Today, I've invited Michelle Boule over to talk about Colorado in 1858 and her book Lightning in the Dark. Take it away Michelle!
My Turning Creek series is set in Colorado in 1858 because if I could live anywhere in the world, it would be the Rocky Mountains and I love 1800’s in the American West. I confess to loving the show Young Riders so much that I wrote fan fiction for it in sixth grade.
Look at all those pretty faces. How could you say no to those characters riding over the hills at a breakneck pace? I was absolutely obsessed with the Pony Express for a long time after the show was cancelled. It still makes my heart flutter.
Like many frontier states, Colorado has some colorful history. The west attracted people of all walks of life, making it a true melting pot. Throw in a mining boom and you have the recipe for some truly hilariously strange shenanigans and some inspiring tales. In celebration of one of my favorite states, I give you four little known facts about Colorado.
Claim Jumping a County Seat
Claim-jumping, the practice of stealing a mining claim through thievery and occupation, is a time-honored tradition in mining towns. In 1862, the town of Breckenridge took this to an extreme.
Parkville, a town down the road from Breckenridge, had the distinction of being the county seat of Summit County. Breckinridge decided they wanted the honor for themselves, so one moonlit night, a heist took place. A group of individuals rode into Parkville and stuffed all the official county documents into a burlap sack and then hurried home. The documents stayed hidden in the basement of a cabin on Main Street in Breckenridge for a few months while things settled down.
Parkville did make an effort to steal the documents back after Breckenridge brought them out in the open and claimed to be the seat of the county, but the effort failed. Parkville’s prosperity declined until 1882 when a landslide of mining debris covered what was left of the once boom town. Breckenridge remains the seat of Summit County today.
Drinking has long been a favored pastime in the Rockies. The first permanent structure in Denver, CO was a saloon. In 1858 Denver, called Denver City then, was named after Kansas Territorial Governor James Denver. There were other names in contention but the other city politicians were won over to the merits of the Denver name for a shared barrel of whiskey. Cheers!
Inspirational Views from the Fourteeners
There are 89 Fourteeners, mountains over 14,000 feet, in the United States and 53 of them are in Colorado. Katherine Lee Bates spent the summer of 1893 teaching English at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. One day, she went hiking with some fellow teachers to the top of Pike’s Peak, whose elevation tops out at 14,115 feet. Inspired by the view from the top, she wrote the words to a poem called America the Beautiful, which would later be put to the music of the hymn by Samuel Ward.
Diversity in the West
It has long been known that the west was a place for people to start over, build new lives, and leave some of the rigid rules of society behind. By some counts, almost one third of the pioneers who headed to Colorado in the 1800s were black. They came as farmers, teachers, cowboys, blacksmiths, and many other professions. There is a museum in Denver, The Black American West Museum, that pays tribute to the spirit and grit of these pioneers. It is housed in the former home of Justina Ford, Colorado’s first black woman doctor. Until the 1930s, there was an all black town in Colorado called Dearfield, which boasted over 500 residents.
If you love a place so much you know random things about it, tell us in the comments. We want to know.
Descended from the mythical harpies, Petra Celaeno is content living a solitary life in the Colorado Territory until she meets dairy farmer, James Lloyd. As her relationship with James grows, Petra fights against her harpy instincts and questions the traditions of her ancestors. James Lloyd came to Colorado looking for a fresh start, but he can not shake his obsession with a favorite myth from childhood. Something sinister is lurking beneath the earth of the Rockies and it is calling to James. Life in the small town of Turning Creek is about to change. A terrible prophecy will be fulfilled and Petra will have to choose between protecting her home and saving the man she has come to love.
The first book in her Turning Creek series, Lightning in the Dark is available at the following places:
The second book,
Storm in the Mountains,
comes out in June.
Michelle Boule has been, at various times, a librarian, a bookstore clerk, an administrative assistant, a wife, a mother, a writer, and a dreamer trying to change the world. She is married to a rocket scientist and has two small boys. She brews her own beer, will read almost anything in book form, loves to cook, bake, go camping, and believes Joss Whedon is a genius. She dislikes steamed zucchini, snow skiing, and running. Unless there are zombies. She would run if there were zombies.