Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Real McCoy

Who was the First "Real McCoy"
By Alison Bruce

If English was a dog, it would be a mutt. Not only a mutt, but one that is constantly stealing words, like bones, from other dogs and calling them his own. Clever dog; capable of declaiming Shakespeare, Penny Dreadfuls and catch phrases.

The latest catch phrase that caught my attention was "the real McCoy." So I looked it up. Of course, there was controversy.

Okay, no one seriously suggested Dr. Leonard McCoy of Star Trek. At least, I don't think they were serious. Clockwise from Dr. McCoy is Bill McCoy, a prohibition era smuggler.
"McCoy took pride in the fact that he never paid a cent to organized crime, politicians, or law enforcement for protection. Unlike many operations that illegally produced and smuggled alcohol for consumption during Prohibition, McCoy sold his merchandise unadulterated, uncut and clean." - Wikipedia
His merchandise was "the real McCoy" but the phrase dates back to the nineteenth century.

The next one clockwise is Elijah McCoy. Free born, in Colchester Ontario, 1844, his parents escaped slaves, he lived in the right period. He apprenticed as an engineer in Scotland. When he returned to his family, now living in Michigan, the only job he could get was as fireman and oiler with Michigan Central Railroad. In his home workshop, he invented a better automatic oiling system, which he patented. He continued to improve it and invent other devises like the folding ironing board and the lawn sprinkler.
Other companies copied his devices, but these never worked as well as Elijah's so people would say, "I want a -- , and make sure it's a real McCoy." - UK Guardian Online

The only problem with this theory is that Elijah McCoy didn't manufacture anything under his own name until 1920. Likewise, another candidate, American world champion boxer, Charles "Kid" McCoy (who was born Norman Selby in 1872) was just a kid when the phrase was first published.

Which brings me to my favourite:

Joseph Geating McCoy

Not mentioned on any of the answer pages, I learned about “The Real McCoy” watching The Adventure of the English Language, a BBC documentary series. There, he was not only credited with coining the phrase, but for shaping the character of the old west. He did it with one simple idea: transporting cattle by train.

In a nutshell, McCoy was a livestock trader looking to make his fortune. He knew Texas had cattle, which was going cheap. He knew Kansas farmers didn't want Texas longhorns anywhere near their eastern cattle. The longhorns carried a tic that carried a disease the longhorns were immune to but killed less hardy breeds. He also knew that railroads wanted to cash in on their investment by hauling more freight.

McCoy bought a village on the rail line, near the end of the Chisholm Trail. He built a hotel, stockyard, office and bank and called it Abilene. The trail lay to the west of the Kansas farms which meant the cattlemen could use it without hostility from the Kansas homesteaders.
In 1867, McCoy spent $5,000 on advertising and riders. He promised a good price for cattle sold in Abilene and was a man of his word. One cattleman bought 600 cows for $5,400 and sold them in Abilene for $16,800. It was the beginning of the 'beef bonanza'. Between 1867 and 1881 McCoy sent more than 2 million cattle from Abilene to Chicago. His reputation for reliability gave rise to the expression 'the real McCoy'.
 Joseph styled himself "The Real McCoy." Since his business relied on his word, it makes sense that he would turn such a neat phrase.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Plains Indians by Ginger Simpson

The Plains Indians by Ginger Simpson
While reading historical literature about my favorite topic, American Indians, I was amazed to learn how many Plains tribes existed.  The "Plains," as defined in the 19th century, included land ranging from northern Alberta, Canada into Texas in the south, cutting swaths through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.  The names of those tribes are, but not limited to: Sarcee, Plains Cree, Blackfoot, Ojibwa, Assiniboin, Gros Ventre, Hidatsa, Mandan, Crow, Arikara, Ponca, Cheyenne, Dakota, Omaha, Iowa, Pawnee, Araphaho, Oto, Kansa, Wichita, Kiowa, Osage, Kiowa-Apache, Comanche, and Caddo.

