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

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:

Monday, March 11, 2019

Colonial Abolitionist John Laurens

A miniature of Laurens by Charles Wilson Peale
The popularity of the musical Hamilton has brought some refreshing familiarity with the colonial era and some of its more obscure inhabitants to general society in the past couple of years. One such figure is John Laurens, son of Henry Laurens, South Carolina planter and first president of the Continental Congress. (Also later a prisoner in the Tower of London.)

Like many planters’ sons, John went overseas for his education. While there, he married Martha Manning, the daughter of one of his father’s business associates—but by his own admission, out of “pity,” to save her reputation and the legitimacy of their child, which Martha was already expecting. Because of the outbreak of the American Revolution, he left Martha in England shortly thereafter and threw himself into the war effort, where he distinguished himself as brave to the point of recklessness, won the approval of George Washington, and found immediate friendships with Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette.

The Laurens family cemetery, Berkeley County, SC
It was in 1779, however, when the British had just launched the Southern Campaign, that John Laurens’s character as a political and social maverick truly came to the fore. He argued with his father that after the fall of Savannah, Georgia, Charles Towne could be most effectively defended if the Continental Army would only enlist blacks. Henry Laurens had claimed to be in favor of abolition, despite making much of his fortune from slave trading and growing rice, and even went so far as to agree to give John forty of his enslaved men to form the core of a black regiment, with the promise of freedom at the end of the war if they served faithfully—a move that would have caused John to effectively forfeit his own inheritance. The idea was met with much resistance from other South Carolina planters and political leaders. Henry Laurens, feeling the pinch of that opposition from his own peers, and doubtless feeling caught between what he saw as reality vs. idealism, responded to his son with what basically amounted to, This will never be agreed to; sit down and stop rocking the boat, because you don’t understand the reality of our times and culture. John tried three different times to bring the measure before the South Carolina legislature, only to have it refused every time—and in May 1780, Charleston did indeed fall and remained under British rule until December 1782.

Blue hyacinth marking the grave of John Laurens
In August, during the last year of British occupation, John Laurens met an early death, the result of his famed recklessness in battle. He was buried on the banks of the Cooper River, beside family at Mepkin Plantation, now known as Mepkin Abbey. Though John’s vision died with him, many feel that such forward-thinking suggestions, and his insistence that enslaved Africans were indeed persons of worth and potential equal to any of European descent, set the stage for later abolitionist movements. His attempt to see blacks armed in the defense of our country, and later freed, definitely foreshadowed the debates of the Civil War era. Many have argued that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was merely a strategical military move and not in the best interest of enslaved Negroes in general, but by the end of the Civil War, even the Confederates had reluctantly agreed to offer freedom to enslaved black men in exchange for military service—but too late to save the Confederacy. The parallels, however, are fascinating.

Friday, March 8, 2019


Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, I was taught in school that America’s Founders were Deists. But as I continued to study American history throughout my life, I’ve come to a very different conclusion. Let’s start out with the definition of Deism.

Deism is the belief in a supreme being who is a creator who does not intervene in the universe. Deists believe in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe.

Deism was an intellectual movement that took place during the 17th and 18th centuries. It accepted the existence of a creator but rejected the belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind. This is the same period of the Enlightenment or the Age of Reason, a philosophical movement primarily in Europe and, later, in America. It exalted human intellect and questioned traditional authority.

But back to our founders and their prayers. I could include many more of our founder’s prayers, but it would take too many pages, so here are just a few.

Please note: Many obviously believed in, and were supplicating to, the God who cares and intervene in the lives of people.

George Washington’s Journals detail his morning and evening prayers. Here’s a couple:

 Sunday Morning Prayer:
"Almighty God, and most merciful father, who didst command the children of Israel to offer a daily sacrifice to thee, that thereby they might glorify and praise thee for thy protection both night and day, receive, O Lord, my morning sacrifice which I now offer up to thee; I yield thee humble and hearty thanks that thou has preserved me from the danger of the night past, and brought me to the light of the day, and the comforts thereof, a day which is consecrated ot thine own service and for thine own honor. Let my heart, therefore, Gracious God, be so affected with the glory and majesty of it, that I may not do mine own works, but wait on thee, and discharge those weighty duties thou requirest of me, and since thou art a God of pure eyes, and wilt be sanctified in all who draw near unto thee, who doest not regard the sacrifice of fools, nor hear sinners who tread in thy courts, pardon, I beseech thee, my sins, remove them from thy presence, as far as the east is from the west, and accept of me for the merits of thy son Jesus Christ, that when I come into thy temple, and compass thine altar, my prayers may come before thee as incense; and as thou wouldst hear me calling upon thee in my prayers, so give me grace to hear thee calling on me in thy word, that it may be wisdom, righteousness, reconciliation and peace to the saving of the soul in the day of the Lord Jesus. Grant that I may hear it with reverence, receive it with meekness, mingle it with faith, and that it may accomplish in me, Gracious God, the good work for which thou has sent it. Bless my family, kindred, friends and country, be our God & guide this day and for ever for his sake, who lay down in the Grave and arose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."
Monday Morning Prayer:

