Monday, April 29, 2013

Saving the Whales—Nineteenth Century Style ~ Ellen O'Connell

Recently I came across a statement that in 1870 sixty percent of railroad shipments in the United States were kerosene. At the time I didn’t bookmark the reference, but it piqued my curiosity. Whether that percentage was by weight or by dollar value, it’s impressive and led me to research the subject.

Until 1846 when Abraham Gesner came up with a way to refine kerosene from coal (“coal oil”), the most desirable fuel for lighting around the world was whale oil, and the whaling industry went full bore from the mid-1700s until the late Nineteenth Century. The wealthy could afford to light their homes with whale oil. Governmental authorities used it for lighthouses and street lamps, but at $1.77 a gallon (1856 peak price), the homes of working men would have still been using tallow, and even without the total lack of availability, the mountain men and early settlers in the West would have elected for “cain’t see” to “cain’t see,” firelight, and candles. (Have you ever tried to read or do much by candle light? I have during power outages. Maybe one would get used to it over time, but I didn’t get much done.)

So as sperm whales became increasingly scarce after more than a century of steady slaughter, and the price of whale oil increased because of scarcity, kerosene came to the rescue. Techniques to refine kerosene from petroleum (as opposed to coal) drove the early American petroleum industry. An estimated 30 kerosene refineries operated in the U.S. in 1860. The American whaling fleet decreased from a high of more than 700 ships to less than 40 in 1876 because kerosene supplanted whale oil for lighting, and not only for the wealthy.

Estimates of sperm whales killed for their oil run as high as a million. The whales continued to be hunted for other reasons, but never again at that level. The species is listed as endangered today under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 and is also protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, although the sperm whale is doing better than any of the other large whale species.

Kerosene not only saved the whales, but made a better life possible for the many people we write about in our historical western romances. For men and women taking advantage of the 1862 Homestead Act, kerosene would have been available to light their homes, shipped all over the country on the railroads that were built during those years.

Modern urban folks probably never encounter kerosene. Being a country girl, I always have a few gallons around. During my horse showing years, we cleaned and lubricated clipper blades in a 50-50 mixture of kerosene and motor oil. (Show horses have their whiskers and any feathering hair on the legs trimmed off. Even non-show riding horses usually have a “bridle path” trimmed in the mane right behind the ears so the crown piece of the bridle or halter can rest there without long mane hair tangling around. No, not a cowboy thing, at least not a Nineteenth Century cowboy thing.)

These days I keep kerosene around because I have a kerosene heater to drag out when the power goes out in the winter, not a frequent occurrence here in Colorado, but it happens every couple of years. The smell is distinctive, and last year’s price was over $10 a gallon.  I’m always delighted when the power comes back on.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Canadian Wild West

"Here’s a statistic: between 1882, when reliable records started to be kept, and 1968, there were 4,743 lynchings recorded in the United States. In Canada, during this same eighty-six-year period, there was one."
"The Lynching of Louie Sam", John Vaillant, The Walrus, December 2008

The one Canadian lynching was that of Louie Sam, a fourteen year old Sto:lo boy arrested for killing an American settler. He was apprehended north of the border and was en route to New Westminster, BC when he was kidnapped by a lynch mob. "It was at this point that a routine prisoner transfer started looking like a barroom collaboration between Agatha Christie and Louis L’Amour." (Vaillant)

And to think there was a time when I thought Canadian history was boring.

This all started because a young adult novel called The Lynching of Louie Sam was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Awards. The story looks at the historical event through the eyes of a white boy whose father was one of the lynch mob. I needed to get a blurb for the Cool Canadian Crime Arthur Ellis Special and founded the quote on lynching statistics. As often happens with me, more research followed.

The Walrus article suggests that "The case of Louie Sam illustrates that the difference between “peace, order, and good government” and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is not superficial; it cuts to the bone." This got me wondering, did Canada have a wild west?

Oh yeah! We had our fill of home-grown and visiting outlaws. We even exported a few outlaws and law officers across the border.

Stay tuned.

Monday, April 22, 2013


While researching something entirely different, I came across a story about early Texas pioneer James "Brit" Briton Bailey, and it caught my attention. (So typical of me and my research tangents.) Bailey is a recurring name in my father's Johnson-Johnston-Johnstone family. Our ancestors migrated west from North Carolina, just as James Briton Bailey did. Hmm, so I checked my brother's extensive genealogical research (added to my earlier extensive research) of our family tree on and, sure enough, old Brit was a relative. And my brother and niece, who used to live in Brazoria County and—in a sort of reverse migration—now live in North Carolina, have seen the ghostly lights on Bailey's Prairie. How weird is that? Small world, right?