Amazingly enough, though many tribes lived and co-existed on the Plains, the language spoken consisted of only nine different ones: Siouan, Kowan, Caddoan, Algonquian, Shoshoean, and Athabascan.  It’s not surprising that sign language became a means of communication for those who didn’t speak the same dialect.
A shared interest by all tribes was the buffalo.  Indian survival greatly depended upon the animal, and once I learned the importance of the huge shaggy beast, I suddenly understood why tribal tempers flared when white men began slaughtering the animals for the pure sport of it, shooting  through the windows of moving trains and leaving the carcasses to rot. 
For centuries and centuries, Indians have depended upon the buffalo as their mainstay.  In fact, before horses were introduced as a means of transportation, nomadic bands hunted on foot.  Of course, you can safely assume that the lifespan of these hunters was relatively short because of the danger involved. Have you seen the size of a buffalo?

Usually, twice-yearly hunts were organized and different methods were used to fall the huge beasts.
Before the advantage of riding among the herd on horseback, hunters found ways to cause stampedes and then drove the animals off a cliff.  Warriors dressed in buffalo skins and wandered among the herds, gaining a vantage point of leadership in which the bulls followed and were stunned to a fearful run by other tribe mates who stamped their feet and yelled.  Now, that's what I call bravery.
Saying, “depended upon” is not an understatement.  Not only did the buffalo provide essential food for the tribe, nothing was wasted from a kill.  Clothing, blankets, lodge coverings, utensils, dishes, and even bowstrings were fashioned from the animal’s remains.  The meat was divided equally among the tribe, often dried with berries to create a dish called pemmican to sustain the people through the winter. Even the needles and thread used to tack on the colorful beading that decorated the clothing of the tribe came from the blessed kill.  Take a minute and try to picture having to manufacture everything you use from a buffalo--from the food on your table to the very pot you cooked it in. That doesn't count all the work that goes into scraping and drying the hides.  I don’t know about you, but the supermarket is looking pretty darn good to me. You?

 Have a Nice Day, or as a Lakota woman would say:  Aŋpétu wašté yuhá pe.

Monday, February 23, 2015


This post is not about a cowboy, but someone who is truly remarkable. In fact, I'm sure any red-blooded cowboy would have happily kissed her. As a former newspaper reporter, I cannot help being an admirer of Nelly Bly. She made history not only as a reporter, but in a second career as an inventor.

Nellie Bly/Elizabeth Cochran

Nellie Bly was the pen name of American journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane. She was a ground-breaking reporter known for a record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days, in emulation of Jules Verne's fictional character Phileas Fogg, and an exposé in which she faked insanity to study a mental institution from within. She was a pioneer in her field, and launched a new kind of investigative journalism. In addition to her writing, she also was an industrialist, inventor, and charity worker.

At birth she was named Elizabeth Jane Cochran. She was born in Cochran Mills, which today is part of the Pittsburgh suburb of Burrell Township, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Mary Jane and Michael Cochran. Her father was a modest laborer and mill worker who taught his young children about the virtues of hard work and determination by buying the local mill and most of the land surrounding his family farmhouse. As a young girl, Elizabeth often was called "Pinky" because she so frequently wore the color. As she became a teenager she wanted to portray herself as more sophisticated, and so dropped the nickname and changed her surname to Cochrane.

She attended boarding school for one term, but was forced to drop out due to her family’s lack of funds. In 1880, Cochrane and her family moved to Pittsburgh. An aggressively misogynistic column entitled "What Girls Are Good For" in The Pittsburgh Dispatch prompted her to write a fiery rebuttal to the editor under the pseudonym "Lonely Orphan Girl". The editor, George Madden, was impressed with her passion and ran an advertisement asking the author to identify herself.

When Cochrane introduced herself to the editor, he offered her the opportunity to write a piece for the newspaper, again under the pseudonym "Lonely Orphan Girl". After her first article for the Dispatch, entitled "The Girl Puzzle", Madden was impressed again and offered her a full-time job. Women who were newspaper writers at that time customarily used pen names. The editor chose "Nellie Bly" for Cochrane, adopted from the title character in the popular song "Nelly Bly" by Stephen Foster.

As a writer, Bly focused her early work for the Dispatch on the plight of working women, writing a series of investigative articles on women who were factory workers, but editorial pressure pushed her to the so-called women's pages to cover fashion, society, and gardening, which were the usual role for women journalists of the day. Dissatisfied with these duties, she took the initiative and traveled to Mexico to serve as a foreign correspondent. Still only 21, she spent nearly half a year reporting the lives and customs of the Mexican people. Her dispatches later were published in book form as SIX MONTHS IN MEXICO.

