer's daughter; raised on the farm, own 40 acres of land; father owns 100. Would consider marriage if I can find some good honest man, no objections to widower with one or wo children. My age is 22; weight, 160; height 5 feet 6 inches; black hair and eyes. Write and learn more."

Due to western expansion, the gold rush, and other calls to riches, by the 1850s there were more eligible bachelors in the West than the East. In Washington Territory, men outnumbered women by nine to one! It didn't take long for some enterprising women, in differing parts of the West, to plan ways of bringing eligible females to settle the land and make good marriages. "Matchmaking" newspapers sprouted up in California, and circulated all over the country, hoping to bring "rosy-cheeked down east Yankee girls."

In our world today, it seems unlikely any of us would consider marriage out of economic necessity, but our sisters from a century or two ago found it a very viable option. No one knows the true numbers of mail order brides who did venture West, or those who came out on their own and found love (or, at least, matrimony) with a stranger at a mining camp.

And it wasn't only women posting for a potential mate. This ad appeared in the January 8, 1887 edition of the Matrimonial News:

"A gentleman of 25 years old, 5 feet 3 inches, doing a good business in the city, desires the acquaintance of a young, intelligent, and refined lady possessed of some means, of a loving disposition from 18 to 23, and one who could make home a paradise."

Perhaps love and romance could be found with a stranger, after all!

Would marry if I can find a congenial companion

"A very stylish and attractive widow by death, with property worth $3,000. Age 33; weight, 125; height, 5 feet, 5 inches; blue eyes, brown hair, complexion fair; American; good housekeeper and cook. Would marry if I can find a congenial companion. Either city or country life. Will answer all letters containing stamps. Will inherit $6,000."

So wrote an anonymous miss in 1917. Lonely hearts ads are not a modern invention. The New Plan, a "magazine for marimony," was published in Kansas City, MO, between 1911 and 1917. The magazine encouraged single women to post an ad. "Don't think because you are not wealthy yourself that you cannot get a rich party to marry you. Love is not measured in lucre. Morality, fidelity, respectability, ambition and beauty often tip the opposing weight of wealth on the matrimonial scale."

While mail order brides have a long history, the personal ad opened up a new door for singles. With the payment of only $1, a bachelorette also promised to answer each and every response she received. It's intriguing to wonder how many marriages developed out of these ads.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Women of the Gold Rush Days

By Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

When we hear the word gold rush, we envision our forefathers hurrying to California to pan for gold, hoping to strike it rich and have a better life. But what about the women and how did they fit in this era? They not only endured the hardships and privations of a new country, but were obligated to endure the forefathers too.
When January of 1850 dawned upon California her population was approximately 100,000 people. Nearly all of them were men and nine-tenths of them gold-fever immigrants. After these adventurers rushed to mines and staked a claim, they sent for their wives, girlfriends and daughters.
Caravans of women were led over trackless plains and mountains for months on end. Great rocks, waist high, made it difficult for the oxen to pull the wagons. To lighten the load and save the wagon wheels from being destroyed, the women walked beside the carriages, crossing the plains with their little children tugging on their skirts and babies at their breasts. They lived with the daily threat of Indian attacks, or dying in child birth. The wagon masters used simply the sun and stars as guides, coming west almost as straight as the crow flies. Each day, no matter the weather conditions, three hours of travel was insisted upon to keep the oxen in good condition.
Once the women reached their destination they were made to live in tents instead of framed dwellings. The men gambled and drank so there was a lot of shooting, cursing and yelling going on in the camp. The uproar frightened children and many clung to their mothers for solace, becoming another problem for women to conquer, as well as teaching them their school lessons.
The women toiled daily to support their families, since mining wasn’t always a certain means of livelihood. There were no bake shops, so the women made apple pies from common dried apples and sold them for a dollar apiece.
It wasn’t until 1860 that the Pony Express was started, so there was no mail. The women couldn’t receive news from or about the loved ones they left behind, nor could they send news out. If they lost a parent or sibling, or they themselves passed, either side didn’t obtain the information for several years later.
The only source of social amusement was dancing. If a dance was held at one mining camp, other mining camp occupants would travel miles on horseback to attend the festivities. The only music for these pioneer balls was the fiddle.
When next we give praise and credit to the forefathers of our country who were struck with gold fever strong in their blood and came west across the mighty mountains to make their homes beside the Pacific waters . . . we can’t forget to honor the women.
The gray hairs upon their heads at a young age tell in cipher of their silent sufferings. The deeply graven lines etched upon their face explain a noble story. They were our nation’s backbone, the foremothers who kept the home fires burning under primitive conditions and the matrons of the commonwealth.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Victorian Mourning Customs

Warning, this post contains some macabre information and might not be for the weak of heart. We’re going to talk about death and dying.