James Britton Bailey

James Britton Bailey was a descendant of Robert Bruce, once King of Scotland. A veteran of the war of 1812 and a native of North Carolina, Brit Bailey moved his family to Kentucky where he served in the legislature and got into a fracas, then moved to Tennessee. Apparently unable to get along harmoniously with his fellow man, he kept moving, stopped in Louisianna long enough to wed his second wife after the death of his first wife, and ended up on the east bank of the Brazos River in March 1818 (in what is now the school district of Angleton, Brazoria County, Texas), two years before Stephen F. Austin’s first visit to Texas. The locale in which he settled still bears his name—Bailey’s Prairie.

Bailey received his league and a labor of land (4,587 acres) in a land grant from the Spanish government—at least that was his claim. Apparently no records exist to back up his assertion. After Mexico freed herself from Spanish rule, Mexico refused to honor Bailey’s supposed grant. He stayed on the property anyway. Then Bailey’s realm was included in Stephen F. Austin’s colonization grant from the Mexican government.

           Those who are not Texans may not recognize the significance of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred settlers. Stephen F. Austin was known as the Father of Texas, as witnessed by naming the state capitol Austin, Stephen F. Austin University, an elementary school bearing his name in most Texas towns, a street by that name in most Texas cities, and so on. He led the second, but first legal and ultimately successful, colonization of the region by bringing 300 families from the United States.

Bailey was apparently a thorn in Austin's side, but they finally settled the question of ownership in Bailey’s favor in 1824, when he became one of Austin’s Old Three Hundred. Austin’s respect for—or maybe his desperation to get along with—Bailey resulted in Bailey's appointment as a lieutenant and then captain in the 3rd Battalion of the Militia.

Bailey's Oak no longer stands

In the fall of 1832, the Baileys were building their new house when Bailey became ill. Contrary to rumors that he died of "pure meanness," cholera took Brit Bailey in December of 1832. When he sensed that the end was near he issued directions that he be buried standing up so no one could say, "There lies ol' Brit Bailey." He said he'd never bowed down to any man and refused to do so after his death. He also asked to be buried facing west, as he had been migrating in that direction all his life; and he wanted his favorite rifles and pistols and enough ammunition to last him an eternity.

Asked why he needed such weaponry he replied, "I am a rude man, and know not whom I may meet in another world. I wish to be prepared, as usual, for all enemies."

As he had requested, Bailey was buried in the grove near the big red house beside his children who had preceded him in death, and in the manner described in his will. That is, standing upright, facing west, with his rifle by his side. But no jug of whisky. According to some, Mrs. Bailey had the jug removed and tossed it into the field. She said he had carried a jug of whisky most of his life, and he wasn’t going to meet his maker with one.

Almost as soon as Brit died, people started claiming to have seen his ghost. The couple that bought the old homestead swore they saw his apparition quite often. To this day, a strange light is said to haunt Bailey's Prairie and it's believed to be old Brit Bailey, looking for his jug of whiskey. Supposedly, the ball of fire rises from his grave and floats through the grove.

Whiskey Jug

Uncle Bubba, Bailey’s manservant who lived well past the century mark, claimed that the apparitions in the house and the periodic appearances of a fireball that seemed to rise from Bailey’s grave and moved across the prairie at night were his old master, carrying a lantern in search of the jug of whiskey Uncle Bubba had promised to place in his coffin.

The Texas State Historical Commission placed a state marker in Bailey's Prairie in 1970. The legend of Bailey’s light persists, and in addition to my brother and niece, there are others living in the area who have reportedly seen it on one or more occasions. All evidence of Bailey’s homesite have long since disappeared including this giant oak by the flag pond, toward which Bailey faces, flintlock at his side. There are still oak trees in the area, and it was in a grove of them that my brother and niece saw the light on several occasions. Was it old Brit looking for his jug of whiskey? Who knows?

Clay Coppedge, of the Country World staff, said, “The light sometimes follows people along the highway, and there is at least one reported shootout with the light, though there is no evidence that the light shot back. Maybe the light doesn't belong to Brit Bailey, after all. If Brit Bailey had anything to do with the light, I think it would have returned fire.”

Do you believe in ghosts, spirits, and haunting? 

Caroline Clemmons is the Amazon best selling author of western romance. Her latest is the poignant BLUEBONNET BRIDE, available at Amazon and other online stores. 

Texas State History Association, Handbook of History Online

Friday, April 19, 2013

Get Along, Little Doggie!

What does an Eastern greenhorn know about a cattle drive? Very little.