In one report, she protested the imprisonment of a local journalist for criticizing the Mexican government, then a dictatorship under Porfirio Díaz. When Mexican authorities learned of Bly's report, they threatened her with arrest, prompting her to leave the country. Safely home, she denounced Díaz as a tyrannical czar suppressing the Mexican people and controlling the press.

Burdened again with theater and arts reporting, Bly left The Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1887 for New York City. Penniless after four months, she talked her way into the offices of Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper, the New York World, and took an undercover assignment for which she agreed to feign insanity to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island.

After a night of practicing deranged expressions in front of a mirror, she checked into a boardinghouse. She refused to go to bed, telling the boarders that she was afraid of them and that they looked crazy. They soon decided that she was crazy, and the next morning summoned the police. Taken to a courtroom, she pretended to have amnesia. The judge concluded she had been drugged.

She was then examined by several doctors, all of whom declared her to be insane. "Positively demented," said one, "I consider it a hopeless case. She needs to be put where someone will take care of her." The head of the insane pavilion at Bellevue Hospital pronounced her "undoubtedly insane". The case of the pretty crazy girl attracted media attention.

"Who Is This Insane Girl?" asked the New York Sun. The New York Times wrote of the "mysterious waif" with the "wild, hunted look in her eyes", and her desperate cry: "I can't remember I can't remember."

Committed to the asylum, Bly experienced its conditions firsthand. The food consisted of gruel broth, spoiled beef, bread that was little more than dried dough, and dirty undrinkable water. The dangerous patients were tied together with ropes. The patients were made to sit for much of each day on hard benches with scant protection from the cold. Waste was all around the eating places. Rats crawled all around the hospital. The bathwater was frigid, and buckets of it were poured over their heads. The nurses were obnoxious and abusive, telling the patients to shut up, and beating them if they did not. Speaking with her fellow patients, Bly was convinced that some were as sane as she was.

On the effect of her experiences, she wrote: "What, excepting torture, would produce insanity quicker than this treatment? Here is a class of women sent to be cured. I would like the expert physicians who are condemning me for my action, which has proven their ability, to take a perfectly sane and healthy woman, shut her up and make her sit from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on straight-back benches, do not allow her to talk or move during these hours, give her no reading and let her know nothing of the world or its doings, give her bad food and harsh treatment, and see how long it will take to make her insane. Two months would make her a mental and physical wreck."

…My teeth chattered and my limbs were …numb with cold. Suddenly, I got three buckets of ice-cold water…one in my eyes, nose and mouth.

After ten days, Bly was released from the asylum at The New York World's behest. Her report, later published in book form as Ten Days in a Mad-House, caused a sensation and brought her lasting fame. While embarrassed physicians and staff fumbled to explain how so many professionals had been fooled, a grand jury launched its own investigation into conditions at the asylum, inviting Bly to assist. The jury's report recommended the changes she had proposed, and its call for increased funds for care of the insane prompted an $850,000 increase in the budget of the Department of Public Charities and Corrections. They also made sure that future examinations were more thorough so that only the seriously ill went to the asylum.

In 1888, Bly suggested to her editor at the New York World that she take a trip around the world, attempting to turn the fictional AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS into fact for the first time. A year later, at 9:40 a.m. on November 14, 1889, and with two days' notice, she boarded the Augusta Victoria, a steamer of the Hamburg America Line, and began her 24,899-mile journey.

She brought with her the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials. She carried most of her money (£200 in English bank notes and gold in total, as well as some American currency) in a bag tied around her neck.

The New York newspaper Cosmopolitan sponsored its own reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, to beat the time of both Phileas Fogg and Bly. Bisland would travel the opposite way around the world. To sustain interest in the story, the World organized a “Nellie Bly Guessing Match” in which readers were asked to estimate Bly’s arrival time to the second, with the Grand Prize consisting at first of a free trip to Europe and, later on, spending money for the trip.

