Friday, March 27, 2020

Kansas Forts Along the Smoky Hill Trail-FORT RILEY by Zina Abbott

For my next four books, my writing has taken me to frontier Kansas. In particular, I have researched the primary trails and frontier forts along those trails. For the next several months, I will be sharing with you regarding the Kansas Forts along the Smoky Hill Trail.

Today I am starting from the eastern part of Kansas with Fort Riley. Even though by the time the American Civil War ended, this part of Kansas was no longer on the frontier, it was a primary supply center for the forts in western Kansas. Situated along the Smoky Hill Trail in eastern Kansas, goods traveled by military mule teams, or, more commonly, by contract freight trains comprised by oxen-pulled wagons to their destinations in the west.

In the early 1850s the army needed a site west of Fort Leavenworth to cope with the inevitable clashes between emigrant tribes, long-established tribes, and Americans who were arriving in greater numbers. Military officials decided that necessary repairs to Fort Leavenworth, along the Missouri River in Kansas, would be a waste because it was too far to the east to enforce boundaries and policies. A more strategically sensible position was desired. 

In 1852, a troop of the First Dragoons escorted Major E.A. Ogden went on a reconnaissance mission to find a site for a new post. Major Odgen found the most promising terrain near the juncture of the Smoky Hill and Republican rivers, a long-established crossroads of Indian activity. It was first known as Camp Center, because of its proximity to the geographical center of the United States.

Plan for Fort Riley
Fort Riley is located on the north bank of the Kansas River three miles from Junction City at the junction of the Republican and Smoky Hill Rivers. It was located between the Oregon and Santa Fe trails to provide protection for travelers on overland routes. It was established 17 May 1853 in Kansas Territory by Captain Charles S. Lovell, 6th U.S. Infantry, on a site recommended by Colonel Thomas T. Flauntleroy, 1st U. S. Dragoons.

On 27 June 1853, it was designated Fort Riley, in honor of Colonel Bennett Riley, 1st U.S. Infantry, who led the first military escort along the Santa Fe Trail and who died on 9 June 1853. Construction of the permanent cavalry post was commenced in 1855 under the direction of Captain Edmund A. Ogden, 8th U. S. Infantry.

Soldiers erected a few temporary buildings in 1853, but Major Ogden oversaw the principal construction of the permanent buildings of the fort beginning in 1855. In July of that year, a cholera epidemic broke in the fort. Although short-lived, by the time it ended, an estimated 75 to 125 persons in the region died, including Major Ogden.

Fort Riley and the Plains Indians
Even before the Civil War, soldiers from Fort Riley fought in major campaigns against Indians as they executed and enforced the laws and policies of the United States government. Fort Riley was the stage for the Second Dragoon Sioux Campaign of 1855, the Cheyenne Expedition of 1857, the 1860 Comanche and Kiowa Expedition, and the Curtis Expedition of 1864.

With the opening of Kansas Territory in 1854, Fort Riley’s first mission was to protect those Americans settling in the new region. Eventually, it's main function became organizing and drilling troops and source of supplies. As more forts were established in the west part of the state, it soon became a supply depot headquarters for the western Army forts.

As a cavalry post, the horse trade was especially important. The army had strict regulations about the quality of horses to be purchased and who might serve as suppliers. Most of the cavalry horses at Fort Riley came from Fort Leavenworth and St. Louis. These “American” horses were capable of carrying a 450-pound load.
Fort Riley 1866
Fort Riley also served as the headquarters of the District of the Upper Arkansas, responsible for the army’s operations and posts in western Kansas and eastern Colorado under the command of Major General Samuel R. Curtis at Fort Leavenworth who headed the Department of Kansas, which included the Territory of Colorado, Indian Territory, and the state of Kansas.