In Double Crossing, my western historical mystery, I introduced a handsome Texan -- Ace Diamond -- a mix of Rooster Cogburn and LaBoef from True Grit. His background reeled out while I wrote the first draft several years ago. Born in Texas, check. Easy to pull up a map and figure out where he might have been born (around Anderson), and that he'd worked at the Fanthorpe Inn as a stable boy after his brothers left to fight in the War of Rebellion. Three brothers killed at Shiloh, check. I had plenty of books about battles and conditions, weapons, military gear for both sides.

But when Ace mentioned he'd worked a few cattle drives after the War -- say what? That's when the real digging came into play. I had a dictionary, Western Words: A Dictionary of the Old West by Ramon Adams. Great resource, really. There's even an on-line website for slang. I'd done some general research on Charles Goodnight, dug up a trail map, etc. But did I really know that much about what a cowboy did on a trail drive? No. Luckily I'm a member of the Western Fictioneers, and have learned a LOT more since writing my Double series about horses, cattle, life on the trail and such.

Such as calling coffee 'brown gargle.' That cattle ought to walk four head across for best results when trailing them. That the youngest cowboys always ride drag and get the dirtiest (I'm sure Ace's younger brother had that lovely job). I had mentioned Ace carrying a Bowie knife (check), a Colt (check), a suede jacket, boots and hat (check), and along with his horse he probably had a saddle, spurs and rope. But I'd forgotten that a cowboy was never without a handy dandy bandanna. Huh. 

How odd that Ace never had one when he met Lily in Omaha, or after he showed up on the train in Double Crossing. Why didn't I do an image search? Surely I'd have seen what I'd missed. Readers are pretty forgiving! I guess I never mentioned he kept one in his pocket. (wink)

Do readers realize how little of all that research we writers dig up make it into the book? Probably not. But for authenticity, writers ought to know as much as possible about the character's past experiences.

For Double Crossing, however, I only knew Ace had lost his "cutter" -- not that 'riding shank's mare' was something he would confess to right off the bat! I had to research what a "cutter" was (a horse skilled in matching a steer's movements to 'cut' them from the herd), but that was it. Ace refused to explain what happened. But for Double or Nothing, when Lily asks him in detail about his cutter, I had to research the type of horse and color and what kind of accidents might have occurred while riding. And Ace reluctantly gave out bits of his background. I had to arm-wrestle him for the details. (wink)

Sometimes characters just won't cooperate! But since I plan to write a short story about Ace and his brother, I figured I better know a lot more about them, the slang they use, their manners (or lack of them) and their horses. For now, here's a brief excerpt from Double or Nothing about Ace's cutter.

After sharing a passionate kiss, I breathed in his scent of musk, bay rum and soap. He tasted salty, too. “Remember you said how you lost your cutter? Your horse, right?”
“Yep. Good old Reb.”
“Reb?” I laughed. “For Rebel, I suppose. That seems to fit.”
Ace snorted. “Best gelding I ever had. A bay roan, and his coat turned darker in winter. Reb knew which way a steer would run, a few seconds before it moved. He was more intelligent than most people I ever met in my life.”
“So what happened? How did you lose him?”
“Broke his leg in a gopher hole, and had to put him down,” he said, eyes downcast. “Worst day of my life, too. Kept my brother company from Fort Riley, Kansas, up to Nebraska. He was headin’ west to his next assignment. I started back but never made it.”
“And then—”
“Ended up in Omaha. No horse, sold my saddle for a room and a few meals. No jobs till that boardinghouse landlady took pity on me.”
“We’d never have met if not for your horse,” I whispered in his ear. “I’m sorry you lost the cutter, though. How did you learn to speak Spanish?”
He ran his tongue around my earlobe, his breath hot, making me shiver. “Told ya that me and Layne worked to round up mossy horns down in Texas. A few men never learned English, so we picked up Spanish pretty quick. Is that important?”
“No, but I remember something else you told me on the train.”
“Mm? What’s that?”
“That I’d never get a chance to see your scars.”
Ace flashed a mischievous smile and leaned back, arms held out wide. “Go ahead and search for ‘em. What, are you too scared? I dare you.”
“It wouldn’t be proper,” I said, my cheeks burning.
“I’m all yours, Lily Diamond. Whenever and wherever you want me.”

From DOUBLE OR NOTHING -- the sequel to the Spur Award-winning Double Crossing!

Book blurb: A mysterious explosion. A man framed for murder. A strong woman determined to prove his innocence.
October, 1869: Lily Granville, heiress to a considerable fortune, rebels against her uncle’s strict rules. Ace Diamond, determined to win Lily, invests in a dynamite factory but his success fails to impress her guardian. An explosion in San Francisco, mere hours before Lily elopes with Ace to avoid a forced marriage, sets off a chain of consequences.

