Search This Blog

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Medieval Female Exorcist - Dark Maiden. Historical Romance by Lindsay Townsend

Yolande, the heroine of my latest medieval historical romance novel, 'Dark Maiden' is an exorcist. Her father, who was born in Ethiopia (a country with very ancient Christian roots) was an exorcist. Her mother was born in York.

As is now being discovered, there were people of African descent living and working in Britain, especially in cities and ports like York. Archaeology discovered a Romano-British grave in York where a woman of black African and mixed race heritage had been buried in a rich tomb with grave goods. Archaeology also uncovered a tomb of a man of north African descent buried at a medieval friary in Suffolk, England, close to the port of Ipswich. According to bone specialists he had a bad back! The thirteenth century statue of Saint Maurice in Magdeburg cathedral in Germany clearly shows him as African.

Half-African, half-English, Yolande is the dark maiden of the title, a spiritual wanderer and warrior, helping those tormented by the restless dead and assisting the restless dead themselves to find final peace. She lives and works in England during the time of the Black Death.

Statue of St. Maurice at Magdeburg
I chose this time period quite carefully. Women during the Middle Ages could not be priests but during the period of the Black Death, when thousands died, including hundreds of priests, the church allowed women to take confessions from dying people. In early 1349 the bishop of Bath and Wells wrote to his priests to encourage all men to confess, before they were taken by the pestilence. He added that if they had no priest they should follow the teaching of the Apostles and confess to each other 'or, if no man is present, even to a woman'.  (From translation in Philip Zeigler, The Black Death, page 125).

Medieval people also believed that in a crisis anyone, priest or lay person, could perform an exorcism because every Christian has the power to command demons and drive them away in the name of Christ.  I took these ideas and developed them, allowing my Yolande to become an exorcist.

In 'Dark Maiden' I have Yolande and Geraint  (a travelling player who becomes her friend, help-mate, lover and finally husband) face several encounters with both restless spirits and also demons. My ideas have always been shaped by the real beliefs of the time. So in 'Dark Maiden' there are evil spirits, restless ghosts called revenants, an incubus and vampires - all paranormal creatures with a medieval slant.

I'll talk about these in other blog articles.

Read Chapter One

Lindsay Townsend

Friday, May 19, 2017

Wives, Mothers, and Nuns

This is the fourthof a six-part series about the Middle Ages with the goal of giving casual readers of medieval romances a better understanding of the time period and why there were no damsels in distress. (My apologies for not posting it on the right date) This brief blog doesn’t even begin to cover it the complexity of women’s lives in the Middle Ages, which varied greatly depending upon class, location, and all the other variables that are lumped into “socio-economic status.”

In First the Fall, Then the Babarians, we discussed the macro trends of the early medieval period and how they set the foundation for the Early Middle Ages. We painted kings and knights with a broad brush and learned the benefits of political stability in Huzzah! Knights, Kings and Living the High Life and looked at war in Ideals of Chivalry and Realities of War. Today, we’re focusing on women in the Middle Ages.


Love and Marriage
So would you want to be a woman in the middle ages? Probably not. Besides the very real lack of aspirin, tampons and coffee, the lack of choices would be unbearable to a modern woman.

The key to understanding the medieval women is to understand the role of the individual and land in determining status, wealth and survival.

First of all, the idea of an “individual” didn’t exist. That’s not to say that people didn't think of themselves, and sometimes put their own wants and needs above that the whole, but the people who had the means to do that were very rare. Even Eleanor of Aquitaine was married off the first time. An individual's desires didn't equal or supersede society’s needs.

Secondly, the more land you controlled, the less likely you were to go hungry or fall to a neighbor. Land equaled security, and those with land (whether it was a hundred hundreds scattered throughout England or a dozen strips in a field) used marriage to determine whom of the next generation got the land and all that came with it.

Love wasn’t the goal. Neither were happiness, contentment or emotional and sexual satisfaction. The goal was a stable society where wealth, titles and land passed without chaos from one generation to the next.