“O eternal and everlasting God, I presume to present myself this morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and has given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body and soul.
Direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb, and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit, from the dross of my natural corruption, that I may with more freedom of mind and liberty of will serve thee, the ever lasting God, in righteousness and holiness this day, and all the days of my life.
George Washington praying at Valley Forge by Arnold Friberg
Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the Gospel. Give me repentance from dead works. Pardon my wanderings, & direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation. Teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments. Make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber. But daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life.Bless my family, friends & kindred unite us all in praising & glorifying thee in all our works begun, continued, and ended, when we shall come to make our last account before thee blessed Saviour, who hath taught us thus to pray, our Father.”

 Patrick Henry ~ March 23, 1775

 “There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free…we must fight! -I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us! Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty…are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and He will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. . . There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Gentlemen may cry, Peace! peace! -but there is no peace…Is life so dear, and peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”           

Around five weeks into the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin recognized the members were in the midst of a number of divisive issues, at a stalemate while drafting the U. S. Constitution. Soon the delegates would return home to their states. He rose to speak to the assembled delegates and appealed for reconciliation and for God’s intervention. He challenged them to pray. Franklin’s appeal is recorded here:

“In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. . . . And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. . . . I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business.”

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Coureur Des Bois -- Rebel Adventurers of the Colonial Frontier

When we think of the explorers who opened up our vast continent, we tend to think of the great frontiersmen like Daniel Boone or overland adventurers like Lewis and Clark. But there was another type of explorer who, while less famous individually, collectively made untold inroads into the North American continent. They were the many intrepid Frenchman or Scots called simply, the Coureurs Des Bois.


Their English counterparts on Hudson Bay would have been called "woods-runners", and to the Anglo-Dutch of Albany they'd have been known as "bush-lopers". What was common between all of them was that they were drawn into the independent fur trade by the lure of adventure, freedom, and money.

A coureur des bois in the painting, La Vérendrye at the Lake of the Woods, circa 1900-1930 by Arthur H. Hider (1870-1952)

Note: The name Coureurs Des Bois is occasionally interchanged with that of the voyageurs, but while some coureurs des bois may have been enlisted as voyageurs, in fact, the coureurs des bois predated the influx of the voyaguers who were the canoe travelers hired to work for the big fur companies like the North West Company, the Hudson's Bay Company, the XY Company, or the American Fur Company.

While licensed fur traders had the blessing of the government and the fur companies, the coureurs des bois were unlicensed to trade, though trade they did. That's right. They were the rebels of the forest.

The French King, in an attempt to regulate trade, had created laws which forbade anyone to go into Indian country to trade except those of the monopoly company. Licenses were granted, but only to a select few. The government preferred the native population to bring their furs directly to French merchants. But as population increased, more and more young men looked to the fur trade for their living, and with only minimal licenses being issued, that meant they had no choice but to work independently. Young men began deserting their assigned seignories (farms) in New France and escaped to the wilderness, drawn by the prospect of fortune as well as the lure of an unstructured life in the Indian villages. It has been estimated that, by the end of the seventeenth century, possibly as may as one-third of able-bodied men had chosen the life of the coureur des bois, choosing to break the law and escape to the wilderness to trade for furs themselves. Once they had a taste of the free-roving, adventurous life of the coureur des bois, they seldom returned to the colonies or their farms, even though the punishment, if caught, would be severe.

These independent traders thought that operating outside government regulation a risk worth taking and a life worth living. They genuinely enjoyed the camaraderie of the First Nations people with whom they often settled and raised families, and they became fluent negotiators and adept guides.

You might think that since the coureurs des bois did their work illicitly, colonists would refuse to trade with them. However, not only did the colonists trade with them, when times were tough, colonists often took part in the trade and became coureurs des bois themselves.

You may recall in my article last month, I wrote of the explorer Du Luth, who belatedly recalled that'd he'd gone on his adventure without the proper license, and made a hurried attempt to remedy the situation by claiming all the land he explored for the King of France. There were some other famous explorers who began as coureur des bois as well. Here are several of the most notable:

  • Radisson and Groseilliers were brothers and coureurs des bois credited with establishing the Hudson Bay Company.
  • Étienne Brulé was the first European to see the Great Lakes.
  • Jean Nicolet explored the region around Green Bay and established peace with the Indians there.

Etienne Brulé
The coureur des bois were itinerant bush-rangers, whose explorations and inroads into the continent paved the way for many to follow.

Imagining the adventure~
Naomi Musch