8 Year Anniversary party winners: Joan Hochstetler's book winner is -- Caryl Kane, Naomi Musch's ebook goes to Crissy Yoder Shamion, Roseanna White's winner is -- Connie Saunders, Pegg Thomas's "A Bouquet of Brides" goes to Deanna Stevens, Debra E. Marvin's winner is -- Becky Dempsey, Carrie Fancett Pagels' giveaway of Colonial Michilimackinac: Michigan State Parks goes to Wilani Wahl, Carla Olson Gade's winner is Leila Reynolds, Shannon McNear -- Kaitlin Covel

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Wonders of the Colonial Frontier: Wildlife

Back in August, I wrote about the South Carolina wilderness as it appeared to early European settlers, and promised I'd discuss the different types of wildlife that populated this frontier. Years ago, at Charles Towne Landing, a state park in Charleston, South Carolina, site of the earliest permanent settlement in the area, visitors could walk through an area called the Animal Forest and see examples of such wildlife. I've no idea to what degree the park maintains this area--so much else there has changed, though the park website still advertises it as an attraction--but our family has never forgotten our visits. Panthers, wolves, elk, bison, black bears, wild turkeys, and otters shared space with alligators, foxes, raccoons, and other critters who remain when others moved west or were hunted into scarcity.

John Henry Logan describes great herds of elk and bison across the Carolinas in the early 1700's, and explorers across Cumberland Gap into Kentucky attest to the richness of game in that area as well. When I researched for my Daughters of the Mayflower title The Cumberland Bride, I was under the impression that the elk and bison had mostly disappeared by 1800, but later research revealed this was not so.

One noteworthy source that I haven't covered before is the letters of Sarah McClendon, a settler to western Kentucky, near the Ohio River and a little south of what would become Henderson, about 1794. I ran across this woman's letters, a rather rambly reminisce of her early married life and late husband for the benefit of their three sons, while researching for my upcoming book The Blue Cloak, and found a fascinating trove of all sorts of tidbits, despite misspellings. Sarah recounts how the region they settled was frequented by large herds of elk and bison, and she mentions the curiosity of flocks of parrots, sometimes referred to as the Carolina parakeet.
Carolina Parakeet, stuffed and mounted at the Field Museum

Interestingly, Wikipedia had this to say about the bird:

The Carolina parakeet had the northern-most range of any known parrot. It was found from southern New England and New York and Wisconsin to Kentucky, Tennessee and the Gulf of Mexico. It has also had a wide distribution west of the Mississippi River, as far west as eastern Colorado. Its range was described by early explorers thus: the 43rd parallel as the northern limit, the 26th as the most southern, the 73rd and 106th meridians as the eastern and western boundaries respectively, the range included all or portions of at least 28 states.[Note 6] Its habitats were old-growth wetland forests along rivers and in swamps especially in the Mississippi-Missouri drainage basin with large hollow trees including cypress and sycamore to use as roosting and nesting sites. 
I may have geeked a little at that last line, imagining flocks of the exotic bird flitting through the Congaree National Park, my feature last month!

Additional note: it should not surprise me when I find various resources for giving people a taste of what our land was like during earlier days--and two such relevant places are the Elk & Bison Prairie, and Blackfish Bison Ranch, both in Kentucky. I haven't visited either place, but they look interesting! (The photo at the top of my post is borrowed from the former site.)

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Battle of Bushy Run (Part 1) and New Fiction: The Highlanders Romance Collection

In one short month (November 15th to be exact) THE HIGHLANDERS novella collection is due to release, in which each story features a different period of history, and in each one, a heroic Highlander. My story in the collection, titled A TENDER SIEGE, is set on the American Colonial frontier.

You might be wondering what Scottish highlanders would have to do with the American Colonial period. Surprisingly (or not) quite a number of highland regiments fought on the soil of the North American continent. Most of those occurrences took place during the French and Indian Wars. A Tender Siege features such a soldier of His Majesty’s 42nd Highlanders.

The Period

Last May, I wrote a piece called Pontiac and the Conspiracy that Shook an Empire about the Odawa leader who, on the heels of the last French and Indian War, attempted to form a vast confederacy (some said conspiracy) that would renew the fight against the English. Pontiac’s War, as it came to be called, represented the greatest threat of the 18th century against the British colonies here in America. It’s during this uprising that A Tender Siege is set.

The Set-Up

As the story begins, we see highland soldier Lachlan McRae marching through the forest under the command of a professional Swiss soldier, Colonel Henry Bouquet. Since June, highlanders of the 42nd and 77th regiments have been arriving from Staten Island to bolster Bouquet's forces. In the sweltering heat of July, they are finally on their way to relieve the Indians’ siege of Fort Pitt in the Pennsylvania wilderness.

