Wednesday, January 30, 2013


By Ashley Kath-Bilsky
Come back in time with me now and turn your attention toward that high bluff overlooking the Trinity River in Fort Worth. Try not to squint as sunlight reflects off the glazing on pristine window glass like diamonds or how copper finials atop turrets of stone glisten like liquid gold. You might wonder, “Who lives there?” And to that I simply reply, “Welcome to Quality Hill.”

Quality Hill was the exclusive neighborhood in Fort Worth where, beginning in the late 1890s, beautiful Victorian mansions were built and owned by wealthy cattle barons, bankers, physicians, publishers, and businessmen. The mansions were situated along the top of a hill overlooking the Trinity River. The very first cattleman to build a home on Quality Hill was a certain Scotsman named R.D. (Robert Dickie) Hunter. Incidentally, Hunter also inspired a character in my Fort Worth based Western Time Travel, “WHISPER IN THE WIND” which will be released this spring. But I digress…

Hunter came to America in 1843. After first settling in Missouri, he took up mining during the Gold Rush of 1859. Hunter was nothing if not insightful, and it wasn’t long after the Civil War ended that he recognized big money could be made driving Texas cattle north to where railroads could transport them back east. He traveled through Fort Worth often on the Chisholm Trail and soon became a leader in the cattle industry. In fact, in 1884, at the first National Convention of Cattlemen in St. Louis, he was elected President of the National Cattle and Horse Growers Association. By 1888, however, Hunter could see the imminent end of cattle drives. He turned his attention back to mining and—with some assistance from the Texas and Pacific Railroad and other financial backers—acquired a coal mine. On 22 September 1888, he (and his backers) incorporated the Texas and Pacific Coal Company. The name was later changed to TP Coal, so as not to confuse them with the railroad. However, they still supplied fuel for the T&P Railroad. In little time at all, the company built a town for its mine employees called Thurber approximately 60 miles west of Fort Worth. At one time, up to 10,000 mine workers lived in Thurber.

Hunter also owned Green and Hunter Brick Company, a very successful brick company and little wonder since they used coal from Thurber to fire the brick kilns. The bricks were not only used to pave streets in Fort Worth and other Texas cities, but the great seawall in Galveston.

Needless to say, Hunter wanted to build a beautiful home befitting a prominent and respected citizen of Fort Worth. In 1897, he did so…at Summit and El Paso, on Quality Hill.

Among the cattlemen who first followed Hunter’s lead was George Reynolds. True, Reynolds made his fortune driving cattle north but he also founded the First National Banks in Albany, Texas and Oklahoma City. In what would often be referred to as “Cattle Barons Row” other millionaires followed: John B. (Bunyan) Slaughter, W.T. (William Thomas) Scott, and Byron C. Rhome, who built his home at 1024 Penn Street in 1902.

Even after first generation cattle barons began to die off, other wealthy cattlemen either built a new mansion or purchased one from cattle baron widows. For example, when W.T. Scott, Sr., died in 1901, a cattle baron named Christopher O’Keefe bought his home. And in 1904, the widow of Dan Waggoner purchased the home of Mrs. Hunter. Also in 1904, W.T. Waggoner (stepson to Mrs. Dan Waggoner), moved his daughter Electra and her new husband, A.B. Wharton, into Thistle Hill as a “wedding present”. W.T. Waggoner would later acquire John B. Slaughter’s mansion nearby.

Although most of these historic Victorian homes from “Quality Hill” are long gone, their beautiful architecture, craftsmanship and historical provenance sacrificed in the name of progress, there are a precious few that have survived thanks to the intervention of historical societies. And it is three, in particular, that I will talk about.

Thistle Hill
Thistle Hill was a $46,000 wedding gift from W. T. Waggoner to his daughter Electra and her husband, A.B. Wharton. Considering the average price for a home in Fort Worth at the time was $2,000 to $3,000, one can better appreciate how much like a palace Thistle Hill must have seemed to the locals.

Located at 1509 Pennsylvania Avenue, smack dab in what is now the very congested hospital district of Fort Worth, Thistle Hill originally had a Colonial façade. However, in 1911, Electra Waggoner Wharton sold the home to another cattle baron named Winfield Scott (no relation to W.T. Scott), and he changed the home’s façade to a Georgian Revival design. Sadly, Winfield Scott died before he could live in the house. However, his wife and son resided there for many years. The ladies parlor just left of the Entry Hall remains a testament to Mrs. Winfield Scott’s desire to replicate a Parisian-style salon.

As it is with most historic sites, the Victorian era homes of Fort Worth's elite have some interesting trivia to them. For instance, each stately column at Thistle Hill is a solid piece of stone that was quarried in Indiana and shipped by rail to Fort Worth.

One of the most impressive features of the home is its Entry Hall crafted of quartersawn white oak and its Grand Double Staircase. As if the hall and stairs aren't breathtaking enough, look to the pair of stained glass windows framing a Palladian arch and plaster cove that has been beautifully stenciled. And it is here at the window where the first secret of the house begins. The stained glass window on the right is a true window and opens to allow cross-ventilation in a home built with all the modern conveniences of its time. Unfortunately, that did not include air-conditioning.
The window on the left, however, does not open and actually conceals a ‘back-of-the-house’ staircase once used by servants. The oak staircase is 14 feet wide and its upstairs railing was specifically designed at a lower height so as not to obstruct one’s view of the windows. Of course, this type railing would not be possible today due to building safety codes.

