Christmas Party winners: Christy Distler's A Cord of Three Strands goes to Chappy Debbie, Denise Weimer's winner is Megsmom (we need you to get your email to us) , Shannon McNear's winners are Elly (The Blue Cloak) and Lucy Reynolds (Love's Pure Light), Pegg Thomas's winners are Joy Ellis and Susan Johnson, Carrie Fancett Pagels' winners per were Melanie Backus and Paula Shreckhise, Janet Grunst's winner is Caryl Kane. Congratulations, all! Please private message your e-mail or mailing address to the authors.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Burnt Corn Creek and Fort Mims

by Denise Weimer

AL, War of 1812
In last month’s post, "The Red Stick War? What’s That?" (, I explored a little-known part of the War of 1812. The Southern frontier, where the Red Stick Creeks allied to the British engaged the American and Cherokee forces, provides an intriguing setting for some of my historical novels. This month, I’d like to delve a little deeper into the conflict as we follow the progression of events in my April novel, Bent Tree Bride.

In the summer of 1813, the Red Stick Creeks began attacking National Creeks (those not wanting to go to war with the United States), burning homes and destroying cornfields and livestock. The National Creeks asked the Cherokees for aid, and many relocated to the Cherokee towns of Coweta, Cusseta, and Turkey Town. Turkey Town was located about a mile from present-day Centre, Alabama, on the west side of the Coosa River. Cherokee Principal Chief Path Killer operated a ferry on the trail that follows close to the present road from Rome to Cave Springs, Georgia.

On July 27, 1813, at Burnt Corn Creek, Mississippi Territorial Volunteers under Major Daniel Beasley and Captain Dixon Bailey from Fort Mims near present-day Mobile ambushed a Red Stick supply caravan bringing flour, corn, and ammunition from the Spanish in Pensacola, Florida. The Red Sticks were chased into the swamp but regrouped and drove the Americans away from looting the pack train.

U.S. Indian Agent Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs Sr. wrote, “There is no doubt the insurgent Creeks are acting in concert with the English throu the northern Indians.” He suggested two battalions of Cherokee soldiers be raised under a white major to patrol the territory.
Fort Mims, attack #26

Retaliation for Burnt Corn Creek came on August 30th by order of William Weatherford/Chief Red Eagle. As some 700 Red Stick warriors approached, around 400 white settlers and National Creeks took refuge at Fort Mims, a hastily erected stockade on the plantation of Samuel Mims, a wealthy resident of the mixed white and Creek Tensaw District of Mississippi Territory. Major Beasley had ignored warnings of danger given by a slave and a mounted scout. With a tomahawk to the head, he died while attempting to shut the fort’s gate. The Red Sticks flooded inside, killing half of the surprised, hundred-man garrison in the first few minutes. Captain Dixon Bailey, a Creek, and his American and Creek militia repelled the attack for four hours (including a breath-baiting hour's lull during which the Red Sticks agreed to resume the attack) while the civilians huddled inside the one-acre stockade. Forcing the settlers out with burning arrows, the Red Stick warriors killed 250 and took at least 100 captive, mainly slaves. The Red Sticks razed the surrounding farms after the battle. The massacre of civilians led to a rallying cry for Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia militia of “Remember Fort Mims.”

Next month’s post will look at the formation of the Cherokee Regiment in the fall of 1813 and follow the allied forces into Creek Territory, the starting point for Bent Tree Bride.

Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s a managing editor for the historical imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and the author of almost a dozen published novels and a number of novellas. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses! 

Connect with Denise here:
Monthly Newsletter Sign-up

Monday, February 8, 2021

Researching the 16th Century: Roanoke Island Festival Park

 Another photo-heavy post, so be patient as they load ...

The morning of our second day on North Carolina's Outer Banks, on my quest for on-site research for my upcoming Lost Colony novel Elinor, my daughters and I visited the Roanoke Island Festival Park. Despite the indoor museum areas being closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, I found the open areas extremely interesting and helpful. A walking path leads visitors through a reconstructed indigenous Algonquin village, complete with a ton of informational placards and recordings of words spoken in the native language and native folk stories. I wanted to linger, of course, much longer than the time we actually had.

One of the things that made this so fun is having studied the work of John White, an English artist of some renown for having accompanied three of the first expeditions to the New World, whose illustrations and portraits of native life and people provide the only visual window we have of this time. They've done an amazing job of bringing White's watercolors to life, showing details such as how fish were broiled above large, open fires, to reproduction longhouses and various furnishings.

(And yes, this is the same John White who was later appointed Governor of the new colony, whose granddaughter was the first English child born on American shores.)

