Thursday, March 30, 2017

TRAVELING BY TRAIN IN STYLE - PULLMAN RAIL CARS

By Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Admittedly, I have always had a fascination with trains. Perhaps it had something to do with the stories my mother told me of traveling by train. She had been a professional singer, musician and recording artist since childhood, and toured the country with her sisters, primarily by train.

I remember her telling me how she sometimes had to run to make a train, carrying her encased bass fiddle (which was bigger than her), while her older sisters carried a guitar and mandolin, respectively. I remember her talking about the kind porters, the dining cars, and private sleeping compartments (when available). During World War II, private compartments were hard to come by and sleeping berths were all one could get. At times, even they were rare, especially since priority was always given to the military.

I also remember my mother telling me about how my great grandfather, a Pinkerton detective, often had assignments with railroads, particularly the KATY Railroad. Such assignments might involve ensuring a certain passenger or cargo (usually payroll) reached its destination. An ongoing investigation of train robberies, and/or sometimes surprising the dastardly bandits red-handed while safeguarding passengers. I was always fascinated by the family history that he often disarmed the villain with a surprise right hook. Tall, auburn-haired and green-eyed, he didn’t want to risk gunfire that might harm innocent passengers. Although quite adept with a Colt .45, he was very methodical in how he worked. But today I am not going to talk about this fascinating person in my family tree, or how he inspired the hero, Jordan Blake, in my western time travel, WHISPER IN THE WIND. Instead, I am going to talk about trains; in particular, the famous Pullman train cars -- especially the private cars custom built for cattle barons, industrialists, Presidents and royalty.

[Pictured: Pullman Sleeper Car set for daytime use, 1891]

Founded by George Pullman in 1862, the Pullman Car Company manufactured railroad cars, including passenger, dining, and privately owned railroad cars from the mid-1800s. The name Pullman quickly became synonymous with comfort and great service for those traveling by train. After all, it was Pullman who designed and manufactured what was known as the sleeper car after an uncomfortable railroad trip where he (along with other passengers) had to sleep in their seat.

The first sleeper cars were made in 1864, and designed so that an upper berth could be folded up during the day (much like the overhead baggage compartment on airplanes today). At night, the berth was opened to comfortably allow a passenger to recline and sleep. The two seats facing one another located beneath the upper berth also folded down to provide a lower berth for passengers to sleep. Curtains were also provided for privacy. Sleeper cars also had washrooms at the end of each car for men and women.

In the illustration pictured left, you can better see how seats were situated, as well as the upper berth area. This particular advertisement for Pullman was from 1910, but the design is the same as what Pullman developed in the mid 1800s.

In 1867, Pullman introduced the President, the first sleeper car that included an attached kitchen and dining car. In what soon was referred to as a “hotel on wheels”, the food served in the dining cars was said to rival fare one found in the best restaurants. The President dining car became so popular that in 1868, the Delmonico made its debut on the rails. With a menu prepared by chefs from the famous Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City, the Delmonico was the first sleeper rail car exclusively for fine cuisine.

In addition to the comfort and fine dining passengers were now able to obtain traveling on a Pullman, the service they received was also impeccable. The Pullman Car Company hired African American freemen as porters. Many had been domestic slaves before the war. As Pullman porters, they were now paid good wages, traveled the country, and their positions were respected.

Consequently, Pullman not only built standard sleeper cars that were very comfortable, but private luxury sleeper cars which featured upholstered furniture, wall coverings, carpeting, draperies, libraries, and card tables, and an unparalleled level of customer service.

Among the privileged customers who had such private cars was President Abraham Lincoln. His Presidential train car appropriately named the United States was built during the Civil War in Alexandria, Virginia in 1863 and at the United States Military Car Shops in 1864. In addition to providing privacy and security for the President, the train was designed with 16 wheels for a smoother ride. This mid-1800s version of “Air Force One” featured windows of etched glass, carpeting, velvet brocade upholstered walls, fine furnishings, a painted bald eagle national crest, as well as private meeting rooms and parlors for Lincoln and his advisers to relax.

Unfortunately, Lincoln never used the United States during his lifetime. Historians have speculated Lincoln might have felt the train too luxurious to use while the nation was divided and extreme hardships were being endured by citizens.

However, it was the United States that carried the body of President Abraham Lincoln on his final journey from Washington, D.C. to Illinois. The funeral train’s planned stops were reported in newspapers, allowing more than 7 million citizens to pay their respects and watch the famous train as it slowly passed through seven states and 180 cities. The train also stopped in numerous towns during its 1600 mile trek. Elaborate horse-drawn hearses would convey Lincoln’s coffin to public buildings for viewing. It should also be noted that the funeral train was not just for Lincoln. The body of his young son, Willie, (who had died from typhoid fever) was being brought back to Springfield to be re-buried beside his father.