Younger sons and bastards were left to secure their own future if they wanted land and a wife. Daughters inherited only if there were no sons. As you can imagine, heiresses were prized as a quick route to wealth and power. Kings often used heiresses as “rewards” for services rendered and to tightened the binds with vassals.

For good or ill, these same scenes played out on smaller scales as you move down the social ladder. The merchant wanted to align with other merchants to found dynasties and make sure his grandchildren are heirs to a dynasty. The master craftsman could train all his sons, but his eldest would be the one to take over the family business.

Among peasants, childless couples would adopt two or three of the younger children of a large, neighboring family, and those children would inherit after taking care of the couple in their old age. These arrangements are spelled out in contracts that stipulate what the elderly woman would eat, including how often and in what amounts, clothing she would receive in a year, where she would sit in the house in relation to the hearth, where she would sleep, and healthcare in old age. We know about these because of the number of suits brought by one party against the other for not meetings the terms of the contract, and the great majority of these suits involve impoverished women.

Marriage as a political and financial arrangement changed little throughout the Middle Ages. What changed was the Church’s growing influence over marriage. Initially, the Church was tangential to the ceremony. By the 12th century, a priest was part of the wedding ceremony, but it would be another century before he was required for the proceedings.

The Church also decreed that marriages required the free consent of both partners. And thought this idea became doctrine, it doesn’t mean the participants had a say in the matter. Consent could be “coaxed.”

Wife and Mothers

The roles for medieval women codified by the Church and society weren’t negotiable. There were strict expectations defining a woman’s duty both inside the home and within a marriage. Straying from these expectations brought harsh social and perhaps legal or religious reprisals. Women were expected to bear children and nurture them, be obedient to their husband and take care of domestic matters.

The importance—and narrowness of this role—is reflected in how young girls were educated. Education focused on the practical, not the academic.

Among the nobility, girls as young as seven were sent from their home to live with another noble family, often because they were betrothed to a son of the family. She learned how to run a household, manners, etiquette, and leisure pursuits important to the nobility, such as hawking, dancing, riding and embroidery or needlework.

They would act as a servant in these households, waiting upon older women in the family. Unfortunately, because marriages weren’t legal until after consummation. Many of these young women were neither daughter nor servant. Worse, if their betrothed died before the marriage, they were either wanted by neither family—or in a tug-of-war between their father-in-law who wanted to keep their dowry and their father who wanted it back. Several historians, including Georges Duby, have written about the physical and sexual abuse that grew out of this situation.

Theoretically, the young lady had the right to say no when it came time for the actual marriage. The question of whether both parties are entering into the marriage of their own free will was real and important. Even with this, few young women said no. The “Nos” that we know about are typically part of a saint’s hagiography designed to show the woman’s piousness or commitment to a life of chastity. For most women, saying no would often bring on worse consequences than being married, i.e. the physical and sexual abuse mentioned above or a life in a convent.

If she didn’t say no, a noblewoman’s marriage would be consummated around age 14, but many times it happened even younger. We look at this as abusive today, but then it gave the girl legal protection if her husband died that her betrothed status did not.

Girls on a lower social rung learned how to run a household, perhaps how to run a business, as well, and to treat minor illnesses. There was less emphasis on leisure pursuits, and more on practical matters. For instance, while many noble women learned to read, only some women of the merchant class learned. Freewomen and serfs almost never did.

Independent women
There is some debate as to whether becoming a nun was actually better than life as a married woman. It wasn’t necessarily a life of quiet contemplation. These were self-supporting communities, and young noblewomen could be expected to work. However, nuns were educated (although much less so than their male counterparts) and were responsible for the administration of their convents.

Outside of the cloister, widowhood was often the first time that most women were able to make their own decisions and chart their own course. Women who enjoyed widowhood most were those who were financially secure but not too rich.