A Little More History

The Indians had been wreaking havoc and fury at forts up and down the frontier. They had already captured Forts Detroit, Sandusky, St. Joseph, Miami, Ouiatenon, Michilimackinac, Venango, LeBoeuf, and Presqu’Isle. They have fired on Fort Ligonier and have massacred both soldiers and settlers. During that same time, the Indians continued plucking away at the small contingent of soldiers and families sheltering inside Fort Pitt. The people there have run out of provisions, and communication lines have broken.

After an initial ten days’ march, Bouquet’s army arrived first at Fort Bedford. There Bouquet recruited scouts and woodsmen to join some of his fiercest highlanders in leading them onward. He also procured what further supplies he could. The army then continued on to Fort Ligonier where it transferred mountainous bags of flour it had been carrying in barrels onto 340 packhorses.

Back to the Story

It is now August 5th, as hot and humid a day as ever there could be, as Bouquet commands his army along a small creek where they might fill their canteens, just five miles east of Bushy Run Station. Surrounded by hills and forests, thirsty and exhausted, the troops plod on both wearily and warily, when the forest comes aliv My hero, Lachlan McRea, is wounded and separated from his troops.

Following is the back cover copy of the story. Next month (November 1st) I’ll tell you what happened next in the Battle of Bushy Run, and I'll share a little more history behind the story of:


Pontiac’s War, August 1763:

“I beg Ye to take me.” Wounded in battle in the American wilderness, Lachlan McRea of His Majesty’s 42nd Highlanders pleads with God, yearning to be reunited with his lost wife and child. As death hovers near, he is discovered by Wenonah, a native widow doing all she can to survive alone while avoiding the attentions of a dangerous Shawnee warrior. In aiding one another, their perils increase. If Lachlan can let go of the woman he once loved, he might find healing for both body and soul.

Loving history, loving story,
Naomi Musch

Friday, September 27, 2019

Wonders of the Colonial Frontier: Congaree National Park

What did the colonial frontier look like?

Last month I quoted from the writings of John Henry Logan, describing what the South Carolina backcountry looked like when European settlers first arrived. Just a few weeks later, my son and daughter-in-law (then expecting baby #3 any day!) granted me a walk through Congaree National Park near Columbia, SC, as a Sunday-after-church attempt to "walk the baby out." (It didn't work. Baby girl delayed her appearance for 5 more days, but then arrived in one of THE sweetest births I've ever had the privilege to witness!)

Ahem. Excuse my Grammie sidetrack. I did spend most of the walk geeking out over what is billed as South Carolina's last remaining old-growth forest.

I took a ton of photos, but it was nearly impossible to capture just how tall and massive some of these trees are ...

The forest is comprised of beech, cypress, tupelo, oak, loblolly pine (where the famed "heart pine" came from), and so many others. The tupelos were noteworthy because the moss growing thickly on the lower trunks marks where the high-water line is during seasonal floods.

Also, remember my reference last month to canebrakes, and how the plant was a type of bamboo? WRONG. It's related to sugarcane ... bamboo is actually an invasive species not native to the American southeast. Can you imagine these, growing 20-30 feet high, as Logan described?

... wetlands, full of cypress and tupelo ...

... a very short video clip with my daughter Corrie reading about the largest loblolly pine ...

... the palmetto, for which South Carolina is named ...

... remember Logan's description of peavines, as high as a horse's withers? I spied ONE. A small one. But I was delighted to recognize it!

What's a visit to the forest without creepy-crawlies? I'd never seen a millipede this huge ...

And we were excited to see this luna moth ....

 Look close at the ruggedness of that forest floor--those are cypress knees, everywhere! Can you imagine walking or riding a horse through this? Definitely not terribly passable by wagon ...

And last but maybe not least, a quick clip of me surveying my surroundings. (Sound up ... )

Monday, September 23, 2019

Eighteenth-Century Hygiene: Dental Care

Today I’m wrapping up my series on 18th century hygiene with a look at dental care. When you’re researching a particular period, as we historical fiction writers do, you run across a lot of fascinating information about how people lived and took care of themselves back in the day. Though I doubt any specifics related to this subject will ever show up in my books, it does make a good, and in some instances hair-raising, topic for a blog post. So let’s delve into what was going on with teeth back in the 1700s.