When Ace is framed for murder before their wedding night, Lily must find proof to save him from a hangman’s noose. Will she become a widow before a true wife?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sioux Children #historical #western #American Indians

The following three major bands comprises the Great Sioux Nation:

Lakota - (Seven bands)

Dakota or Santee - (Four Bands)

Nakota or Yankton - (Three Bands)
Upper Yankton
Lower Yankton

I've long had a fascination for the Sioux, specially the Lakota, and I've enjoyed learning how ritualistic the tribes are/were. In today's post, I'm going to share some facts concerning their children.:

A time of celebration and showing thankfulness to the family.  Based upon the legend of the White Buffalo Woman, once a Sioux woman gave birth, she fulfilled her role to be fruitful and multiply.  At sometime during a woman's pregnancy, usually a grandmother or the mother, created twin turtle or lizard pouches, one to hold the baby's umbilical cord and the other to serve as a decoy.  Since both animals were considered "hardy, it stood to reason that using their image would serve to protect the child.  The true pouch was hidden in the child's cradleboard until the little one grew old enough to walk, and then worn around the neck.  At a certain point possession of the pouch reverted to the mother.

Four days after birth, everyone in the village was invited to a feast to celebrate naming of the baby.  Contrary to rumors I've heard (mainly in a joke), children were usually named after their oldest living grandparent or a deceased grandparent held in high esteem.  Additional children were usually named by the father to herald a specific deed he had accomplished or maybe a dream he'd had.  In the case of boys, they were usually two names, one which was never spoken aloud.  The "secret" name was acquired from a "winkte" which surprisingly to me, was a male Indian who dressed like and possessed all the quilling and sewing skills of a woman.  If Lesbianism existed, it was less obvious than the role the transvestite played, and being a "winkte" was considered God-Like and thusly a name offered by that person would protect the child from harm.

Modern-day babies benefit from the colostrum from their mother's breasts, but in the case of the Sioux, and old woman called, sucking woman, or a ten-year-old girl was summoned to remove the first milk for three or four days in order to prevent the infant from having diarrhea.  Instead, babies were fed berry juices and soups through a nipple fashioned from an animal bladder.

Sioux mother and child
A child's first year was mainly spent bundled in a cradleboard.  Cattail down or buffalo chips (depending upon the season) were packed in the bundle to absorb the urine.  Feces were removed, but the bundling not necessary changed each time.  The mother assumed the care of the child, often assisted by another female member of the tribe (grandmother, sister, older sibling), and if the infant as female, the old sibling assumed responsibility from the beginning.  If the child was a male, her participation was limited to feeding and watching over the baby.

Although children remained securely confined for the majority of their infant-time, from the ages of four to seven, they were naked most of the time.  By the age of seven, more modesty was required, but the children were asked, not told what to do and physical violence was never used.

Setting up Camp
As the child grew, he/she received instructions from many of the family oriented Sioux tribe and were rarely disciplined and the Sioux revered their children.  Games played by the boy children were extremely physical and geared toward preparing the child for battle, and when a boy was old enough to sit a horse, he was given his own colt and instructions on the care of the animal by his father.  Girls talents, on the other hand, were not fostered by the father-son type relationship, rather gathered  from rules of conduct demanded of female Sioux.  Cooking, washing clothing, gathering wood, berry picking and keeping the home straightened were primary tasks, but later, young women were taught the art of quilling, scraping and drying hides and learned how to construct and relocate tepees.

Women were required to show kindness to all men and animals, be loving, achieving, and eat apart from the men.   The left side of the lodge was designated as the female's side, and she was required to speak only in the female language which consisted of words not much unlike Spanish where ending letters signify gender.  (Example:  hermano/hermana = brother/sister).  Most importantly, female children were geared to behave modestly and care for themselves and their family.

Next month:  More on tribal behavior.

Facts presented here were garned from reading "the Sioux" by Royal B. Hassrick and America's Fascinating Indian Heritage by Reader's Digest.  All images were secured from

Destiny's Bride, my latest release from Books We Love, in which I show the heroine's experience at witnessing the birth of a child as directed by Rainwoman, the old medicine woman:
Here's an excerpt from

