What’s in a (character’s) name? #amwriting #reading #histfic #historical #fiction #books #history #research

Naming a character is harder than naming your first born child. For one thing, you only have one first born child, but writers have many characters to name. But it’s more than that. Naming a child means either being creative, choosing something new and different, or honoring another beloved family member or two.

There are many resources available to help a writer choose the perfect name for their characters. I’ve used The Writer’s Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook to pick out names by heritage and by meaning. I’ve used Census records lists of most popular names for a given decade. History books, baby name lists, phone books. No matter what resource you use, or if you make up names out of your imagination, it’s most important to have a name that reflects your character’s personality, purpose, or importance in the story(ies) he or she appears in.

For the Fury Falls Inn series, I chose names that I hope will reflect on the character’s role. I gave Cassandra Fairhope, or Cassie, her name because first I think Cassandra is a beautiful name, but second because I associate the name with witches. I imagine the Goodwitch series may have most recently influenced that association, but it’s still, to my mind, the perfect name for the girl in my series.

Her mother is Mercy Fairhope, qualities she once possessed but in the opening story has very little left of either mercy or hope. So her name shows the contradiction in her personality. And it rolls off my tongue so sweetly, too.

Her husband is Reginald Fairhope, or Reggie, and I gave him this name because I wanted a strong name with a lovable nickname for Mercy to call him. And by the way, Fairhope is the name of a town in Alabama, and since my series is set in that beautiful state, I hope the town won’t mind sharing its name with my family of characters. (Pun intended!)

As for the Cassie’s four brothers, I used a rather unusual source for popular regional names: the Early History of Huntsville Alabama 1804 to 1870 by Edward Chambers Betts. I found this book both informative and fascinating. I jotted down male first names, as well as some interesting last names from lists of men who signed a charter or contract sometime before my story time period begins. I only made a specific note of the interesting and unusual names.

First names I noted were Ruggles, Silas, Abram, Giles, Ephraim, Ezekiah, Moses, and Daniel. I’m going to have to come up with a character I can name Ruggles! I love that name so much. I just didn’t think it fit the somewhat gothic atmosphere of my series. Many of these names are strongly associated with the bible, which didn’t suit my characters either. So I settled on the four boys being named Giles, Abram, Daniel, and Silas, oldest to youngest. Those four sound like good, strong men but a bit unusual, too. And yes, I know that Daniel and Abram are also biblical but not nearly as overtly as Ezekiah and Moses.

Are you curious about the interesting last names I gleaned from the Betts’ book? I have used at least one of these in The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn. They are Drake, Barber, Alcott, Crane, Knapp, Hull, Stoddart, Fisk, and Hale. The inn’s cook, Sheridan Drake, is one that comes to mind.

Naming characters takes time and consideration. If I’ve chosen a name because of its specific meaning, like Tara in the Secrets of Roseville series, I record in my character profile what the meaning of the name is. Tara is the anglicized Irish form of Teamhair which means “elevated place” in Gaelic. The important point here being that it’s an Irish name for a family with Irish heritage. But also in some way the idea of place or earth seemed to be associated with her talent of healing through touch. Physical connection. I can’t really put it into words why those are associated in my head, but they are.

What’s your favorite character name? Why?

Quick reminder! It’s only one month until The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn releases. You can pre-order your copy today and have it in your inbox first thing on release day!

I appreciate everyone who subscribes to and reads my weekly blog. I strive to share something worth reading, something interesting or curious. Thanks for stopping by!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

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The Historic Huntsville Hotel #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #Alabama200 #research

Last week I talked about the Bell Tavern in downtown Huntsville which existed for several decades before burning in a major fire. In its place, a “modern” hotel was built in 1858 and called the Huntsville Hotel. Just for the sake of completeness of my research on this topic, I’d like to share a little bit more about the hostelry business in Huntsville in the 1800s.

The Huntsville Hotel is described “the town’s first real hostelry.” Which is a true statement because the word “hostelry” means “an inn or hotel” and the city appears to have only had taverns before the hotel was built. The new hotel elevated the expectations for service and accommodations.

I think if you look at the photos included in the above link you can see the exterior of the building, with four stories with ironwork trim, is both welcoming and speaks of elegance in its architecture and style. The interior image of the main parlor also shows refined furniture and furnishings with the appearance of leather armchairs, a decorated fireplace, and drapes at the windows. The hotel had a doorman to welcome the guests arriving by horse-drawn carriage and coaches.

The Huntsville Hotel was the site of “lavish parties and grand balls” for many years, including during the Civil War. When the area suffered from a Yellow Fever epidemic, many people went to the hotel “seeking refuge during the summer months when the illness was at its peak.” It was also the site of theater and music productions. One sign of its amazing success is the addition of 65 rooms in 1888 which enlarged the hotel to the point of meeting with the City Hall property on the corner of Jefferson and Clinton streets.

Like its predecessor, the Bell Tavern, the Huntsville Hotel burned to the ground. But it took two separate fires to complete the job. The first fire occurred in 1910 and the second “nearly a year later” on November 12, 1911, when “the entire block was destroyed.” A new hotel is under construction as I write this article, due to open in 2020, on the same site. I wish them much better luck!

While I mention that there is a hotel in Huntsville in my series, it’s obviously fictional since history suggests the first hotel wasn’t built until 1858. But that’s fine with me because hotels existed elsewhere so it’s feasible, if not historically accurate, to have a fictional one in my stories.

After all, I am making up stories not to teach a history lesson but to entertain. Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

Amazon      Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Bell Tavern of Huntsville #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #Alabama200 #research

The idea for a haunted roadside inn in my Fury Falls Inn series developed over several months of pondering. If you’re a fan of my books, one fact I hope you’ve discovered is that for my historicals—actually, for all of my writing—I strive to make sure the story’s details are authentic and at least plausible if not exactly found in the history books. With that in mind, I had to know whether an inn could have existed where I wanted in northeast Alabama in 1821, the time period of the series.

The first consideration I’ve already discussed: whether enough people were traveling into the area who would need accommodations or lodgings for a brief period of time. I had to know where the roads were in Madison County before I could choose the right location. Then I was curious about what types of hostelries existed in the Huntsville area. Which leads me to today’s topic: the Bell Tavern.

While I haven’t been able to find out much about the original tavern as far as its appearance, I do know it was owned by Walter Otey who arrived in Huntsville in the early 1800s. His wife, Mary Walton Otey, must have helped in the Bell Tavern when she wasn’t busy raising their nine children. Most likely even the children helped out with the daily chores associated with keeping the place clean, preparing and serving meals, keeping fires burning for warmth, etc.

Mention is made regarding the many people who traveled to Huntsville who would stay at the Bell Tavern. Since it was located on the northwest corner of the courthouse square, I imagine during the formative years of the state that delegates and lawyers among others must have enjoyed the hospitality offered at the tavern. Although the deliberations were held in the Constitution Hall, those who had traveled into town might have stayed at the Tavern.

Walter Otey died in 1823, which left the tavern to his wife to manage. I imagine, though the record I’ve uncovered doesn’t provide details, she would likely have been glad to find a buyer for the business. There is reference to the property having “endured many changes in ownership” before Alexander Johnson took possession of it in 1855. Mr. Johnson suffered from some very bad luck because a “major fire” reduced the Tavern to having only “a few rooms for guests” for some period of time before being torn down and replaced with a “modern hotel” on the site. Thus The Huntsville Hotel was built, which will be the topic of next week’s article.

So, look for potential visits by my characters in the series to the Bell Tavern since it was still in existence at the time of my stories. I’m still in the planning stages of some of those and don’t know yet whether they’ll stop in for a pint or not. Or perhaps copy some of the hospitality for use at the Fury Falls Inn. Anything is possible at this point…

Thanks for reading both my blog and my books!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

Amazon      Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

General Andrew Jackson in Huntsville #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #Alabama200 #research

Researching historic events and people can be quite revealing at times. One person who created tension and discord based on his actions was Andrew Jackson. I’ve written a bit about him before but would like to elaborate a little more about his ties to Huntsville.

Image courtesy Library of Congress

The first mention I found in my sources of the early history of Alabama refers to when he was General Jackson. According to the Early History of Huntsville Alabama 1804 to 1870 by Edward Chambers Betts (1909; revised 1916) and History of Alabama and Incidentally of Georgia, Mississippi from the earliest period by Albert James Pickett of Montgomery (1851), one of Jackson’s first visits to the city was in 1813 on his way south from Nashville, TN, toward Horse Shoe Bend.

The reason for his involvement was because of some “distressing” news… A massacre at Fort Mims. You can read more about the Fort Mims massacre here.

“The arrival of an express, at Nashville, with letters from Mr. George S. Gaines to General Jackson and the governor, conveying the distressing intelligence of the massacre at Fort Mims, and imploring their assistance, created great excitement, and the Tennesseans volunteered their services to avenge the outrage.” [Pickett, p293]

“On October 13, 1813, General Andrew Jackson, and his command, after marching from Fayetteville to Huntsville in five hours, halted at what is now the intersection of East Holmes and North Lincoln streets, for rest over night, having learned on arriving here that the report of the ‘rapid approach of the Indians was exaggerated.’ General Jackson and his command the next day continued their march through the country of hostile Indian tribes to Horse Shoe Bend, where that sanguinary battle was fought with the Creek Indians. Nor was their departure unattended, for the county had contributed liberally of its men; four companies from Huntsville, one the “Mounted Rangers,” under the command of Capt. Eli Hammond and a fifth company from Hazel Green, with Captain Jack Mosley as its commander, had joined General Jackson’s forces here.” [Betts, p30]

“General Jackson, at the head of a large force, passed through Huntsville, crossed the Tennessee at Ditto’s Landing, and joined Colonel Coffee, who had been despatched in advance, and who had encamped opposite the upper end of an island on the south side of the river, three miles above the landing. Remaining here a short time, the army advanced higher up, to Thompson’s Creek, to meet supplies, which had been ordered down from East Tennessee. In the meantime, Colonel Coffee marched, with six hundred horse, to Black Warrior’s town, upon the river of that name, a hundred miles distant, which he destroyed by fire, having found it abandoned. Collecting about three hundred bushels of corn, he rejoined the main army at Thompson’s Creek, without having seen an Indian. Establishing a defensive depot at this place, called Fort Deposite, Jackson, with great difficulty, cut his way over the mountains to Wills’ Creek, where, being out of bread, he encamped several days, to allow his foraging parties to collect provisions. The contractors had entirely failed to meet their engagements, and his army had, for some days, been in a perishing condition.” [Pickett, p293]

The army marched on south to fight the Creeks in southern Alabama. Andrew Jackson had become quite popular during the War of 1812 and his role in and around New Orleans. By the time the first Alabama legislature met in Huntsville in the fall of 1819, he’d distinguished himself, but not everyone applauded his actions. But he did have his fans in Huntsville.

“And it is not inappropriate to record here that the Huntsville Masonic Lodge was the first chartered in the State; having operated continuously under a dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, granted it in 1811. A legend of the times proclaims that General Andrew Jackson, while on his frequent visits to Huntsville, often attended the meetings of the lodge, held in its present temple, situated on Lincoln street at the corner of Williams street.” [Betts, p40]

“During the session of the legislature, General Jackson visited Huntsville, with his horses, and was enthusiastically engaged in the sports of the turf, then an amusement indulged in by the highest classes.” [Pickett, p436]

There was even at some point a “celebrated contest between the horses of Andrew Jackson, of Tennessee, and James Jackson, of North Alabama, at Huntsville.” [Pickett, p427] James Jackson (1782-1840) was born in Ireland, came to America in 1799, and is “well-known as one of the founders of Florence [AL] and surrounding Lauderdale County.” By the way, James is also claimed to be, at the Encyclopedia of Alabama link above, “the first breeder and importer of race horses in the United States.” That claim can’t be true since one of my American Revolution sources cited—and I have confirmed in person at the South Carolina Historical Society—the South Carolina Weekly Gazette issues of October 31 and November 21, 1783 where two “thorough bred” stallions and two blood mares arrived on a ship from England in Charleston Harbor. Since James didn’t arrive in America until 1799, he couldn’t have been the first importer let alone breeder of race horses.

