Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Diary of A Westward Bound Woman

Amelia Stewart Knight headed west along the Oregon Trail in 1853 with her husband, Dr. Joel
Knight, and their seven children. They began their journey from Monroe County, Iowa, on April 9 and reached their destination near Milwaukie, Oregon Territory, on September 17.

Amelia's day-by-day account of the arduous trek is included in Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey, written and compiled by Lillian Schlissel, published in 1982 by Schocken Books, Inc. I was lucky enough to find a much used copy at a library book sale some years ago. Today I will share some excerpts illustrating the trials and excitement of the Trail west.

One thing never mentioned in Amelia's diary (it was too private to write about in those days) is the fact that she was pregnant with another child when the family left home. Professor Schlissel asks us to keep that in mind as we read. The intrepid pioneer woman seemed mostly concerned about weather and road conditions, and her children: Lucy, Jefferson, Plutarch, Seneca, Almira, Chatfield and Francis. Chatfield was the youngest. Amelia's eighth child was born on the road to the "land of milk and honey."

Saturday., April 9, 1853 STARTED FROM HOME about 11 o'clock and traveled 8 miles and camped in an old house; night cold and frosty.

Monday, April 11th Morn. Cloudy. and sign of rain . . . At noon it rains so hard we turn out and camp in a school house . . . rains all the afternoon and all night, very unpleasant. Jefferson and Lucy have the mumps. Poor cattle bawled all night.

The cold, windy. wet weather continues. She mentions suffering headaches, having three horses run off over night, no feed to be bought for their stock, having to feed them flour and meal; mile after mile in the mud. Yet, amazingly, they made up to 25 miles in a day.

Tuesday, April 26th Cold and clear; found corn last night at 2 dollars a bushel. Paid 12 dollars for about half a feed for our stock. I can count twenty. wagons winding up the hill ahead of us.

Friday, April 29th Cool and pleasant; saw the first Indians today. Lucy and Almira afraid and run into the wagon to hide. Done some washing and sewing.

Monday, May 2nd Pleasant evening, have been cooking, and packing things away for an early start in the morning. Threw away several jars, some wooden buckets, and all our pickles. Too unhandy to carry. Indians came to our camp every day, begging money and something to eat. Children are getting used to them.

Tuesday, May 3rd . . . here Plutarch is taken sick.

Friday, May 5th Here we passed a train of wagons on their way back, the head man had been drowned a few days before, in a river called Elkhorn . . . With sadness and pity I passed those who perhaps a few days before had been well and happy as ourselves.

Elkhorn River, Nebraska; wikipedia public domain

Sunday, May 8th Waiting to cross (the Elkhorn River). there are three hundred or more wagons in sight and as far as the eye can reach, the bottom is covered, on each side of the river, with cattle and horses. She explains how the men built a ferry out of a wagon bed and how everything had to unloaded, the wagons taken apart, and ferried across the river. Some cattle and horses drowned, but the next morning she says everyone is lively and merry.

Wednesday, May 11th Evening It has been very dusty yesterday and today. (The men all have their false eyes on to keep the dust out.) By false eyes, she probably meant goggles. I found mention of them online, being used on the Trail.

Over the next few days, Amelia writes of terrible wind and a dreadful storm with hail and lightning that killed two oxen and scattered many animals.

Tuesday, May 31st Evening -- Traveled 25 miles today. When we started this morning there were two large droves of cattle and about 50 wagons ahead of us, and we either had to stay poking behind them in the dust or hurry up and drive past them. It was no fool of a job to be mixed up with several hundred head of cattle, and only one road to travel in, and the drovers threatening to drive their cattle over you if you attempted to pass them. They even took out their pistols. At this point, Amelia's husband intervened, leading their company off the trail and passing the drovers and cattle, thus avoiding bloodshed. Later, while stopping for dinner, they saw the cattle coming, jumped for their teams and moved on, refusing to give up their lead. The temperature inside Amelia's wagon was 98 at noon.

Saturday, June 11th . . . we crossed this afternoon over the roughest and most desolate piece of ground that was ever made (called by some Devil's Crater.) (Not a drop of water, nor a spear of grass to be seen, nothing but barren hills, bare and broken rock, sand and dust) . . .

