Saturday, March 30, 2013


By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

"Clocks slay time...time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. ~ William Faulkner

As March comes to a close, I thought about what special woman in history I would like to profile. The members of Sweethearts of the West site have done an extraordinary job this month telling us about women who not only pioneered the Old West but whose lives have often become the stuff of legends. In many cases, their spirit, courage and determination remain an inspiration to this day.

But is it just 'real' women that inspire us? For example, I did a post several months ago about Laura Ingalls Wilder, her life, her struggles, and the amazing gift she gave readers all over the world when she sat down at the age of 65 and wrote her Little House series. As much as I love and appreciate her writing talent, I became captivated by the characters in her books. Yes, Mary, Laura 'Half-Pint' and Carrie Ingalls were based on real people who lived long ago. However, there are many characters from books of fiction that have remained with me throughout my life. How many of us have read a book where the characters seem to jump off the page and become so real and vivid to us that we are not only captivated by their story, but invest our emotions in the challenges and fears they face?

So, as I contemplated what woman in history I would like to talk about in this post, one particular young woman came to mind. Her name is MOLLY MAGEE and she is the heroine in my Historical Time Travel titled WHISPER IN THE WIND.

When Molly is swept back in time, she finds herself in the Old West with Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Luke 'King of the Gamblers' Short and a Pinkerton detective named JORDAN BLAKE. Needless to say, in an age of gunslingers and Victorian ideology toward women, 21st century Molly faces challenges everywhere she turns. It is a hundred times more difficult when--to avoid answering questions from the seductive Pinkerton--she fakes amnesia. As Molly struggles to understand what happened to her and survive until she can find a way home, she soon realizes the biggest threat of all is the one Jordan Blake her heart.

JORDAN BLAKE has lost everyone he's ever loved. As a Texas Ranger turned Pinkerton Detective, Jordan has become a cynic about people and justice, and is ready to walk away from a life that has lost its meaning. He never knew that a prayer whispered in the wind would bring him an angel of mercy and a love he'd never hoped to find.

From the open splendor of 1885 Texas to dark decadence and murder in New Orleans, Molly and Jordan learn that when fate takes a hand, finding the love of your life is often just a matter of...Time.

For anyone who has been following my posts here at Sweethearts of the West, you may recall articles about such subjects as "THE PEACEMAKER: The .45 and Samuel Colt's Revolvers", 'WE NEVER SLEEP: Allan Pinkerton and the Pinkerton National Detective Agency', as well as posts about the Fort Worth Historic Stockyards and Luke Short aka King of the Gamblers and the Undertaker's Best Friend. My interest in these subjects arose from extensive historical research I did for WHISPER IN THE WIND, and you will find their influence in the crafting of this passionate, heartwarming, and suspenseful love story.

Here are just a few comments preview readers have made:

"Tremendously charming heroine and a hero I will never forget. I loved the story!"

"I got goosebumps so many times reading this!"

"Molly and Jordan are a sexy, strong, believable couple in an unforgettable romance."

"A really terrific plot and JUICY characters."

WHISPER IN THE WIND is the first book in the Windswept Texas Series, and is scheduled for release in print and Kindle format on April 13, 2013.


A gentle breeze lifted strands of unbound hair to caress the nape of Molly’s neck. She moaned, then coughed—feeling as if she’d swallowed a truckload of dirt. Opening her eyes, she found herself sprawled face first on the ground. Following a brief moment of confusion, she remembered the tornado. She attempted to push herself upright, at least into a seated position, but a sudden wave of dizziness made her pause. Nausea threatened as well, but she focused on breathing slow and steady until it, too, passed. Eventually, she managed to sit up.

A throbbing pain at the back of her head caused Molly to gingerly touch the spot. She felt no blood, only a raised knot. Grateful she'd not been injured more seriously, she closed her eyes and gently massaged the area. Then, as if a veil were slowly being lifted, other things penetrated her senses.

The pungent odor of stock pens, damp earth and musty wood were gone. In fact, the air smelled fresh, remarkably sweet. More than anything else, a feeling of openness seemed to surround her to such an extent that although still feeling a bit unsteady, she managed to stand then stared at her surroundings.

The tunnel that sheltered her no longer existed. Daylight had turned to dusk, which meant she must have been knocked out for some time. Far more disturbing was the total devastation caused by the violent storm. Amidst quickly fading deep violet hues and the ever-increasing shadows of night, she saw a vast panorama of open land where before there had been shops and restaurants. Even stranger, no debris had been left in the tornado’s wake.

Just when it seemed she might be the only survivor, a small group of buildings could be seen outlined against the horizon. Faint music from an out-of-tune piano drifted toward her on a stilted breeze.

It must be the White Elephant Saloon.

Mindful of coiled rattlers—and Lord knows what else might be hidden beneath her feet—Molly cautiously made her way toward the famous saloon, a favorite tourist attraction in the Stockyards. The distance took longer than she’d thought—especially since she had to keep stopping to catch her breath. If she lived long enough to get the blasted corset off her body, she fully intended to burn it on the spot. However, the moment she entered the White Elephant Saloon, discomfort from wearing the stays vanished.