Soldiers from Fort Riley assisted in treaty arrangements with many Indian nations. Some agreements were concluded with relative ease, often facilitated by chicanery as in the cases of the Kaws and immigrant Potawatomis, Shawnees, and Delawares. Many Indians in Kansas became US citizens through the treaty process, but others were more resistant to change. These included Cheyennes, Arapahos, Comanches, and Kiowas. It was because of the resistance from these tribes that Fort Riley and many of the forts to the west that it supplied fought military campaigns over the 1860s into the early part of the 1870s to conclude what they considered meaningful treaties with these tribes. Even after peace treaties were in place, the problems did not end.

Fort Riley involved itself with policing actions. Notable among them was their failed efforts to control squatters from taking over Kaw reservation land in Council Grove. Other policing actions included incarcerating Indian prisoners, which proved to be unsuccessful since the facilities were open and its boundaries easily breached.

After the Civil War, troops from Fort Riley were needed to protect workers constructing the Kansas Pacific Railroad from the Indian attacks.

In 1887, Fort Riley became the site of the United States Cavalry School. The famous all-black 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, the soldiers of which were called "Buffalo Soldiers", were stationed at Fort Riley at various times in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

There were nine major frontier forts established in Kansas, as well as several smaller, temporary camps. Of those forts, Fort Riley is one of the two nineteenth century forts still active today.

Starting in the twentieth century, during World War I, the fort was home to 50,000 soldiers, and it is sometimes identified as ground zero for the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which its soldiers were said to have spread all over the world. Since the end of World War II, various infantry divisions have been assigned there. Most notably, from 1955-1996 the post was home to the famed Big Red One. Between 1999-2006, the post was headquarters to the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) and known as "America's Warfighting Center". In August 2006, the Big Red One relocated its headquarters to Fort Riley from Leighton Barracks, Germany.

Notable people from the nineteenth century at Fort Riley:

Major E.A. Ogden who died in the cholera epidemic to hit Fort Riley in 1855.

In 1864 Major Benjamin S. Henning commanded the U.S. Army’s District of the Upper Arkansas from Fort Riley.

7th Cavalry at Fort Riley
George A. Custer was stationed at the fort in 1866. That same year he formed the 7th Cavalry. 

Wild Bill Hickok was a scout for Fort Riley starting in 1867.

Today is release day for my novel, Hannah’s Handkerchief, Book 24 in the Lockets & Lace series (also Book 4 in the Atwell Kin series). The opening chapters take place at Fort Riley. As will my other Atwell Kin books, an underlying theme involves the situation with the Kaw (Kansa) tribe who made early treaties with the United States which were not enforced to these people’s detriment.

To read the book description and find the purchase link, please CLICK HERE.

Sherow, James E.;  Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains
Wikipedia: Fort Riley

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Calling Dr. Mom

So much is going on right now.  Many of us are at home attempting to do our regular 'mom' duties as well as, our paying jobs.  Added to that, we have become the first line of education and defense in health of our families. In a way, we've come full circle to our pioneer mothers.

In the rural life of the 19th  Century, women often had to use the knowledge of their mothers and their mother's mother to find the tried and tested ideas to keep their family healthy. Having a 'practicing' doctor in your town or village meant that you lived in an up and coming town. Mothers often passed down their 'nursing knowledge' in pieces of paper wedged in cookbooks or the family bible. Here are some of the prescriptions they might have used.

Sore  Throat - some recommended Dog Fennel boiled with lard or to gargle with salt water (I bet you've used that one at least once in your life time. Not the dog fennel but the salt water.)

Fever - Elderberry tea.

Upset stomach - dried peppermint ( I mean who doesn't know a granny who keeps an extra handful of peppermints in the bottom of her purse from every restaurant she's been in. )

Cough - boiled water flavored with cherry bark. ( think about that every time you go by cough syrup. Lots of them have a cherry flavor. )

Whooping cough - a feather dipped in turpentine and whisked around the back of the throat. ( honestly, I can remember my mother talking about having that done.  UCK )

Our family Bible has one scrawled in pencil. It's barely legible now after so many years. The Bible has been handed down in the family since 1820. It was for diphtheria. One had to find a recently hanged individual. Pry open the coffin and using the victim's left hand, hit the head of the infected person three times. ( Honest, its in there. I'm sure many died trying that one. )

Other  remedies were:

Stiff neck - use a pair of underdrawers that had been wore for at least two days and tied around the neck. (Yep that would work for social distancing )

Hernia - pass the child through a sapling that was split in the middle without touching hands of the person on the other side.

