Anniversary Tea Party winners: Shannon McNear's winner is carrie, Carrie Fancett Pagels' winner is Laurie Kilgore, Debra E. Marvin's -, Janet Grunst's winner is Caryl Kane - Denise Weimer's winner - Melissa M. for an e-book of The Witness Tree (contact Denise). Naomi Musch supplied a free download for everyone - Pegg Thomas's winner is Betsy Tieperman, Gabrielle Meyer's winner is Rory Lemond - Congratulations, all! Please private message your e-mail or mailing address to the authors.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Old Tools of Lumbering and Homesteading from By-Gone Years

Recently two paper mills owned by the Versa Paper Company were shut down in Wisconsin and Minnesota. One was in my hometown in central Wisconsin. It was a fixture there for decades before I was born (under different names) and the primary employer in the city. The other was in Duluth, not far from where I've lived most of my adult life. Hundreds of people lost their jobs.


It's hard for me to imagine such a decades-old industry just closing it's doors. Paper mills have been a part of our nation's economic infrastructure since its inception. In fact, logging's roots in America stretch back to the early 1600s. Begun by the driving need of lumber for shipbuilding, the role of logging expanded with the industrial revolution. The first American paper mill was built in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1690--although at that time paper was mostly produced from rags and other materials, hence the popularity of stories with the word Ragpicker in the title. That's also the reason my mom, a retired school teacher, used to warn her students against chewing on paper (a bizarre childhood habit of some): "because it might have been someone's dirty underwear." Thanks for that imagery, Mom. I've never forgotten. 😬 

By the mid-1800s the process of making paper from pulp wood was established. (Whew! Go ahead and chew your notebook, if you're so inclined.)

Soon settlers moved westward, and the broad ax became a staple tool of every man, both for carving his farm out of the forests and for cutting the logs he'd use to build his home.

Nowadays, logging is still a hundreds-of-billions of dollars-per-year business, so it sends shock waves through a community when a huge mill closes its doors. Everything has its time and its purpose though. Hopefully some entrepreneur will open the mills again.

All that brings me to a continued look from last month's post about old tools. Today I have some pictures to share of a few old logging tools here on our farm. This first one we bought at an auction when we were first married. Living here in the north woods, in the very land of Lumberjacks and Tall Tales, this tool has, no doubt, seen its share of use. At our house, its merely meant for hanging on the wall for decoration.

This thing is weighty! It takes a lot of muscle to wield it. This will soon be hanging on the wall behind our wood stove.

This is an interesting type of pick. Rather than have an ax opposite the pick head like a pickax, it's back end is flat. A pickaroon is used for easier handling of cut logs known as rounds. My husband has been using this to chip away at this giant cedar stump. Every now and then, our grandsons come along and give it a few whacks too. If the stump is ever gone, this little pickaroon is going on the wall with the broad ax.


You might not recognize this man-about-the-farm (my hubby Jeff), but you'll likely recognize the fact he's holding a two-man crosscut saw. Can you imagine the work it took to cut down those big trees back in the day? This item will soon be on our living room wall. (That's a honey-do job, Jeffrey.) The mystery item next to it in the grass is shown closeup below.

MATTOCK (head)

This was a real find! Jeff found this out in woods, beneath a layer of soil, where he happened to be getting firewood. Who knows how many years this mattock head lay buried there? A mattock is pick on one side and adze on the other. It's used for digging, prying, and chopping. A great tool, not only for loggers, but for homesteaders clearing a bit of ground. I'm happily accepting ideas for a cool way to display this piece or re-purpose it. It's heavy!

Like many paper mills these days, these tools are largely retired. You can still purchase modern versions of some that come without the reminisce factor. A couple of other old logging tools I'd like to get a hold of are a cant hook and a peavey. I could've sworn we had a cant hook somewhere, but apparently I imagined that. With slight variations, both are tools that consist of a handle with a swing hook and are used for gripping, moving, and separating logs. In my novel The Green Veil, the hero, Manason Kade, and his crew use these tools for their work, though when it comes to giving some no-good tree-thieves their comeuppance, they depend mostly on their brawn.   

I didn't set out originally to collect logging tools, but it became an interest as I wrote set within the parameters of my state history. Have you ever begun any collections in an unusual way?

Enjoy your summer!

Friday, July 24, 2020

History I Shouldn't Write - Vol. III

I've been having a discussion on the History I Shouldn't Write - Vol I and History I Shouldn't Write - Vol II. I've talked about how research unveils truths that may not be popular or palatable in our modern culture.

