Wednesday, March 30, 2016


By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Have you ever taken a trip cross-country? You have a destination in mind. You map out the route precisely, and then you see something off in the distance that interests you. You veer off the main road and find yourself wandering down country roads, seemingly unending vistas of barren prairie, or spending hours in small towns that would have been overlooked had you remained on the interstate.

Well, for me, research is very much like coming to a fork in the road and taking the less traveled route. And more often than night, my writer's mind gets sidetracked by a million, "What If?" questions.

As a writer of historical fiction I put many hours into research. I map out detailed timelines and include everything from terrain, weather, travel, fashion, and what (if any) significant event was happening in that area at that particular time. Apart from wanting to be as accurate as possible, research helps immerse me into the period to better create a visual for the reader. I also find it fascinating to learn more about people who were prominent figures (good or bad) at the time and place where my book is set. Would their path have crossed that of my characters? What if they had something in common? What if they knew each other? Just thinking about it can open all sorts of plot possibilities.

Research can also be like falling down a rabbit hole, and it can take time to sort out how (and if) the historical figure should be incorporated into the story. For me, I love bringing real people into my books. They could be passing through, like Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson did in WHISPER IN THE WIND. Or, they could be someone who greatly influenced the hero's past, present and future. The latter is the case for ETHAN BLAKE, the hero in SPIRIT OF THE WIND, and his fictitious connection to the last great Comanche Chief, QUANAH PARKER.

QUANAH PARKER is such a fascinating individual that he almost seems like someone a great writer dreamt up. The son of Peta Nocona, a Comanche Chief and Cynthia Ann Parker, a white woman captured from her family as a little girl, QUANAH is a man whose life would transition from the leader of the Kwahadies (the last free Comanche band of warriors) to a man who managed to navigate the world of the white man, provide for his people, influence dignitaries and even the President of the United States, and still hold fast to his Comanche traditions at home.

To better understand QUANAH, it is important to focus on a pivotal moment in his life. In December 1860, the Noconas (his father's band of Comanche), were camped near the Pease River. While most of the men were off hunting buffalo and the women were in camp drying meat, 40 Texas Rangers and 21 United States Cavalrymen attacked. After the battle, it was discovered that one of the women had blue eyes and Caucasian features. Although she spoke no English, Ranger Captain Ross and his men suspected she might be Cynthia Ann Parker (missing for 24 years after being taken captive by the Comanche). Isaac Parker, her uncle, was summoned and positively identified her. Parker then took Cynthia Ann and her infant daughter, Prairie Flower, back to East Texas to live with the Parker family.

Not only had 15-year old QUANAH returned to find his mother and little sister taken by the whites, his father would soon die from an infected wound and his younger brother from disease. In short order, he had no one left in his family. A young adolescent, one can only presume anger and a desire for vengeance prompted him to join one of the two most powerful bands of Comanche -- the Kwahadies. The Kwahadies camped on the edge of the Staked Plains of West Texas, and were known for being skillful, persistent raiders.

A year after QUANAH joined the Kwahadies, the Civil War broke out. The forts of Texas were increasingly stripped of men, and 60,000 additional Texans were sent to the Confederate Army. Barely 27,000 men were left behind to defend the entire State of Texas. Needless to say, the Comanche (as well as the Kiowas and other allied bands), were all but unstoppable.

After the war ended, attention returned to the "Indian problem" out West. In October 1867, the United States Government requested a Peace Council at Medicine Lodge Creek in Kansas, with the tribes of the Southern Plains. Most chiefs among the Comanche, Kiowas, Arapaho and Cheyenne were willing to listen. They were also quite interested in the gifts that would accompany such a meeting.

The Kwahadies band of Comanche (which included Quanah) refused to attend the peace talks. However, although Bull Bear (the Chief of the Kwahadies) wanted no part of the Medicine Lodge talks, a curious 22-year old QUANAH surreptitiously kept his ear to the wind to learn what was being discussed. When he heard the US Government wanted the tribes to give up their homelands and live on a reservation where they would be given land, rations, and protection from hostile whites, QUANAH replied: "My band is not going to live on a reservation. Tell the white chiefs the Kwahadies are warriors."

As if the intentions of the US Government were not enough to rile QUANAH's resentment of the whites, he finally learns about his mother's fate. He was told his mother repeatedly attempted to escape, but the Parker family prevented her. And that after his baby sister had died in 1864, his heartbroken mother starved herself to death.

Quite understandably, the fate of his mother and sister (whom he must have hoped were still alive) haunted QUANAH for many years to come.

[Pictured: Quanah beside the only photograph of his mother and baby sister at his home, 1884.]

We can only speculate upon the mother-son relationship QUANAH had with Cynthia Ann. It seems rather obvious, it must have been very close. Driven by devotion and love for her, he would one day seek out his mother's people.

As QUANAH dealt with the news about his mother and sister, the Kwahadies ignored the treaty and continued raiding. On a raid in Gainesville, the War Party encountered soldiers. The leader of the War Party was killed. It was at this time that QUANAH distinguished himself as a leader. He assumed command. His actions would promote him as a War Chief who led future raiding parties, and also made him second in command to Bull Bear.

The Indians who signed the Peace Treaty entered their shared reservation, but soon found the pork and cornmeal rations not enough to feed their people. It did not take long before many started leaving the reservation to hunt and raid. Some would work alone, and others would join holdout bands that had not signed the Peace Treaty.

