Friday, September 27, 2019

Native American Tribes & the Transcontinental Railroad by Zina Abbott

The construction of the Transcontinental Railroad created serious consequences for the native tribes of the Great Plains. As roadbeds and tracks cut across the land, it forever altered the landscape. Along with the increased arrival of white Americans, it caused the disappearance of once-reliable wild game.

Railroads began to undercut native independence before a single mile of track had been laid. Especially with the discovery of gold in California, the federal government felt a powerful need to bridge the distances between the bulk of the nation’s people east of the Missouri River and the rising populations on the Pacific Coast. During the 1850s, the army surveyed and improved more than twenty thousand miles of roads in the West, but the greatest hopes were pinned on a transcontinental railroad. Four possible routes were surveyed, each with its eastern advocates who hoped to benefit from the traffic. However, before a route could be considered, the government had to have clear, unopposed access to the land where the rails would run. That meant settling up with American Indian tribes and eliminating any of their claims to the country in question.

The result was a quarter century of vigorous efforts by railroad interests and their political allies to move Indians out of the way, part of the broader effort to confine and isolate them on reservations.

Although most of the Native Americans had signed away their rights to much of their land in treaties with the federal government, they still regarded it as their traditional hunting grounds. After acquiring horses, Indians had become heavily dependent on the plains bison for everything. The railroad was probably the single biggest contributor to the loss of the bison on which they had come to depend upon for everything from meat for food to skins and fur for clothing and shelter.

The railroad brought white homesteaders who farmed the grasslands that had been the home of bison for centuries. Not having the same understanding of land rights as the whites, the Indians regarded their coming and ownership claims on the land as an invasion. As the resources they depended upon for survival diminished, they fought back against the great beast—the railroad—who brought the intruders.

Native Americans sabotaged the railroad and attacked white settlements supported by the line. Working several days journey ahead of the end of the track, the union Pacific's Advance work parties were in considerable danger of Indian attacks. Near Plum Creek, Nebraska on the night of August 6, 1867, Cheyenne Warriors derailed a hand cart carrying a repair gang, and then a freight train. Eight men were killed. The only survivors were the train conductor, who escaped and ran for help, and an English-born track worker named William Thompson. Thompson feign death as a Cheyenne scalped him. In the confusion, he later managed to slip away and even carried his scalp with him. Many years later while living in England, Thompson mailed the scalp as a donation to the Omaha Public Library.

Warriors occasionally harassed surveyors. In addition to destroying railroad tracks and machinery, they stole the railroad livestock used to feed the rail workers. Some of the tribes attacked the railroad crews or their hunting parties directly, which necessitated guards being posted for the safety of the men, but overall, their direct attacks were relatively few.

In contrast, there was one tribe that welcomed the coming of the railroad. The Pawnees, with their traditional lands in Nebraska, had the greatest Indian presence on the line. They were friendly to the American government. Their traditional enemies were the Sioux. Their warriors often served as scouts for the military. The railroad offered the Pawnee people free passage on its work trains, which was gladly accepted. In exchange, they staged mock raids and battles for visiting dignitaries at Union Pacific’s lavish 100th Meridian Excursion party. Under army Major Frank North, a uniformed battalion of 800 Pawnee men patrolled the railroad to protect crews and livestock from Lakota and Cheyenne raiders. Their presence served as an effective deterrent to attacks by other tribes.

In the end, in spite of their struggle to drive away the railroad, tribes of the Plains were unsuccessful in preventing the loss of their territory and hunting resources. The Transcontinental Railroad ushered in a new way of life for many Americans, but the cost was the destruction of the traditional way of life of most Native Americans.

Just today, I introduced my cover reveal and pre-order link to my new Christmas novel, Two Sisters and the Christmas Groom. More about that book next month after it releases.

I have been pleased with the overwhelmingly positive reviews for my novel, Escape from Gold Mountain, which was released last month. It is now available on Kindle Unlimited. 
Please CLICK HERE for the book description on Amazon. The print version is also available on Barnes & Noble, which you can reach if you CLICK HERE.