Delaware Indians | ClipArt ETCI'm still researching and writing a series of books set during Pontiac's Rebellion in 1763. This was a brutal time in our history - no doubt - and parts of it fly in the face of what "everyone knows" about the Native Americans.

One subject that's always expressed in terms of the European invaders is slavery. But did you realize that Native Americans also practiced it? Not in the exact same way, since they didn't own or operate large plantations, but in one of the first-hand accounts I read, the journal of a young man taken captive by a Native American, he clearly is put to work as a slave. His freedom is gone, he's tied in the wigwam at night so that he can't escape, and he's made to work long hours at backbreaking labor with no compensation or hope of release. He is - in every way - a slave, so much so that he is sold to a French trader before being stolen by another Native American and returned to slavery.

This is another subject I can't write about in my novels, at least, not without repercussions. "Everyone knows" that slavery was black Africans owned by white Europeans. That is true. It happened. It was a detestable practice. That Native Americans also practiced it shouldn't really surprise the reader, because pretty much every culture on earth practiced slavery in some form. Native Americans were as human as the rest of us and as capable of doing the unthinkable to their fellow human beings. The fact that slavery was practiced by many, many cultures neither excuses or legitimizes the practice. It simply is how the world worked at that time.

But I fear that it will not be accepted as part of my stories. At least, not a large part. Maybe a subtle mention, but no more. It's a truth today's reader with our modern prejudices doesn't want to see.

Monday, July 20, 2020

In the Name of Religious Freedom

French Florida
Or, America's Earliest Colonial History, Part 2.

Right after my last post, a friend messaged me:
I saw your Colonial Quill post. You know how every time one thinks one has history down and then another obscure fact crops up that changes everything? Yeah, that. The first interest in colonizing America wasn't fueled by Queen Elizabeth, who was hoping to stop Spanish expansion. Before that, Jean Ribault landed on the shores of Florida hoping to set up a colony. For Huguenots, I believe.
Take a peek at this beautiful website. You're welcome. Makes me long to write a story about this man and the people he sought to defend--although now, alas, I am under contract for a story featuring another, but maybe not so different, group.

That group would be the famed Lost Colonists of Roanoke Island.

These days, even the word "colonial" has a bad name. I've written about this before.

Emperor Gojong of Joseon (Korea)
Truth is, every empire down through history has sought to grow their holdings and increase their wealth by annexing other lands and peoples. I was recently reminded of this while watching, of all things, a Korean drama with my youngest girl, set during the early 1900's, a particularly turbulent time of Korean history. Joseon (Korea) was just beginning to open up to Western ways, just beginning to not immediately put Christians to death, and struggling to find her place between China, Russia, America, and Japan. The latter, that tiny but ridiculously ambitious island nation, made no secret of its desire to make Korea a colony of Japan. Ruthlessness and political maneuvering were the standard of the day, and corruption abounded.

Good Queen Bess at her coronation
Not so very different from the time of Queen Elizabeth. "Good Queen Bess" furthered her father's move in breaking away from the Church of Rome by establishing the Church of England. Bloodshed between Catholics and Protestants abounded, and religious views were the standard by which political views were judged. Ireland suffered a harsh and bloody takeover by England, for reasons which I will not get into here, but doubtless that set the precedent for what later happened on American shores. When Elizabeth granted Sir Walter Raleigh his charter for a colony in the New World, however, she was very clear that it was at least in part for the purpose of furthering the Gospel to unreached peoples, but plenty of folk in England were unhappy enough with the way things were going in the newborn Anglican Church that they wished to either purify the Church (thus, Puritans) or create their own group entirely (Separatists).

Most feared, however, were the Spanish. Spain already had holdings across South America, and their treasure galleons were the most coveted prize of English privateers. Staunchly Catholic to the point of meting out torture and death to those who disagreed (the Spanish Inquisition, anyone?), they were equally ruthless on the sea. The English were by far not the only ones to suffer at Spanish hands. As outlined in the website I shared above, French Huguenots sought refuge on what is now the Florida and South Carolina coast, but were seen as a threat to Spain's supremacy in the New World and met with death once their Protestant leanings were made known.