While General and later President Andrew Jackson may be a controversial figure in American history, one thing can be said about his visit among others. Huntsville can boast about the many high-ranking and important people who have stayed within the city limits throughout its history.

I have learned a lot about the history of Alabama while researching for and writing my next release, The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn, along with the ongoing research for the remaining five books in the Fury Falls Inn series.

Thanks for reading both my blog and my books! I appreciate your time and interest.

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

Amazon      Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Surprise Visit by James Monroe in Huntsville 1819 #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #Alabama200 #research

Don’t you love serendipity? A couple of months ago, my hubby pointed out an article in the Huntsville Times about the June 1 celebration at the Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park in honor of its grand reopening after a renovation. What made it so fortuitous was the relevance to the book I was writing at the time. I hadn’t heard anything about it until he showed me the article and I looked up more details online.

Included in the day of festivities was the reenactment of the surprise visit President James Monroe paid to Huntsville, a reenactment based on details found in the Alabama Republican article reporting on the festivities surrounding his visit. The present day evening event featured a reception, reenactment of the arrival, and tavern style dinner. Since I was in the throes of writing The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn (available for preorder now before it releases October 1, 2019), set in northern Alabama in 1821, this 1819 reenactment and meal would hopefully provide useful insights and experiences. So despite the significant (to me) expense of $100/plate, my hubby and I decided to attend.

The timing of the celebration was to coincide with the date that President Monroe actually arrived in town. On June 1, 1819, he and two companions, “Mr. Governeur his private secretary and Lieut. Monroe of the Army,” arrived and registered at the Huntsville Inn. Shocked town leaders quickly “appointed a committee” to greet the president and to arrange for an appropriate dinner in his honor for the following day. I can only imagine how a-flutter the town leaders and their wives must have been! To suddenly be faced with entertaining the president. From all accounts, they did the town proud. I’d like to share my observations of the reenactment and dinner with you all.

First off, when hubby and I arrived to enter the grounds for the outdoor reception, the man greeting us was obviously someone of importance. I didn’t know him, of course, since this is not the sort of crowd I usually hobnob with. I noted with a touch of humor how everyone seemed to know him, and he seemed to greet everyone by name. (I even jokingly told hubby we were “the riffraff” since we didn’t know anyone there.) When we finally stood in front of him and he quickly adjusted his welcome. But not before I noted the hesitation as to how to address us, unknowns as we were. (And still are, for that matter!) He recovered quickly and we went inside to mingle. Or rather to wander about, drinks in hand, observing the other well-dressed and/or costumed people. We chatted with a few folks and essentially waited for what I anticipated would be the highlight of the reception: the moment when President Monroe arrived.

The time came and the crowd was summoned to stand by the side entrance driveway. Excitement rippled across the faces of the people, gathering and craning to see the procession. I expected an entourage of some sort. Imagined the President of the United States would have a contingent with him. Possibly security riders, secretaries, scouts. I imagined twenty to thirty men. Horses, bedecked coaches, maybe wagons of supplies? Boy, was I wrong!

In my weak defense, I had not taken any time whatsoever to delve into the history of the moment. Not even a quick internet search. I’d been busy with researching for and writing my book, which occurs after 1819, and not focused on the earlier history to the details of that day. But what I surprise his surprise visit caused for me!

President Monroe only had two outriders with him. A party of three. That was the extent of his entourage. The three men rode about the countryside assessing the “state of society, and of improvement in agriculture, manufactures & c and also to enquire into the conditions of the Indian tribes.” I guess you don’t need a whole lot of folks to do so.

The arrival of President James Monroe in Huntsville.

The three reenactors were in approximations of the period attire and horse tack, but of course I’m not the authority so don’t know for certain. Hubby asked one of the riders who said his tack was similar but not authentic. This was somewhat disappointing to me for a moment until I realized most of the folks in attendance wouldn’t necessarily care one way or the other. (I was harkening back to the obvious amount of time and attention the military men and women reenactors, both active duty and civilian, for the U.S. Cavalry Association’s annual competition put in to recreate the most authentic uniforms and harness/tack for their mounts spanning 100+ years of service. But of course, they’re striving to preserve the Cavalry history on an on-going basis, not for a single event, and competing for most accurate turnout, so it’s worth their attention to the details.)