“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) pages 14-17.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Dodge City!

My generation grew up on Gunsmoke. Marshal Dillon slew many a bandit as he cleaned up the frontier town and through it all stayed steadfast to the owner of the Long Branch Saloon, Miss Kitty.  Yet, how different was the real Dodge City's history to what we saw on the box in the living room?

Dodge began as an army fort. Fort Mann was set to ensure the safety of the travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. An attack by the 'hostiles' in 1848 let to the fort's downfall. The army tried, on several occasions, to rebuild, but gave up until the end of the Civil War.

The true origins of the town can be traced to a rancher named, Henry Sitler, whose sod house provided a way to keep tabs on his growing cattle empire. The house also provided a stopping point for travelers along the Santa Fe and those that moved along the Arkansas River. The real seal that led to rapid development of the town was the arrival of the railroad in 1872.

One George Hoover opened the first saloon for thirsty cattlemen herding their product to the stockyards adjacent to the rail lines. Several cattle trails meandered their way to smaller towns around Dodge, then sent the herds to be loaded on the stock cars to head to Chicago and slaughter houses. Those trails include - Shawnee Trail, Chisholm Trail, Great Western Cattle Trail to name a few. The heyday of the cattle industry was from 1883 to 1884. Not really a long time. However just long enough for Dodge to earn the nickname 'Queen of the Cow Towns' .

At one time, Dodge supported more gunslingers than any other town in the west. It boasted of the most saloons, gambling dens, brothels. And true to the TV series, one was known as the Long Branch. Bat Masterson and Doc Holiday also patrolled the streets.

What led to Dodges downfall? A tick. A weaselly little tick that carried Texas Cattle Fever to cattle in the area. The local government quarantined herds and eventually in 1885 the cattle trails were shut down. With out the livelihood, those cowboys, gamblers, saloon keepers, and solid doves moved to greener pastures. Dodge slowed and eventually became a sleepy little town once more - or at least until the Columbia Broadcast System, otherwise known as CBS drafted the radio version for TV.

Gunsmoke began on September 10, 1955 ( A year before my birth) and ran until  1975 a full 20 seasons - 26 episodes a season which means a total of 635 episodes! John Wayne, who advised James Arness to take the role, introduced the series. Of course, with a recommendation like that, it had to be a hit.

Until Next time,

Nan O'Berry

Friday, September 20, 2019

Happy Anniversary, Hidden Springs ~ by Kristine Raymond

A few short weeks ago, I celebrated an anniversary.  Not the kind you think - or maybe it is, given my occupation.  On September 1, 2013, I sat down in front of my computer and began typing.  I was going to write a book - just for the fun of it.  You know, to see if I could.  What made its way from my brain to my fingers to my keyboard and into my Word document ended up as the first of nine books in the Hidden Springs series.

I remember knowing with unfailing certainty that my story would take place in the Old West.  How could it not when I, the author, often dreamed of living in an untamed land where a man who was fast on the draw was equally quick to defend a lady's honor?  And that same woman, with her demure manner and gentle smile, in reality, hid a spine made of railroad spikes beneath her corset.  Ah, those were the days, weren't they?

As the words flowed, my characters began to take shape.  Sam Mackenzie, a drifter cowboy, searching for a place to belong.  Kate Ryan, a woman mistrustful of strangers, due in no small part to the violence that stripped her of her family and left her guarding a terrible secret.  Add in a frontier town, a wild horse roundup, and a love story with more twists and turns than a sidewinder, and voila!  Here to Stay was born.

Two more books followed in rapid succession - Hearts on Fire and Abby's Heart.  Two stories that pulled me deeper into this Old West world I'd created.  More followed, as each book birthed the next; sideline characters demanding equal time on the page. Before I knew it, I'd published nine books total with stories spanning thirty-three years.  All that from writing a single story for the fun of it.

