Books on the Bay


That’s what it was all about. And lovers of story came out Saturday for my reading and signing at Izzy’s bookstore in Winchester Bay, Oregon.

Talking about books at Windy Bay and More ~ Photo by Robin Loznak

You couldn’t find a more delightful setting than a room circled with soft chairs and couches, walls lined with books, except for one wall of windows overlooking the spectacular beauty of the bay where water rippled in the sunlight and boats rocked on the gentle tide. Behind conversation the soft cries of gulls echoed on the wind, and an occasional bird swept past our view.

Our congenial, partially rotating group munched on cookies and sipped coffee while we talked about books and ideas. I read short passages from three of mine, the two that are already out, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds, and one I’ve just completed, which isn’t out yet, its working title, Beyond the Waning Moon. All three fit into my theme of following strong women through history, the first two in the mid-19th century pioneer period in the American West, the new one moving way back to ancient Minoan Crete, opening in 1470 BC. Both eras found women facing significant challenges that demanded their remarkable strength.

Signing a book for a new reader ~ Photo by Robin Loznak

My thanks to Izzy for inviting me for her first author reading. It was an absolute pleasure. I wish her well in this new venture of hers. Once known as Conrad Books, the store under Izzy’s new ownership will now be known as Windy Bay Books and More. Her enthusiasm resonates throughout the place.

If you missed the event, you can still visit the store, a great stop in this lovely seaside town. And you can find my books on the shelves there–if she hasn’t sold them already. If she has, we’ll get more.


150 Years!!

Martha’s Century Farm, whose story I told in my book A Place of Her Own, just hit the 150-year mark today.

On this day of April 24, 150 years ago, Martha A. Maupin purchased a farm on her own, according to the document filed in Douglas County, Oregon, from H. M. Martin To M. A. Maupin, which reads in part:

This Indenture made the 24~ day of April 1868 between Howard M. Martin & his wife Margaret Jane Martin of Elkton precinct, Douglas County, State of Oregon, of the first part and Martha Ann Maupin of the said County and State of the Second part Witnesseth that the party of the first part for and in Consideration of the sum of One thousand dollars lawful money of the United States to them in hand paid at or about the unsealing and delivery of these presents by the party of the second part, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged have bargained sold transferred and Conveyed & by these presents do transfer and convey unto the party of the second part her heirs and assigns, forever, all the following described premises to wit Donation Land Claim No. 46 beginning at . . . containing 320 acres more or less situated in the above County and State To have and to hold . . .

A copy from the first page shows the flowery handwriting of the day (I did my best to transcribe that and took a bit from the second page).

As told in the book, this purchase was no small matter for a woman in 1868. Martha had lost her husband a year and a half before and either could not or would not depend any longer on the aid of family and friends. She chose to make a home for her children and herself. However, she didn’t have the $1,000 she needed to buy this property. A man in nearby Scottsburg had the money to loan her, but he would not negotiate with a woman. Her son Cap, thirteen years old, had to negotiate for the money, but he was too young to own the property. It became her farm, owned by her alone, 320 acres along the Umpqua River.

Now, 150 years later, it has become mine, the second woman in the family to own and operate it. I’ve had it for about 10 years now.

In 1968 the property qualified as an Oregon Century Farm, having been in the family for 100 years. Now it has been in the family for 150 years and will qualify as a Sesquicentennial Farm.

A big day for Martha’s farm. I’d like to think she would be pleased.

For more of Martha’s story, you might want to check out the book, if you haven’t already. You can ask for it at your local bookstore or see the sidebar for more options.

Talking Genealogy

I’m happy to be giving a talk about my books this Wednesday, May 10, at the Cottage Grove Genealogical Society meeting at the Cottage Grove Community Center, which shares the Library building at 700 E. Gibbs Avenue. The program starts at 11:30 a.m. in the Shepherd Room with a salad bar lunch, and is open to the public.

This is the same room where I had a speaking engagement with the library in January.