Another interesting feature about the staircase is found at the base where the banister’s railing and newel posts wind into a circular design. On the left side of the staircase, (not visible in the photo) in the very center of this overlapping, winding design, the last newel post was installed in the center of the circle but upside down. The reason for this is attributed to a old carpentry superstition that by placing the very last piece of the staircase in such a manner, “no harm would come to anyone on the stairs”. There may be something to it since, according to what I've been told, there has never been a record of someone being harmed or killed on these stairs.

Thistle Hill’s building design also took into consideration special structural requirements of each room. This is especially evident in the Music Room, originally the Billiard Room. In order to provide necessary support for the weight of a slate billiard table, beneath the oak flooring were placed solid oak beams that run the length of the room. The Library features walls created to resemble leather, including brass studs. The walls have a canvas base upon which was applied aluminum leaf (extremely costly). The next application involves different paint and texturing. Moorish stenciling serves as crown moulding for the library and was painstakingly revealed beneath 7 layers of lead paint.

Beautiful craftsmanship abounds at Thistle Hill, especially regarding its use of various woods. A lovely guestroom is done entirely in Birdseye Maple with its delicate swirling design to the grain that somewhat resembles a beautiful burl without the knots one finds in burl wood. Even the furniture in this room is made from Birdseye Maple.

However, I think perhaps my favorite bit of trivia about Thistle Hill ties in with the fact that it was a wedding gift from a father to his daughter. In the glass above every interior transom and on exterior windows and doors can be found a design that most quilters will recognize. Pictured above is one such window featuring the “Double Wedding Ring” pattern. Romantic touch for a newly married couple's first home, eh?

The outbuildings on the property include a stable/carriage house, a teahouse, terrace, and the ruins of a water tower erected when the house was first built. Although water lines existed in 1899, it would take several more years before Fort Worth extended them as far as the Quality Hill area.

Ball-Eddleman-McFarland House
There is something almost magical about the Ball-Eddleman-MacFarland House. The home’s exterior design is beautiful and inviting – as well as its interior.

This Victorian residence was built in 1899 for the widow of George Ball, a Galveston Banker. Sarah C. Ball lived in this home until her death in 1904, at which time William H. Eddleman (a cattleman and resident of Weatherford) acquired the home. At that time, the purchase price was $25,000 (approximately $13,000 less than what it cost to build the house). He and his wife had one daughter, Carrie. And when the time came that Carrie fell in love with cattleman Frank H. McFarland and they wanted to marry, her father gave his blessing provided they not live far away. In 1921, Eddleman gave the house to Carrie. The couple resided happily with Carrie’s parents at the residence. After the death of her parents and later her husband in 1948, Carrie continued to live at the house until her death in 1978 – a total of 75 years.

The Queen Anne exterior of the house features carved sandstone, brick, marble and extensive copper. Consider for a moment how the copper finials,roof ridgeline, as well as the copper-spired slate roof above the porch must have gleamed like molten gold when first installed. Even though the copper now has the seasoned green cast to it, the beautiful detail and quality craftsmanship remains.

The Ball-Eddleman-McFarland House also features intriguing aspects in its interior design. Exquisite woodwork including coffered ceilings and parquet floors throughout, as well as a formal parlor made with White Honduras Mahogany. In the alcove right of the entry hall, the fireplace surround features an egg and dart design carved in sandstone, symbolic of life (egg) and death (dart). Above the fireplace is painted glass which resembles stained glass.

The home retains a strong Victorian feel despite the fact that all the gas lighting has been modified for electricity. Ornate brass heat registers are still framed by the orignal parquet flooring.

An unusual looking special brass foot regulator can be seen just above the baseboard in the hall. By moving a lever slightly with your foot, one could increase or lower heat via chains connected to the coal burning furnace in the basement. A pulley system once used to lower a chandelier for lighting (or cleaning) can still be seen although you have to look for it is discreetly hidden above the framing of a window.

The call box to summon household servants looks suspended in time, and you almost expect to hear the bell and see the little brass arrows point to the room that rang.

The formal dining room is elegant yet warm with its two built-in beautifully carved china cabinets, door pediments, and crown moulding that must capture and reflect light in its highly polished sheen. The Chinese patterned silk wallpaper was personally selected by Carrie Eddleman McFarland.

The six wall sconces were refitted long ago from gas to electricity, and although this chandelier is not the original Waterford one that Carrie owned, it isn't too difficult to imagine the room filled with warm light -- whether it was candlelight, gaslight, or electrical lighting.

The room seems to be almost breathlessly waiting for the return of its mistress. Personally speaking, the Ball-Eddleman-McFarland Historic House may have been the residence of cattle barons, but it resonates with the timeless memories of a happy, well-loved home.

Today, the Ball-Eddelman-McFarland House provides headquarters for Historic Fort Worth, which maintains both Thistle Hill and Ball-Eddleman-McFarland. All three of the Quality Hill homes featured in this post are recorded Texas Landmarks, and are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, although Thistle Hill and the Ball-Eddleman-McFarland homes are open to the public for tours, and also for private rental for special events, this last Quality Hill is not.