During her travels around the world, Bly went through England, France (where she met Jules Verne in Amiens), Brindisi, the Suez Canal, Colombo (Ceylon), the Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. The development of efficient submarine cable networks and the electric telegraph allowed Bly to send short progress reports, although longer dispatches had to travel by regular post and thus, often were delayed by several weeks.

Bly travelled using steamships and the existing railroad systems, which caused occasional setbacks, particularly on the Asian leg of her race. During these stops, she visited a leper colony in China. In Singapore, she bought a monkey.

As a result of rough weather on her Pacific crossing, she arrived in San Francisco on the White Star Line ship Oceanic on January 21, two days behind schedule. New York World owner Pulitzer chartered a private train to bring her home. She arrived back in New Jersey on January 25, 1890, at 3:51 p.m.

Just over seventy-two days after her departure from Hoboken, Bly was back in New York. She had circumnavigated the globe, traveling alone for almost the entire journey. Bisland was, at the time, still crossing the Atlantic, only to arrive in New York four and a half days later. Bisland also had missed a connection and had to board a slow, old ship (the Bothina) in the place of a fast ship (Etruria). Bly's journey was a world record, although it was bettered a few months later by George Francis Train, who completed the journey in 67 days. By 1913, Andre Jaeger-Schmidt, Henry Frederick, and John Henry Mears had improved on the record, the latter completing the journey in fewer than 36 days.

In 1895 Nellie Bly married millionaire manufacturer Robert Seaman. Bly was 31 and Seaman was 73 when they married. She retired from journalism, and became the president of the Iron Clad Manufacturing Co., which made steel containers such as milk cans and boilers. In 1904, her husband died. In the same year, Iron Clad began manufacturing the steel barrel that was the model for the 55-gallon oil drum still in widespread use in the United States. Although there have been claims that Nellie Bly invented the barrel, the inventor is believed to have been Henry Wehrhahn, who likely assigned his invention to her. Nellie Bly was, however, an inventor in her own right, receiving US patent 697,553 for a novel milk can and US patent 703,711 for a stacking garbage can, both under her married name of Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman.

For a time she was one of the leading women industrialists in the United States, but embezzlement by employees led her into bankruptcy. Back in reporting, she wrote stories on Europe's Eastern Front during World War I and notably covered the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913. Her headline for the Parade story was “Suffragists Are Men's Superiors”, but she also "with uncanny prescience" predicted in the story that it would be 1920 before women would win the vote.

The remarkable Nellie Bly died of pneumonia at St. Mark's Hospital in New York City in 1922, at age 57. She was interred in a modest grave at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Source: Wikipedia

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Interesting Wild West Facts - Susan Horsnell

Hi Everyone

Getting excited. It is just 10 days before hubby and I visit Texas. Cannot wait to see the historical sites around the state. My good friend Caroline Clemmons will be hosting us for a few days in Dallas/Fort Worth and I hear she has some interesting things planned. It will be our first visit to mainland USA and I'm very sure it won't be our last. For my post this week I thought I would share some interesting facts on the "Wild West" of years past.

Judge Roy Bean
Judge Roy Bean once killed a Mexican official in a dispute over a girl in California. A friend of the Mexican official hanged Bean; but, before he died, he was cut down by the contested damsel. Ever after, Bean was unable to turn his head due to the injury.

The first gold strike in the Old West was made by Jose Ortiz in 1832 south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in what would quickly become the boom town of Delores.

Billy the Kid was born in New York City on September 17, 1859.

Established in 1827, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas is the oldest military post in continuous operation west of the Mississippi River.

The oldest human skeleton ever found in the Western Hemisphere was discovered in 1953 near Midland, Texas. It was first believed that the skeleton, the remains of a 30-year-old woman, was 10,000 years old. However, the latest estimates are that it is much older.

The term "red light district" came from the Red Light Bordello in Dodge City, Kansas. The front door of the building was made of red glass and produced a red glow to the outside world when lit at night. The name carried over to refer to the town's brothel district.

Clay Allison was described in a physician’s report as maniacal” with a personality where "emotional or physical excitement produces paroxysmal of a mixed character.”

Estimates of how many people lived in North America before the arrival of the European explorers vary from 8.4 million to 112 million. This population was divided into about 240 tribal groupings speaking an estimated 300 different languages.

