The first documented gold discovery in the United States was here in present-day Cabarrus County, North Carolina in 1799. The discovery by a little boy playing in Little Meadow Creek led to gold fever in the area. Numerous gold mines were dug and mined to various levels of success.
In fact, there was enough gold found in the southern piedmont of North Carolina that a branch of the United States Mint was built in Charlotte in 1836 and 1837. It opened for the production of gold coins in 1837.
A trip to the National Archives at Atlanta (which is in the Atlanta suburb of Morrow, Georgia) a few years ago gave me the opportunity to look at ledger books from the Mint in Charlotte. Within those pages I recognized names from my community.
I’m blogging about some of that information today to give you an example of the type of documented local history I included in Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2. Although the book (and Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1) concentrate on Harrisburg, both books do include articles about other communities in Township One.
One of the communities rich in history in the township is Pioneer Mills. Little more than a quiet crossroads now, it was a center of activity in the mid-1800s after the discovery of gold and the opening of Pioneer Mills Gold Mine.
I recognized names such as John C. Barnhardt from the Pioneer Mills community as taking 123 ounces of amalgam to the Charlotte Mint on August 31, 1843, for which he was paid $2,340.33. That was no small sum of money in 1843!
Robert Harvey Morrison, on whose land the Pioneer Mills Gold Mine was located, was paid more than $4,000 for the gold bars and amalgam he took to the Mint from late in 1846 into early 1850.
Other names I recognized in the Mint ledgers included two other Barnhardts, Robert R. King, three men with the surname Treloar, and R.B. Northrop.
Comparing US Census records, Charlotte Mint records, and various years of Branson Business Directories helped me get a better idea of what the Pioneer Mills Community must have looked like 150 to 180 years ago. There was a general store, a dry goods store, a blacksmith, a school, and a post office, In 1869, Pioneer Mills Community had three physicians.
Gold mining brought people from Canada, Great Britain, and New York to Pioneer Mills. Gold mining, no doubt, brought some undesirable people into the community, which led the wife of the pastor of Rocky River Presbyterian Church to say in the early 1870s that Pioneer Mills “is no place for a preacher’s son!”
If you’d like to read more about the history and people of Cabarrus County, North Carolina, you might enjoy Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Books 1 and 2. They are available in paperback at Second Look Books in Harrisburg and in paperback and for Kindle from Amazon.
By the way, you can visit the research room at the National Archives at Atlanta (in Morrow, Georgia) by appointment only. Visit the website for more information: https://www.archives.gov/atlanta.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read.
I hope you spend time with family and good friends.
And, as always, remember the people of Ukraine and count your blessings.
The encampment of the Continental Army at Valley Forge began 245 years ago today. We’re all familiar with the image of George Washington leading his troops across the frigid Delaware River. We know that it was a bitterly cold winter, but there are some interesting facts I hope to surprise you with today.
1,700 to 2,000 soldiers died of disease at the six-month encampment.
Food for the troops was scarce. The Oneida delegation, allies of the Patriots, arrived in May 1778 with white corn. Polly Cooper of the delegation instructed them on how to safely prepare the corn for consumption and stayed after most of her fellow Oneidans had left. She received a shawl from Martha Washington in thanks for her assistance.
In December it went down to 6 degrees F., 12 degrees F. in January, 12 degrees F. in February, and 8 degrees F. in March.
It was the last time United States soldiers served in a racially-integrated army until the Korean War in the 1950s.
The volunteer drill master was Baron von Steubon, a Prussian military commander. The Prussian military drills and tactics he taught the troops were used by the United States military for the next 30 years.
It is thought that 250 to 400 women were in the encampment, serving as cooks, nurses, laundresses, and menders of clothing.
Mary Ludwig Hayes, a.k.a., Molly Pitcher, was at Valley Forge with her husband. She is remembered for jumping into service to help load a cannon at the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse after her husband was wounded.
Hannah Till was an enslaved cook for George Washington at Valley Forge. She purchased her freedom a few years later and became a salaried cook.
We hear a lot about our “forefathers” but not enough about our “foremothers!”
Since my last blog post
Look who’s reading my book! He must have found it on Amazon or in Harrisburg, NC at Second Look Books or Gift Innovations! It’s in short supply in Harrisburg until I get my next shipment. If you prefer an e-book, remember it’s available for e-book and in paperback from Amazon.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas or whatever holidays you are celebrating.
I hope you enjoy time with family and friends.
Remember the suffering people of Ukraine.
I’ll see you again here at my blog on December 26 – the last Monday in 2022!
When I posted my blog on November 28, I didn’t expect to be able to submit my local history book, Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1 to Amazon for publication that afternoon!
I’m thrilled to announce in today’s blog post that Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1 is now available as an e-book and in paperback on Amazon! It contains the first 91 local history columns I wrote for Harrisburg Horizons newspaper. The paperback is indexed and the e-book, of course, is word searchable on your electronic device.
