November Tea Party Winners: Carrie Fancett Pagels' copy of The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection - Debbie Curto, Christmas tea - Andrea Stephens, Golden Tea body wash Joy Ellis, lighthouse earrings -- Pegg's SIL from Lake Ann and Perrianne Askew, Pegg Thomas's Leather journal - Shelia Hall, and Writing Prompts book goes to - Connie Porter Saunders

Monday, April 8, 2019

Fraktur Folk Art

Clarissa’s quill scratched, looping letters with the same artistry she dedicated to her Frakturschriften, the ornamental breaking of letters in German script style. Drawings and special sayings, or Spruchbänder, accompanied the swirling text. The technique represented breaking the artist’s self-will.

She paused and looked up. If she were to create a fraktur drawing now, what would it say? Matthew 16:24? Jesus’ own words: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

It had been all she could do to pinch her lips shut and not complain to John about being jostled those endless miles in the wagon with the groaning Pleasant while Rosina gleaned the facts about their destination Clarissa longed to learn. The unknown ahead mocked her. She had thought herself quite good at self-denial, but she’d begun to realize that the carefully ordered life of Salem had not tested her the way the unstructured wilderness would. Clarissa shivered with the sense that her own fraktur, breaking, was only beginning.


Three Hearts Design Baptism Certificate

This glimpse into The Witness Tree, my novel releasing with Smitten Historical Romance this September, catches my heroine in a difficult time of transition. She’s just been joined to the brother of the man she wanted to wed in a marriage of convenience, and she’s on the long journey from the Moravian town of Salem, North Carolina, to Cherokee Territory. There, instead of exploring her beloved art, she’ll be teaching the children of chiefs. And expected to record their language, an assignment which could put her in danger.

1785 Fraktur poem
The art form of Frakturschriften, or fraktur, the ornamental breaking of letters, originated from the German, black-letter, Gothic-appearing text fonts of the early sixteenth century. It developed in the late 1700s into a folk art with recurrent motifs that included birds, hearts, wildlife, and tulips. Colors were rich and vibrant, with emphasis on balance and harmony. Mostly done with ink and watercolors on paper and sized roughly thirteen by sixteen, fraktur appeared in a number of forms:

  • Birth and baptism certificates
  • Marriage and house blessings
  • Book plates
  • Floral and figurative scenes
  • Love letters and love knots
  • Private rooms 

Germanic school teachers helped perpetuate fraktur folk art. While my research centered on Moravian fraktur, it was very common among Mennonites as well as Lutherans and Reformed Pennsylvania Germans.
Mennonite Fraktur

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 here:

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Friday, March 29, 2019

Far from Home. American Prisoners of War during the War of 1812.

Dartmoor Prison/ Wikipedia
It should come to no one’s surprise that there is an endless amount of information to learn in history, even if you focus on a few decades. While I’ve done quite a bit of research into the era of the War of 1812, it was only recently that my browsing took me (figuratively) to HM Prison Dartmoor.

Devon County, England / Wikipedia
I was quite surprised that American prisoners-of-war were sent that far away.

His/Her Majesty’s Prison at Dartmoor was built in an out-of-the-way location high on a moor in Devon county when prison ships used during the Napoleonic war couldn’t hold any more. Built from 1806 to 1809, by 1815 Dartmoor held almost 6000 prisoners, both French and American.
Some of the prisoners were Americans who’d been impressed into British naval service during the war with France, and a fair number of them were free blacks who’d crewed Privateers.

Dartmoor seemed to work as its own town. Even the prisoners had their own form of government, and were allowed to create a market, casino and multiple churches. Life was hardly pleasant as floggings were commonly handed out for the least of acts. Surviving meant you were healthy enough to handle pneumonia, smallpox, and frequent food poisoning. For those that did survive, there was boxing and music lessons, or you might join a theater production. 
HMS Victory / Wikipedia
Trouble boiled over after the Treaty of Ghent was announced in December 1814. Much like the famous Battle of New Orleans that occurred after this date, the American prisoners’ release was dependent on ratification of the treaty and the time it took for news to travel. By April of 1815, American prisoners revolted and were fired upon. Conditions were so bad inside the jail that it was closed after all French and American surviving prisoners were gone. 
Newspaper archives, Marblehead, MA

One thing that didn’t surprise me was the fact many black prisoners chose any option other than taking a ship back to any seaport in the southern states.

