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.

Friday, April 2, 2021

The 22 Apostles - Jewels of Lake Superior

Don't islands spell romance? It seems to me the very notion of an island visit can conjure up images of beauty, rest, and romance--or in some cases, lurking danger.

Okay, my writer brain is already taking off. Today I want to introduce someone out there to the Apostle Islands. If you live in the upper Midwest, you probably know something about them, or maybe you've visited the Apostles yourself. I suspect that there are a lot of people who don't know about this national treasure.

The Apostle Island National Lakeshore is only fifty years old by designation as a national park, but its beauty and importance in our economy is centuries old. The Apostles sit just off the Bayfield peninsula in northern Wisconsin. The moody waters are home to a host of shipwrecks, some which can be seen from ferry tour boat when the waters are calm. The islands themselves carry the ghosts of past stories in abandoned places such as the schoolhouse on Sand Island once attended by fishermen's children, or in Stockton Island's silent brownstone quarry, or the earthy cabins of the historical fish camp on Manitou Island. All are empty now and slowly returning to the earth. 

Historical Fish Camp o Manitou Island

There are six lighthouses among the Apostle Islands. All six are registered on the National Register of Historic Places. Devil's Island Light - Image by Mike Goad from Pixabay

These "Jewels of Lake Superior" number not twelve apostles, as in the Biblical sense, but twenty-two, and they span 280 square miles. They're mostly sandstone, covered in forests. Over the centuries the islands have been home to European explorers, Native Americans, lighthouse keepers, fishermen, farmers, quarrymen, and loggers. Nowadays, only one of the islands is inhabited, and it is not included in national park status with the rest. Yet Madeline Island, the largest among the islands, is filled with history and pristine beauty. The next several images are a few of Madeline's views taken by my son's wife during their family day trip last summer. Check out the clear blue water. Great swimming, but it's much colder than you'd imagine. 

I love all the rock shelves!

And the flat-topped boulders!

Hello, Quinn and Everly! (I have to give a special shout-out, because today's his birthday.)

Brr! But I just want to jump right in! (And I have.)

On the southern tip of Madeline Island is a little known cemetery where Michel Cadotte, the area's most established trader is buried. Nearby, where a fort of the French and Indian war stood previously, he had established one of the premier trading posts of the region in the early 19th century. He and his family became well known in the fur trade. His wife Madeline, for whom the island is named, was born Equaysay, an Ojibwe princess, and raised on Wisconsin's nearby shores.

The sea caves prominent on the island shores and along Wisconsin's mainland.
Image by David Hamilton from Pixabay

Tourists and locals enjoy visiting the caves by kayak. In the winter, ice formations develop in the sea caves. During the winter of 2014, more than 95% of Lake Superior froze over--a nearly unheard of amount. The ice was 50 inches thick in some places. But that winter the caves were so amazing and accessible that 138,000 people trekked along the frozen shoreline to visit them. Many years the ice isn't safe enough for such a visit. My friend Julie Kramer made the journey and gives us great perspective with this shot.

Local friend and historian Dara Fillmore took these fabulous shots during her trek to the ice caves:

I love the juxtaposition of the ice and the sandstone layers.

What a view! Remember, the floor is ice, not rock!

Shh! Don't wake the abominable!

Stalactites...Icy Teeth!

For several months now on Colonial Quills, I've been sharing about the history and beautiful vistas of this region. My novel Song for the Hunter, releasing next January, is set mainly on Madeline Island during Michel Cadotte's reign as fur trader. Readers will become acquainted with the forests, rock ledges, and the historical trading post on Madeline Island. 

If visiting this beautiful setting appeals to you, you can reach the island by ferry. You'll find a small but wonderful museum there, campgrounds, beaches, hiking trails, and a couple places to eat and stay. I hope to go back there this summer. If I do, I'll bring back some more photos to share of these historical locations.

Bayfield Harbor and the Madeline Island Ferry

Have you ever visited the Apostle Islands? 

