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Monday, September 17, 2018

Yuma Territorial Prison: Madora Ingalls-Prison Warden Wife & Reformer

The Yuma Territorial Prison in Arizona was often described as either a “hell hole” or a “country club.” Many of the changes that led to this prison becoming more tolerable to prisoners is due to the effort of the wife of Prison Superintendent Frank Ingalls, Madora Spauling Ingalls.

Yuma Territorial Prison was considered a hell hole by prisoners due to:

  • "Insufferable heat (Yuma has two seasons: mildly warm and hotter than uno-where)
  • Surrounded by rivers, quick sand and desert in all directions
  • An inhuman "Snake Den" (dark cell) and Ball and Chain as standard punishment
  • Tuberculosis was the #1 Killer
  • "Impossible to endure, more impossible to escape."
River and desert outside Yuma Territorial Prison

However, after efforts to improve the prison, many by the above-mentioned couple, many non-inmate residents of Yuma resented the convicts enjoying amenities they didn’t have:

  • Electricity
  • Forced Ventilation
  • Sanitation, including two bathtubs and three showers
  • A library with 2,000 books, the most in the Territory at the time
  • Enlightened, progressive administration
  • Prison Band

 Considered one of the two best superintendents in the prison’s history, Frank Salter (F. S.) Ingalls was initially a surveyor by trade. He served as prison superintendent from June 1883-July 1886 and October 1889-September 1891.

The Yuma Prison Library was created in 1883 during the administration of superintendent F.S. Ingalls, who also opened blacksmith, carpentry, cobbler, and tailor shops to teach inmates job skills. It was under his administration that an electric dynamo was installed at the prison, one of the first generators in the West.. Electricity replaced coal oil and candles for lighting.

The following is from the Superintendent's Report, November 1, 1883. 

          “I recommend that the Legislature make a fair appropriation for a Prison Library, also to provide for a Mechanics Library of several volumes, for the special use of convict mechanics and those learning trades.

          “Every visitor to this institution pays $0.25 for the privilege of inspecting the prison. This money is set aside, and will be used towards assisting in establishing a Prison Library. The amount so far realized from this source is $78.25.” 

The prison library was the brainchild of his wife, Madora Ingalls who was concerned about the education of prisoners. She helped raise funds to buy the library’s furniture and 2,000 books.

Madora Ingalls display at Yuma Territorial Prison Museum

Some consider it the first library in the Arizona Territory. As the prison superintendent’s wife, she also helped raised money for a prison band, nursed some of the sickest prisoners, and decorated cells, the dining room and hospital with flowers annually on "Floral Mission Day." She sometimes brought prisoners food from her own kitchen, wrote letters for those who were illiterate, and worked for prison reform to help the inmates increase their chances of leaving prison to return to a better and more meaningful life.

There is a story about her that some consider true but, others claim is legend. It is said to have taken place at a time in 1891 when Madora was not at the prison. There were no reports in the Yuma and other newspapers of the time. The first known documentation of the story occurred in 1962. It might be the stuff of fiction, but it does make for a good story.

Supposedly, there was a prison escape attempt in the prison yard in July where a crew of inmates worked under the direction of two guards. (There were many prison escapes over the history of the prison, with a total of 26 inmates leaving and not being found and returned.) One guard was stabbed with a steel spike, his gun seized and the other guard in the yard shot. As the prisoners realized what was happening, they joined in the riot to break out.

Now armed with the rifles and pistols of both guards, the prisoners stormed the gates to break free. Realizing an uprising was in progress, the guard in the tower fired on the prisoners. One of the prisoners shot and killed the tower guard. As the steam whistle blew signaling the escape attempt, other guards worked to reach the top of the tower and the Lowell Battery Gun, which was similar to the Gatlin Gun, but they were held back by inmate fire.
Gatlin Gun on display at Yuma Territorial Prison Musuem
Supposedly, no one knows how it happened, but Madora Ingalls, who came with her husband to the prison while in her late twenties and the mother of three children, climbed into the guard tower. She fired the Lowell, spraying the ground in front of the prison yard gates, keeping prisoners pinned inside until the remaining prison guards were able to organize and quell the riot.