Above, my youngest daughter gets into the spirit of reenacting historical trade between Algonquins and the English, beckoning us into the longhouse while reading from one of the signs discussing the importance and details of trade. :-)

Below, I snapped probably a dozen photos of the inside of a longhouse and the details of its construction, but this will give you a good idea of what it looks like.

Sidetracking from the native town area, we walked down to the waterfront, where a beautiful 16th century reproduction ship lay at the dock. My attention was, predictably, torn between the ship and the scenery stretching on both sides.

A few shots of the Elizabeth II, which we enjoyed getting to explore as much as they would allow, again, given pandemic restrictions. (Better photos of the entire ship are are the park website and Facebook page.)

An intriguing little sign I found hanging inside the ship ... good advice for anyone!

We then returned to the Indian town, where my girls were intrigued by the model of a dugout canoe ...

A model of one of the fishing weirs commonly used by the Algonquin peoples out in the bay to trap and catch fish ...
And again my youngest literally gets into the fun by pretending to paddle away in the canoe. :-)

After that, we entered the English settlement area, where among other items of interest, we found a winsome young blacksmith plying his trade. I always find this sort of thing far too fascinating, but with a family meeting to make in another part of the state, we had to say our goodbyes and move on.

The display of a native garden and nearby platform was also interesting. The Algonquin would employ young boys to sit and keep watch over the garden, to make sure deer, raccoon, bears, and other critters wouldn't steal their livelihood. Cultivated crops included the usual corn, peas or beans, and squash, with parsnips, persimmons, strawberries, mulberries, grapes, prickly pear fruit, chestnuts, and acorns also gathered from the wild. Their diet was far more varied than one might expect!

This is definitely a site I'd like to return to when I have more time. In the meantime, they have a lot of interesting reading at both the main website and Facebook page, and it proved an extremely helpful resource, even on a very rushed research trip!

Friday, February 5, 2021

Marriage Á La Façon Du Pays -- the Custom of the Country -- and One Such Famous Union

Since February is the month when we turn to thoughts of love and romance, could there be a more appropriate time to discuss a well-established practice of the fur traders in the American wilderness? I'm talking about marriage à la façon du pays--or in English terms, marriage "in the custom of the country". Those of us who indulge in reading or writing historical, romantic fiction are well-tuned to novels featuring a marriage of convenience, but those canny trappers and traders of old took their convenience to a whole 'nother level, and it was even more common than you might imagine.

Marriage à la façon du pays was the practice of European fur traders entering into common law marriages with native women. The marriages, though not taken lightly, didn't usually involve a great deal of ceremony, merely the offering of goods to the bride's family of whatever they seemed most desirous (and almost always included rum). If the trade seemed favorable to all, the bride would go with the trader. If she was to dwell with him at a fort, she would also be given European clothing to wear.

An entire population explosion was the result of these unions, establishing a culture of blended Indigenous with mostly French or Scottish known as the Métis. (See my post on them.) But, about the marriages...

The Trapper's Bride 1858-1859, by Alfred Jacob Miller

Men were not at first allowed by the fur companies like the North West Company and later the Hudson Bay Company to take wives with them into the upper country, hence many men took up with indigenous women instead. This was encouraged by the NWC. Not so much by the HBC, though economic and social pressures soon caused the rules to bend. Indigenous woman were a huge asset to the fur trade, and company partners knew it. Such unions with traders worked much the same way international unions have worked since the days of King David to secure mutual trade relations and establish aid.

Without these women, many early traders might not have survived their forays into the wilderness, what with the natives' understanding of the available food sources, hunting and trapping knowledge, and relations with other tribes in the area. In return, the families of these brides hoped that such unions would provide generously from the trader's wares, as well as secure their own standing among these new Europeans. All in all, the idea of mutual aid whenever necessary was appealing to both sides.

The native wives did a lot of the work around the trading posts too. From lacing snowshoes to making pemmican, from drying meat to patching clothing, their usefulness and productivity was invaluable. Many products of the fur trade came directly at the hands of women who gathered wild rice, harvested maple syrup and refined it to sugar, wove mats and tanned hides.

Then there were the more carnal reasons for the union. Winters were long and lonely in the the wilderness. Many men found great pleasure and comfort in establishing homes and families far from the reaches of Montreal, Quebec, and the American colonies.

The unfortunate aspect in all of this is that the marriages were not considered legal by European standards. Even though the couples might have lived lives of total commitment toward one another, they weren't acknowledged as real marriages by European standards. On top of this, it wasn't entirely unusual for these women and their children to be cut adrift when the trader retired and decided to return to the east. They could take their native wives with them, but sometimes the women and children might be sent back to their families or even offered to a new trader coming into the region. Others though, built on their early foundations and continued to love and care for one another into old age.