The Pollack-Capps House

Located right next door to the Ball-Eddleman-McFarland House, the Pollack-Capps House was built in 1898 by Dr. Joseph R. Pollock. Dr. Pollock lived at this handsome mansion with his wife, Phoebe, until 1909. In 1909, the mansion was sold to William Capps and his wife, Sallie. Try to imagine if you will what it must have been like to see one spectacular cattle baron mansion after another, each one shining like a crown jewel at the top of the bluff above the Trinity River. And it wasn't just the houses themselves that bespoke success and privilege. The Pollack-Capps mansion also had its own golf course, tennis court, and a 3-car garage with a ballroom above.

The Capps family resided at this address until 1971. Today, the house is owned by a Fort Worth law firm.

As the 19th century came to a close and a new century dawned, the cattle barons and other families who resided in the Quality Hill section of Fort Worth were not just successful or wealthy, they were also founding members of the city who, together with their wives and children, became instrumental in its growth and advancements. And although most all the homes they built have long been demolished and forgotten, replaced by glass and steel office buildings or asphalt parking lots, it is good to know that Fort Worth recognized the historical significance of their contributions and has managed to preserve the mansions featured in this post. I commend those who volunteer and work tirelessly on behalf of historical preservation. There is still alot we can learn from the past. And homes like these do not just open the door to give us a glimpse into another era, they bear witness to time itself.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. I truly appreciate it. ~ AKB

Historic Fort Worth
Texas State Historical Assn.
Fort Worth and Tarrant County: An Historical Guide by: Carol E. Roark (Tarrant Co. Historical Society - TCU Press 2003)
Photographs by Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Monday, January 28, 2013

Is Your Setting Another Character? by Cheryl Pierson

Location. Setting. Why is it so important to the stories we read and write? It seems obvious in some cases. In others, there could be a 'hidden' agenda. It can actually become another character.

Let's take a look, first, at the importance of setting to our genre, or sub-genre.
Fifty years ago, the choices were limited. Regencies and Westerns were prevalent sub-genres in the historical category, and mysteries and detective stories captivated the 'contemporary' nook. Science fiction was still relatively uncharted.
The setting of a novel was a definitive device, separating the genres as clearly as any other element of writing.

The glittering ballrooms and colorful gowns and jewels whisked historical romance readers away to faraway, exotic locales. Sagebrush, cactus, and danger awaited heroes of the western genre, a male- dominated readership.

But something odd happened as time went by. The lines blurred. Rosemary Rogers combined the romance of exotic places with the danger of an action plot, and an unforgettable hero in Steve Morgan that, had a man picked up 'Sweet Savage Love' and read it, he certainly could have identified with.

By the same token, the male-oriented scenery accompanied by the stiff, stylized form of western writers such as Owen Wister (The Virginian) and Zane Grey (Riders of the Purple Sage, The Last Trail) gave way to Louis L'Amour (Conagher, the Sackett series) and Jack Schaefer (Shane, Monte Walsh).

Why is the evolving change in description of location so important? In older writings, many times the location of a novel was just where the story happened to take place. Often, the plot of the story dictated the setting, rather than the two forming any kind of 'partnership.'

But with the stories that came along later, that partnership was strengthened, and in some cases, location became almost another character in the plot.

Take, for example, Louis L'Amour's 'Conagher.' As he describes the heroine's (Evie) dismal hopelessness at the land her husband (Jacob) has brought her to, we wonder how she will survive. Yet, Jacob has plans, sees the possibilities that Evie cannot, or will not see. The underlying message is, "The land is what we make of it."

As the story continues, she begins to appreciate the beauty of the prairie, while acknowledging the solitary loneliness of her existence. She plants a garden, nurturing the plants, and gradually she sees the farm being shaped into a good home from the ramshackle place she'd first laid eyes on.

The land is beautiful, but unforgiving. Her husband is killed in a freak accident, and for months she doesn't know what has happened to him. She faces the responsibility of raising his two children from a previous marriage alone.
In her loneliness, she begins to write notes describing her feelings and ties them to tumbleweeds. The wind scatters the notes and tumbleweeds across the prairie. Conagher, a loner, begins to wonder who could be writing them, and slowly comes to believe that whomever it is, these notes are meant for him.

At one point, visitors come from back East. One of them says to Evie something to the effect of "I don't know how you can stand it here."

This is Evie's response to her:
"I love it here," she said suddenly. "I think there is something here, something more than all you see and feel…it's in the wind.

"Oh, it is very hard!" she went on. "I miss women to talk to, I miss the things we had back East–the band concerts, the dances. The only time when we see anyone is like now, when the stage comes. But you do not know what music is until you have heard the wind in the cedars, or the far-off wind in the pines. Someday I am going to get on a horse and ride out there"–she pointed toward the wide grass before them–"until I can see the other side…if there is another side."

The land, at first her nemesis, has become not only a friend, but a soulmate. If that's not romance, I don't know what is.

In your writing projects, what importance do you give setting in your description, plot, even characterization? Within 40 pages of 'Conagher', we understand that the land, with all its wild beauty and dangers has become enmeshed in Evie's character. She can't leave it, and it will never leave her.

I'd love to hear from you about settings in stories that you've read or written that have played an important part.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


I’ll bet you said the Wright brothers, but that’s not true. Far back in time, man has longed to soar like  bird. Leonardo da Vinci left drawings of a type of flying machine. But who actually succeeded in building a machine that would carry a man into the air? 

According to many historians, a German immigrant living in Texas made the first recorded flight in 1865. Yep, Texas did it again. Of course, since I’m a Texan, I am proud of the state and [most of] its citizens and their accomplishments. But no matter where you live, Jacob Brodbeck deserves your admiration.