My talk will focus on the search for my great-great-grandmother Martha, the subject of my first book, A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin. The book offers a creative nonfiction account of Martha’s life. Interwoven in this portrayal are four Interludes, which describe my search for her story.

Like many people who begin looking for their ancestors, I knew very little about Martha at the start. As a historical novelist I’m used to the need for research to learn about the settings of my stories, but the research into a real person’s life added another dimension. I want my fictional people to be realistic, but I can create the situations that drive them. With a real person I needed to ferret out the actual events.

I had the advantage of discovering cousins who’d done much of the genealogical work ahead of me, particularly a third cousin on the Maupin side, Linda Maupin Noel. Linda generously copied me on all the information she had gleaned. Then I did some digging on my own.

Wednesday I’ll share some of these efforts, the frustrations and the triumphs.

Along with Martha’s story, I’ll talk a little about my other book, The Shifting Winds, a historical novel set in the same time period, which was written before Martha’s and published after. The research for that one provided a good background for understanding the world in which Martha lived.


Living in the Past

Oakland, Oregon, will take a bow to its vibrant past tomorrow, Saturday, September 17, from 9 am to 5 pm when the historic town celebrates Living History Day with a focus on the 19th century.

I’ll be there with a table selling my books The Shifting Winds and A Place of Her Own, both set in the 19th-century West. People will get into the spirit of things by donning the typical garb of the day, as shown in these pictures I use to illustrate my characters from Shifting Winds.

25-jennie-brushed-2-titleThat’s m15-ft-vanc-alan-titley protagonist Jennie at right, whose face you can imagine yourself. The young woman’s father brought the family west over the Oregon Trail in 1842, much against her wishes.

The dapper fellow in frock coat and top hat represents the British Hudson’s Bay Company clerk who asks to court her despite rumors of war between their countries.

RawScan.tif, Mon Aug 24, 2015, 9:41:36 AM, 8C, 9000x12000, (0+0), 150%, Repro 2.2 v2, 1/20 s, R60.8, G31.1, B45.6The mountain man, a painting used by permission from artist Andy Thomas, represents the American who aims to shatter Alan’s plans for Jennie and British plans for Oregon.

Their clothing would be typical for the period Oakland plans to celebrate tomorrow.

Oakland history as a town goes back to 1846 when Rev. J. A. Cornwall came west and with another family took refuge from a fierce storm. They built a cabin on Cabin Creek near where Oakland grew up, then left in the spring to continue to their destination in the Willamette Valley.

The town of Oakland was laid out in 1849, first surveyed town in the Umpqua. When the railroad bypassed the old town in 1872, Oakland moved closer to the rail line and the new town became a commercial center.

When my great-great-grandparents, Garrett and Martha Maupin, moved to Douglas County he became a hauler, carrying goods by wagon from Oakland to Scottsburg, where things could be shipped out by boat. Garrett had just left Oakland on one of these treks when a load of wool turned over on him and smothered him. The details of that fateful day are told in my book, A Place of Her Own.

Morning Dresses Sept. 1803Somehow the small town of Oakland always kept one foot in the historic past, even before the reviving of historic structures across the country became popular. So it seems fitting for Oakland to celebrate its colorful past with a Living History Day. Oakland has been living its history for as long as I can remember. I have an Oakland address, although I confess I don’t often visit the town. It’s a little out of the way to get there.

Bypassed yet again, the second time by the Interstate Freeway, Oakland was left to dream of bygone days. The old buildings were maintained, perhaps for lack of need to create bigger and plainer and infinitely uglier new ones. You can walk down the street and feel the past all around you as the charming structures of an earlier time smile back at you.

So pull out the best representation in your closet of something folks might have worn in the 19th century. Ladies might choose something from the slimmer skirts of the early years to the simple calicos of pioneer times to the wide hoops of Civil War and later days.

1800s-wide-skirtsGentlemen, you could choose anything from frock coat and tall hat to buckskins, to jeans and shirts–and yes, they did wear jeans, sometimes called “janes,” even before Mr. Levi came on stage.