Another sore throat remedy was skunk oil - I stopped there. I didn't really want to know how it was made.

My grandfather in the early 1900's once paid twenty dollars for this one. He had terrible arthritis. He paid a man for a jar of tea. The tea, he later found out, was made from sheep dung dried in an oven and turned into tea. ( Our family still chuckles about that one  )

Have chest congestion - mustard plaster. It was judged successful by the number of blisters.

ear ache - a drop of laudanum which was a staple in every household for illness.

Toothache - pack it with salt to draw out the poison.

These were sure guaranteed to bring out the old saying; If you live through the cure, you might be saved.

Bottom line, we will get through this imposed social distancing. We can do it through humor both satirical and silly. We are a strong breed, we humans. And when we do, I hope we will take time to thank the defenders, those doctors, those nurses, those medical personal who have put their life on the line so we can keep carrying on. Hang in there, ladies. We are made of stern stuff.

Till next time,


Friday, March 20, 2020

Revisting the old ways ~ by Kristine Raymond

As of this writing, the world is in a state of uncertainty.  Fear of contracting Covid-19, scarcity of food and necessities, distancing ourselves from family and friends - our lives are in turmoil.  But we'll get through this, just as generations before us did.

I'm not going to list the plagues and illnesses that have affected the population since the dawn of time or even those that have been concentrated in the United States.  That's what Wikipedia's for.  What I'd like to point out is that we survived.  The human race, I mean.  Yes, there were casualties, sometimes in the millions, and while that's scary and incredibly sad, life continued on.

I'll admit; I'm all for modern-day conveniences.  I love WiFi, air conditioning, home delivery, connecting with people around the world simply by turning on my computer.  But the downside of this 'at our fingertips' culture - where we can have anything from takeout to a new car delivered to our doorstep - is that we've lost the ability to provide for ourselves.

There was a time in this country, not so long ago, in fact, that almost everyone tended a garden, owned a flock of chickens, and maybe a milk goat or cow.  They sewed their own clothes (I'd be in trouble with that one), baked their own bread (from grain they grew, no less), and fished or hunted for meat.  They doctored themselves through injury and illness - yes, even plague - and not only survived, but flourished.

I understand that culture is no longer practical for so many reasons, yet in some small part could it be?  What if we took a moment and looked backward instead of forward?  Rediscovered those skills that came second nature to our great-grandparents?

What if we planted a fruit tree or bush or tended a few vegetable plants in containers on our deck?  Raised a couple of chickens in our backyard or put in a beehive or two?  Learned how to can to take advantage when produce is abundant at the Farmer's Market, ensuring our shelves - and bellies - are full when times are lean?  Made our own soap or alternative cleaners?  What if we weaned off having to rely on others for everything and learned, once again, how to provide for ourselves, focusing less on convenience and more on self-sufficiency?

Now, I'm not advocating doing away with import/exports or eliminating jobs or using pages from the Sears-Roebuck catalog during bathroom breaks.  Hey, I love modern conveniences as much as the next person.  Besides, those catalogs are harder to find than TP these days.  Non-existent, in fact.  Nor am I endorsing fishing without a license or hunting out of season or any other illegal activities.  What I'm suggesting is blending the old with the new, incorporating the knowledge of our ancestors with the technology of today so that the next time there's a crisis (and there will be a 'next time'; history has shown us that), we're able to respond with gratitude in the knowledge that we're prepared rather than with fear of the unknown.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

What’s a Girl Like You Doing…?