Whether or not the last story is true, Madora Ingalls left a mark felt by the inmates of the Yuma Territorial Prison. She stands as one of the leaders in early prison reform in the United States.

Frank Ingalls died in Yuma, Arizona on January 19, 1927 at the age of 76. Madora Ingalls died on November 30, 1938 at the age of 83. They are both buried in the Yuma Pioneer Cemetery.

Across the Colorado River and north on the eastern side of California readers will find the Mono Basin, home to the setting for my Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series. Book 4 in the series, Haunted by Love, takes place mostly in Bridgeport, the county seat, and includes my fictionalized tale that might explain the “Lady in White,” a ghost who has been reported sighted several times since the late 1870’s in Room 16 of the Leavitt House, now the Bridgeport Inn. Please CLICK HERE to read the book description and find the purchase link for Haunted by Love.

Trafzer, Cliff and Steve George, Prison Centennial 1876-1976 – A Pictorial History of The Arizona Territorial Prison at Yuma; Rio Colorado Press: 1980.
Find-a-Grave for Madora Spaulding  Ingalls and Frank Salter Ingalls

Thursday, September 13, 2018

New Release -- Banking on Temperance (Cotillion Ball Saga Book 3) by Becky Lower

When beautiful Temperance Jones and her mother enter Basil Fitzpatrick’s St. Louis bank, the handsome ladies’ man believes he’ll only be conducting a monetary transaction for the down-on-their-luck Jones family.  But Fate intervenes, and that first meeting becomes so much more to both Temperance and Basil.
 Dying of consumption, Preacher Jones extracts a promise from his daughter Temperance that she will do whatever it takes to get the rest of the large family to Oregon. With the threat of civil war looming, he wants to see his sons safely away from conflict.
With Basil’s help, the Jones family begins to put down roots, and the faraway dream of traveling on to Oregon loses its luster for everyone but Temperance.  She knows she must go on, no matter what—if not for her promise to her father, then to protect her own heart from Basil—for she has loved him since the moment they met.
Is Basil ready for a permanent commitment? To love Temperance would mean taking on the burden of providing for her mother and siblings, as well—a tall order for a man who, up to now, has only looked out for himself. Drawn to the tiny spitfire like a magnet, Basil must decide if he’ll let Temperance travel the Oregon Trail with another man, or will he gladly spend the rest of his life BANKING ON TEMPERANCE?


     “I may have a solution, at least temporarily.” He placed a hand on her shoulder. “My brother-in-law, Joseph, has an old soddy house on his family’s property and he’s willing to let you use it at no cost. It’s very crude and small, and needs some repair, but it will at least provide some shelter for your husband. Would you care to see it?”
     Martha’s eyes filled with tears. “It would be a god-send, however crude. Of course, I want to see it.”
     “All right, then. After the bank closes today, I’ll take you there. Joseph’s family has a horse farm and it so happens several of his stock are in the livery right now. We can borrow one of them and ride out together. There’s no sense in moving the wagon until you make certain you can live there.”
     Basil and Martha strode back to the wagon where the children were standing. Martha stood in front of them as she addressed Basil. “Blessings upon you, sir. Our family is sure fortunate we met you the minute we pulled into town. I’ll see you this afternoon.”
     “For the sake of propriety, it may be best if Temperance joins us, too. I’ll bring an extra horse.”
     The stricken look on Temperance’s face brought a grin to Basil’s. This was going to be fun.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Gunfighter's Woman by Kaye Spencer – September #blogabookscene #westernromance #PrairieRosePubs @PrairieRosePubs

Blog-a-Book-Scene is a monthly themed blogging endeavor from a group of authors who love to share excerpts from their stories. Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #blogabookscene and #PrairieRosePubs.

September's theme is Critters and Creatures. The storyline for The Gunfighter's Woman, my paranormal-lite western romance novel, was influenced by the old cowboy song Ghostriders in the Sky. In this excerpt, you'll meet the ghost herd coming after Matt and Brenna. The setting is Trinchera, Colorado (east of Trinidad) in the summer of 1890.


