Friday, October 22, 2021

Columbia Gold Mining and Water by Zina Abbott

In the California gold fields, there was one resource that was almost of greater worth than gold: WATER. Without the wet stuff, it was almost impossible to effectively remove the gold from the soil and crushed rock.


Stanislaus River with inset (ctsy Google Maps) showing relationship of Columbia and South Fork of the Stanislaus river to the Stanislaus River.

 Columbia in the southern Sierra Nevada Foothills, which today is preserved as a state park, is a mostly dry region with seasonal streams that flowed from the first rains in autumn or early winter until late spring or early summer after the rains ceased. The area very seldom received snowfall. The nearest river that carried snowmelt year around was the Stanislaus, but it was several miles from the gold-rich land of Columbia.


Originally known as "Hildreth's Diggings," gold was discovered in Columbia in March of 1850 by a party of miners, most of whom came from the state of Maine. In 1851, the Tuolumne County Water Company (TCWC) was founded to provide the water needs of both Columbia and the surrounding regions. The plan was to divert water from the South Fork of the Stanislaus River by means of flumes, ditches, and reservoirs. These carried water for long disances and were expensive to build. This resulted in high water rates for miners to wash their gold.


Water rates table courtesy Columbia State Park Museum

Water rates were quoted in “Miners Inches,” which legally measured the amount of water that flowed through an opening one inch in diameter under twenty pounds of pressure for twenty-four hours. The opening in the guage boxes could be increased or decreased by means of a sliding device. Guage boxes were placed in the water ditches wherever needed and checked by “ditch tenders.”

Disgusted over what they perceived to be unfair water rates, several miners banded together to create their own water company by diverting water from what they considered the more reliable Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. When the sixty-mile project finished in 1858, it was described by a San Francisco newspaper as “the most stupendous work of the kind in California.” With the predictable supply now available, hydraulic mining using giant “monitors,”or hose nozzles, began operating by directing the powerful water force against the walls of Maine Ditch (The area that is now the parking lot for the state park), digging it deeper and deeper in search of gold.


Like the Tuolumne County Water Company, they soon realized the extensive cost in materials and labor that were involved in building flumes. In addition, by the time the water supply was ready to reach Columbia, the easy-to-mine placer gold were almost depleted. In 1859, this company went broke and it was put up for auction. Its network of flumes and ditches were purchased by the TCWC.


The transition did not go smoothly. Disgruntled shareholders of the defunct water company blew up flumes and ditches, threatened TCWC company trustees, and, it is believed, were responsible for killing several ditch tenders. It was not until 1861 that a truce was negotiated.

The TCWC continued to expand for several years. It bought several other water companies in the county. It considered expanding into Merced County, but changed their plans when it became apparent that both the population and water demand had dropped, which affected their revenues. After reorganizing and going through name changes several times, it was bought out by Pacific Gas & Electric Company in the 1920s.

Maine Ditch, Columbia, about 1870s

The Tuolumne County Water Company only handled water for commercial use, such as in first, placer mining, and, later, hydraulic mining. Water for domestic use was supplied by the New England Water Company organized in 1854. Why New England, you ask? The founders of Columbia plus many others came from New England. That is also the reason the main ditch south of the main part of town which carried the seasonal stream on which the town relied was named MAINE Ditch, not Main Ditch. This ditch was torn up during the years of hydraulic mining.


Daniel Fraser of New England Water Co., Ctsy Columbia State Park Museum

After the the first big fire in Columbia, the New England Water Company constructed seven cisterns beneath the streets of Columbia to hold water for domestic and fire-fighting use. A square lid to one of these cisterns may be seen today in front of the firehouse on State Street. This early water system remained in use until the 1950s.


There were also water ditches build along the edges of several of the streets in Columbia, remnants of which are still visible today. I’m not sure if that was part of the Tuolumne County Water Company, the New England Water Company, or built later to capture water runoff.


 In my most recent release, I've included issues surrounding water use both in Columbia and other mining communities in the Mother Lode foothills and how it affected the growing agricultural communities downstream. To find the book description and purchase link for Madeline, please CLICK HERE.




The majority of my information came from the displays in the Columbia museum and the displays around Columbia State Park.






Tuesday, October 19, 2021

REFILLING THE WELL By Kathleen Lawless

 I recently learned that creativity burnout is a real thing.  I always felt lucky not to suffer from writer’s block, which I avoid by working on more than one story at a time.  But this is different.  It’s affecting not only my writing, but other creative endeavors, like what to make for dinner and what to wear.  Someone likened it to running out of gas, only refilling ¼ tank, but expecting to travel as far as with a full tank.  Yup, that sounds right.  And it can happen to anyone at anytime.

 In the past, I was really good at taking myself on an Artist’s Date.  I knew the importance of feeding the muse, refilling the well, honoring my creative soul, however you like to think of it.  But things have changed.  I can’t just spontaneously drop into a museum or art gallery for a wander.  Decorating stores and galleries are by appointment only for serious buyers, not starving artists. Wilderness trails and parks are clogged with so many people that a visit there is no longer a peaceful, nourishing experience.   Book stores have a line up to go in and empty shelves when you do get in.  There have been no outdoor concerts. 

 I’m muddling through.  Kindness towards myself goes a long way.  Talking to friends helps.  Plus, I’m lucky enough to be involved in a variety of multi-author projects where I have a commitment to the other writers, and a loose concept to tease my malnourished imagination.  Like my next book, Mail Order Noelle, An Impostor for Christmas series.  Why would a mail order bride deliberately impersonate someone else?  And when does the groom learn the truth?  Mid-Point?  Black Moment?  Can I pull this off and still have her be a sympathetic heroine?  Of course, I can.  That’s my job.  Here’s a little tease. 

           From the shadows of the train station in Boston, Noelle crossed her fingers as she watched her brother, Theodore, walk her sister Merry to the waiting train after first delivering her oversize trunk to a porter. 

          Theodore gave her sister a quick peck on the cheek, then watched her board the train.  Noelle inched further into the shadows as he turned, walked past her, and exited the station.  The second he was out of sight, Noelle scampered to the train’s steps just as the whistle blew and Merry disembarked, passing her a ticket.

          Merry gave her a hug that nearly squeezed the breath from her lungs.  “I will never forget this.” 

          “You better not,” Noelle said.  “Be happy.  You deserve it.”  Noelle disentangled herself and jumped onto the train just as it started to move.


You can view the entire series here

and preorder Noelle here   

Next month, I’ll tease you some more.  In the meantime, be good to you.  And please share any coping mechanisms you've found that help prevent you from burning out.

Kathleen Lawless blames a misspent youth watching Rawhide, Maverick and Bonanza for her fascination with cowboys, which doesn’t stop her from creating a wide variety of interests and occupations for her many alpha male heroes.   

Her hero, Steele, in HER UNDERCOVER COWBOY, is a modern-day cowboy, so when she was wooed by a man called Steel— while he’s not a cowboy, he is an alpha male and her forever hero.  Which is why all of her stories end Happily Ever After.

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Monday, October 18, 2021

And the Parties Begin! by Paty Jager

I haven't been writing straight western romance these days. I have finally returned to the genre I love to write and read--mystery. 

However, my mysteries do have elements of western life and in some more than others a bit of romance. The series are all set in areas where there is ranching and rural life.  

You are probably wondering what parties has to do with my mystery writing. I will be participating in the Cowboy Kisses Annual Round Up, on Wednesday. 

I have some cute, old fashioned Christmas ornaments I'll be giving as a prize along with a print book with three of my contemporary western novellas from the Tumbling Creek Ranch series, and the first book in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series. 

The Shandra Higheagle Mysteries have the most romance in them, so far, of my mystery books. I'm starting to heat up things a bit in the Spotted Pony Casino mystery series by adding another male character who is interested in my female main character. Who isn't looking for a guy in her life. And now she has two! 

All of the Cowboy Kisses authors who blog here will be spending time at the Cowboy Kisses Facebook Page to visit with you and share how you can win prizes from 9:30 am - 1:30 pm (Mountain Time) at the Facebook page.

October is the month that starts the holiday season. We live too far from anyone to get Trick or Treaters other than our grandchildren. But I still like to decorate for each holiday- Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It just makes things feel more festive. 

Do you like to attend holiday parties? Do you have a favorite holiday? 

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 51 novels, 8 novellas, and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

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Thursday, October 14, 2021



Stories of lost treasure in the Wild West have inspired the idea for my third book, THE BOUNTY’S BETRAYAL, in my Runaway Outlaws series. I’m currently drafting this western romance due to release in 2022. Duke Logan and Samantha (Sam) Beckett chase a lost treasure in the wild Montana Territory of 1887.

There are numerous legends of outlaws who robbed stagecoaches or trains in the Wild West. With the threat of a posse after them, outlaws often would bury the loot. For those captured, retrieving it was impossible. To this day we wonder where all that loot is still buried, waiting to be discovered.

Over the centuries, thousands of stories have been told and retold. Have you heard the famous pirate legend of Jean Lafitte? According to the legend, Lafitte buried 20 chests of stolen treasure formerly belonging to the Emperor Napoleon. He buried the treasure in several locations along the Texas and Louisiana coast. Every now and then, a few lost gold coins surface and keep the legend of Lafitte alive.

Then there are the notorious outlaws of the Wild West like Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the Wild Bunch. They are credited with burying thousands of dollars in Irish Canyon—a remote place in the Colorado Uintah Mountains. Some doubt this story because if they hid the mass fortune within reach, why travel all the way to Bolivia to start over? Perhaps they went to Bolivia with more than their bad reputations.

The fun part of these legends arises when we wonder where fact and fiction blend. As an author of historical western romance,  I draw ideas from the fascinating history of the American Wild West. 

See you next time,  


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Book Blurb:

Duke Logan, a down-on-his-luck treasure hunter, was more determined than ever to find the elusive Captain’s Loot treasure. His father’s death spurred him on to find the missing clue necessary to solve the old outlaw legend. His adventure is only beginning when he shows up in the Montana Territory seeking the information he desperately needed. Instead, he finds a feisty dark-haired beauty who refuses to hand over the clue. Will Duke convince Sam to join him in the quest to find the lost treasure? Or will the treasure forever be lost?

Samantha (Sam) Beckett has successfully carved out a new life for herself, as a single woman. She swore off any man who wanted something from her. There was no chance of saying “I do” in her future. When Duke Logan shows up in town, wanting the very thing she yearned for, she digs in with more determination than ever. She refuses to lose out on the tantalizing dream of finding treasure she herself had searched for.

Their treasure hunt will thrill you as Duke and Sam dodge booby-traps, fight rival treasure hunters, and follow a worn treasure map leading them past betrayal, greed, and a centuries old legend more dangerous than they could have imagined.

Will Duke and Sam fall in love with more than a dream of holding the lost Captain’s gold? Or become yet another long line of cursed souls?

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Santa Fe Trail - 200th Anniversary

 Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Near Fort Union - New Mexico
Photo property of the author

Traveling to the West is something many people choose to do today. There is much to recommend, the mountains, the plains, and all those areas encompass. Some stay for a brief time, others will make it a long-term stay. But what about those early days?

One of those early trails was the Santa Fe Trail. Recently, they celebrated the 200th anniversary of the trail. There has been much written about those early days. What some may not realize is the trail split off in mid-Kansas yet the trail came through Colorado in two places. The mountain trail went through what is now Lamar/La Junta and down through Trinidad through Raton Pass. Although longer, there was water along this route, but Raton Pass did create a challenge to traverse. 

Bent's Fort looking out the Front Gate
Photo Property of the Author

It was along this route that Williams Fort (Bent's Fort) was built. The fort was a major stop and international trading area for sixteen years.

The other route crossed the far southeast corner of Colorado. Although shorter, it also had the challenge of a long stretch without water. 

Ruins at Fort Union - New Mexico 
Photo property of the author

Both routes met at Fort Union and continued on through Las Vegas NM and onto Santa Fe. Today you can still travel the route. One can imagine what life might have been like for the teamsters and other travelers. So much can be learned by visiting sites along the way and reading diaries and books written during and just after that time. 

National Park Service - Bent's Fort

NPS Map of the trail

Susan Magoffin kept a diary of her time on the Santa Fe Trail. You can learn more about her here: Susan Magoffin

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Post (c) Doris McCraw All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 8, 2021

My Story Inspiration for A Bride for Brynmor

 My Story Inspiration
By Jacqui Nelson

What inspires a story? Languages, my sad inability to speak more than one, my joy of imagining my characters can do so much more than I can, and my discovery of the Cree syllabic. 

Below is the Story Inspiration page (a page I've included in the back of all of my books) for A Bride for Brynmorthe first book in my Songbird Junction series about three Welsh brothers and three Irish-Cree Métis sisters (who use the Cree syllabic to secretly coordinate their escape from their cruel and controlling troupe manager)...

A Bride for Brynmor book cover


Story Inspiration page ~ from the back of the book

I have great difficulties speaking different languages, but I’ve discovered I love the story challenges/complications of including them in my books. I also love the opportunity to link language to a character’s past. 

- For my Quebec-born heroine (Birdie Bell aka Bernadette Bellamy), I added French in The Calling Birds. 

- For my American-born heroine (Robyn Llewellyn whose ancestors came from Monmouth, Wales), I added Welsh in Robyn: A Christmas Bride.

- For my Canadian-born Irish-Cree Métis heroines (Lark, Oriole, and Wren who came from the Qu’Appelle Valley in present-day Saskatchewan), I added Cree syllabics in A Bride for Brynmor.

The Métis are specific cultural communities who trace their descent from First Nations (Native American) women and European (first French, then later Scottish, English, and Irish) men who came together with the fur trade in Canada and the United States. 

Their unions were often called marriage à la façon du pays which meant “according to the custom of the country.” Written with a lowercase m, métis is the French word for “mixed.”

The Qu’Appelle Valley got its name from a Cree legend about a spirit that traveled up and down the river. The Cree told the fur traders they often heard a voice calling, “Kâ-têpwêt?” When the Cree responded to the call, it would echo back. 

In French, “Kâ-têpwêt?” means “Qui appelle?” And in English, that’s “Who is calling?” Which is the perfect echo/call back to my story The Calling Birds. 

Cree syllabics are a script used to write the Cree language. They were first recorded in the 1800s and include nine glyph shapes. Today in Canada, it’s estimated that over 70,000 Algonquian-speaking people use the script.

To read more about Cree syllabics and how they inspired my story, visit my website at

Welcome Songbird Junction where Welsh meets West in Colorado 1878.


Songbird Junction Series, Book 1

Denver, Colorado
 – January 1878

Can a sister who’s lived only for others find freedom with one man?

Family has always come first—for both of them. He’s never forgiven himself for letting her go. She’s never forgiven herself for almost getting him killed.

When Lark and her songbird sisters are separated fleeing their cruel and controlling troupe manager, only Brynmor Llewellyn can help Lark save her sisters and escape to the far west. But Lark wants more. And so does Brynmor. When they’re stranded in a spot as difficult to guard as it is to leave—a rustic cabin at a train junction between Denver and the mountain town of Noelle, Colorado—they find themselves fighting not only for survival but for redemption, forgiveness, and a second chance for their love.

Will the frontier train stop of Songbird Junction be Lark and Brynmor’s salvation? Or their downfall when her manager—a con artist who calls himself her uncle but cherishes only his own fame and fortune—demands a debt no one can pay?

Will the frontier train stop of Songbird Junction be their salvation or their downfall?


A Bride for Brynmor, book 1
A Bride for Heddwyn, book 2
A Bride for Griffin, book 3 (coming soon)

Welcome to Songbird Junction, where Welsh meets West in Colorado 1878. The journey to find a forever home and more starts here… 

Brynmor, Heddwyn, and Griffin Llewellyn are three Welsh brothers bound by blood and a passion for hauling freight—in Denver, where hard work pays. 

Lark, Oriole, and Wren are three Irish-Cree Métis sisters-of-the-heart bound by choice and a talent for singing—in any place that pays. 

Fall in Love in Songbird Junction

Hope you enjoyed my writing inspiration and that your Friday and October are...full of fabulous autumn color and fun 🌈❤️

~ * ~

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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

World Building ~ Julie Lence


Wallpaper Abyss

Readers often ask authors where they get their story ideas, or character names, or the setting of the story. Some authors ‘people watch’ to get ideas for character traits and/or conflicts within their story. Others draw on people they know for character traits and/or experience for conflict. And some borrow from movie, television or literature to put their own spin on a story and give what they feel is a better ending. For myself, I have used my brothers, John Wayne and television characters Nick and Heath Barkley from The Big Valley for character traits. As for the setting of the story, movie and television played an important role in getting the initial visual of a sprawling ranch for my first book. My imagination took over from there, and produced my three series.

World building begins with your hero and heroine. Royce Weston is the hero from my first book. I knew he was a handsome, hunky cowboy, but did he live in the old west or in today’s society? I chose the old west because of my fascination with John Wayne’s cowboy movies. From there, I needed to know where in the old west he lived and what his role was. I chose Colorado, even though at the time I didn’t live there and knew nothing about the state, and I made him wealthy, with a somewhat large family. (This is where my fascination with the Ewings on Dallas lent a hand.) I gave him two brothers, a twin sister (because I always wanted a twin sister) and a father and mother.  For my heroine, I liked the name Paige and decided she was going to have amnesia. But, how did she fit into Royce’s world? Before I figured that part of the story, images sprang to mind and I knew I wanted a barn dance, a saloon, and a wide porch.  

For the barn dance, I needed to know who owned the barn and why the reason for the dance, so I went back to Royce and fine-tuned his profitable horse and cattle ranch (a home and business his father built to hand down to Royce and his brothers) to consist of thousands of acres of land, rolling hills, ponds, and wooded areas butting up against the Rocky Mountains. With the expanse of the ranch completed, I turned to the main part of the ranch and conjured the placement of corrals, barns and bunkhouses. Royce’s home was a comfortable two floors with the wide front porch I wanted, and somewhere in that design, I knew the barn dance wasn’t held at the Weston ranch, which I named Wooded Acres. Someone else was responsible for the dance; a neighboring rancher who hosted the spring round up dance and had a passel of girls to ogle Royce and his brothers. But, the girls couldn’t just ogle the Weston brothers once a year, so a town sprung up, Coyote, Colorado, with one of the founding fathers Royce’s own father. Coyote started as a nowhere place and when the story begins, has a saloon, church, sheriff, mercantile, school and plenty of boardwalks for the girls to chase the brothers.  

Where does Paige fit in to Royce’s world? And who is Paige? Why does she have amnesia? These were questions I had to answer, and after much consideration, Paige hailed from a Kansas farm. Her mother died and her father sold the farm, piled her, her sister and brother into a wagon and lit out to fleece unsuspecting cowboys at local saloons. Royce was Paige’s last mark, and when he confronted her over her role in the scheme, she let him go and her father took his wrath out on her. She ended up at the Weston home, with Royce not believing she ailed from amnesia, but why? And from there, the members in his family became more refined, and his mistrust in women was born.


As with all romances, the story is to have a black moment. Royce and Paige’s black moment centers around Paige’s skills with cards and takes her and Royce to Revolving Point, Texas. A fictitious place, Revolving Point set up another world building opportunity of a town known for its gambling and lawlessness and blossomed into its own series. From there, Jackson Creek was born.  Each series is unique and has its own cast of characters. Some of them I’ve created lengthy backstory. Others are on and off the page quicker than a well-known actor in a cameo appearance. How do I keep everything straight? I have notebooks for each story, where I carry over character description, ages, jobs, and what ranch, farm, or building in town they live on. The hero and heroine have longer descriptions, as I have to know their back story and how they got to where the story begins. I also keep notes on scenery, descriptions of living areas, and in the case of Revolving Point and Jackson Creek, a map detailing the streets of town and where on the street each business is.

World building is fun and a great opportunity to let your imagination run wild. Give it a try and see where you end up.