By Andrea Downing

 If you say ‘female outlaw of the Old West,’ Pearl Hart is probably not the first name that comes to mind. Belle Starr?  Etta Place, maybe? Perhaps because Pearl was notorious for one thing—the last stagecoach robbery at a time when the railroad was slowly supplanting the old stage runs. If it was the last...
Hart was born Pearl Taylor in Canada and came from reasonably well-off parents.  She was well educated, including a time in a boarding school before she eloped with a no-good rascal by the name of Frank Hart.  The Harts’ time together produced two children, who were sent to live with her mother, by then in Ohio. It wasn’t long before the independently-minded Pearl purportedly took in Buffalo Bill’s show at the Chicago World Fair and heard the call of the West. She left the abusive Hart and eventually ended up in Arizona.
Life in Arizona brought a variety of occupations and a variety of outside interests—booze, cigars, and morphine. Working as both a cook and a soiled dove, Pearl was able to sustain her habits until the local mine closed and her business interests tanked. Pearl had been going through lovers like most of us go through a chocolate bar, and the one of the moment was a German named Joe Boot. She and Boot tried gold mining in Globe, AZ, but their claim proved worthless—just at the time a letter arrived saying her mother was seriously ill. What’s a girl to do?  Well, this one robbed the stage…
It was 1899 and the days of Indian raids and bandito hold-ups were thought to be over, so 
the stage driver was unprepared for the outlaws.  Pearl and Boot reportedly got away with $400, but the sheriff was soon on their trail. Captured, Hart apparently swore with Boot never to be separated, and in an article called, “An Arizona Episode” that appeared in The Cosmopolitan of October, 1899, she claims she attempted suicide at their parting.  In the Arizona Republic newspaper of June 5, 1899, Pearl admitted “…she had instigated the hold-up…” yet during her trial on June 15, she pleaded not guilty.  The jury, apparently to the judge’s disgust, let her go free—but not for long. She was re-arrested for the robbery of the driver’s pistol and sentenced to five years in Yuma Prison.
Luckily for Pearl, her incarceration led to what today would be called a ‘media circus’ with a never-ending line of reporters and photographers gravitating to the prison for stories and photos of Pearl.  Finally, in desperation, the territorial governor pardoned Pearl two years before her term was up. Or was that the reason?  Another theory is that she had either actually become pregnant, or was faking pregnancy, which would be an embarrassment to the Prison Governor. She was handed a ticket to Kansas City and told never to darken Arizona again.
Pearl's photo taken for Cosmopolitan
At this point, the life of Pearl Hart gets a bit foggy. She was reported to be in a play either written or organized by her sister about Pearl’s life, moved on to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show under an alias (and remember it was his show that spurred her to go west, so that must’ve been a heart-warming episode), and by 1904, running a cigar store as a cover for a gang of pickpockets.  Then there is the account of her doing a tour of the Pima County Jail where she had been held prior to her trial and making herself known to the guide.  If this is true, it may also be true that she married one Cal Bywater and lived out her days as a rancher’s wife in Globe, AZ.  It is thought Pearl passed on in December, 1955.

I can’t claim Always on My Mind is as exciting as Pearl’s life, but it’s available now and, I think, an equally good story.

1972 - Vietnam, the pill, upheaval, hippies.
Wyoming rancher Cooper Byrnes, deeply attached to the land and his way of life, surprises everyone when he falls for vagabond hippie Cassie Halliday. Fascinated and baffled, he cannot comprehend his attraction—or say the words she wants to hear.
Cassie finds Coop intriguingly different. As she keeps house for him and warms his bed at night, she admits to herself she loves him but she misinterprets Coop's inability to express his feelings.
Parted, each continues to think of the other, but how can either of them reach out to say, "You were 'always on my mind'?" 


As night colored the sky, Cassie pulled open her curtain and peered out as shades of pink and purple streaked across the treetops tinged by a blackness off to the east. Storm clouds. She could feel the sudden September chill, heard the propane heating click on, Coop enter the kitchen with the dogs whining downstairs. He stomped off his boots for the night. She supposed he was looking after himself, just the way he had lived before she ever came on the scene, cooking whatever he liked to eat, having his beers, occasionally watching TV, Elam and Wayne at his feet, before climbing up to bed. And she supposed he realized at some point she would have to come out and start living again, either here, or moving on if she couldn’t forgive him.

