Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Little Known Bits of History

Welcome Guest Blogger Amanda Cabot to the Inkwell!

I promised Susanne a post about history today, but let’s start with a quiz.  Oh, you weren’t expecting that, were you?  Let’s try, anyway.  Here are a few questions to test your historical knowledge.  I’ll make it easy on you.  Instead of fill-in-the-blanks, which I hate, these are all true/false questions.

1.      Abilene was founded in 1867 as part of the Union Pacific’s expansion west.  Like most early railroad towns, it was characterized by saloons, gambling halls and so much rowdiness that it became known as “Hell on Wheels.”

2.      The Army post that was established to protect the railroad workers in Omaha is still in existence today, although it’s now an Air Force base.

3.      When it opened in 1882, Denver’s opera house was the only one west of the Mississippi.

4.      In 1883, San Francisco was the wealthiest city per capita in the world.

5.      The Inter Ocean hotel in Salt Lake City was the first anywhere to have electric lights in each of the guest rooms.

Are you ready for the answers?  Number one is false, number two is false.  In fact, they’re all false.  Surprised?  You’ll probably be more surprised to learn that if you substitute “Cheyenne” for the city names I used, the statements all become true.  Yes, in less than twenty years, Cheyenne went from a rough and tumble railroad town to become both the territorial capital and one of the wealthiest cities in the country.  That wealth brought with it many of the amenities you’d expect, including an opera house that attracted the likes of Lily Langtry, streets lined with mansions, some of which boasted their own ballrooms, and electric lights for both homes and streets.

Though Cheyenne was founded as a railroad town and though the Union Pacific, along with the territorial government were major contributors to the city’s growth, much of the wealth came from cattle.  Believe it or not, raising cattle in Wyoming came about almost by accident.  When bad timing forced one herd to remain in Wyoming rather than be driven east during the winter of 1854, the owner left, probably expecting the worst.  Instead, when he returned in the spring, he discovered that not only was his herd still intact, but the animals had thrived on the air-cured grasslands of eastern Wyoming.  

Cattle ranching grew rapidly in Wyoming Territory, in part because of the open range.  Who could resist the lure of free grazing?  The result was an influx of ranchers and cattle companies, culminating in what was called the “Great Grass Bonanza” of 1876 to 1886.  It was during that era that Cheyenne reached its pinnacle of wealth and influence, with cattle barons dominating the city’s social events.  But all things end.  Greed that led to overgrazing, and a particularly brutal winter with massive herd losses caused many of the cattle barons to declare bankruptcy during the spring of 1887.    

Depressing?  Some might say so.  I’m sure that if I’d lived in Cheyenne then, I would have been distressed by all the changes that the end of that first cattle era brought.  But as an author 125 years later, I found that final year of immense wealth and prosperity intriguing enough to use it as the background for Waiting for Spring.

So, let’s end with one more quiz:

1.      True or false: An author can find a story in almost anything.

True.  Definitely true.


Thanks for sharing with us today, Amanda! 

Here's a peek at Waiting for Spring (available now!):
 After the loss of her husband and the birth of her baby, Charlotte has had a long, hard year. But when a notorious robber believes she knows the location of a long-lost treasure, she flees to Cheyenne and opens a dressmaker's shop to lie low and make a living. When wealthy cattle baron and political hopeful Barrett Landry enters the shop to visit her best customer, Charlotte feels drawn to him.

If Barrett is to be a senator of the soon-to-be state of Wyoming, he must make a sensible match, and Miriam has all the right connections. Yet he can't shake the feeling that Charlotte holds the key to his heart and his future.

Soon the past comes to call, and Barrett's plans crumble around him. Will Charlotte and Barrett find the courage to look love in the face? Or will their fears blot out any chance for happiness?

Susanne here: How'd you do on Amanda's quiz? Have you ever been to Cheyenne? Do you think the book cover is as pretty as I do?


  1. i did poorly on the quiz. i thought at least half were true. what surprised me even more was that they were all true for Cheyenne. I grew up in Denver and never realized the grand history of our nearest big city neighbor just across the border. pretty cool stuff. i'm also just realizing that i've never visited there even though it really isn't that far of a drive.

    i love the book cover too. thanks for the history lesson. very interesting!

  2. I failed too. I knew they were all likely but now I know I've been quite unappreciative of Cheyenne.

    Amanda - I absolutely agree with you. There's a story everywhere! thanks for visiting with us here. I love this cover. What a dress!

    My only visit to Wyoming was West Yellowstone which I flew into from Salt Lake City on a 12 passenger prop jet. It was a tiny plane and those were big mountains, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

  3. Meant to ask - Will you stick with Wyoming after this next book (I'm guessing there will be a book three in WY) or go back to Texas?