Perhaps because of its tragic association as the Lincoln funeral train, rather than keep the luxurious train for use by President Andrew Johnson, the government sold the private car for $6,850 to the Union Pacific Railroad. Executives at the Union Pacific used the train car for several years.

NOTE: Ironically, after George Pullman's death in 1897, Robert Todd Lincoln, eldest son of Abraham Lincoln became president of the Pullman Car Company.

Although the Pullman Company built private cars used by Presidents, they were not specially customized again until the 1940s. During World War II, Secret Service felt President Franklin D. Roosevelt required a more secure car, and also one equipped for his special needs due to his paralysis from polio.

Initially built in 1929, the Ferdinand Magellan (later known as U.S. No. 1) had been manufactured as a luxury private car; one of six such cars, each one named after a famous explorer. With special alterations, the Ferdinand Magellan became the first passenger train car specifically customized for a President since the United States private car for Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

Here are some of the changes made to the Ferdinand Magellan by the Pullman Car Company.

The rail car’s original six bedrooms were reduced to four, two of which were a suite for the President and First lady, with a fully equipped bathroom (with a bathtub) that connected both bedrooms. The dining room [pictured] had a mahogany table that could seat eight, and was also used as a conference room. Quarters for two stewards, as well as a pantry, galley, storage and ice bunkers were located at the front of the rail car.

For security purposes, windows were sealed, bullet resistant glass. Since they could not be opened, interior air was cooled by blowing it over melted water from ice. Bank vault-type doors were located at the rear entrance to the private car. There were also two escape hatches, one in the Presidential bathroom and one in the lounge. In addition, a custom built wheelchair elevator was installed to life President Roosevelt’s chair from the ground level to the rear platform of the rail car. The wheelchair lift was removed after his death in 1945.

The Ferdinand Magellan was used frequently by President Franklin Roosevelt, and was the location for the famous ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ photo. As U.S. No. 1, the Ferdinand Magellan served as the Presidential rail car from 1943 until 1958. Today, it resides at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and was designated a National Historic Landmark on 04 Feb 1984.

It is important to remember that Pullman made cars for everyday customers that provided greater comfort. Wooden seats were replaced with upholstered seating. Shades and curtains were provided on windows. Dining cars were introduced as well as observation cars. And as mentioned earlier in this post, sleeping berths were also provided.

However, just like many people fly first class today, or own private planes, Pullman made custom rail cars by special order. As greater numbers of people traveled by train in the late 1800s into the 20th century, the privacy factor – as well as more plush accommodations – became very popular.

For example, Henry Ford purchased a Pullman car in the early 1900s which had four private rooms, including an observation lounge, a dining room, and a fully equipped kitchen. Named Fair Lane, it accommodated eight passengers. Henry Ford and his wife, Clara, made over 400 trips using their private train car before selling it in 1942.

Private train cars have also been featured in films, most notably in the 1956 film GIANT starring Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. Jordan Benedict (Rock Hudson) takes his bride, Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) back to his sprawling Texas ranch in his private rail car.

On television in the 1960s, the western adventure series, The Wild Wild West also had a private train, understandable since the premise of the show involved two government secret agents who had to move around a great deal in the American West. Secret Service Agents James West (Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) not only had a private train car customized for their work, but their own locomotive engine as well.

Named Nimrod, the train had a 4-4-0 engine built in 1875 (called Inyo) and pulled some fancy private rail cars. A character unto itself, Nimrod provided West and Gordon with not only the means to travel where necessary on their secret business for President Ulysses S. Grant, but the necessary equipment for their line of work. Customized features include the standard luxurious decorative measures of a Pullman private and luxurious car, as well as special features such as a functioning fireplace that also served as an emergency exit. The Nimrod also had bedrooms, a kitchen, laboratory, arsenal, and even a luxurious parlor.

Of course, special agents in the American West also needed an additional car for Duke and Cacao – the prized horses of James West, and there were cages for Artemus Gordon’s carrier pigeons who could always be counted on to deliver secret messages.

Of interest to some of you who may be train enthusiasts, the Inyo locomotive used for The Wild Wild West series was also featured in films such as Union Pacific (1939), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Red River (1948), and another John Wayne film, McClintock (1963). Also, for clarification, the pilot episode of The Wild Wild West used a different engine, a 4-6-0 locomotive built in 1891 (which, for accuracy purposes was 15-20 years after the time period when the series takes place).

