This post first appeared at Cowboy Kisses, May 2017 by Heather Blanton
A simple question on the surface, I thought a quick Google would give me the answer. Turns out, a few females claim the honor. So after a little more serious digging, I came up with Mary Hallock Foote and her first novel, Led-Horse Claim: A Romance of a Mining Camp published in 1883.
Turns out, Mary was quite an interesting gal. Born in 1847 in New York to Quaker parents, she attended school at the very proper Female Collegiate Seminary in Poughkeepsie. Her gift for the creative arts convinced her father (clearly a forward-thinking man) to invest more in his daughter’s education. He sent her to Cooper School of Design for Women, and by her early twenties, Mary was a sought-after illustrator and designer for some of the most notable publishers in New York City. She loved her job. She loved the city. But she loved a man more.
In 1876, she married Arthur De Wint Foote, a young mining engineer whose career would take her deep into the wild-and-wooly Western frontier. Mary saw it all. From Deadwood to Leadville, from Idaho to Mexico.
Impressed, sometimes astonished, at the characters populating these rowdy mining towns, Mary wrote and illustrated dozens of articles for readers “back East.” She quickly gained the reputation for being one of the sharpest observers of, and most civilizing influences on, the bawdy mining, and ditch (irrigation) towns out west. According to an article in the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission, “The Victorian gentlewoman traveled the American West dressed in hoop skirt and petticoats, insisting that her children be educated by an English nanny and fed by a Chinese cook, so that she could work on her illustrations and stories, without interruption.”
What this quote doesn’t tell you is that Mary didn’t have time to raise the children because she had to help put bread on the table. Her husband’s career as a surveyor and civil engineer was difficult, at best, due to his unswerving honesty. Apparently, fudging numbers was expected in the mining industry, but Arthur didn’t play along. Hence, the continual moves from one town to the next. But Mary wrote about it all and her short stories and serials gained in popularity. They were published alongside the likes of Rudyard Kipling. Her articles and observations of life in the Wild West were met with lavish reviews, especially by those who could recognize the ring of authenticity—because they lived it.
Mary’s stories leaned more toward Western romance, though, as opposed to Owen Wister-style shoot-outs and brawls. She wrote fifteen novels in all. However, her husband eventually landed a job managing a mine in California and as his salary increased, Mary’s hectic writing pace decreased. Her last book was published in 1919. She didn’t seem to miss writing.
Mary and Arthur were married for nearly sixty years. She, ever hardy and determined, lived until the ripe old age of 90. Unfortunately, while her life was long, her fame was not. It is nearly impossible to find the complete collection of Mary’s works now, even on Amazon. What a loss for the Western Romance genre.
I love old books and am always looking to read more. Please feel free to suggest some!
How did all this come about? It’s one crazy God-story!
I was on facebook private messaging with my assistant when I happened to see actor Matt Williams announce that he’d done well in an audition, got the part, and probably another one. I hopped over to just quickly congratulate him. He commented back that he’d like to get a part when one of my books was made into a movie. I said, “Well, it just so happens that I do have a script for A Lady in Defiance, but I haven’t done anything with it.”
Matt immediately private messaged me and asked me about this book. I told him to date it had sold over 50,000 copies and I did write a script for it, passed it around to a few professionals in the industry, but they wanted me to make some changes to it. I wasn’t averse to doing that, I just didn’t feel like working on the script. Really, I’m a novelist.
Matt said there was someone he wanted me to meet and even over the facebook messenger I could hear his excitement!
The next day Micah Lyons reached out to me and wanted to know all about my Defiance books. After a few days of back-and-forth, he made me an offer! And get this–in the course of our conversations, Micah mentioned that he’d seen A Lady in Defiance one day in a Books-a-Million and kept the story in the back of his head! Honestly, we both took that as a sign.
I suddenly realized I might be on the verge of a life-changing decision and reached out to some wonderful folks like Brian Bird and Bodie Thoene for some advice. They were kind enough to offer their thoughts. Like get an agent, don’t give Micah the option on all three books, etc. Then JD Dewitt of 5×5 Productions answered my inquiry and wanted to talk.
JD is precious. I love her to death. Her favorite genre is Westerns and she had already read A Lady in Defiance back in 2013! In short, she now represents me and helped hammer out the deal with Breath of Life Productions.
