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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