Dartmoor in the 21st Century /Wikipedia
Dartmoor reopened in 1850 as a jail/gaol for British criminals and closed again in 1917 when it was used to house conscientious objectors. By 1920 it returned into service as a jail in 1920 and was notorious for housing the worst of Britain’s offenders. Now it’s both a historic site and, in parts that have been renovated, used as a “category C” facility for non-violent offenders, and is home to a museum with exhibits focusing on its use during those early 19th Century decades.

I’m not sure I can imagine the trials of being taken prisoner, shipped to England and then held in such a facility as a prisoner of war. No wonder few came out unscathed by permanent injury and health issues as well as what we now call PTSD.
For fans of our colonial history, we'd love to share our novella collection, Backcountry Brides, available in paperback and digital ebook.

As one completely comfortable with our modern conveniences, what aspect of confinement in Dartmoor Prison of the early 1800s most bothers you?


Friday, March 22, 2019

Point Iroquois Lighthouse and the Massacre of 1662

Isn't that a beautiful lighthouse? Point Iroquois Lighthouse is at the foot of Whitefish Bay (made famous around the country by Gordon Lightfoot's song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald") on Lake Superior. It was built in 1870, replacing the first wooden structures that had served there since 1857. It operated as a functioning lighthouse until 1962, when it was replaced by an automated light across the shipping channel near Gros Cap, Ontario. The building was placed on the list of National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Why is this significant? My husband and I are in the process of applying to be the volunteer lighthouse keepers for a year in 2022. The volunteer keepers live in the larger side of the lighthouse duplex - to the right in this photo - while the smaller side and the tower are open to the public from mid-May to early-October every year. Our duties would include keeping the grounds, greeting guests, working in the little bookstore (yes! it has a bookstore!), and performing the general maintenance.

If this all works out, I can only imagine sitting in this historic building, looking out over majestic Lake Superior, and writing down the stories they want me to tell.

Why talk about this on Colonial Quills? Because this area was very busy during the Colonial period. The first white men to come were the French explorers Brule and Grenoble. Point Iroquois became a familiar landmark for the French explorers, fur traders, and missionaries who followed.

The name of the place, Point Iroquois, comes from an Indian massacre that happened here in 1662. The local natives were Ojibwe who fished and hunted the area. In 1662, an Iroquois war party invaded in an attempt to control more of the fur trade. The Ojibwe defeated the Iroquois on the shores where the lighthouse stands today. The Ojibwe called this place "Nau-do-we-e-gun-ing," which means "Place of Iroquois Bones."

While our history books fixate on only the greed and expansion of the Europeans in this country, it's good to remember that people are people no matter the color of their skin. The desire for a better life - however one defines that - is not and never was limited to one sector of the human race. The Ojibwe slaughtered the Iroquois in 1662 to stop their westward expansion and protect their own interests. In the years that followed, they'd fight many more battles with other tribes as well as the Europeans who came with their metal pots, woven cloth, whiskey, and guns. But they couldn't stop progress any more than we can today. Yesterday's metal pots are today's cell phones. Can you imagine going back to a time before we had them?

Pegg Thomas writes "History with a Touch of Humor."

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Retreat Fit for a Queen: Le Petit Trianon

Le Petit Trianon, West Facade
Tucked amid a former botanical garden inside the grounds of Le Grand Trianon, Louis XIV’s retreat southeast of the Palace of Versailles, is a small gem. Le Petit Trianon is a cube-shaped château that Louis XV built for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. After his ascension to the throne in 1774, 20-year-old Louis XVI gave it and the surrounding park to his 19-year-old wife, Marie Antoinette, for her exclusive use. The queen and the beautifully landscaped gardens surrounding the chateau make an appearance in my upcoming release, Refiner’s Fire.