No matter what class you belonged to, in past centuries everyone suffered from tooth decay and gum disease. Malaria, smallpox, scurvy, syphilis, and other diseases that can contribute to tooth decay were prevalent. Another contributor was the common diet, which consisted mainly of heavy meat dishes, salt-cured meats, sugary desserts, sweetened tea and coffee, and sweet wines and other alcoholic beverages, with little in the way of fresh fruits and vegetables. A well-known proverb of the time also maintained that a woman would lose a tooth with each pregnancy.

Egyptian Toothbrush
Naturally people wanted to look good and avoid pain, so daily tooth care was as imperative as it is today. The earliest type of toothbrush was made by the Egyptians and Babylonians, who chewed or mashed the ends of twigs until they were frayed, then used them to scrub debris from their teeth. Over the centuries, strips of linen, sponges, feathers, animal bones, and porcupine quills were also used for this purpose. When collections of cosmetic recipes became popular, mouthwashes and tooth powders were often included. Some of these contained abrasives like pumice or sugary substances like honey, which obviously would have been counterproductive, but there were a few that actually worked pretty well.

Eighteenth-century Toothbrush Handles
The Chinese invented the modern toothbrush between 1498 and 1600 by inserting coarse boar bristles into holes drilled into bamboo or animal bone handles. These devices eventually made their way west. The first reference to toothbrushes in Europe appeared in 1690, and in the early 1700s an Italian company, Marvis Toothpaste, filled the need by making toothpaste. British toothbrushes often used softer horsehair or even feathers. But in 1780 when William Addis began to mass produce toothbrushes similar to the ones we know today, he used cattle bone for the handle and went back to boar bristles, which were more effective and longer lasting.

18th Century Dental Tools
Prior to and well into the 1700s, if you had problems with your teeth or lack thereof, you sought out your local doctor, barber, blacksmith, hairdresser, silversmith, or whomever advertised some kind of dental practice in you area. The main method of dealing with toothaches was extraction using forceps or a device called a pelican. During the 1700s an instrument called the key of Garengeot was developed. Later modified and called an English key, it was more efficient and less liable to fracture the jaw, teeth, or gums. Thank goodness for that!

English Key
The eighteenth century brought a flood of advancements in dental care. In 1711 Lorenz Heister of Frankfurt-am-Main published De Dentium Delore, a treatise on dentistry in which he opposed extracting teeth. Instead he advocated removing on the decayed part and filling the cavity with white wax, mastic or gold. Or lead foil. Yikes! I’m sure that suggestion had unintended consequences! However, if a large portion of the tooth had to be removed, he prescribed using prosthetics of ivory or hippopotamus tusks carved to fit. Then in 1756 a German surgeon advocated the use of electricity as a cure for toothache. Many other “experts” of the time claimed that steel magnets were effective in curing toothaches, though I haven’t found any evidence proving that this actually worked.

It was the French who led the way in dental science, with Pierre Fauchard (c.1690–1761) being considered the founder of modern dentistry. Before his time very little was written about dentistry, and methods were passed down from master to apprentice. Fauchard was the first to publish a comprehensive work on the subject, Le Chirurgien Dentiste (1728), in which he documented his own inventions along with all the knowledge available at that time. He also championed establishing a school of surgery where for the first time the theory and practice of dental surgery would be taught, thus elevating it to a practical science.

18th century illustration from an
Ottoman Turk dental book
Fauchard was the first to insist on comfortable seating for patients during operations and also debunked claims such as the belief that worms burrowed in teeth causing toothaches and tooth decay, which had been popular for over a thousand years. Various Chinese remedies were commonly promoted to get rid of these worms. Some brave souls actually used arsenic pills. One wonders what the consequences of that were! Nicolas Andry, dean of the medical faculty of Paris in 1724, was one of these proponents, even claiming he’d observed tooth worms through a microscope and describing them as having small round heads, a black spot, and a long body. He maintained that they caused bad breath and advised employing smoke from henbane seeds to cause them to drop out. Fauchard did his own research and ended up refuting these claims. In addition he strongly condemned the common use of popular elixirs and folk cures and maintained that acids derived from sugars were responsible for tooth decay.

Illustration of Denture Construction
in Le Chirurgien Dentiste  
Replacing missing teeth was another widespread concern. Let’s dismiss one erroneous claim: false teeth made of wood. Common sense tells us that wood, being porous, prone to decay in moist environments, and subject to warping and splintering under pressure wouldn’t be a good substitute for tooth enamel. Not to mention that wood has a taste. Ugh. If anyone ever tried it, I’m sure they quickly discarded the idea. And no, George Washington never had wooden teeth.

