Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Premier Saddle Maker

Sometime during the 1880s, a young man named J C Welcome moved from California to Burns, Oregon to open a saddle and harness shop and raise his family. He went on to become one of the premier saddle makers in the northwest.

His work was highly sought after by cowboys and ranchers of the day when horses were the primary mode of transportation. His saddles are treasured by collectors today, with some still in use over 100 years after they were built.

Wally Welcome, grandson of J C, says his grandfather began his business in a building on the southwest corner of N. Broadway and C Street in Burns and continued working there until his death in 1907. Frank Welcome, J C’s son, carried on until 1924. The original shop burned in 1915, and Frank moved to the site of the current Harney County Chamber of Commerce building.

Frank Welcome next to what was known as "The Welcome Saddle" in 1888.

In an unusual twist, Welcome saddles were made with a Juniper wood tree, and J C and Frank held a patent on the saddletree design and another one on the spring snap.

Frank Welcome in the early 1900s, posing in the saddlery started 
by his father, Jacob Charles Welcome, better known as J.C.

A saddle made by J C Welcome was discovered by a Burns resident in the museum of Loren and Madge Overlander in Pollock, Idaho. Overlander is a saddle collector. The saddle is inscribed, J.C. Welcome, Burns, Ore. and is the only Welcome saddle Overlander ever found in such good condition.

Saddles are the second most important part of a cowboy's life, second only to his horse.

In the second book in my series Harney County Cowboys, Sean O'Connell works as a ranch cowboy, training horses and watching over cows and calves. His life is in a downward spiral until he meets Catherine Silvera.

She couldn’t leave the idiot there to die!

But what was she going to do with a half-frozen cowboy?

Dancing Creek Bar manager, Catherine Silvera, stared at the waterlogged, unconscious man sleeping in the only vehicle left in the parking lot, his Stetson crushed beneath his head.

Did she know him?

At three a.m. the other employees and patrons were gone. Her first inclination was to leave him to sober up. But the temperature was dropping faster than Wiley Coyote’s anvil.

Her second thought was to call the sheriff. Her hand hovered over the cell phone.

But, she recognized the cowboy. This man had helped her years ago, when she couldn’t help herself.

The smell of liquor filled the interior of the truck. Drunks were above her pay grade, but she owed him.

It would only take a few minutes to repay his kindness then make tracks like a coyote-shy rabbit with hot breath on her tail.

You’ll love this contemporary rodeo romance because sometimes old dogs do learn new tricks.

Check out  Dancing Creek Ranch

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Sooners and Boomers By Nan O'Berry

One of the greatest American Adventure and a culmination of the Manifest Destiny Doctrine developed in the year 1889. At noon, on April 22, over 50,000 people lined along the border of Oklahoma in order to have a chance at two million acres. Those who undertook the homesteads had to live on the land and make improvements for at least five years. The question might be why was this land so prized? 
                                            Wikipedia Land Rush Photo of  1889

To understand, we must travel back in history to 1862, then President Abraham Lincoln, presented the idea of the yeomen farmer which had been the backbone of Jefferson’s Democracy. This idea would yield to the small family farmer start up land to grow crops on good soil. So many small farmers had seen their dreams crushed by larger wealthy plantations in the south who could use slave labor to increase their wealth. Remember land rich/money poor??? 

Those who were being forced out had a large voice in Congress such as Andrew Johnson (17th President), Horace Greeley (go west, young man) and George Henry Evans (radical reformer and union man), all who wanted to liberalize or open public lands to those disenfranchised. Not such a bad idea. All they had to do to get around 165 acres was to follow a three-step procedure. 

1.      File for an Application
2.      Improve the land aka housing, crops, cattle etc
3.      File for a patent

This was open to any citizen who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government, freed slaves and women included, who were at least 21 years of age or head of a household It doesn’t sound so bad. However, the land being eyed for this venture didn’t quite belong to the government.

Let’s go back again… this time to 1830 – The election of ole Andy Jackson which began the removal of Native Americans from their land and the forced march known as the Trail of Tears. These Native Americans were all gathered on land deemed unwanted in the Oklahoma Territory. Tribes such as the Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Seminole, Quapaw, Seneca, Shawnee, Kickapoo, Delaware, Caddo, Kiowa, Comanche, Wyandot, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Wichita, all were given land divided up, no thought given to long held differences etc. and told to live happily as farmers instead of warriors. 

All seemed to be going just peachy until over population in the East and the end of the no so civil, Civil War. Now, people were on the move. They needed some place to go - aka Oklahoma. By the year of 1879 over 30 bills were in Congress to open lands that had been bargained for, weaseled, and in some cases, down-right stolen. Once the final date was set, people gathered all hungry for that piece of American Pie.

So how do we know what’s a Sooner or a Boomer?

Sooners were those who went in, hid until the appointed time then quickly filed a claim.
Boomers were those who took advantage of the movement by settling, starting towns, selling plots to make money and moving on.

So, back to April 22, the land appropriation bill declared noon to be the starting time the border would open. Military, dignitaries, and troops gathered for a gun shot that signaled the opening. People surged forth to claim their lands. By the evening of this day both Oklahoma City and Guthrie would go from nothing to having ten thousand citizens on record. 

I’m thinking this would make a great backdrop for a romance series.