Come live in the past with us. I do that often when I walk into my stories. Such an intriguing place to explore, the past. Oakland will have spinning and weaving, blacksmiths, a trapper encampment, Fort Umpqua muzzle loaders, butter making, chuckwagon cooking, children’s activities, and more.

Abe Lincoln will be there. Who’d have guessed? And what’s that? Can-can dancing? Oh my.

Minter, Harold A. Umpqua Valley Oregon and Its Pioneers. Portland, OR: Binfords & Mort, 1967.
Except for Andy Thomas’s painting of the mountain man, all photos on this post are from antique fashion plates.


Fort Umpqua Post Script

So, what if history got it wrong?

After last week’s rollicking Fort Umpqua Days celebration, I take a long look at our sturdy reconstructed fort on the Umpqua River in Elkton, Oregon, and I recall a question from one of the customers who came by my book-selling booth during the event.

“Is Fort Umpqua in your books?”

I had to say no, but it might have been–if I could have reconciled sources.

Fort Umpqua Gate

Muddied waters

My issue arose from the date Fort Umpqua fell. History has an answer, but it seems a little murky to me.

For starters I’d like to quote Stephen Dow Beckham in his Land of the Umpqua, a fine presentation of local history published in 1986. On this subject of Fort Umpqua’s demise he writes on page 58:

The fort burned on November 15, 1851, while the commander or chief trader, Johnson E. King was at Fort Vancouver. King had just brought in his annual load of furs and was ready to leave with fresh supplies for the Umpqua when word of the disaster came by letter. The company kept up three more years of trade in southwestern Oregon, presumably working out of an outbuilding at the site; then it terminated operations. [My bold.]

Beckham sources his statement with a letter in the HBC archives written December 20, 1851, by a John Ballenden to Archibald Barclay. Ballenden was an HBC officer briefly posted at Fort Vancouver to help wrap up Company affairs there after the boundary settlement that gave the United States the land. Barclay was an HBC Secretary in London.

But what if history got this wrong?

Ft.Ump.gardens-2 (2)My experience in researching these early periods has shown me that history can be difficult to pin down. Even contemporary accounts don’t always agree.

That word presumably in the above quote gives me pause. Did assumptions lead to wrong conclusions?

A couple of things have come together to make me question this.

What did Martha know?

I have access to an account that disagrees with accepted history. It comes from Florence McNabb, the granddaughter of Martha Maupin, whose story I tell in A Place of Her Own. Florence wrote a 75-page manuscript of Maupin family history which I used extensively in writing Martha’s story. But I didn’t use one of Florence’s vignettes because it disagreed with history. To give a timeframe for this, Martha and Garrett moved from Lane County to Douglas County in December 1864 and rented a cabin on the Henderer place near Elkton until sometime after Garrett’s death in 1866, well after the supposed demise of Fort Umpqua.

Yet Florence writes:

It was while they were still on the Henderer place that there was an Indian scare and all of the families were told to come to the Umpqua Fort. The fort was built on the banks of the river in the summer of 1836 and was the early trading post of the Hudson Bay Co. It was well built with logs standing on end to form a stockade with several log cabins inside. 434-fort-umpqua-interiorOriginally the land owned by the Hudson Bay Co. comprised 640 acres and several dozens of stock. . . .

On this occasion the families remained in the stockade and the well-armed men went to their respective homes to tend to their livestock. The Indians never did attack but they could be seen early in the mornings and again in the evenings. . . .

After about a week, shut up with children and short tempered mothers, they decided to return to their own homes, coming back to the fort to spend the night. . . . One lady remarked that she would rather fight Indians than to spend another night with that bunch.

“This was told to me by my mother,” Florence wrote, “who had heard it from Martha Maupin.” Yes, Martha.

Now, that could have made an interesting scene in my book, but I didn’t want to go against history.

British habits

ShiftingWinds_EcoverA new thought began to stir, arising out of my own recent research into the history of Fort Vancouver, the British Hudson’s Bay Company headquarters of the Fort Umpqua outpost. Prior to my presentation at Fort Vancouver this summer of my new book The Shifting Winds I went back into the two huge volumes that describe research the preservation team did in order to reconstruct an authentic replica of this British headquarters.