Soon after the arrival of the president, we mosied across the street for dinner inside a large banquet hall in the Early Works Children’s Museum. The tables were elegantly dressed and ready for the large crowd. They even recreated the mismatched dishes and glass ware like the original diners had to use. I did find it humorous that the rest of the “riffraff”—about ten people who didn’t buy entire tables of ten places but only in couples—were all gathered at one long table separated by a “passage” from the rest of the tables.

Dinner guests at the banquet in honor of President Monroe.

The menu included some new temptations. Starting with the salad: watercress is not something I’ve eaten very often since moving to this area. Though Alabama is known for its watercress. Each course featured something unique to the area, or at least unique in my experience of offerings from northern Alabama. I was most surprised by the dessert, as I thought the menu listed three options. In fact, all the ingredients comprised one tasty cake!

Open wine bottles on the table enabled everyone to choose to their taste, and then to have something in hand for the series of 24 toasts following the meal. That was yet another interesting note: the toasts came after the meal. In my experience in the 20th and 21st centuries, the toast(s) always come before. If you read the Alabama Republican article, it mentions that “after the cloth was removed” the toasts were made, indicating that the dinner dishes had all been cleared away. All the toasts are listed in the referenced article if you’re curious.

Individuals in the audience had been selected to read a toast and then everyone else would “hear, hear!” I’m not certain if they wouldn’t have said “huzzah” back in 1819 or not. I know in the 1770s the cheer was “huzzah.” After the War of 1812, though? I guess it could easily be perceived that the people desired to separate themselves from anything that smacked of British tendencies.

All in all, we had an enjoyable evening out with a room full of a couple of hundred strangers. Experiencing the food, the music, the attire as well as the language of the speeches and toasts gave me a pretty good feel for what living in those times must have been like. Especially after having tramped all over the reconstructed historic buildings earlier in the day. A kind of immersive experience, I might say.

I’ve noted before, I really enjoy going to historic sites, trying to put myself into the shoes and mindset of people from earlier periods in American history. Heck, in history itself. I also enjoyed seeing the castles in Scotland and the Parthenon in Greece. Trying to understand the cultures and intent of other peoples is something I do. I hope my understanding of past times and events reflects in my characters and the stories I tell, too.

Thanks for stopping by!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

Amazon      Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

AL Constitution Hall vs Philly’s Independence Hall #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #Alabama200 #research

Before I get to my topic for today, I’m thrilled to share that The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn is now available for preorder with a release date of October 1! Check out the book description at the end of my post for more info and links to reserve your copy! Now on to the business at hand…

In researching for my historical stories, I am always happy to have the chance to visit historical sites. I grew up in Maryland, so school field trips often took us to Annapolis, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other local historically significant places. As an adult historical fiction author, I soak up the atmosphere in such places, seeking out the details to make my stories and the characters in them come to life for the reader. A recent visit to the Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park gave me the opportunity to see and experience the actual Constitution Hall for myself. (Here is a good article on the structures comprising Constitution Village, if you’re interested in learning more about the historic nature of the site. It’s worth a visit, in my opinion.) I came away impressed with much of its history and construction but also found myself comparing the same to Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Let’s start with Independence Hall, only because it’s the older of the two buildings and thus has a longer history.

The brick steeple of Independence Hall with its bell at the top. Quite an elegant and imposing structure in the City of Brotherly Love.

Originally known as the Pennsylvania State House, construction was begun in 1732 and completed in 1753 (21 years is a long time to build one building, don’t you think? I know other buildings have taken longer, but it’s still quite an endeavor.) and proved to be a beautiful building that became “a symbol of the nation to come.” Keep in mind, of course, that it was begun under British rule and thus was not to represent American ideals entirely—though the colonists had already begun to act differently than those living in the Mother Country—at its beginning. Although it has apparently “undergone many restorations” the current appearance is that of 1776 after a restoration by the National Park Service in 1950. So this building has been around for 287 years, or nearly three centuries, as of this writing.