[Pictured: Pullman Dining Car]

As a writer of historical fiction, it is important to remember how transportation played into the lives of people, as well as what was available to passengers. Whether a character is traveling cross country in a covered wagon, or a stagecoach, with the advent of the railroad greater numbers of people ventured West. Granted, for many their accommodations were not luxurious, but there were sleeper cars in the mid to late 1800s that offered features that made the journey more comfortable. And for some, including the wealthy cattle baron featured in my western time travel, WHISPER IN THE WIND, there were custom private train cars.

I hope you enjoyed this post about the Pullman rail cars and their history. Did I mention I love trains? In fact, not only did I incorporate a private train car for a character in WHISPER IN THE WIND, the heroine takes a ride on a vintage train in the 21st century and soon finds herself transported back in time.

Thanks for stopping by, and the next time you hear a train whistle, or see a film showing the interior of a train, perhaps you will think of the innovative difference and comforts Pullmans have made for people traveling by train over such long distances since the 1860s. ~ AKB

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE SHORT STORY? by Cheryl Pierson


Do you like short stories? I love them, both as a writer and as a reader. I’m so thrilled that they’re making a comeback in today’s world! I remember as a teenager in high school English class, some of the short stories that were taught at the time. You can probably recall these classes, too—we read many short stories and novels that couldn’t reach into our world and touch us, not at that age.

It’s odd to me that had some of the selections been different, or more age-appropriate, this might have fostered a love of reading the short story rather than dread for so many. The essay questions at the end of the story seemed hard for many of the students to understand, much less formulate answers to in order to show what they learned from the story. As high school freshmen in the 14-15 year-old age range, and with our limited knowledge of the world, it was difficult for some to be able to grasp symbolism or foreshadowing among other story elements. I realized later on that some people never grasp it, no matter how old they are. Reading with that kind of intuitive understanding is not something everyone is able to do.

Being forced to read something for a grade rather than enjoyment was something I didn’t understand. For one thing, I enjoyed reading. As with any kid, some things held my interest more than others. But I never could fathom some of my classmates who actually said, “I hate to read.”
I had some favorite short stories, even out of the ones we were forced to read. Who could forget Whitney and Rainsford in Richard Connell’s THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME? Frank Stockton’s THE LADY OR THE TIGER? Or, TO BUILD A FIRE, by Jack London?



Those stories were what inspired me to want to write “like that” and I often wondered in later years, seeing my kids’ English books and the stories they contained, where our next generation of writers would come from? There was certainly nothing “inspiring” in those stories. I was wishing there were some of the stories from “the good ol’ days” in their books, even though at the time I had been their age, many of my classmates had detested those same stories that I loved so much.


But one day, my daughter came home from school and said, “Mom, we read a story today that was so good! It’s about a guy who is trying to survive in the cold and he tries to build a fire…” And a few years later, my son couldn’t wait to tell me about a story they’d read about an island, where men were hunted…


Not everyone who loves to read wants to become a writer. So I’m wondering…was there a particular short story that you read when you were younger that made you want to write? Or even just made you become an avid reader? Since so many of us write westerns, was there a western short story that influenced you when you were younger? The one that I loved was not really a short story, but a short novel, Fred Gipson’s OLD YELLER. In later years, another one that stood out was Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY.




I'd have to say one of my all-time favorite short stories is Dorothy M. Johnson's LOST SISTER--this is a fictional story based on Cynthia Ann Parker's real life story of being kidnapped by the Comanche, and marrying a Comanche chief. She later became the mother of another prominent chief, Quanah Parker. LOST SISTER is a story that you will remember long after you finish reading it!

What's your favorite short story? It doesn't have to be a western. I'd love to hear what your favorite(s) are. My TBR list is bursting at the seams anyhow, but I can't stop myself from adding to it when I hear about MORE great reads!


I’m giving away a free print copy of one of my short story collections today, DARK TRAIL RISING. All you have to do is comment! Be sure and leave your contact info in your comment, as well!

Cheryl's Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/author/span/cherylpierson/span/a/div?tag=pettpist-20

Sunday, March 26, 2017

CAMELS IN THE WEST



Due to my daughter’s surgeries (her fifth on her right femur last week and the sixth scheduled for tomorrow) I am caught unprepared and am recycling the first post ever to appear in Sweethearts of the West. As a giveaway, I will give an e-copy of the first book I had published, BE MY GUEST.

