Friday, December 15, 2017

Dixie Land: A Song of the South?

The song “Dixie Land” has often come under attack, especially in recent times. It’s usually considered a song that divides the races and the north from the south. Surprisingly, however, the song did not originate in the south.

And perhaps the term Dixie, within this context, does not refer to the southern states at all. Actually, the origin of the word Dixie is in dispute. Many believe it derives from Dixon of the Mason-Dixon line fame. Because of a border dispute between Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed the area between 1763 and 1767 and thus divided northern and southern states. This purported origin of Dixie is questioned by some who point to the fact that those north of the line are not referred to as Masons. 

Another theory is that the term Dixie comes from the word Dix once printed on ten-dollar notes in New Orleans. Dixie appears to have referred to that area and then spread to include all of the south.

And still others claim the “Dixie” of the song refers not to the south at all, but to the John Dixie farm once located at Long Island, New York.

Whatever the origin of the term Dixie, Dan Emmett, of Mount Vernon, Ohio, is credited with the song’s authorship. 


Over 37 others claim to have written the song, and some appear to have validity, such as the claim made on behalf of Thomas Snowden. The Snowdens were an African-American musical family. The grandparents of Thomas Snowden owned a neighboring farm to the Emmetts, and although evidence remains circumstantial, local lore claims Thomas Snowden taught the song to Dan Emmett. (see Snowden Family Band

The first performance by Dan Emmett was on April 4, 1859 in a minstrel show at Mechanic’s Hall on Broadway. The song’s popularity soon grew, in the north as well as the south.

However, on February 18, 1861, less than two years after its first performance, it became forever interwoven into the Rebel cause. At Jefferson Davis’s inauguration in Montgomery, Alabama, musicians played “Dixie,” and it inspired Confederate armies, becoming their battle song and unofficial National Anthem.

Courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History

After General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln requested the band to play the song, declaring it “one of the best tunes I ever heard.” Some view Lincoln’s request as a wish to reunite the nation.

And in view of that, a united nation, let’s notice the extra stanzas, copyrighted in 1917, “The U.S.A. Forever” by Angus S. Hibbard.

Come, all who live in the U.S.A.,
Join in our song and sing today,
Work away, work away for the land of the free;
United, firm, with every state,
To make a nation good and great,
Work away, work away, for the land of the free.

The North and South, the East and West,
We love them all, for all are best,
Work away, work away, for the land of the free;
United States in hearts and hands
Will make the greatest of all lands,
Work away, work away, for the land of the free.

The U.S.A. forever, hurray! Hurray!
The Stars and Stripes shall wave above
The U.S.A. forever.
Hurray! hurray! The U.S.A. forever!

Hurray! hurray! The Stars and Stripes forever.

It’s ironic that the song, perhaps written by an African-American, Thomas Snowden, in the northern state of Ohio, and perhaps referring to a farm in New York, later became strongly associated with the Confederacy.

May we, as a nation, never let a song divide us when we can add the stanzas to unite us.

Hurray! Hurray! The U.S.A. forever!
May we forever stand!

*Information gathered from 
Encyclopedia of Alabama, 
Michael F. Edwards (Historical News of Alabama), 
and Dixie, Wikipedia page

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sugar plums and Sugar Beets

by Shanna Hatfield

While I was researching some historical tidbits to include in my current release, I happened upon an article about sugar beets in an issue of the Heppner newspaper from the autumn of 1901. 

It surprised me to read the article, because I had no idea sugar beet production had begun so early in the century in the Eastern Oregon area. According to that article, 35,000 tons of sugar beets were harvested that autumn in nearby La Grande, Oregon.  

Sugar beets derived from many years of breeding domesticated beets. During the 1700s, a German chemist discovered beetroots contained a form of sucrose that couldn’t be distinguished from the sweetener produced from cane. Production could take place in temperate climates, but a method of extraction had yet to be developed. Once extraction procedures were established, factories began to pop up and eventually made their way to America.  

Today, more than half of the sugar produced in the United States is derived from sugar beets. My uncle grew sugar beets and my cousin proudly carries on the tradition. And I’m always more than happy to eat the fruits of their labors.

It seemed fitting to include a little mention of sugar beets in a story that features a baker who creates any number of delicious, decadent, sweet treats.

Treats the hero of my story is incapable of ignoring, especially her oatmeal cookies.