When I visited it in 2014 with a fellow author and dear friend, and then again with my husband in 2017, I literally felt the presence of the esteemed men who have conducted business within the walls of this majestic building. Partly because of the staging of miscellany left on the desks and tables, but also from my own sensitivity to the atmosphere of places which I can’t entirely explain. I had goosebumps as the park ranger talked about the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Without those historic events, I wouldn’t be here writing about American history…or at least not the same history. How would our lives be different if we, or rather our brave Founding Fathers who risked their lives and livelihoods, hadn’t declared our right to self-rule? An unanswerable question, perhaps.

Inside Independence Hall where the Declaration was signed. Note the opulence and craftsmanship of the woodwork and decorations.

I thought about the many common and elite men and women who entered the doors of this building to conduct whatever legal business they had to transact. Buying or selling land, probate a will, adopt a child, complain about a negligent or thieving neighbor, start a new venture which may have needed government sanction? Whatever it might have been, how imposing the façade must have looked to them. Perhaps even daunting as they approached and entered. When the State House first opened its doors, of course, the Pennsylvania Colony was under English law so the expectations of the citizens had a different basis than after the Declaration and the formation of a new nation. I’m not a lawyer nor have I studied the evolution of laws from those days to immediately after the American Revolution ended. All I do know about the years between independence and nationhood is that it was rather chaotic as different groups had different opinions of what laws were enforceable and what new laws were needed.

In contrast to this esteemed and now revered building, my visit to the Alabama Constitution Hall was a much different experience. Not better or worse, mind you! I was in a different place and time, on what was the frontier or edge of the “wilderness” in 1819 when the state constitution was debated and ultimately signed within the walls of what is now known as the Constitution Hall in downtown Huntsville. The situation was also entirely different.

Constitution Hall, or the cabinet maker’s shop, in downtown Huntsville, Alabama. The upstairs is known for being the first theater in town, too.

Consider that Huntsville didn’t even exist as an idea until 1805 when John Hunt built a cabin at the Big Spring in what is now downtown. At that time, the land was part of the vast Mississippi Territory. Twelve years later, in 1817, Congress created the Alabama Territory, established courts and a sheriff, and began land sales which attracted white settlers from Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas to its fertile soil to raise the highly lucrative cash crop of cotton. Then only 2 years later the leaders of the town felt the population growth warranted petitioning the U.S. Congress to make the Alabama Territory a state. So only 14 years had transpired from the beginning of a town as a cabin by a spring to a thriving, bustling city witnessing the proclamation of statehood.

Huntsville was chosen as the place to draft, debate, and sign the new constitution because it was the largest town in the territory. In 1819 there were many kinds of businesses, including beer brewing, 5+ cotton gins, boot/shoe manufacturing, leather tanning, hat manufacturing, copper still makers, candle manufacturers, and water pump manufacturers. The 44 delegates traveled from across the territory to attend. But where would they meet?

The largest building in town at that time was the cabinet maker’s building so it was chosen as their assembly room. This building was not specially designed or built for the purpose. But adapted to suit. Yet the men gathered within its walls in the hot summer months, windows closed to keep prying ears from hearing the sometimes heated debates. I stood in the large room where they met, imagining them waving a piece of paper as a fan or with their coats hung over chairs due to the heat. But intent on hammering out a workable and acceptable framework for the new state government.

Sometime after the signing of the constitution, the cabinet maker’s building was either (sadly) burned or demolished to build something new. It was only as the state’s 150th anniversary approached that interest was sparked in 1968 to begin the hunt for the location of the original Constitution Convention. The ultimate result of that effort is the present Constitution Hall Park. The current building is a wonderful reconstruction of the building as it stood in 1819, including the cabinet maker’s workshop inside.

Both of these buildings represent the beginnings of a new government, one of a nation and one of a state. Looking back to where we began, and how far we’ve come, gives us guidance as to how much further we may have to go to achieve the ever evolving vision of our government. Without knowing where we came from, though, it’s difficult indeed to measure progress toward our future.