Love, to her, had always been difficult to define. She believed it to be something deep inside, something shared, a song in your head playing constantly in the background. Always there. It was your heart skipping and your stomach somersaulting when the person walked in the room, got close. And that was what she felt for Coop now, those were her very feelings every time he got near. Even though she believed those feelings were not returned, she knew the thought of leaving him was painful. He offered her a steadfastness, a certainty, a support she hadn’t experienced before, small kindnesses she enjoyed and wouldn’t want to do without. And maybe that was it: she didn’t like the thought of doing without him, of leaving.

Hearing sports come on the TV, she snuck out to wash for bed, still ignoring the chocolates where he’d left them. Later, she lay in bed and listened to his routine she knew so well now, the clunk of his belt buckle as his jeans hit the floor, the little hop of getting his leg in his pajama bottoms, and his stroll down to the bathroom to wash, and back again before the light clicked off. It wasn’t long before soft snores came through the wall and Cassie realized she missed all that, the way he curled around her in that big, old bed, their feet entwined, his head nuzzled into her shoulder sometimes, the grizzle of his day’s beard growth against her skin. She thought of sneaking into the bed but gave up the idea; he’d probably just throw an arm over her and fall back to sleep, say nothing except maybe ‘I knew you’d come ’round.’

It was a crash of thunder that woke her, followed by the sound of something like a lover throwing pebbles against the window, but this was no lover. Its power was so forceful, she thought the window might break. As she pulled back the curtain, blades of lightening mapped the sky, a deep indigo when lit, the forks like veins in the sky’s skin. She heard the rustle of Coop waking, the creak of him sitting up in bed. For a moment she sat watching, and then realized her garden would be decimated.

She grabbed an old shirt of his she used as a bathrobe, unlatched the door, crashed barefoot into the box of chocolates, sent them flying and scattered all over, as they fell from the hallway, through the banister, into the corridor below. She flew down the stairs. Cooper appeared as he pulled on his jeans and a shirt and followed behind her.

“Cassie, don’t, don’t, it’s too late and there’s lightning!”

She pulled open the kitchen door and ran into the garden, fumbled with the new gate to yank it open, tried to protect her head from the pounding hail, hail the size of her fist. Cooper had pulled on his boots and made a grab for her, but she wrenched away, unsure of what to do to save the remains of her crops.

“You’re not gonna save anything now, Cass,” he shouted above the maelstrom, “give it up, get back inside, I have to go see to the cattle!”

The dogs appeared on the path, out of the kitchen where they’d been sleeping, set up a yowling that added to the din. Sick of seeing all her hard work lay ruined, she turned and pushed past Coop who stood helpless. She grabbed a knife from the kitchen block and came back out, cut heads of cabbage, and whatever else she felt she could save. But it was no use: the hail continued to beat her, and she shivered with the cold, shaking. The shirt stuck to her lithe body until she collapsed in the mud.

“Cassie, you can’t do any more, you best get inside sweetheart, it was the end of the season anyway.” He bent over her, soaked through himself, his hair plastered to his head. “Cassie?” He knelt beside her, watched helplessly as the sobs came, wracked her body, swaying with its pain.

He gathered her up into his arms just as Hank’s pickup pulled into the yard and he and the older cowboy got out, slicker-covered, and looked on.

“We’ll saddle up,” the elder said, his voice drowned in the rumble of the storm. “You come on, Coop, when you can.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

HAPPY GREEN BEER DAY By Kathleen Lawless @kathleenlawless

Since I have a fair amount of Irish blood in my ancestry, St. Patrick’s Day has always been one more fun thing that happens in March.  Dad started a tradition years ago of giving me a card each year on St. Patrick’s Day, and now that he’s 91 I treasure each and every one of them, with only one duplicate so far. 