Of course, we know so much about widows’ entitlements and lives because of lawsuits and court records. The fact is many women had to seek legal recourse against sons, stepsons, in-laws, and lords to receive their due inheritance. Like the young bride who had the right to say no, but who faced punishment worse than marriage if she did so, widows had the right to property and chattel, but often faced violence, inaction, and collusion to deprive them of their property when they exercised that right.

One interesting trend that defies all the restrictions placed on women is the pilgrimage. A large majority of pilgrims seems to have been women. We know this from burial goods, which include badges or other tokens that signify a pilgrimage, and wills that bequeath goods, lands or coins to pilgrimage sites or specified that someone be hired to make a pilgrimage on behalf of the deceased

One interesting exception to everything we know about woman in the late Middle Ages is Margery Kempe (d. 1438). Kempe wrote what is believed to be the first autobiography in the English language. The Book of Margery Kempe chronicles her extensive pilgrimages to various holy sites and her “conversations” with God.

What makes Margery so interesting to historians is she went against all social codes, systematically violating each one of them for religious purposes. She faced a great deal of criticism for her efforts from society and the Church. From her book, we can learn what happened to women who went against the expectations. She wore fine clothes in the latest fashions, started her own business as a brewer and was thought of as “proud” (pride is one of the seven deadly sins, btw).

She is “punished” for her sins. Her business fails, the Archbishop chastises her, and her husband more or less agrees to a separation. Remember there is no divorce.

Damsel in Distress
The fairytale view of the princess locked in the tower until rescued by the knight in shining armor is pure fiction. In the Middle Ages—frankly, until just last century—women were seen only as someone’s daughter, sister, wife or mother. In general, women could not inherit or hold property (it passed “through” them but not “to” them), did not retain custody of children if widowed or divorced, and rarely had a say in who or when they wed.

If she were brilliant and capable, the type of woman who could defend a castle (Margaret Paston), run a country (Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor of Castille, ) or out-argue Peter Abelard (Heloise) she was seen as the exception to what "everyone" knew about women.

If her father, her brother, or her in-law locked a woman in a tower no one would come to save her. They had every right to put her there and keep her there for as long as they wished.

Keena Kincaid writes historical romances in which passion, magic and treachery collide to create unforgettable stories. Her books are available from Prairie Rose Publications and Amazon. For more information on her stories, visit her Amazon page, her website, or Facebook.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New Release -- DARK MAIDEN by Lindsay Townsend -- Giveaway!

Beautiful Yolande comes from an exotic line of exorcists—a talent she considers a gift—and a curse. In fourteenth century England, a female exorcist who is also black is an oddity. She is sought after and trusted to quiet the restless dead and to send revenants to their final rest.

Geraint the Welshman captures Yolande’s heart with his ready smile and easy ways, and the passionate fire of his spirit. An entertainer, he juggles and tumbles his way through life—but there is a serious side to him that runs deep. He offers Yolande an added strength in her work and opens his heart to her with a love such as she’s never known.

But Yolande is not free to offer Geraint her love completely—not until her “time of seven” has passed.

Can the powerful attraction between them withstand the powers of evil who mean to separate them forever? Yolande’s conscience and conviction force her to face this evil head-on—but can Geraint save his Dark Maiden…


     “Mistress Yolande?”
     “You have the advantage, mister. You know my name.” She smiled to take any sting from her words. “May I know yours?”
     Greetings and courtesy were important to her. Each gave clues as to character and wishes. She had once known a de-mon, beautifully polite, who would have ripped the flesh from her bones had she not bound him by his own rules of manners.
     The stranger bowed, a good sign. He muttered something in a language she did not know, which was not good. She moved a little closer, ready to boot him in the balls if he did anything unsavory.
     “Geraint Welshman, at your service.” He crouched then looked straight at her. “I am just taking something from my pack, if it please you.”
     She grinned at him to prove she was unafraid, her body heavy and languid as she itched to go onto the balls of her feet, ready to scrap. A quick stab to those astonishing black-blue eyes, a swipe at his knee and Geraint the Welshman would be groveling in the hard-packed mud.