Buffalo,which were strewn across the Great Plains after the mass buffalo hunts of 1870-1883, were bought by Eastern firms for the production of fertilizer and bone china. "Bone pickers” earned eight dollars a ton for the bones.

Around 1541, the present state of Texas was called Tejas, a Spanish version of the Caddo word meaning "allies."

Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Earp was indicted for horse theft in Van Buren, Arkansas on May 8, 1871. He escaped trial by jumping bail and fleeing to Kansas. 

Rumor has it that the tradition of spreading sawdust on the floors of bars and saloons started in Deadwood, South Dakota due to the amount of gold dust that would fall on the floor. The sawdust was used to hide the fallen gold dust and was swept up at the end of the night.

After serving more than twenty years in prison, Cole Younger got a job selling tombstones, worked for a while in a Wild West show with Frank James and died quietly in 1916 in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, where he was known as an elderly churchgoer.

 Wyatt Earp was neither the town marshal or the sheriff in Tombstone, Arizona at the time of the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral. His brother Virgil was the town marshal, who had temporarily deputized Wyatt, Morgan and Doc Holliday prior to the gunfight.

The Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri to Fort Vancouver, Washington measured 2,020 miles. An estimated 350,000 emigrants took the trail but one out of seventeen would not survive the trip. The most common cause of death was cholera.

Harry Longabaugh became known as "the Sundance Kid" because he served a jail term for horse stealing in Sundance, Wyoming.
The Sundance Kid

Mike Fink was a keel boatman along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and an expert marksman. However, he loved his drink and was a known brawler. One of his favorite games was to shoot a mug of brew from the top of some fellow's head. However, on one night in 1823, he had drank so much that it didn't matter how good were his shooting skills. This time he missed and killed the guy who was wearing the mug on his head. In no time, the dead man's friends retaliated by killing Fink. For whatever reasons, his legend was being told for decades along with the likes of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill.

Texas was the most active gunfighting state, with some 160 shoot-outs from the 1850's through the 1890's.

The Colt Peacemaker, the weapon that became known as "the gun that won the West” was a .45-caliber manufactured by Colt’s Fire Arms Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut in 1873. At the time it sold for $17.00.

Samuel Clemens, struck by silver fever, tried his hand at prospecting in the town of Unionville, Nevada in 1862. Having more luck in trading mining claims than actually producing silver, he wound up leaving the area. A short time latter Clemens, changes his name to Mark Twain and becomes one of the greatest writers of American Literature.

On December 21, 1876, Clay Allison shot and killed Deputy Sheriff Charles Faber at the Olympic Dance Hall in Las Animas, Colorado. If it weren’t for Allison purposely stomping on the feet of other dancers, the law probably would never have been called.

The Infamous Dalton Gang only operated for one year and five months, beginning with a train robbery in Wharton, Oklahoma on May 9, 1891 and ending at the shootout at Coffeyville, Kansas on October 5, 1892.

Though the term "stick 'em up" is widely used in Western films, it wasn't actually coined until the 1930's.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the Wild Wests' history. 

Until next time, 
Stay Safe

For info about my Western Romance books visit:

Thank you to Legends of America

Monday, February 16, 2015

Alaskan Gold Rush

A nugget found near Sutter’s Fort in California the winter of 1948 not only caused excitement to race across the nation, it spread a new ‘disease’. Gold fever, and it lasted for well over 60 years. Actually, it’s still out there—the show Gold Rush is extremely popular. For years, word of a new discovery of gold had people flocking in that direction. California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona and Nevada. Then, in 1880 gold was discovered further north—Alaska—and more people than ever swarmed north.

Hopefuls from all around the world were drawn into the Alaskan gold rush. Thousands, full of dreams about finding the mother lode, went “North to Alaska”. An estimated 100,000 people embarked upon the trek, but between 30,000 to 40,000 actually made it. A few found gold, but for many, after endearing unimaginable weather, hardships, and disappointment, they returned home further in debt than when they’d left. Dependent upon the location of the claim, in some cases it took miners longer to get to their claim than the mining season. Usually, it averaged four months, June—October. Winters were harsh and starvation was a reality.  For this reason, Canadian authorities decreed any miner entering the Klondike had to bring with a year’s worth of supplies. As fast as word spread about the gold, so did other ‘rumors’. One such tale was that all a man needed to survive was raisins. Many bought into this belief and the price of raisins skyrocketed.  