She writes of washing dust out of her eyes so she can see to cook supper, of struggling to keep animals from drinking alkali water that will kill them.

Tuesday, June 15th . . . passed Independence Rock this afternoon and crossed Sweetwater River on a bridge. Paid 3 dollars a wagon and swam the stock across. The river is very high and swift.

Independence Rock, central Wyoming; photo ca. 1870; wikipedia public domain

Tuesday, June 21st  We have traveled . . . over mountains close to banks of snow. Had plenty of snow water to drink.

Monday, June 27th Cold, cloudy and very windy -- more like November than June. I am not well enough to get out of the wagon this morning. . . It's children milk the cows, all hands help yoke these cattle the d---l's in them. She yells at the boys to hurry, seems a bit cross. No wonder!

Monday, July 4th . . . Thermometer up to 110 . . . I never saw mosquitoes as bad as they are here. Chat has been sick all day with fever, partly caused by mosquito bites . . .

Thursday, July 14th It is dust from morning until night . . . nothing but a sandy desert covered with wild sage brush, dried up with heat; however, it makes good firewood. She's not feeling well through this section and fears an attack by Digger Indians, who reportedly kill people in this area.

Friday, July 22nd . . . smell of carrion so bad that we left as soon as possible. The dead cattle were lying in every direction. . . Chatfield the rascal, . . . fell under the wagon. Somehow he kept from under the wheels and escaped with only a good or should I say, a bad scare. I never was so much frightened in my life.

Friday, August 5th . . . (Snake River Ferry) . . . Our turn to cross will come sometime tomorrow. There is one small ferry boat running here, owned by the Hudson's Bay Company. Have to pay 3 dollars a wagon. She gives an account of how Indians help swim the stock across the river for a small fee, taking the bridle of one horse and swimming across with it; other horses and cattle usually follow.

Three days later they nearly lost little Lucy. She got left behind due to a communications mix-up. Fortunately, she was picked up by another train behind them and delivered safely to her parents.

Friday, August 12th . . . Lost some of our oxen. We were traveling along slowly when he dropped dead in the yoke. We unyoked and turned out the odd ox, and drove around the dead one, and so it is all along the road, we are continually driving around the dead cattle . . . (I could hardly help shedding tears, when we drove round this poor ox who had helped us along thus far, and has given us his very last step.)  Heart wrenching! I nearly cried, too, reading this.

At this point they are near the mountains. They received more help from friendly Indians, bought salmon and potatoes from some. Temps were quite cold.

Friday, September 2nd . . . are now crossing Fall (or Deschutes it is called here) River on a ferry boat pay 3 dollars and swim the stock. This river is very swift and full of rapids . . .

Tuesday, September 6th  Evening -- After throwing away a good many things and burning up most of the deck boards of our wagons so as to lighten them, got my washing and cooking done and started on again. . . have camped near the gate or foot of the Cascade Mountans (here I was sick all night caused by my washing and working too hard.)

Amelia is close to giving birth, and mentions being sick several times. She writes of the extremely rough road over steep, rocky hills, with mud holes, fallen trees and such, yet she admires the dense forest calling it "the handsomest timber in the world."

The terrain she describes through the mountains is nothing short of brutal: corduroy roads, swamps, rocks, descents down steep, winding, slippery hills and canyons. Terrifying to say the least!

Friday, September 17th In camp yet. Still raining. Noon -- it has cleared off and we are all ready for a start again, for some place we don't know where . . .

A few days later my eighth child was born. After this we picked up and ferried across the Columbia River, utilizing skiff, canoes and flatboat to get across, taking three days to complete. Here husband traded two yoke of oxen for a half section of land with one-half acre planted to potatoes and a small cabin and lean-to with no windows. This is the journey's end.

You can find Amelia Stewart Knight's diary on Amazon:

The Way West: Journal of a Pioneer Woman, Hardcover – October 1, 1993

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and romantic suspense novels, all spiced with paranormal elements. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and a gaggle of very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.