One such famous fur trade family were Michel and Equaysayway (or Ikwese) Cadotte. The Cadotte's were fur trade royalty in the Lake Superior region. Their influence stretched from present-day northern Wisconsin, down to the Chippewa River valley, and west into present-day Minnesota as far as Fond du Lac and Red Lake. Their most prominent fur trade post, and the one where Michel Cadotte's family eventually settled and lived was at La Point on Madeline Island, the predominant island among Lake Superior's Apostle Islands (though that island is not included as part of the National Lakeshore as much of it is privately owned). In fact, Equasayway was born near that place. Her father White Crane was an important hereditary chief of the Ojibwe who called the island and area around it home. After Equaysayway was baptized with the new name Madeleine, White Crane commanded that the island, formerly called Mooningwanekaaning (home of the golden-breasted woodpecker) and also called Michel's Island, be renamed in her honor, and so it was. She really was royalty!

And in a sense, so was Michel. Having married the Ojibwe princess, his line established heredity. Also, his grandfather Jean Baptiste Sr. was one of the first fur traders to establish in the Lake Superior region, and his father continued the family business with the companionship of his common law wife, Owaazsii who was also said to be of high status among her Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) clan. After being sent to Montreal for a Catholic education, Michel and his brother Jean Baptiste carried on the trade, and with them it flourished and grew. 

Historical marker located along Hwy. 13 shoreline between Washburn and Bayfield, Wisconsin

Everyone came to the islands to trade with Gitchimichene, or Great Michel, as he was called. There, he and Madeleine ran a farm and raised a large family. Two of their sons-in-law also became well-known. 

It is said that Michel and Madeleine were not married in the church until 1830, some forty years after they'd been married in the Ojibwe custom. Why then? First of all, the record shows that when their children were born, Michel took them to Mackinac Island to be baptized in the Catholic church. He and Madeleine could have married in the European fashion on any of those occasions, but they did not. They did, however, travel there in their sixties to have their marriage made record. This was probably less for romantic reasons than practical.

Historians suggest that changing world circumstances might have been the strongest influence to come into play. European and American court cases and land treaties were not favorable toward those whose marriages were formed à la façon du pays. A new territorial judge, James Doty, presiding in what would become present-day Green Bay, pronounced that these marriages were not legal. He held one of the first grand juries, wherein thirty-six men in Green Bay were indicted on charges of fornication and two more on adultery. Most of them, to avoid a fine, married their common law wives in the duly authorized fashion. 

At the same time, more protestant missionaries were coming to the region and gaining influence where Catholicism had long been established. It was only six months after a visit from protestant missionary Jedidiah Stevens, who was unable to convert them, that Michel and Madeleine were married in the Catholic church. Though no one can say for sure, it's possible that Michel and Madeleine saw the handwriting on the wall as to these coming changes across the country, and how they could affect their business and their family. Perhaps even their adult children had some influence in this regard, as the "legitimizing" of their marriage could affect all their descendants. Whatever their reasons, it is true that Michel and Madeleine established a life-long relationship begun in the custom of the country.

My novel Mist O'er the Voyageur refers to these marriage customs, and the sequel, Song for the Hunter, releasing in January 2022, is set on Madeline Island at the time Michel Cadotte was the fur trader there. Michel and Madeleine both play a large role in the story as well, though of course in a largely fictionalized fashion. Still, I try to keep as true as the historical record allows to life there at the time. I hope you'll consider adding both books to your TBR list. 

Also, in March, my newsletter subscribers are receiving a free novelette that takes place between the two books. The Long-Awaited Spring is an extended epilogue to Mist O'er the Voyageur and a prologue to Song for the Hunter. Sign up for my newsletter on my website, if you'd like to receive the March free read.

Happy Valentine's Month! Historically Yours,


Monday, January 18, 2021

The Red Stick War? What's that?

 Denise Weimer here, delighted to be back with you after a hiatus during which I was researching and writing some contemporary novels. But good news! My best writing ever will hit the shelves in April in the form of Bent Tree Bride, a Federal-era frontier romance set in the Southeastern states. Allow me to share some of the fascinating and little-known history behind it.

Gen. Jackson during War of 1812 as depicted in 1864 Harper's
Gen. Jackson as depicted in Harper's

When I tell people that Bent Tree Bride is the story of a mixed-blood Cherokee lieutenant who falls for his colonel’s daughter while fighting in the Cherokee Regiment during the Red Stick War portion of the War of 1812, most folks draw a complete blank, much less have any idea that Cherokee warriors turned the tide for General Andrew Jackson against the Red Stick Creek warriors at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. What was the Red Stick War, you may be asking.