Be sure and leave a comment for a chance to win the free ebook, Dark Maiden.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017



Where do you find ideas for stories? Is any idea you or someone else might think of really good enough for a novel? Even I have listened to a simple tale a friend might be relating, and said, "That would make a good story." Really? Would it?

An IDEA is not a story. So, what is it? An idea is only a seed, a brief thought that might have potential...or be worthless.

Probably a thousand times I've seen or heard something and thought it would make a good story. But no, the large majority were just that--brief thoughts with nothing to flesh out the plot.

An author friend once told me, "Never let your husband suggest an idea for a story." Why? I asked. She explained what her husband said. "A guy is driving one direction on the interstate, and a girl is driving the opposite direction. They both stop at the same gas station, fill up their vehicles, and go in to pay with credit cards. When the clerk finishes with the credit cards and pushes them back, the guy and the girl inadvertently switch cards, get in their cars, and continue their journey." My friend said she asked him, "So?" His answer, as he pointed a finger in her direction was, "Go with it."

This became very funny to us, knowing the man and that he knew nothing about writing.

Yes, he had an IDEA. But not a story.

Writing a story is hard work, and to begin, we must have a kernel of an idea, yes, but other facets must pop up soon, or that seed will wither and die.

Red Smith, a once famous sportswriter said, "There's nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at your typewriter and open a vein."

I can identify, as I'm sure all authors can. Often, a flash of inspiration will spark my brain, and I think...this is it! I have the greatest idea for a story! But if I can't get past the brilliant idea, I have nothing.

I don't throw out--delete--anything that I begin. If the story has a decent beginning and I believe the next scene will appear, as well, then I save that document. Alas, I have a folder filled with brilliant ideas. But no stories.

What basics are missing from an idea? Two items: Compelling Characters and Conflict.

Here's an idea that keeps haunting me. I thought of it five years ago but never wrote a word. It's actually an opening scene. Why I thought of it, or what to do with it has never reached fruition. It's really just an idea--and I can't think past this part:

About 1940, in a dark farm house, two little girls, four and two, huddle together in a corner beside a bed. The door opens and a man and a woman step in. Still in the dark, they talk.
"What will we do with them?" he asks.
She replies, "I'll take the little one to raise. The other one will be easier for you to raise."
He says, "But what will we tell people to explain the whole situation?"

Very frustrating.
A good storyteller, though would:
~~*~~Move beyond the initial situation.
~~*~~Create a conflict that will propel the story without stopping.
~~*~~Cultivate the idea through frustrations, obstacles, near misses, and deletions as complex as the characters themselves.
~~*~~Open that vein.

Several years ago, I had a flash of brilliancy and thought of a story. I had an Idea. We were on the interstate driving along, and often I'll get some of my best ideas during those times. I told my husband the beginning of the story. I suppose I didn't explain it very well, because he didn't think much of my idea. So, I kept it in my head for a few months. But the Idea kept returning, and I was compelled to write. And I didn't stop, because by then I knew I had a good story.
The title: Crystal Lake Reunion
Where is this book today? Sitting in an Archives file for about 3 years now. It was published by a pretty good publisher, which was bought out by a bigger publisher. I had the option to take it--or let this big group have it. I chose to keep it. Why, I don't know. But maybe it will once again see the light of day.
Celia Yeary
Romance, and a little bit of Texas
My Blog
Sweethearts of the West-Blog
My Facebook Page

Monday, May 15, 2017

Rise and Fall of Sutter’s Fort-Part 1

Sutter's Fort was the creation of Johann Augustus Sutter, a Swiss immigrant to Alta California. It was intended to become a 19th-century agricultural and trade colony in the Mexican Alta California province.

Sutter was born in Kandern, Germany, a few miles from the Swiss border, on February 15, 1803. He went to school in Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland and later joined the Swiss army, eventually becoming captain of the artillery.