Dentures were constructed using animal bones; walrus, elephant, or hippopotamus ivory; or even actual human teeth. In 1710, Jacques Guillemeau combined a number of different materials to replicate teeth, and Fauchard used silver, mother of pearl, and even enameled copper. He made a full upper set of teeth for a high-ranking lady in 1737, which was held in place with springs, and also a full upper and lower set for a man who wore them for more than 24 years. Around 1774 Alexis Duchateau created the first dentures of fine porcelain, which were mounted on gold or platinum bases. John Hunter, surgeon-dentist to the British Army in 1776, did extensive research in extracting and replanting teeth. Live teeth subsequently became so sought after that ads appeared in newspapers offering money for them. But it was Philip Pfaff,  dentist to Frederick the Great, who made what is considered the most important contribution to dental science by developing the process of creating a plaster model of a patient’s teeth from a beeswax impression.
George Washington's Dentures

Back to George Washington. The future president of the United States began losing his teeth at the age of twenty-two. It’s believed that at some point he had a set of dentures made by the famous Parisian dentist Nicholas De Chemant, a pioneer in the creation of porcelain teeth. We do know that not long before his death his personal dentist, John Greenwood, created dentures for him with teeth carved of hippopotamus ivory and held in place with gold wire springs. Apparently these were a great improvement over what he had been wearing.

You’re probably familiar with one of the most well-known American dental practitioners: Paul Revere. He was a silversmith, and silver was often used in fillings and caps. He constructed a dental bridge for Dr. Joseph Warren, who was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill by a shot to the head. After the battle Revere identified Warren by his dental bridge, the first known case of postmortem dental forensics.

I was surprised that many of today’s dental procedures date back as far as the 1700s. Do any of these 18th century practices and advancements surprise—or perhaps horrify—you? Please share your thoughts!
J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is a professional editor, a publisher, and the author of award-winning historical fiction whose books have been endorsed by bestselling authors such as Laura Frantz, Lori Benton, Jocelyn Green, Michelle Moran, and MaryLu Tyndal. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. She is also the author of One Holy Night, which won the Christian Indie Publishing Association 2009 Book of the Year and co-authored the award-winning Northkill Amish Series with Bob Hostetler

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Cherokee-American Wars

Phase One, 1776-1783

by Denise Weimer

Their marriage of convenience offers Moravian missionaries John and Clarissa Kliest enough of a challenge in my novel releasing this month, The Witness Tree. But it’s certainly not the only hardship they face. It’s 1805, and the couple join a party journeying from the quaint town of Salem, North Carolina, into Cherokee Indian Territory. John, a builder and surveyor, and Clarissa, a linguist and teacher, are to lend their expertise at a mission school for children of the Cherokee chiefs in what is now Northwest Georgia. John yearns for adventure, but the fact that those same Indians were at war with the Americans just above a short decade ago makes Clarissa more than a little nervous.

The Cherokee-American Wars divide into two phases, 1776-1783, and 1783-1794. Today we’ll focus on that first phase, when the Cherokees fought as allies of Great Britain against America’s bid for independence.

Early on, when the English strategy focused on the North, the Cherokees received only supplies from coastal ports and limited joint operations in South Carolina. Each section of Cherokee warriors (Middle, Out and Valley Town; Lower Towns; and Overhill Towns) were to attack different portions of the frontier, with the Overhill under Dragging Canoe (along the lower Little Tennessee and Hiwassee rivers) proving especially fierce. On one of their raids in conjunction with the Shawnee, they captured the daughter of Daniel Boone and two other teenage girls in a canoe on the Kentucky River. Boone and his men rescued them, but the incident provided inspiration for the plot of The Last of the Mohicans. 

Charles Ferdinand Wimar (1853) painting of abduction of Boone's daughter

Colonial militia responded to the raids by attacking and destroying more than fifty towns. While the older Overhill chiefs wanted to sue for peace, and indeed peace was signed in April 1777 at Fort Patrick Henry, Dragging Canoe sent the women and children south of the Hiwassee and burned the villages they left behind. His warriors continued to raid to the Holston River, Cumberland settlements, French Broad River, and Wilkes County, Georgia (my setting for Across Three Autumns), until the end of the Revolution.

In my November post, we’ll look at the second phase of the Cherokee-American Wars. Meanwhile, if you’re curious how the Kliests’ mission work goes, it’s release day for The Witness Tree! Hop on over the Singing Librarian Books to find out more and enter a grand prize giveaway (The Witness Tree on Amazon / SLB Witness Tree Tour). 

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 Smitten Historical Romance imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and the author of The Georgia Gold Series, The Restoration Trilogy, and a number of novellas, including Across Three Autumns of Barbour’s Colonial Backcountry Brides Collection. A wife and mother of two daughters, she always pauses for coffee, chocolate, and old houses! Connect with Denise:

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