In the early 1800s, the United States became caught up in the war between Britain and France. Our fledgling country resented British trade restrictions and naval impressments and feared Native Americans in the Northwest Territory who had decided they needed British support to prevent further American settlement. In 1811, Shawnee war chief Tecumseh traveled into Creek Indian Territory (primarily modern-day Alabama) to urge the Creeks to unite against the Americans. It’s said someone threatened him not to repeat that speech in Cherokee Territory (where many progressive chiefs embraced white ways), or they’d kill him. When the Red Stick Creeks (those who sided with Tecumseh and the British—their naming is another story) began attacking National Creeks (those who did not want war), the National Creeks called to the Cherokees for aid.

In July 1813, militia from Fort Mims, near Mobile, ambushed a Red Stick supply caravan, leading to a skirmish at Burnt Corn Creek. Reprisal occurred at Fort Mims, where most of the civilians and soldiers were killed except for the slaves.

The governors of Tennessee and Georgia asked for Cherokee enlistments in the militia. When Cherokee Chief The Ridge failed to sway a neutral Cherokee Council, he rounded up volunteers himself. But then a Cherokee woman was killed by Red Sticks, drawing first blood in a conflict, and Principal Chief Pathkiller gave his blessing for his warriors to fight alongside the Americans. They agreed to supply five to seven hundred men for 39-year-old Colonel Gideon Morgan’s Cherokee Regiment. Though white, Morgan had a Cherokee wife and lived within Cherokee Territory. In late November 1813, they repair to Fort Strother on the Coosa River, southwest of present-day Gadsden. From this rough-and-tumble, hundred-yard-square enclosure, the adventure of Bent Tree Bride begins. 

Represented by Hartline Literary Agency, Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. She’s a managing editor for the historical imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and the author of almost a dozen published novels and a number of novellas. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses!

Connect with Denise here:

Monthly Newsletter Sign-up





For more information, Toward the Setting Sun by Brian Hicks and Forging a Cherokee-American Alliance in the Creek War: From Creation to Betrayal by Susan M. Abram


Monday, January 11, 2021

Researching the 16th Century: Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

In a year full of uncertainty and isolation, I was blessed to not only sign another book contract, but also do onsite research for the story. Daughters of the Lost Colony: Elinor is scheduled for a December 2021 release. This was not a story I expected to get to tell--but I am so excited to present it to y'all!

After writing already about the Lost Colony and where recent research indicates they went after leaving Roanoke Island, I'll be sharing more bits and pieces of the story: key players in the Lost Colony saga and maybe even some of the political aspects of the era.

But first, the setting itself.

An important part of research for me is to walk the ground where my characters walked, when possible. To get a taste of what a particular area might have looked, smelled, and felt like, especially in a historical context. So after my niece's wedding in July, near Boston, my daughters and I headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My journey took me in reverse order from history, with Buxton on Hatteras Island being our first stop, but Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is properly the first location to be covered chronologically. It's where Ralph Lane of the disastrous 1585-86 expedition built an earthenworks fort, and where the 1587 expedition landed, originally just to check on the 15-some men left to hold an English presence in the New World but then temporarily settling there after being informed their navigator would take them no further. The actual site of the resulting village and its palisade fort is unknown, but archaeological research found the location of Lane's fort, and a reconstruction was commissioned in the 1950's.

Informational plackards at the site explain that it's obvious the fort would have been too small to shelter an entire settlement. The exact site of the village Lane and his men built then abandoned, and the 15 occupied for however long, is unknown, but that would be where the Lost Colony first took up residence, so I had fun imagining what this area might have looked like with a cluster of English cottages nearby. 


The ampitheater belonging to the modern-day Lost Colony drama production is also located here, so we poked about there as well. It provides a lovely view of the ocean, and the currently unused Elizabethan-inspired buildings added to the atmosphere of historical mystery. And of course the ever-gorgeous maritime forest of pine and oak possess a charm all their own!



Outside the entrance to the ampitheater lies the beginning of a walking trail, with paths leading down to the beach. We didn't have time for the whole route, but a side path led us to a spot where I wanted to linger and linger, overlooking Albemarle Sound. You can bet my imagination ran wild here!


It isn't hard to envision what those first English explorers might have seen when first setting foot here, how enchanted they must have been with the fragrance of the pines and the tallness of the trees, and how strange and yet a part of the forest the native people might have appeared . . .

And how those same people might have felt, seeing their first Europeans, with their equally strange clothing and armor . . .

To be continued!