I've often been asked which Hidden Springs book is my favorite and, to that, I have no answer.  Each one holds a special place in my heart, not only because they are extensions of my imagination, but because the characters and storylines and the town itself, fictional as it is, are real to me.  I love these people like they are my own friends and family.  I'm invested in their lives and futures.  I laugh with them, cry with them; celebrate their victories and commiserate with them in their defeats.  And more often than not, I giggle at their antics, identifying on a personal level with certain quirks in their personalities.  So, in a way, I guess, you could say that every time I read one of my books, I am living back in the Old West.

Excerpt from Dancing in the Dark:

The two men strode down the middle of Main Street, small clouds of dust swirling up from beneath their boot heels.  They didn’t seem to notice the looks cast in their direction by curious townspeople, who wondered what was causing the grim expressions on their faces.  Neither spoke, each man occupied by his own thoughts, though if they had, they would’ve discovered they were both thinking about the same person – Melinda Sue.

Jack’s thoughts were spinning; bouncing around in his head like the marble set his son, Micah, played with. As marshal of Hidden Springs, he had an oath to uphold, to protect the citizens of this town he loved, and those who lived in outlying areas, from anyone who wished to cause them harm. He’d failed to do that very thing six years ago and now, he wasn’t sure he could face Melinda Sue objectively. The woman had caused too much hurt and anger, and given his previous personal relationship with her, he’d always felt he shared some responsibility for her actions.

Rusty, on the other hand, was wondering why Melinda Sue would encourage her new husband to settle here, and more specifically, what fueled his interest in the Brewerton place. Garrett Sterling appeared affluent enough to reside anywhere he wanted, and though Hidden Springs was a fine place to live, it seemed beneath the station of someone so wealthy. Stomach churning, he followed Jack up the steps of the boarding house and entered the building.

“Good day, Mrs. Peabody,” Jack said, touching the brim of his hat. “I was wondering if you could tell me if a Mr. Garrett Sterling and his wife are staying here.”

“Wife!” The boarding house owner sniffed haughtily. “You mean that nasty Melinda Sue Perkins? Yep, they’re stayin’ here.” The robust woman came around the front desk, hands on her hips. “If I’da known who she was beforehand, I never woulda’ rented the room. But that Mr. Sterling came in by himself, all shined up and waving a handful of bills. It wasn’t ‘til after I gave him the key that he brought that woman in.”

“It’s alright, Mrs. Peabody. I understand how you feel.” Jack reached over and took her hand, patting it reassuringly. “I wonder if you might tell me which room they’re in. I’d like to have a conversation with the Sterlings.”

Returning the pat, Delilah Peabody arched an eyebrow. “A conversation, huh? Can you promise me you won’t be conversin’ with bullets? I have other guests to think about, you know.”

“I’ll do my best to keep the shooting to a minimum,” Jack assured her, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth.

“Well, alright then. They’re in room three. Top of the stairs to the right.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” He walked to the staircase and eased his way up, taking care to tread lightly. Rusty followed close on his heels, alert to any danger that might arise. When they reached the landing, they could hear loud voices coming from the room in question. Jack held his fingers up to his lips and leaned closer to the door, eavesdropping on the conversation taking place inside.

“… don’t care what you think! You promised me we’d come back and live here and I’m holding you to that!”

“Melinda, darlin’, you were less than forthcoming in describing this town. What am I supposed to do here all day? There is no theatre or music house in this…this…settlement, or a decent drinking establishment. The only thing I’ve seen that arouses my interest is the whorehouse.”

“Whorehouse? Over my dead body! No husband of mine will visit a whorehouse. I’ll not have the people of this town talking behind my back!” A drawer slammed shut. “Besides, I thought you wanted to be a rancher.”

Eager to hear Sterling’s response, Rusty leaned forward next to Jack, his ear to the door.

“A rancher!” Sterling snorted. “What I want, my darling wife, is a spread so big it makes every living soul in this territory green with envy. I want horses and cattle and crops, and most importantly, I want dozens of men to do the work for me. Did you see the condition of that house? The barns? The land? It’ll take months, maybe years to build the Brewerton place up to my standards.”