Apart from much anticipated air-conditioning not working, the saloon’s décor gave new meaning to the word rustic. What appeared to be brass spittoons were placed everywhere, most in desperate need of cleaning. The bar itself was made from a rough, unfinished wood—not the centerpiece of polished extravagance she’d expected to find at a famous western saloon. On the brighter side, someone had a sense of humor judging from the outrageous painting of a rather plump, naked woman behind the bar.

Then there were the patrons, most of whom were filthy, unshaven and staring at her as if she had two heads. From what she could see, they’d been either playing cards, cavorting with barely dressed barmaids, or drinking themselves into various stages of oblivion. A wretched combination of stale liquor, unwashed bodies, and other unpleasant odors filled the air—but the way they kept staring at her made Molly the most uncomfortable.

Self-conscious about her appearance, she brushed off the dust from her dress and attempted to finger-comb her snarled, long hair. It was then she felt the calico sunbonnet still perched atop her head at a somewhat odd angle. Struggling with knotted bonnet ties only seemed to make matters worse. After a moment more of intense frustration, which found her sorely tempted to rip the fabric altogether, she managed to pull the knotted ties slowly up over her face and yanked the bonnet off backwards. Of course, this absurd action only made a buxom, orange-haired saloon girl laugh out loud.

For what seemed the longest moment in her life, Molly stared back at the woman, refusing to be cowed. After everything that had happened today she was not about to let anyone else insult her or her costume. Besides, this woman was in no position to criticize.

The purple, black, and red silk dance hall dress she wore left little to the imagination. A drooping black lace neckline revealed everything but the woman’s nipples. Black net stockings were patched in more than one place. Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of her costume was the frayed red garter with the Queen of Hearts peeking out. And judging from the large perspiration stains under the woman’s armpits, she must smell as ripe as she looked.

With a derisive snort and toss of riotous frizzy hair, the saloon girl turned her attention back to a man seated nearby, slapping his arm when he did not immediately return her regard.

In no mood to be bothered by anyone in this unsavory crowd, Molly raised her chin and walked over to the bar. “May I have a glass of water, please?”

The bartender frowned. “Water, ye say?”

“Yes, sir.”

With a handlebar mustache that made him look like a moonlighting member of a barbershop quartet, he shrugged then poured her a shot glass of water. At least she assumed it was water. She didn’t want to know what those particles were floating around in it.

Raising the glass to her lips, she detected the faint smell of rotten eggs.

Great, survive a tornado and die from tainted water.

With determination, and because she felt so uncomfortable beneath the bartender’s scrutiny, she plugged her nose and swallowed the water in one quick gulp.

“Could I have another, please?”

When the bartender reached for the shot glass, she touched his weathered, freckled hand. “How about a double this time, partner? I’m really thirsty.”

Sitting at a table against the back wall, trying to forget Danny Norton’s hanging, Jordan Blake studied the scene taking place at the bar. When the men at his table had stopped playing poker and the rest of the room fell quiet, he’d been too curious to not look up. Now, he couldn’t look away.

The prettiest flower this side of heaven had walked into the Trail’s End Saloon, sweet as you please, and asked for a glass of water. Even more surprising, she got old Frank Wilson to smile. But what he couldn’t figure out was where she came from. No decent woman walked around by herself during daylight let alone at night, and she sure didn’t look like a whore.

Leaning back in his chair, Jordan folded his arms across his chest and watched Frank fill a beer glass with water then set it before the beauty in blue. She accepted the glass and daintily plugged her nose again before drinking. When the piano player began to hammer out another tune, the mysterious angel turned about with a start. A man seated nearest the bar belched, smiled at her like a drunken oaf then passed out—hitting his forehead on the table hard enough to give him an egg-sized knot come morning. She started to laugh, but obviously thought better of it and turned back around to face Frank.

Maybe she fell off a stagecoach somewhere between Dallas and Fort Worth? It seemed the only plausible explanation.

Her unbound hair was thick and wild looking, the color of wheat when sunlight hits it just right in the morning. And the way she was dressed…

Jordan grinned, remembering when women used to dress that way. All she needed was a parasol, veranda, and a glass of lemonade to complete the vision of womanly perfection. Granted, her dress was no longer in fashion, but there wasn’t a man in the saloon that cared. They saw what he saw—a waist small enough to span with his hands, lush breasts to tempt the imagination, and a sweet, unforgettable face that would haunt any man’s dreams.

“I’m out”, he said then finished his red-eye whiskey with one swallow.

The moment he drew up alongside her, the young woman visibly tensed. With the glass of water poised at her lips, she slowly turned her head to look at him.

“Howdy, little lady,” he said with a wink.

“Wow, the Marlboro Man does exist.”

Jordan crooked a brow. “Beg pardon?”

“Sorry, I-I didn’t mean for you to hear that.”

She stared at him to such an extent he couldn’t help but smile. At that point, her wide-eyed gaze went from focusing on his mouth to his left cheek. Hell, maybe she’d never seen a man up close before. “You sure you want to be in a place like this tonight, sugar.”

She blinked. “I’m sorry, w-what did you say?”

“I was saying you look a might out of place in here.”

“Well, to be honest, I was too thirsty to find a water fountain in the dark.” Looking about the saloon she smiled. “I’ve never been in here before. I thought more people would have sought shelter here when the storm hit. But I bet the owner is glad he went for the authentic look; all these oil lamps and that chandelier paid off tonight.”

Jordan studied her thoughtfully. She didn’t appear to be injured, but she sounded mighty confused, especially since there hadn’t been rain in Fort Worth for well over a month, and he hadn’t seen a water fountain in a coon’s age.

“You just out taking an evening stroll?”

Leaning toward him, she spoke in a half whisper. “Actually, something hit me in the head and knocked me out. I missed the train. Do you believe it? Even worse, I’m stranded here with just the clothes on my back. How’s that for dumb luck?”

“The train?”

She nodded and took another sip of water. “Yep, next time I’ll drive, although I seriously doubt there will be a next time. Yes sir, I’ve made up my mind to start a new life.”

Jordan began to think he should just forget this filly and return to his poker game. Then she looked at him with the most beautiful pale blue eyes he’d ever seen. Somehow he didn’t think a man would ever be able to forget this gal. In fact, she seemed strangely familiar to him. Had they met before somewhere?

“Do you think the hotel will give me a room tonight?” she asked. “I’m so turned around, I came here first. I couldn’t tell if they were closed or didn’t have power. I just hope they'll give me credit, and still have my card number.”

“There ain’t no hotel here about, missy,” Frank said. “You’d have to cross the Trinity and go on up to Fort Worth. But I’m fair certain they ain’t gonna give no room on credit.”

Molly’s head suddenly began to pound with an incessant rhythm. Whether caused by the sound from the out-of-tune piano, squealing laughter from Miss Piggy in the purple dress, the fistfight that erupted across the barroom, or the knot on the back of her head, she didn’t know and she didn’t care. Then again, maybe it was the tainted water after all.

She pressed a shaky hand to a now clammy forehead and tried to soothe the throbbing pain from what promised to be a sick migraine. “Well, I’ll go across the street and ask anyway. Thank you for the water, sir.” Turning to leave, a sudden wave of nausea swept over her. Swaying slightly, she tried to focus on now blurry saloon doors.

Just take one step, then another, she told herself. "Now is not the time to fall flat on my face.

It was taking the third step that proved an impossible feat. Just as she began to sway into a swirling mist, she heard someone curse under their breath and scoop her up. A heartbeat later, darkness enveloped her.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you will enjoy reading WHISPER IN THE WIND as much as I enjoyed writing it. ~ AKB

Thursday, March 28, 2013

THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH by Cheryl Pierson



It all started when I read THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH by Robert Hicks, a novel about a woman who made the dead soldiers of the War Between the States her life's work. By the time I finished reading that book, I knew I had to go visit this place, Carnton, where she had lived and devoted her life to the dead.

Carnton is the name of the plantation just outside of Franklin, TN, where Carrie Winder McGavock and her husband John made their home with their two children, Hattie and Winder. There is so much history that comes before the fateful Battle of Franklin that changed Carrie’s life forever that there is no room to include it in this post.

So I will start with a brief nutshell of the circumstances. At the time of the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, Carrie’s children were nine (Hattie) and seven (Winder). Carrie herself was thirty-five, her husband, John McGavock, fourteen years her senior at forty-nine. They had been married several years, Carrie coming from Louisiana to marry John, who was quite a wealthy man for the times, worth over six million dollars in our present day currency. He owned the flourishing plantation where he and his brother James had been raised, Carnton, in middle Tennessee. The McGavock’s raised wheat, hay, corn and potatoes as well as maintaining a thoroughbred horse ranch

Carnton, (Scottish for “the place of stones”) was less than one mile from the battle that took place on the far Union Eastern flank. Most of the battle took place after dark, from 5-9p.m., so the McGavocks could see the firefight that went on over the town of Franklin that evening. Because their plantation was so close, it became a field hospital for the Confederate troops.

More than 1,750 Confederates lost their lives at Franklin. It was on Carnton's back porch that four Confederate generals’ bodies—Patrick Cleburne, John Adams, Otho F. Strahl and Hiram B. Granbury—were laid out for a few hours after the Battle of Franklin.

More than 6,000 soldiers were wounded and another 1,000 were missing. After the battle, many Franklin-area homes were converted into temporary field hospitals, but Carnton by far was the largest hospital site. Hundreds of Confederate wounded and dying were tended by Carrie McGavock and the family after the battle. Some estimates say that as many as 300 Confederate soldiers were cared for by the McGavocks inside Carnton alone. Hundreds more were moved to the slave quarters, the outbuildings, even the smokehouse—and when the buildings were full, the wounded had to lie outside during the frigid nights, when the temperature reached below zero.

After the battle, at 1 a.m. on December 1, Union forces under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield evacuated toward Nashville, leaving all the dead, including (several hundred) Union soldiers, and the wounded who were unable to walk as well. So when morning came, the 750 or so residents of Franklin faced an unimaginable scene of what to do with over 2,500 dead soldiers, most of those being 1,750 Confederates.

According to George Cowan's "History of McGavock Confederate Cemetery," "All of the Confederate dead were buried as nearly as possible by states, close to where they fell, and wooden headboards were placed at each grave with the name, company and regiment painted or written on them." Many of the soldiers were originally buried on property belonging to Fountain Branch Carter and James McNutt. Many of the Union soldiers were re-interred in 1865 at the Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro.

Over the next eighteen months (from all of 1865 through the first half of 1866) many of the markers were either rotting or used for firewood, and the writing on the boards was disappearing. Thus, to preserve the graves, John and Carrie McGavock donated 2 acres of their property to be designated as an area for the Confederate dead to be re-interred. The citizens of Franklin raised the funding and the soldiers were exhumed and re-interred in the McGavock Confederate Cemetery for the sum of $5.00 per soldier.

A team of individuals led by George Cuppett took responsibility for the reburial operation in the spring of 1866. By June, some ten weeks after the start, the last Confederate soldier was laid to rest at McGavock Cemetery. Some 1,481 Rebel soldiers would now be at peace. Soldiers from every Southern state in the Confederacy, except Virginia, is represented in the cemetery.
Sadly, George Cuppett’s brother, Marcellus, died during the process of the reburials. Just 25 years old, he is buried at the head of the Texas section in the McGavock Cemetery. He is the only civilian interred there.

The McGavocks, especially Carrie, took great care to preserve the identity of the Confederate soldiers. The original names and identities of the soldiers were recorded in a cemetery record book by George Cuppett, and the book fell into the watchful hands of Carrie after the battle. The original book is on display upstairs in Carnton. Time has not been favorable to the identities of the Confederate soldiers though. 780 Confederate soldiers’ identities are positively identified, leaving some 558 as officially listed as unknown.

Most of the above was taken from the Wikipedia article about Carnton and the McGavocks. Now you know the FACTS, but let me tell you about my impression of this remarkable woman and the cause she put above all else.

Robert Hicks’ book, THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH, is a fictionalized story about Carrie and John McGavock and their lives, but that was what made me want to travel to Franklin and see the house for myself. I put the description that Wikipedia gave near the beginning because I can’t begin to do it justice. It is one of the most gorgeous, meticulously restored homes of that period you will ever see. They do not allow pictures AT ALL as you’re touring inside. Many of the pieces of furniture, glassware and the pictures that are on the walls have been donated by the McGavock extended family and most everything in the house is a genuine period piece, whether it belonged to the family or not.

It is said that Winder’s room was used as an operating room. A table was set up by the east-facing window where the surgeries were performed. Today, there is a table there much like what would have been used, along with the crude medical implements that were available at the time. Our guide told us that when the doctor finished an amputation, he would throw the limb out the window, get the man off the table and make room for the next one. Because the doctor most likely wore a rubberized apron, the blood pooled in a kind of horseshoe shape on the floor where he would have stood. He walked in it and stood in it, grinding it into the wood. It is still there, to this very day—a testament to five of the bloodiest hours in the history of the Civil War.

Once when Hattie was asked about her most enduring childhood memory. “The smell of blood,” she replied.

In the book, there is mention made of Carrie’s friend, Mariah, who had once been her slave but chose to stay with her as they had been together since childhood. Mariah was said to have had the ability to look at some of the graves and tell something about the person who was buried there. She had “the sight.”

For the next forty years, after the Battle of Franklin, Carrie dressed in black, visiting the graves every day. She carried the book of names with her. I have to tell you, when I saw that book of names I got chills thinking of the devotion she had to this cause. Those men were not forgotten.

At one point, the house fell into disrepair, but was bought by a historical preservation society and maintained. The cemetery was the largest privately owned war cemetery in the US. Robert Hicks meticulously researched for the book he wrote, and the profits from the book (which made it to the NYT Bestseller List) helped to re-establish this grand old home as a piece of history where we can go to learn firsthand about what happened on that fateful day.

My husband and I toured the house, a gorgeous old mansion, with a wonderful guide who was glad to answer any and all questions. Tours are around $15, and well worth it. The cemetery tour is $5, or you can just walk around and look for yourself, which is what my husband and I did. If you buy the book, I promise you will be as anxious to see this place for yourself as I was.

Walking those same floors that were walked upon by Carrie and her family, and the wounded men, the generals, the doctors…gave me feeling I will never forget. I could almost swear I felt her presence, still there, still watching over the soldiers she devoted her adult life to at Carnton…the “place of stones.”

Here's a link that I hope will show up for you--a very interesting short piece that CBS news did on Carnton and Carrie's story.
Here's the Amazon link for the book THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


By Guest Author, Keta Diablo

The Bodie Saloon, Bodie California
Build circa 1892
Saloons served customers such as fur trappers, cowboys, soldiers, prospectors, miners, and gamblers. The first saloon was established at Brown's Hole, Wyoming, in 1822, to serve fur trappers. By the late 1850s the term saloon had begun to appear in directories and common usage as a term for an establishment that specialized in beer and liquor sales by the drink, with food and lodging as secondary concerns in some places. By 1880, the growth of saloons was in full swing. In Leavenworth, Kansas there were about 150 saloons

By way of entertainment, saloons offered dancing girls, some of whom occasionally or routinely doubled as prostitutes. Many saloons offered Faro, poker, brag, three-card Monte, and dice games. Other games were added as saloons continued to prosper and face increasing competition. These additional games included billiards, darts, and bowling. Some saloons even included piano players, can-can girls, and theatrical skits. A current example of this type of entertainment is the Long Branch Variety Show that is presented in the recreated Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas.

Dancing Girl

Among the more familiar saloons were First Chance Saloon in Miles City, Montana; the Bull's Head in Abilene, Kansas; the Arcade Saloon in Eldora, Colorado; the Holy Moses in Creede, Colorado; the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas; the Birdcage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona; the Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada; and the Jersey Lilly in Langtry, Texas. Many of these establishments remained open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week

Painted Lady of the Old West

Common Misconceptions

Faro was the most popular game of the time, not poker. Those who played Faro were called “punters.” Faro was played on a table and required special equipment which facilitated the game. As such, faro dealers made their money by traveling around the West with their gambling equipment, and setting up shop wherever they could. These dealers often rented space on a saloon floor, and, in return, gave a percentage of their winnings to the owner of the saloon. Unlike a poker game, in which each person playing banked their own game, and either won or lost according to the extent of their “investment,” in the game of faro. Contrary to modern beliefs, poker was seldom played in the first saloons.

Whiskey Bottle

The whiskey often served was bad indeed. Called “Tarantula Juice,” “Coffin Varnish,” and “Stagger Soup,” the concoctions sold as whiskey were often made with cheap raw watered-down alcohol, and colored to look like whiskey with whatever was locally available, including, old shoes, tobacco, molasses, or burnt sugar. These whiskies were frequently given an extra “kick” by adding red peppers or, extra “flavor” by adding other things, like snake heads, which tainted the liquid. Now you understand what the cowboys, as portrayed in the movies, meant when they asked the bartender for a bottle of “your best whiskey.” They were asking for a bottle of real whiskey distilled in a place somewhere in the Eastern United States, like Kentucky, or, Pennsylvania.

I hope you enjoyed our journey back in time. Remember, not everything you hear or read about history is true.

Happy Reading,

Author Keta Diablo

Keta Diablo Keta is a multi-published author of paranormal and historical fiction. In 2009, her erotic romance Decadent Deceptions was a finalist in the RWA Molly contest. In 2010, Keta's entry Phoenix Rising finaled in the Scarlet Boa contest and in 2011 Keta's acclaimed paranormal shifter, Where The Rain is Made, was nominated by Authors After Dark for a BOOKIE AWARD and by Deep In The Heart of Romance for BEST ROMANCE OF THE YEAR

Her recent release is the sweet contemporary romance, SKY TINTED WATER.

The Amazon buy link for SKY TINTED WATER is

Many of Keta's books have won numerous awards: Top Reviewer's Pick, Recommended Read and Best Book of the Month.

If you'd like to know more about Keta and her latest releases, she haunts the Net here:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Life in a Jar--Irena Sendler

With March being Woman’s History Month, the posts here have been about courageous, interesting women who assisted in taming the west. I hope no one will mind that my post is about a woman who lived in the next century. Her story is truly remarkable, as is the way it was brought to life again by a few young women.  

In 1999 a history teacher in Kansas shared an article from a 1994 issue of News and World Report about a woman who saved 2.500 children during WWII. Claiming he’d never heard of this woman or her story, the teacher said the article might be an error. Three students, two ninth grade and one eleventh grade girls (others including boys joined the project later on) began researching Irena Sendler and her story. 

What they found was truly amazing, and those students took their project a step farther, writing a performance (Life in a Jar) which portrays Irena’s journey.  Their presentations lead to a movie and award winning book that assisted in spreading the word of Irena Sendler/Sendlerowa’s heart-wrenching work.
(Public domain photo--first published in Poland)

Irena Sendler was born on February 15, 1910 in Warsaw, Poland. Her father, a doctor, died when she was seven having contracted typhus, (not to be confused with typhoid fever) from patients he treated when other physicians refused.  Irena was an only child and attended Warsaw University, where she was dismissed for refusing to comply with Jewish segregation laws. She was eventually readmitted and became a social worker.

During WWII Irena was permitted to work in the Warsaw ghetto as a plumbing/sewer specialist. There she talked families into giving her their children, explaining they may die in the ghetto or death camps. With the help of others in her network, she snuck the children past the Nazi guards and eventually found homes for them with families or in convents and orphanages. Irena recorded the children’s real names and family members on pieces of paper she buried in jars so someday she could dig them up and tell the children about their real families. 

Irena and her counterparts found hiding for 2,500 children. A few infants she carried out in her carpenter’s box, and she also used a truck with hiding areas in the back along with a dog trained to bark when Nazi soldiers approached. 

Eventually, she was captured and badly beaten, but ultimately a member of her underground network was able to bribe her release and she went into hiding. After the war, she and her colleagues gathered their records, but reuniting the children with their families was impossible for most considering the amount of deaths.

Before her death at the age of 98 in May 2008, Irena said her father was her inspiration for serving the world.  To learn more about the Life in a Jar project and Irena, visit:

posted by Lauri Robinson

Friday, March 22, 2013


This month--as you can see at the top of the sidebar--is Women's History Month. Our writers here at Sweethearts of the West have been featuring a famous women of the West. I'm choosing to repost an article I wrote about a Texas woman, Ima Hogg.

Ima Hogg, philanthropist and patron of the arts, was born to Sarah Ann (Stinson) and Governor James Stephen Hogg in Mineola, Texas, on July 10, 1882. When she arrived, her father said, “"Our cup of joy is now overflowing! We have a daughter of as fine proportions and of as angelic mien as ever gracious nature favor a man with, and her name is Ima!"  
Miss Ima as a toddler

Why, you may ask, would a man who loved his family and adored his daughter choose that name in combination with Hogg? Ima was named for the heroine of a Civil War poem written by her uncle Thomas Elisha and was affectionately known as Miss Ima for most of her long life.

Ima Hogg later recounted that "my grandfather Stinson lived fifteen miles from Mineola and news traveled slowly. When he learned of his granddaughter's name he came trotting to town as fast as he could to protest but it was too late. The christening had taken place, and Ima I was to remain."

During her childhood, Hogg's elder brother William often came home from school with a bloody nose, the result of defending, as she later recalled, "my good name". Throughout her adult years, Hogg signed her name in a scrawl that left her first name illegible. Her personal stationery was usually printed "Miss Hogg" or "I. Hogg", and she often had her stationery order placed in her secretary's name to avoid questions. Hogg did not use a nickname until several months before her death, when she began calling herself "Imogene". Her last passport was issued to "Ima Imogene Hogg". The story that she had a sister named Ura is untrue, although I heard it all my life.

Ima as a young woman

Ima had three brothers, William Clifford Hogg, born in 1875; Michael, born in 1885; and Thomas Elisha Hogg, born in 1887. Ima and her brothers were born into a family whose tradition of public service was an integral part of Texas history. Her grandfather, Joseph Lewis Hogg, took the oath of allegiance to the Republic of Texas in 1839, helped write the Texas Constitution, fought in the Mexican War, and served as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Her father was the first native born governor and was elected in 1890.

She was eight years old when her father was elected governor; she spent much of her early life in Austin. After her mother died of tuberculosis in 1895, Ima attended the Coronal Institute in San Marcos, and in 1899 she entered the University of Texas. In 1901 Ima, who had played the piano since the age of three, went to New York to study music. Her father died in 1906. From 1907 to 1909 she continued her music studies in Berlin and Vienna.

In 1910, Ima moved to Houston, where she helped found the Houston Symphony Orchestra, which played its first concert in June 1913. She served as the first vice president of the Houston Symphony Society and became president in 1917. She became ill in late 1918 and spent the next two years in Philadelphia under the care of a specialist in mental and nervous disorders. She did not return to Houston to live until 1923.

Miss Ima's portrait

After their father’s death in 1906, Ima and her brothers tried to sell the Varner plantation, but a provision in his will specified that the land be kept for 15 years. On January 15, 1918, oil was found on the Varner plantation. A second strike the following year provided oil income amounting to $225,000 a month shared among the four siblings. That’s a lot of money now, but imagine what a sum that was in 1919! According to Ima’s biographer Gwendolyn Cone Neely, the Hoggs did not believe that the oil money was rightfully theirs, as it had come from the land and not hard work, and they were determined to use it for the good of Texas.

In spite of her personal health problems, or perhaps because of them, Ima Hogg founded the Houston Child Guidance Center in 1929 to provide counseling for disturbed children and their families. Ima was convinced that if children's emotional and mental problems were treated, more serious illness could be prevented in adults. Her interest in mental health came from her father, who had read widely on mental health issues; during his terms as governor, Ima had often accompanied him on visits to state institutions, including charity hospitals and asylums for the mentally ill. She furthered her knowledge of the field while she was a student at UT, taking several courses in psychology. Ima was convinced that her youngest brother, Tom, would have benefited from similar intervention, as he had reacted badly after their mother's death and as an adult was "restless, impulsive, and alarmingly careless with money". Although her ideas on mental health would be considered mainstream today, in 1929 they were pioneering. In 1972, she told a reporter for the Houston Chronicle that, of all her activities, she had derived most pleasure from her role in establishing the Houston Child Guidance Center.

She joined her elder brother William on a vacation in Germany in 1930. During their visit, he suffered a gallbladder attack and died on September 12, 1930 after emergency surgery. Ima brought her brother's body back to the United States. His will bequeathed $2.5 million to UT and his desire was that it be used alongside money donated by his sister for far-reaching benefit to the people of Texas. Legal challenges tied up the grant until 1939, when the University received $1.8 million. In 1940, after discussion with her brother Michael—the executor of the will—Ima used the money to establish the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas at Austin.

In 1943, Ima Hogg decided to run for a seat on the Houston School Board so that the board would include two female members. During her term, she worked to remove gender and race as criteria for determining pay. She championed a visiting teacher program for children with emotional problems and began art education programs in the schools for black students.

Varner Plantation at Bayou Bend

Although Ima Hogg spent little time at the Varner Plantation after Bayou Bend was constructed, she continued to purchase art and antique furniture on its behalf. In the 1950s, she restored the plantation, and each room was given a different theme from Texas history: colonial times, the Confederacy, Napoleonic times (1818), and the Mexican–American War. One room was dedicated to her father, and contained his desk and chair as well as his collection of walking sticks. She donated the property to the state, and it was dedicated as the Varner–Hogg Plantation State Historical Site in 1958, the 107th anniversary of Jim Hogg's birth.

Ima Hogg donated works she inherited from her brothers to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts, including one of the limited editions of Bronco Buster by Frederic Remington. In the 1920s, Hogg's brothers began to develop a new elite neighborhood, which they called River Oaks, on the outskirts of Houston. For their home, the Hoggs chose the largest lot, 14.5 acres. Ima worked closely with architect John Staub to design a house that would show off the art the family had purchased. William and Ima moved into the house, which she christened Bayou Bend, in 1928. In 1939, when she restored her estate along American lines, she donated more than 100 works on paper to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH), including works by Cézanne, Sargent, Picasso, and Klee. Following the death of her brother Michael in 1941, she donated his collection of Frederic Remington works to the museum. Consisting of 53 oil paintings, 10 watercolors, and one bronze, it is known as the Hogg Brothers Collection, and is called "one of the most important groupings of Western paintings on display in an American museum. " Ima donated her collection of Native American art to MFAH in 1944, including 168 pieces of pottery, 95 pieces of jewelry, and 81 paintings.

In 1960, she was appointed by President Eisenhower to serve on a committee to plan the National Cultural Center, now called the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C. In 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy named Hogg to the 18-member advisory committee to work with the Fine Arts Committee in seeking historical furniture for the White House.

One morning in 1914, Ima was awakened by a burglar in her bedroom. She confronted the man, who was attempting to steal her jewelry. Not only did she convince him to return the jewelry, but wrote down a name and address, handed it to him and told him to go there that very day to get a job. When asked why she did that, Ima responded, "He didn't look like a bad man."

Later that year, she sailed to Germany, alone. While she was en route, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, and the day before she arrived, Britain declared war on Germany. The United States was still neutral, however, so Hogg continued her tour of Europe, not leaving until several months later.

Though Ima Hogg has been described as a woman of "unfailing politeness", she was not without adversaries. For instance, at a concert arranged by the Houston Symphony for her 90th birthday featuring the elderly pianist Arthur Rubinstein, he characterized her as a "tiresome old woman". Hogg, in turn, regarded the musician as "a pompous old man". By contrast, Hogg said of Vladimir Horowitz, whom she met backstage at a 1975 concert in Houston, "Such a nice man. Not at all like that Mr. Rubinstein."

Ima Hogg was a generous benefactor, and believed that "inherited money was a public trust". She was described by the University of Houston as "compassionate by nature", "progressive in outlook", "concerned with the welfare of all Texans", a "zealous proponent of mental health care" and "committed to public education".

A lifelong Democrat, Ima Hogg died on August 19, 1975, at the age of 93, from a heart attack resulting from atheroma. She had been vacationing in London at the time, but fell as she was getting into a taxi, and died a few days later in a London hospital. An autopsy report revealed that her death was not related to the earlier fall. On receiving news of her death, the University of Texas declared two days of mourning and flew the flag at half-staff.

Miss Ima in later years

She received too many awards and honors to list. In 1963, former Governor of Texas Allan Shivers—when presenting Hogg with the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the University of Texas Ex-Students Association (the first woman so honored)—said of "Miss Ima":

Some persons create history.
Some record it.
Others restore and conserve it.
She has done all three.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


By Carra Copelin

              Mary Ann "Molly" Dyer Goodnight remains a positive role model for people, young and old. Her strength and spirit are qualities that have made Texas what it is today for Texans and the rest of the world.