Find the party here: Journeying with Jenny
Join 13 authors at this event! I'll be hosting the April 11th, Noon-1:00 pm slot, Central Time (1pm-2pm Eastern). Besides sharing a few things about The Love Coward, I'll be hosting a couple of giveaways, and party-goers will be the first ones in on a cover reveal for a new Barbour romance compilation coming out next February!
Naomi Musch

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Formation of the Cherokee Regiment, Red Stick War

by Denise Weimer

As the release date for my Eastern frontier historical romance, Bent Tree Bride, approaches, I’ve shared the history behind the Red Stick War ( and the summer of 1813 battles at Burnt Corn Creek and Fort Mims ( to lay out events framing this little-known part of the War of 1812. We saw that a portion of the Creek Indians of modern-day Alabama, called Red Sticks, allied to the British in an attempt to keep their lands, while the Cherokees joined American forces under General Andrew Jackson with the same goal in mind. When the Red Stick Creeks began attacking their National Creek brethren, many National Creeks swarmed into Cherokee villages for refuge and called on the Cherokees for military defense. So did the Tennessee militia, later joined by Georgia and Mississippi militia.

On September 26, 1813, Cherokee Chief Charles Hicks, the real-life father of my fictional hero, Sam Hicks, relayed to the Cherokee Council the formal call to war by U.S. Indian Agent Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs, under Brigadier General James White of Knoxville. Cherokee Headman John Walker, whose son was married to the daughter of Meigs, replied that the Cherokees would supply five to seven hundred men.

By the way, the Walker-Meigs marriage of a Cherokee man to a white woman was very unique, and when my hero falls in love with his colonel’s daughter, he uses it to argue a precedent to his father in Bent Tree Bride. During the time, white men often took Cherokee wives, but the reverse was rare.

The volunteers were to serve a three-month stint in Colonel Gideon Morgan’s Cherokee Regiment of seven companies. Morgan had married a Cherokee woman and settled on their land, so he made a trusted leader. He serves as inspiration for Colonel Moore, my heroine’s father. Many of the Cherokee enlistees were past or present members of the Cherokee Lighthorse Brigade, a mounted patrol unit established by Cherokee Chief The Ridge in 1808. These veterans enlisted as men of rank or earned promotion.

Thirty-nine-year-old Cherokee Captain David McNair led a special spy or scout unit which my hero belongs to, made up of seventeen mounted volunteers from different companies. They were to wear white plumes or deer tails in their hair to identify themselves as American allies.

Many Tennessee militiamen mistrusted their Cherokee counterparts due to the
fact that they’d been enemies as recently as the late-1700s. The militia made their way into Creek Territory, to the newly and roughly constructed, hundred-yard-square Fort Strother at the junction of the Coosa River and Canoe Creek. Across the shoals of the river was a small, friendly Creek village known as Oti Palin, Ten Islands. The fort included an eight-hut hospital complex, twenty-five tents for soldiers, and space for a hundred hogs. At Fort Strother and Turkey Town, much of the action of Bent Tree Bride takes place.

On October 29, 1813, a large group of Cherokees mustered into service at the Cherokee Agency, where Meigs addressed them, saying, “We are a band of brothers in this war acting in a common cause.” He cautioned them against “acts of barbarity” and promised that honor would come to those who served if they rejected traditional values that stressed individual action for status.

From the fort at Hiwassee, they navigated the mountains of Northern Alabama by way of the Cherokee village of Turkey Town. There they learned the Red Sticks had gathered in a nearby village. The Cherokees set out on their own to confront them, finding the victims of General Coffee’s Tennessee militia at Tallushatchee … where my conflicted Cherokee lieutenant first tests himself in action.

My May post will relate what actually happened at Tallushatchee and Talladega.

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 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:
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Friday, March 12, 2021

Two Revolutionary War Era First-Hand Accounts

In the mid-eighties, I began writing what later became A Heart For Freedom, a story that centered around an eighteenth-century ordinary. Later, Setting Two Hearts Free would also take place at the same ordinary, Stewarts' Green.     Ordinaries were business establishments placed in towns, and on or near roads to accommodate travelers. They also often were located near river-crossings for the same reason. Rooms for sleeping, meals, and care for horses were all provided at a reasonable cost.

When I was researching for the story, I met a couple who lived in what was once an eighteenth-century ordinary only ten miles from where I lived in Loudoun County, VA. Visiting Cattail Ordinary was such a treat. It was located not far from what was a colonial thoroughfare as well as a ferry crossing. The owners generously lent me a book, The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell: 1774-1777. He was a British traveler who stayed in the ordinary on more than one occasion. It detailed all of his travels throughout the colonies and frontier. The same journal has since been republished several times, more recently as A Man Apart.