Confection long

The Christmas Confection

Hardman Holidays Book 6
 Born to an outlaw father and a shrewish mother, Fred Decker feels obligated to atone for the past without much hope for his future. If he possessed a lick of sense, he’d pack up and leave the town where he was born and raised, but something… someone… unknowingly holds him there. Captivated by Hardman’s beautiful baker, Fred fights the undeniable attraction. He buries himself in his work, refusing to let his heart dream.
Elsa Lindstrom adores the life she’s carved out for herself in a small Eastern Oregon town. She and her twin brother, Ethan, run their own bakery where she delights in creating delicious treats. Then Ethan comes home unexpectedly married, the drunks in town mistakenly identify her as a missing harlot, and a mishap in the bakery leaves her at the mercy of the most gossiped-about man in Hardman.
Mix in the arrival of three fairy-like aunts, blend with a criminal bent on dastardly schemes, and sprinkle in a hidden cache of gold for a sweet Victorian romance brimming with laughter and heartwarming holiday cheer.

“Well…” Fred gave her an odd look as he stood in the doorway with autumn sunshine spilling all around him.  “There are two other things I’d like.”
“Two?” Elsa asked, wiping her hands on her apron and facing him. “What might those two things be?” She anticipated him asking for a batch of rolls or perhaps a chocolate cake.
“My first request is simple. Please call me Fred. I’d like to think, after all this, we’re friends and all my friends call me Fred.”
Elsa nodded in agreement. “We are friends, Mr. Deck… er, I mean Fred. If you want me to call you Fred then you best refer to me as Elsa.”
The pleased grin on his face broadened. “Very well, Elsa.”
Her knees wobbled at the sound of his deep voice saying her name, but she resisted the urge to grip the counter for support. “You said there were two things you wanted, in addition to cookies. What is the second?”
“It’s a tiny little thing really,” Fred said, tightly gripping his hat in both hands.
“A tiny little thing? Then I shall take great honor in bestowing whatever it is.” Her gaze roved over the kitchen, trying to imagine what in the world Fred could want. She kept a jar full of assorted candy. Sometimes, she used the sweets to decorate cakes and cookies. Perhaps he wanted one. “A piece of candy?” she asked.
Fred shook his head. “No, Elsa. It’s sweeter than candy and far, far better.”
Intrigued, she took a step closer to him. “What is it?”
He waggled his index finger back and forth, indicating she should step closer. When she stood so her skirts brushed against the toes of his boots, he tapped his cheek with the same finger. “A little sugar right here would be even better than ten batches of cookies.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas in the Old West

American Christmas traditions in the mid to late nineteenth century were very similar to what we enjoy today. Obviously, technology has advanced our gift giving and decorating traditions, but the concepts are the same.

Larger cities and warmer climates made for Christmas seasons full of cheer. Traditions were easier to follow and people were more mobile because the weather wasn’t quite so harsh, even in the northern cities. Goods were more plentiful – for gift giving and for cooking. 

Pioneers and those who lived off the land in the Old West, had more difficulty during the winter months. Blizzards and icy cold winds were just part of a regular winter on the plains and in the mountains. Celebrating the Christmas season wasn’t necessarily without joy. Difficult, yes, but not impossible as there were many ways the pioneers found to be festive and happy.

Much of society in the Old West revolved around church and community. Sleigh rides and snowball fights. Decorating a tree and draping the mantle with evergreen boughs. Greeting cards and warm holiday wishes. Stockings hanging on the fireplace and gifts. Feasting with family and friends. 

The holiday traditions from the more civilized areas of the country and the pioneer regions of the west were similar, indeed. Though the pioneer way of life with limitations and more hazards was simpler. 

Pioneers were strong people. They made it through nearly impossible weather conditions – blizzards, droughts, wind and rain storms. But no matter how difficult life was for them, they found ways to celebrate the happiest time of the year. The Christmas holiday represented hope and love for mankind in those days, just as it does today.

Bringing in an evergreen from the woods was a joyful event for the entire family. They’d gather to decorate with ribbons, yarn, berries, or whatever they had. Carved toys and dolls were often hung on the tree as those were prized possessions of the children and worthy of a special place on the tree. Even a small home would accommodate a tree, though it might look more like an evergreen bouquet rather than the grand trees we normally think of.

Even if the family didn’t do much to decorate their home, the holiday feast was a vital part of the celebration. Preserves and pickles were saved for this special meal. The best meats were brought home to be roasted in the open hearth for the celebration feast. The women started baking early to be sure to have all the pies, cakes, puddings, and cookies ready for the family and visitors they would host. The children were often treated to small hard candies if parents could afford such luxuries. Of course, only the good little boys and girls were given these much wished for treats.