Consequently, in 1870, Washington dispatched the 4th Cavalry led by Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie. Praised by Ulysses S. Grant as a brilliant officer, MacKenzie was also a grim, unapproachable, tough 30-year old. And he had his own way of doing things. He allowed his men to wear dirty uniforms and long hair. He ordered them to discard their sabers as useless. In short, he created a guerilla-style of men that could fight the Indians under any conditions. He also set up rotating patrols from Fort Richardson, Fort Griffin, and Fort Concho. Men of the 4th Cavalry were patrolling at all times.

Needless to say, the Comanche band that Mackenzie wanted greatly was the powerful Kwahadies.

In September 1871, Mackenzie assembled 600 troops for an invasion of the Kwahadies camp. Not long after they started riding toward their destination, Mackenzie's men were confronted by War Parties led by QUANAH and Bull Bear. Rather than engage in battle, however, the War Parties followed the troops "rather arrogantly" across the plains. From time-to-time, although a few warriors would race out and make quick-as-lightning thrusts at the cavalry column, they would disappear into the tall grass before they could be followed. This routine continued until 10 October 1874.

Shortly after midnight, QUANAH led a charge through Mackenzie's camp, ringing cow bells and waving buffalo skins to panic the horses of the cavalry. The ensuing stampede provided QUANAH with 66 prime horses, including the Colonel's personal mount.

In the morning, a small detachment was dispatched to retrieve the horses. When they came upon the Comanche, a group of warriors led by QUANAH raced forth to meet them. QUANAH fearlessly charged straight at the soldiers. After killing one, he dismounted to claim his scalp while the rest of the soldiers fled. Two days later, an arrow to the hip and a blizzard put an end to Mackenzie's determination to chase down the Kwahadies.

However, come March 1872, a healed Mackenzie resumed hunting the Comanche. He also kept a lookout for the traders who were supplying them with repeating rifles in exchange for stolen Texas cattle. Six months later, in September 1872, Army scouts located the camp of the Kotsotekas band. Mackenzie and 231 men surprised the sleeping camp. They killed 23 warriors and took 124 captives.

Worried about what the government would do to their prisoners in captivity, the Kotsotekas warriors who were not captured in battle, relinquished their freedom to life on the reservation. Even the Kwahadies halted their raiding out of concern for the Comanche captives.

Ironically, the Government interpreted the surrender of the Kotsotekas band as proof all of the Comanche were ready to live on the reservation and accept the Peace Agreement. As a gesture of goodwill, in June 1873, the military 'released' their captive Kotsotekas. Contrary to what the US Government expected, after learning about the release of their captive comrades, the Kwahadies returned to raiding. And once again, Mackenzie was charged with protecting the frontier.

Repeated outrage over the white man's presence on the homeland of the Indians exploded in 1874. The plains had increasingly become a slaughterhouse for white buffalo hunters. Because of a new tanning method developed in 1870 to make buffalo hides workable for commercial production, up to 40,000 hides were being shipped from Dodge City alone each day.

[NOTE: It was later estimated buffalo were being slaughtered at a rate of 1 million per year. By 1886, their number would be reduced from 30 million animals to few than 1,000.]

To fully understand the rage of the Indian nations, during the Medicine Lodge talks, the government promised to keep whites off the Indian buffalo grounds. Instead, they did nothing. Quite the contrary, in fact. Knowing eliminating the buffalo would starve the Indians and force them to depend upon the reservation rations for food, the Army encouraged the white hunters. General Philip Sheridan praised the buffalo hunters. "Let them kill, skin, and sell until they have exterminated the buffalo. Then your prairies will be covered with speckled cattle and the festive cowboy."

In March, after learning hide hunters had set up a base near the deserted trading post of Adobe Walls, the Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho, and Cheyenne joined together to take action. An inter-tribal federation was formed. Two men were chosen to lead. QUANAH, very much a hero to almost every Comanche warrior, was joined by a (rather delusional) Medicine Man named Isa-tai. Whereas QUANAH trained his warriors to fight, Isa-tai told everyone he had magical powers. Not only could he belch up ammunition, but shield the warriors and their horses from bullets by using a "magical paint". Apparently, the fact Isa-tai had often predicted changes in the weather led many to believe his claims. QUANAH tolerated Isa-tai's claims because he wanted fearless warriors. At this time, Bull Bear (still chief of the Kwahadies) was dying. QUANAH was set to succeed him as Chief, but the attack on Adobe Walls would play a factor.

Along with Isa-tai's prediction the Indian attack on Adobe Walls would drive the white men away and bring back the buffalo, he stipulated the Comanche must hold a Sun Dance to prepare for a victorious attack. It should be noted the Comanche had never celebrated this rite before. Still, near Elk Creek and the North Fork of the Red River, their put together the ceremony.

On 26 Jun 1874, QUANAH and his 700 mixed warriors approached Adobe Walls under cover of darkness. There were 28 men and one woman inside the old fort. Adobe Walls consisted of three main buildings situated about 100 yards apart. Most of the men inside Adobe Walls were asleep until a rather miraculous loud crack woke them.

James Hanrahan, who ran the saloon, later said the noise "had been caused by the splitting of the ridgepole that supported the roof". And as fate would have it, as the men inside (which included a youth named Bat Masterson), propped up the ridgepole, they saw Indians approaching in the predawn light.

QUANAH had lost his element of surprise. Still, the warriors attacked and the hunters fired. Because of their training and Isa-tai's claims of magic, the warriors surged forward. QUANAH positioned himself at the lead. Once he even backed his mount against the door of a building and had the horse repeatedly buck its hind legs to batter it down. In another attack, his horse was shot out from under him and he had to crawl to find cover. Yet it wasn't until a bullet ricocheted and struck him in the back when his superstitious warriors believed the white hunters had their own magic. And they did. They were called Sharps rifles with telescopic sights.

The siege ended on the third day. Because of his unyielding bravery, QUANAH was held blameless in the defeat at Adobe Walls. Isa-tai. on the other hand, was blamed for their failure.

The hunters lost three men. The casualties among the Indians were hard to estimate. In keeping with their tradition, they carried away what dead they could reach. Only 13 bodies were left behind. The hunters decapitated the dead Indians and impaled their heads on sharpened poles about Adobe Walls.

The Indians scattered. Driven by fury they attacked whites and settlements from Texas to Colorado. Their unprecedented rage proved so violent, Washington sent them an ultimatum. Any Indian who did not enroll on the reservation by August 3rd, would be attacked as a hostile. Five columns of cavalry and infantry were sent to attack Kiowa and Comanche hideouts. Mackenzie's command with 600 soldiers carried their campaign to the Staked Plains, determined to defeat QUANAH and his Kwahadies.

Just before dawn on 28 September 1874, after Indian Scout reports and an all-night march, Mackenzie looked from the rim of Palo Duro Canyon and saw a large camp of Comanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne. Following a treacherous zigzag trail winding 900 feet down into the canyon, Mackenzie and his men led their horses on foot. As they neared the bottom, however, the camp woke. Although some warriors shot at the soldiers on the precarious trail, most of the Indians rushed to escape capture. Mackenzie and his men burned the village and captured more than 1,000 horses. However, knowing the Comanche would be determined to recapture their mounts, he gave a few hundred ponies to the Indian Scouts, and ordered the rest to be slaughtered.

Unfortunately for Mackenzie, his highly prized nemesis was not at Palo Duro during the attack. In addition, QUANAH had 400 of his people with him and enough horses to continue life on the run. As for Mackenzie's rather brutal decision to destroy everything in the camp and kill the horses, with the beginning of cold weather, small groups of Comanche and Kiowas surrendered. And in April 1875, a few Kwahadies who had been at Palo Duro Canyon, arrived at the reservation, on foot and half-starved.

QUANAH was now the last surviving Indian Chief roaming free with his people. However, he seemed to accept he could not run much further from fate. While hunting sparse buffalo in the Spring of 1875, a white doctor (who had been told of the Kwahadies Chief's whereabouts from reservation informants), delivered a message to QUANAH from Col. Mackenzie. Put simply, if QUANAH would come to the reservation, his people would receive good treatment. If he did not, Mackenzie vowed he would exterminate his band.

Much to the suprise of the doctor, QUANAH agreed.

On 02 Jun 1875, the last diehard Comanche chief kept his word. Wearing his ceremonial War Bonnet of 60 eagle feathers, each one decorated with bright stripes of beadwork at the base and tipped with a plume made from the hair of a white horse, QUANAH entered the reservation. He led hundreds of his people, and a herd of 1,500 horses. One can only imagine the reaction of the other Indians witnessing his arrival.

Colonel Mackenzie was also present and the two adversaries came face-to-face for the first time. Reportedly, their meeting was brief and subdued. Perhaps both men were "too proud" to reveal their feelings at that moment. QUANAH was now 30 years old. McKenzie was 35 years old.

I have included so much information about QUANAH because the first 30 years of his life encompassed one ideology, one mindset of refusal to accept the white man. One singular determination to remain free and survive. He resented anything or anyone who threatened his people. The son of a chief, he had been born a free Comanche at a crucial time when more and more white settlers were staking a claim in the West. He was raised with an understanding of Comanche culture, language, and religion. He was a warrior, trained to fight as an often brutal means of survival. Everything about the white man was foreign to him. Yet when he peacefully entered the reservation in June 1875, although it may have seemed he had given up and his life would become sedentary and uneventful by comparison, he rose to yet another challenge and became as fearless in his determination to help his people ON the reservation as he did when living on the plains.

Among his accomplishments over the remaining years of his life, QUANAH first obtained permission from the Indian Agent to meet his mother's family in Texas. Clad in Comanche buckskin, speaking little English and with only a letter of introduction from the Indian Agent, he set out alone. Perhaps it was the only way he could ease the haunting in his heart about his mother's fate after she was reclaimed by her family.

On occasion, his trek was met with hostility yet many people grew friendlier toward him when they learned his identity. They read the Indian Agent's words with interest: "This young man is the son of Cynthia Ann Parker, and he is going to visit his mother's people. Please show him the road and help him as you can."

As more and more people referred to him as QUANAH PARKER, he liked the sound of it and adopted his mother's family name.

Reaching his mother's Uncle Silas in east Texas, QUANAH was welcomed into their home. He remained with them for a while. He slept in his mother's bed. He improved his English and studied the simple farm tasks such as milking a cow, making butter, cultivating cotton, etc. Then, he returned to the reservation.

He saw that cattle had taken the place of buffalo. Upon realizing the cattlemen had to drive their stock through the Comanche-Kiowa reservation, he charged them $1.00 a head to peacefully continue on their journey. At this time, the Comanche-Kiowa reservation had 3 million acres, more than enough land for the cattle of his people to graze. Knowing he could earn his people even more money, he arranged to lease pasturage to wealthy Texas cattlemen like Dan Waggoner, Charles Goodnight, and Burk Burnett. The arrangements proved quite profitable, bringing in as much as $200,000 a year, which was then divided amongst each and every Comanche.