The area inside was large and spacious. Cecile stood riveted against the wall and watched with eyes wide. To see a group of women assisting in the birth made the experience impersonal…and a tad intimidating.  Maybe she hadn’t become as immodest as she thought.  Her thoughts were drawn to the expectant mother by a low moan.
Raven Wing squatted over a small trough lined with a square of deerskin and grasped a stick driven into the ground to help maintain her balance while she gave in to the bearing down pains. With each contraction, one of the women pushed on Raven Wing’s abdomen to hasten the baby’s arrival.
Cecile wondered how long the woman had been in labor. Raven Wing’s face contorted with pain yet she never yelled or cried out despite her apparent anguish.  Having never witnessed a child’s birth before, Cecile became frightened and inched toward the door.
Rain Woman noticed and waggled a winger at her. “You must stay and watch so when your time comes you know what to expect.”
“Okay, Old Mother,” Cecile relented. “I will stay.” But she thought of a thousand things she’d rather be doing.
Finally, after lots of pushing and straining, Raven Wing’s blood-covered baby slipped out into the trough. The new mother fell back onto a bed of buffalo robes, totally spent and panting for breath. Rain Woman stepped in and cut and tied the umbilical cord then cleared the baby’s nose and mouth. The newborn boy immediately cried, flailing tiny arms in the air.

All my books are available at

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Pony Express
"Young, skinny, wiry fellows, not over 18. Must be expert riders. Willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred." Made up the ads for Pony Express riders published in newspapers and on flyers throughout the west. 

The approaching Civil War created a need for a speedy way to get mail from Missouri to California and was the driving force behind the creation of The Pony Express. Though it only lasted little over a year, the success of the program captivated attention and set forth the need for congress to appropriate funding for a nationwide, reliable and all inclusive postal system.

A special light-weight saddle was created for the riders, and initially the cost to send mail averaged $5.00 per ½ ounce, but was later reduced. The two thousand mile distance between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California was divided into 75-100 mile sections. Riders would change horses every 10-15 miles depending on the terrain before handing over his ‘freight’ to a fresh rider for the next hundred miles. The rides took an average of ten days each way.  
Buffalo Bill Cody age 19

Buffalo Bill Cody, at the age of 15 was a Pony Express rider in Wyoming , and wrote this passage about one of his adventures in: Cody William F., The Life of Buffalo Bill (1879, republished 1994)… 

“As I was leaving Horse Creek one day, a party of fifteen Indians 'jumped me' in a sand ravine about a mile west of the station. They fired at me repeatedly, but missed their mark. I was mounted on a roan California horse - the fleetest steed I had. Putting spurs and whip to him, and lying flat on his back, I kept straight on for Sweetwater Bridge - eleven miles distant - instead of trying to turn back to Horse Creek. The Indians came on in hot pursuit, but my horse soon got away from them, and ran into the station two miles ahead of them. The stock-tender had been killed there that morning, and all the stock had been driven off by the Indians, and as I was therefore unable to change horses, I continued on to Ploutz's Station - twelve miles further - thus making twenty-four miles straight run with one horse. I told the people at Ploutz's what had happened at Sweetwater Bridge, and with a fresh horse went on and finished the trip without any further adventure.”

Buffalo Bill also wrote about Wild Bill Hickock who was a Pony Express rider, too, in Kansas. He claimed one of Wild Bill’s adventures included a day when his relay station was being robbed. The station master had already been killed when Wild Bill arrived, and after saving the man’s widow from five robbers, Wild Bill stayed with her until the stage arrived before galloping off to make up for lost time. 

A Pony Express Rider
Pony Express riders were paid $100 a month, which would equate to approximately $2,500 in today.  Though it changed the west, and initiated a mail courier system, the Pony Express was a financial failure for the company that operated it. The initial undertaking alone involved 125 riders, 180 stations, and 400 horses besides other personnel. Numbers vary as to how many young men actually rode for the Pony Express, but at any given time during its existence there was an average of 80 Pony Express riders traveling the routes, and each rider had been presented a Bible upon hire.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Motherlode: Mining the Miners by @JacquieRogers #western

Gold Fever

In the 1800s, people traveled west in droves, but not all those who went west were immigrants. The Forty-Niners were obsessed with finding a mountain of gold, then there came the Pike’s Peakers, and prospectors flocked to numerous gold and silver strikes all over the Western territories from Arizona to the Klondike. And right behind all of them were entrepreneurs whose sole agenda was mining the miners—making it rich. And quite a few of them did.

Who were these people? Levi Strauss and John Nordstrom made their fortunes in clothing and retail, as did many others. Many hoteliers, newspaper publishers, and freighters did well. Early on, lots of money went toward the gambling and (ahem) other social activities. Let’s talk about gambling.

People who went west risked everything they owned as well as their lives to get there, so it’s only reasonable to expect that these risk-takers would be gamblers as well. Nearly everyone, male or female, of any age, would place a wager now and again.

Westerners bet on everything that moved—dogs, frogs, hogs—you name it. They made book on foot races with various handicaps, boat races (even a stick boat on a puddle on Main Street), sack races at the Sunday social, greased pig races, wild horse races . . . whatever they could think of, they did. They also bet on base-ball games (yes, it was hyphenated then), and nearly every other game you can think of.