Because many of my books are set in the Wild West days, I was curious to know if Saint Patrick’s Day was a big deal in the time of my characters.  It was no surprise to learn that, given the number of Irish immigrants who settled in the US, St. Patrick’s Day has always been a time for revelry and parades.  Green beer on St. Patrick’s Day has been in existence over a hundred years, at least the quaff-able variety.  This popular beverage achieves its green tone by the addition of blue food coloring, which mixes with the natural yellow tinge of the beer. 

Back in the late 1800’s green beer was not a beverage to be celebrated, but referred to a beer that was not fully fermented and would make the consumer sick.  These days, the expression “green beer” is still used by distillers in reference to beer that is not yet ready to drink, but you won’t find that type in your glass.  If anyone gets sick drinking green beer today, it’s simply because they didn’t know when to stop.

Today, my heart is heavy, knowing St. Patrick’s Day parades are being cancelled all around the globe, along with many other large-scale events and gatherings, as the world struggles to contain the Covid 19 virus.  I pray for everyone’s good health.           

As an author working on a series, it’s sometimes difficult to reach the end.  I’m releasing BENJAMIN’S BRIDE this week, Book 7 of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but I already feel Book 8, a sequel, nagging at me.  

For now, I’ve settled for writing PERCY’S HOPE, a free novella for my VIP Newsletter Readers.  Percy is a much-loved secondary character in the series who is off stage for more than 3 books.  It should be fun for series readers to learn what Percy was up to during that time.  Sign up here to receive your free copy.  I promise not to bombard you with emails.  I promise not to bombard you with emails.

I love to hear from my readers.  You can find me here. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Biscuits on the Brain

One of my maternal grandfather's favorite treats at the height of summer was the simplest form of strawberry shortcake. A bit of sugar was added to the basic biscuit mix which were then dropped on a baking sheet and baked until brown before being filled with sweetened strawberries and fresh whipped cream.

In Western Historical Fiction it seems that some woman, somewhere is popping a pan of biscuits in the over every other minute or two.

Buttermilk Biscuits Today I have biscuits on the brain. For a long time now I've been searching for a better biscuit but the ideal of this flaky, fluffy pastry has so far alluded me.
Sometimes they 're drop biscuits, other times she's kept busy by rolling out the dough and cutting them into perfect rings.
There are tough biscuits, cold biscuits, cat's head biscuits, biscuits and gravy, biscuits and bacon and the list goes on and on.

Biscuits of all kinds were a quick, cheap alternative to making bread which was time-consuming and required a hearty amount of physical labor.
The American biscuit, which has roots in Scotland, Ireland, and areas of England, could be whipped up in a matter of minutes popped into the oven and ready to eat by the time the bacon and eggs were on the table.
Although biscuits were a staple throughout the U.S. they are now associated with the dishes of the American South. As a Florida transplant, it took me a while to learn to like the deep south favorite of biscuits and gravy but I've come to enjoy that hearty meal.
Strawberry Short Cake BiscuitsWhat are your experiences with biscuits? Do you have a secret family recipe? Are you still seeking the perfect biscuit? Lard, butter or shortening?
In my series The Cattleman's Daughters, the youngest daughter's pastry nemesis is a pie crust, so while I'm out searching for the perfect biscuit recipe why not check out her story.

Katie walked into the kitchen feeling glum. The men and four of her sisters were out on the range winding down the roundup and branding while she was stuck at home. She felt restless and irritable not being able to join them.
As she walked across the floor she was surprised to find Mae standing at the workbench next to Nona, tears sparkling in her eyes.
Hurrying to her sister’s side she gazed down at the worktable where two pies sat their bottom crusts full of dried apples, sugar, cinnamon and tiny dots of butter. Mae stood with her small hands tightly clenched into fists.
“I can’t do it, Nona.” The petite girl said, eyes brimming. “They’re terrible, just look at them.”
Katie watched as her grandmother wrapped an arm around the youngest James girl.
Mae “Just try.” She said kindly. “People don’t eat pies with their eyes, what matters is that they taste good.”
Mae sniffed but took a deep breath and lifted the rolled pie dough disk over one of the open pie tins, trimmed it and began to crimp. She was growing steadily frustrated when her grandmother placed her hands over Mae’s slim ones and guided her fingers around the edge. “Nona, you make it look so easy.” Mae moaned turning her dark brown eyes toward the matron.
“That’s because I have forty years of practice on you.” She stated kindly. “The more you practice something the easier it becomes.” (Meg 2016)
Or read Mae's story at