Ft.Vanc.Report (2)I was amazed at the continual construction going on during the years the British maintained Fort Vancouver. The first Fort Vancouver was built in 1824-1825 on the hill above the Columbia river bottom. When the British changed their minds about that location in 1829, they just picked it up and moved it a few miles closer to the river. When that new fortress proved to be too small they just moved the walls over, added to them, and doubled the size.

When the first home of the commander began to crumble due to decaying roof and walls, they tore it down and built a new one in a better spot within the walls.

Fort Vancouver Big HouseThis is the commander’s house, the Big House—no small cabin to be thrown up in a few afternoons.

613.Ft.Vanc.McLoughlin Sitting RoomAnd the interior was exquisite.

Ft.Vanc.stockadeOther buildings were routinely torn down and replaced. And those picket walls kept moving—a little bit here, a little bit there.

alan-cropIt seems the British Hudson’s Bay Company men would rebuild at the drop of a tall beaver hat.

Why not Fort Umpqua?

So if tiny Fort Umpqua burned down and the Hudson’s Bay Company still had business to conduct on the site, why wouldn’t they follow custom and rebuild that? Ballenden’s letter to Barclay, the author Beckham’s source above, was written a month after the fire and would not reflect Company decisions afterward. My family’s story (told by Martha herself, no less, although received secondhand) suggests a fort still stood when they sought refuge sometime between 1864 and 1866.

Accepted history also tells us that the historic 1861 flood took away the burnt remains of Fort Umpqua, leaving nothing. Is this fact or conjecture? Is it possible that a more substantial fort stood against those flood waters, one that the Hudson’s Bay Company had rebuilt and maintained after the 1851 fire? Up north, when the British finally left their Fort Vancouver headquarters to the Americans, the walls and buildings disintegrated in this wet, rainy land without continual maintenance. We have photos and reports to substantiate that. Was this the more likely end to Fort Umpqua also, as new American owners no longer needed this former British outpost?

Unraveling the story threads

Book cover - A Place of Her OwnSmall tidbits of information—notes in letters and journals—often guided the team that reconstructed the elaborate Fort Vancouver headquarters. If I had believed in Florence’s tidbit, I could have brought the Fort Umpqua outpost into my story and had one more tense scene for Martha. And I could have smiled and told my customer, “Yes, yes, it’s in this one.”

Just saying.

Beckham, Stephen Dow. Land of the Umpqua: A History of Douglas County, Oregon. Roseburg, OR: Douglas County Commissioners, 1986.
McNabb, Florence Maupin. The Maupin Family. Undated, unpublished manuscript.


Outtakes #9 – A Place of Her Own

This Outtake reveals another short bit taken from the end of an Oregon Trail scene at the top of p. 124 in A Place of Her Own. The Maupins have survived the precipitous drop down Laurel Hill and have just come into the rich prairies west of the Cascade foothills. The cut is just 176 words, but words are words. And I desperately needed to take more out. At least it gave me more in one fell swoop than the single filler words I snipped throughout the manuscript. Clip…..

The photo above, by Robin Loznak, appears in A Place of Her Own, illustrating Douglas Firs on the family farm. Similar trees of this species would have been growing in the area depicted in this scene, though no doubt larger than these. Pioneers trekking into what is now the State of Oregon found Doug firs some 300 feet tall. Two or three men could lie head-to-foot across the diameter of a stump from one of these giants that might have been as much as 800 years old.


Near evening a cabin appeared, nestled against a grove of firs at the edge of a broad meadow. The scent of a hearth fire reached Martha’s nose, and she took a long, satisfying breath of it. People began spilling out the cabin door, running toward the wayworn travelers. A man reached them first. He lifted his hat and rubbed a hand across his thin, curly hair. “Welcome to Oregon.”

A united but somewhat ragged thank you answered him back.

He introduced himself and his wife, who came up behind him, and Garrett introduced the family. The woman went straight to Martha and gripped both her hands. “My dear, what a journey for you. When are you due?”


The woman smiled and nodded. “Oh, you’ll be settled by then. Come sit a spell and have some supper with us.”

“That’s so nice of you,” Martha said. “You must see a lot of travelers, living here.”

The woman laughed. “We do, and we love it. We all took that trip, God bless us, and we all understand.”

468.diorama mother & childThis photo taken at the Interpretive Center in Baker, Oregon, shows a part of the continuing diorama depicting a wagon train on the Oregon Trail. The woman makes me think of Martha and her little Nora, oldest of her two at the time. My heart tightens as I imagine the strain of traveling that perilous trail with such a precious, vulnerable child. Another even tinier. A third on the way. What a thrill to know in this short Outtake that they have almost made it through. Of course, Martha would have been full in her pregnancy by then.


Outtakes #7 – A Place of Her Own

Continuing the Outtakes of words cut from A Place of Her Own before publication, we come to this short segment, which is an extension of the Oregon Trail scene that ends at the upper third of page 115. Martha knows she’s pregnant by this time, but she isn’t sure Garrett knows. Although I kept a few of these words, I clipped this description of lowering a wagon down a steep hill because there’s another more powerful scene of lowering a wagon down the longer, steeper Laurel Hill on pages 121-122. Also, before visiting the site I didn’t have a clear picture of the setting in mind and decided I’d better leave the scene out. More words cut. Word count dropping, dropping. Clip…..

520.Windlass HillWindlass Hill, the site of this scene, may not look so high or so steep, unless you think of getting a covered wagon down it. I took this photo on our 2014 family trip backtracking the Oregon Trail following the release of the book.


The higher [Martha] climbed, the more she could see the incredible landscape around them. . . . Garrett caught up with her just as she reached the top, and she stood aside to let him lead. He didn’t say anything. He said little these days that didn’t have to be said, as if the words might drain his energy and he had to save it all for the daily ordeals. She felt something of that herself. She could scarcely catch breath to breathe, let alone use it to talk.

She plodded after him across the high tableland, until the beaten wagon tracks seemed to lead right off into the sky ahead. Garrett stopped the wagon at the edge of the rim, and she hurried to his side. Her heart lunged when she looked down. The land dropped away in front of them in a long, steep bank. Surely he didn’t plan to go down here. But wide scraped tracks led right down the slope to a tree-filled hollow at the bottom.

Garrett unhitched the oxen and began to tie heavy ropes around the wagon’s axles. Larry brought her the children and went to help him. They locked the back wheels by sticking a pole through the spokes from one wheel to the other. Newt held the oxen until Garrett looped the ropes around their yokes. Then with the oxen behind, holding the wagon from falling, the men slowly let out the rope and lowered the cloth-topped vessel down the sandy incline. Martha didn’t think she breathed once until it settled, rocking a little, on the valley floor. But she must have.

“Let’s get down and get on our way,” Garrett said.

Larry motioned for Newt. “We’ll bring the cattle.”

“Help us with the girls first,” Garrett said, “and lead the oxen down. I’d better give Martha a hand.”

When he reached toward her, she took his hand, thankful for his firm grip as they scrambled down the bluff. Did he know the treasure she held inside her? She hadn’t spoken of it yet. Could he tell? If he’d marked the days and noticed her lack of monthlies, maybe he knew. But he hadn’t touched her in that way for so long, how would he? Every night they fell into bed exhausted. Maybe he remembered from before. Maybe he read it in her, the way he read other things of nature.

As soon as he had the oxen hitched again and heard the boys bringing the cattle, he started out once more. Martha had thought they might rest awhile in the pretty hollow, but they had a few hours of daylight. With the girls back in the wagon, she started after him, every step sending up a wave of pain, from her feet feeling every rock through the thinning soles of her boots, up into her ankles and knees.


517.ash hollow bluffAsh Hollow lay near Windlass Hill, but farther than I imagined when I wrote the scene, and clearly a more rugged drop from the high tableland. Water in the lovely Ash Hollow became known as a source of the dreaded cholera that ravaged emigrants trekking west. The Maupins were lucky to be spared this deadly disease.


Outtakes #6 – A Place of Her Own

This post concludes the opening scene cut from the Oregon Trail chapter of A Place of Her Own, picking up where last week’s post left off and showing one more setback in Martha’s dreams of an idyllic life with Garrett. Martha has just led her eldest brother Ambrose out to the shed where the family’s wagon awaits the long journey west, the cloth cover not yet attached. As noted for Outtakes #5, the scene is divided into two parts due to its length–more than 1,900 words total, the cutting of which helped me in my struggle to reduce the word count for this book. Clip….

464.two wagons





Martha tells her brother about the wagon Garrett built and all that she must do to have it ready for their trip west.

Photo taken by the author at the Interpretive Center at Baker City, Oregon.





Oregon Trail Preparations – Part II

Opening the shed door, she pulled it wide so the sun would cast a light on their prairie ship. The long narrow wagon bed was made of sturdy planks, but not heavy. “It’s tough wood,” she said. “But light enough the oxen can pull it over rough ground, and the yokes are light too.”

He ran his fingers across the joints. “Your husband does fine work.”

A glow flushed her cheeks at his compliment. “He’s particular about it.”

Wooden bows curved up from the wagon bed, ready for the cloth cover. “I have the cover almost done,” she said. “It’ll be two layers, a tougher linen for outside, softer muslin inside.” She showed him her calloused fingers. “It’s not easy to run stitches through that linen. I’ll be glad when it’s done. I’m making pockets on the inside to put things in. There’s so much to carry, but we can’t make it too heavy.”

He nodded. “Lots to think about.”

“Oh yes. Thoughts come to me, even in the night. I have to remember every little thing, this thing and another, and how I’m going to pack it so it’s safe. Ambrose, a person can die out there if they don’t have just what they need.”

“I suppose.”

“I still have to get the food ready and bags to hold it all.” She ticked off the list in her mind–hams and bacon, cheese, rice, coffee, tea, beans, flour, cornmeal, crackers, hard biscuits, lard, dried apples and peaches and prunes. They’d take cows with them and make butter on the way, maybe a couple of chickens in a crate. They’d need pickles to protect them from scurvy on the plains where they’d have no fresh fruits or vegetables. Garrett would bring in game.

She went on. “Besides the food, we need medicines–a box of physic pills, castor oil, peppermint, whiskey.” She also had clothes to make. A new flannel dress, some jeans pants for Garrett. New stockings to knit. More yarn for knitting on the trail. Dresses all cut out for the girls and some muslin shirts for Garrett, ready to pick up and sew when she had a spare moment along the way. Sarah Catherine and her mother had helped. It was good Sarah and young Perry would be staying with their mother.

Ambrose chuckled. “I can see your mind working now. You’ll be all right, Martha. A lot of people are going, and if they can make it you can. You have a good mind.” He rubbed a hand over the wagon’s smooth joints. “And your husband is–well, let’s say if I was going into the wilderness, I’d be happy to be in his company.”

She lifted her chin and glanced out the shed door. “He is a frontiersman, all right. You should see him in his buckskins when he goes out hunting, carrying that long rifle. I don’t remember a time he ever came home empty-handed.”

“You’ll be glad for that out on the prairies.”

Sugar nickered, and Martha went outside to see who she was talking to. The mare stood with head high, ears sharply forward, looking toward the big house. The distant sound of baying hounds echoed through the trees. Riders emerged. Garrett and the boys. Already. “They must have worked things out pretty fast.”

When the three came closer, she frowned. Garrett wasn’t riding with his usual flowing grace. He looked tight, out of rhythm with the horse. Galloping up to the cabin, he pulled his horse up short and swung to the ground, jaw clenched, eyes hard. Without looking at Martha, he led the animal straight to the shed and began unsaddling.

She hurried to his side. “What wrong?”

He kept his eyes on the cinch he was undoing, and his voice rasped with anger. “I’m not going anywhere with that bunch. We aren’t going this year.”

Martha looked at the new wagon, then back at her husband. “What do you mean?”

“Larry and Newt–they’re gonna go this year–just horseback, maybe take a packhorse, maybe not.”

Martha had been working so hard, hurrying to get it all done. She felt as if she’d been running across the grass and tripped on an unseen stone and the ground had come up to hit her in the face. Aware of her brothers walking up behind with their own horses, she turned to see if either of them could make sense of this for her.

Larry spoke before she could ask. “We’ll check out Oregon and let you know what we find.”

“But . . . but what happened with the Ray County company?”

“There were . . .” Larry shrugged. “. . . disagreements.”

“Can’t we find another company?” Martha’s voice rose. “We’ve done so much work to get ready, and with–”

Garrett cut her off. “Then we’ll be good and ready next year.” He gave the horse a rubdown, pulled some hay down from the loft of the shed and piled it on the ground, then stomped away, retreating into the house.

Martha stood staring after him, trying to take in what he’d said. She’d been uncertain about this trip in the first place, wondering about the timing, among so many other doubts. Louisa was a baby. It wouldn’t be easy with a baby as well as a toddler. Nora wouldn’t be three until September. And there was his pa’s estate. How could Garrett leave before that was settled? But when he insisted they would do the trip this year, she’d nursed her own wanderlust and actually developed a growing excitement about it. Now they were just going to drop the plan?

Larry put a hand on her shoulder. “It wouldn’t be good for Garrett to go with that company. They’re a persnickety bunch, all full of dos and don’ts, and you know how Garrett is.”

Newt let out a soft laugh. “I thought he was going to hit that guy when he–”

“Newt.” Larry’s sharp voice stopped his brother.

Martha pinched her brow, lifting her hands. “But can’t we find another company? Can’t we go over to St. Joseph or Independence–one of those jumping off places–like other folks do? Ray County isn’t far, and Garrett thought it’d be good to travel with folks from home, but other people go to those towns and find companies there.”

Larry shook his head, looking at the ground between them. “He seems to have his mind set. Besides, he says he’d better stay on account of the estate. It isn’t quite done yet.”

“The estate?” Martha said. “I asked him about that before and he shrugged it off. Now it’s important? Why? Because he’s mad at somebody?”

Larry’s eyes began to smile. “That’s about it.”


Outtakes #5 – A Place of Her Own

The following is part of a scene that originally opened the Oregon Trail chapter of A Place of Her Own, and now becomes a part of this Outtakes series of scenes cut from the book. The segment shows Martha with her oldest brother Ambrose, who moved from Illinois to Missouri sometime before the 1850 census. It’s a pleasant scene and tells about the preparations for that amazing trek west to Oregon. But altogether it’s over 1,900 words, and it didn’t move the story sufficiently to hold its place. This was the cut that convinced me I could actually trim the book by the necessary 22,000 words. Yay! Clip…..

Note: I’m dividing the scene into Part I and Part II because it’s so long.

464.two wagons


Garrett built a wagon like this for their family, and Martha sewed the cover.

Photo taken by the author at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center at Baker City, Oregon.


Oregon Trail Preparations – Part I

Ray County, Missouri, April 1849. Their small Missouri cabin echoed with quiet as Martha sat next to her oldest brother Ambrose before the low fire. Only the steady whisk of the rockers sounded above the soft snap of coals as Ambrose leaned back in Martha’s rocking chair and moved slowly back and forth, while she perched on the edge of a stool and poked at the fire. The homey scent of the hearth wafted through the room.

Garrett had left for town with Larry and Newt, while Ambrose stayed behind with her. “They didn’t need me,” Ambrose said. “I thought this was a good chance to visit with you.”

Garrett and the boys went to talk with some folks who were trying to put together a company from Ray County to travel together to Oregon. Martha was glad Ambrose rode over from Carroll County with the younger two. Although she regretted Doc didn’t join them, she appreciated a chance to spend time with her oldest brother.

Larry and Newt had come to Missouri early this spring, still full of excitement about Oregon. A veritable land of milk and honey, to hear them tell it. Garrett wanted to sell the Missouri place and get on his way. But it wasn’t that easy.