As it was in several other mining locations, those running the saloons and other businesses that catered the miners made more money than the miners did, except those lucky few who did strike it rich.

“Lucky” is what the hero of my next release nicknames himself. So far it had paid off, and the heroine hopes it works for her too!

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Comstock Lode by @JacquieRogers #history #western

Website | Pickle Barrel Gazette | Amazon

The Wild Rich West

What one event influenced the outcome of the Civil War, built the Bank of California, financed San Francisco, created a new state, built a prestigious university, and pushed the completion of the trans-continental railroad? Yep, the discovery of the Comstock Lode.

Virginia City, Nevada, is on top of this momentuous find--it's a great place to visit and you can go on several excellent tours. The Comstock Lode was the world's richest mining discovery at the time. People think about silver when you mention the Comstock Lode, but actually miners extracted 57% silver, and 42% gold--more gold than most gold mines.

Since the 1849 California Gold Rush, prospectors scoured the western half of North America obsessed with gold fever. In 1859, Pat McLaughlin and Peter O'Reilly found gold at the head of Six-Mile Canyon. Henry Comstock, good fellow that he was, told McLaughline and O'Reilly that the discovery was on his pasture land and, well, they believed him. Same old story--the discoverers weren't the ones who made the money. But then neither did Henry Comstock.

Old Virginnie Town's population increased from about 3 to 17,000 in the first year. One major frustration the gold miners had was the annoying sticky blue-gray mud that clung to their shovels. When they assayed the mud, it turned out to be silver ore worth $2,000 per ton! That's a lot of money in 1859. Things really heated up around then! From Calliope:

"Frame shanties pitched together as if by accident - tents of canvas, of blankets of brush, of potato-sacks, and old shirts, with empty whisky barrels for chimneys - coyote holes in the mountain-side forcibly seized and held by men - pits and shafts with smoke issuing from every crevice - piles of goods and rubbish in the hollows, on the rocks, in the mud, in the snow everywhere, scattered broadcast in pell-mell confusion."

Lots of men who are household names today made their fortunes from the Comstock Lode, among them are: George Hearst, father of William Randolf Hearst; Leland Stanford (right), founder of Stanford University; William Ralston, founder of the Bank of California; and of course the most famous was an unsuccessful prospector who took up the pen, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

Within a few years, the political climate back East heated to boiling. President Abraham Lincoln had a war to finance, and the Comstock Lode was entirely too enticing. The boundaries were defined and Nevada became a state even though the population was too small to qualify it.

All didn't go smoothly at first. There was much dispute and hooplah over boundaries, and in the first six years, of the $50 million of ore mined, $10 million went to litigation! And of course one of the preeminent lawyers, William Stewart, ended up in the U.S. Senate.

The Comstock Lode brought a lot of innovations: the first miners' union, advances in drilling and tunneling technology, square-set timbering (which changed mining all over the world), and lots of other inventions that were the catalyst for modern mining practices. It also made a few men rich and broke thousands.

Online NevadaCalliopeStanford UniversityWikipedia

Free today, Feb. 13 only!
Much Ado About Madams
Hearts of Owyhee #1

"Rogers' talent shines as she creates a stunning portrait of what it was like to live in the old west. Her characters leap off the page and she handles humor with as much skill as she does the deeper emotions. MUCH ADO ABOUT MADAMS was a fabulous read. I am anxiously awaiting the next book in the Hearts of Owyhee series." ~Gerri Russell, author of the Brotherhood of the Scottish Templars series.

Oh my stars! Suffragist Lucinda Sharpe can’t believe she was hired to teach a bunch of soiled doves their letters. And what about the handsome brothel owner? Only a despicable cad would engage in such a business. 

Blast that woman! Reese McAdams didn’t want the brothel in the first danged place, and now a suffragist schoolteacher is stirring up the works. 

Can she reform the Comfort Palace ladies without losing her heart to Reese? Will her secret past ruin her future?

coming soon:
Much Ado About Mustangs

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sweet Treats for Valentine's Day...Made with Old-Fashioned Love

Served with Love

Old-Fashioned Desserts

by Christina Cole

I love cooking, and whenever Valentine's Day draws nigh, my thoughts go to sweet desserts. Today, I'm sharing a few treats that will take you back in time. Cooking from scratch isn't as easy as opening a can or popping a tray into a microwave. Women in the west didn't have the same modern conveniences we know today. Just heating up the old woodstove and trying to maintain the proper temperature could be a terrific challenge.

One problem I've discovered in adapting old recipes is that the ingredients used aren't always ones on our grocer's shelves. Hartshorn? Salteratus? Suet? Pulverized sugar?

Another problem is that most old recipes are a bit vague. Measurements aren't exact, and since stoves and ovens varied so much, a woman had to rely on her own cooking and baking skills to determine the best heat and time.

I've chosen recipes today that modern cooks should be able to recreate with little problem. Even if the results turn out less than perfect, the love you put into these desserts will still make them sweet, indeed.

Sunshine Cake

From the Columbine Sunshine Society, How We Cook in Colorado, 1907

6 eggs, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup flour, scant 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, pinch of salt, flavor to taste.

Sift, measure, and set aside flour and sugar. Separate the eggs and add to the white 1 pinch of salt. Whip to a foam. Add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff. Add sugar and beat in, then add the well-beaten egg yolks. Flavor and beat again. Lastly, add the flour and fold lightly through. Put into a moderate oven at once and bake from 25 to 30 minutes.

Nana Faerner's Peach Ice Cream

From The Mesa Worker's Cook Book, 1897

3 pounds ripe peaches, cut and mash, and put through colander; sweeten peaches to taste. 1 pint cream, 1 quart milk. Beat 2 eggs and stir with other ingredients. Freeze until hard.

Grandmother's Sugar Cookies

From Recipes of the First Congregational Church, Colorado Springs, 1920.

2 eggs, 2 cups sugar, 1 cup butter, 1 cup sour milk, 2 teaspoonsful soda, 1 teaspoonful baking power, 4 cups flour, over one-half nutmeg (I take this to mean slightly more than 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg), 1 teaspoon vanilla. Roll and sprinkle top of dough with sugar and cinnamon mixed. Bake in moderately hot oven.

Contributed by Mrs. Cynthia Wynne (Born 1831)

Economical Pudding

From Darley Family Papers, 1860s

Keep your pieces of bread and dry them nice. When enough are collected, soak them in milk overnight. In the morning, drain out all the milk you can through a cullander. Add to the bread some sugar and a little salt, with some scalded raisins. Tie it in a bag, and boil for 5 or 6 hours. Serve with sweet sauce.

Very Nice Pudding Sauce

From The Capitol Cook Book, 1899

Beat the yolk of 1 egg with 1/2 cup white sugar and 1 tablespoon of conrstarch. Stir in 3 tablespoonsful boiling water; set it over a teakettle to keep warm. Just as you take it to the table, stir in lightly the white of egg beaten with other 1/2 cup of sugar, a little nutmeg, and a spoonful of brandy or wine.

I hope you enjoy these old-fashioned treats. I have many more recipes from historical cookbooks, so if you're looking for something in particular that I can help you with, please email me. You can reach me at

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hell's Half Acre by Kathleen Ball


HELL'S HALF ACRE, FORT WORTH. Among the various Hell's Half Acres across the frontier, none was more infamous or more rambunctious than Fort Worth's. The Fort Worth version started during the city's heyday as a drover's stop on the cattle trails to Kansas in the early 1870s. The name first appeared in the local newspaper in 1874, but by that time the district was already well established on the lower end of town, where it was the first thing the trail drivers saw as they approached the town from the south. there was one and two story saloons, dance halls, and bawdy houses and some  legitimate businesses. 

Only those looking for trouble or excitement ventured into the Acre. The usual activities of the Acre, included brawling, gambling, cockfighting, and horse racing.

As the importance of Fort Worth as a crossroads and cowtown grew, so did Hell's Half Acre. It was originally limited to the lower end of Rusk Street (renamed Commerce Street in 1917) but spread out in all directions until by 1881 the Fort Worth Democrat was complaining that it covered 2½ acres. 