Amazon Author Page:
Newsletter:  Lyn’s Romance Gazette
Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Western Mystery: Who Shot Johnny Ringo? by Sarah J. McNeal

A Western Mystery: Who Shot Johnny Ringo?
                 Johnny Ringo

 In my all time favorite western, Tombstone, Johnny Ringo was portrayed as a well educated member of the criminal gang known as The Cowboys. He mentally sparred with Doc Holiday and was apparently the fastest gun in the gang. I remember the part where Wyatt asked Doc why Johnny Ringo did the terrible things that he did and Doc replied that Johnny was angry for being born which implies that Johnny had some dark childhood. In the end, Doc beat Wyatt to the wooded area where Johnny waited to shoot it out and shot Johnny Ringo in the head with one fatal shot while Johnny had his gun in his hand, but didn’t get off a shot before he died.

But what’s the truth? What really happened at that shoot-out? And who was Johnny Ringo anyway? Well I dug around doing some research and found some very interesting facts about Johnny Ringo and the mystery of what happened that day when Johnny Ringo died.

Johnny Ringo was born John Peters, May 3, 1850 in Greensfork, Indiana. His family moved to Independence, Missouri in 1856 where Johnny met Frank and Jesse James who lived in Kearney, a town nearby.  His aunt, Augusta Peters married Coleman Younger, uncle of the famous Younger outlaw making him their cousin. I can see the early connection he had to outlaws by the time he was six, but the coincidences didn’t end there.

In 1858 the family moved to Gallatin, Missouri where they rented a house from John W. Sheets who would become the victim of the James-Younger gang when they robbed The Daviess County Savings and Loan Association in 1869.
               The Younger Brothers with their sister, Henrietta.

The Ringo family was traveling through Wyoming when Johnny’s father, Martin Ringo, stepped off the wagon with his shotgun and accidently shot himself in the head. Johnny, then age fourteen, and his family buried Martin on a hillside along the trail.

Ringo moved from San Jose, California to Mason County, Texas in the mid 1870’s and became acquainted with Scott Cooley, an ex-Texas Ranger who was the adopted son of a local rancher, Tim Williamson. 

But life didn’t remain quiet for Johnny Ringo. Two American rustlers were taken from the jail and hanged by a predominantly German crowd. On May 13, 1875, an all-out war started when Tim Williamson was arrested by a posse and murdered by a German farmer named Peter Bader. Cooley and his friends, including Ringo, began a terror campaign officially called the Mason County War, but by locals, referred to as the Hoodoo War. Cooley killed a German ex-deputy sheriff named John Whorley. Cooley didn’t just shoot Whorley; he scalped him and dumped his body in a well on August 10, 1875.

Cooley killed several more during the “war” adding to his reputation as a dangerous man and, amazingly, gained respect as a Texas Ranger. When Moses Baird, one of Cooley’s supporters was killed, Ringo and his friend, Bill Williams, went to James Cheyney’s house (the man who led the ambush of Baird). He was unarmed when he came out on the porch and invited them in. Ringo shot and killed him. Next, the two of them rode to Dave Doole’s house and called him out, but when he showed up on the porch with a shotgun, the two fled back into town.

Later, Cooley and Ringo mistook Charley Bader for his brother Peter and killed him. They were jailed in Burnet, Texas for the crime by Sheriff Strickland. They weren’t there long before their friends broke them out of jail.

After the Mason County War ended and many lives were lost, Ringo and his friend, George Gladden, were locked up again. One of his cell mates was the notorious, John Wesley Hardin. Gladden was sentenced to 99 years and Ringo was acquitted. Two years later, Johnny Ringo served as constable in Loyal County, Texas. There seems to be a blurry line between lawmen and outlaws in the old west. Not long after that, Johnny Ringo migrated to Arizona. He showed up in Cochise County, Arizona Territory with his friend John Graves from the “war”. He got drunk in a saloon in Safford, Arizona and shot an unarmed man named Louis Hancock for refusing a complimentary drink of whiskey because he preferred beer. Hancock survived the wound. I should add here that Ringo did not take part in the gunfight at the OK Corral as some may believe.