Jacob Friedrich Brodbeck

Jacob Friedrich Brodbeck was born in the duchy of Württemberg on October 13, 1821. He attended a seminary in Esslingen and taught school for six years in Württemberg before sailing for Texas with his brother George on August 25, 1846. Brodbeck had always had an interest in mechanics and inventing. While still in Germany, he had attempted to build a self-winding clock. This fact is important to his later invention.  

He reached Fredericksburg in March 1847, became the second teacher at the Vereins Kirche, and taught at Grape Creek (later renamed Luckenbach) school and other Gillespie County schools. He became a United States citizen in 1852, and in 1858 he married Maria Christine Sophie Behrens, a former student at Grape Creek and they eventually had twelve children. Brodbeck served as Gillespie county surveyor and district school supervisor in 1862 and was a county commissioner from 1876 to 1878. 

Jacob Brodbeck is best remembered, however, for his attempts at powered flight almost forty years before the famous success of Orville and Wilbur Wright. Brodbeck had always had an interest in mechanics and inventing. In 1869 he designed an ice-making machine, but that is contemporary with others working on and solving the same problem across the United States. His wife had a powered washing machine in the 1860s, using a power takeoff from the windmill. Brodbeck designed the power takeoff. I don't know about you, but in my opinion designing a washing machine is every bit as remarkable as an airplane and a lot handier for most people. He also built rubber- band powered flying toys for children.

Add a power takeoff
for a washing machine.
His most cherished project, however, was his flying machine, which he worked on for twenty years. In 1863 he built a small model with a rudder, wings, and a propeller powered by coiled springs. That year he also moved to San Antonio, where he became a school inspector. Encouraged by the success of his model at various local fairs, Brodbeck raised funds to build a full-sized version of his craft that would be capable of carrying a man. He persuaded a number of local men, including Dr. Ferdinand Herff of San Antonio, H. Guenther of New Braunfels and A. W. Engel of Cranes Mill, to buy shares in his project.

According to author C. F. Eckhart, Brodbeck had a large, powerful clockwork motor and a series of gears.(Remember Brodbeck had tried to invent a self-winding clock?) According to descriptions, the wings were remarkably similar to modern aircraft wings. His motor didn’t develop enough power for the machine to take off on its own. 

Brodbeck's solution was to build a ski-jump like ramp on the side of a hill near Fredericksburg/Luckenbach. The machine was taken to the top of the ramp. As it gained speed sliding down the ramp, Brodbeck engaged the motor. The machine would nose up coming off the ramp. Sounds a bit like an amusement park ride, doesn't it?

Mr. Eckhart explained that, although apparently Brodbeck’s design worked perfectly on paper, in the real world his motors didn’t work at all. Brodbeck designed two interdependent clockwork motors, one to rewind the other. When Motor A became unwound, Motor B would be engaged to rewind it. As soon as Motor A was rewound by Motor B, the pilot would manually rewind Motor B to be ready to engage it when Motor A again became unwound. 

While that works in theory, Mr. Eckhart explained that what happens in practice is different. As soon as spring tension in Motor A is equal to spring tension in Motor B, everything stops. Motor B can never rewind Motor A past the point of equal spring tension, and Motor A can’t function until it can release the tension on its spring, which is prevented by the tension of Motor B’s spring. (You can read Mr. Eckhart's essay on Brodbeck at the url given in sources below.)

There are conflicting accounts of what happened next. One says that Brodbeck made his first flight in a field about three miles east of Luckenbach on September 20, 1865. His airship featured an enclosed space for the pilot, a water propeller in case of accidental landings on water, a compass, and a barometer. Brodbeck had predicted speeds between 30 and 100 miles per hour. However, he was said to have risen twelve feet in the air and traveled about 100 feet before the machine crashed.

Father of U.S. Aviation, Jacob Brodbeck

Another account, however, says that the initial flight took place in San Pedro Park, San Antonio, where a bust of Brodbeck was later placed. (San Pedro Park is the second oldest park in the United States and features a spring-fed swimming pool.) Yet another account reports that the flight took place in 1868, not 1865. There were witnesses, but no one took a photo and there was no or very limited press coverage. 

Did Brodbeck's flying machine crash into
either a large tree, chicken coop, or both?

Some accounts say he crashed into a chicken coop, another that he hit a large live oak. All the accounts agree that Brodbeck's airship was destroyed by its abrupt landing, although Brodbeck escaped serious injury. To his body, that is. I'm sure his crash crushed his spirit and shattered his dreams. In fact, he was so disheartened by his failed flight that he burned his flying machine. 

There conflicting reports as to what happened next. Some historians say that Brodbeck never displayed any interest in his flying machine again. Mr. Eckhart believes Brodbeck was at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1900, carrying copies of all his drawings and specs, trying to get someone to finance building of another machine. While he was there, someone stole his papers. The crime was never solved.

For those interested in early aviation and/or Texas, Rev. Burrell Cannon of Pittsburg, Texas flew his Ezekiel airship a year before the Wright brothers. Cannon got his idea for the airship from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, which described a flying machine: "The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the color of beryl and...their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel."

Almost forty years after Jacob Brodbeck’s failed 1865 flight and a year after Rev. Cannon's flight, the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk in 1903. They received all the acclaim, and it is they whose names appear in most history books. 

Ahh, but a couple of Texans flew first!

Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Outlaw Gangs

Gangs of one type or another have been around since the beginning of time, pillaging, robbing and often leaving death in their wake. In some sense, the outlaw gangs of the old west have been romanticized—almost like Robin Hood. In fact, most of these gangs were thugs, and terrorized people with their evil behaviors, and more often than not, thought of no one but themselves. 

After his capture at Stinking Springs, Billy the Kid supposedly told a Las Vegas reporter: “I wasn’t the leader of any gang. I was for Billy all the time.”  (Note: Legend has Billy the Kid killing 21 men by the time he died at the age of 21, however, it’s estimated he killed between 5 and 9.)

The flip side is these outlaws also had families. Some claimed they took to their outlaw ways because of misdeeds done to loved ones, and others claimed it was the only way they could feed their families. Whatever the cause may have been that led them down that road, their behaviors affected many others. Friends and family were blamed and ostracized because of their relationships with these outlaws, and had tough rows to hoe.

Some found that way of life exciting: It’s said Belle Starr, though well educated and from a rather prominent family, chose to lead the life she found so enticing because of her childhood friend Jesse James. Others fought to turn things around: Cole Younger sold headstones after his release from prison and eventually became a preacher, which was his occupation upon his death.

In my February 1st release, His Wild West Wife, I used the dilemma of being the daughter of an outlaw for my heroine Clara Johnson. Clara wanted nothing but to distance herself from her outlaw family, went so far as to turn her father in, but not even traveling across the country could erase her past. Hero Blake Barlow has his own demons to bury, though his mother wasn’t an outlaw in the sense of the word, she was a brothel owner, and he, too, had spent years covering up his past.

Blurb: Central Kansas, 1883

Chicago lawyer Blake Barlow has tracked his runaway wife all the way to the middle of nowhere. If she wants a divorce, he'll grant her one—as soon as she tells him why she left.

Clara Johnson is angry. Blake betrayed her mere weeks after exchanging vows—but when he rides up to her family farm, it's to get her signature, not to beg for forgiveness.

Clara and Blake agree their brief marriage was an impulsive mistake—but that doesn't stop the passion between them from flaring as hot as ever...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


By Charlene Raddon

Author Charlene Raddon

Unbelievable as it might seem, some pioneer settlers liked living in dugouts. Letters and diaries of pioneers recorded that these dwellings were surprisingly comfortable; cool in summer, snug and easily heated in winter. Thick walls and sod roofs supplied good insulation at a time when few people knew the value of insulated homes, and wooden houses lacked in this feature.

Most dugouts consisted of a single room (average 12’ x 12’) dug into the lee side of a low hill. Walls were created by cutting and stacking sod blocks to a height of seven or eight feet. Some dugouts had windows, usually store-bought and hauled from the nearest town. For a roof, cottonwood poles were placed side by side and spread with a thick layer of coarse prairie grass for insulation and to cut down on the dirt that sifted through. Over the grass a double layer of sod building blocks was carefully fitted. The first good rain prompted the sod to grow, and a tall growth of waving prairie grass soon covered the roof, almost concealing it.

Rough wooden planks were laid to provide flooring, if the family could afford to buy them. Otherwise, the floor was dirt sprinkled with water daily and swept with crude grass brooms until the surface was as hard and smooth as finished concrete.

Elaborate Dugout

Walls were lined with newspapers pasted or pinned up with small, sharpened sticks to keep the, dirt from brushing off. Some more ambitious families located outcroppings of limestone rock which was burned and mixed with screened sand to provide a plaster coating for the walls—a vast improvement over untreated walls that could not keep out all the dirt, or insects.

Unfortunately, the pioneer dugout couldn't stand up to the demands of prosperity. The fertile prairie sod—turned over in the fall and broken down to mellow richness by winter snows, freezing and thawing—produced bumper crops of corn and small grains. Once a pioneer family had money in the bank, construction of a clap board house became the major goal. Grandma couldn't wait to get her family out of "that hole in the ground" and into a “more suitable” uninsulated clapboard structure: A house that was stifling hot in the summer and poorly heated in the winter by buffalo chips in the kitchen range or costly store bought coal that had to be hauled from town, carefully hoarded and sparingly doled out.

Log and wood supplemented dugout

Money provided the means to build wooden houses, but it was the desire to improve the family’s status and supposed living conditions that was the driving force that ultimately destroyed the dugout. Most lasted little more than a decade, but a few pictures still exist, and memories and journals provide records of the dugout's comforts and advantages.  Of course the disadvantages were also recorded.

It might be pointed out that dugouts were the first homes of many homesteaders well into the twentieth century. My paternal grandparents moved from Kansas to the Oklahoma panhandle in 1916 and lived in a dugout until a house could be built. I’m not sure when my mother’s folks did the same thing, but it would have been a bit later. Mother was the eldest of twelve children. Her father was a great farm worker and was in much demand by other farmers. Unfortunately, Grandfather didn’t want to work for other people; he wanted to farm his own land. But without someone to tell him what to do and when, he couldn’t quite seem to succeed at farming. Poor living conditions and sparse food was the result, so the family frequently lived with other family members or inhabited abandoned homes. Many of these homes were dugouts.