  4. Good morning! Pretty tricky quiz, eh? I confess I knew Cheyenne was a wealthy, innovative city, but I didn't know it was to such an extent. Good job with that quiz, Amanda!

  5. DebH, I have family in Denver. What a gorgeous city. It holds a warm spot in my heart.

    I've never been to Cheyenne, though.

    Thanks for stopping by this morning! Isn't the book cover pretty!

  6. Good morning, everyone. I'm glad you enjoyed my quiz, even if the results surprised you.

    DebH -- Cheyenne has changed a lot since the days of Waiting for Spring, but it's still a great place to live ... especially since Denver's not too far away if we want big city life and incredible views of the Rockies.

    Debra -- Isn't Yellowstone fabulous? It's my favorite place on earth and one of the reasons I live in Wyoming. And, yes, the third book of the Westward Winds series is set in Wyoming. Cheyenne, in fact. After that, I'm heading bck to the Texas Hill Country.

    Susanne -- Thanks again for inviting me to be part of your blog. It's so much fun, meeting your followers.

  7. Hey Deb Marvin--I've never been to Yellowstone. I know, I'm missing out! What did you like best there?

  8. Hi Amanda! Thanks so much for sharing with us today. I am reading Waiting for Spring now--it's an enjoyable read!

    Can you give us a hint about your next book?

  9. Susie, I had a dream vacation there in West Yellowstone. WEnt by myself... yes, you know me... and I stayed at a ranch in a tiny log cabin on a creek. my view was probably one of the most beautiful ever--creek, rolling foothills, mountains. Sigh. I took a day long trail ride alone with a cowboy and then I returned at the end of the day to the hot tub. Ranch meals in the dining hall. and spent a full day with one of my best friends and her husband who drove up and we spent a day in the park. There, the highlight was that a herd of Buffalo RAN ALONG With the rental van. so they were only a few yards away from us. Freaky and awesome.

    sorry to get long winded but it was incredible.

  10. Amanda, sounds wonderful! I don't write western because so many people do it so well! Your visit reminds me of what I like about the genre and I plan on picking up one of these Cheyenne stories.

    How long is the snow season there? Will your next title be set in fall or winter? Do you think readers enjoy winter settings or just the occasional 'Christmas' book?
    When I think of Wyoming and winter, I think BRRRRRRRR!

  11. Oh Deb, that trip sounds fabulous! What a treat! Do you have pictures?

  12. Debra -- Your trip to West Yellowstone sounds like one of those "trips of a lifetime." I can empathize with you and the bison. My husband and I were cross-country skiing in Yellowstone when a herd of bison came our way. Magnificent but decidedly scary, too. Those horns, to to mention the sheer size of the animals, are intimidating.

    Winter lasts a long time in Wyoming, although depending on where you live, there may or may not be snow. I'm in Cheyenne,which is one of the driest parts of the state, so we get relatively little snow, but we have had it as late as May. Admittedly it melts within a couple hours, but still ... snow in May.

    To answer your question and Susanne's about the next book in the series, the title is "With Autumn's Return." Revell let me use seasons in the titles with one caveat: no winter. Apparently readers equate winter with Christmas books and don't buy them outside of the Christmas season. At any rate, "With Autumn's Return" is the story of Elizabeth, the youngest of the Harding sisters, who comes to Cheyenne expecting to be accepted as a doctor, even though she's a woman. You can guess what happens.

  13. Wow, what a dress. And I find it interesting that Amanda's portrait is blue on blue, and her heroine is wearing a blue dress against a blue sky. Hmmm.

    I was to the northern part of Wyoming many, many years ago when I was a kid. My mother's (now deceased) brother lived in the Worland/Thermopolis area. Never Cheyenne though.

  14. Good eye for detail, CJ! I hadn't noticed that. It's such a pretty book cover, isn't it?

  15. Thanks so much for being here with us today, Amanda! I look forward to "With Autumn's Return."

  16. After spending my last day with my daughter before she flies back to BC, I'm finally chiming in...

    I LOVE WYOMING! I think it's the wildest state of all and fell in love with it as I drove from my home in Saskatchewan to Colorado for ACFW Denver in 2009.

    I'd never seen a butte before and was awed by their raw beauty. I stopped to visit the Oregon Trail ruts at Guernsey and spent time in Casper where one of my own stories is set.

    Your post was fun even though I got most of the questions wrong. I knew about the cattle connection, but really thought SF was the wealthier city due to all the rich miners disembarking from the north.

    Thanks for posting at the Inkwell. That's a great cover, and I'm looking forward to your book.

  17. Amanda, your cover is beautiful. Wow. Thank you for the history lesson. That was fun. It never would have occurred to me that San Francisco was not the wealthiest city at least in the US at that time. I certainly wouldn't have thought of Cheyenne. Thanks!


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