As I mentioned, one of the things that some professionals recommended I NOT do was give Breath of Life the option on all three books. In case the first one sold, then I should have the ability, they argued, to maneuver for a better deal on books 2 and 3, maybe with a bigger producer. Honestly, that just didn’t feel right to me. Micah was the first producer to look at this project and want to commit immediately to a series, not just one movie. He said he couldn’t see it any other way. That was when I knew. The “up-and-comer” in Hollywood had to have his shot. If Breath of Life Productions and Micah can sell this project, then they deserve to handle all of it.
I’ve heard NOTHING but good things about Micah Lyons and have enjoyed my talks with him immensely. A Godly young man, he is living in a dark kingdom and taking the Light to it.
I say let’s take the good news to those living in Defiance! I hope you’ll pray for this project. We would all appreciate it very much.
Now, a question. Who would you like to see play Naomi Miller and Charles McIntyre? I vote Reese Witherspoon for Naomi, but I’m still deciding on Charles!
Welcome to a sneak-peek of my newest release,
To Love and to Honor— Enjoy!
From Chapter 5:
A day later, Joel was strong enough to travel.
And to send word to Ruth of his whereabouts.
He tapped the pencil on the Western Union form, trying to determine how much to write. He believed it a safe assumption his wife did not care where he was so long as he was not in her presence.
His time away with the cavalry had changed Ruth. Her letters had grown colder, her thoughts more succinct. Coming home minus a limb had only served to deepen the divide between them.
What exactly was the state of their relationship now? Dead? Dying? How did one resuscitate a marriage in this condition? Prayer. Ask God for a miracle to revive their love?
He had prayed for revival, but without any passion behind the request. He knew he should care, be desperate to save their marriage. Yet, desperation had died with every brief, emotionless letter from her, every repulsed look she had revealed, and every touch from which she had recoiled. The guilt of his growing apathy weighed on him. He suspected Ruth had reasons for some guilt as well, but Joel had no proof. Without proof, suspicions were merely that—suspicions.
Finally, tired of debating, he wrote, Delayed in Evergreen, Wy. Will notify you when I proceed to South Dak. He pondered adding love, Joel. In the end, he didn’t and slid the paper over to the clerk.
The Bar FB sat in a long, flat valley, ringed with hills that alternated between open pastures thigh-high with brittle, fall grass, and deep, dark-green forests of Scotch and Blue spruces. White-faced Hereford cattle milled about everywhere.
Various log buildings such as the barn and bunkhouse surrounded the imposing main house at strategic distances. Surprising Joel, the home was a white-washed antebellum structure with a cupola on the top. From it, he imagined a man could sit up there and see the whole valley in any direction.
King of all he surveys, eh?
“You could still back out,” Angela said from beside him, hunching her shoulders and rubbing her arms. Joel assumed she was cold, but the action could have also just as easily expressed her fears at this homecoming.
He tapped the reins across the horses’ rear ends to maintain their speed. “Not much of an option right now.”
“You could drop me off and keep riding.”
A cowardly act he couldn’t fathom. He was here now and he was committed to the cause.
“You’re an honorable man, aren’t you, Captain Chapman?”
“I used to think so.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t like lying. Normally I wouldn’t have fallen into something like this. I believe almost any man can be reasoned with.” He cut his eyes at her. “You’ve made me believe your father may be the exception and this subterfuge is necessary. I hope I have not misjudged.”
She heaved a great sigh. “I understand your concern. Two seconds with my father, though, and you’ll understand mine.”
They rolled beneath the gate that proudly displayed the Bar FB encircled in barbed wire, and then into the main yard. A few ranch hands nodded and tipped their hats. One, a large fellow with a silvery-yellow beard, paused, allowed his smile to widen, and approached the buggy. Joel pulled it to a stop.
“Miss Angela.” The cowboy swiped his hat off. “What a surprise. Your father said you was back East in school. He didn’t say anything about you coming for a visit.”
“Howdy, Glenn, it’s nice to see you. I’ve missed your saucy jokes.”
The man blushed from his neck up, the color disappearing into his beard, then stole a quick glance at Joel. A glint of disapproval flashed across Glenn’s face but disappeared quickly.