Ringo and Doc Holiday got into a confrontation on January 17, 1882 that was about to lead to a gunfight when they were both arrested by Tombstone’s new chief of police, James Flynn. The former chief had been Virgil Earp who had suffered a bad wound in an ambush just a few weeks prior. Ringo and Doc were and fined for carrying guns in town and Ringo was rearrested and jailed over the weekend for outstanding charges of robbery.
Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp (they look a lot like Val Kilmer and Kirt Russel playing their parts in Tombstone.)

Ringo had a reputation for his bad temper by the folks in Tombstone and he may have had a connection with the outlaw gang known as the Cowboys for some robberies and killings. A couple months later, the Earps suspected Ringo of murdering their brother, Morgan, on March 18, 1882. Later in court, Pete Spence’s wife testified that her husband, Frank Stilwell, “Indian Charlie” Cruz and a half-breed named Fries had killed Morgan. The Earps tracked down the men and killed Cruz.

After Wyatt and his posse found and killed Frank Stilwell, the Cochise County sheriff, Johnny Behan deputized Ringo and 19 other men, mostly members of the Cowboys gang and friends of Frank Stilwell to tract down the federal posse, but they never found Wyatt and his men.

Wyatt Earp killed Ringo’s friend, Curly Bill, in a gunfight in Iron Springs, about 20 miles from Tombstone 2 days after he killed Cruz. Wyatt later told his biographer that Cruz confessed to being an outlook for Morgan’s murder and that Cruz said Johnny Ringo, Frank Stilwell, Hank Swilling, and Curly Bill were Morgan's killers.

                                William Brocius "Curly Bill"

On July 14, 1882 Ringo was found dead leaning against a tree with a bullet hole in his head that exited out the back. His gun hung from one finger. Now the mystery/controversy begins. Some said that Ringo’s gun had one shot out of the chamber and his feet were wrapped in pieces of his undershirt. They found his horse two weeks later with Ringo’s boots tied to the saddle. The coroner declared the official cause of death was suicide. Some reports revealed that no bullet had been fired from Ringo’s gun leading to the suspicion of murder either by Wyatt Earp or Doc Holiday. Of course, there was that memorable scene in the movie Tombstone where Doc Holiday challenged Johnny Ringo to a fight and shot him before Johnny could fire his drawn gun.

Ringo was buried at the site of his death In West Turkey Creek Canyon which lies on private property now. Visitors must request to view the burial site from the owners before they can be admitted to the area.

The controversy over Ringo’s death continues to this day.

It must be said that Louis L’Amour didn’t think much of Johnny Ringo as a tough outlaw. He perceived him to be a loudmouth, mean drunk who wasn’t even fast with a gun and that his only claim to fame was killing the unarmed Louis Hancock over a drink of whiskey. Some authors believe Ringo’s claim to fame only came because of his opposition to the popular good Earp brothers.

One thing’s for sure; there is nothing boring about the old west. No wonder we just can’t get enough western stories. So, what do you think? Did Ringo commit suicide? Did Wyatt kill him? Did Doc Holliday kill him? Do you think he was murdered or did he lose in a gunfight with either Wyatt or Doc?

This is a repost of my article on Sweethearts of the West from June 2013. 

Beautiful June Wingate’s perfect marriage is in shambles—and she hasn’t even left the wedding reception! When she overhears two gossips discussing the real reason Kit Wilding married her, June believes there must be some truth to it—after all, things have happened just the way they said.  Is her marriage only make believe? Trust is hard for June to accept, and now, her faith in her husband has been broken—along with her fragile heart.

Kit Wilding has loved June since the moment he laid eyes on her—a vision in pink that he couldn’t get out of his mind. Now that he’s married her, he can’t understand the changes that have suddenly turned her secretive and distant. How can he make things right between them when he doesn’t know what he’s up against?

But the tables are turned when June’s father, a pillar of the community, is accused of a crime that brings shame on the Wingate family—along with prison time. Kit Wilding’s not the kind of man to give up easily, but with his budding political career at stake, will he be able to hold his marriage together? Or will he be forced to admit IT’S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE


     A loud slap echoed through the house. June’s hand stung as she placed it back in the pocket of her dressing gown, part of her vast trousseau paid for by her parents.