Since I live in, write about, and love Texas, you won’t be surprised to learn that today’s post involves Texas and Southwest history. If you saw the 1976 family comedy “Hawmps!,” then you already know that the U.S. Government experimented with the effectiveness of camels in the desert West. The movie was hilarious, but loosely based on fact.


Jefferson Davis
Secretary of War in 1855

In 1855, the U.S. Congress, at the urging of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, authorized the importation of camels and dromedaries to be used for military purposes and earmarked thirty thousand dollars for the experiment. Davis, a veteran of the war with Mexico, had seen considerable service in the Desert Southwest. Keenly aware of the role that camels had played over the centuries in the warfare of other nations, he believed that the strange beasts could be put to use in the United States as well.

Major Henry C. Wayne and Lieutenant David D. Porter departed for North Africa, where they were met by a third American, Gwinn Harris Heap, whose father had been the U.S. consul to Tunis for a number of years. They acquired thirty-three camels before departing for home in February 1856. Native camel drivers accompanied the camels and dromedaries.

The ocean voyage from the Mediterranean, through the Strait of Gibraltar, and across the Atlantic was been uneventful considering the fragile cargo. On May 14, 1856, the camels came ashore at Indianola, Texas. Ten acres of land had been set aside for them and a two-hundred-foot-long shed had been built to house them. Major Wayne decided first to acclimate the camels to the intense humidity of the Gulf Coast by letting them rest in a large corral.

Writing to Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Navy Lieutenant Porter said, “We have lost on the voyage but one of those we purchased…and she died from no want of care, but because she was unable to produce her young one…We still have more than we started with, some young ones having been born on the passage, and are in fine condition. All the other camels I am happy to say have not received a scratch…They are looking a little shabby just now, most of them shedding their hair…but they are fat and in good health.



Three weeks later, the animals began first leg of the trip that would take them to San Antonio, Texas, on to El Paso, Albuquerque, and across the arid Southwest all the way to Fort Tejon, California. The camels performed extremely well. Capable of carrying loads of up to twelve hundred pounds—larger than a horse or mule could carry—the beasts lumbered along at a slow but steady pace.

A monument in Quartzite, Arizona pays tribute to chief camel driver, Hajid Ali, called Hi Jolly. After the camel experiment failed, he used some of the released camels to conduct a freight business. Later he married and worked in Quartzite. The monument is at his last campsite. At his death, he believed small families of camels still roamed in remote areas of the Southwest.

The great camel experiment eventually failed. With the advent of the Civil War, the personnel at Union garrisons in the Southwest scattered before the advancing Confederates. Some of the imported animals were set free and some were kept in captivity. The last known survivor died in a Los Angeles zoo in 1934. However, even today people occasionally tell tales of seeing lone camels in remote corners of the Southwest.





My giveaway is an e-copy of BE MY GUEST or another of my books if the winner prefers.



Note: Most of this info was gleaned from an article in his book IT HAPPENED IN TEXAS, by James A. Crutchfield, 1996, Two Dot Press, Helena, Montana.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Pork and Beans







Recognizing the need for the growing population of the United State to have fruits and vegetables in the winter, Gilbert Van Camp, along with two partners, constructed the first commercial cold storage, and within a year was canning foods for sale. His business took off when he secured a contract to provide foods to the Union army.  Van Camp Pork and Beans soon became a staple for the troops. When the war ended, Van Camp’s business soared as veterans wanted to purchase the foods they’d come to know.

The ‘tomato sauce’ based pork and beans which became famous and is still produced today was invented by Gilbert’s son Frank in 1894. Within four years they were selling over six million cans of these beans each year. Van Camp’s Pork and Beans are still the second most popular canned beans, second to Bush’s Baked Beans. Frank also founded Van Camp’s Seafood (the name was later changed to Chicken of the Sea due to the popularity of the canned tuna fish slogan).

Preserving foods in tin cans verses glass jars started in the early 1800’s, however it was very labor intensive and expensive because each can had to be handmade out of tinned wrought iron.  The cans were also very large. Meat and pea soup were the most popular and the main market for canned foods at that time was sailing vessels. During that time, canned foods became a status symbol due to its price and a novelty. Nevertheless, there was soon a demand for canned foods, and by the mid-1800’s several inventions had been created to produce smaller machine made cans. It then became a race to meet the public’s demand for varieties of canned foods. Milk, meat, vegetables, soups, fruits, and other novel foodstuffs. Companies were soon able to manufacture bulk supplies of nonperishable foods, and by the end of the Civil War, the working class were able to afford canned foods, saving them from having to shop every day. Canned foods also became available for those heading west.

