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…

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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…

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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…

Amazon      Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Top 5 Lessons Learned from #HNS2019 #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history

I’m a life learner. I can’t imagine going through a single day without learning something new. In fact, that was advice my dad used to give me. He’d jokingly say that once I learned something new at school each day, my day was complete and I could come home. Which, of course, he didn’t really mean. Little did he realize, that I soak up new information like a dry sponge!

As a professional author, it’s important to me to continue to hone my skills, my writing technique, and to explore new subject matter. One way to do a bit of all of this is to attend writers’ conferences, like the Historical Novel Society conference last week in Maryland (my home state). Through a combination of workshops, panel discussions, and networking, I gleaned a lot of information during the several days of the conference.

Exposure to the wealth of knowledge and experience represented by the attendees and the keynote speakers alone proved an education. Jeff Shaara gave a wonderful talk about how he came to write Gods and Generals, for example. I came home with a long, long list of historical fiction titles I want/need to read! My hubby has requested I use my library card more often as a result… <grin>

Here’s my top five lessons:

Lesson #5: Book club fiction needs lots of themes and issues to discuss. In order for a great discussion over pizza and wine, for example, you need a story that has personal transformation at its heart, or personal growth to confront an obstacle. Think about what makes for thought provoking entertainment. This tells me I may want to dig a bit deeper into some universal themes to highlight more in my stories. I believe they exist in the story, but maybe not with enough clarity.

Panel discussion about the State of the State of Historical Fiction on opening day of the conference.

Lesson #4: Discoverability remains one of the most important and yet difficult aspects to selling books. Publishers are focusing their marketing efforts on social media presence. So I guess my efforts on that front may eventually pay off. I probably need to look more closely at devising a strategy of some kind, but at least I have a social media presence.

Lesson #3: I studied the supernatural stories of Edgar Allen Poe and Henry James years ago, but I attended a session about Neo-gothic Novels since I’m currently working on a supernatural historical series, Fury Falls Inn. What are neo-gothic novels, you may be asking. (I know I did!) Well, neo-gothic novels focus on the power of the heroine instead of her being a victim or passive in the story. James and Poe often included females who were the “other” or the seemingly “uncanny” element in the story. Neo-gothics also feature subtle fears, are less overtly political, include either a reliable or non-reliable narrator, and have an explained or unexplained paranormal element. I came away thinking my series falls within these parameters nicely!

Interesting and authentic portrayal of George Washington. Wish I’d gotten a picture with him!

Lesson #2: Author Mary Sharratt wrote an intriguing book, Ecstasy, which I’ve ordered to enjoy and to study some ways of approaching how to include music in a historical fiction novel. I’m working on a WWII novel set in Baltimore that includes music in several ways so I felt her talk might prove helpful. She shared several concepts about music and fiction I jotted down to remember as I revise my story. Music is relevant to all historical fiction, providing a sense of time and culture. Sound and music are powerful for the senses. Music evokes a mood. She said that “the relationship between music and words is alchemical,” which is a fascinating comment. (I’m a huge fan of alchemist stories, by the way.) She gave examples of how lyrical poetry and prose can use musical allusion and terminology to create the mood and sense of a time and place. She also talked about how music imagery can be used visually and even somewhat orally in the text, like a “crescendo” of action and dialogue that peaks into the “silence of the end of a chapter.” My interpretation of her statement is that both visually and orally, the action and dialogue of the story ends/silences at the chapter break with white “noise” or space signifying silence of sound. The reverse, I’m thinking, is also true where the action of the chapter becomes darker and more sinister until the chapter break provides a kind of “silent death” to the story action. Or am I getting a bit carried away in my analogies?

And the #1 most important lesson:

I struggle with including enough conflict in my stories, since I tend to avoid conflict in my real life. So I attended a session on sustaining conflict presented by Alma Katsu, author of the NPR Best Horror Novel The Hunger, which was really helpful. In particular the concept of weaving conflict into every page of the story to provide not only tension but also a page-turning read. Most important to me was the definition of four kinds of conflict. This is a brand new concept for me, by the way. So let me dive a bit deeper here for clarity. Here are the four kinds of conflict and how they are applied to writing. As you read, you may find yourself spotting them in the stories your enjoy, too.