His dealings with the Texas cattlemen helped QUANAH adapt to an understanding of commerce and living peacefully. He made several trips to Washington since grass leases had to be approved by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He became good friends with Burk Burnett, who advised QUANAH on personal investments and even built him a ranch house. Called Star House by QUANAH, the 2-story frame house still stands.

In 1886, QUANAH PARKER was chosen Chief Judge of a 3-man Court of Indian Offenses. Interestingly enough, he inspired such respect amongst white people that a new town was named Quanah in his honor. The Comanche Chief traveled to the town and addressed the crowd.

"May the Great Spirit always smile on your new town. May the rain always fall in due season. May the earth yield bountifully to you. May peace and contentment dwell with you and your children forever." ~ Quanah Parker

In 1892, when a number of Kiowa and Comanche leaders were persuaded to sign an agreement that dissolved their 3-million acre reservation to 551,681 acres, QUANAH and a cattleman lawyer spoke before Congress. QUANAH insisted the leaders who signed the agreement did not represent all the individual Comanche and Kiowa people. He further stated the translator misrepresented the terms of the agreement to obtain the signatures. Impressed by his testimony, Congress refused the transaction for almost a decade.

On 04 July 1898, QUANAH was invited to a Fourth of July picnic by Congressman McGuire in Hobart, Oklahoma. Although he was calm and tactful, QUANAH spoke about conservation and the need to care for the land. "We fear your success," he told the citizens. "This was a pretty country you took away from us, but you see how dry it is now."

In 1902, QUANAH was elected deputy sheriff of Lawton, Oklahoma. He accepted the position believing it would help him keep young Comanche out of trouble.

In 1905, QUANAH rides with other Indian Chiefs in the Inaugural Parade honoring President Teddy Roosevelt.

[Pictured: Quanah Parker rides on the far right representing the Comanche. Next to him, Geronimo represents the Apaches.]

QUANAH also went hunting with President Teddy Roosevelt in 1905, at Burk Burnett's ranch north of the Red River in Oklahoma.

In 1907, buffalo are reintroduced at the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Range, after QUANAH convinced Teddy Roosevelt of the need to save the nearly extinct animals.

In 1908, QUANAH is elected President of the local school district that he helped to establish.

In 1910, after finally locating the burial place of his mother and sister, QUANAH has their remains reburied at Post Oak Mission Cemetery in Oklahoma.

QUANAH PARKER died from complications of pneumonia on 23 February 1911 at Star House, his home.

In Comanche tradition, a Medicine Man was summoned to the chief's bedside. As the Medicine Man made the symbol of the wings of an eagle over QUANAH, the chief's spirit was called to the Indian afterworld. He was buried alongside his mother and sister in Post Oak Mission Cemetery. However, his grave was robbed in 1915. In 1920, a monument (appropriated by a gift from Congress) is unveiled and erected in his honor at Post Oak Mission Cemetery.

In 1957, QUANAH, his mother and sister are reburied at Chief's Knoll, Fort Sill Cemetery.

QUANAH PARKER's tombstone reads: "Resting here until Day Breaks and Shadows Fall and Darkness Disappears is Quanah Parker, Last Chief of the Comanches. Born: 1852 Died: 23 Feb 1911" Over 4,000 people attended his funeral.

NOTE: The exact date of QUANAH's birth is often listed as 1845. However, his tombstone records his date of birth as 1852. Still, there is some question as to the accuracy of the 1852 date. Since QUANAH emphatically stated he was hunting with his father when the Texas Rangers attacked their village, it seems more likely he was older than 8 years old when his mother and sister were captured.

For those of you who have not read WHISPER IN THE WIND, this sensuous time travel romance introduced JORDAN BLAKE and MOLLY MAGEE. Set in 1885 Texas, it is the first book in the Windswept Texas Romance trilogy.

JORDAN BLAKE, a former Texas Ranger and Pinkerton detective, has tried for years to find out what happened to his older brother. When they were children, much like what happened to Cynthia Ann Parker, a band of Comanche raided their family home. Although Jordan and his sister were miraculously spared in the attack, both his parents were murdered and his 9-year old brother was taken captive. For years, the fate of Ethan haunted Jordan. Yet no matter how hard he tried or how long he searched, he could never find out what happened to his brother.

SPIRIT OF THE WIND is the story of ETHAN BLAKE. As I did research into what might have happened to Ethan, I learned why he proved such a challenge to write. Why did the Comanche let him live? How did being raised by the same Indians who murdered his family affect him? And why was he given the name Windwalker? Understandably, the case of Cynthia Ann Parker came to mind. Yet rather than focus on her, I found myself drawn to her son, QUANAH. After all, Ethan and Quanah are close in age. What if they knew one another? What if they were friends or perhaps close as blood brothers? In many respects, they shared a common history until the world changed for them. As one tries to adapt to life on a reservation; Ethan will have his own struggles as he tries to make peace with his past and move on with his life.

SPIRIT OF THE WIND will follow Ethan's pilgrimage to find himself -- and introduce the one woman who can see him for the man he truly is. I hope you will stay tuned for the soon-to-be-announced release date of SPIRIT OF THE WIND.

If you are interested in reading WHISPER IN THE WIND, it is available in print as well as EPUB formats on Kindle, Kobo, and Nook. For buy links, please visit the Bookshelf page on my website at:

Thanks again for stopping by and taking the time to read this post. I hope you found it interesting. ~ AKB


The Great Chiefs - Benjamin Capps (Time-Life Books, New York, NY, 1975)
Following The Trail of Quanah Parker - Johnny D. Boggs (True West Magazine, 2011)
Quanah Parker - Bill Dugan (Harper Collins, 1993)

Monday, March 28, 2016


Only two Native Americans on either side of the States’ War rose to the rank of brigadier general. Standhope Watie (Uwatie), fighting for the Confederacy, was one of those two. Yet, what makes this accomplishment so incredible is the fact that while he was fighting for the Confederate States of America, he was also fighting other Cherokee tribal leaders who held opposing political views and very different visions for the Cherokee nation.

Stand Watie commanded the Confederate Indian Cavalry of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. While the cavalry unit was comprised mainly of Cherokee, some Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribal members also served.

Born in Oothcaloga in the Cherokee Nation, State of Georgia, Uwatie (or Oowatie) was also known as Isaac. He was educated in a Moravian mission school. In his early adulthood, he occasionally wrote articles for the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper. The State of Georgia confiscated Cherokee lands in 1832 when gold was discovered, including the thriving plantation owned by Stand’s father and mother. Stand and his brothers, part of the powerful Ridge-Watie-Boudinot faction of the Cherokee council, stood in favor of the Cherokee Removal. Their signing of the Treaty of New Echota facilitated the removal of the Cherokee people to Indian Territory—what is now Oklahoma.

Another faction of Cherokees following John Ross refused to ratify the treaty signing. This segment was known as The Anti-Removal National Party. Members of this group targeted Stand Watie and his brother, Elias Boudinot, along with their uncle, Major Ridge, and cousin, John Ridge for assassination. Stand was the only one who survived the assassination attempt. Although Watie’s family had left Georgia before the forcible removal of all Cherokees in 1838, another brother, Thomas, was murdered by Ross’s men in 1845.

In October, 1861, Watie was commissioned as colonel in the First Mounted Cherokee Rifles. Besides fighting Federal troops in the States’ War, his men also fought opposing factions of Cherokee, as well as Seminole and Creek (Muscogee) warriors who supported the Union.

In 1862, Stand Watie was elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, through dissension continued among John Ross’s supporters.

On June 15, 1864, Watie’s troops captured the Federal steamboat J. R. Williams on the Arkansas River off the banks of Pleasant Bluff near Tamaha, Indian Territory. The next morning, Colonel John Ritchie’s men, who were stationed at the mouth of the Illinois River near where the two rivers met, engaged Watie’s men as they attempted to confiscate the cargo. The river was rising, and they fought to a standoff. When Watie learned of the advance of Union troops from Fort Smith, Arkansas, (within about 40 miles), he burned the ship and much of the remaining cargo, then sank it.

Watie surrendered a year later in June of 1865, the last Confederate general to lay down his arms.

In my debut novel, Fire Eyes, I weave this bit of history into my plot. The villain, Andrew Fallon, and his gang have come upon the site where the J.R. Williams was sunk four years earlier. Fallon speculates there could have been gold aboard, and sets his men to dive for it. As mercurial as his temper is, none of them dare question his order. Here’s what happens:


“Damn! I know where we are.” Dobie Perrin said.
Andrew Fallon turned in the saddle, glaring at Perrin, the afternoon sun dappling them through the leaves of the thick canopy of trees. “So do I, you idiot! So do we all, now.”

The secluded cemetery sat on a bluff, overlooking the Arkansas River. They had been wandering for two days, ever since retracing their steps to the first small creek they’d come to. The one Fallon felt sure would give them their bearings. Now, at last, he recognized where they were. He’d figured it out ten miles back.

“Tamaha,” Denver Rutledge muttered. “I was raised up over yonder.” He inclined his head toward the riverbank. “Over in Vian.”

“Then why didn’t you know where we were?” Fallon’s anger surged. “I am surrounded by idiots!”

“I shore ’nuff shoulda known, General,” Rutledge said apologetically. “Right yonder’s where we sunk the J.R. Williams. Rebs, I mean. Stand Watie’s bunch.”

Fallon jerked his head toward the other man. “Right where, soldier?”

Rutledge kneed his horse, coming abreast of Fallon. “Why, right yonder, General. It was in June of ’64. She was a Union ship, the Williams was.”

“What was she carrying?”

Rutledge shrugged. “Don’t rightly know. Supplies, maybe.”

“Payroll? Gold?” Fallon fingered his curling moustache. “Could be anything, eh, Rutledge? But the Yankees were known to cache their gold profits in casks. Maybe that’s what the J.R. Williams was carrying. Casks that weren’t really supplies, but were filled with gold.”

“Could be, I ‘spect.” Rutledge’s voice was hesitant.

Fallon nodded toward the river. “I think maybe we’ll try to find out.”



“What’s he doing, Tori?” Lily whispered. She moved closer to her sister. The night had turned colder, and the girls’ clothing was becoming threadbare and ragged.

Tori shook her head. “Fallon’s plumb crazy, Lily. Making his men dive for that ship! What’s he think he’s going to do if he finds it? Pull it up with his bare hands?”

“Or a rope, maybe,” Lily said innocently.

Tori didn’t say anything. She reminded herself that Lily was, after all, only eight years old. And she, at eighteen, knew how the world worked much better than little Lily did. At least Lily had stopped crying all the time. Now, Tori wasn’t sure if that was an improvement.

Lily sometimes scared her, the way her eyes looked hollow. Like there was no feeling left in her. Tori had no mirror, but her little sister looked like she herself felt. Older than she should be. And sad. But Lily didn’t seem to be afraid any longer, and Tori supposed that was a good thing.