     Kit stepped back and rubbed his reddened cheek with his left hand while Snort, Kit’s dog, barked. June couldn’t help but notice the flash of his golden wedding band in the light of the dressing room. Her heart clenched at the sight of it. They’d been married only a few hours, and now this…

     “Hush that barking, Snort.” The dog quieted, but kept a sharp eye on June, just in case. Kit glanced from the dog to June. “What the hell was that for, June? Did I do something wrong by trying to kiss my wife?”

     “You bet you did. I thought you loved me, and now…” 

Amazon: Paperback  Kindle

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author who writes diverse stories filled with heart. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press and Sundown Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Day a Generation Died—The New London School Explosion by Mike Cox

We go through life and are often unaware of historical events or tragedies in our own back yards. While researching the oil fields of Texas in the twenties and thirties for my time travel, A Way Back, I ran across the mention of the New London School Explosion.

Later at a book signing somewhere in Texas, I purchased a book titled TEXAS DISASTERS TRUE STORIES OF TRAGEDY AND SURVIVAL by Mike Cox. His chapter on the New London School Explosion detailed the horror in detail. Most of the information here is paraphrased from his words or quoted. Thank you Mike. I love your book.

The tragedy occurred on Thursday, March 18, 1937, in New London, a community about 120 miles east of Dallas in the booming East Texas oil fields. Their new school was three years old.
Google Images
The final bell rang each day at 3:30. The elementary students had been dismissed earlier. A PTA meeting began at 3:00 in the cafeteria. At 3:15, a muffled explosion heard 12 miles away, lifted the front portion of the 30,000 square foot school into the air. "In the words of one witness, the building began collapsing from north too south like 'a row of dominoes falling.'"
Google Images
The band director, unharmed, loaded as many injured children as he could into his car and sped to Overton. He stopped at the Western Union Office. "The London school is blown to bits...hundreds killed and injured! Get help." Via Morse code and telephone, the nation's news services issued a "flash" on their wires, a term for only the most monumental events. Texas Governor Allred ordered all available highway patrolmen and Texas Rangers to New London. President Franklin Roosevelt asked the Red Cross and all federal agencies to stand by to offer assistance.

Even Adolph Hitler was touched by the tragedy and sent a telegram with his condolences.

By 6 P.M more than 2,000 men, many of them rough necks from nearby oil fields and fathers themselves were on the site removing debris and rescuing trapped individuals and removing bodies.

Martial Law was declared by Governor Allred at 8:30. The National Guard with fixed bayonets enforced a perimeter around the the school. Boy Scouts with unloaded rifles worked with them.

Walter Cronkite, a young press reporter from Dallas recalled, "It was dark and raining by the time I arrived. I'll ever forget the scene as I drove into the little town. I can still see those flood lights they had set up and the big oil field cranes that had been brought in to help with the removal of the rubble."
Google Images
"Hysterical mothers fought over young bodies crushed beyond recognition, each claiming a dead child as her own."

In the last classroom, only body parts were found of the twenty-seven students. In total the bodies of 280 children and 14 adults had been found. "As the blood-covered volunteers filed away from what had been the school building, National Guardsmen stepped back and snapped crisp salutes."

A thorough investigation was conducted. It was discovered gas had been leaking from pipes under the building. At that time, gas had no odor so the leak went undetected in the 64,000 cubic-foot poorly ventilated crawl space. An electric spark from a sander in the basement industrial art triggered a flash fire that spread through the crawl space at 1,000 feet per second. "In a instant the pressure built up to at least ninety pounds per square inch, far more than any structure could endure."

After the tragedy, several laws were instigated, the most important was the requirement that natural gas intended for domestic or industrial use be odorized. Sillers and Clarke developed a device called a metering gas odorizer. It injected a precise amount of a pungent chemical into natural gas flowing though it into transmission lines. They filed for a patent on June 18 1939. (Peerless Manufacturing)

Here is a little about my time travel set in the oil fields of Kilgore. I can see the rough necks from the area on the scene doing their part to relieve the agony of parents, families, and people of the community of New London. 
Amber Mathis, a Wall Street investment banker, returns to her office after burying her grandmother. Distraught, tired of the rat race, she's determined to make a career change. In the elevator she falls and rises to find herself in a vintage lift.  The date is February 25, 1930, and a man stands on the window ledge in her office ready to jump.