  1. Central conflict is the major conflict of the story that must be resolved. This is all about the character’s growth and makes for a better story. It’s very important to not harp on this one conflict too often, though, or the reader gets bored. Cue rolling eyes…
  2. Underlying/chronic conflict is an external conflict that is thrust upon the main character(s). One example is a chronic illness that interferes with the character’s progress of the central conflict resolution. The underlying conflict may or may not be resolved in the story.
  3. Internal character conflict is the flaw or mindset that complicates how the character interacts with other characters and events. This is a driving force for the action and reaction within the story. Focus is on internal issues only the character knows, whether consciously or subconsciously.
  4. Transient conflict is a temporary, brief hurdle that is not related to something the character has caused. For example, a snow storm or elevator out of service.

The idea of layering these four types of conflict so that there is something on every page to challenge the main character(s), provide hurdles they must face and overcome, is eye-opening for me. I really hope to use this going forward in my writing.

At the end of the conference was the Historical Fiction Readers Festival in the Atrium of the Gaylord Resort Hotel in National Harbor, MD. A crowd of fans of historical fiction flowed through the many tables of authors eager and ready to meet with fans. I even found a new mascot, Henry, named in honor of that fiery American Revolution orator Patrick Henry, to keep me company during the signing. I think he’ll be a happy companion as I travel around to different book events.

Other lessons learned came from networking, with lots of discussions about book reviews and their subjectivity despite their use to determine whether a reader might enjoy a book. Research methods when searching for information outside of the United States or if you don’t know exactly where to start (hint: footnoted sources). I’m sure there were many other far subtler lessons I absorbed without taking notes!

All in all, it was an educational, interesting, and worthwhile trip to the Historical Novel Society conference. I look forward to the next one in the USA in 2021!

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.

Coming October 1, 2019!

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…

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…

Insights on Sheriff Neal from The Black Book #amwriting #histfic #supernatural #historical #fiction #research #Alabama200 #history

Last week, I talked here about discovering more about Sheriff Stephen Neal when my husband and I went to the Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park recently. I promised to share what I learned about him from information in The Black Book, so now I’m making good on that promise. He turns out to be a fascinating man, too!

The contents of the Book are a compilation of various bits and pieces of historical information from a variety of sources, including census records, histories of the county and city, newspaper articles, church and cemetery records, land deeds, court records, and more. The document doesn’t indicate who pulled this information together.

The highlights from my point of view are the following tidbits I gleaned from reading through this closely.

Neal was born in 1773, but the location is not given. He apparently migrated from Virginia, or possibly East Tennessee, in the early 1800s. One source says he arrived with his wife, Frances Gran, and four slaves, from Richmond, Virginia. However, the Madison County Marriage Book citation says Neal married Frances Gran on December 10, 1818, so that can’t be true.

Another source says he came with John Hunt from East Tennessee with two other men. (However, this article disputes that claim.) Together these men squatted on the land that became the town center of Huntsville. This source claims Neal as a son-in-law of Hunt. Another source cites Sarah as the name of Neal’s wife in the body of a deed but Frances in the heading. This made me wonder if John Hunt had a daughter named Sarah and came with him. But the genealogy profile I found doesn’t include a daughter by that name. So who was Sarah? Or was that an error in the deed?

Neal is known to have had two children. A son, George Washington Neal, who was born March 10, 1815 in Huntsville, and a daughter, Caroline Elizabeth Neal, who appears to have been born in 1818 or 1819. Given that Stephen and Frances married in December 1818, I’d imagine it was more likely in 1819. However, Neal’s son was born 3 years before they married, so perhaps by a different wife? Or was George Frances’ son from a different marriage who Stephen adopted when he married? The record is unclear. What is clear is that Stephen Neal raised George as his own son. A generous and loving thing to do.

When Neal was appointed as sheriff on December 19, 1808, he was also appointed as Justice of the Peace. I wonder how many marriages his performed if any? He was considered to be “an active intelligent officer” which reassures me that my portrayal of him in my story is accurate. It’s also noteworthy that he’s the “only sheriff to serve Madison County while it was part of the Mississippi Territory and the Alabama Territory” before statehood. It’s interesting to me that Neal was also appointed as Major of the First Battalion of the 7th Regiment of Volunteer Militia in 1809, and then Quartermaster for the Regiment in 1813. He seems to have been a trustworthy and reliable man.

Stephen Neal died at his home in Huntsville on May 18, 1839, at 66 years of age. Interestingly, the person who compiled this Book notes there was no record found of any mention in the local newspaper of his passing. However, don’t take that to mean the local community disrespected him.