After military service, he worked as an apprentice in a print shop, before clerking in a draper's shop, where he met his wife, Annette D'beld. The two were married in Burgdorf on October 24, 1826 and the couple would eventually have four children. Dabbling in a number of businesses, Sutter was unsuccessful and decided to seek his fortune in the United States. In May, 1834, he left his family destined for New York, promising to bring them later once he was settled.

Sutter arrived at New York in July 1834 at the age of 31.  soon made his way to St. Louis, Missouri. While there, he made two trading trips to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1835 and 1836. In 1838, he traveled with a group of missionaries on the Oregon Trail to Fort Vancouver in Oregon Territory.

After spending the next five years in various business pursuits, Sutter worked his way across the western American wilderness by way of St. Louis, Oregon, Hawaii and Sitka, Alaska, finally arriving at Monterey, on July 3rd 1839.

The fort was built in 1839 on level ground northward toward the American River and westward toward the Sacramento River. The fort was originally called New Helvetia (New Switzerland). It was the first non-Indigenous community in the California Central Valley. The fort is famous for its association with the Donnor Party, the California Gold Rush and the formation of Sacramento.

His settlement was the beginning of what will become the future Mexican "land grant" baron ranches in California during the latter days of the Mexican period and into the American settlement of the greater part of California. The transition from world empires to the common man on the land had begun.

His intention was to establish an inland empire as far removed from the Spanish settlements as possible where he could conduct himself as he saw fit. The country was well populated by the Native Americans whom he planned to use to develop his empire. During his travels, Sutter had gathered around him a small core of persons dedicated to his cause and loyal to him. Sutter had to become a Mexican citizen to qualify for a land grant. With his position and plans laid out before the Mexican Governor Alvarado, Sutter set off for the interior to select a site for his empire.
Chartering two schooners named Isabella and Nicolas and purchasing a four-oared pinnace, Sutter embarked on August 9 with eight or ten kanakas (Hawaiians), three or four white men who had come with him and two or three others engaged at Yerba Buena besides the crews of the two schooners.
The vessels were loaded with stores of provisions, ammunition, implements and three small cannon, which had been brought from Hawaii. After exploring the Sacramento, Feather and American Rivers, Sutter selected a site for his planned settlement about a quarter mile inland on high ground near a pond fed from the American River. At first, tule houses were built by the kanakas in the Hawaiian style, but by the fall of 1839 an adobe structure 40 feet long with a tule roof was completed. It was divided into three apartments, in one of which Sutter lived, while the other two served as kitchen and blacksmith shop. The new settlement was christened in honor of Sutter's homeland, Nueva Helvecia or New Switzerland. 

Employing members of the Miwok, Maidu, and Kanakas tribes, he began to build the settlement and, to protect it, in 1840, Sutter began work on the walls of the Fort which included 18 foot walls surrounding shops, houses, mills, and craftsmen. He was concerned for the safety of the settlers because of possible attacks from the overwhelming numbers of Native Americans in the area, many of whom resented intruders into their territory. The Native American tribes made endless raids on each other and on the Europeans when they appeared. Slavery was practiced by the indigenous people on each other and then by the Europeans.
In August of that year, Sutter went down to Monterey where he took the final steps to become a Mexican citizen on August 27th. The fact that Sutter was a good Swiss Catholic and had good references for his character helped to speed things along. In addition, Sutter was duly authorized by Jimeno Casarin, Governor Alvarado's secretary, to "represent the departmental government at Nueva Helvecia, being endowed with all the civil authority necessary for the local administration of justice, the prevention of robberies by adventurers from the United States, the repression of hostilities by savage Indians, and the checking of the illegal trapping and fishing carried on by the Company of Columbia, for which purpose he might even resort to force of arms if necessary." He assumed the position of Justice of the Peace on the Sacramento River frontier. Sutter had probably a force of twenty white men at New Helvetia by the end of 1840 with which to enforce the peace.