Even though the can had been around for some fifty years, the can-opener had not. The suggested way to open a can was with a chisel and hammer.  Ezra Warner invented the first can opener in 1858. Due to the fact it left a very jagged and sharp edge, it wasn’t overly popular. And it was very expensive. It also had several parts that broke rather easily, and were not replaceable. Warner’s can opener did serve the troops during the Civil War, and could be found in some stores, where the clerk would open the can for the customer before they left the store.  The hammer and chisel method, or whatever way people discovered to open their cans, continued to be the primary way to open cans until several other can openers, in a variety of shapes and sizes, were invented and became marketable.  The one we still know today, with the wheel that rolls around the rim of the can, was invented in 1870 by William Lyman.

One last tidbit…In 1974 samples of canned foods that had been recovered from the wreckage of a steamboat that had sunk in 1865 in the Missouri River were opened and the contents tested. The appearance, smell, and nutritional value of the contents had deteriorated, but there was no trace of spoilage or contamination and the 109 year-old-foods were determined safe to eat. 

On a final note, I have a new release. The Cowboy's Orphan Bride

Reunited with the cowboy! 
Long ago, orphans Bridgette Banks and Garth McCain made a promise to stay together. But it's been years since they were parted, and Bridgette's almost given up hope! So when Garth's cattle trail passes her town, she won't let him leave her behind again…

Sparks fly as they're reunited—especially when the cowboy catches Bridgette telling everyone she's his bride! Faced with a past he thought he'd lost forever, Garth realizes this impulsive beauty might be the future he never thought he deserved.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Texas Border Outposts: Part Two


Last month I talked about early Texas military posts. This month as promised, I'll share what I've learned about forts established later, between 1851 and 1867.

As settlers pushed farther west into land long the domain of Comanche, Kiowa and Apache tribes, confrontation escalated. The Indians conducted bloody raids, stealing horses and killing their owners, regarding them as intruders. Forts built in the 1840s were now behind the line of settlements. New posts were needed to protect ranchers, farmers and their families. The map below illustrates the Army's efforts to keep up with the ever advancing frontier.

Notice forts in southwest Texas, intended to quell Apache raids; forts to the north dealt
 mainly with Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne raiders 
Forts built in 1851 include Fort Belknap in the north, Fort Phantom Hill farther south, and Fort Mason west of Austin, the state capitol. Fort Belknap stood in what is now Young County. At its height, this post was the largest on the Texas frontier. Headquarters of the Fifth Infantry, it was founded by Gen. William Goldsmith Belknap, commander of the Department of Texas at that time. The fort attracted many settlers, serving as a transpotation hub. Trouble inevitably developed between settlers and reservation Indians such as the Caddos and Anadarkos, leading to tragic events on both sides. Belknap was closed in 1859, but during the Civil War, Confederate troops battled Comanches and Kiowas in the area.

Note guardhouse & chimneys in background; photo by Pi3.124,
 creative commons 3.0 license 

Fort Phantom Hill was never given a legal name, being designated only as the "Post on the Clear Fork of the Brazos." Somehow it acquired its ghostly title, why I don't know. Lack of a good water source presented a problem. The post was only manned for three years. Shortly after the troops left in 1854, the fort burned down.

Fort Mason was named in honor of Lt. George T. Mason, who was killed near Brownsville during the Mexican-American War. Troops from Fort Mason fought numerous skirmishes with Indians, the most notable led by Lt. John Bell Hood, who later led Hood's Texas Brigade in the Civil War. The fort was commanded by Robert E. Lee from December 1860 until early 1861, when Lee chose to side with his native Virginia in the War Between the State. Fort Mason was sporadically used by Confederate troops, and was briefly occupied by portions of the 4th Cavalry after the war. It closed in 1869.

Forts Chadbourne, McKavett and Clark were established in 1852. Fort Chadbourne depended on Oak Creek for water, but this source was unreliable. Comanches caused trouble from time to time, but could be friendly on occasion. One Comanche woman who begged bread from the soldiers always wore a bonnet to hide her light hair. She was Cynthia Ann Parker. Like other Texas posts, Fort Chadbourne was periodically occupied by Confederates during the Civil War. Afterward, federal troops manned the fort for a short time while Fort Concho was being built. It later acted as a sub-post for Concho.