Cellar-type dugout 
Mother told me numerous tales of life in such dwellings and didn’t seem nearly as enamored of them as some pioneers. I used a few of these in my book To Have And To Hold, which will be released in e-book format on January 24th. One has to do with 7” long centipedes that managed to find their way down onto the newspaper Grandmother tacked onto the ceiling to keep out some of the dirt. The sound of their feet scratching on the paper drove Grandfather crazy. Mother’s complaint, besides the dirt, was snakes. She hated it when her mother asked her to fetch wood from the wood box because too often a resident rattler would be hiding inside. Of course, snakes liked nice warm beds too, and the pallets laid on the floor where the children slept were very convenient. Frankly, I’m glad it was my mother and not me who had these experiences.

Have any of you heard any similar stories from your grandparents or great-grandparents?

Be sure to leave a comment, and include your contact information, for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card and a free copy of To Have And To Hold.

Charlene first serious writing attempt came in 1980 when she awoke one morning from an unusually vivid and compelling dream. Deciding that dream needed to be made into a book, she dug out an old portable typewriter and went to work. That book never sold, but her second one, Tender Touch, became a Golden Heart finalist and earned her an agent. Soon after, she signed a three book contract with Kensington Books. Five of Charlene's western historical romances were published between 1994 and 1999: Taming Jenna, Tender Touch (1994 Golden Heart Finalist under the title Brianna), Forever Mine (1996 Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer's Choice Award Nominee and Affaire de Coeur Reader/Writer Poll finalist), To Have and To Hold (Affaire de Coeur Reader/Writer Poll finalist); and writing as Rachel Summers, The Scent of Roses. Forever Mine and Tender Touch are available as e-books and after January 24, To Have and To Hold will be as well. When not writing, Charlene loves to travel, crochet, needlepoint, research genealogy, scrapbook, and dye Ukrainian eggs.
Find Charlene at:

Sunday, January 20, 2013


By Lyn Horner

Three Kiowa Men

A large portion of my current WIP, Dearest Druid, takes place on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservation in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) ca. 1876. A lot of my research for this project focused on the Kiowa Indians, a small part of which I’ll share with you here. I hope y’all find their story as interesting as I do.

Kiowa myth tells of a creator being who summoned their ancestors into the world from a hollow cottonwood log. They emerged one by one until a pregnant woman got stuck in the log, preventing any others from getting out. Fanciful perhaps, but this may be the Kiowa way of explaining why their numbers were so few compared to the Comanches and other tribes.

Another myth relates how a divine boy, child of the sun and an earthly mother, gave himself to the tribe as eucaristic offerings. As late as 1896, this tribal medicine was kept in Ten Grandmother bundles. Kiowa children grew up listening to these legends and many others, told by the old men and women of the tribe.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Kiowa Indians were one of the preeminent horse tribes of the southern Great Plains. Together with their Comanche and Kiowa-Apache allies, they held off white settlers and the frontier Army for decades. However, they were not always among the world’s greatest mounted warriors. Once, they were hunter-gatherers living in the northern Rockies, who had never laid eyes on a horse. Long before that, they may have dwelled in the desert southwest.

The Kiowas speak a language called Tanoan or Kiowa-Tanoan. Tanoan is also spoken by many of the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico, proving the two peoples were linked in the distant past. Yet, Kiowas trace their earliest known location to the headwaters of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers in western Montana. In the late 1890s, tribal elders still remembered northern tribes such as the Blackfeet, Arapaho Gros Ventres and Shoshonis. How the Kiowas came to be in the far north remains a mystery. One theory is that they split off from their Pueblo roots and migrated northward to colder climes, only to reverse direction and return south eventually.

While living in the northern mountains, the Kiowas depended on dogs to pull travois and possibly sleds. They mainly hunted small game. According to legend, the tribe split over a dispute, one faction heading northwest (where to, no one knows) while the others moved southeastward across the Yellowstone. This group, destined to become the Kiowa tribe of recorded history, met and grew friendly with the Crow Indians, settling east of them in the Black Hills. The Crows apparently taught the Kiowas about life on the plains and intermarried with them, passing on cultural traditions.

Around 1765, the Kiowa obtained the “Tai-me,” a powerful fetish incorporated in the annual Sun Dance ceremony. They acquired horses, hunted buffalo and lived in hide tipis like other plains tribes. They carried personal medicine bundles and belonged to societies within the tribe. Elite among the men’s groups was the Koitsenko soldier society. Young boys started out as “Rabbits.” Girls and women also had their own special groups. Among them were the Old Women society and the exclusive Bear society, with only ten or eleven members.

The Kiowas were forced from the Black Hills by the Dakota Sioux as that tribe pushed westward. South of the Kiowa lived the Comanches, who were in turn forced southward. They had acquired horses early on and ranged deep into Mexico on their raids. As early as the 1730s, the Kiowa had also become superb horsemen and were raiding Spanish settlements.

The two tribes warred against each other for years, but around 1790 they made peace and became allies. From then on, they and the Kiowa-Apaches, a small band closely connected to the Kiowas, hunted and raided together. The Comanches ruled the Staked Plains and a large portion of Texas, a vast domain known as Comancheria, while the Kiowas roved southward along the Arkansas River.

This fierce confederation drove out other, weaker tribes and raided Spanish, Mexican and American settlements virtually unchallenged until the mid-1800s. They were after horses, goods they could use or trade, scalps and captives – also tradable at forts and towns along the frontier. Their cruelty toward those they captured or killed was notorious.