“Oh.” Angela squared her shoulders. “Glenn, this is my husband, Joel Chapman. Joel, my father’s foreman, Glenn Leary.”
Joel reached across Angela and the two shook hands. Glenn was clearly shocked by the news, judging from his slack jaw. “Husband, huh? Yeah, your father didn’t mention that either.”
“I imagine there’s a lot he hasn’t mentioned about me since I left.”
The man pursed his lips as if acknowledging a secret. “Yeah, he hasn’t said too much since you’ve been gone.” He replaced the Stetson. “And he has been in one continual sour mood. Now that you’re back, maybe he’ll quit yellin’ so much.”
“Maybe.” She didn’t sound like she believed it. “We’ll see you soon.”
Angela touched Joel’s arm and he drove the rig up to the front of the house. “Well, here goes nothing.” Her voice wiggled and Joel wished he could give her a reassuring hug.
In lieu of that, he said, “I’ve faced a hundred screaming Indians, dodged a hailstorm of fiery arrows, and a blizzard of bullets. I’m not afraid of your father.” He smiled, hoping he had reassured her some.
Instead, her smile was pitying. “That doesn’t mean he can’t hurt you.”
Please pick up your copy TODAY of To Love and to Honor!
Day 2 Thursday
Deadwood at 6 in the morning. As quiet as the name would suggest. I walked around the main street and got some great shots.
It seemed the wild-and-wooly past was a little closer without the tourists and cars drowning it out. I gazed up at buildings that pioneers had looked at. I couldn’t help but wonder at the people who risked so much to build this little town.
We stayed in the Bullock Hotel and the little restaurant is just as historic as the rest of the building. Tin tiles in the ceiling. A huge fireplace in the room. A little saloon-style bar behind which the chef whipped up some simple but yummy breakfast items—and the biggest cinnamon roll I’ve ever seen in my life!
I realized that morning that I had no way to get photos from the memory stick in my camera to my Mac so after breakfast, Dawn and I drove over to Spearfish. A pretty big town—it has a Walmart! The drive over was gorgeous. The Black Hills of SD really are truly haunting, even a little mystical. While there, we had lunch at a lovely little coffee shop/café that seemed to serve a lot of college students. Turns out, Black Hills State is located there. I want to remember the veranda we sat on, the warm, dry air, the stunning blue sky and mountains in the distance. On the way into Spearfish, we saw a homeless guy sitting at an intersection. On the way out of town, we took him a sandwich and gave him a little money. Yeah, he might drink up the cash, but we gave to be a blessing and show Jesus. No judging.
Now, one of the interesting things about Deadwood is how it’s situated between two steep, mountain walls. And I do mean steep.
There are several old, Victorian homes up there. We were so curious to see them up close so Dawn and I ventured up there—I felt like I was back home in Western North Carolina! I mean we are talking narrow, twisty little roads. I don’t know how these people get around in the winter! But what a view!
We still had some time before check-in, so we made the trek to the cemetery. The day was warm, even by my Southern standards, and we took the stairs from the street which cuts the walk in half but doubles the difficulty. I thought my sister—who has asthma—was going to kill me. Mt. Moriah Cemetery is one of the most beautiful, peaceful, and historic graveyards I’ve ever visited. I mean, you don’t get to see “Killed by Indians” on too many tombstones. For a Western writer, that’s kind of a thrill.
The first event of the Wild Deadwoods Read program was a meet-and-greet. While I am not a huge social butterfly, I was pretty much ready to leave after we collected our lanyards and swag bag. But we did meet up with authors Kari Trumbo and Danica Favorite, two of my fellow authors from the Brides of Blessings series. Starting to run out of gas, Dawn and I split for dinner in the hotel and brought Kari with us. She’s really sweet and a great writer. You should check out her work!
And with that, we called it a night. In Deadwood. Love it!
A lot of you know my newest release, Hell-Bent on Blessings, is based on the actual pioneer lady Harriet Pullen. She was one tough chick. While her life story took place in the Klondike, I relocated her to gold rush California to suit my fictional requirements and changed a few details about her, but basically, this is the beginning of her destiny.
I also decided to play with the facts a bit when it came to her children. The two teenage boys in Hell-Bent are inspired by my own two boys, Whit and Wyatt. Yes, I have immortalized my sons in one of their mother’s books, MUCH to their dismay and humiliation. As a beta reader said upon learning of this, “Good. Now your job is done.” Some mothers pinch cheeks or hug their teenagers to embarrass them. I write them. LOL!