It’s a topic the average American avoids, postponing any thought of their demise as if they plan to live forever. Yet the Angel of Death will descend upon us – sooner or later. We’re all going to die, it’s just a matter of timing.

The Victorians had a closer relationship with death, because it was a constant factor in their lives. Poor hygiene, questionable medical procedures, the danger of infection, and infectious diseases all contributed to an average life expectancy of 42 years. The people of this era didn’t fear death, but they were afraid they would not be properly mourned when they passed.

So, an elaborate structure of mourning customs developed during this era, inspired in part by Queen Victoria, when she went into mourning for her beloved Prince Albert.

The rules dictating fashion requirements and social activities were strictest for a widow. She was expected to follow prescribed rules for dressing, conducting herself and publicly displaying her deep sense of loss.

There were specific stages of mourning; beginning with deep (or full) mourning immediately following her husband’s death. It was to last a year and a day, and she was expected to dress entirely in black during that period. She also was expected to limit her social activities with the exception of church attendance.

Full mourning required a wardrobe of black crepe, wool or other dull fabric that did not reflect any light. All her accessories must be black, including her gloves, stockings, hats and parasols. This attire was often referred to as “widow’s weeds”. The one exception to the rule of black was undergarments since the dyes were unstable and could stain skin. Many women sewed a large black band on their white petticoats, in the event that her skirt lifted, not even a hint of white should show. Women were also required to wear a bonnet with a “weeping veil”, which was made of sheer crepe or silk and would reach to mid-calf. When out in public, the widow was expected to use the veil to cover her face.

During deep mourning a widow didn’t wear jewelry, but after the year and one day, she proceeded into half-mourning. At that point she could begin wearing mourning jewelry, especially black jet or hair jewelry. This is the macabre part, because hair jewelry was made from the deceased’s hair, woven into pins, pendants or other jewelry.

Half-mourning allowed for gradually easing into wearing other colors: grey, mauve, purple, lavender, lilac and white could be worn. In the late 1800’s, burgundy and subtle prints began to become popular as half-mourning alternatives.

In my book, Promise Me, Amanda Wainwright is the widow of a wealthy man. She arrives in Willow Creek Montana on a mission to fulfill a deathbed promise to her husband.

“Mud.” Amanda Wainwright sighed deeply as she gazed out the carriage window. “This whole town is brown and gray and covered in mud.”
She was alone in the carriage, so no one answered her. Lately, she’d taken to talking to herself to fill in the blanks and alleviate the loneliness. People might think her a bit daft, or maybe eccentric, if they heard her. Rich widows were allowed to be eccentric, weren’t they?

She touched the black veiling on the bonnet perched next to her. She hated widow’s weeds; each glimpse of herself reminded her she was completely and utterly alone.

Amanda took a deep breath; she needed to prepare herself for the days ahead. She still felt inadequate for the task Arthur had charged to her upon his deathbed. Her dying husband had begged her to make things right for the workers who had sacrificed so much of their lives to make him a rich man. The sour stench of sickness and death had hung over him when he’d extracted the promise from her. She’d vowed to create the Miner’s Benevolent Association for the workforce in his mines.

She twisted her black gloved hands nervously and sighed. It seemed an impossible task. She’d never had any responsibility other than directing servants and being an obedient daughter and wife. What did she know of miners and their problems?

The carriage halted, and Amanda stretched the muscles that had cramped on the long trip into the mountains. Snatching the despised hat, she set it upon her head and spread the heavy veiling across her shoulders to shield her face. The door opened and her driver nodded to her politely.

“We’re here, ma’am.”

Amanda wrapped the ribbons of her black, beaded bag around her thin wrist and held out a gloved hand. The man assisted her to the ground, and mud oozed over the toes of her boots. Lifting the hem of her bombazine gown, she walked to the steps and into the Parmeter House.

Amanda stood at the polished wood counter and waited patiently. A few minutes passed before a tall woman in a dark gray dress bustled out a doorway and paused to give Amanda a warm smile.

“Land sakes, you must be the Widder Wainwright.”

Amanda’s face grew hot. She hated being identified as the surviving mate of a dead man.

This is an image from a great website I found:

I'm thinking of having an outfit created by this talented seamstress, for my book events.
Deborah Schneider

Promise Me - Coming in 2009 from The Wild Rose Press

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oregon Outlaws

Most westerns are set in what I call the Mid-west- Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico. I live in the West- Oregon. You can’t get much more west in the continental U.S. than along the Pacific Ocean. LOL

While the “mid-west” did have some colorful outlaws and lawmen, the real west “Oregon” wasn’t without its own troublemakers.