Lightning slashed the sky with an explosion of thunder that shook air and Earth and deafened ears. The man came off the ground in a lunge, feet planted wide, and his attention fixed on the black billowing cloudbank rolling along McBride Mesa to the west. Mesmerized, Brenna stared at the clouds as they transformed into a mighty herd of cattle stampeding along the mesa’s rim. As she watched, the herd curved east, dipping low along the ancient stone wall and then soaring into the sky. The herd doubled-back with the sinuous motion of a Chinese dragon in an undulating journey from ground to towering clouds and back down again.

On the second pass, the cloud-herd swung south and swooped down from Trinchera Pass, passing overhead on a blast of scorching wind. Brenna flinched and ducked as the lead steers overtook them. Samson snorted, bolted, but she held fast to his reins. Eyes blazing with the fires of Hell, the herd pounded the air with steely hooves on peal after peal of thunder as it swung out north across the prairie to come charging low over Pine Canyon on the east.

Then, the clouds split open into a sandy ravine that cut a wide, ragged path to a range in the heavens. Brenna felt their breath in a whoosh of hot wind and saw their black horns glistening and brands flaming with each lightning blaze as the ghost herd plowed up that draw.

No! Not going. They’re not taking me!”

“What is that?”

The man snaked an arm around Brenna’s waist and tossed her to the saddle then swung up behind her. “Hang on!” Clamping one arm around her middle, he grabbed the saddle horn with his other hand, and slapped spurs to Samson.

The horse reared, leaped, and came down at a dead run, ears flattened against his head, and his neck stretched out. A mournful, skin-prickling cry cut through the air. Hot wind whipped their clothes; lightning-scorched air left an acrid Sulphur stench in its wake. Brenna twisted to look behind. The sight coming at them was terrifying and fascinating. Hurdling from the midst of the churning maelstrom of boiling black clouds came spectral cowboys riding hard and fast after the phantom herd on hollow-eyed, fire-snorting skeleton horses pawing the air as they roared toward them. A low keening wail rose on the wind.

Matthewwwww Matthewwwww Caddockkkkkkk 

The man warned, “Close your eyes! Don’t look!”

But Brenna couldn’t look away from the spectral cowboys charging over them, their gaunt eyes staring from fire-flaming faces as they swung around and away in their relentless pursuit of the ghost herd. Rain burst from the clouds; hail peppered down. A blast of frigid wind hit them broadside, bringing the eerie sound of a shrill whinny as the man’s horse bounded up and out of the creek. The man grabbed a tighter hold around her, and she held onto the saddle pommel with both hands to keep her seat.

The man let Samson have his head, and they raced across the prairie and through the open gates of the ranch compound at full tilt...

The Gunfighter's Woman
Available on
Kindle | KindleUnlimited | Print

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Westward Adventure by Kristy McCaffrey - September #blogabookscene #westernromance #prairierosepubs @prairierosepubs

By Kristy McCaffrey

Blog-a-Book-Scene is a monthly themed blogging endeavor from a group of authors who love to share excerpts from their stories. Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #blogabookscene and #PrairieRosePubs.

September's theme is Critters and Creatures. This excerpt is from A Westward Adventure, a sweet historical western romance novella.

When Amelia rescues a dog, Ned hopes that it will keep her in town permanently.


“What’s that smell?” Ned’s voice startled Amelia from her thoughts. “Are you drinking?”

“No.” She scooped water with a bucket and dumped it over Riggs. “I’m washing him with rum.”

“What on earth for?”

“It’s wonderful for cleansing the hair—I’ve used it myself—and it can defer disease. Riggs was filthy, and I’d wager housing unwanted critters in his fur.”

“Smart, except he’ll smell like he was just at Laramy’s. I’ll bet he needs a double-washing.”

“He’s certainly dirty, but he’s a happy fella.” She let Riggs lick her face. “And maybe just a bit into his cups.”

“Where’d you get the rum?”

“Teddy had a bottle and said I could use it.”

“Do you need help?”

“No. I’m almost done.”