Located in the San Saba River valley, Fort Mckavett was constructed by soldiers stationed there, out of native stone like many Texas forts. Prior to the Civil War, the troops occasionally engaged in "punitive expeditions" against the Indian. McKavett was taken over by settlers during the war, and afterward they gave returning federal troops trouble. The Army reclaimed the post in April 1868. Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie took command in 1869, turning the 38th Infantry (African Americans) into one of the most efficient black units in the Army. Combined with other units, the 38th became part of the famed Buffalo Soldiers. During the 1870s, Fort McKavett provided scouts, troops and supplies for Mackenzie's war against the Comanche, Kiowa and other tribes. The fort remained in operation for 30 years, officially closing in June 1883.
Fort Clark Historic district; photo by Pi3.124
 creative commons 3.0 license


Fort Clark stayed open until 1946, longer than any other fort in Texas' western line of defense. One reason for its longevity was the location. Built on the west side of the Las Moras River, very near the river's head spring, the post stood in a valuable position between the Rio Grande and the Indian frontier. Like Fort Mckavett, it served as a source of troops and supplies during Mackenzie's campaigns in the 1870s. Fort Clark was put on "full defensive footing" following Col. Mackenzie's famous (infamous some might say) raid on Kickapoo and Apache strongholds some 60 miles inside Mexico. For nine years, the Army's Seminole-Negro Scouts were stationed at Fort Clark. After one harrowing action in which three of the scouts saved their commander from Comanches, all three were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

 Forts Davis, Lancaster and Stockton were established in 1854, 1855 and 1859 respectively. Their primary purpose was to protect travelers crossing the southwestern part of the state, and provide them a place to rest, Although abandoned during the Civil War and burned, likely by Indians, Fort Lancaster was used as a bivouacking area after the war. It was the scene of a major attack by 900-1200 Kickapoos and Lipan Apaches in December 1867. Troops of Company K, 9th Cavalry dug in and held off the attackers for three hours with only three casualties.

Fort Stockton was also burned and abandoned during the Civil War. Buffalo Soldiers rebuilt the fort in 1867 a few hundred yards from the original site. For a few years, the area was fairly peaceful. Then, in 1878 full blown war erupted, with Warm Springs Apache Chief Victorio leading the Indians. Troops from Fort Stockton and Fort Davis plus several sub-posts eventually put down the uprising. Like other posts, Fort Stockton spawned a town and, unlike others, this one flourished. Named St. Gall at first, the name was officially changed to Fort Stockton in an 1881 election.

Fort Davis National Historic Site; public domain

Before the establishment of Fort Davis in 1854, there was no military protection between Fort Clark and Fort Bliss. First built in Limpia Canyon, Fort Davis was vulnerable to sniper fire from above. When Texas seceded from the Union, Confederates took over the fort. However, Indian depredations increased, and Southern troops were defeated at Glorieta Pass in March 1862 by Union forces. In August of that year, federal troops returned to Fort Davis, but they evidently did not stay. The place deteriorated. In 1867 the post was reactivated and a new fort built on a broad plain outside the canyon. Fort Davis served as a base of operations during the Victorio War. The post closed in July 1891

Forts Concho, Richardson and Griffin, established in 1867, were the last three posts added to the western line of defense in Texas. They were closely intertwined during the early 1870s.

Fort Concho Officers Row; photo taken by author

Ideally located, Fort Concho was built at the confluence of the North and Middle Concho Rivers. Fish and game were plentiful. Westbound trails converged there en route to El Paso. Well built and preserved, much of the fort still remains. Militery actions were mainly defensive to begin with, but became more offensive when Col. Mackenzie arrived in September 1869. He began developing strategies he would employ against the Comanche nation over the next four years.

In 1871 Mackenzie was ordered to Fort Richardson, closer to the Staked Plains and the heart of Comancheria. Fort Richardson was located by Lost Creek, near present day Jacksboro in Jack County. The troopers performed escort duty for cattle herds heading north and fought Indians. Soon after Mackenzie's arrival, he led 600 troops out of Fort Richardson on a punitive expedition against the Kwahadi Comanches. He encountered swift attacks by War Chief Quanah Parker and his followers. On another occasion, he learned the only way to stop the Indians was by killing their horses, a grisly tactic he ordered his men to carry out after their decisive defeat of the tribes in Palo Duro Canyon on September 28, 1874.