Wherever there are gold mines, trains, and stage coaches there are bound to be men who thought it was a whole lot easier to rob than do an honest day’s work. There were daily notices in the newspapers of stage coach hold ups. Shipments of $5000 - $10,000 in gold was not uncommon on the run from Sacramento, CA to Portland, OR. This was tempting to the lawless population. And many “withdrawls” were made along that route particularly in the Siskiyous where the stage stations were farther apart and lawmen were few. Masked robbers stepped out from behind trees or boulders when the heavy wagons lumbered up a grade. The driver would concentrate on keeping the stopped vehicle from rolling backwards while the robber called to have the express box and mail sacks thrown down. The drivers complied because their hands were full. When the box and mail hit the ground the robber ordered the driver to keep going. All of this took less than a minute.

A brazen road agent would also rob the passengers of money and valuables. The most famous stage robber in the Siskiyous was Mr. Charles E. Boles- Black Bart. He robbed 28 stages from 1875-1883 He’d stop the stages and proclaim, “Please throw down the box”. Black Bart was courteous and dapper. He was the nemesis of Wells Fargo.

Train robberies became the new “stage holdups” in the late 1880’s. The robbers went for the express car which carried gold, valuables, and money. They usually boarded when the train was crawling up a grade. They jump on the platform in the front of the windowless express car, just behind the tender. The space was known as “blind baggage” because it couldn’t be seen from the engine or the express car. From this spot, the robber would climb over the tender and draw a gun on the engineer and fireman. The train would be stopped and the outlaws could take what they wanted from the express car. If they were greedy, they’d also walk the cars taking valuables from the passengers. Only the most brazen and desperate would rob trains. It was dangerous and tough. One robbery where the outlaw’s used dynamite to not only stop the train but frighten the passengers by setting it off every few minutes as a hold up man went through the cars collecting valuables, the local law used CSI type tactics to find the road agents. They made drawings of boot marks, an unusual horse shoe print, and a drawing of one of the robbers whose scarf had slipped. They followed the tracks to a camp where they collected gray horse hair, sacking, and twine that they later matched to materials in the suspect’s family home.

One of the Northwest’s most colorful badmen was Hank Vaughn. He was in the ranks of Hickok, Hardin, and Bonney . He liked to shoot, had a quick temper, and a quirky sense of right and wrong. His first gunfight was in Canyon City in 1864 at the age of fifteen. It happened while the two were drunk and in the lawless gold town no charges were ever brought. The next year while rustling horses, he shot a deputy and wounded a sheriff. He went to jail and was released with a new profession. He plied that trade for a few years then fell back into a disreputable life again, stealing horses and reselling them. He was fast with a gun and got into trouble because of his temper and his drinking. He was a small man who dressed like a clergyman or gambler and he was never without his gun. He loved jewelry and wore several rings and a gold chain. He’d ride horses into saloons, shooting his gun damaging lights, glasses and whatever he felt like. As you can figure he wasn’t welcome in those establishments. When he wasn’t drinking he was peaceful and law-abiding. In 1882 Hank came up against a similar gunman in Prineville.OR. They were gambling, drinking and conversing until they riled one another and they agreed to a fight to the finish. Each took hold of one end of a scarf. They pulled out their guns and in the middle of the saloon started shooting at each other. Every shot hit their target. They were both wounded several times. When word got back to Hank’s stomping grounds that he’d been shot in the chest, the people celebrated. Unfortunately he recovered. And when Hank returned and read a story about him being measured for a “shroud and plank coat” he ran the newspaper man who wrote the story out of the office. When Hank was drinking he liked to make strangers “dance”. If the man didn’t of his own free will, Hank would shoot close to the man’s feet. One time a “stranger” took exception and shot back, wounding Hank in his right arm and punctured a lung. In the end, his own recklessness killed him. He raced his horse down the main street of town and it stumbled, falling and landing on the most colorful fast draw in Oregon history.

This has gone on long enough, In my next blog, I’ll tell you about a bank hold up that happened in my neck of the woods and to this day is reenacted every summer for tourists.

And this is why my books are set in the Pacific Northwest, the colorful characters, the vastness of climates and topographical areas and I enjoy sharing “my” west with readers.