Gift giving was modest according to the standards of the larger cities. Most gifts were home made. Family members would start working on special surprises for parents, children, and siblings months in advance of the season. Knitted items, embroidered delicates, dolls made of corn husks or rags, carved toys, or even furniture were special items that would be cherished and treasured.

And finally, Christmas Eve would arrive. Most families would sing carols together and read the Christmas story in their well-worn Bible. Maybe they’d tell some fairy tales. They may enjoy visits from neighbors who were welcomed to join their family traditions. 

On Christmas morning, most of the community would be present for the Christmas service where the children would be absolutely wild with wonder and happiness. Praising God for His most perfect gift, each family would return home to enjoy a traditional holiday meal. A feast that had been prepared with care and love for all who would join around the table on that day.

Yes, the spirit of Christmas was alive and well in the Old West. Simple. Humble. Sincere. Filled with love.

Remember Cutter's Creek, Montana? Christmas in Cutter's Creek was a joyful time. If you want to find out what happened at the annual Christmas festival in 1882, here's the best place to read all about it. Christmas Spirit is available on Amazon.

Annie Boone writes sweet western historical romance with a happy ending guaranteed in every single story. Inspiration comes in many forms and Annie finds more than one way to make her stories entertain and inspire.

To connect with Annie, find her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

Follow Annie on Amazon, Bookbub and get email updates.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Blog Tour Tuesday: Double Down on Love with Two Sweet Romances

When it was announced that the Winter release for Montana Sky Kindle World was going to be 'pairs of stories' released week after week, I was happy to have Nan O'Berry release on the same day with me. Nan & I write the "Three Rivers Express Series" set during the time of the Pony Express in Wyoming Territory 1860-1861.

We thought it might be fun to link out stories up from the opening scene. Both books start during a long night of gambling where my hero, Perceval "Hill" Hillard and her antagonist, Mr. Gaines are on their last hand of poker.

If you read both books, you'll see the opening scene told from their different perspectives. From there, the two stories diverge like paths in the woods.

See who wins a Gamble on Love!

Hold Her Close - by: Reina Torres - Amazon Link -

He was tired of gambling his life away, one lonely night after another. She was struggling to keep her family together. Maybe they could take a chance on love… together.

Perceval Hillard isn’t anything like his namesake from Arthurian Legend, but the men who sit down to a poker table with him, call him “Hill.” They knew they’d likely leave with their pockets empty and a sour look on their face. He’s made a fortune over his life and lost enough to know he’s nearly done. He wants a life away from the table. That didn’t mean marriage. What woman would want a man who’d made his living shuffling a deck of cards and that he’d wasted years of his life. 

Faith Carver could barely remember what it was like to be happy and carefree. All her younger brothers could remember were long days and cold nights. They lost their father first and their mother to illness after that. Selling off their mother’s precious collection of books has gotten them so far, but when their travels puts a strain on her brother’s health, they stop in Sweetwater Springs, and Faith needs to find a job to cover their expenses. 

Hill is sure he’s seeing things when he finds an angel wiping down the table at the Saloon. She was made for quiet days in a home full of things as beautiful as she is, not working until her hands are raw and red. When he finds out that Faith isn’t traveling alone, he’s surprised that he finds himself warming up to the Carver family instead of running in the opposite direction. Falling in love with an innocent like Faith might be the biggest gamble he’s ever made. 

When Faith decides it’s time for her and her brothers to move on, will Hill fold, or will he decide that this ready-made family is in the cards for him?

Ill Gotten Gaines - by: Nan O'Berry - Amazon Link -

When a con man comes to town, no one is safe.

Penelope Clarke has had a tough go of it since her father died. She'd like nothing more than to marry the handsome rancher, Simon LeBlue, but the money for her dowry went to cover the cost of her father's funeral. Pride runs strong and she won't think about taking his name until she has the money back. Working at the saloon cleaning glasses and spittoons is not for the faint of heart, but its good honest work. If only something more respectable would turn up. Could Rupert Gaines hold the answer to her pressing needs?

Simon LeBlue wants to marry Penelope Clarke more than anything in the world. In fact, he has asked her on several occasions. If only he could get her to see he doesn't care about her dowry, he just wants her. He longs to take her away from that job at the saloon. When a mysterious man comes to town, Simon's doubts begin. Those doubts turn into heartache when his younger sister and half the town invest in Gaines’ so-called bank, before the man disappears. To make matters worse, Penelope has been left to take the blame. Can he find this ill-gotten Gaines and bring him back to restore Penelope's reputation?

Monday, December 11, 2017


The Sweet Americana Sweethearts blog is about historical North Americans. However, there no getting away from the fact that before many people became North Americans, they first traveling here from somewhere else. In much of the 19th century, much of that travel from different nations took place on packet ships.

Packet ships were regularly-scheduled transport ships designed to carry mail, cargo, and people. Although there were some first and second-class private and semi-private rooms on the first deck below the top deck, most passengers crossed the ocean in the steerage area on the second deck down. Regardless of whether passengers were wealthy or impoverished, over the six to eight weeks of their voyage they all tended to suffer from boredom or anxiety that the ship may founder in bad weather and sink.

“The Embarkation, Waterloo Docks, Liverpool”
 From Illustrated London News, July 6, 1850 
Courtesy of the Mariners’ Museum
Ships were built to have a top deck where the seamen operated the ship and, in good weather, passengers could walk and spend time in the sun. Often on the first level down were the private and semi-private rooms, and rooms to provide services for those passengers and the crew. The second level down was the steerage. Air flow needed to make it way through the hatches and down the stairwells. Below steerage was the hold where cargo was transported. Below that was the bilge.

Cabin Passengers:

Most packet ships had ten to twenty private and semi-private cabins on the deck just below the top deck available for those customers in a position to pay a higher fare. The sleeping areas were behind closed doors with slats for ventilation. Down the center of a double row of rooms was a common area known as the saloon (definition: A room or place for general use for a specific purpose: a dining saloon on a ship). It appeared to have top ventilation and access to natural light. 

Passengers could spend much of their voyage in the common saloon area reading, conversing or socializing with other passengers. It was where they took their meals. They were another level up from steerage.

Steerage Passengers:

Steerage passengers slept, ate, and socialized in the same spaces. They brought their own bedding. Although food was provided, passengers had to cook it themselves. On rough crossings, steerage passengers often had little time in the fresh air on the upper deck.

Accommodations were tight. Beds were stacked at least two high, and passengers were often expected to sleep three to five to a bed that was not as large as today's double-size mattresses. 

1851 - Typical Scene in Steerage
Conditions varied from ship to ship, but steerage was normally crowded, dark, and damp. Limited sanitation and stormy seas often combined to make it dirty and foul-smelling, too. Rats, insects, and disease were common problems.

From Liverpool each passenger receives weekly 5 lbs. of oatmeal, 2 1/2 lbs. biscuit, 1 lb. flour, 2 lbs. rice, 1/2 lb. sugar, 1/2 lb. molasses, and 2 ounces of tea. He is obliged to cook it the best way he can in a cook shop 12 feet by 6! This is the cause of so many quarrels and...many a poor woman with her children can get but one meal done, and sometimes they get nothing warm for days and nights when a gale of wind is blowing and the sea is mountains high and breaking over the ship in all directions.
—Anonymous, New-York Daily Times, October 15, 1851

A Personal Connection:

My English Jonathan and Sarah Cousins Brown ancestors joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) in 1852 and emigrated to the United States in 1853 for religious reasons. In the early 1850’s, migration by wagon train to the Salt Lake Valley followed the Mormon Train, which is almost the same as the Oregon Trail. Overland travel began either in eastern or western Iowa or eastern Nebraska. 

Many immigrants from Europe bound for California, Oregon or Utah sailed into New Orleans, a popular port of entry at that time. They then took a steamboat up the Mississippi River to one of the departure points. As steerage passengers, many of their experiences were similar to some of my characters in the Lockets & Lace series prequel I am writing titled The Bavarian Jeweler.

Excerpts from “The Life Stories of the Early Latter-day Saints: Jonathan Brown and Family" by Cassandra Nielsen:

          “…By January 1853, Jonathan and the family travelled to Liverpool to settle their voyage to the United States, but not without opposition from other family members....
          “The Browns were driven by their belief in God and felt the need to move to Utah, causing them to sacrifice what they had in England including citizenship, business, friends, family, and comforts. Aside from their faith, they likely harbored anxieties in taking such a tremendous step.
          “Firstly, a lot could happen during the long and sometimes treacherous journey. Also, Jonathan had a pregnant wife and seven young children whose safety and well-being were in the hands of father not turning his back on the family’s decision to travel.
          “They would remain in Liverpool longer than they anticipated. According to the ship Register for the Ellen Maria, she was scheduled to sail on January 11, 1853. Departing this time of year was imperative because the saints had to cross the plains prior to the “the snows of early winter [that] blocked the highlands of Wyoming.” The voyage was delayed from unfinished preparations and prevailing westerlies.”

