Between the Lines: Donner’s Pass #research #history #histfic

VirginiaReedWestward expansion of America happened through the courage and dauntless efforts of many pioneers. Among them was Virginia Reed, who at age 12 years survived one of the most dangerous and horrific winters. She was a member of the ill-fated Donner Party.

The idea to move to California came from Virginia’s father, James Reed. Neighbors Jacob and George Donner decided to join the Reeds on the journey west. The group was known as the Donner Party. They left Springfield, Illinois, on April 14, 1846, with a total of thirty-one people in the wagon train. By the time they departed Ft. Bridger, Wyoming, on July 31, 1846, there were seventy-four people and nineteen wagons in the wagon train.

Crossing the plains, Virginia’s grandmother died. The party paused to bury her and then moved on. Virginia had to desert her pony when it couldn’t keep up with the caravan of wagons any longer. She was heartbroken over the loss of both. Little did she know just how many more trials waited for her and her family.

As they struggled to climb the Sierra Nevada Mountains with their wagons and oxen, men, women, children helping to push, pull, and carry their possessions, winter descended upon them, a heavy blanket of snow that refused to melt for months. Many died. The Reeds boiled the leather covers of their books and Bibles and ate it as soup. They were trapped until men wearing snowshoes could come rescue them.

The group that was snowed in at Donner Lake consisted of eighty-three people. Of those, forty-two died at the lakes. Only eighteen of the original thirty-one people who left Springfield, Illinois reached California in February 1847.

Writing Virginia’s story was difficult, mainly from trying to imagine what she would be thinking, feeling, worrying about. I don’t like cold and snow, so that part was fairly easy for me. But the rest of her challenges and sorrows – I felt so bad for her, and all that she endured, and survived.

A couple years ago, I actually rode a train through Donner’s Pass as part of a tour of several national parks. I wish I had chance to visit the nearby Donner Memorial State Park but since we were traveling by train, that wasn’t an option. But the scenery was beautiful! At least in the late summer/fall. But to imagine walking up the mountain slopes reminded me of the very difficult adventure Virginia and her family had faced.

We all have faced our own challenges, though most likely not like the Donner Party. My biggest personal challenge was breast cancer (20 years ago), at a time when my children were 7 and 5. Writing Hometown Heroines (the first edition that released in 2001) helped me get through a very dark period in my life. The inspiration of each of the girls’ stories gave me hope for my own future.

What about you? What has been your biggest challenge that you’ve overcome?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions! Until next time!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Literary Classics International Book Awards - Youth Award Winning Book
Literary Classics International Book Awards – Youth Award Winning Book

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Between the Lines: The First Independence Day Celebration #holiday #history #research

file7521278557214When America’s Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the city of Philadelphia rejoiced by shooting guns into the air, parading through the streets, and many toasts with ale and whiskey, as well as celebratory feasts.

My research revealed that Martha Washington was staying in town with friends while George had gone to New York with the Continental Army to face the British troops there, so she actually heard about the history-making event before he did. I imagine she and her friends witnessed the reading of the Declaration with very mixed feelings. First and foremost, we know from Martha’s existing letters that she was fervently in favor of American independence. But she also must have had some trepidation about her husband leading the army, a defiant act of treason in King George’s eyes. Punishable by death and confiscation of all his property.

Imagine how she may have felt, with her husband on the front lines, figuratively if not actually, during the entire war. The threat of his capture or assassination persisted until the fighting ended. No wonder she braved the terrible roads, foul weather, and many inconveniences to be with him, to support him any way she could at every winter camp the army established each year.


Courtesy of Persistent History

Philadelphia figures prominently all during the Revolution that followed and still harbors many historic sites related to that period and the momentous events, as well as many more minor ones. For example, I recently came across an article that talked about a summer house owned by Quaker Mr. Henry Drinker, the site where the signers of the Declaration went for dinner after they signed the document. The Elm or Violet Hill estate was situated some distance from the heart of the town, and today is only identified by a small park. I imagine they sat within the airy walls of the house, enjoying a pleasant meal and discussing possible future ramifications of their act.


Oh, and I learned while researching for this blog that they didn’t actually sign the Declaration until August 2, 1776. Almost a month after the adoption of the resolution. I may have dig a bit more to find out exactly why they delayed, though. That’s very curious to me. Perhaps it was because not all of them were present to sign it? I seem to recall something along those lines.

IMGP7451Nonetheless, today we still celebrate Independence Day with barbecues and fireworks, with toasts (apparently more beer is consumed on this day than any other American holiday) and special red, white, and blue desserts. We also hold parades, concerts, and other commemorative gatherings by the many patriotic organizations across the country, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars to the Daughters of the American Revolution (of which I am a member as of this year!) and beyond.

117Around here, we celebrated yesterday with a barbecue (grilled hamburgers, homemade potato salad, steamed asparagus with cheese, and homemade peach ice cream), followed by fireworks my hubby and son set off out back. We also plan to watch the patriotic concerts today on TV. How are you celebrating today?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions! Happy 4th!


P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

My American Revolution series of romances begins with Emily’s Vow, which was a finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards contest. The stories in the A More Perfect Union series each feature a strong woman who declares her own independence for a variety of reasons, but ultimately they each find and fall in love with their soul mate. You can purchase the 4-book series for Kindle for only $12.79, or for Nook for only $15.96! They are also available in paperback, if you prefer. Happy reading!

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