Tori knew what Fallon intended to do with her and Lily. But the initial shock and fear of Fallon’s intent was overshadowed by other things that had actually happened. The violent deaths of their parents and younger brother, the endless days of riding with scant food and water, the bone-deep weariness that never let up, not even when she slept on the hard ground at night next to Lily.

She was responsible for Lily, now that her parents were gone. She squared her thin shoulders, her gentle eyes turning hard for a moment. She would protect her sister, no matter what.

Tori watched as Fallon ordered three of his men back into the water yet another time. Even if they could see what they were diving for, it would be too deep to reach. But the scene helped Tori realize just how unstable Andrew Fallon was. Once or twice, she’d caught herself thinking he was almost a nice man. He’d brought her and Lily a blanket one cold night. And he’d given them extra rations another time. But she knew he was not nice, not even sane.

Evil, was what Andrew Fallon was. Evil, and most insane.

She watched him, posturing and screaming at his men, who were so terrified of him that they were making fools of themselves trying to dive for an unreachable goal, a ship that may contain treasure, but just as well may not. A vessel that was impossible to get to, all the same. Especially in the pitch-black night. Lily leaned against her, her weight heavy with sleep. They sat beside a tree, their backs propped against the rough bark. The night was cool, and Tori had drawn the blanket close around them. She sagged against the tree trunk, her arm around her little sister, as Lily’s eyelids drooped.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


During Women’s History Month, posting about an influential woman seems appropriate. I enjoy finding women not universally known. Patricia de la Garza De Leon is such a woman, yet she was tremendously important in pioneering and founding the town of Victoria, Texas. Doña Patricia was the matriarch of one of the prominent founding families of early Texas. She raised ten children, some of whom helped change the course of history.

Patricia de la Garza was born in Mexico about 1775 in Soto la Marina, in what is now Tamaulipas, Mexico, to a wealthy family. Her father, Felipe de la Garza, served as commandant for the Spanish government. She married Don (Spanish for a titled man) Martín De León in 1795. Martín de León was born to a wealthy family from Spain, and although offered the chance to study in Europe, he chose to stay in Texas as a merchant and supplier to the miners of Real de San Nicolás.

Patricia and Martín settled at his ranch in Cruillas. Martín sold wild mustangs, mules and cattle in New Orleans. The couple's first child, Fernando, was born at the Cruillas ranch in 1798. The couple moved their base of ranching operations in 1799 to San Patricio County, Texas, where three more children were born.  Between 1798 and 1818 Doña De León gave birth to ten children. In 1805 the De Leóns moved to the east bank of the Aransas River, north of Corpus Christi. They moved several more times before 1824.

Ranching in Texas, De León had repeatedly petitioned the Spanish governor in San Antonio for permission to settle a colony in the area of his ranch. He was denied due to a combination of political problems in Mexico and some rumors that the De Leóns were not loyal to Spain (which, it turns out, they were not). Patricia and Martín didn’t understand why their petitions were denied when others, like those for Moses and Stephen F. Austin, were granted.

During this time, Martín continued ranching around Texas, and the family moved several times. The number of head of livestock they owned quickly grew, and De León began driving cattle to various markets. He was one of the first Texas trail drivers.

Brand of Martín De León stood
for "Espiritu de Jesús"
De León also bears the distinction of using the first cattle brand in the state, which he developed while living near Corpus Christi. The brand was an interconnected E and J, which stood for “Espíritu de Jesús.” He was well respected as a fighter of Native Americans, but he often avoided violence from raiding parties on his cattle drive by feeding them beef. To the Native Americans, he was known as Capitán Vacas Muchas (Captain Many Cows).

The De León family sided with the Mexican rebels in the Mexican War against Spain. On April 13, 1824, the provisional Mexican government granted Martín De León an empresario contract to settle forty-one Mexican families on the lower Guadalupe and Lavaca rivers. At age 49, with her four adult children and six minor children, Patricia de la Garza De León uprooted her life to become her husband's partner in the founding of De León's Colony.

Empressario Don Martín De León

The De Leóns paid for the colony themselves with profits from their cattle trade and with an inheritance from Patricia’s father of $9,800, plus another $300 valuation of cows, horses, and mules, in order to help get the colonization off the ground. The only predominantly Mexican colony in Texas, Martín named the settlement Guadalupe Victoria in honor of the first president of Mexico.

At Victoria, Doña Patricia transplanted cultural traditions of Mexico and Spain to the community. The De León family lived in a log home with a dirt floor. Nevertheless, the family had domestic servants and Doña Patricia filled the house with imported furniture provided from her family in Mexico. As the family's wealth increased she imported fine furniture and clothes. She and her daughters became known for their excellent embroidery skills and beautiful clothing. The De León home was described as among the most beautifully furnished in the area, and it became the center for community gatherings.

Their surviving children were Fernando (1798), Candelaria (1800), Silvestre(1802), Guadalupe (1804). Felix (1806), Agapito (1808), Maria (1810), Refugia (1812), Augustina (1814), Francisca (1818). She discouraged her children from using guns, for fear they would be perceived as bandits. At first she home schooled her children. Later, Doña Patricia sent her children and grandchildren to Spain and Mexico to be educated.

When José María Jesús Carbajal platted the town of Victoria, she made sure land was set aside for a school and a church. Her donation of $500 in gold helped to build and furnish the church, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), the second oldest Catholic parish in Texas.

Empressario Martín De León died in a cholera outbreak in 1833 and left an estate worth $500,000. (Imagine what that would be in today’s currency.) Eldest son Fernando took over the colony responsibilities of his father. Doña Patricia, an excellent bookkeeper, managed the family assets and continued her civic work.

She and her family supported the idea of an independent Texas and smuggled arms and ammunition from New Orleans to the Texans. Despite their support of the Texans, however, the De Leóns were victims of the anti-Mexican sentiment that swept through Texas after the Texas Revolution. Her youngest son Agapito was murdered in 1836 by cattle thieves.

Many Mexicans fought with Anglos for Texas
Independence against General Santa Anna
Like many Mexicans, the De León extended family was opposed to the regime of Antonio López de Santa Anna. Texas independence was a separate issue. As the issue did with other Mexicans living in Texas, it divided the De León extended family, some of whom helped change the course of history in both Texas and Mexico. Divided loyalties among the Mexicans made them subject to suspicion and prejudice from the new Republic of Texas government and military establishment.

Candelaria's husband José Miguel Aldrete was 1835 state land commissioner of Coahuila y Tejas. Aldrete joined several Texas insurgent groups to resist Santa Anna.

Refugia married José María Jesús Carbajal in 1832. Initially, he teamed up with Fernando De León and Peter Kerr, to trade livestock for munitions to help his old friend and mentor Stephen F. Austin. Carbajal, however, felt his loyalties lay with the Mexican people, not the Texas cause. He moved across the Rio Grande and waged guerilla warfare in Mexico against Santa Anna's political machine. Doña Patricia loaned Carbajal $6,000 for his cause.

Fernando later became aide-de-camp to provisional Texas governor James W. Robinson.

Maria had one daughter with her husband, Mexican politician and military officer Rafael Manchola. He died in the cholera outbreak that killed Martín de León.

Augustina married Plácido Benavides, who opposed Santa Anna's dictatorship, but felt Texas should remain part of Mexico. Benavides led a unit of Tejano fighters at the Battle of Goliad. He was recruited by Stephen F. Austin for the 1835 Siege of Béxar to drive Martín Perfecto de Cos out of Texas. Silvestre fought beside his brother-in-law Plácido at the Siege of Béxar. Benavides earned himself the nickname of the "Texas Paul Revere" for his 1836 journey from San Patricio to Goliad to Victoria, warning residents of the approaching Mexican army.

But on July 20, 1836, disaster struck for the De León family, much of whose wealth was in land and cattle. Brigadier General Thomas Jefferson Rusk ordered Mexican families in the Victoria area to be evacuated in an attempt to stem any assistance being given to Santa Anna. The Carbajal, Benavides, and De León families left for New Orleans, forced to abandon their money and possessions. In Louisiana, they lived in poverty, and then moved back with Doña Patricia's family in Soto la Marina. From half a million dollars to poverty through no fault of hers, at least she was able to sell 25,000 acres of land near Garcitias Creek for $10,000 in 1837.

Silvestre De León
Silvestre De León returned to Victoria in 1842 to try and reclaim the family's property, and was murdered by persons unknown. Doña Patricia returned to Texas in 1844, only to find her assets had been redistributed among new settlers. In the new climate, she had lost her social standing in the community. She devoted the rest of her life to church service and until her death lived as an ordinary parishioner.
Doña Patricia died in 1849, and is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Victoria, Texas. Before her death, she had donated the original De León homestead to the Catholic Church. She also donated altar vessels and a gold monstrance. In 1898, the church name was changed from Our Lady of Guadalupe to Saint Mary's Catholic Church, which currently occupies the site of the De León homestead.

Recorded Texas Historic Landmark number 6539 placed at Evergreen Cemetery in 1972 acknowledges Patricia de la Garza De León's contribution to Texas. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark number 6543 placed at Church and Bridge Streets in 1936 denotes the home of Doña Patricia de la Garza De León and Don Martin De León's home in Victoria.

Caroline Clemmons is the bestselling and award winning author of numerous contemporary and historical romances. Her latest release is GRANT ME THE MOON, which is included in the eight-author contemporary western anthology COME LOVE A COWBOY, available now for pre-order at Amazon The Sample booklet with recipes, blurbs, and excerpts is available FREE at[email].

TEXAS DAMES: Sassy and Savvy Women Throughout Lone Star History, Carmen Goldthwaite, The History Press, 2012

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Flour Sack Dresses

I recently read a novel set in the ‘cowboy’ era of the 1860-70’s where the woman was wearing a ‘flour sack’ dress. Whereas that may have been true in a rare case, it certainly wasn’t wide spread.  

(No resources noted for picture on Pinterest.)
Throughout the later part of the 1800’s cotton sacks gradually replaced the barrels and crates that flour, stock feeds, and other such grain based products had been shipped and stored in for years. Made of unbleached cotton, these sacks were dull and had the same large logos that had previously been stamped onto the barrels. Getting rid of the logos was almost impossible—even with kerosene, lye soap and boiling. However, that didn’t stop women from utilizing the material. 

During that era, the bags weren’t suitable to make dresses. But they were usable, and frugal pioneers made rugs, towels, chair cushions, quilts and numerous other items from the sacks. Common items were nightgowns, diapers and underwear. The large logos were not an issue for these garments because they were worn under other clothing or in privacy.

It wasn’t until well after the turn of the century that companies started to make bags using bright colors and designs. Printed on logos and company names were replaced with easy to remove paper tags and labels. Companies hoped the colorful and reusable bags would boosts sales which had fallen drastically for almost every business at the onset of the depression.  The government supported the recycling of feed sacks, calling it a necessity due to a shortage of cotton during WWll.