In 1857, my g-g-grandfather (not sure on the number of greats), Moses Lock Alsup, took a string of racehorses and a small herd of cattle to California, near present day Santa Rosa. He sold his cattle for $40/head ($1,600 total), and raced his horses for a tidy payoff. He then sold all but his breeding stock, took his money, and went back to Missouri and bought most of the county. He made more money from the miners in one trip than most of the miners ever made.

Horseracing was one of the most popular sports. Nearly every festival or celebration featured a race. In the July 9, 1870, issue of The Owyhee Avalanche (Silver City, Idaho Territory), they reported:
A number of our citizens attended the races at Wagontown last Monday. Everything passed off in the most satisfactory manner. There were four races of a quarter of a mile each, as follows: LW Walker's chestnut horse and Jno Catalows's sorrel mare, for $50 a side, won by the latter. Second, Tim Shay's sorrel horse and Frenchman's roan filly, for $40 a side, won by Shay's horse. Third, Catalow's sorrel mare and Frenchman's sorrel horse, for $50 a side, Catalow's mare winner. Fourth, Jordan's black mare and Tom Walls' gray horse, for $45 a side, Jordan's mare winner.
That's pretty good money for 140 years ago, but a pittance compared to what went on in San Francisco, CA.
Gradually, as wealthy men made a hobby or a sideline of breeding horses, Western races became more carefully orchestrated, the crowds grew and betting flourished. Indeed, gambling and a day at the races became a virtually synonymous. And when Westerners got around to staging formal stakes races the prizes were sometimes much richer than those back East. In 1873 what was billed as "the richest race in the world" was run at Ocean View Park in San Francisco. The winner's purse was $20,000 paid in gold. In the same year New York's famous Belmont was worth only $5,200 and Maryland's Preakness a mere $1,800. ~ From: Gamblers of the Old West, p.200
Jefferson R. Smith II,
aka Soapy Smith
Then there were the gamblers and the bunco men, such as Jefferson Randolph Smith II, better known as Soapy Smith. He organized bunco gangs and worked confidence games all over the West, from Texas to Skagway, where he met his untimely end. He was most famous for his soap scam, where he would entice people to buy bars of soap by telling them there was money inside the wrapper. To get a better idea of how this works, check out the excellent website that’s run by his family where you can learn all about Soapy’s adventures. His great grandson, Jeff Smith, is a knowledgeable resource (a nice guy, too), and wrote the definitive biography on Soapy using primary sources. 

Poker Alice, Wyatt Earp, and nearly every other famous person from the Old West made money from the miners. Most were gamblers, but lawmen and cowhands were required to keep order in mining camps and to bring in beef to feed the men.

A name that’s not so famous but just as intriguing is Malinda Jenkins. This woman led quite a life, and most of her money was made from the profits of boom towns. She was born in Kentucky in 1848 and married young to a handsome man but ended up working her fingers to the bone to support him. Two husbands later, she’d traveled all over the West, including the Klondike, and finally settled in Idaho at the turn of the 20th Century. If you want to read about the opportunities for women in the West, her biography is an excellent source. Mrs. Jenkins had nothing to start with but a keen mind and a willingness to work hard, and ended up a prosperous businesswoman and landowner. At 80, she still played the ponies every day.

Gold and silver turned the American West into an enticement too strong to resist, but the real money came from the businesses that catered to these hearty souls’ needs.

Where the Old West really happened!
Much Ado About Marshals
Much Ado About Madams
Much Ado About Mavericks

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How The Hatpin Changed Society, Fashions and The Law