White hot anger boiled up inside of Rusty. It was bad enough the man was willing to pay more for the one place Rusty wanted; now he was vilifying it. Glancing at Jack, he straightened, taking a step back from the door, his spur jiggling as it made contact with a tea table sitting against the wall. The conversation in the room came to an abrupt halt and Jack barely had time to move away from the door before it was flung open.

“Why Marshal Tanner, what a pleasure to see you.” Melinda Sue draped herself against the doorway, her low cut dress showing an ample amount of cleavage. “How’ve you been, Jack?” she cooed, placing her hand on his chest. “Married life agreeing with you?” Her seductive implication was not lost on anyone.

“Darling,” Sterling remarked exaggeratedly, walking over to stand by his wife, “aren’t you going to invite our guests in?” He offered Jack his hand as the men entered the room. “Garrett Sterling. A pleasure to meet you, sir. My wife speaks very highly of you.”

Jack hid a grimace. “I bet she does,” he replied sardonically. “I believe you’ve met Rusty Flanagan?”

“Ah, Mr. Flanagan, my good man. Nice to see you again. Though I should hold a grudge that you’re trying to acquire a certain piece of land I have my eye on, I do rather like a challenge.” The man walked over to a sideboard, upon which several bottles of liquor were displayed. “Either of you gentlemen care for a drink? Whiskey, perhaps? Brandy? No? Well, excuse me while I prepare myself a libation. It’s been quite an afternoon.” He poured an inch of amber liquid into a tumbler and drank it down, then refilled his glass. Settling himself on the settee, he looked expectantly at Jack, waiting for the lawman to speak.

“Mr. Sterling…,”

“Garrett, please. Mr. Sterling sounds so formal.”

“Mr. Sterling,” Jack repeated, resuming his line of questioning. “What brings you to Hidden Springs?”

“I thought that had been made clear.” Turning to Rusty, he asked, “Didn’t you tell him that I’ve put a bid in on the Brewerton place?”

“He did tell me that. And I’m asking you again – what are you doing in Hidden Springs?”

“You always were straight to the point, Jack,” Melinda Sue laughed.

Ignoring her, Jack leveled his gaze at her husband, folding his arms across his chest. The older man shifted in his seat, almost imperceptibly, but his movement didn’t escape the lawman’s notice. “I’m waiting.”

“Now see here!” Sterling huffed, jumping up from the settee, “there is no good reason for you to be here questioning our intentions. Is this how you welcome every newcomer to your town?” His attempt to sound injured over having his motives challenged fell flat, the sweat on his forehead and puffy red cheeks giving him away.

“That’s where you’re mistaken,” Jack clarified, in a level tone. “I’m not welcoming you to town. In fact, I’m inviting you to leave. Today, and never come back. Your wife is not welcome here and by extension, neither are you.”  

Get Dancing in the Dark here.


About the Author

It wasn’t until later in life that Kristine Raymond figured out what she wanted to be when she grew up, an epiphany that occurred in 2013 when she sat down and began writing her first book.  Sixteen books (in multiple genres) later, she’s added the title of podcasting host to her resume, thus assuring that she will never be idle.

When a spare moment does present itself, she fills it by navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business.  When not doing that, she spends time with her husband and furbabies (not necessarily in that order), reads, or binge-watches Netflix.

Find out more about Kristine on her website at and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and BookBub.