Have you visited either site? Do you try to put yourself in the place of the men who came together to work out a compromise acceptable to all? Can you imagine the daunting challenge they faced with so many disparate views and goals?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

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History of Mail Delivery #amwriting #histfic #supernatural #historical #fiction #research #Alabama200 #history

Sending and receiving letters and packages… A concept that has sometimes mystified me as I write historical fiction. I mean, it’s not like in 1782 you could walk into a post office and weigh the package on a kiosk scale, slide your credit card into the slot to pay for the postage labels to affix to the letter or box, and drop it in the bin.

The U.S. Postal Service has changed a lot over the centuries it’s been in service. As I’m sure all mail services have! Over the years that I’ve been researching and writing historical romance/fiction, this question has pestered me because the nuances are hard to pin down. Several methods existed in the 18th and then again the 19th centuries for sending and receiving a letter—personal contact traveling, currier, postal service between taverns along mail routes, boat carriers. There may be others, but you get the idea. Just how did one receive a letter?

When I started writing The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn I wanted to include letters sent and received between the folks at the inn and the absentee innkeeper. But how exactly would they have exchanged letters in 1821 in northern Alabama?

I know from my research that federal mail routes were in place by that time period. I also know that some mail was transported by boat down river, by horseback or wagon up river. Hand-carried letters by acquaintances also continued throughout the 19th century. (Note: The Pony Express was not an option in Alabama as it didn’t exist until 1860-61 from Missouri to California. I know, it would have been cool if it would have worked!) But the U.S. Postal Service started before the Revolution so how did it function in 1821 in the new state of Alabama?

I know postmarks went through evolutions in the 19th century. I even know the dates for when each post office in Alabama was started. Huntsville, for example, had a post office as early as 1811 according to Postal History. But it wasn’t until I went to the Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park that I found out the details I needed to know about sending and receiving mail.

According to our tour guide Claire, the post office in 1819 was located in a first-floor front room of Judge Clement Comer Clay’s home and office. She talked about how the small room would have been crammed with bags and bags of mail for the post master to sort and list by recipient’s name. That list would have been posted on the outside of the post office so passerby could check to see if they had any mail. If so, they’d step inside and pay the postage in order to take possession of the letter or package.

The CC Clay house with a surveyor ready to demonstrate his job.

Since the sender could send without cost, whoever the letter was picked up by would pay for the privilege of having the mail carried from one place to another. We all know people try to avoid paying for anything they don’t have to, right? Well, Claire shared that people back then would sometimes devise a scheme so that nobody paid for the postage!

Seems when a family member or friend was about to take a trip or a long journey, they’d come up with a fake name—say Cleopatra or Antony—and then when they arrived at their far off destination would send a letter from the false name back to the anxiously waiting family member or friend. When the person waiting to hear of the other’s safe arrival saw they had a letter from Antony, they knew all was well and ignored the letter in the post office. Clever but it makes me wonder whatever happened to those bogus letters? Did the post master open them? Throw them out after a time? Send them back?

I took pictures of the cubby holes with individual names on them, and then turned around to take a picture of Claire. Note how small this post office actually is! The door to the hallway is off to the left of the cubbies by a few feet.

Claire also confirmed that people would have to go to the post office to pick up their mail. No delivery service by the post office during those years. So I have Flint Hamilton in The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn make periodic trips to town for the mail, and even have a passing tradesman bring him some urgent letters as a favor. There’s probably much more to learn about how the system functioned, but for my purposes I believe I know enough to lend an authentic feel to the story without it become a history lesson.

Writing this new series is also helping me gain a renewed appreciation for the evolution of the postal service in America. During my lifetime I’ve seen some pretty cool advances in the services offered. Like not having to lick stamps anymore! (The taste of the glue used to be awful.) More reliable, even though not perfect. Delivery at home for most everyone, even rural residents. Forever stamps so you don’t have to buy penny and five cent stamps to make up the difference in price of each stamp.

What about you? What do you think is the most interesting or important change the postal system has undergone?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…