My resource was ”Oregon Outlaws- Tales of Old-Time Desperadoes” by Gary and Gloria Meier.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Robert and Henrietta King
In 1853, captain Richard King purchased 68,500 acres that had been Spanish and Mexican land grants called Santa Gertrudis. The now-famous Santa Gertrudis breed, first strain of cattle originating in the Western Hemisphere, was developed in The Wild Horse Desert area of South Texas. The ranch sprawls across 825,000 acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.
Henrietta Maria Morse Chamberlain was born in Missouri in 1832. She was the only daughter of a Presbyterian missionary, and she was only three when her mother died. She was often left with relatives when she was young and alone when she was older. After college, she moved with her father to Brownsville, Texas, where in 1849 he established a mission. Henrietta was a tall, lovely young woman, and her heart went out to the lonely, the sick, the poor, and especially, needy children.
Robert and Henrietta married in 1854, forming a most perfect union. Together, side-by-side, they ran the King Ranch. Their first home was a hut on the cattle ranch. She wrote in her memoirs:
"When I came as a bride in 1854, a little ranch home then — a mere jacal as Mexicans would call it — was our abode for many months until our main ranch dwelling was completed. But I doubt if it falls to the lot of any a bride to have had so happy a honeymoon. On horseback we roamed the broad prairies. When I grew tired my husband would spread a Mexican blanket for me and then I would take my siesta under the shade of the mesquite tree. ... I remember that my pantry was so small my platters were fastened to the walls outside. In those days, large venison roasts were our favorite viands. ... At first our cattle were long horns from Mexico. We had no fences and branding was hard work" -Henrietta King
Richard died in 1885, leaving his wife of 31 years alone to run the ranch. Henrietta King lived until 1925, and she made the ranch profitable. She further developed their cattle breed which became the popular cattle variety across Texas. During her years alone, she built a public high school, a Presbyterian Church, and she supported local colleges and hospitals. She created the town of Kingsville by donating land when “Captain” died. She became the sole owner of the world’s largest ranch, and she ultimately created an empire of over one million acres.
“I doubt if any bride had so happy a honeymoon.” Henrietta King
I hope you enjoyed the story of Robert and Henrietta. My first release, ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS, follows the fictional love story between Ricardo and Cynthia. Much of the research I did for the book concerned the King Ranch and the love and admiration the owners had for each other.
PLEASE NOTE: I have a special interview on Jane Richardson’s blog HOME THOUGHTS FROM A BROAD. She has put together an especially lovely blog about me and my book. Please read:

A game of tag!

For centuries tag has been a very popular game, for all ages!

Well...Paty Jager involved us (Cactus Rose writers) in a game of tag. (Yes, blame her!)

Check out her blog, or my blog for the rules, and to play along!

Have fun!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009


By Cheryl Pierson

On a vast open plain a few miles south of Ponca City, Oklahoma, lies the burial ground of one of the greatest ranching empires of the West—the Miller brothers’ 101 Ranch.

Established in 1893 by Colonel George Washington Miller, a former Confederate soldier, and his wife Molly, the 101 became known as the “Largest Diversified Farm and Ranch in America.” It was nicknamed the “White House.”

Not only was the 101 one of the largest working ranches west of the Mississippi, it was even more famous for its Wild West shows. These displays of horsemanship, roping, and daring “rescues” transitioned from local shows to the national level in 1907 when the 101 Wild West Show performed at the Jamestown Exposition in Virginia. In 1908, the tour circuit began in earnest.

The Miller brothers, Joseph, George Jr., and Zack, had permitted some of their cowboys to perform at a local fair, and from this, their own Wild West show grew to become known worldwide.

It was essentially a Wild West show, complete with cattle, buffaloes, cowboys and Indians. It included an all-around crowd pleaser—the attack on the stagecoach. But it also contained elements of the circus with sideshows, and “freaks” such as the Bearded Lady. In the heyday of its popularity, the Millers’ 101 Wild West Show netted them over one million dollars per year!

The idea of formalizing the performing cowboys into a Wild West show came from the Millers’ longtime friend and neighbor, Major Gordon W. Lillie—also known as Pawnee Bill. Pawnee Bill eventually combined his own Wild West show with Buffalo Bill Cody’s. The 101 Wild West Show, however, remained solitary, boasting stars such as black bulldogger Bill Pickett, Bee Ho Gray, early movie star Tom Mix, Mexican Joe, and eventually, Buffalo Bill Cody as well.

The Miller brothers were latecomers to the Wild West show circuit, causing them to suffer financially with the advent of movies. Even so, their show became the largest in the nation by the 1920’s, requiring more than 100 train cars to travel from town to town.

