Search This Blog

Friday, August 1, 2014


My first full-length novel is going to be available this month!!  My heart couldn’t be happier! In the four years since I started on this wild, wonderful journey called writing, I’ve written 14+ manuscripts. I’ve loved each and every one, but HOME FIRES will always hold a special place. 

You see, in 2011, I was living back East and homesick…beyond homesick… for the West.  I’d completed a couple manuscripts based on both the East and West Coasts, but my mind and heart kept turning back to Montana. Did that surprise you? Yes, HOME FIRES is different than any of my other historical Westerns because it’s set in Montana not Wyoming.  (I consider Montana my second home since I spent many a year up there)

I’d been scouring photographs of my last trip in Montana and the more I looked at the pictures the more a story started to take form. Then Cord Matthews appeared and with all the Southern charm he possesses, he introduced himself and started telling me his story and how he came West to help with a family horse ranch located between Bozeman and Virginia City.  As I was drooling over Mr. Tall, Dark, Southern Cowboy, Olivia Bartlett sucker punched me in the gut…I hadn’t let go of Cord’s hand…just a warning…and she started sharing her adventures and how she tracked Cord’s sorry hide, until fate intervened and brought them back together.  I adored them both (well once I got over the punch), and loved every member of their family and friends.  And miracle of miracles they lived near Virginia City, Montana…the very place I’d been visiting through photographs and research. 

Visiting Cord and Livy allowed me to go home every day; to walk among the mountains and find a bit of peace.   Also, Cord and Livy are an absolute blast to be around. I couldn’t be prouder of these two crazy kids.

So, enough about me and my mushy journey finding the gold of Cord and Livy’s story.  The Matthew’s ranch sits in the mountains between Bozeman and Virginia City. Here’s a bit about history of the wild golden city named in honor of the Confederacy.  

Virginia City sprung from the Rocky Mountains in what was then Idaho Territory, and boomed like most gold towns.  In 1863, six men found gold in a natural bowl along Alder Gulch.  They tried to keep the find under their hats by traveling to Bannack, 60 miles southwest, for supplies, but they could not fool some sharp-eyed prospectors.  They returned to Alder Gulch with 200 new friends.  News spread like fire and before long the area was flooded with prospectors. 

Virginia City from Boot Hill (picture courtesy of Kirsten Lynn)
What is different about Virginia City is the gold was found during one of the most disruptive periods of American history, the Civil War.  The gold brought emigrants from around the world, but by an overwhelming majority Southern “rebels” outnumbered any other emigrant. These misplaced Confederates intended on naming the town “Verona,” a misspelling of “Varina,” Jefferson Davis’ wife. However, the miners’ court judge was a stubborn unionist, and would not submit the name. Those proposing a town charter hastened to explain the name was a compromise as Mrs. Davis was born in New Jersey. Not convinced, Judge Gaylord Bissell crossed out Varina and submitted Virginia.

The town remained a primarily Southern town. Disturbing to most Unionists, the camp was producing enough gold to win the war for whoever could secure the find!  This turned the eyes of President Lincoln square on the gold camp. Northern emigrants were encouraged to flood Virginia City to hold the gold for the North. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over too well with the current residents and Virginia City soon became one of the most lawless places in the West.

One of the first houses in Virginia City (courtesy of Kirsten Lynn)
By 1864, 10,000 people were living in and around Virginia City, and Congress created the new Montana Territory (the intent, Lincoln could send his man to serve as territorial governor and keep the gold out of the South).  In 1865, Virginia City became the territorial capitol. Tents and shanties were replaced by permanent buildings and the town became home to Montana’s first public school, newspaper and telegraph and theater.  Virginia City and nearby Nevada City became the site of the richest placer gold strike in the Rocky Mountains, an estimated $30 million worth of gold being removed from the gulch.

Boot Hill, Virginia City (courtesy of Kirsten Lynn)
As in all gold booms, few miners became rich. More businessmen benefited from the gulch. But the men who benefited the most were those who planned to gain their riches the old fashioned way…steal it. Robbers and thieves haunted the roads preying on miners, freight haulers and stagecoaches.  With the rise of bandits came the birth of an even deadlier group, vigilantes.  Lynchings became a daily event. Today, historians ponder who the real criminals were in an area fraught with extreme lawlessness and violence?

With all booms there comes a bust, and Virginia City no sooner boomed when things started to fall apart. Miners started moving to a new find near Helena (which would become the capitol of Montana), and by 1870 Virginia City’s population was reduced to few hundred.  Dredge mining continued in the area until World War II when all mining, except for a few hobbyists, ceased in the Gulch.
Fire truck tours (watch out for the crazy driver)

All was not lost, and Virginia City remains the most preserved ghost town in the West.  Visitors can step back in time, visit the Wells Fargo, see a melodrama at the Opera House, ride a train, visit Boot Hill, or ride south out of town a piece and into the mountains and visit Cord and Olivia. 

