Friday, March 24, 2017

BELLE POINT, ARKANSAS by Zina Abbott




Last year I had the opportunity to drive through Fort Smith, Arkansas. Perhaps “fly through” would be a better description, for I didn’t have enough time to actually explore the historical sites. However, I was able to convince my husband to slow down and cruise through the parking lot next to the old fort for a few pictures.
 
Ctsy National Parks Service - Fort Smith
Fort Smith is located at a place originally known as Belle Point. It became a possession of the United States at the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. When soldiers and traders pushed into the vast wilderness of the West in the early 1800's, they discovered a beautiful spot at the junction of the Arkansas and Poteau Rivers. 
 
Courtesy National Parks Service - Fort Smith, Arkansas
The French explorers and traders, at a time when French territory extended west from the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border, called this slate projection and its surrounding area Belle Point. It was a trading spot for the French with the native Caddo and Wichita people until Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803. 
 
Landing at Belle Point, Courtesy of National Parks Service - Fort Smith, Arkansas
The city began as a western frontier military post in 1817 and would later become well known for its role in the settling of the wild West and its law enforcement heritage.
 
Site of the original Fort Smith at Belle Point, Courtesy of National Park Service -  Fort Smith, AR
Soon after, the Pike Expedition (1806) explored the Arkansas River. Fort Smith was founded in 1817 as a military post. A stockade was built and occupied, from 1817 until 1822, by a small troop of regulars commanded by Major William Bradford. Around the fort a small settlement began forming, but the Army abandoned the first Fort Smith in 1824 and moved 80 miles further west to Fort Gibson. Army sutler and land speculator John Rogers bought up former government-owned lands and promoted growth of the new civilian town of Fort Smith, eventually influencing the federal government to re-establish a military presence at Fort Smith during the era of Indian Removal and the Mexican War.
 
Grounds leading to Belle Point, Courtesy of National Parks Service - Fort Smith, Arkansas
In 1819 naturalist Thomas Nuttall visited the site of the new American fort being built there.  He said the view from the point was, "... more commanding and picturesque, than any other spot of equal elevation on the banks of the Arkansas."

The 1936 historical marker at Belle Point reads:

In 1817 the first Fort Smith was built at Belle Point at the junction of the Poteau and Arkansas Rivers by Major William Bradford, for mutual protection of the pioneers and Indians. He was in command until 1822. It was named in honor of Bridadier General Thomas A. Smith.
 
Belle Point, Courtesy of National Parks Service - Fort Smith, Arkansas

The water level is much higher today because of the lock and dam system put on the Arkansas in the 1960's and 70's to make it a navigable waterway.  Originally, the bluff at the left would have been about twenty feet above the river.

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels.
Please visit the Zina Abbott’s Amazon Author Page by clicking HERE.
 

Sources:

http://www.whitsett-wall.com/Fort_Smith/BellePoint.htm
http://www.fortsmithschools.org/bpoint/HistoryMission.aspx
Fort Smith, Arkansas Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Western Wives. The More Things Change...?