       Not many people realize that the hatpin was one of the most ingenious inventions of the Victorian Age. Nothing more than a piece of wire with a sharp point at one end and a bauble at the other, but it changed life in ways no one anticipated and few have acknowledged. A hat pin is a badge worn on a man's hat. A hatpin (one word) is a tool for holding a woman's hat in place. MS magazine, in a 1972 article about Angela Davis, said, "One almost sees the mark of the hatpin in her lapel where he pinned the corsage"-- a common misconception that the hatpin is the same as a corsage pin or a lapel pin. Not so.
       Check the lists of the 100 greatest inventions of mankind. You won't find the hatpin there, and yet the pin has proven to be nearly as important as the invention of the wheel.
       While men fought in the trenches of World War One, women were entrenched in the doctrine of women's rights, a movement born during the hatpin era, and bred in the Equal Rights Amendment defeated in 1982.
       Harrient Stanton Blatch once wrote to the New York Times, " your telegraphic news from Paris recently we are informed that edicts have been issued twice against unprotected hatpins, but that the Parisienne merely smiles and goes her way." She referred to the Chief of Paris police being "held in terror by the Apache", and not being able to hold the fort against pointed "arrows" that darted out from Paris women's fashionable hats.
       The wearing of a hat (rather than a bonnet with strings) is the true symbol of women's emancipation. From the beginning, the hat was more than a headcovering. It was the symbol of one's station in life -- or more accurately -- man's station. In saying "he wore many hats", the "he" was quite literal, for women had no "station" other than that realm of subservience suffragettes fought to free women from.
       In truth, women wore no hats, only hoods, wimples, hennin or bonnets with strings tied under the chin. When women cut off their bonnet strings, figuratively speaking, they were cutting themselves free from the "queendom" of hearth and home that they ruled in nameless obscurity.
       At its height, from 1890 through 1925, the hatpin was most influenced in design by the Aesthetic Period, the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau and the Art Deco eras. But even before these periods came the Victorian influence which embraced innovations of Gothic elaborations, elegant scrolls, openwork and filigree with baroque details thrown in. Those fashioned between 1850 and 1925 are the collectable "period" hatpins.
       The expert craftsmen of the Victorian period set the example and left footprints more modern jewelers have found difficult to walk in.
       At first, hatpins were short and utilitarian, but they allowed wearers to demand larger, more fanciful hats with flowers, feathers, ruffles, bows and even bird nests. As hats grew in size and ostentatiousness, so did hatpins, from four inches to twelve, and from simple knobs or stones to the elegant and complicated designs of the true craftsman. In other words, the shorter the hatpin, the older it likely is, though the later models may be far more enticing.
       The emancipated woman and her hatpin caused many new problems in society, including "the hatpin danger." In America and Europe laws required "all dangerous points of hatpins be covered by guards." In turn of the century closed-vestibule railroad passenger cars and the "street railway" in America, female passengers became more and more common, inevitably brushing and bumping against other people (men). Such close quarters did indeed create a hazardous situation with hatpins extending to twelve inches long. Looser, fuller hairstyles allowed for larger, more ostentatious hats that required several pins to keep in place. More than one judge outlawed hatpins as dangerous weapons. Having to lose their pins meant women must give up their hats, for without the pins, there was no way to keep the hats on. This insult to women's pride acted to further propel the suffragette movement, especially in America.
       How amazing that something as simple as a hatpin could lead to such remarkable changes and chains of events. Every time I buy one for my antique collection I wonder what flamboyant headgear they might have secured, whose hands touched them, and if they were ever used in the defense of womankind. Alas, I have yet to find evidence of blood on their sharp tips. Maybe I will on the next one. I guess I'll just have to keep buying them to see. 

Charlene Raddon is an award-winning author of several historical romance novels set in the American West. In love with the Old West since early childhood, she has studied and researched the period for many years and is quite knowledgeable on the subject. Her paperback books, published by Kensington Books, can be found in used book stores. Three of her books have now been released as e-books by Tirgearr Publishing and can be found at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and other e-book stores. Charlene can be found at,, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and other social media sites.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The First Texas Cook Book

Dearest Druid cover closeup
Yesterday, I finished writing the next to last chapter in Dearest Druid, Texas Druids book three. At one point, I needed to know what kind of cold drink a sharecropper’s wife might offer guests. Turning to the internet, I learned ice tea, now the “national drink of Texas," wasn't widely in favor until the early 1900s. Also, tea would likely have been too expensive and hard to get for a poor family in 1876.

Not finding a solution on the net, I turned to my bookshelves and pulled out The First Texas Cook Book, A Thorough Treatise on the Art of Cookery, from which I’ll share quotes and a few recipes.

Unfortunately, the book didn't answer my cold drink question, so I improvised. I love hot mint tea, and I know wild mint grows in parts of Texas. It wasn't hard for my fictional hostess to pick some and brew up a batch of mint tea. Sweetening it with honey, she serves it over ice from the family’s ice house. I’m not sure they’d have one, but for my purposes, they do.

Meanwhile, I was charmed by the Texas cookbook. Quoting from the introduction, “The Reverend Mr. E. D. Junkin was in the third year of thirteen years he would be pastor of the church in 1883 when the women of the First Prebyterian Church of Houston published their Texas Cook Book.” Such a convoluted sentence!

The preface calls the book “the first enterprise of its kind in our state.” The unnamed writer goes on to list several historical tidbits about Houston at the time the book was compiled..

  • The city’s population was estimated at around 20,000.
  • Houston’s first telephone was installed five years earlier.
  • The barroom of the Capitol Hotel (later the Rice Hotel) had electric lighting installed a few months prior to the book’s publication.
  • Ten railroads served Houston by 1883.
  • The city boasted a mile of plank “paving,” eighteen blocks of gravel streets and two blocks paved with stone. “The rest, as a rule, was dirt, or in Houston’s case much of the time, mud.”
David Wade, in his forward to the book, wrote “This book confirms what I have always expressed about cooking, that the three most important ingredients of any good recipe are love, patience and butter. Certainly for these early Texans cooking was a labor of love as it required so much more time. Their patience had to be expanded when struggling with the kitchen tools of 1883. You can read just a few pages and you will see that almost every recipe was baptized in butter.”

In the forward by Mary Faulk Koock, written in 1986 for the facsimile edition from Eaken Press, she says one man submitted a recipe for Yacht Pie. “His tongue-in-cheek recipe suggests that ‘the more ladies you have on board, the more onions should be used.'” I think that's an insult, not sure.

Ms. Koock went on to say “Many recipes show that the women of one hundred years ago favored the use of wine and spirts in their cooking. One of the recipes for mincemeat included ‘four pints white wine, one pint brandy.’ And a recipe for making vinegar included ‘three quarts of whiskey.’”  Wooee! I'd be wary of pickles soaked in that stuff.

The preface to the book, written in 1883, states “As many of the very excellent cook books published contain receipts [the old spelling of recipe] not suited to the requirements of our climate, and, as far as we know, no complete treatise on the subject of cookery has been published in our latitude, it has seemed well to supply this deficiency.”  Talk about flowery writing!

Okay, now for some recipes from the book. Excuse the punctuation or lack thereof.

Stuffed Eggs

“Boil some eggs hard, remove the shells, and cut them [the eggs, not the shells] in half lengthwise, take out the yelks [old spelling of yolks], mash them fine and season with butter, pepper and salt, chop some cold boiled ham fine and mix with the yelks, fill the halved whites with this mixture and put them in a pan, set in the oven and brown slightly.” ~~No author cited
Kind of rich but it doesn’t sound bad, does it?

Cold Slaw—No.1 (of 3 recipes)

“Have your cabbage finely shred and place in a salad-dish. Put in a sauce-pan one pint vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar to taste, with one tablespoon butter; set over the fire; break in two or three eggs, and stir constantly until it thickens; them add two tablespoons cream. Pour while hot over the cabbage; then cut two or three hard boiled eggs over the top.”    ~~ Mrs. J. D. Sayers, Bastrop (TX)

Hot cold slaw, that's a new one on me.
Spiced Beef

“Get a round of beef weighing ten pounds, tie it close together in good shape (round) with tape, take one tablespoon ground mace, one of cloves, one of allspice, and one of saltpeter, and rub the meat well with the spices mixed. Place the meat in a deep dish, set aside, and turn over every morning for ten mornings. When ready for cooking, place it in a pot, with the spices, liquor and all. Cover with water and cook four hours. To be eaten cold for luncheon or tea.” ~~No author cited
Ten mornings? Not me! But note this from the preface: “The receipts given have been obtained from our best housekeepers and cooks.” So, they did the turning, not the lady of the house.

I’m really tempted to give you the gentleman’s recipe for Yacht Pie, but he kind of rambled on. Instead, here's my own favorite brisket recipe. I think it originated in Memphis, so it’s not Texas style, but my family loves it. I often fix it for 4th of July get-togethers.
A brisket packaged in plastic with fat side up.

24-Hour Brisket

One 5-6 lb. beef brisket                                                             3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 cup strong coffee                                                                    2 Tbsp. liquid smoke

2 cups ketchup                                                                           2 Tbsp. mustard

10 oz. Coke, Pepsi or other cola                                                ¼ tsp. tobasco sauce

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

Twenty-four hours ahead, place brisket fat side up in large, deep roaster or Dutch oven; pour coffee over meat, cover and bake at 200° for 24 hours. The next day, remove from oven, carefully lift meat from pan and set aside. Pour off greasy liquid (expect a lot) into a large plastic or metal container. My husband cuts the top off a gal. milk jug. Trim off fat (a bit messy) and return brisket to roasting pan. In medium bowl, combine all remaining ingredients, mix well and pour over meat. Bake at 200° for at least one hour. Meat will be fork tender. You can slice it and serve with side dishes or cut up smaller and serve on hamburger buns. The sauce is sweet and tangy.

Note: The brisket can be frozen, but freeze the sauce separately. It’s fine reheated in the microwave. In fact, I often prepare it ahead, layering the meat and sauce in a Corningware Dutch oven I’ve had forever, and heat it up when our company arrives. You can also double the recipe. Just buy a bigger brisket and make sure your roaster is big enough to hold all the grease it produces. Enjoy!

White Witch, Texas Druids Origins

Darlin' Druid
Dashing Druid