Until Next time, happy trails,

Friday, August 23, 2019

Creation of the Union Pacific Railroad by Zina Abbott

Unlike the Central Pacific, which was incorporated by private investors in 1861, men who risked their personal fortunes, the Union Pacific Railroad Company came into existence as a direct result of the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act. The name was probably inspired by the fact that Congress was sponsoring the Pacific Railway and believed that the Union (remember, this act was passed during the Civil War) would be strengthened by the railroad. The Railroad Act empowered 163 men to organize the company and appoint directors.
Pres. Abraham Lincoln and creating the Pacific Railway Act of 1862
Financial incentives were quite impressive. For the roughest stretches of track in the western mountains, the builders were granted up to 6400 Acres of public land and $48,000 in government bonds for every mile of track. Lower, but still substantial, land grants came with each mile of track on easier sections.

During a meeting held early in September 1862, the Union Pacific board of directors issued stock and advertised it for sale. Unfortunately, it was widely believed that the company was doomed to failure. Only 45 shares were sold to eleven men of foresight. Brigham Young, the biggest buyer, was the only one who paid in full for his 5 shares, making him the first stockholder in good standing and earning him a seat on the board of directors.
Thomas C. Durant, UPRR Vice President

On November 17th, UP Vice President Thomas C. Durant convinced President Lincoln to move the eastern terminus to Omaha, Nebraska, instead of Council Bluffs, Iowa, making it unnecessary to wait until a bridge could be constructed over the Missouri River. Durant believed that it was urgent to get the project going since the Central Pacific had held is groundbreaking ceremony eleven months earlier. He scheduled ground-breaking for the Union Pacific on December 2, 1863. On the same day, Brigham Young telegraphed the following message to President Lincoln: “Let the hands of the honest be united to aid the great national improvement.”
Grenville Dodge, Chief Engineer

No rails were laid until July, 1865, after the end of the Civil War. Construction really began in earnest in 1866. Two former Union Generals oversaw the work. Jack Casement was a superintendent of construction, and Grenville Dodge was appointed as chief engineer. For the Union Pacific work crews, access to the east coast brought in European immigrant laborers to add to the Civil War veterans and former slaves.

John S. "Jack" Casement
While the survey team was busy in the west, the board of directors undertook the organization of the Union Pacific Railroad. At the meeting of stockholders on October 9, 1863, John A. Dix was elected president. Dr. Thomas C. Durant was chosen as vice-president, but he was the real leader of the corporation. He threw all of his constructive genius and fortune into the great national enterprise.

From Omaha, the Union Pacific's route crossed the Nebraska territory, touched the Colorado territory, and continued into the territories of Wyoming and Utah, running nearly 1,100 miles. Hundreds of miles of their route ran across flat plains that presented no engineering problems.
Jack Casement overseeing building the Union Pacific RR
The Union Pacific as well as the Central Pacific each had several stages of work going on simultaneously. Surveyors went ahead to map the paths of the Rails. Following them were crews assigned to build bridges, culverts, or tunnels. Next were the graders, who shaped the track bed. Except when blasting was necessary, the work was done by hand with laborers using picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows. Other crews cut timber for lumber, ties, or fuel.

Building the tracks was done with a combination of hand labor and assembly line positions. Fifty teams of mules hauled ties (often called "sleepers" back then) for laborers, who placed the ties every two feet along the rail bed. To finish track mileage as quickly as possible, the ties were planted directly onto the ground, and gravel for ballast was added later. Following the tie carriers were other men who dropped spikes and plates for fastening the rails.

Horse and UPRR Construction Train

“Blind Tom,” a sightless horse became famous in the newspapers. He drew countless thousands of rails in a flat car to the head of the track being laid. The Union Pacific's rails were 28 ft long and weighed 700 pounds apiece. Every fifteen seconds, two teams of five “ironmen” each picked up a rail from the flatcar, and then they walked to the end of the track. When the foreman shouted “Down!”, they dropped the rail on to the ties. As the ironmen walked back for another rail, other workers straighten the rails and spiked them into place.

Working at top speed, the crews could lay over 100 feet of track per minute. It took less than one hour to lay a mile of track. In practice, this sort of speed could not be maintained for long. It was impossible to bring enough rails and ties for the work on the single line of functioning track. Each mile of track required about 380 rails, 2600 ties, and 10,000 spikes.
UPRR Workers laying track
This post on the first Transcontinental Railroad is a continuation of my series of posts across three blogs to which I contribute. All of them will be compiled on my own Trails & Rails blog on a Transcontinental Railroad page you may access by CLICKING HERE. (BTW, the train in the Trails & Rails blog banner image was taken at the Ogden Union Station near Promontory Point where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads joined.)

I’m very excited about my upcoming release, Escape from Gold Mountain, which is now on ebook preorder at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Right now, it is at a sale price of $2.99, but will move to its regular price on September 5, 2019, the day after it is released on September 4th. Later in the month, I will disable the Nook version so I may list the Kindle version on Kindle Unlimited for at least 90 days. The paperback versions will continue to be offered on both vendors.


“Linked by the Golden Spike: Building the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads”; History  of Railroads (Moorshead Magazines, Ltd.:Toronto, ON, Canada & Niagara Falls, NY, United States, 2013) page 14-16.

Museum Memories, Volume 1 (Salt Lake City, Utah: International Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 2009), Pgs. 408-409.