Sutter had a survey of New Helvetia made in the early part of 1841. A map or diseno was drawn to show Sutter's claim. Thus armed, Sutter went down to Monterey in June for his grant. His petition to Alvarado was dated June 15th. On the 18th the grant was made for eleven square leagues bounded on the north by the Three Peaks and latitude 39 degrees 41'45"; on the east by the margins of Feather River; on the south by latitude 38 degrees 49'32"; and on the west by the Sacramento River - the eleven leagues not including lands flooded by the river, in all about 47,827 acres. The conditions were that Sutter "shall maintain the native Indians of the different tribes of those points in the enjoyments and liberty of their possessions, without molesting them, and he shall use no other means of reducing them to civilization but those of prudence and friendly intercourse, and not make war upon them in any way without previously obtaining authority from the government."

In 1841-42 work was continued, chiefly by Native American laborers on the Fort. The Fort was a structure of adobe with walls eighteen feet high, and three feet thick enclosing an area of 500 by 150 feet. The Main Building of the fort is a two story adobe structure built between 1841 and 1843.

At the southeast and northwest corners projecting bastions, or towers, rose above the walls of the rectangle and contained in their upper stories cannon, which commanded the gateways in the center of each side except the western. Loopholes were pierced in the walls at different points. Guns were mounted at the main entrance on the south and elsewhere, and the north side seemed also to be protected by a ravine. An inner wall, with the intermediate space roofed over, furnished a large number of apartments in the California style and there were other detached buildings both of wood and adobe in the interior. Some of the wooden buildings were brought from Fort Ross when it was sold to Sutter. His headquarters was in a central building, a three-story structure in the middle of the rectangle with wooden staircases at the middle on opposite sides of the building.

He had quarters for some of his workers, a bakery, gristmill, blanket factory, and workshops within the Fort. He located a tannery on the American River. Dwellings for guests and his vaqueros were also outside the Fort. No more than 50 people stayed inside at any one time prior to the immigration of 1845. A maximum of 300 people could have used the Fort during the daylight but it would have been crowded. The design of Sutter's Fort seemed to be a mix of that of the Spanish presidios and Fort Ross. The corner bastions were similar to the Russian design but of adobe. The walls were of the Spanish adobe design instead of redwood as in the Russian Fort. The central building for the "management" was similar to the Russian idea although of adobe instead of redwood. 
Twenty four cannons and other smaller artillery pieces all in good order were in place for defense. These were from Sutter’s earlier purchase of the former Russian fort, Fort Ross.   

The armament, as early as 1842, consisted of two brass fieldpieces and a dozen or more iron guns of different kinds brought from Hawaii and purchased from different vessels. In a letter to the California Pioneers published in their Bulletin, dated July 12, 1879, Sutter states the he got six larger cannon in 1841 from the captain of an American vessel who brought them from South America expressly for him, one brass fieldpiece only from the Russians and a few others, including 2 brass pieces from other vessels at different dates. John Bidwell, a caretaker for Sutter at Fort Ross in 1842, states that about 40 rusty guns and one or two small brass cannon were obtained from the Russians. However there are rumors that the iron guns were lost when the raft carrying them from Fort Ross to Yerba Buena was overturned at the entrance to the bay and lost. But no written information is available to back up these rumors. So it is likely that Sutter got most of his guns from Fort Ross.

Sutter's grant became an extensive farming and ranching operation. Wheat, barley, peas, beans and cotton were raised with the help of Native American labor. Tradesmen were hired from all nations to help provide implements for the Fort and the ranch. Business was developed around furs, whiskey, brandy distilling, and beer brewing. Wheat was exported to Russian Alaska. As a Justice of the Peace, Sutter issued Mexican passports to American immigrants who were first his guests, and later his customers.
By 1845 the ranch had 1,700 horses and mules, 4,000 cattle and 3,000 sheep. Sutter established his own home guard with fifty Native Americans whom he trained, armed with muskets and had dressed in military uniforms. The Fort became famous as a temporary refuge for pioneers between 1841 and 1849. It served as a waystation at the end of the California trail which started along the Missouri River, and the Siskiyou Trail coming from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Sutter provided free shelter and supplies to weary immigrants, trappers and traders traveled through the area.. He recruited settlers for his settlement not only in this country, but also in Switzerland and Germany. 