Wellman Hathaway, owner and CEO of Hathaway Bank in New York struggles to pay his depositors half their losses. A woman claiming to be from the future appears in his office and involves him in a scheme that forces them into marriage. With Amber's knowledge of the financial history of the 1930s, they travel to the oil fields of Texas to recoup Wellman's funds.

Two people from different centuries are thrown together to survive a difficult time. Will they find more than A Way Back to prosperity?

Thank you for stopping by today and reading. I know this is a sad topic, but that so needs to be remembered.

Linda LaRoque

Friday, January 12, 2018

collages as inspiration

by Rain Trueax

Every now and again, writers are asked from where came their ideas. The answer is usually a mix of places-- where we've been, something we read, the Muse/muse, our own lives-- maybe even past lives. Sometimes though, they come from something we don't really connect at the time and only later in looking back realize-- you've got to be kidding.

Making soul collages held that moment for me. In 2001, I read about doing these collages. The idea is you take old magazines, cut up images, and with the ones that resonate with what you want in your life, you put them together and then paste them to a board. 

So, I sat on the floor with stacks of my art and western magazines, which I had decided had been saved long enough, cut out photos, paintings, advertisements, put them out on a board, arranging and rearranging and then gluing them in place. The collage below is that first attempt, which I had framed behind glass and put on my wall behind my desk in Oregon.

That year ended and I considered-- uh what's this about? Nothing seems to have changed-- not that I was sure in what way they could have. In Tucson, I created another one for 2002. I found images that I hadn't considered so important in the first one. I also had that one framed and hung it behind my Tucson desk.

Another year passed. In 2003, I created another, adding words to go with the images. It was as satisfying as the first two. They were all full of ideas I loved. It was fun figuring out how to put them together. By this time, I wasn't sure they were getting me where I wanted to go. Their creation was not exactly fitting with the clay sculptures I was also doing (wet and muddy hands don't handle images well). I did no more but did study them on the walls now and again-- often wondering why I'd chosen this or that image.

During those collage creating years, besides the sculpture and painting, I was continuing to write, as I always had, historical, contemporary, and paranormal romances. I was not trying, however, to get the books published. It was not until 2011 that I read about indie publishing and decided to take the risk (and putting out creative work always is a risk). With books I'd written as far back as the 70s, I spent 2011 editing and editing again. In December, I sent off the first.

It wasn't until 2017 that I looked at my collages with a new understanding. Those images represented my books-- even the ones I had yet to have written when they were created. They were visualizations of the books I had been creating and hoped to create.

As has happened a lot in my life, what I had actually been doing was feeding the energy I needed for the work. I just hadn't seen how it was coming together. For someone who likes to always be in control, that might have seemed a problem. For me, I loved the insight, as serendipity has long played an important role in how I see my life.

I recommend doing soul collages to encourage creativity-- especially if you want something in your life you don't have. What I had wanted, but had not known, was more writing and actually getting those books out where they could be seen. The energy of those collages is all so western and so much what I have wanted for my romances whether contemporary or historical. The collages tell the stories before they were told.

To do soul collages, buy a foam board of the size you want, corral your old magazines and begin going through them for images that speak to your heart. The result might not end up as you expected but it can be a creativity boost both in the doing and the outcome.

a few of my links:


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

In what years…? By E. AYERS

The hardest thing for me to keep track of is exact dates. It least I can remember July 4, 1776, beyond that I'd better have a list someplace. So I thought I'd share one of my lists with all of you. Besides if I'm not writing, I'm probably reading. And I'll be honest; I can get so confused so quickly if I can't remember certain dates. I was one of those kids who couldn't remember most of this stuff anyway. Give me something about the way they lived and I could snap that into my brain's storage files faster than Jack Sprat could jump that candle stick. Give me a date and I couldn't remember it long enough to write it down! I haven't improved one iota over the years. In fact, I've managed to get the birth dates of the grandchildren mixed up. (Oh was I in trouble when I did that!)
Keeping lists is important to me otherwise I can screw up even a poem that is supposed to help us remember. In 1642 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. That's totally wrong. I have to look it up each time! It's 1492. I remembered the one, four, and two! Do I get credit for anything? (And why are we celebrating Columbus? Never mind, that's a whole different time in history and a whole different story.) So I keep timelines on my computer and Wikipedia has a very comprehensive one. I figured I'd share with you the one that I use frequently now that I'm writing about American history. The dates are when the states were admitted or ratified. That's why the gap between the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the formation of the first 13 states. I like this list because it tells which piece of land became which state.

December 7, 1787
Crown Colony of Delaware
December 12, 1787
Crown Colony of Pennsylvania
 New Jersey
December 18, 1787
Crown Colony of New Jersey
January 2, 1788
Crown Colony of Georgia
January 9, 1788
Crown Colony of Connecticut
February 6, 1788
Crown Colony of Massachusetts Bay
April 28, 1788
Crown Colony of Maryland
 South Carolina
May 23, 1788
Crown Colony of South Carolina
 New Hampshire
June 21, 1788
Crown Colony of New Hampshire
June 25, 1788
Crown Colony of Virginia
 New York
July 26, 1788
Crown Colony of New York
 North Carolina
November 21, 1789
Crown Colony of North Carolina
 Rhode Island
May 29, 1790
Crown Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
March 4, 1791
Vermont Republic (AKA New Hampshire Grants)
June 1, 1792
Virginia (District of Kentucky: Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties)
June 1, 1796
Southwest Territory
March 1, 1803
Northwest Territory
April 30, 1812
Territory of Orleans
December 11, 1816
Indiana Territory
December 10, 1817
Mississippi Territory
December 3, 1818
Illinois Territory
December 14, 1819
Alabama Territory
March 15, 1820
Massachusetts (District of Maine)
August 10, 1821
Missouri Territory
June 15, 1836
Arkansas Territory
January 26, 1837
Michigan Territory
March 3, 1845
Florida Territory
December 29, 1845
Republic of Texas
December 28, 1846
Iowa Territory (part)
May 29, 1848
Wisconsin Territory (part)
September 9, 1850
unorganized territory (part)
May 11, 1858
Minnesota Territory (part)
February 14, 1859
Oregon Territory (part)
January 29, 1861
Kansas Territory (part)
 West Virginia
June 20, 1863
Virginia (Trans-Allegheny region counties
October 31, 1864
Nevada Territory
March 1, 1867
Nebraska Territory
August 1, 1876
Colorado Territory
 North Dakota
November 2, 1889
Dakota Territory
 South Dakota
November 2, 1889
Dakota Territory
November 8, 1889
Montana Territory
November 11, 1889
Washington Territory
July 3, 1890
Idaho Territory
July 10, 1890
Wyoming Territory
January 4, 1896
Utah Territory
November 16, 1907
Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory
 New Mexico
January 6, 1912
New Mexico Territory
February 14, 1912
Arizona Territory
January 3, 1959
Territory of Alaska
August 21, 1959
Territory of Hawaii

Here are a few other important dates:

Civil War
Begins at Fort Sumter, the seaport of Charleston, SC, Ap 12, 1861
Ends when Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House, VA. May 13, 1865

Transcontinental RR
Started in 1863 and completed May 10 1869

July 28,1914 - Nov 11, 1918

Great Depression
Stock Market crash
Oct 29,1929

Dust Bowl
1930 -1936

Sept 1, 1939-Sept 2,1945
Pearl Harbor
Dec 7,1941

Vietnam War
Nov1, 1955 - Ap 30, 1975

Hope these lists help you as you read and write about American history. They are far from complete because so many important things have happened. There no dates for the Wright brother's first flight or the first automobiles. I could have written fifty pages worth of important and interesting dates such as the death of Wild Bill Hickok, Lincoln's assassination, our presidents, the first telephones, or a gazillion other things. Instead I tried to just give a few of the bigger things along the way.