Anyone who writes for or visits this site enjoys history, but reading a first-person account of an era gives the reader a greater insight into the attitudes and experiences of people at the time. Since this journal was written by an Englishman who visited the colonies from 1774 to 1777, his observations and understanding would be different than a participant in the war or from the viewpoint of a historian.  

Nicholas Cresswell sailed to Virginia, believing that “a person with a small fortune may live much better and make greater improvements in America than he can possibly do in England.” In his mid-twenties, he was seeking to independently establish himself in America but those plans would be thwarted by the onset of the Revolution. Though a subject of King George, Cresswell was by no means an advocate of the colonial Loyalists. He expresses some objectivity in the book for both the Loyalist and the Patriot causes. The diary he maintained covered his travels primarily in the mid-Atlantic region and the frontier, what is now Ohio and Illinois. His observations are interesting. His experience was certainly tainted by the timing of his visit, and would have been so different had he come at another time.

A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier
by Joseph Plumb Martin provides an entirely different wartime experience not only because it is written by a man who enlisted as a Patriot at fifteen but it was written when he was a seventy-year-old man. It is believed that he based this narrative on journals he may have kept in his younger years. Time and maturity no doubt influenced the retelling of his experiences providing perspective. Had he written it during the war, he no doubt would have been less objective. The son of a “wandering clergyman” Joseph was raised by his grandparents in Connecticut. He details numerous battles he participated in and often endured extreme starvation and hardship. Among tales of friendship, he tells unflattering stories of hardhearted civilians and dishonest soldiers. He learned there were many Loyalists among his countrymen and discovered that the war was not only against the invading British army but was also a civil war often dividing neighbors and families. It’s a fascinating commentary by someone who was there.

Do you enjoy reading historical events by people who were present?

Monday, March 8, 2021

John White: Artist For the New World and First Governor of Virginia

"The pictures of sondrye things," the inscription reads, "collected and counterfeited [copied] according to the truth in the voyage made by Sir Walter Raleigh knight for the discovery of La Virginea. In the 27th yeare of the most happie reigne of our Soveraigne lady Queene Elizabeth. And in the yeare of Lord God 1585."

These are the words and hand of John White, appointed first as professional artist and mapmaker to three separate voyages to the New World.

We know him best as first Governor of Virginia, the name given to territory claimed on behalf of the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth, but his first experience in the New World was in 1577, on an expedition led by Martin Frobisher to what is now known as Newfoundland. A single watercolor survives of that adventure, showing the English explorers under attack by Inuit warriors. One of those warriors, as well as an Inuit woman and child, were carried back to England and put on display. White sketched and later colored portraits of these unfortunate people, and I was delighted to find images of all in the online archives of the British Museum.

It has been commented that White not only portrayed the indigenous peoples of the New World with a realism uncharacteristic of the era, but with sensitivity and grace.

Don't you just love the face of the baby peeking out of his (her?) mother's hood?

In 1584 and 1585, White accompanied two other expeditions, both to Virginia. His map of the coast was remarkably accurate, by modern standards:

Dozens of his watercolor sketches also survive of various flora and fauna, presumably of England as well as the New World. The man had an amazing eye for detail, and the patience to reproduce it for the world to see.

Once again, however, it's his portraits of the people of the New World--of what would become North Carolina, here--that I find most arresting. Charged with "painting to life" the land and peoples, he did so, capturing faces and scenes from the Caribbean up through Florida as well as the dress and manners of the Carolina Algonquin peoples. In so doing, he provides the only view we have of this time and region.

He sketches and paints with so much realism, in fact, that it's somewhat problematic for modern sensibilities. This Algonquin woman, identified by White as "one of the wyves of Wyngyno," a weroance or chief of Secotan, stands in a pose that every woman ever will easily recognize. Thomas Harriot, a prominent scientist and mathematician who worked alongside White during the 1585 expedition, described it as "maydenlike modestye." Indigenous manner of dress accommodates the bare essentials of modesty, at least in summertime, but only barely. I can imagine what they must have thought of the English with their many layers! We know from their writings that the English regarded them to varying degrees as very much lesser peoples.