It’s now or never. She shored up her courage, since she had no idea if Ned would be here come morning.

“Ned, I wondered if I might ask you something.” She became breathless as her nerves kicked up a notch.


She cleared her throat and was glad for the darkness that blanketed them. From where he stood on the back porch, he couldn’t see her hands shake. Setting down the bucket, she buried them into Riggs’ wet, liquor-infused fur.

“I wondered if, well, I wanted to ask you if, well...if you happened to be looking for companionship, then I’d be interested.”

“I beg pardon?” He sounded confused, but it was too late to turn back now.

“I like you, Ned. You’re very handsome, and I’m impressed by your rugged occupation. I don’t think I’m a bad-looking woman, and I’m seeking the company of a man.” She chanced a glance at him and even in the darkness she felt his stillness, his rapt attention on her words. She really had no idea how this was going.

“You want me to court you?” he asked.

“Well, that would be nice of you, but that’s not necessary. I’m be your woman without it.”

He slowly took the steps and came to the tub. Riggs wagged his tail, sending water flying into Amelia’s face. She stood, wiping her eyes, and hoped for a favorable reaction from Ned. Maybe he’d even kiss her. In hopeful anticipation, she waited.

“Amelia, I guess it’s no secret what’s between us. It’s crept up rather fast, I’ll admit. However, I never thought I’d say this, but I take offense by your assumption that all I’m good for is taking advantage of a woman, that I’d think nothing of ruining your reputation.”

“But you’re a renegade, you’re a man who doesn’t stay put anywhere. You ride with the wind.”

He stood close enough that she could see his frown.

“I’ll admit I haven’t set down roots,” he said, “but, as I told you, I’m changing that with my purchase of the Parker place. And, one of these days, I’m lookin’ to get married.”

“I don’t want to get married.”

“Well, good, cuz I’m not asking you.”

“Oh.” Now she felt foolish.

Connect with Kristy

Monday, September 10, 2018

Critters and Creatures #BlogABookScene

I’m excited about this #BlogABookScene. One of my readers’ favorite scenes is from my first book, TEXAS GOLD. An unexpected blizzard hits Lucille, Texas. My heroine, Rachel, refuses to lose their animals to the weather, so she and her brother fashion a corral and bring them into the cabin. Imagine our hero’s surprise when he wakes up in a strange house to find two goats, four chickens and his horse just across the plank floor.

Where am I? Jake lay still and took stock of his surroundings. He was definitely inside a structure. Though the air was ripe with the scent of animals, he didn’t think he was in a barn. 
Something lay across his body, holding him in place. He listened for the sounds of people, footsteps, whispered words. Nothing. The silence was broken only by the shifting of a log in the fire. If anyone stood watch, he couldn’t hear them. 
Taking care not to give away the fact he was awake, he opened his eyes a slit. He could see out of the right one, but the left eye was blurry and swollen nearly shut, thanks to a lucky punch from that murdering pack of thieves that jumped him.
How had he gotten here? The last thing he remembered was dragging himself through a raging blizzard after Harrison and his men had beaten the holy hell out of him. Now the scents of animals, wood smoke, and lavender surrounded him. 
Glancing down, he found the source of the lavender. A woman lay stretched out on top of him. Silky blond hair the color of the summer sun ran in a river across her shoulder and onto his bare chest. Her forehead was smooth and she had a small nose that turned up a little at the end. Long lashes a little darker than her hair fanned across the milky skin of her cheeks. In spite of his battered body, he had a sudden strong desire to taste that skin. 
He shook his head to clear it and bit back a curse as the movement shot pain through his skull. In a rush, the memories of the previous day returned. And so did the agony. Besides his head and face, they must have landed a few boots to his ribs. His side burned like hell-on-fire. 
Taking shallow breaths to ease the pain, he looked around. The rising sun glowed around the edges of the window shutters. He couldn’t see a guard, but he hadn’t really expected to find one. If Harrison was around, a half-dozen guns would have finished the job they’d started last night. 
He turned his head a little to one side and located the source of the smoke. A poorly built red-stone chimney staggered in drunken lines all the way to the whitewashed ceiling. Whoever had built it must have been working his way through a jug of moonshine at the same time. The floor was probably plank since he didn’t smell dust, but all he felt beneath his fingers was wool and the give of a straw mattress. 
He rolled his head to the other side, stretching aching muscles. The room wasn’t large, but it was well kept. There was a curtained doorway behind him and stairs in the far corner led to an attic or second floor. Plenty of places for someone to hide. He’d check them out, as soon as he could coax his battered body to move. 
A sturdy rocker was pulled up close to the warmth of the fire. There weren’t any fancy things lying around. A small plank table with benches down both sides separated the kitchen from this side of the room, but the table was bare except for a couple of books and a guttered candle. Nothing to give a hint of where he was or who’d taken him in. 
He looked to the other side of the room and blinked his good eye to clear his vision. It didn’t help. In the far corner, he thought he saw two goats, four chickens in dilapidated cages, and his horse. There were animals inside the house.