You can also find more about the descendants of the Cattleman's Daughters in my books for the Whispers in Wyoming series. This contemporary Christian Series features one of the great, great, great-grandchildren of the original daughters and she's turning the old ranch around. I've bundled four of the books and have it at a special price of only $5.99 for a limited time. 
Box Set collection of stories by Danni Roan features four books from the Whispers in Wyoming Contemporary Christian series. Books 1,3,8 & 11. From the beginning of the reimagined cattle ranch turned dude ranch God uses hope, heritage, and heart to help those seeking true love and truth. This romantic collection will inspire while dealing with real-life issues, pain, and need. Join the crew of the Broken J Dude ranch and discover how God can use some downhome wisdom to heal a hurting heart. Inspirational, spiritual, and full of love.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Wild Woman who was called Peculiar

By Jacqui Nelson

It's Friday the 13th. It’s a day that some might call “peculiar.” I think the Wild West was probably shaped by many “peculiar” and “headstrong” people,'s time to meet the minister’s daughter who was called both of those words.

Meet the woman who, at age fifteen, left home to attend church but instead took the train to St. Louis to make her own fortune…only to be “persuaded” to return home one week later and conform to the current image of a 1860s woman…until her “removal to” California 22 years later when she finally found a way to write freely under her own name.

Alice Moore McComas
( born 1850 in Paris, Illinois )  

Alice Moore was born into a prestigious family with traditional views of women. Her father was a Methodist minister and a representative in Congress. From the age of eight, her opinions on society and religion resulted in her being labeled "peculiar" and as she grew older "headstrong.”

In school, she traded compositions she'd written for worked-out mathematical problems. She averaged six to ten compositions weekly on different subjects while changing her style to escape detection. When her male relatives and friends enlisted with the Union during the American Civil War, she began studying politics and the woman's rights movement.

When Alice was fifteen, she left home to attend church but instead took the train for St. Louis to make her own fortune. She secured a job in a dry goods store for $8 a week, but after one week of successful self-reliance, she was “persuaded” to come home. She took solace in writing stories and poems (many of which were destroyed as soon as written) and attended to the social duties demanded of a daughter of a prominent family. In 1870, she married Judge Charles C. McComas and took up the duties of wife, mother, and housekeeper.

After the panic of 1876’s financial disaster, Alice’s husband lost their home and property. Believing he could swiftly retrieve his lost fortune in a new place, Charles went to Kansas. Alice resumed writing and earned a small income while concealing her identity under a pen name. In 1877, she and her two daughters joined Charles in Kansas.

In 1887, after Alice’s “removal to” Los Angeles, California, she began writing under her own name. I couldn’t discover what “removal to” meant, so we’ll just have to guess….while remembering this is a word used when women were “persuaded” and labeled “peculiar” and “headstrong” for having an opinion.

Alice served as associate editor of the Pacific Household Journal and wrote Under the Peppers (a book on child life in California) plus many short stories and articles on politics and economics.

In 1891 and 1893, she was vice-president of the National Woman Suffrage Association, the first vice-president of the Ladies' Annex to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the board of directors of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union. During her term as president of the California suffrage society, the first county suffrage convention was held in the state. Alice contributed to over 70 newspapers on the suffrage question.

Alice also secured the promise of a land donation for a public park in her neighborhood -- on condition that the city would improve it. She took the matter before the city council, urging them in a stirring speech to accept the gift. Only by diligent and persistent work (aka by being “peculiar” and “headstrong”) did she finally secure $10,000 to fund the land's improvement and complete the project.

~ * ~ 

This blog post is dedicated to all the “peculiar” and “headstrong” people out there—past, present, future. May all of your days be happy and safe ❤️❤️

~ * ~ 

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