Queen’s Private Chamber
The château features a central colonnaded gallery, or peristyle, that opens onto the central courtyard on one side and the gardens on the other. The building is a delightful example of the transition from the Rococo style of the earlier 18th century to the more sober, refined Neoclassical style of the 1760s and to the following decades. The small palace has four facades, each designed in relation to the portion of the estate it faces, and the steps on the western façade compensate for the different levels of the château’s inclined site. A retreat fit for a queen indeed.

Dining Room
Features were included in the design to minimize interaction between guests and servants. It was planned for the tables in the dining room to be mechanically lowered and raised through the floorboards so that the servants below could set it without being seen. Although they were never built, visitors can see the mechanics for them. The decor of the queen’s boudoir also features mirrored panels that can be raised or lowered with a crank to cover the windows so no one could see inside, and within the room they reflected candlelight. And her simple, but elegant bedroom is consistent with her general style. The queen also redesigned and expanded the gardens surrounding the château. New features she had built were the Belvedere, the Love Pavilion, and the French Pavilion.

Eastern Overlook from the Love Monument
Marie Antoinette, who was from Austria, endured a great deal of pressure and judgment from both her family and the French court at Versailles. Le Petit Trianon became her private retreat where she could relax and do whatever she pleased. She made many expensive changes and updates to the property to suit her taste, which only increased the criticism directed at her, however. In addition only members of her inner circle were invited; no one could enter the property without her express permission—evidently including Louis XVI himself. This alienated the courtiers who were left out, which is what she intended. And since she withdrew there so often for privacy and escape from the pressures and duties of being queen, she was vilified even more.

Here is a video on the gardens of the Trianon estate, which includes Le Petit Trianon.

The monarchy’s lavish expenditures on extravagances such as these when the common people of France lived in poverty finally led to the French Revolution. And tragically to the execution of both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette on the guillotine.

If you were like Marie Antoinette and had no budget restrictions, what would your ideal retreat from daily life look like? Let your imagination roam, and share your wildest dreams!
J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers, a lifelong student of history, and an author, editor, and publisher. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Book 6, Refiner’s Fire, releases in June 2019. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series coauthored with Bob Hostetler, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 Indie Book of the Year Bronze Award for historical fiction. Book 2, The Return, received the 2017 Interviews and Reviews Silver Award for Historical Fiction and was named one of Shelf Unbound’s 2018 Notable Indie Books. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year and a finalist in the Carol Award.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Colonial and Federal-era Surveying

What is a witness tree, and why is The Witness Tree the title of my upcoming novel? This story of a marriage of convenience starts in 1805 Moravian Salem, North Carolina, and follows an unlikely couple to the mission field in the Cherokee Nation. My heroine, Clarissa, is a teacher and linguist, and the hero, John Kliest, is a surveyor and adventurer.
A witness tree or bearing tree was a large, healthy tree within twenty feet of the corner of a property, chosen and marked by a Colonial or Federal-era surveyor. The surveyor etched either three blazes on the side facing the corner, or two blazes—one chest-high and one near the ground, in case the tree were to be illegally felled. Using a tree scribe knife, the surveyor would inscribe the blaze with the township, range, and section. He would then record the exact distance and bearing from the corner to the tree in his notes, along with the taxon and diameter.
The exact property corner would be marked with an iron pipe or rod, stone wall, or stone. But because these markers could be moved, the witness tree provided a vital second record.
Rittenhouse Colonial Compass
Surveyors used a compass on wooden legs with detachable sights—commonly called a circumferentor—to view the lines of the property. He sighted through an oval vane with a wire or horsehair stretched across the opening, then his assistants would help measure with a metal Gunter chain. The full-length English chain proved difficult for Colonial surveyors to drag through the wilderness, so they often used half-chains, two thirty-three foot poles of fifty links each.
In my novel, the witness trees in both Salem and Cherokee Territory serve a dual purpose, not only marking property boundaries, but as spots to secret messages! Who’s passing these messages? Find out when the book releases in September with LPC’s Smitten imprint.
Gunter Half-Chain
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 here: