Sometimes research happens without any planning on my part. A couple of years ago I went to downtown Huntsville to visit the owner of a unique local bookstore. I merely wanted to introduce myself as a local author and ask him to carry my books in the store. But I came away with something much more useful and interesting!
Shaver’s Bookstore is located in the Railroad Station Antiques & Interiors store on the second floor. By the way, the antique store is in the historic Lombardo Building which is on the National Register of Historic Places, so I was happy to see what they had on display. Shaver’s carries an eclectic mix of titles, many from local or regional authors. However, most are nonfiction titles, so my fiction didn’t fit in like I had hoped.
While I was browsing, waiting for Mr. Shaver to finish helping a customer, I spotted a large sketch of Huntsville. The scene is of the downtown square in 1823, two years after the time period of my Fury Falls Inn historical supernatural fiction series. The sketch is the result of a historian researching the archives for descriptions of the buildings and streets of the city. There is actually an entire book, Civilization Comes to the Big Spring: Huntsville, Alabama 1823, written by the historian, Sarah Huff Fisk, to accompany the sketch. What a gold mine! I love coming across sources in a kind of surprise offering from the universe. I hadn’t yet started writing The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn (Book 1) so this was welcome information to have.
Naturally, I bought both the book and a copy of the sketch. I refer to them both as I write the stories in the Fury Falls Inn series. In fact, the third book which I’m in the process of writing, Desperate Reflections, includes a scene at a store downtown and the market place. Both required referral to the text and the image to make sure I had my facts correct and could have Cassie and Flint going to the right places to purchase cloth and then foods.
I learned from Ms. Fisk that, “The store directly south of the inn was designated ‘No. 5 Cheapside’ in all the ads placed by its 1820 and 1821 occupant, P. Yeatman & Co., who not only offered for sale ‘Salt, Stripe Linseys, and Leghorn Bonnets,’ but reminded the public (who in those years following the closing of so many banks must have been very confused as to what money was good, if any) that their store operated an:
EXCHANGE – The subscriber continues to exchange Tennessee and Huntsville notes, and to allow the highest premium for GOLD AND SILVER. Drafts on the Eastward, New Orleans, and Natchez Notes.
Yeatman’s was located in one of the row houses at the bottom right in the picture.
As for the market, Ms. Fisk had a detailed section all about the Public Market House. She mentioned that Wednesdays and Saturdays were the usual market days, held in the 1817 building near the northwest corner of the courthouse. What might a shopper find at the market?
“Town residents in general welcomed the opportunity to buy fresh vegetables, fish, tame and wild fowls, lard, tallow, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, meal, honey, nuts, apples, pears, grapes, wild fruits or berries for preserving, freshly-butchered meat, wild game, and other items as the seasons changed.”
That’s quite a large variety, don’t you think? That list was very helpful for me because in Desperate Reflections there is a cooking competition and I needed to know what foods were available in the area in the early 19th century. In the picture, the market was located at the upper left in and around the two-story Market House.
It’s also fun to study the people and animals in the artist’s rendering of what life might have looked like back then. She included a great deal of details including the modes of transportation and games the kids played as well as the kinds of jobs and businesses.
Thanks in advance for your support and interest in my books. And as always, happy reading!
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Giles Fairhope reluctantly journeys to the Fury Falls Inn for one reason: his beloved sister Cassie needs him after their mother was murdered. His father and three brothers are far away, so she’s alone, without any family, in the wilderness of 1821 northern Alabama. He plans to find his mother’s killers, ensure Cassie’s safety, and then go home. Cassie begs him to stay until their father returns, but Giles has absolutely no desire to see him. When Cassie tells him their mother’s ghost haunts the inn, he suddenly faces his dead mother amidst shocking memories from his past and unexpected changes in himself.
His mother’s ghost insists he find not only the killers but a stolen set of keys. Keys which unlock more than an attic door but also surprising and dangerous family secrets. The revelations change everything he thought he knew about his family and threaten his sister’s safety and perhaps even her life…