Category Archives: American History

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

Struggles and Hope During WWII’s Japanese Internment

shanna-3I’m so pleased to welcome back another pal from Women Writing the West, USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield. Shanna writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”

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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

Because of Virginia City

Blaire EdensBlaire Edens is another fellow author from the Good, the Bad and the Ghostly.  She lives in the mountains of North Carolina. She grew up on a farm that’s been in her family since 1790. Of Scottish descent, her most famous ancestor, John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Guardian of Scotland, was murdered by Robert the Bruce on the altar of the Greyfriars Church at Dumfries. 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

Does the West Define America?

Frederick Jackson Turner

Frederick Jackson Turner

A few months ago, Amazon came up with one of its ‘suggested reading’ promotions that actually interested me. It was a book, obviously meant for students of history, called ‘Does the Frontier Experience Make America Exceptional?’ What an interesting question, I thought: does it? 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

Why Augusta?

taken at the Daniel Boone Homestead

taken at the Daniel Boone Homestead

Every time someone has asked us what our itinerary is for this trip, everything is fine until I mention Augusta, Missouri. ‘Why Augusta?’, or ‘What’s in Augusta?’ invariably is asked. So here, in black and white, is the truth of the matter. We considered St. Louis as being on our route but, having included Charlotte, Nashville and Memphis, I rather felt that we were getting heavy on the cities and wanted a change. I might have liked Independence for its historical significance but it didn’t quite fit into the driving, and I’d recently been to Kansas City so nixed that. In the end, when we discovered Augusta was one of the centers of Missouri wine country, also offered Daniel Boone’s Homestead, and had the bonus of the historic Katy trail for Cristal to run, it seemed like an excellent choice.

Daniel Boone Homestead

Daniel Boone Homestead

Well, choices are one thing, reality often proves another. Our little cottage is charming and we made some local antique purchases this morning as well as visiting the workshop of a local glassblower and making another purchase there. But when it came to Dan’l Boone’s Home, after a twenty minute drive, we discovered the tours went out on the hour and we would have a forty-five minute wait in stifling heat. So we hurried through their self-guide tour of the homestead and village buildings—not permitted to enter any without a proper guide—and in a rather sorry state decided to return home. Without wine.

Some days just have hiccoughs.

Peace Church in the village at Boone Homestead

Peace Church in the village at Boone Homestead

TWO KINGS

Living room at Graceland

Living room at Graceland

Visiting Graceland would not be my first choice of vacation destination, but if you’re doing a road trip which passes through Memphis, well, it would be foolish to not stop. I was still in single digit age when Elvis was ‘King’ but it didn’t stop a brief flirtation with the swivel- hipped heart-throb before allegiance passed to the Beatles. There’s very little I remember about him other than the early songs and a controversial appearance on

Trophy Room at Graceland

Trophy Room at Graceland

The Ed Sullivan Show when he was only televised from the waist up. So, my ideas on what I would see at Graceland were somewhat negative: I was wrong. If you accept that it is a time capsule of ‘70s décor and know the shag pile is coming your way, it’s all very well done. I did rather feel like I had stepped into The Twilight Zone at times, but

In the 'Jungle Room' at Graceland

In the ‘Jungle Room’ at Graceland

aside from that, enjoyed the visit. Of course, it’s all highly edited so no photos of Elvis in the bloated years are shown, no mention of divorce is made, and certainly no whiff of drugs. It’s the sanitized version of which Col. Parker would have approved.

After a lunch of Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken—one

Lunch at Gus'

Lunch at Gus’

hiccough in our healthy eating routine—we went on to the National Civil Rights Museum, housed in the Lorraine Motel. This was definitely not sanitized. It starts with a gut-punch on how whites kidnapped Africans in the 1600s, and goes on through the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. at that very same Lorraine Motel and the capture of James Earl Ray. The museum doesn’t mind pointing out that Lincoln only instigated the Emancipation Proclamation as a

The Lorraine Motel--now the National Civil Rights Museum

The Lorraine Motel–now the National Civil Rights Museum

political act to subdue the South rather than to actually free the slaves, and that the wealth of the North was as much based on slavery in the South as the South’s own economy.

I’m not going to get involved in this argument; I’ll leave it there. I did, however, buy a baseball cap—something I never wear—which says, “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History.”