Texas militia and later the Texas Rangers fought to protect far-flung settlements, but it would take concerted efforts by the Army and tactics that were often as brutal as the Indians’ to finally defeat the Kiowa, Comanche and their allies. The death blow came on September 28, 1874, when troops of the 4th Cavalry, under the command of Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, attacked a string of Indian villages in Palo Duro Canyon, in the Texas panhandle. There was little loss of human life and the Indians escaped up the walls of the canyon, but Col. Mackenzie ordered his men to shoot most of the 1,400 captured Indian ponies. They also destroyed the Indians’ tipis and winter provisions.

Left afoot on the open prairie, without food and shelter, the tribes soon surrendered. They were confined on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservation and guarded by the soldiers at Fort Sill, located in the shadow of the Wichita Mountains in southwestern Indian Territory. The Kiowa mainly settled near Rainy Mountain, which has since been made famous by N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain. Today, most Kiowas in Oklahoma still live in the same general vicinity.

If you want to learn more about these proud people, here are some great sources:
The Kiowa by Mildred P. Mayhall
Bad Medicine and Good, Tales of the Kiowas by Wilbur Sturtevant Nye
Carbine and Lance: The Story of Old Fort Sill by Wilbur Sturtevant Nye
Ranald S. Mackenzie on the Texas Frontier by Ernest Wallace

My Books:
Darlin’ Druid (Texas Druids, vol. I)
Dashing Druid (Texas Druids, vol. II)
Water Witch (prequel novella to Texas Druids trilogy)
Six Cats In My Kitchen (memoir about cats, family & life with a disability)


Friday, January 18, 2013

The Truth About Johnny Appleseed

         The Truth About Johnny Appleseed

Many of us remember the animated Disney movie about Johnny Appleseed. He was the legendary guy who went into the west spreading apple seeds.

But did you know he was a real person and he was also spreading seeds of faith? Yep, Johnny Appleseed is not just a fictional character from myth and legend; he was a genuine, actual person. His name was John Chapman, a minister, gardener and pioneer who traveled the territories around the Great Lakes in the states we now know as Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. He was born September 26, 1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts and died March 18, 1845 in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the age of 70. His father, Nathaniel, fought at Concord as a Minuteman in April 19, 1775 and later served in the Continental Army under General George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. After Nathaniel’s wife died giving birth to John’s younger brother, he married a woman named Lucy Cooley after he left the service in 1780.
Okay, Johnny Appleseed didn’t actually toss out apple seeds everywhere he went, but he did clear plots of wilderness where he planted and fenced orchards. He introduced apple orchards to a large portion of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and what is now West Virginia. Along with his apple trees, he spread the word of God from the Swedenborgian Church. He became a legend while he was still alive because of his kindness, generosity and his leadership in conservation. He also placed great symbolic significance to apples.
Some accounts state that at the age of eighteen, Johnny persuaded her eleven year old half-brother, Nathanial to go west with him in 1792. Apparently, they led a nomadic life until their father moved west with that huge family of ten children in 1805 and joined them. It is supposed that John’s half-brother most likely stayed with his father to help him farm the land. It was John’s father who taught him gardening and apprenticed him to a Mr. Crawford, who owned apple trees. That was where John learned to become an orchardist. Reportedly, witnesses saw John Chapman practicing his nurseryman craft around Wilkes-Barre and picking seeds near the Potomac cider mills in the late 1790’s.