Marker at Fort Matanzas National Park
Lee Miller theorizes in her book Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony that the group which set sail in 1587 under Governor John White, seeking to establish the first permanent English settlement in the New World, were Separatists. If so, the fate of French Huguenots would have been fairly fresh, and avoiding the Spanish at all costs would have been uppermost on their minds. Brandon Fullam makes the case in The Lost Colony of Roanoke: New Perspectives that this would have been a good reason why they settled on Roanoke Island rather than going north to the Chesapeake as originally planned. Maybe it's just my own firm Christian faith, but I find the Separatist theory quite compelling. It certainly wouldn't be the first time that a people group migrated in search of religious freedom, would it?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Panis at Fort Michilimackinac--The Forgotten Native American Slaves

Interpretive Assistant LeeAnn Ewer at Colonial Michilimackinac

Colonial Michilimackinac is operating during the Pandemic and is offering new programs this year. I love to visit this colonial-era fort when I am up North researching my books. On one of my visits, I looked through a record of the people baptized by the French priest. There were places where the person was referred to as a "Panis" which I learned was a captured Native American slave from a different tribe. And I was, I admit it, shocked to read of the baptism of babies born to Panis (enslaved) women and the father's name being listed (their owner). We don't think too much about the enslaved Native Americans when we think of slavery in our county.

This year, there is a specific program about the Panis in colonial Northern America, from the early days before European arrivals, to the French, English and finally Americans. We were able to hear LeeAnn Ewer, Interpretive Assistant for the Mackinac State Parks, give a presentation July 1, 2020, at Fort Michilimackinac. We've been privileged to hear her before, and she does an outstanding job. (She has an amazing Pinterest page, too, with Boards of all kinds of colonial-era goodies.)

Some touchpoint about the Panis:

  • They were called Panis based on the Pawnees captives taken in as slaves but later referred to any Native American captive who was from "away" from the area to where they were taken.
  • They are often the forgotten Indian slaves because there are few records of them.
  • Church records of baptisms have been helpful in learning a little of their stories.
  • The way in which they were introduced into households changed over time.
  • Modern people don't know much about the history of the enslavement of captured Native American slaves but it was widespread and led to later legislation.
Ms. Ewer recommended the book Bonds of Alliance by Brett Rushforth, which has won multiple awards, as a great resource for more information on Native American slave trade. 
Fort Michilimackinac

If you're planning a trip up North, be sure to plan to visit Fort Michilimackinac and all of the parks in the Mackinac State Historic Parks. If you're fortunate, you'll get to hear Ms. Ewer's wonderful presentation. You can also check the schedule ahead of time to see what topics are covered that day.

Friday, July 10, 2020

THREE WEDDINGS . . . and some funerals

The third story in my Revolutionary War series, Setting Two Hearts Free, releases in early October. It begins in 1781, five years after A Heart For Freedom ends. It primarily follows the next generation of the Duncan and Stewart families.

The Revolutionary War is winding down, but many battles will still be fought until the peace is signed in 1783.  The story’s characters face numerous dangers, challenges, tragedies, and joys, which will include three weddings and some funerals.

In this post, let’s focus on the uplifting, weddings in Colonial Virginia, primarily amongst the middle class.

A little background on Virginia’s religious affiliation in the eighteenth century:

While there were Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, and Methodists in Virginia the colony was primarily Anglican, protected by law, supported through taxes, and run by vestries. Anglican clergy had to be ordained in England and they often ministered to several churches within their parish. In 1786, Virginia passed a statute and disestablished from the Church of England.

The wedding:

Before a marriage could take place, the couple needed to be twenty-one or have the permission of a parent or guardian. A license stating that no legal reasons restricted the marriage was required or banns had to be published for three consecutive meetings at the church.

Weddings were at times held in churches, but often they took place in the home of the bride
conducted by a minister. The minister would have performed the marriage ceremony from the 1750 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. Weddings were festive occasions that often took place during the colder months so as not to interfere with planting or harvesting. They were not held during Lent or right before Christmas. The groom presented his bride with a ring but he did not receive one in return.

Brides either made or purchased a new gown that would be suitable for other occasions following the wedding. A Christian bride might wear flowers in her hair or a bonnet, but no veil. They did not carry wedding bouquets White wedding gowns did not come into vogue until the Victorian era. A meal, including a wedding cake and toasts, followed the ceremony, and often dancing ensued. Honeymoons did not come into vogue until the 19th century.

Some couples who lacked permission or chose not to license or post banns married through “handfasting”, where they would hold hands and speak their vows before witnesses. These ceremonies were often conducted before blacksmiths where the smithies anvil symbolized the forging of their union.

I hope you will read about and enjoy the weddings in Setting Two Hearts Free.
For more information about Colonial weddings, you can read J. M. Hochstetler’s excellent post from 2011 at