By 1916, the two younger Miller brothers, George Jr. and Zack, gave up trying to work with their temperamental oldest brother, Joe. It was during this time period that Joe hired an aging Buffalo Bill Cody to star in a WWI recruitment show: The Pageant of Preparedness. Cody quit the show due to illness, and died within a year. Still, Joe tried to keep the show going, but was unsuccessful. He offered it for sale to the American Circus Corporation in 1927. They were uninterested, suffering from financial distress as well. On October 21, 1927, a neighbor found Joe Miller dead in the ranch garage of carbon monoxide poisoning. Several months later, his brother, George Jr., was killed in a car accident. In 1932, Zack Miller was forced to file for bankruptcy. The U.S. Government seized what remained of the show’s assets and bought 8,000 acres of the 101 Ranch. Zack Miller died in 1952 of cancer.

Today, what remains of the once-glorious three-story stucco 101 Ranch headquarters is rubble. Over ten years ago, efforts began to turn the site into a roadside park.

Bill Pickett, the inventor of bulldogging, or steer wrestling, is buried there. On the same mound where Bill Pickett lies is a memorial to the Ponca chief, White Eagle, who led his people to a nearby reservation during the 1870’s from their holdings along the Nebraska-Dakota border.

The stone monument was built as an Indian trail marker where signals and messages could be left by different friendly tribes who passed by. These tribes generally understood the signals, and could tell which way the other travelers were going. Gradually, settlers took away the stones for building purposes. Because Colonel George Miller and White Eagle were lifetime friends, and Joe Miller was adopted into the tribe, the renovation of the trail marker had significance to the 101 Ranch for many reasons.

The 101 Ranch was a bridge between these old, lost days of the early West, when Colonel George Miller started the venture as a settler after the States’ War, and the modern times of change. The 101 Ranch was the headquarters for the show business contingent of cowboys and other western performers of the early 1900’s. Will Rogers was a frequent visitor, as well as presidents and celebrities from around the world. Some of the first western movies were filmed on the 101 Ranch.

Though there isn’t much left of the actual building, the 101 Ranch exceeded the expectations for a “cattle ranch.” Indeed, it was a virtual palace on the Oklahoma plains; a place where dreams were lived.

In my novel, Fire Eyes, Kaed Turner talks with his friend and mentor, Tom Sellers, about giving up law enforcement and settling down to ranching. At first, Tom sees it as an unattainable dream; but as the conversation progresses, the possibilities look better. Here’s what happens!

Tom smiled. “Glad you’ve got somebody good—deep down—like you are, Kaed. Ain’t too many men who’d take on another man’s child, love her like you do your Lexi.”
Kaed put his hand against the rough wood of the tree and straightened out his arm, stretching his muscles.
Tom drew deeply on his pipe, and Kaed waited. He’d known Tom so long that he recognized the older man was going to broach a subject with him that he normally would have avoided. Finally, Tom said, “I told Harv he needed to find someone. Settle down again. Grow corn and make babies. Think I might’ve offended him. But after seein’ him with little Lexi, it hit me that he seemed content. For the first time in a long while.”
It had struck Kaed, as well. Harv rarely smiled. But when he’d played with Lexi, it seemed that grin of his was permanently fixed on his face.
“Seems that way for you, too, boy.” Tom wouldn’t look at him. “Seems like you found what you’ve been looking for. Don’t let marshalin’ ruin it for you, Kaed. I’ve stayed with it too long. Me and Harv and Jack, we’ve been damn lucky to get this old without gettin’ killed either in the War, or doin’ this job.”
“Tom? Sounds like you’ve got some regrets.”
Tom nodded. “You made me realize somethin’, Marshal Turner, and now I don’t know whether to thank you or cuss you. When I saw the way that woman looked at you, the way that baby’s eyes lit up, it made me know I shoulda give this all up years ago and found myself somebody. Taken the advice I gave Harv. Planted my seed in the cornfield and in my woman’s belly, and maybe I’d’a been happier, too.”
“It’s not too late.” Kaed’s voice was low and rough. The doubt he’d had at starting his own family again was suddenly erased by the older man’s words. Nothing would bring his first family back. But he had a second chance now, and he was a helluva lot younger than Tom Sellers. He’d had it twice, and Tom had never had it at all. Never felt the love flow through a woman, through her touch, her look, and into his own body, completing him. Never looked into the eyes of a child who worshipped him. He wouldn’t have missed that for anything the first time. Or the second. Tom turned slowly to look at Kaed, the leaves of the elm tree patterning the filtering moonlight across his face. “You think that cause you’re young, Kaed. Twenty-nine ain’t forty-three.”
“Forty-three ain’t dead, Tom. There’s plenty of women out there. Plenty of land. Room to spread out. What’re you grinnin’ at?”
Tom laughed aloud. “Got any particular woman in mind?” Quickly, he added, “Now, remember, Kaed. She’s gotta be young enough to give me a baby, but not so young she’s a baby herself. Gotta be easy on the eye, and I want her to look at me like your Jessica looks at you. And by the way, have you got any idea where a fella could get a piece of good land for raisin’ cattle, with a little patch for farmin’?”
Kaed’s lips twitched. Tom was dreaming, but only half dreaming. The serious half had taken root in his heart and mind. Kaed knew before too much longer, that part would eat away at the lightheartedness until it took over completely, becoming a bold, unshakeable dream that he would do his utmost to accomplish. Now that Tom had envisioned what his life could be, Kaed knew it would fall to him to help make it a reality.
“Let’s end this business with Fallon. After that, we’ll find the land and the cattle.”
“Don’t mean nothin’ without the woman, Kaed. You oughtta know that.”
“I do.” Kaed smiled, his thoughts straying to Miss Amelia Bailey, the not-so-young-but-young-enough school teacher in Fort Smith, who always seemed to trip over her words when Tom Sellers came around. Just the right age. And very easy on the eye. “Stick with me, old man. I may even help you find a decent woman to settle down with.”

Why Sane Women were Declared Insane

Because divorce was a rarity during the pioneer/frontier days, men devised other ways to get rid of unwanted wives and children, and that was by declaring them insane and placing this unwanted loved one in an insane asylum.

Actually these early asylums were in reality prisons and not medical centers. These institutions were filthy, dark places where people were treated more like animals than human beings. The asylums usually provided only the basic necessities of life. Food was poor, cleanliness was not stressed and the rooms were often very cold. Diseases were quick to spread throughout the asylum.

Some of the reasons women were institutionalized are unbelievable. In the early 1800’s wives and daughters were often committed for not being obedient enough to their husbands or fathers. You’ve heard the term, “children are to be seen and not heard.” This applied to wives as well. If a woman spoke out and went against the “norm” she could be committed.

With no birth control, it wasn’t unusual for a woman to give birth to another baby while still nursing her last child. And a brood of six to twelve children wasn’t unusual either. With her body no longer firm and supple, her energy level somewhere between zero and double zero, and with the daily routine of cooking, cleaning, plowing, and all the other demands, a woman was run ragged. It’s no wonder she grew old long before her time.

All the husband and/or father had to do was simply write the word “lunacy” on the admission form. Lunacy was an acceptable reason for divorce. The woman’s husband would declare her insane, put her in the asylum and then file for the divorce. A few months later, his marriage records to a younger bride usually showed up.

Other reasons to be “put away”, were depression, alcoholism, just being a little different from the norm, and even going through menopause. Doctors just didn’t know how to deal with mental issues and the result was to put their patients in the asylum. These women were locked up and forgotten by their loved ones. The fathers/husbands often forbid the family members to visit. It was as if the wife or daughter had simply died. Most of these women did stay at the insane asylum until their death.

If a father had no sons, but didn’t want his daughter to inherit his fortune or worldly goods, he could have her declared insane, institutionalized, and leave his money to a favorite nephew or his ranch to a ranch hand he considered as a son.

If a man’s wife had died in child birth and he couldn’t find a woman to wed who was willing to become a stepmother to his large brood, or if he couldn’t marry off any of his eligible daughters, he simply declared them as lunatics and placed them in an asylum.

Sometimes daughters were committed for unwanted pregnancies. Other children were committed for being disobedient or for illnesses such as Down’s Syndrome or Autism. Being born deaf or mute, retarded or physically disfigured was another reason a child might be committed.

Oftentimes, the husband might tell others that his wife or child had died. If a newspaper office was available, he might even have an obituary printed. Yet the person was very much alive at the asylum. While it was rare for a sane person to be released from an asylum, it did happen. Imagine what it was like for this woman. Having been declared dead, she had no identity.

Some of these asylums were built next to, or part of, the prison system. This was to help cut back costs of care, food and facilities. Rape was prevalent in asylums. Because women had been declared insane, it was deemed they had no powers of reasoning, no feelings or emotions. In other words, they were considered walking zombies. Because of this deranged thinking, (no pun intended) prisoners and even asylum employees used the women for their own pleasures.

If you are into genealogy and have run into a brick wall trying to locate a female relative, the US census has a place on some of their census, example 1850, that had a place to mark if deaf, dumb or insane. The probate section may carry Lunacy Record Books at the county courthouses. Some Wills will declare if someone is insane or having lunacy. If someone seems to have disappeared, they may have been “sent away.”

This concludes my series of articles about the hardships of pioneer and frontier women. When we refer to the ‘good old’ days, we might remember these women and their lives, and be thankful that they paved the way for us.

Loretta C. Rogers.
Isabelle and the Outlaw;

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Quintessential Western Man

All of us Cactus Rose bloggers live, breathe, read, and write The West. We create to-die-for heroes.

I like to think that my own personal hero, my husband, is a true man of the West --a man who respects nature but sometimes has to tame it (he's a firefighter)...Tall, stalwart, mustachioed. A man of few words who makes every syllable count. Kind to kids and animals but who knows when to put his foot down. Loyal to a fault--to those who deserve it. A man who can tease and be feisty but is always first to laugh at himself.

For all that he's a die-hard man's man, he sure knows how to treat his woman right. And just as he climbed California's mountains chasing the flames of wildfires, I can easily picture him chasing stampeding cattle or unbroke broncs...or even better, an outlaw!

So I tried to think of movie men who fit this same bill of fare. Eye-candy if you will. Role-models for my own fiction. I came up with a delicious bunch of cowboys, gold miners, mountain men and even some outlaws.

First up is that tall, wiry, gravel-voiced cowboy, Sam Elliott. Mustache all but hiding that closed-mouth tantalizing grin. Dark glare making you think he knows what you look like without your clothes. (Lucky Katherine Ross.) ..did you know he film debuted in Butch Cassidy, but didn't meet "Etta" until later on? I think he's the ultimate cowboy.

My favorite Elliott roles: Shadow Riders, The Sackets...Virgil Earp in Tombstone, and the heroic Captain Charles Erskine Scott Wood in I will Fight No More Forever. (I will write about Captain Wood in a later post.)

Close behind is John Wayne, the all-American cowboy. Stern, grim, brave. Nonetheless, my favorite scenes for him are seen in the screamingly funny McClintock. "Shoot him, Daddy, shoot him," yells his daughter (Stefanie Powers) peeved at her beau Patrick Wayne. And Daddy does. And the gramophone jealousy scene in North to Alaska is one I recall whenever I need a good bellylaugh.

And I totally respect Robert Duvall. Classic in Lonesome Dove, hard nosed but tender in Broken Trail and Open Range.

Oh, and I confess my occasional longing for the bad boy. Oooh lala, who could ever forget Robert Redford's Sundance Kid in the slow, scrumptious "teacher-lady" scene. And those four real-life sets of brothers managed to steal my heart in The Long Riders. The Keaches, Carradines, Quaids and Guests so perfectly impersonated Jesse and Frank James, their cohorts the Youngers and Millers...and those cowards Bob and Charlie Ford. They were all horrible, I know, but I did find their loyalty come hell or high water to their mama, their wives, and each other to be a good thing, albeit misdirected sometimes.

In Last of the Mohicans, Daniel Day-Lewis has immortalized himself with romance lovers forever with that waterfall scene, hair flowing, Longrifle firmly in hand.."I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far...I will find you." Sigh. I expect no less from my hero if circumstances had bad guys after me!

And Robert Redford makes my list twice, as the haunted and haunting mountain man, Jeremiah Johnson, the loner who seeks to escape civilization "down below." He begins to tenderly fall for his reluctantly-acquired family--the Flathead bride forced on him and the tragic mute little boy. Only to lose them as the sacrifice for his doing the right thing.

Well, I sure have enjoyed this ride down the cinematic trail. I hope you like my
Top Picks and I hope you'll comment today and add some of your own!

Thanks to ya'll~

~Tanya Hanson

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Historic town of Salado, TX

About forty miles South of Waco, TX, is the small town of Salado. Rich in history, it is now a favorite spot for shoppers, golfers, and folks just wanting to get away. For centuries before being settled, the area had been a campground for Indian tribes hunting wild game. It is the Spanish, on their way through the area, that gave it the name Salado.

The Stagecoach Inn, built by W. B. Armstrong in the 1860s, and first known as the Shady Villa, welcomed weary travelers as they traversed the Chisholm Trail and Old Military Road that connected a string of forts. With sweeping balconies, porches, and big old trees, the Inn provided a respite for stagecoach travelers, cattle barons, soldiers, and others. Some of the famous travelers were Sam Houston, General Custer, Robert E. Lee's son, Shanghai Pierce, and Charles Goodnight. A few notorious individuals like the James Brothers and Sam Bass also stayed, but hid out in the cave next to the Inn. Unfortunately, the hotel guest register which named these people was stolen in 1944.

