Search This Blog

Monday, May 13, 2019


Previously published in 2017.

I love history. That’s no surprise, of course, to anyone who knows me. I not only enjoy writing about the past but researching those bits and pieces that make the historical story I’m writing realistic, interesting and accurate.

Research comes in many forms. I can spend hours in a library, hunting through books. Or online, looking for one particular fact. But my favorite type of research is the kind I didn’t plan.

You’ve probably had the same experience. You stop to grab lunch at a restaurant off the freeway and discover the nearby town has, for more than a hundred years, hosted a festival in celebration of prickly pears. Or that there is a fully restored Civil War-era mental hospital only a few blocks away.

In my trips to research a story, I’ve come across some fun facts. Did you know there was a salt war in Texas? Neither did I was researching for this blog. Bonus: I discovered the Texas Historic Sites Atlas while looking for a picture of the marker.

Were you aware there was a Revolutionary War battle in St. Louis, Missouri? That’s right, halfway up the mighty Mississippi. The Battle of Fort San Carlos was fought when British-led Sioux, Sac, Fox and Winnebago warriors attacked a newly built French entrenchment in May of 1780. That historical fact came from a local newspaper article my mother forwarded to me.

Or that the first major Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi was The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, just south of Springfield, MO. I learned that when I drove by the exit sign off the interstate. Though the north “won”, they were exhausted and low on ammunition, so they retreated to Springfield, giving the Confederates control of southwestern Missouri for the duration of the War.

Ever heard of Crash, Texas? It’s a town that was built for the express purpose of allowing spectators to witness a train crash up close and personal. A friend sent me that news story.

Then there’s the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race, begun in 1848 and revived in 1977. I found out about it when researching the coach stops along the Santa Fe Trail after visiting the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri.

I love running across obscure information while I’m researching something else. And you can find some of the most interesting—and mostly useless—tidbits in some unlikely places. ebay® is one place that surprised me. I found some cool info on china and crystal and Texas artifacts there while researching my release, Wild Texas Hearts.

Now, please excuse me. There’s a museum website I want to peruse.

What’s the most unusual fact you discovered in the most unlikely place?


  1. Hi Tracy! I always get excited when I "come across" something while I'm looking for something else. LOL Just the way my brain works--I feel like I've won the lottery. Probably the thing that stands out most to me was the year my sister and I took a very elderly gentleman to a small out-of-the-way cemetery several miles from where he lived to lay flowers on his parents' graves for Memorial Day. While we were there, a man who had seen us drive up came over and asked if he could help us (he thought we were lost, out in the middle of nowhere) and then proudly showed us around the very small town of Tamaha, Oklahoma. The cemetery is on a bluff where two rivers come together. If you look out on one side, you'll see the Arkansas River and the scene of the very last inland river battle of the Civil War. A Confederate ship had been taken over, and the name changed to the J.R. Williams. General Stand Watie ambushed the steam boat as it was coming down the Arkansas River, and a battle ensued between Confederate and Union forces. This was the only naval battle in Oklahoma during the Civil War. The ship was sunk not far from the cemetery where we were.Anyhow, just a few years before we were there at the cemetery, a man had been walking on the riverbank and found the bell from the ship that had washed ashore, and it still had the ORIGINAL name of what the ship had been--I can't recall it, but that was how they knew for sure it had come from the J.R.Williams. Here's a link to read about it for anyone who is interested.

    1. A naval battle in Oklahoma--that sounds wrong somehow. ;)
      Thanks for the link!

  2. Tracy, I loved this post and I can really relate to it. Maybe writers are just ever vigilant about these wonderful bits of history, bit, like you, I get swept up in these discoveries when I come across them. You know, you just walk into an old diner or a historic home and almost feel the presence of those who were there. But even better is when you learn some unique tidbit that leads you to want to just dig in and learn more.

    When my Girl Scout troop visited Savannah, GA to see the Juliet Lowe Home, there was a pantry with shelves of canned goods in jars that, as it turned out, were the original canned goods put up like a hundred years ago. I was all agog about that. We also went to a restaurant that was once a pirate hangout. Loved that!
    Great post, Tracy.

  3. Tracy, I hear and understand this "addiction" loud and clear 'cause I've been infected, too. The internet, for me, is a life-saver. I just have to go to Google and type in a few words and voila, up come oodles of lists....and several hours later I'm still reading instead of writing.I am never short of curiosity, just not enough hours in a day to get everything done--and I'm retired. However did I manage when I worked full-time and had four boys at home and went to all their baseball games? Oh, yes, that was before the internet and I traded in my IBM Selectric for a computer. Now, I have to fact check, even word-origin fact check when I'm writing 'cause I want to get it right. Way too many history buffs out there and don't want to pull them out of my story.

    1. Down the rabbit hole. I go that route all too often, Elizabeth.

  4. Research -- my passion and my curse lol. I love it so much!! But I'm guilty of over-researching. It's a balance I must re-learn for every book.

  5. A person after my own heart. Research is the lifeblood I live on. Love these tidbits from this archived post. Thank you. Doris

  6. Great post. I have to say that research is my favourite part of the writing process, and the little gems which add authenticity are very exciting. It often amazes me how often research chimes with a location and event I'd already chosen.