Category Archives: 19th C.

Nicodemus–African American Icon of the Old West

Back in 2015, my daughter and I were on a cross-country trip from New York with a turn-around in Wyoming. One of the stops I added to our route was Nicodemus National Historic Site, one of the oldest, and last remaining of the Black towns on the western plains. We arranged to meet with fellow author Eunice Boeve, who took us to lunch with Angela Bates. While initially reluctant to make this stop in Kansas, my daughter later swore it was one of the highlights of the entire road trip due to the informative and enlightening conversations we’d had with Angela.

Photo of Angela by Kathryn Sommers

Angela O. Bates is the executive director and past president and organizer of the Nicodemus Historical Society (1988). As a Nicodemus descendant and historian, she was responsible for obtaining National Historic Site designation for the town. For nearly 25 years, she has presented educational programs and one woman shows for libraries, schools, colleges, and organizations across Kansas and the nation. After serving on the Kansas Humanities Council in the Continue reading

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A Brief History of the Volga Germans

eunice-photoBack around 2012, when I first joined ‘Women Writing the West’, I somehow managed to start a correspondence with a fellow author in Kansas—Eunice Boeve. One might think that a romance author sitting in NYC and a predominantly YA and western author living out in KS had nothing in common, but Eunice and I have found a lot of common ground and continue our correspondence to this day. Continue reading

Following Maria’s Journey by Anne Schroeder

anne-croppedFellow member of Women Writing the West and Past-President (2015), Anne Schroeder writes memoir and historical fiction set in the West. She has won awards for her short stories published in print and on-line markets. She and her husband, along with their new Lab puppy, live in Southern Oregon where they explore old ruins and out-of-the-way places. Her new release, Maria Ines, is a novel about an Indian girl who grows up under Padre Junipero’s cross and endures life under the Spanish, Mexican and Yanqui conquest of California.  You can learn more about Anne at http://www.anneschroederauthor.com and read her blog at http://anneschroederauthor.blogspot.com Continue reading

Native American Slavery

 

headFellow member of Women Writing the West, Alethea Williams is the author of Willow Vale, the story of a Tyrolean immigrant’s journey to America after WWI. Willow Vale won a 2012 Wyoming State Historical Society Publications Award. In her second novel, Walls for the Wind, a group of New York City immigrant orphans arrive in Hell on Wheels, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Walls for the Wind is a WILLA Literary Award finalist, a gold Will Rogers Medallion winner, and placed first at the Laramie Awards in the Prairie Fiction category. Continue reading

TWO VIEWS ON THE OREGON TRAIL

When I was in school, Francis Parkman’s The Oregon Trail was on my reading list. At the age of thirteen, the formal writing and the lengthy, detailed descriptions of a time, scenery and people who did not in the least interest me, turned me towards another choice of book. So here I am, some fifty years later, with other interests, more tolerance, and certainly a more receptive mind.

Francis Parkman

Francis Parkman

Francis Parkman was born into an aristocratic Boston family, son of a well-connected and wealthy Unitarian minister. Plagued by illness most of his childhood, he was often sent into the countryside in an attempt to make him more robust. This, combined with his own enjoyment of James Fenimore Cooper’s novels, seems to have had a lasting effect on the young man whose walks in the woods always entailed carrying a rifle, just as his hero, Hawkeye, did. Continue reading

GOING FOR THE KILL: LORD DUNRAVEN AND THE LAND GRAB OF ESTES PARK

IMG_1890One of the highlights of my recent cross-country road trip was Estes Park, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. And how could it not be a highlight? Here is scenery that both inspires and excites in a corner of Colorado once called the ‘Switzerland of America.’ One of several wide valleys at around 8,000 feet, which include North Park, Middle Park, South Park, and Winter Park, FullSizeRender-18Estes Park itself was renowned for its beauty. Continue reading

A TALE OF TWO CULTURES

Stage at The Grand Ol' Opry

Stage at The Grand Ol’ Opry

Today there was a culture clash with a visit to The Grand Ol’ Opry in the morning, followed by the Belle Meade Plantation in the afternoon. Standing in the hallowed halls of country music’s Mecca, one got a momentary glimpse into what it is like to reach the pinnacle of your profession and have your dearest dream come true.

1 of numerous dressing rooms at The Opry

1 of numerous dressing rooms at The Opry

At Belle Meade, where 136 people were enslaved, one also got a glimpse of dreams coming true—the dream of emancipation. Tonight we’re dining in a building that combines ancient with modern, if I can stretch the comparison a bit. Modern cuisine in a building where Andrew Jackson was married, and which also served as a station on the Underground Railway.

Slave Quarters at the plantation

Slave Quarters at the plantation

Belle Meade Plantation

Belle Meade Plantation

BLUE PAINTED HILLS

Gettysburg Battlefield

Gettysburg Battlefield

First let me say that if you go to Gettysburg, please allow a full day; don’t try to fit it in en route as we did. The car tour alone, around the 24 miles of sites, takes 3 hours. But I digress…what I want to say is that a visit to Gettysburg is a brain full of ‘What if”s: What if Lincoln hadn’t been elected? What if the South hadn’t seceded? What if the South had won?

Memorial on the spot of Lincoln's address

Memorial on the spot of Lincoln’s address

What if Lincoln hadn’t signed an Emancipation Proclamation? Well, by now of course, there would have been a slave rebellion at least, but what if the South had been a separate country?

Luckily for us, it is not. The Union Army painted those hills blue and now I have got to Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia without having to use a passport. Thanks, Abe!

Sunset at Shenandoah

Sunset at Shenandoah

The Girls Who Civilized the Old West

0-3 B J (Bill) Scott is a novelist who sets his stories in the mid to late 19th century of the American West. He is the author of five books: The Angel Trilogy, Light On A Distant Hill, and the newly-released The Rail Queen. Continue reading

Mormon Row: Historic Site or Ghost Town?

What is the difference between a ghost town and a vacated  historic site? Is there one?

Recently, back up in the Tetons, I ventured with a couple of friends to visit

Map of Mormon Row drawn by Craig Moulton, courtesy of Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum

Map of Mormon Row drawn by Craig Moulton, courtesy of Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum

Mormon Row, a four mile stretch of homesteads and ranch houses just southeast of Black Tail Butte in the valley of Jackson Hole. Here were solid, but decaying, remnants of a community that once thrived, was vibrant with life, if not exactly prosperous by today’s way of understanding. The National Park leaves its historic buildings to decay naturally, which I daresay means that, with time, they’ll be gone. But for now, the buildings stand as a monument to what people do to secure a better life, to survive, perhaps also a monument to what really matters in life. Continue reading