Molly Goodnight

              Molly was born September 12, 1839, in Madison County, Tennessee to a prominent lawyer, Joel Henry and Susan Lynch Dyer. When Molly was fourteen, the family moved to Fort Belknap, Texas, where she worked as a schoolteacher and raised her five brothers after her parents died.

              In the mid-1860s, she met Charles Goodnight and they married on July 26, 1870 in Kentucky. They settled in Pueblo, Colorado, where they worked their ranch until drought and the Panic of 1873 caused the family to move back to Texas. Irish investor, John George Adair backed Goodnight and the two men became partners, moving with their wives to the Palo Duro Canyon where they established the vast JA Ranch in May of 1877.

Goodnight home with buffalo herd

              Molly became the surrogate mother and nurse to the cowboys of the area earning their respect for her compassion and natural remedies she developed for their wounds and fevers. She taught a number of them to read and mended their clothes and for this they nicknamed her "Mother of the Panhandle" or "Darling of the Plains".

Cowboys on the JA Ranch

She persevered as a ranch woman, teacher and healer. According to WOMEN IN TEXAS by Ann Fears Crawford and Crystal Sasse Ragsdale (Eakin Press, 1982), Molly’s home remedies included “coal-oil for lice, prickly pear for wounds, salt and buffalo tallow for piles, mud for inflammation and fever and buffalo meat broth for a general tonic."

Molly and Charles Goodnight

 In 1898, Molly and Charles helped establish Goodnight College through the donation of 340 acres. Molly passed away in April 1926. Her gravestone is inscribed with a fitting tribute: "Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight, One who spent her whole life in the service of others."

Today, visitors can catch a glimpse of Molly Goodnight's life in various exhibits at the Armstrong County Museum in Claude, Texas. The museum is also working to restore the Goodnight Home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. To learn more, visit: .

I chose Molly Goodnight because she is the epitome of Texas history and its people and she embodies the spirit of the characters I write about. I'm so glad to be a part of Women's History Month and Sweethearts of the West.

Carra Copelin, Author
Award winning author Carra Copelin writes contemporary and historical romance. Her current project is The Texas Code series of romantic suspense novels to include CODE OF HONOR, CODE OF CONSCIENCE, CODE OF JUSTICE, CODE OF LAW, and the historical KATIE AND THE IRISH TEXAN, and MATELYN AND THE TEXAS RANGER.

Summer 2013 Release

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Louisa Swain, First Woman to Vote in the USA

Sarah J. McNeal

Louisa Swain, First Woman to Vote in the USA
In the early years of the 20th Century, my grandmother McNeal dedicated herself to women’s suffrage, working hard for women to have the right to vote. Although I never met her, since she died long before I was born, Matilda McNeal inspired me with her forward thinking and activism.
So when I discovered that a woman had voted in a general election in Wyoming long before the 19th Amendment was passed in the United States giving the right for all women to vote, well, I had to learn more about her.
Louis was the daughter of a sea captain that was lost at sea when she was still a child. She and her mother moved to Charleston, South Carolina where, sadly, her mother died. Now an orphan, Louisa moved to Baltimore, Maryland to live with her uncle, Ephraim Gardner. There she met and married Stephen Swain who owned a chair factory. After their fourth child was born they moved to Ohio and later they moved again to Indiana. Louisa Swain and her husband, Stephen, moved to Wyoming from their home in Maryland to be closer to their son and his family in 1869.  Louisa and her husband were in their late 60’s then. In that same year, the Territorial Legislature, composed of twenty men, approved the measure that was revolutionary for its time stating: “Every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this territory may at every election to be held under the law therefore, may cast her vote.”  The bill’s sponsor, William Bright, shared his wife, Julia’s, belief that suffrage was a basic right of every American citizen.
Unlike other states, Wyoming had no organized campaign to win suffrage, no parade or public demonstration. Women did, however, keep vigil outside Governor John A. Campbell’s office until he signed the bill into law. In other states, women had suffered terrible atrocities, t6rt4re even, in their fight for their rights and were held up to public ridicule for their activism. God bless the state of Wyoming.
So, on September 6, 1870, Louisa Swain cast the first vote by a woman in a general election in the United States of America.
One of the reasons I decided to use Wyoming as the home of my fictional characters, the Wildings, besides its wild and beautiful countryside, was because of their motto, “The Equality State”…and they mean it.
Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride has a heroine from present day who falls back into 1910. Good thing women could vote in Wyoming then because Lola was not the kind of woman to be deprived of her rights.

A haunted house, a trunk and a date with destiny.


Lola Barton discovers a warp in time in an old trunk when she falls into 1910. She finds herself married to Joseph Wilding, a stranger shadowed by secrets. Mistaken for Callie McGraw, a thief and a woman of ill repute, Lola finds her life is threatened by a scoundrel. Joe stands between her and certain death. With danger threatening all around and secrets keeping them apart, can Joe and Lola find their destiny together? Or will time and circumstance forever divide them?

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