And for links to podcast episodes, guest posts, and other great stuff, check out Word Play with Kristine Raymond at

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park

by Andrea Downing 
the Moulton Barn

Map of Mormon Row drawn by Craig Moulton, courtesy of Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum

The first homesteaders came from Rockland, Idaho, and stopped in Victor before they crossed the Teton Pass. Nowadays, we have a road, steep and full of hair-pin bends, yet they crossed the pass in wagons.  They camped on Fish Creek in Wilson, where I now reside part-year, before they moved on to make their claim for 160 acres under the Homestead Act, paying their $21 claim fee.  Some would secure further acres under the Desert Land Act, which required them to irrigate the land. 
Thomas Alma & Lucille Moulton Homestead, ca.1910
They arrived in July, too late to plow or plant. Water and shelter were their first concerns. They dug irrigation ditches, and dug down 120ft. or so for wells. This was the time to dig to be sure water would be available in summer—when water would be at its lowest. Then they built log cabins with a dirt roof, the lodge pole pines coming from nearby forests. And they went to Flat Creek, where hay was available for anyone who wanted it, cut it by hand, and also planted an early maturing oat, ready in 90 days. They plowed through the sagebrush with either a hand plow or a sulky plow. The soil underneath was fertile, and the resultant burning sage made an evening’s entertainment.
John & Bartha Moulton Homestead, ca. 1910
They called the community Grovont.  Most of them were ranchers, but the cattle they raised were not for their own consumption. Their subsistence depended on elk meat, hung in winter and left to freeze until they wanted it, and hogs killed and cured in summer, then wrapped in newspapers to keep the flies away. Huckleberries were another staple along with garden vegetables they could grow in the short season:  rutabagas and carrots predominated. The cattle were sold to raise money for other necessities; the steers were driven to Victor, Idaho, put on the train for Omaha and sales.  Since the price of a steer could vary as much as between $29 and $600, income was not guaranteed.  Some families traded hay, eggs or chickens, oats or cream for butter down in the town of Jackson. The Moultons had a dairy and sold milk to the local dude ranches. In addition, there was trapping, and one could earn about $50 a month from coyotes.
Andrew & Ida Chambers Homestead, ca. 1920
So, was there any recreation in this subsistence-level existence? Of course!  The Church was a major center of activity, not only for services but especially for dances.  Everyone danced, and dances were twice a month at the church (but no drinking or smoking allowed).  Still, they lasted until 3 a.m., and there’s a story about the piano player having to tape his bleeding fingers.  Christmas and Halloween parties were well attended, political rallies, weddings and harvest celebrations, and concerts and school plays, too.  Irrigation ditches became ice skating rinks in winter, and the butte afforded skiing and sledding, while in summer there was swimming in nearby water holes. 
In 1925, the Gros Ventre mud slide on Sheep Mountain damned the Gros Ventre River east of nearby Kelly, Wyoming, and caused a lake to be formed.  Two years later, the damn failed, flooding Kelly and killing six people, yet uncovering a warm spring that never freezes.  The Mormons called it ‘The Miracle Spring’, and they dug ditches to bring the water that would never freeze to their homesteads year-round. So life went on, improved somewhat.  Better houses were ordered from the Sears Roebuck Catalogue and shipped by rail to Victor, then brought by stage over the Teton Pass and erected by community effort.  Other new houses were stucco with cement.  Out-buildings were built:  log barns, granaries, and pump houses.  School, originally in someone’s living room before moving to the Church basement, finally had its own building when someone donated land. Mail came in by team or sleigh from Jackson or Moran.  Kerosene and gas light gave way to electricity in the 1950s. 
Thomas Perry Homestead, ca. 1910
So, what happened to this vibrant community? Admittedly, it was at subsistence level, but the homesteaders had made a conscious choice of the life they wanted, and this was it.  But in the 1950s, the government started a buy-out of the land that was unproductive.  The Snake River Company, with Rockefeller money behind it, bought up marginal lands, and then moved in on the homesteaders whose older generation took the money, with life leases permitting them to stay their lifetimes. John Moulton was the last to close at his death in 1990.  And so, this community became part of Grand Teton National Park.
Today, the Church, which served as such a center of community life, serves as the Calico Pizza, my local restaurant in Wilson, Wyoming.

An earlier version of this post appeared at in 2014. My sincere thanks to Emily Winters, Director of Archives at the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum, for her assistance in my research for this article.  All photos are author's own.