by Heather Blanton



“What are some of your favorite dishes to cook, Miss Swank?” Miss Stella rose and began clearing the breakfast dishes. Ellie immediately jumped in to help. There weren’t many. Mr. Hoyt had not joined them. Not that she had assumed he would, of course.
“Dishes? Well, I’m not really much of a cook.”
Miss Stella’s hand slowed as she dragged a coffee cup toward her. “Surely you must cook something. How do you expect to feed a husband?”
I don’t. Or he can cook. “Um, I guess I hadn’t given it much thought. I can muddle my way through the kitchen.”
The older woman gathered the cups to her and shook her head. “Miss Swank, I will save you a lot of heartache and grief. While you’re here, I will give you cooking lessons. Cowboys work hard, sun up to sun down, in blazing heat and bitter blizzards. They come dragging in at night half-dead. The least a wife can do is a have a meal on the table. Something edible.”
Ellie felt properly chastised. “Yes, of course, you’re right. It’s just that I don’t have much to offer in the way of culinary talents so I haven’t pursued it to any level of appreciable skill.”
“Well, we’ll start with bread. And while the dough is rising, we’ll go through my recipe book and pick out a couple of meals for you to learn. Clegg is fond of my country fried steak.”
~~~
This is the kind of conversation that would have Hillary Clinton turning purple and passing out. Women can do more than cook. We can be doctors, lawyers, astronauts, CEOs, anything we put our minds to.
That is a fact.
But what is also a fact is that a hundred years ago, the world was a different place. Roles were different. The expectations of a woman, both of herself and from society around her, were different.
In my current work-in-progess, tentatively titled Mail Order Bride: Undercover, I explore the delicate dance between a woman’s ambition and her submission to love. Ellie Blair wants to be the reporter who will never be confused again with Nellie Bly. She wants success, fame, and respect from her male peers, and will do almost anything to get it. But at what cost? Can she have fame and fortune and love, too?
Most of us know that a century and more ago, women faced unique challenges to chasing their dreams. The culture didn’t exactly encourage independent ladies to push past the bounds of propriety.
But narrow-minded expectations didn’t stop them as often as you might think.
As we all know, prior to modern times, women became doctors, lawyers, spies, politicians (https://ladiesindefiance.com/2014/10/13/the-first-woman-mayor-ever-elected-in-america-was-no-joke/ ) even law enforcement officers (https://ladiesindefiance.com/2015/03/02/the-first-female-sheriff-in-the-usa-was-in-texas-and-from-texas-of-course/ ). You name it, they did it. However, in most cases, they also did the child-rearing and the cooking. Few whined about the inequalities. Instead, they shouldered them. Then, as now, there was a vocal minority that decried chauvinism. Most women, however, dug in their heels, squared their shoulders, looked life right in the eye, and pursued their careers, babies on their hips, spoons in the sauce.
I think the primary difference between women of earlier centuries and today is that our ancestors didn’t expect anyone to lighten their load. Today we expect our husbands to help (whether it happens or not is a different story). Back then, I would argue the ladies truly had no expectation of assistance. If they ran a business, they ran the house. If they wore a badge, they darned their kids’ breeches. If they studied to become lawyers, they still helped the children with their homework. A vicious cycle, but these gals persevered and paved the way for us.
I, for one, sure appreciate their struggles.

Here’s to the Ladies in Defiance who find their own way. Never give in. Never back down. Never lose faith.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on where women have gone, vs. where we were. Do you think things have changed much?

Feel free to comment below or visit me on facebook!  https://www.facebook.com/authorheatherblanton/

Monday, March 20, 2017

Writing What I Don't Know by Paty Jager

My latest Letters of Fate book is off to my first reader or the new term "sensitivity reader". This is the new term being used in writers circles for readers who are the first reader when a writer finishes a book. These readers know more about a character's culture than the writer and they read to make sure the writer has depicted the character or characters properly.

I have used what I call an expert reader, on several of my books. I tend to find something that fascinates me and decide to dive into the story even though I may not know be of that character or characters heritage or religion. When this happens I always make sure I have someone I can call on to help me out and to be the first reader when I finish a project.

This time my hunt for a small, nearly unknown Indian school that I could make things up as I went turned out to be a much bigger project. After writing a third of the book, I discovered from my back and forth emails with a specialist on Mormon history, that there was indeed more information out there than I'd found so far. I had to go back and revise and cut and change the plot of the story. But the change not only added for the history to the story, it also upped the chemistry in my hero and heroine. Which delighted me. I like a little spice in my stories and the way the book had started it was too sweet to push them into the scenes I'd envisioned when first brewing up this story.

Henrí: Letters of Fate, started out being about an Indian school. Henrí Baudin is a half Shoshoni-half French hero. He receives a letter to bring him to the Salmon River Valley in the Oregon Territory in 1858 to help his Shoshoni band. The first version he was asked to come because the teachers were being mean to the Shoshoni students. But upon further research, I realized the school wasn't as I'd first thought. In fact, the Shoshoni children attended the school in the stockade the mission built sporadically.

But I'd learned the concessions that were made for the Mormons or LDS church members to build a mission in the valley. These concessions were not help up on their side and they befriended other tribes who were the enemy of the Shoshoni. Using these factual instances in my book, it added more conflict and drama, and heightened the overall emotional feel of the book. That allowed me to bring the steamier chemistry to the hero and heroine.

Back to my "sensitivity reader". I know very little about the LDS religion, but I know how to find people who do. My expert has been exactly what I needed. She not only knows the religion but a lot about the history too. I didn't want to portray the characters in a way that was degrading but as with all cultures and religions there are always a few bad nuts in the bunch. And my westerns always have my hero fighting some kind of wrong.  Justice is the theme of my westerns. 

Henrí: Letters of Fate will be released in April. 

Do you appreciate when the author goes the extra mile to make sure a culture or religion is portrayed correctly? Or do you just read a book to take you away from everyday life and don't particularly care if the depiction of the characters is accurate?

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 30+ novels, dozen novellas, and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award, EPPIE, Lorie, and RONE Award. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. This is what readers have to say about the Letters of Fate series- “...filled with romance, adventure and twists and turns.” “What a refreshing and well written love story of fate and hope!”



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