Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Gold Mines & Mail-order Brides

Throughout the history of the USA, it seems that booms and brides have gone hand in hand. As my husband and I have toured the amazing state of Alaska this past month, this has become evident in many ways.
One of the last places we stopped was Kennecott Copper Mill in the St. Elias/Wrangell Mountain National Park to tour this historic site. At one time this mill was home to over five-hundred miners. The mill boasted a hospital, mess hall, recreation center, and housing for married management level staff. There were generally no more than twenty women on the mill premises at any one time. Needless to say, miners were not housed in the same area as the women. Actually, most of the miners lived up in the mountains in the mines themselves. However, less than five miles down the road was the town of McCarthy, where things were a little different. Along with a hotel, general store, and hospital of its own a small red-light district did exist.

Touring the Kennecott area was interesting in many ways. One thing that struck you right away about the town and mill was that all but two buildings in the entire town were painted red. Apparently red, lead-based paint was the cheapest paint to be had so all of the buildings save for the owner/managers home on Silk-stocking row -named because women there could afford such niceties- was painted white. This all red paint scheme did get modified just a tad at one point after a few drunken men stumbled into the nurse's quarters one night on a trip back from McCarthy. The nurse's housing was promptly painted white, and this unfortunate 'mistake' never occurred again.

Another sideline for McCarthy was that the primary source of income for most people in town was the making and manufacturing of alcohol. This became a bit of a boom in the 1920s with prohibition laws taking effect. Needless to say, enforcing these 'dry' laws on the massive territory of Alaska was no easy task. To counter the effect of frequent or infrequent visits from the U.S. Marshalls trying to stop the illegal liquor, the train would blow a special whistle to let the town residence know the law was on board. Marshalls were generally disappointed to find that the town was clean and dry upon arrival.

Although I don't go into details about the darker sides of frontier life in my writing there has always been the seeder aspect of life on the western frontier, but there were also those willing to offer a helping hand and a forgiving heart to those who wanted a second chance.

In my short novella The Redemption of Rachel, we see how an open heart, and a willingness to accept the broken can lead to a new start in life and a love that passes all understanding.

 Davrum Deeks, the longtime blacksmith of the Broken J Ranch knows there’s a darker side to every town but has seldom been confronted with it. Living far from any real civilization for so long he’s almost forgotten the pain humans can inflict on their own kind. At least until he comes face to face with a fallen woman in a dark alley.
No longer wanted by society's lowest establishments Dusty Ray is left for dead in a cold dark back street in Casper Wyoming and knows she has come to the end of the line. It will only be a matter of time before it’s all over, and she welcomes the relief of death, as she huddles for warmth among the refuse and detritus of a growing town. When two strong hands suddenly grasp and lift her from her mire, she tries to resist but is too weak to fight back as the old man carries her off for his own.
Seeking only to save a forgotten soul, can Deeks uncover the girl who was once called Rachel or will she always retreat behind the granite wall that blocks her off from the rest of the world?

And what about mail-order brides? Many men who had finally grubbed out enough money from mining to at least set up a home would find the wilds of the west a lonely place. With the decimation of the male population in the East after the Civil War and the heavy migration west of men to mine fields, there were a good number of women seeking husbands who could provide for them. In The Bride Herder Series, a failed rancher must find a way to match ten brides to men in his town. My addition to this fun and slightly comedic series will be out in July, so keep your eyes peeled and see how an old West Match Maker could get the job done.
Join the Bride Herder Facebook group and join the fun.

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