Fort Griffin and the town it gave birth to were rough and tumble places. The town played host to gunmen, lawmen, gamblers and cowboys. Known as "The Flat," the town rivaled Fort Worth as a gathering place for cattle and hides. As with other such towns, the fort came first. Established as a replacement for Fort Belknap, it was built about 35 miles up the Clear Fork of the Brazos River from Belknap. Living conditions were terrible, with men sharing cramped shanties with poor ventilation and no bathing facilities, except for the nearby river. But they could fight Indians, and they did, serving in every decisive campaign against the Kiowas and Comanches.

Fort Richardson was abandoned in 1878, Fort Griffin in 1881, and Fort Concho in 1889, Portions of some of these legendary outposts still stand. The others are gone but not forgotten by Texans who love their history.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Most Hated People In America by Sarah J. McNeal




March is here and, with it, comes the celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day, the patron saint of Ireland, and all things Irish including the huge exodus of the Irish following the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840’s. Because I am Scot-Irish in origin, I am riveted by the plight of the Irish following the famine when many Irish fled to America. The Irish came seeking sanctuary, relief from starvation and hopeful America would provide them with the opportunities for a better life. But the reception they received on arrival wasn’t kind, friendly, or inviting. Americans saw the Irish, not as people who were desperate and starving, but more like a swarm of locusts about to consume all the resources of their country.


Many of the Irish fled To Boston increasing the population there by 30,000-100,000 and settled into the worst of slums.  Political correctness did not exist in those days. Newspapers printed cartoons called Hogan's Alley sketched by late 19th century cartoonist RF Outcault. One particular star of the Hogan's Alley Cartoons was the Yellow Kid whose appearance is half child, half ape, and half man. Many caricatures of Irishman/boys appeared at the time. Images displayed the typical stereotyped Irishman with his top hat and simian face. Bostonians and other Americans, held the Irish in a low opinion along with the two other denigrated racial groups in this time period, the blacks and the Asians. These cartoons were featured regularly in Boston newspapers. And it would have been what Joseph P. Kennedy, Rose Kennedy and their families would have seen on a regular basis.

Many Irish searching for work turned to servitude. 70% of servants in Boston were Irish immigrants. In fact, Bostonians saw the Irish as a “servant race”. Bostonians called their Irish female servants the "bridgets" or "biddys" and the males "paddys". Many Irish named their children after the two popular Catholic saints, but in America, the names carried derisive connotations and many Irish tried to erase that legacy. Joseph Kennedy Sr.'s mother named him Joseph instead of Patrick after his father and grandfather. And Joseph Sr.'s grandmother Bridget Murphy never named her daughters Bridget to save them from this name abuse.

Of the 70% of Irish that were servants, two thirds were Irish women. Irish servants were noted to be full of melancholy and loneliness. I can certainly understand why. As a result of the negative treatment they received, Irish women suffered from high levels of mental illness. By 1908, there were more Irish than any other nationality in mental hospitals.

The “Know-Nothing Party”, a late 19th century party, established themselves as the “native” Americans who hated the influx of immigrants, especially the Irish. Working class Americans resented Irish laborers because they would work for low wages—as if the Irish had a choice.



Employers blatantly placed signs in their windows with “NINA” written across them which means “No Irish Need Apply.” The signs were often placed nest to signs that read, “No Dogs Allowed” to purposely insult the Irish. Even in newspapers that extended out west printed help wanted ads with “No Irish Need Apply” emblazoned across the bottom of the ad. In newspaper cartoons and on stage in skits the Irish were portrayed as blundering idiots, unreliable in behavior, and as belligerent drunks. The term "don't get your Irish up", stemmed from a stereotypical belief in the volatile Irish temper who spent their days lounging in saloons drinking and had regular bar brawls and parties filled with boisterous carousing and depravity. They were considered illiterate, greedy, and desperate. The “native” Americans considered the Irish as "Micks on the Make", and declared Irish families were too clannish, bred like rabbits, and stupid.

The Burning Of An Irish Church

This reception did not surprise the Irish. They were used to English Protestants deriding their brogues, their religion, and their poverty. They had endured centuries of oppression. As harsh as the prejudice they encountered in the United States was, it paled in comparison to life in Ireland.  “Skibbreen” an Irish-American ballad, captures the enduring quality of Irish hatred of the English and their sense of America as a place from which to regroup and then resume their centuries-old struggle.

The Irish Soldiers In The Union Army


During the Civil War, the Irish became useful because they could outnumber the Southerners. Even so, the fellowship with the Irish during the war did not change the opinion of the Irish for most Americans in the late 19th century. Even after the war, Irishmen worked in jobs that required hard labor and danger such as mining, quarrying, bridge and canal building, and railway construction. So many Irish were killed working on the railroad that it was speculated that "there was an Irishman buried under every tie." Others were dockworkers, ironworkers, factory-hands, bartenders, carters, street cleaners, and waiters.