See you next month!


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Book review: Wild Texas Hearts by Tracy Garrett

Wild Texas Hearts by [Garrett, Tracy]


A broken man…
Revenge has driven Wolf Richards since the brutal murders of his wife and young daughter. Returning home with his son, Cal, he faces memories and loss at every turn. Raising Cal alone seems to be more of a challenge than he can handle. He can never replace his perfect Emily—until a rough-edged female falls into his arms—and living becomes a new adventure.

An unlikely woman…
Lizzie Sutter is as rough as a cowboy and as compelling as a stormy sky. Dressing as a man allows her to hire on with a cattle drive, only to be discovered and set adrift near Civil, Texas. When she stumbles onto an abandoned cabin, she makes herself at home. Then the owner of her newfound home shows up and Lizzie discovers just what’s missing from her life—and her heart.

Two wild hearts tamed…
Lizzie hasn’t a feminine thing about her, yet she calls to something deep inside Wolf, something he can’t deny. Being a woman has always left her feeling lacking, until he shows her their WILD TEXAS HEARTS belong together…

My Review:

My heart melted with this slow burn romance.

Wolf and his son Cal had alot of healing to do after the death of the rest of their family. But in the midst of it, their lives entangle with Lizzie.

I loved the way Wolf was as a father, a grieving widower working through the pain, and then as the man who was figuring out what a treasure he had in Lizzie, and then not letting her go.

Lizzie, for being a not typical woman in that time frame, still had her own beautiful sense of femininity and grace, just packaged and wrapped a little differently, and gave her all to Wolf and Cal as only she could. She proved to be an amazing woman, perfect for the Richards men.

After reading Texas Gold, I was thrilled to discover that Wolf got his own hea and I loved how it turned out for him, Cal, and their Lizzie.

Purchase  Link:

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Last Wilding: I DREAM OF YOU by Sarah J. McNeal #Wildings

For years I have written about the Wilding family in the fictional town of Hazard, Wyoming. The saga began with Joe Wilding and his adopted, part Lakota, brother, Banjo. I loved them so much I began to write about their children, and then their grandchildren. They were my family and my friends. I cannot see pictures of Wyoming or hear about the state without thinking of my Wildings.
I enjoyed having the Wildings help each other out of tough situations. Through these stories they counseled one another and shared their hopes, dreams, and burdens. They supported each other and fought for each other. And they had no problem speaking their mind when they thought a family member was about to derail.
And now I have come to the last Wilding story, their part Lakota cousin, Kyle Red Sky. He is the wisest of the Wilding clan and he has a special Lakota gift. I have written Kyle into several previous stories in which he has leant a hand to another Wilding in trouble. He has given wise counsel to his cousins on occasion, and he has warned them when he knew, in his mystical way, that trouble was coming.
And now, for my final Wilding, I am telling Kyle’s story. Of all the Wildings, Kyle is the most deserving of happiness. To make this last book special I have included scenes here and there in which each of the Wildings from previous stories shows up. I included Joe and Lola Wilding who are now the elders of the tribe. I wanted to let them say goodbye. Kyle has always been dear to my heart and it was my desire to show his depth of character in this last story. I hope I succeeded.

I Dream of You
By Sarah J. McNeal
Fire Star Press
A Dream…A Kiss… And Deadly Secrets
Kyle Red Sky dreamed of the woman with fire in her hair, but when she comes to town, something dark and dangerous follows her. He wants to help her, but she is reclusive, avoids men, and the scarf she always wears around her neck tells him she harbors a dark secret.
Mia Beckett is a survivor. Finally, she has found sanctuary in a small western town far from danger where no one knows her or her past and she intends to keep it that way. But she can’t forget the man she saw once in a dream who told her the paths they walked were destined to meet. However, when she meets Kyle Red Sky and realizes he is the man from her dream, she knows, if the dream becomes a reality, he may die.

Kyle kicked open the door of his mother’s former dress shop despite the sign that read, No Men Allowed. The raging fire upstairs in the private quarters made this an emergency, certainly enough to ignore that sign. Smoke began to fill the shop as he raced up the stairs calling out the name of the new shop owner. “Miss Beckett! Miss Mia Beckett, where are you?”
As he reached the landing of the second floor, he heard someone cough nearby. With the wet blanket wrapped around him he rushed toward the direction of the cough until he found the woman lying on the floor almost unconscious from smoke inhalation. As soon as he removed the wet blanket he wore and wrapped her in its protective layer, he scooped her up in his arms to carry her away from the flames and smoke. The scarf she wore fell away from her neck and her head lolled back against his chest to reveal a thin, straight scar that ran all the way across her throat from her left ear to her right. It wasn’t an old scar, most likely no more than two or three months in the past. She attempted to raise a hand as if to cover her throat and replace the silk scarf. He’d always seen her wear a scarf of some description or another around her neck since her arrival in town. Now he knew all those scarves were not her unique sense of fashion, but her desire to hide the scar. She was a woman attempting to keep a secret.
In a whisper he could barely hear, she said, “Please, don’t let them see.” And then she fell unconscious.
“You have my word.” He knew there was little chance she could hear his promise, but it didn’t matter.
Buy Link:  Paperback    Kindle  

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author who writes diverse stories filled with heart. 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 and Sundown Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Women's Rights in the Old West

C.A Asbrey

First of all it's important to be clear that we’re talking about recent immigrants who came from the eastern U.S. and from across the globe, particularly in the 19th century. Indigenous women had actually lived in the West for thousands of years, and the structures of their cultures had little or no effect on the laws Europeans brought with them across the continent. 
Thing actually were different out West. They had to be to attract more people to make the perilous journey and to make best use of the resources available to them. Who cared if the best person for the job was a woman if they were the only person for the job? And women weren't slow at seizing the opportunities which presented themselves out on the new frontier. 


After the Civil War women found plenty of opportunities in the West which were not available in the East: everything from the right to vote, to equal pay for women teachers to more liberal divorce laws. Wyoming Territory passed a series of such laws in 1869, partly in an effort to attract more white settlement, which, of course, was also intended to unsettle indigenous people. The West was the first home of women’s suffrage in the U.S., with nearly every western state or territory enfranchising women long before women won the right to vote in eastern states.
The east, however, beat the old West by a long way in simple voting though.  Lydia Chaplin Taft (left) became the first woman in the USA to cast her vote in an election. She voted in an official New England Open Town Meeting, at Uxbridge, Massachusetts, on October 30, 1756. This was only a proxy vote for her son though. Throughout the 18th century women gradually lost the right to vote at all. For women to have a meaningful voice, however, it took until 1838. Women in Kentucky benefited from the statewide woman suffrage law allowing female heads of household in rural areas to vote in elections deciding on taxes and local boards for the new county “common school” system. 
The first woman to serve as a mayor in the USA actually had her name placed on the paper as a prank in 1887.  Susanna Madora Salter (below right) was active in the local Woman's Christian Temperance Union and Prohibition Party organizations. Her name had been placed on a slate of candidates by a group of men against women in politics hoping to secure a loss that would humiliate women and discourage them from running. Because candidates did not have to be made public before election day, Salter herself
did not know she was on the ballot before the polls opened. When, on election day itself, she agreed to accept office if elected, the Women's Christian Temperance Union abandoned its own preferred candidate and voted for Salter en masse. Additionally, the local Republican Party Chairman sent a delegation to her home and confirmed that she would serve and the Republicans agreed to vote for her, helping to secure her election by a two-thirds majority. She was not the first woman actually elected to the office though. The first woman recorded winning a mayoral election was Nancy Smith in 1862, who declined to be sworn in as mayor of Oskaloosa, Iowa.

Property Rights

Under colonial Spain and newly independent Mexico, married women living in the borderlands of what is now the American Southwest had certain legal advantages not afforded their European-American peers. Under English common law, women, when they married, became feme covert (effectively dead in the eyes of the legal system) and thus unable to own property separately from their husbands. Conversely, Spanish-Mexican women retained control of their land after marriage and held one-half interest in the community property they shared with their spouses.
If a woman on the Illinois prairie, the only child of a prosperous farmer, lost her parents and inherited the family homestead she could take that with her in marriage. But if her husband had a mind to sell the farm and travel west, she could not stop the sale. However, if she grew up near Albuquerque, her husband could not sell the property you had brought to the marriage, thus giving her significant leverage in household decisions. So she might not end up bouncing around on that buckboard after all.
There were numerous landed women of note in the West. For example, María Rita Valdez operated Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, now better known as a center of affluence and glamour: Beverly Hills. (Rodeo Drive takes its name from Rancho Rodeo.) After the U.S.-Mexican War, the del Valle family of Southern California held on to Rancho Camulos, and when Ygnacio, the patriarch, died, his widow Isabel and daughter Josefa successfully took over the ranch’s operations. Other successful entrepreneurs and property holders, who defended their interests in court when necessary, included San Francisco’s Juana Briones, Santa Fe’s Gertrudis Barceló, San Antonio-born María del Carmen Calvillo, and Phoenix’s Trinidad Escalante Swilling. In a frontier environment, they utilized the legal system to their advantage as women unafraid to exert their own authority.

The Arts

The West gave women special opportunities as authors. Aspiring writers saw literary “material” in the stuff of their daily lives in frontier, rural, and urban western spaces. They shaped that material into letters, journals, sketches, essays, and stories for eastern magazines and presses—and received popular acclaim.
For readers outside the West, the settings these women described were exotic: California gold camps and desert outposts, northwestern logging and mining communities, Rocky Mountain and Great Plains homesteads. Elinore Pruitt Stewart, writing from Wyoming in 1913, placed a series of letters about her homesteading experience in the prestigious Atlantic Monthly. She reported on the letters of thanks she received from appreciative readers, like the elderly woman who told her “the Letters satisfied her every wish. She said she had only to shut her eyes to see it all, to smell the pines and the sage.” Through its association with romantic national mythologies of sublime landscape and heroic endeavor, an ordinary woman’s life on a ranch in Wyoming seemed to mean more—and to reveal more—than one on a farm in Wisconsin or Connecticut.
Yet women writers were just as likely to revise as support these mythologies, which centered on male endeavor, and they frequently portrayed western sites as not wild and liberating, but provincial and claustrophobic. The Story of Mary MacLane, for example, one of the most notorious books of 1902, depicted the 19-year-old author’s desperation to escape her middle-class home in the copper
boomtown of Butte: “Can I be possessed of a peculiar rare genius,” she demands, “and yet drag my life out in obscurity in this uncouth, warped, Montana town!” Nevertheless, the city MacLane denounced was key to her literary success: Readers would have been far less intrigued by the thoughts and experience of a girl hailing from a more familiar place.

A Fresh Start and a New Identity

Many people, male and female, found a fresh start in a move to the West, leaving behind old mistakes and identities. Some left infidelities behind, others criminal convictions, while couples unable to divorce in their original homes, fled to states where divorce was possible. Some simply lived in sin or presented as married couples. 
Divorce is never easy, but some states made it possible to try to temp people to their territories. It wasn't uncommon for people to find out they had been divorced without their consent, or without even informing them. 
The difference between divorce in the Old West and other areas of the world at that time is that women were able to make their own decisions about their future and take charge of their own lives while still retaining the respect of their peers. They were also able to support themselves with respectable employment without feeling censured by the local society. As Augusta Tabor proved, there were plenty of jobs to be had other than working in saloons.
Single women often gathered in large groups to travel to the West in search of husbands, and for good reason. For instance, after the American Civil War, few men returned home and the wives and daughters of these deceased soldiers were forced to fend for themselves. This changed society in many ways, particularly marriage.
 One of the most famous divorces in the Old West occurred between Augusta Tabor (left above in the prince nez), a loyal wife, and her philandering husband, Horace, who fell in love with a much younger woman, moved out of the home and left Augusta to fend for herself and care for their child alone.
Augusta refused to divorce her husband, to no avail. The divorce was finalized and the young "Baby Doe" became the new Mrs. Tabor. Horace Tabor died a broken man. He lost his fortune and his reputation. At the time of his death he was working as the Postmaster in Denver, but for a short time was forced to live in a mid-class hotel with his new wife and their children. 
Augusta Tabor, who had supported her husband's ventures every step of the way by cooking for miners, setting up tents, renting rooms in their home, and doing everything she could to provide for her family, was told she would receive nothing from her husband when he left her. However, she continued to work hard and became a shining example of the women of the American Old West--determined and proud. When she died she left their son an inheritance of over a million dollars. Baby Doe Tabor (right) died in a shack outside a mine once owned by her husband.
It was a new chance for many people. Ethnic minorities who could pass as white frequently took the chance to grasp every social advantage their appearance gave them. A step away from an area where their background was known, let them live the American dream and save their children from the prejudice they had suffered.  
Nicholas Earp, the father of Wyatt Earp, moved west due to debt problems, having served time for bootlegging, and accusations of tax evasion. That, of course, placed his offspring in the right place to make his mark on American history. 
Ty Burrell (left) is descended from a former slave who moved to Oregon and passed for white. Names were anglicized, and past indiscretions were never mentioned in an attempt to start again. The old West was littered with people building a new future while hiding their own foundations - which is probably why it's so interesting.


INNOCENT AS SIN (The Innocents Mystery Series) (Volume 2) by C. A. Asbrey

Nat Quinn and Jake Conroy are just doing their job—robbing a bank! But when Nat sees Pinkerton agent Abigail MacKay is already there, he knows something isn’t right. Is she on the trail of The Innocents again, or has she turned up in Everlasting, Wyoming, by coincidence?
Abi can’t believe her bad luck! Nat and Jake are about to make her true identity known, and botch the undercover job she has carefully prepared for—a job she’s been working on for months. When Jake discovers she’s cooperating with a sadistic bounty hunter who never brings in his prisoners alive, he suspects Nat might be the next target. How could Abi betray them like this?
On top of everything else, someone has dumped a frozen corpse after disguising it as a tramp. The town is snowed in and the killer isn’t going anywhere, but can Abigail’s forensic skills solve the murder before anyone else is killed? Abi and Nat manage to admit their feelings for one another, but will that be enough to overcome the fact that they’re on opposite sides of the law?  
The Innocents and Abigail MacKay must work together to solve the murder case, but they’re still best enemies. It’s an emotional standoff, and they’re all INNOCENT AS SIN…


     It took another half-hour before Jake saw her neat, feminine figure approaching, her light blue dress standing out against the sun-parched dust of the streets. By this time, his breath came in rapid, shallow pants until his fingers prickled and his head spun. The everyday sounds of the town swamped his senses until they crashed around his skull in an echoing cacophony. Her voice reverberated, unusually strident and harsh, echoing between the screaming and shouting from years ago in his head.
     "Jake?" Abigail's eyes darted around drinking in the surroundings, looking for danger. Why greet her openly in the street, near her gate? His glazed eyes sparkled and the pupils looked enormous, but he didn’t seem drunk.
     "Abi, come with me. It's urgent."