(Picture from Treasures and Textiles.)
The sacks themselves were not very large, and several were needed for most every garment and this too brought about other thrifty activities. Bags were often sold, both to other people and/or back to the store/company to be reused, and community ‘sack’ exchanges were commonly held for people to trade amongst each other in order collect enough sacks of the same color and print. 

The popularity of the bags continued through the next couple of decades. Magazines, pattern makers, newspapers and the feed/flour companies created articles, booklets, and even dissolving ink patterns printed right on the sacks for women to make the most out of every yard.  

Sewing contests became another popular activity, locally and nationally. Often sponsored by companies in order to show off their latest prints, woman enjoyed the opportunity to show off their sewing skills. 

This dress, (photo from the National Museum of American History) was sewn by Dorothy Overall from Caldwell, Kansas in 1959 and took second place in the Cotton Bag Sewing contest. 

Why some believe our ‘age’ of recycle/reuse/repurpose and dispose properly is a new-fangled way of thinking, I believe in some instances, such as the flour sack eras, we are ‘behind the times’. 

My next release will be in April. When a Cowboy Says I Do is one story in Western Spring Weddings. Little does seamstress Ellie Alexander know that by promising to sew her best friend’s wedding gown will lead to her own spring wedding!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When the Muse Calls

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to stick to a writing and publishing schedule, the muse has other ideas. I'm supposed to be working on a Book 7 in the Yellowstone Romance Series, and then on another book in the Blemished Brides Series. That's what my "to write list" tells me. Somewhere far, far down that list is a scribbled note that says "Oregon Trail series with siblings getting lost." 
Well, as I was writing dutifully on my Yellowstone book one day, my mind decided to take a detour, and the first story in that Oregon Trail series popped into my head. The characters screamed loud enough over the next few days that I couldn't get another word written in the book I was working on. Reluctantly, I set my WIP aside and started charting out this new story that wouldn't leave me be. About six weeks later, I published Cora's Pride (Book 1 in the Wilderness Brides Series). 
I'm fortunate to have an editor who works closely with me during my writing process, and beta readers who are quick readers. The book hit a slight snag about two-thirds of the way through, when several people thought the heroine was a bit too hard-headed. My editor dubbed the book "Badass Heroine on the Oregon Trail" initially. Despite having to go back and reworking some of the earlier chapters to soften her up a little, this was one of the fastest books I've ever written. I guess when the muse calls that strongly, you have to answer! 
Cora's Pride was released on March 17, 2016. It's garnering some great reviews already. Now the dilemma I jump right into the next book in the series, or go back to my other WIP? I'll just have to see which characters scream the loudest now...

She just wants a new start for her family, and no one will stop her.
He simply wants to get home with his winter supplies and keep his scalp.
Together, they're on a collision course for adventure and perhaps even love.


Hot air blew on his face. Nathaniel woke with a start and scrambled to the side. His hand reached for the rifle that lay next to him even before his eyes flew open. He stared up at the dark muzzle of one of his horses and relaxed. Touching a hand to the animal’s nose, he pushed the large head away and sat up with a groan.
He blinked to clear the fog from his head. Sunlight streamed in thin ribbons through the forest canopy, ending in circular patterns on the ground.
“You could have woken me sooner,” Nathaniel grumbled to the horse and stood. Two, no, three restless nights were taking their toll on him.
He’d come back to his camp last night, his head full of thoughts about Cora and the things he’d overheard at her camp, and it had kept him awake well into the night. When he’d set out on his journey from Harley’s Hole to Fort Hall several weeks ago, the notion that his path would cross with a woman who completely consumed his thoughts would have been laughable.
Even more amusing was the fact that she wanted nothing to do with him. Perhaps he’d simply lived in the wilderness too long with his brothers and Harley, and it didn’t take much for a woman to catch his eye.
Nathaniel shook his head. He’d seen plenty of women on the wagon trains that passed through Fort Hall and Fort Laramie over the years. He’d never wasted a second thinking about any of them. Besides, there were three other women in Cora’s company. Anna Porter was polite and appreciated him, yet she didn’t catch his eye the way her friend did. He hadn’t seen or heard much from the two younger girls to make a judgment about them, other than the one named Josie wanted to learn how to shoot. What was it about Cora Miller that held him captivated? She hated him.
He scoffed while gathering some twigs and branches for a fire. Stopping in front of his horse, he patted the animal’s neck and looked the gelding in the eye.  “It’s because she dislikes me.”
The horse stared back at him, his ears pitched forward.
“I’m just trying to set her straight about me, that’s all.” Nathaniel bent to pick up a handful of twigs for tinder. When he straightened, he made eye contact with the horse again. “There’s nothing else I want from her.” The gelding shook his head and snorted.
Nathaniel leaned forward, glaring at the gelding. “What? You think I’m interested in her for a different reason? I didn’t make the trip to Fort Hall to find a woman, and absolutely not one as disagreeable as Cora Miller.” He turned to move away from the horse, abruptly stopped and looked at the animal again, pointing a stick at him for emphasis. “A woman like that can surely make a man’s life miserable as hell.”

The gelding took a step forward, stretched his neck to sniff at the stick, then lowered his head to crop at some grasses on the ground. Clearly, this conversation was over. Nathaniel’s trusted mount didn’t believe a word of what he’d said.

Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Award-Winning Author of:
Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance Series