John didn’t just plant random apple seeds, he planted entire orchards, fenced them in to keep out livestock and, when he moved on, left the orchards in the care of his neighbors who sold the trees in shares and returned every year or two to tend the nurseries. Although apples grown from seeds are rather tart, they were popular for making hard cider and applejack. In pioneer days, law required the planting of orchards of apples or pears on new land to qualify for permanent ownership so Johnny’s apple orchards certainly served a nice benefit in that regard.
John Chapman taught the Swedenborgian Gospel wherever he went and told children stories while he gave them and their parents a floor to sleep on overnight and a free supper. A woman who knew him in his later years once said, "We can hear him read now, just as he did that summer day, when we were busy quilting upstairs, and he lay near the door, his voice rising denunciatory and thrillin’—strong and loud as the roar of wind and waves, then soft and soothing as the balmy airs that quivered the morning-glory leaves about his gray beard. His was a strange eloquence at times, and he was undoubtedly a man of genius."
He also shared the word of God with Native Americans whom he admired as he traveled and they regarded him as a man touched by the Great Spirit. It is said that even hostile tribes left him untouched out of respect.  John Chapman respected the Native Americans and once wrote, "I have traveled more than 4,000 miles about this country, and I have never met with one single insolent Native American.” The Swedenborg religion declares that the more one endures on this Earth, the greater one’s happiness in the Hereafter. It is reported that Johnny endured great privations during his lifetime. He went barefoot even in the worst weather, wore old discarded clothing and often deprived himself of common necessities even though he owned a great deal of property. He did all this with cheerfulness and contentment.
There are stories about Johnny Appleseed’s love of animals including insects. One of them is how John noticed one night by his campfire; the mosquitoes flew into the fire and burned. He got up, picked up the cooking pot he usually wore on his head (yes, he actually did wear a pot on his head), filled it with water and doused the fire to save the mosquitoes. Let me just say right here that I might not have that much love for those pesky mosquitoes—just sayin’. He later remarked, “God forbid that I should build a fire for my comfort that should be the means of destroying any of his creatures.”  In another story, he was about to build a campfire at the end of a log in the middle of winter to keep warm for the night. He discovered a mama bear and her cubs hibernating there and, rather than disturb them, he slept at the other end of the log on top of the snow. When he learned that an injured horse was about to be put down, he bought the horse and turned it out to recuperate on a few acres of grassy land that he bought for that purpose. After the horse regained its health, John gave the horse and the land to a person in need asking only a promise that the person would treat the horse humanely as payment. John, by the way, spent his life as a vegetarian.
Now some of you might wonder if Johnny Appleseed ever married or fell in love. I know I certainly wondered about it. Although, when asked by ladies along the way, John often replied that he would have two female spirits awaiting him in Heaven, it was told that he was smitten by the lovely Miss Nancy Tannehill. He intended to propose to her, but to his misfortune, arrived to pop the question a day too late. She had just accepted a proposal from another the day before. Another story tells that he had a young protégé that he clothed, fed and schooled with the intent to marry her when she came of age. He arrived unexpectedly one day to visit her only to find her holding hands with a young man intently listening to his ridiculous, yammering. A witness to John’s story said that,  “I peeped over at Johnny while he was telling this, and, young as I was, I saw his eyes grow dark as violets, and the pupils enlarge, and his voice rise up in denunciation, while his nostrils dilated and his thin lips worked with emotion. How angry he grew! He thought the girl was basely ungrateful. After that time she was no protégé of his.”
Although Johnny was a native of Pennsylvania, he spent the greater portion of his life around Cleveland where he has relatives living to this day. There is some controversy about where Johnny is buried.  Some say he is buried near the Worth cabin where he died in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but Steven  Fortriede, director of the Allen County Public Library and author of the 1978 Johnny Appleseed, believes Johnny’s gravesite is in Johnny Appleseed Park in Fort Wayne. The Johnny Appleseed Park in Fort Wayne, Indiana is adjacent to Archer Park. It is Archer Park where John Chapman’s grave marker sits.
John H. Archer, grandson of David Archer, wrote in a letter dated October 4, 1900 that John Chapman’s burial was witnessed by many of his neighbors to have been in the Archer family cemetery and that he was surrounded in death by his neighbors and friends there.
The Johnny Appleseed Commission to the Common Council of the City of Fort Wayne reported, "As a part of the celebration of Indiana's 100th birthday in 1916 an iron fence was placed in the Archer graveyard by the Horticulture Society of Indiana setting off the grave of Johnny Appleseed. At that time, there were men living who had attended the funeral of Johnny Appleseed. Direct and accurate evidence was available then. There was little or no reason for them to make a mistake about the location of this grave. They located the grave in the Archer burying ground."
Johnny Appleseed left 1,200 acres of orchards to his sister.  Some of his vast estate was lost due to the lack of deeds, some land was sold for taxes and the panic of 1837also took a toll on his land.
Many celebrations help us remember the gentle soul of Johnny Appleseed:
A memorial in Fort Wayne's Swinney Park honors him but does not mark his grave.
Also in Fort Wayne, the Johnny Appleseed Festival is held the third full weekend in September in Johnny Appleseed Park and Archer Park. Musicians, demonstrators, and vendors dress in early 19th century attire, with food and beverages from Johnny’s time period.
 In 2008, the Fort Wayne Wizards, a minor league baseball club, changed their name to the Fort Wayne TinCaps in reference to Johnny Appleseed’s tin pot he used for a hat. In that same year, the Tincaps won their only league championship. Their team mascot is also named "Johnny".
From 1962 to 1980, a high school athletic league made up of schools from around the Mansfield, Ohio, area was named the Johnny Appleseed Conference. An outdoor drama is also an annual event in Mansfield, Ohio.
A memorial in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, OH is located on the summit of the grounds in Section 1349. A circular garden surrounds a large stone upon which a bronze statue of Chapman stands with his face looking skywards, holding an apple seedling tree in one hand and book in the other. A bronze cenotaph identifies him as Johnny Appleseed with a brief biography and eulogy.
March 11 or September 26 is sometimes celebrated as Johnny Appleseed Day. The September date is Appleseed's acknowledged birth date, but the March date is sometimes preferred because it is during planting season.
The village of Lisbon, Ohio, hosts an annual Johnny Appleseed festival September 18–19.
A large terra cotta sculpture of Johnny Appleseed, created by Viktor Schreckengost, decorates the front of the Lakewood High School Civic Auditorium in Lakewood, Ohio. Although the local Board of Education deemed Appleseed too "eccentric" a figure to grace the front of the building, renaming the sculpture simply "Early Settler", students, teachers, and parents alike still call the sculpture by its intended name: "Johnny Appleseed".
Urbana University, located in Urbana, OH, maintains the world's only Johnny Appleseed Museum, which is open to the public. The museum contains a number of artifacts, including a tree that is believed to have been planted by Johnny Appleseed. In addition, the museum is also home to a large number of historical memorabilia, the largest in the world. They also provide a number of services for research, including a national registry of Johnny Appleseed's relatives. In 2011 the museum was renovated and updated and is now able to hold more memorabilia in a modern museum setting.
In the Disney movie that included the story of Johnny Appleseed, he is remembered in American popular culture by his traveling song or Swedenborgian hymn ("The Lord is good to me..."), which is today sung before meals in some American households.

There are many more memorials, festivals and references to Johnny Appleseed including a play written in my home state of North Carolina. I am heartened to learn that Johnny Appleseed was a real person and that the real person, John Chapman, spread love and gifts along the way and that he was a hero of sorts without a gun or shoes. I wonder if such a spirit exists in someone today that might live on into the future. I sure hope so.