Even today one might wonder how the Irish managed to climb out of this antipathy and become cherished and respected citizens. Those looking to escape these stereotypes and rise above them to be part of American society like Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of John F. Kennedy, had to work hard and take many knocks before any change could be made.

Some Irish became quite successful but their numbers were few. The handful who attained white-collar status were frequently shopkeepers and small businessmen. There was an exceedingly meager number of Irish professionals. Those Irish who made the long trip to the western states tended to have somewhat more prestigious jobs than their compatriots in the East and North. This is due in part to the large numbers of Chinese in the West who did much of the manual laboring work. Many Irish participated in the California Gold Rush.

In the years following the Civil War the occupational lot of the Irish began to improve as more entered skilled trades. Many moved into managerial positions in the railroad, iron, construction, and other industries. Some went into business for themselves, especially in the building and contracting sectors. Numerous others became police officers, firefighters, streetcar conductors, clerks, and post office workers. The Irish began to hold many leadership positions in the trade union movement. Entertainment and athletics were other fields in which they began to attain greater recognition. Irish women found it more diffucult to move into higher prestige jobs, as there were far fewer opportunities for women in general at this time. Still, many attained upward occupational mobility by becoming teachers, nurses, and secretaries. Many Irish American nuns held positions of responsibility in hospitals, schools, and other Catholic social institutions.

By the beginning of the twentieth century Catholic Irish Americans were making great strides in their ascension of the occupational ladder. Although most remained members of the working class, large numbers began to move into the ranks of the lower middle classes. Throughout the century this improvement in socioeconomic status has continued. Today the Irish are well represented in academia, medicine, law, government service, politics, finance, banking, insurance, journalism, the entertainment industry, the Catholic clergy, and most other professions.

Some famous Irish Americans:


Audey Murphy-the most decorated  soldier in American history who became an actor.

John F. Kennedy, President of the United States


F. Scott Fitzgerald-Author


Joe Biden- Vice President of the United States

I am proud of my Scot-Irish ancestors. They proved that hard work, persistence, and forbearance can overcome the greatest of obstacles. There was no whining, just silent strength and endurance.
Slan’s beannachd! Gaelic for Health and a blessing!



Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Married for eight Days by Linda K. Hubalek

I have a new book debut today. Elof’s Mission is a sweet historical romance set in 1886 in Debra Holland’s Montana Sky Series Kindle World.

Here's the description so you get the jest of the story.

Elof Lundahl, a former Fort Ellis soldier and friend of Nolan and Holly Clancy, delivers a grave marker to the Morgan's Crossing, Montana Territory cemetery for Holly’s father’s grave. After this task, he plans to travel to Kansas to start a new life near his friends.

Linnea Meyer, a Swedish mail-order bride, is at the same cemetery burying her husband—of eight days. Now homeless, Linnea and Jamie, her six-year-old stepson, accept Elof’s offer to travel with him to Kansas.

Elof falls in love with the widow and child, but he needs a job and home before he can offer them anything. Then Jamie’s grandparents arrive unannounced, changing all three of their lives.

Wait...What? Back up!
Immigrant mail-order bride.
Widowed after eight days of marriage.
Six-year-old stepson.
Homeless.
Traveling to another state with a stranger.

Besides having a creative imagination, I had to do a little research to see if this story line was possible, and plausible.

Even through Morgan's Crossing is a fictional town, I looked for forts in the Territory in the 1880s. Fort Ellis would have been in the right part of the state and time frame. Reading information about the fort and it's troops, I noticed that each troop had a farrier/veterinarian to take care of the horses. That became the hero's job at the fort, and his career choice after leaving the army. Elof is moving to Kansas so it was easy to continue using the Ellsworth County setting and history first mentioned in my Brides with Grit series.

Of course the heroine had to be in a stressful situation for the hero to help her. And you can imagine the stress of marrying a stranger, becoming an instant mother, and then widowed and homeless in a very short time frame? Add Linnea being an immigrant who's first language isn't English.

Unfortunately, situations like Linnea's did happen back in the 1800s, and there was no government assistance, GoFundMe websites, or cell phones to call for help. The woman would have to make do by herself or rely on kind strangers to help.

Possible and plausible?
Yes, Linnea could overcome her problems and heartache with the help of a good man and a welcoming community. And of course she falls in love with a Groom of Honor.


Thanks for visiting Sweethearts of the West today!

Linda Hubalek