Long before the Acre reached its maximum boundaries, local citizens had become alarmed at the level of crime and violence in their city. In 1876 Timothy Isaiah (Longhair Jim) Courtright was elected city marshal with a mandate to tame the Acre's wilder activities. Courtright cracked down on violence and general rowdiness-by sometimes putting as many as thirty people in jail on a Saturday night-but allowed the gamblers to operate unmolested. After receiving information that train and stagecoach robbers, such as the Sam Bass gang, were using the Acre as a hideout, local authorities intensified law-enforcement efforts. The cowboys began to stay away, and the businesses began to suffer. City officials muted their stand against vice. Courtright lost support of the Fort Worth Democrat and consequently lost when he ran for reelection in 1879. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s the Acre continued to attract gunmen, highway robbers, card sharks, con men, and shady ladies, who preyed on out-of-town and local sportsmen.

At one time or another reform-minded mayors like H. S. Broiles and crusading newspaper editors like B. B. Paddock declared war on the district but with no long-term results. The Acre meant income for the city-all of it illegal-and excitement for visitors.
Suicide was responsible for more deaths than murder, and the chief victims were prostitutes, not gunmen. However much its reputation was exaggerated, the real Acre was bad enough. The newspaper claimed "it was a slow night which did not pan out a cutting or shooting scrape among its male denizens or a morphine experiment by some of its frisky females." The loudest outcries during the periodic clean-up campaigns were against the dance halls, where men and women met, as opposed to the saloons or the gambling parlors, which were virtually all male.

A major reform campaign in the late 1880s was brought on by Mayor Boiles and County Attorney R. L. Carlock after two events. In the first of these, on February 8, 1887, Luke Short and Jim Courtright had a shootout on Main Street that left Courtright dead and Short the "King of Fort Worth Gamblers." Although the fight did not occur in the Acre, it focused public attention on the city's underworld. A few weeks later a poor prostitute known only by the name of Sally was found murdered and nailed to an outhouse door in the Acre. These two events, combined with the first prohibition campaign in Texas, helped to shut down the Acre's worst excesses in 1889.

By 1900 most of the dance halls and gamblers were gone. Cheap variety shows and prostitution became the chief forms of entertainment. The Progressive era was similarly making its reformist mark felt in districts like the Acre all over the country.

In 1911 Rev. J. Frank Norris launched an offensive against racetrack gambling in the Baptist Standard and used the pulpit of the First Baptist Church to attack vice and prostitution. Norris used the Acre both to scourge the leadership of Fort Worth and to advance his own personal career. When he began to link certain Fort Worth businessmen with property in the Acre and announce their names from his pulpit, the battle heated up. On February 4, 1912, Norris's church was burned to the ground; that evening his enemies tossed a bundle of burning oiled rags onto his porch, but the fire was extinguished and caused minimal damage. A month later the arsonists succeeded in burning down the parsonage. In a sensational trial lasting a month, Norris was charged with perjury and arson in connection with the two fires. He was acquitted, but his continued attacks on the Acre accomplished little until 1917. A new city administration and the federal government, which was eyeing Fort Worth as a potential site for a major military training camp, joined forces with the Baptist preacher to bring down the curtain on the Acre finally. 

According to the police department  50 percent of the violent crime in Fort Worth occurred in the Acre, a shocking confirmation of long-held suspicions. After Camp Bowie was located on the outskirts of Fort Worth in the summer of 1917, martial law was brought to bear against prostitutes and barkeepers of the Acre. Fines and stiff jail sentences curtailed their activities. By the time Norris held a mock funeral parade to "bury John Barleycorn" in 1919, the Acre had become a part of Fort Worth history. The name, nevertheless, continued to be used for three decades thereafter to refer to the depressed lower end of Fort Worth.

Source: The Texas State Historical Association.

 Kathleen Ball writes contemporary western romance with great emotion and memorable

characters.Her books are award winners and have appeared on best sellers lists including

Amazon's Best Sellers List, All Romance Ebooks, Bookstrand, Desert Breeze Publishing and

Secret Cravings Publishing Best Sellers list. She is the recipient of eight Editor's Choice

Awards, and The Readers' Choice Award for Ryelee's Cowboy.

There's something about a cowboy....

Facebook Fan Page-