“Embarkation of the Saints at Liverpool, ” a painting by Ken Baxter.
The above painting shows the ship “Ellen Maria,” the ship upon which my Brown ancestors sailed to the United States, as it prepares to sail from Liverpool, England, for America on February 1, 1851. A replica hangs on the wall at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City (British floor).

From my copy of a mimeographed letter written by Jonathan Brown in possession of Jonathan Brown descendants:
Jonathan Brown

          “We staid in L’pool in lodgings until the 18th as the other ship did not set sail until the 18th instead of the 11th.  It was expensive lodging, it was 5/6 per night for my own family besides board.  Well on we sail, we set sail the 2nd day near everyone on board was helpless and sick.  I was the only one in our company that could render any assistance which I did night & day, I do not think I slept in bed 6 nights out of 6 weeks.  I laid me down on the boxes in front of the beds ready if any assistance was wanted.  Well, on the whole I think we had a very good voyage considering the time & number of miles.  We were tossed about a good deal, sometimes from side to side and our boxes would fly about before we nailed them down to the bottom at last.  We arrived at New Orleans in a steamer, Paid about 11/6 per head with the $100 of luggage including beds, provisions and everything.”

From Cassandra Nielson’s account once again:

          “Throughout the trip, the saints met with challenges common to a sea voyage. Jonathan took part in these difficulties as the one helping and the one suffering. In his own words from one account, Jonathan described his role as helper:

          “With a sick wife, a sick nurse, 7 sick children, besides the others of the company I cared for, I do think I slept in a bed 6 nights out of the 6 weeks were on board. I laid down on the boxes in front of the beds, ready if any assistance was needed.” 

 This photo was taken of a scale model of the beds in steerage on the 
Ship Brooklyn which sailed from New York in 1846 bound for San Francisco. Cozy....

           Jonathan also took his turn at suffering difficulties while on board. One time, he almost broke both legs after falling against a ladder. After some time, he sprained a shoulder and “cut his forehead in three places.” He later scalded his arm when the tilting of the ship caused boiling arrowroot to spill. How did he pull through these afflictions? In his own words, Jonathan said:

          “Well, my shoulder, legs, head, and arm all got well by the healing ordinances of the Church and I did not lay by one hour with it all. Thanks to the Lord.”

          [another passenger's recollection] “The Ellen Maria arrived in New Orleans in the wee hours of the morning on March 7. A beautiful morning and when we went on deck…the view of New Orleans…appeared strange.
          “However, as strange as the sight would be, many Saints were glad to be on solid ground again. Elated with the successful termination of the voyage to this place they soon crowded on the levee, and made their way into the city, in the hope of finding something more tempting to the palate than the ship fare.” The Saints were cautioned “in the use of fresh meat and vegetables…[and] to beware of swindlers.
          “Many Saints were careful in their dealings though. While there, members residing in the port city would entertain incoming Saints with dinner, tea, and singing. Others would amble “through the quaint, old-fashioned city,” passing “many a familiar face” from the ship. Many would dine on the Louisianan French cuisine, there being “several cafes and restaurants” run by the French.”

In Lockets & Lace series prequel I will soon publish, you will find out:

(1)  Why the main characters of my story left Europe to make their homes in America.
(2)  Why the Irish family’s sailing experience was probably similar to that of my English ancestors.
(3)  Why my main characters chose to sail into New Orleans rather than into New York.


“The Life Stories of the Early Latter-day Saints: Jonathan Brown and Family" by Cassandra Nielsen

Family history documents in the author’s possession

Some authors who post with the Sweet Americana Sweethearts blog
have joined together to bring you another multi-author series,

 To keep up with the latest LOCKETS & LACE series news, and to learn how to have a chance at some great prizes, be sure to "LIKE" our Facebook page for Lockets & Lace 

Have you read my novel, Kizzie's Kisses, published as part of last year's Sweet Americana Sweethearts group series, Grandma's Wedding Quilts? If not, I invite you to do so. You may find the purchase link by CLICKING HERE

Kizzie's cousin, Otto Atwell, will be featured in my novel in the Lockets & Lace series. In fact, Kizzie's Kisses and Otto's story will be joined as part of my new ATWELL KIN series.