Hope y’all will visit Virginia City with Cord and Livy in HOME FIRES!  Join me on August 24th when I introduce a famous gentleman who kindly allowed me to include him in the story and use some of his correspondence to Cord and Olivia.

Barsness, Larry. Gold Camp: Alder Gulch and Virginia City, Montana.
Dimsdale, Thomas J. The Vigilantes of Montana.
Forney, Gary R. Finding El Dorado.
Langford, Nathaniel P. Vigilante Days and Ways.

Kirsten Lynn writes stories based on the people and history of the West, more specifically those who live in the shadow of the Bighorn Mountains. Combing her love of the West and the military, her stories often merge these two halves of her heart. When she’s not roping, riding and rabble-rousing with the cowboys and cowgirls who reside in her endless imagination, Kirsten helps preserve the history of Northwest Wyoming working with local history programs. 

BLOG (Campfire Coffee):


  1. Despite my better judgment, I'm going to type this right out in public: I am so proud of you, Rustler! (**hack, cough** Sorry. Something in my throat. ;-) )

    Those poor Southern folks just couldn't get a break, could they? Everywhere they went, those theivin' bluebellies gave 'em hard time. Is it any wonder there's still so much playful ... er, I mean deadly earnest ... animosity between the glorious South and the dadblasted North?

    Can't wait for your novel, Rustler. One question: If you've got such an oversize herd of premium livestock up yonder, why on earth are you layin' a sticky rope on ever'body else's?

    I'd hug you, but ... well, you know. ;-)

    1. Thanks so much, Tex! You're support and assistance has meant the world to me. (Now I have to go shower).

      Yeah, even thousands of miles away from the battlefields the Yankees were tracking 'em down and getting in their way. Dagnabbit, they couldn't even name the town without interfering bluebellies. :)

      One can never have too much premium stock, Tex, you should know that. :)

      And about the hug...yeah we're good. ;)

  2. Oh my, this story sounds delicious...can you tell I've food on my mind. All joking aside, this story looks to be a winner. The folks wanted their story told and I'm glad they chose you. Can't wait. Of course I'm a Northern girl and proud of it, but have deep Southern roots that are amazing ( no wonder I'm so cantankerous) and a love of Varina Davis. She was an amazing woman. Doris

    1. Thanks so much, Doris, I was thrilled they chose me, too! I hope this post isn't too misleading. Cord and Olivia's story takes place in '68 when things are slowing down in Virginia City, but there's plenty of wild West around Cord and Livy. I hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as I did.

      I had family on both sides of the lines, so I'm just a confused Westerner. :)

  3. Kirsten,
    What a fascinating history. Thanks so much for sharing. I wrote my early westerns while living back east also. I was definitely homesick for the west as well. I was so happy to come back. Your story sounds wonderful and I look forward to reading it!

    1. That's what I love about writing and reading, Kristy, we can travel wherever we want, or need to be at any time. Thanks for you support! I hope you love HOME FIRES!

  4. I can't wait to read it, Kirsten! Congratulations!

    1. Thanks so much, Lorrie!! I can't wait for others to read Cord and Olivia's story!

  5. YEE HAW!!! Well, Miss Kirsten, I'm working my fingers to the bone on your story even as we speak! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Can't wait to get Cord and Livy out for everyone to read about! I just love them--and boy, have they been through it!
    Hugs, and Congratulations!

    1. Yay!!! Hope they aren't giving you too much trouble, Cheryl! :) And that just warms my heart that you love Cord and Livy, they deserve some love after all they go through. :)

  6. It is such a commitment writing novel, so I am very happy for you to have finished it and about to see it published.
    I enjoyed reading about Virginia City and its illustrious history. I've been to Montana, but I didn't get to spend as much time there as I would have liked. It's a beautiful, but still wild place from my perspective.
    I understand your homesickness, only in the reverse. When I lived in Nebraska I thought I might die of homesickness for North Carolina. I think it was the bitter cold winter and the difference in culture that I had difficulty dealing with. Texas did not effect me that way, but it's a southern state and the people are more what I'm used to.
    I am looking forward to reading Home Fires. Great title.
    All the best to you, Kirsten.

  7. Thank you so much for stopping by, Sarah! I'm glad you enjoyed reading about the wild town of Virginia City. I went to college in Montana and got my first job there, so I lived there for about 11 years and if I couldn't live in Wyoming that's where I'd go (but thank God I can live in Wyoming). :) It's funny how we get used to places and cultures and the sickness we can feel when placed in a "foreign" land.

    Hope you enjoy Cord and Livia's story! It worked out that I wrote it when living near DC, so I was close to the research I needed to that area.

    1. That should say Cord and Livy's (not Livia's) story.