Another of my sources, Early History of Huntsville Alabama 1804 to 1870 by Edward Chambers Betts (1909; revised 1916; p69), reveals that the local papers for the period of 1837-1844 are missing. He implied that it may be related to a debate about canal building versus railroad building in the state. But it’s all conjecture. He goes on to say, “It is a perplexing inquiry, just why these contemporaneous sources of information should be missing; for it is said the same hiatus exists in a measure throughout Alabama.” A mystery without an answer I’m aware of.

One other tidbit of interest. The original Neal home stood where the reconstructed one stands today. But the original house was moved a half block west in 1926 to allow for construction of a filling station before it was demolished. But thanks to the wonders of photographs, the reconstructed house and outbuilding are “as true to the originals as possible.” So if you go visit, you can step back in time to 1819 and experience life as our friend Stephen Neal had known it.

Such great information and insights into this man’s life and times. I’m sure some of what I’ve learned will weave its way into my Fury Falls Inn series. Not every little detail, of course! I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know the sheriff as much as I have.

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…

Breaking news: Meet The Real Sheriff Neal #amwriting #histfic #supernatural #historical #fiction #research #Alabama200 #history

I have some rather exciting news! I’ve learned more about the real Sheriff Stephen Neal. A couple of months ago I shared a post about my debate over whether to use the real name of the sheriff in 1821 or not since I didn’t know much about him as a person or even as a sheriff. My main debate was how to portray him: as a competent sheriff or not.

I stumbled upon a few hints at the actual answer to my question when my hubby and I went to the Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park recently. I say “stumbled upon” because I did not realize when I decided I needed to go for research purposes that Stephen Neal’s house is part of the reconstructed buildings in the park. Woot! I felt like I’d struck gold.

The park had just reopened after extensive renovations to convert the once walled off village into an open green space. Now people can stroll through, relax on a bench or in the shade of the gazebo, or let the kids play on the grass. In celebration of the reopening, all tours were free that day so we decided to go check it out.

One of the volunteers offered to show us around since it was our first time. She led us into a white clapboard type of structure she called the “Neal House Kitchen.” This one-story structure is set at a right angle to the main house, a two-story home. After I told our friendly guide I was there to do research for my series, Fury Falls Inn, she escorted us to the Gift Shop to find out when the next official tour would start as the tour guide would have more information than she could provide. So with half an hour to spare, hubby and I grabbed a chicken salad sandwich and drinks from Betty Jo’s food truck and then sat in the lovely shade of the gazebo to eat. (I’ve wanted to try her food forever, and finally had the opportunity! Well worth the wait, too.)

I’ll share about the other buildings we went through over the next few weeks, but the last building and the one I was most anticipating exploring was the Neal House. Finding a portrait of the man hanging on the parlor wall made my day! I had no idea what he looked like, so had hesitated to describe him in any detail. Unfortunately, by the time we reached his house on this nearly 2-hour tour my sore feet didn’t let me climb the stairs to the second floor. But there will be a next time!

Portrait of Sheriff Stephen Neal in the Neal House at Alabama Constitution Hall Park

Our tour guide, Claire, said he and his wife and two children lived in the house in 1819, the frozen time period of the entire park. She mentioned that the son seemed to be from a different relationship as his age predated the date of the couple’s marriage. Intrigued, I’m going to try to learn more about the family if I can. After all, the boy might be from a previous marriage of Stephen’s, or of his wife. Or he could be a nephew or friend’s child he adopted out of kindness and generosity. In any case, they were a family of four. I don’t even know their names, so I’d like to rectify that lack of knowledge.

Claire also told me that while they don’t know very much about him, she’s never come across any hint of scandal and he seemed to be a much-liked man. She believes his election to the office of sheriff stemmed from the high regard of the community. Most of the votes he received were apparently from Huntsville citizens as opposed to the larger county population. Makes sense since he lived in Huntsville right off the square.

I also met the executive director of the park who is as excited about my series as I am and offered to send me what he has on Neal’s career. The Black Book that talks about his actions at court, and I don’t know what else. I can’t wait to read through it and see what hints I can glean from the context and the phrasing. I’m also thinking another trip to the Heritage Room at the main public library is in order to see what more I might be able to unearth. My curiosity about the man is very high for some inexplicable reason. Probably because so little is known about him and yet his name is known far and wide.

The net result of this chance discovery is that I have more fodder for my stories, more details about who this man was so I can depict him more accurately throughout the rest of the books. Because there’s going to be trouble at the Fury Falls Inn and the sheriff will have to get involved…

I love that I found out more about him! What more will I find? Stay tuned and I’ll share what I discover in The Black Book.

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…