On a more serious note, in prepping for this story, I discovered some fabulous research material. If you like history, allow me to recommend two amazing books: The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream by H.W. Brands and They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush by Joan Levy. I found the one by Brands to be more compelling. I listened to it as an audiobook and there were a few times I didn’t want to get out of the car because I wanted to hear what happened next!
While my book is a stand-alone story, it is part of the Brides of Blessings collection. I hope you’ll check out all the books by best-selling and award-winning authors Lynne Winchester, Kari Trumbo, Mimi Milan, Dallis Adams, and Danica Favorite. I truly think you’ll enjoy them. And I’d like to invite you to interact with all of us in our facebook readers group. If you have questions or comments about the series, we’d love to hear from you!
You can certainly get your copy of Hell-Bent on Blessings here. Thank you!
Though she be but little, she is fierce.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 3, Scene 2
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace,
Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
The Taming of the Shrew Act 5, Scene 2
Though the name of my blog is Patriots in Lace, I consider any woman who came to America not just to take, but to give something back, a patriot. That’s why I want you to meet Nellie Cashman, a boundary-pushing, territory-exploring Irish woman who saw America as the Land of Opportunity. She came, she saw, she conquered, she gave back.
In 1850, at about the age of five, Nellie immigrated to Boston with her sister Fanny and widowed-mother. The three spent almost fifteen years together there, but then relocated west to San Francisco around 1872, give or take. Nellie and her mother, both of whom apparently had an adventurous streak, decided to move on to the bustling, untamed mining town of Pioche, NV. They only stayed a few years, but Nellie was deeply involved with the Catholic church there, helping with fundraisers and bazaars. When her aging mother decided Pioche was a little too wild for a senior citizen, Nellie took her to live with her now-married sister in San Francisco. Stunningly, Nellie then headed north alone to British Columbia to another rough-and-rowdy mining town. She opened a boarding house in the Cassiar District and tried her hand at mining.
Now, most girls in this situation, hanging around with such an unsavory crowd, might get into mischief, forget their morals. Herein lies the quirky thing about Nellie: she loved to help people, sometimes through hell and high water and avalanches. In the winter of 1874-75, Nellie took a trip to Victoria where she helped establish the Sisters of St. Ann Hospital. Over the coming decades, she would continue to be a stalwart supporter of this hospital, and several others. She also helped destitute miners, making sure benevolence funds were available to them in whatever town she landed.
She is most famous, though, for what she did on the way home. Traveling back to Cassiar, she heard a blizzard had stranded dozens, if not more, of the folks from the district, and they were experiencing a scurvy epidemic, to boot. Nellie immediately hired men and sleds, acquired medicine and supplies and started out for Cassiar. It took the group 77 days in unimaginable conditions to reach the miners. Nellie then worked tirelessly to nurse the folks back to health.
Her feat was so astounding, so brazen, so fearless, the story was picked up by the newspapers. With good cause, she came to be known to the miners as their “Angel of Mercy.”
Nellie was a legitimate legend.
She was also restless, constantly on the move, from one raunchy mining town to the next. After the death of her sister, she continued to feed her wanderlust, but with five nephews and nieces in tow. To keep food on the table, she bought and sold restaurants, and even owned and worked her own claims. She spent several years in Tombstone, AZ where she rubbed shoulders with larger-than-life figures like Wyatt Earp and Johnny Behan. Her faith, however, was as ingrained on Nellie’s heart as cactus in the dessert. Even in wild-and-wooly Tombstone, she worked to build Tombstone’s first hospital and Roman Catholic church.
Nellie did a lot of philanthropic work, but the lady was no push-over. When her rights were challenged, she went to court. She won some cases, and she lost some, but she managed to raise five upstanding citizens and keep her mines working. When Nellie passed away in 1925, she did so in the Sisters of St. Ann hospital that she had funded for nearly fifty years.
I heard someone complain today about how her own life had never really amounted to anything because of a lack of opportunity. Nellie saw opportunity everywhere: opportunities to succeed, opportunities to help others. The Real American Way.
It’s all around us, just open your eyes…
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