The Fort was so renowned that many foreign expeditions came to visit it as well as many itinerant artists. The U. S. military occupied the Fort during the early days of the Conquest of Mexico, but the fort was returned to Mr. Sutter after matters in the region were settled. As a result, several drawings and photographs of the Fort come down to us and are shown in this history. The many visitors during this time are reviewed in The History of California by H. H. Bancroft, Vol. III and IV.

An 1842 visitor described as the “King’s Orphan” described the river approach to Sutter’s Fort as follows:

"Although not very distant from the mouth of the river in a straight line, the settlement of Captain Sutter was reached only after many turns of the river. So we arrived at the embarcadero late in the evening, having seen only one hut and some sheep pens on the right side of the river all the passage up. At the embarcadero, or port, were some huts situated under the shade of lofty sycamores and oaks...New Helvetia lay two and half miles from this landing.”

A typical scene at Sutter’s Fort is described by the same 1842 visitor:

“I arrived very early in the morning just as the discordant notes of the Mexican drums were calling the people to assemble for labor. I alighted and proceeded immediately to pay my compliments to the Captain. Although he was very busily employed distributing orders for the day, he most hospitably received and made me at home under his roof." Wheat was being harvested in the nearby fields and before being sent with their sickles, rakes, and other tools, the Native American crews were brought inside the enclosure and given their morning meal. The method of feeding the Native Americans shocked the visitor who made the following comments: "I must confess I could not reconcile my feelings to see these fellows being driven, as it were, around some narrow troughs of hollow tree trunks, out of which, crouched on their haunches, they fed more like beasts than human beings, using their hands in hurried manner to convey to their mouths the thin porridge which was served to them. Soon they filed off to the fields after having, I fancy, half satisfied their physical wants." Sutter and his guest then sat down to their own breakfast, which was served in a small building detached from the dwelling house, and under the same roof as the kitchen. Their meal bore no likeness to that served the Native Americans. It consisted of excellent beefsteak, tea, butter with coarse bread, eggs, beans, etc.
Industrial activity at the Fort, though less diversified than it later became, was already well advanced. In the sheds ranged about the inner sides of the walls were a distillery, where a fiery native brandy, aguardiente, was being made from home-grown wheat and wild grapes that grew along the river banks, and shops where a carpenter, a blacksmith, a cooper, and a saddler were at work. Outside the walls were corrals where the domestic animals were kept. An adobe building used to store wheat, corn and other farm products.

A little distance away was an assemblage of huts where the Native American workers lived, and to the rear of the Fort, a large pond bordered with fine willows and other trees. The pond was a slough off the American River, which "could have been a most valuable asset, ornamental and useful, providing water for both domestic use and for irrigating the newly laid out kitchen garden. However, because it had been neglected, it had become a source of colds and fever.
Sutter had planned a gradual development of settlements on his land grant and all was going well in that direction. He had a booklet published in Darmstadt, Germany showing his Fort and advertising for settlers from Germany and Switzerland. For awhile, his Fort was taken over by the American Army during the conquest of California in 1846-1847 when Sutter raised the Stars and Stripes over the Fort. Shortly after, the Fort was returned to Sutter.

Within just a few years, Sutter was the wealthiest and most influential man in the region and even he would later admit: "I was everything, patriarch, priest, father and judge." Somewhere along the line, Sutter's family also joined him in California.

In 1847, California became part of the United States. At first Sutter supported the establishment of an independent California Republic. When U.S. troops briefly seized control of his fort, Sutter did not resist. 

Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical western romances. Five of her books in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, , Big Meadows Valentine, A Resurrected Heart, Her Independent Spirit, Haunted by Love  and Bridgeport Holiday Brides, have been published by Prairie Rose Publications and are available. A sixth full-size novel, Luck Joy Bride, is in the works.