Interestingly, though, some--Harriot included--felt the Algonquin peoples had much to teach the English, not the least of all that they ate much more healthfully and without the excess the English were prone to. In his written account, A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, first published in 1590 with woodcut prints of White's sketches, Harriot commented that the only area where they seemed deficient was their understanding of spiritual things, and told of his efforts to explain to them the basics of Christianity. He also speaks in scathing terms of those who went to the New World only to look for gold and silver and cared for nothing else, or who were of delicate upbringing and could not handle the primitive conditions of the New World.
For those who read my last post on our visit to Roanoke Island Festival Park, these next two prints illustrate what the park attempts to bring to life in their Algonquin life displays:

"The broyling of their fish over the flame of fier"

... and the town of Secotan, a coastal Algonquin community:

The complaint is made that Harriot's writings, and White's work as well, was only carried out with an eye to the economic feasibility of supporting an English colony in the New World, but both men could be credited with seeing the Algonquins as a people in their own right and worthy of respect and dignity, even when others did not.

For John White, this respect served him well as Governor of Virginia, however short-lived was his time there in 1587. We know from his own account how grieved he was to leave, and how intensely he desired his colonists to live with love and friendship with the Croatoan people and their neighbors.

For further study:

All images © The Trustees of the British Museum. Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence.

Friday, March 5, 2021

American Colonial History and the Rest of the World in 1620

I've always enjoyed looking back at one aspect or period of history and reminding myself of all the other things happening at that same time. You know...taking a look at the bigger picture going on around the world. 

Take for instance the year 1620, the date which generally marks the beginning of the American colonial period. In that year 102 pilgrims embarked from Plymouth, England on the Mayflower along with 30 crew bound for the new world. Later that same year those pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact and established Plymouth Colony. We tend to look at most of the world's happenings back then through the lens of what the pilgrims were doing. That's the way we learned it as kids.

Plymouth Rock

When I was a child trying to grasp history, I had the unfounded notion that the pilgrims were the only Europeans in North America at the time. The "New World" was really new! I relegated the Spaniards to explorations in Central America far, far way (another thing I had wrong). The rest of the world ceased turning in light of the colony being established in Massachusetts. 

But in fact, by the time the Pilgrims landed, there had already been a lot of exploration going on just to the north (in Canada), across the Great Lakes, and down the Mississippi to the Gulf. The French had been working at establishing themselves on the North American continent for many years before the pilgrims arrived. In 1620, whilst our intrepid pilgrims were setting sail away from Europe, Henri II, Duc de Montmorency was named Viceroy of New France. With Samuel de Champlain as his lieutenant, he began construction of Fort Saint Louis on the cliffs of Quebec. He then formed a company that was granted an 11-year fur trade monopoly in the New World.

If you remember my earlier posts, you'll recall that fur was the cornerstone on which the entire North American economy was built, so France definitely had the first foothold.

Meanwhile, King James I got it in his mind to commission William Alexander to reclaim New France and Acadia, and the coureur des bois (the free fur traders) founded the trading post called Palace Royal in present-day Montreal. 

All while the Pilgrims were just trying to survive their first year on North American shores.

I mention all this because of of how very important it is to understand our developing nation as a whole. While the arrival of the pilgrims was a huge event that we look to when we consider the colonial period, North America was already being shaped by others, some indigenous, and others as explorers, businessmen, priests, soldiers, and adventurers.   

Just for fun and further insight, here are a handful of other important events that took place around the world in 1620:

A 1715 etching depicting the torture of John Sarkander

*St. John Sarkander, a Polish-Moravian priest, died of injuries sustained by prolonged torture. It's a long story, connected by ongoing conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Europe's Thirty Years War, which had begun only two years earlier.*The first merry-go-round was seen at a fair in Turkey.

*The mother of Johannes Kepler, German astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer, was arrested for witchcraft.

*Witch hunts also begin in Scotland.

*The modern violin was developed.

*An navigable undersea boat (type of submarine) was  demonstrated in the Thames River, England.

*A sign alphabet was developed by Juan Pablo Bonet, a teacher of deaf children in Spain.


Are there periods of history or specific historical events that you enjoy studying within the larger context of what was taking place in the world at that time?

Naomi Musch