In the 1940s, the Inn was purchased and restored by Ruth and Dion Van Bibber. Mrs. Bibber created and prepared the famous recipes still served today. In 1959, Ruth's nephew, William E. Bratton, purchased the Inn and added rooms, and other accommodations. The Inn spreads over a large area with walking trails, fishing pond, swimming pool, tennis courts, and a heated mineral water spa. Morris Foster, a native of Salado, is now the proud owner and continues the traditions that made the Inn famous.

December 23, 1967, my husband and I spent our honeymoon at the Stagecoach Inn and returned to the restaurant on our six months anniversary. This New Years, we returned with family. Though we opted to stay in The Rose Mansion (see my blog post at ), we ate one night at the Stagecoach Inn. The food was as good as I remembered. I had the fruit cup, salad, prime rib, mashed potatoes, squash casserole, and coffee ice cream for dessert.

Salado is now filled with quaint shops, tea rooms, B&Bs, and they have a historic drive. If you're ever in the neighborhood, stop and check it out. At Christmas, they have a wide variety of Christmas decorations. I was fortunate to find a shadow box nativity scene half price. I'd been waiting until one grabbed me, and this one did. Be sure and eat at the Stagecoach Inn.

Thursday I'll be blogging at the
about staying in the haunted Sallie Suite at the historic Rose Mansion built in 1872.

Please leave me a comment.

Thanks for reading and happy writing. Credit for the data above goes to the Stagecoach Inn, Historic Salado, Texas.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I have to admit, with all the holiday celebrations going on, I forgot today is the first Thursday of the month, my day to post…So here I am, shooting from the hip…

Recently, I read that world wide the most common birthday is Oct. 5th. (Count back forty weeks, and yes, you have New Year’s.) Having said that, I think we know how people around the world celebrate the coming of a new year.

Centuries ago, people believed they could affect their luck for the next year by what they did, what they ate, or who they spent the first day of the year with, therefore, New Year’s Eve parties became popular and lasted late into the night. It was also thought the first visitor of the year could either signify good or bad luck for the entire year. If the first visitor of the year was a tall, dark-haired man, it would be a very lucky year. Hmmm….That could make a good beginning for a romance novel...

Halfway open, the door stalled as Lydia Sue Morton tightened her grip around the handle pressed against her palm. The stranger, with shoulders like mountain tops, frosted with a layer of shimmering snowflakes, had one hand braced on the door jam, the other resting on the six-shooter strapped to his hip. One front flap of his well-worn duster, tucked behind the pearl handle, highlighted the weapon.

Her mouth went dry. Grandma Wilson’s old mantel clock, eerie sounding even in the light of day, had chimed midnight sometime ago, and the bone-chilling temperature, not to mention the snowdrifts and howling wind blowing in the new year, weren’t fit for traveling across the barren plains of eastern Colorado. Wishing for the umpteenth time she didn’t live alone in the small shanty, a good three hours west of Towner, Lydia gulped, wet her dry lips, and swallowed again, before croaking, “Can I help you?”

Dark eyes, as cold as the wind whipping up her skirts, making her toes curl inside the thick, wool socks, glared at her. Then they rolled back, and all six and half feet of the man fell forward, knocking the door wide and her off her feet as he landed on the kitchen floor like a fallen oak. His hat, leaving a trail of snowflakes, tumbled across the planked wood.

With a final twirl, the hat hit her thigh. Heart in her throat, she thrust the hat aside, and using her heels and the palms of her hands, scrambled backwards, further away from the prone form. The heat of the wood stove, the same one she’d banked for the night hours ago, penetrated the thinness of the wrapper covering her shoulders. She stopped shy of bumping into the hot cast iron. Gaze locked on the man and holding her breath, she kicked her feet to untwist the hem of her long nightdress. Flipping onto her knees, she stared, searched his bulky mass for movement.

That’s when she noticed the long, jagged gash oozing blood into the thick, raven-black hair on the back of his head. Memories locked in the back of her mind, leaped forward, clambering, scrambling to be recalled. Her heart sank to the very pit of her stomach. An icy chill, having nothing to do with the weather, gripped her spine. “Oh, no, not again,” she groaned.

Ugh, that should teach me not to shoot from the hip! I already have too many stories vying for space in my head. LOL If anyone wants to continue we can create a round robin story, feel free to take over where I left off.

I hope you all have a very Happy New Year, and that 2009 brings you all the romance you dream of!

P.S. I just have to mention Shotgun Bride, The Quinter Brides Book One, has been on the Fictionwise Bestselling List for over two weeks! Yippee!