Ambrose and his wife Polly had finally moved to Missouri the year before and lived with their family in the cabin Simpson built for himself on Doc’s second forty over in Carroll County. Oregon fever hadn’t quite hit Doc or Ambrose, but Martha had trouble imagining her next step west without Doc.

Garrett had been working on him. “The future’s in Oregon, Doc. Too many people in Missouri.”

“Well, there’s California.”

Last December when President Polk confirmed rumors about gold in California, Martha had seen the sudden glint in Garrett’s eyes, as if reflecting a bit of that gold.

“Not the best place for families, though,” Doc had said.

Now, glancing at their new baby Louisa in her cradle, born that very month of December, Martha remembered wondering if Garrett might just go without her and the girls. But his talk still focused on Oregon.

She smiled at Ambrose. A soft-spoken man, he exuded a kind of self-assurance that put her at ease, a trace of gray in his beard and hair giving him a distinguished look. “I’m glad you’re here,” she said, meaning it more than she knew how to say. He’d been like a pa to her these last few months, now that their own pa was gone. Heaving a sigh, she stood and looked out the gleaming glass window of her cabin to the pasture where her mare Sugar grazed, Howard’s gift. “I wish I could have been there when Pa went. And Ma, so soon after. Do you think they ever forgave me?”

“They loved you.”

A heavy band seemed to tighten across her chest. “I know, but did they forgive me?”

She turned to see her brother’s gentle expression, the warmth in his eyes, the slightest curve of his lips as he spoke. “It’s hard to say with them. You know they never said a lot about things like that. But you can’t change it now, Martha.”

She looked out at Sugar again. “No.”

“I’ve no doubt Doc thought he was in the right to give your consent. Pa did tell him he had full responsibility for you. I heard him. Now, Pa may not have thought through what that could mean, but he said it.” Ambrose got up and came to her, setting a tender hand on her shoulder. “It isn’t easy to get through life without some trials with those you love. But when it’s done and you can’t do any more about it you can’t dwell on the trials–just the love. Somehow I think they understand now.”

Martha batted her eyes, moist with tears. “You boys all scattered soon after, didn’t you? You came here, now Larry and Newt.”

“And Simpson followed Stephen to Scott County. I don’t know what Ben will do.”

Lifting her shoulders high, then dropping them, Martha turned and grasped Ambrose’s arm. “Let me show you what we’ve done to get ready for Oregon. It’s going to be an amazing trip, Ambrose. I wish you’d think about it.”

He laughed, a hand on his soft beard. “I’ll think about it, but I hear they need a Justice of the Peace in Carroll County, and I think I’ll give that a try for now.”

“Justice of the Peace?” She smiled. “You’d be good at that. Come on outside. I’ll show you the wagon.” She tiptoed over to where the girls were napping–Louisa in the cradle, Nora on the small mat beside. Sleeping soundly. Nodding to Ambrose, she slipped out of the cabin to lead him to the shed out back, leaving the cabin door open so she could hear if the girls woke. “They should sleep awhile longer. Come see. We’ve done a lot of work already.”

Part II next week…


Alum Magazine Recognition

718.Oregon Stater Book NotesMy book got notice in the Winter 2015 issue of the Oregon Stater magazine for OSU alums.

A nice surprise when you’re thumbing through a magazine that just arrived in the mail.

I suddenly stopped turning pages. “Whoa! I know that book jacket.”

619.Oregon qtly listTook me a moment to realize it’s an earlier version of the cover with the white ribbon. I don’t know how they acquired that photo, but it’s nice to get the recognition.

I guess I’m what’s called a platypus. I was a beaver for my undergraduate work and a duck for my masters.

The U of O alum magazine, the Oregon Quarterly, gave the book recognition in their Autumn 2014 issue, shown here at right with the brown ribbon that graces the actual book.

I don’t think anyone will mistake the book, whether the ribbon’s white or brown. It’s a pretty distinctive design, thanks to the artists at Globe Pequot Press.