Many of my blog readers live in other parts of the United States, as well as in other countries around the world. You might not think you’d be interested in reading a book about Harrisburg, a town in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. You might be surprised, though.
Topics covered in the book include newspaper article series I wrote about the cotton economy, early mail service, the coming of the North Carolina Railroad in 1854, early telephone service, and the memories of a World War II US Army veteran who shared his memories from being trained for D-Day through the end of the war in Europe. Those series, as well as other articles should be of much wider interest than Cabarrus County or even North Carolina.
For instance, any railroad enthusiast or World War II history buff will enjoy reading those two series of articles. For Revolutionary War history buffs there’s an article about a local man who was a Minuteman and there’s a series of articles about a group of local young men and teenage boys who disguised themselves and blew up a shipment of the Royal Governor’s ammunition that was on its way from Charlotte to Rowan County, NC to put down the Regulator Movement in 1771.
There are articles about the one-room schools of the 1800s and early 1900s, as well as the three Rosenwald Schools that served the black students in this area in the early 20th century.
The Harrisburg area was served for decades until 1960 by a physician from Russia. Anyone who likes to read about the days of the country doctors who made house calls will enjoy the series of articles I wrote about Dr. Nicholas E. Lubchenko.
NASCAR fans will enjoy the articles I wrote about the first World 600 stockcar race held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which is actually in the Harrisburg community. Some articles on other subjects have a connection with the property where the speedway is, including a visit by George Washington in 1791.
I had the pleasure of interviewing some of my community’s oldest residents and preserving their memories through the local weekly newspaper (which ceased publication a decade ago) and now I’m happy to see their memories in this book. I also drew from old newspapers in Charlotte and Concord, genealogies, US Census records, and other sources.
There are sad stories and there are funny stories. Isn’t that what life is like? Some of our local history and our history as a nation and as human beings in general is sad. Some of it is embarrassing to future generations. What one generation knew as cutting-edge technology makes the 21st century reader laugh.
Something that comes through all the articles is how we’re all alike. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. There are people who overcame tremendous odds to accomplish the things they did.
The people I had the privilege to interview were all “salt of the earth” people. They didn’t brag about anything they’d done in their lives. They were all just good, hard-working people who quietly did what they could to make our little corner of North Carolina a great place to live.
Since my last blog post
In addition to getting Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1 published, I continues to format Book 2 for publication in 2023. So, if you like Book 1, you can start looking forward to Book 2 in a couple of months if all goes as planned.
By the way, I noticed on Saturday that Amazon had dropped the price of the e-book version of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina from $12.99 to $2.99. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but I have no control over the price of that book since I wasn’t the publisher. For all I know, they’ll change the price again by the time you’re reading this.
Until my next blog post
Thank you for indulging me today for blowing my own horn. This is really exciting for me!
Remember the brave people of Ukraine as they suffer from the war and bitter cold.
By Thursday I usually have the next Monday’s blog post well in hand. The operative word is “usually.”
Last Thursday, I not only didn’t have a post well in hand for today. I didn’t even have a topic.
Here’s the thing. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately, trying to meet a number of self-imposed writing deadlines and goals. Therefore, today I’ll just catch you up on two writing projects I’ve been working on lately.
Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1
I wrote a local history column for Harrisburg Horizons weekly newspaper from May 2006 through 2012. It’s been my desire ever since to publish those articles in a book. The time has come!
I’ve formatted the first 91 articles, the introduction, and the back matter for Book 1. My sister is helping me with the indexing. With the index, it looks like the paperback book will be about 500 pages.
Formatting and proofreading of the first 91 articles were tedious tasks. My sister is a fantastic proofreader and has been a tremendous help.
A photographer friend of mine took the photograph for the cover on Friday. By Friday night I had created the cover for the e-book. Creating a book cover was a new experience for me and gave me an unbelievable sense of accomplishment. Technology doesn’t come easy for me.
There are still a few details to finish, including the creation of the paperback book cover. I expect that task to be more challenging than the e-book cover, but I’m excited to start on that today.
I hope to be able to announce a publication date in the next couple of weeks I’ll announce on my blog and on Facebook when the e-book and the paperback are available. I hope that’s before Christmas!
Be on the lookout for that surprise blog post!
Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2
I’m formatting and proofreading the second book of local history newspaper columns, which will not only include the last 84 history articles.
I hope to include some of my research done about topics I didn’t get to write about when the newspaper suddenly ceased publication. It depends on how many pages Book 2 is after a get the 84 articles formatted.
It’s been fun rereading the columns because I’ve forgotten some of the details. I anticipate this book will also be available in paperback as well as for Kindle, perhaps in March 2023.
My website, http://www.janetmorrisonbooks.com is being redesigned. I’ll make an announcement on my blog when the new site is up and running. It will have the same address with the addition of that important “s” after “http” to indicate my site has SSL certification.
Until my next blog post
Thank you for dropping by my blog and lending moral support to this struggling writer.
Not everyone wants to read historical fiction. I understand that. There are several fiction genres that I don’t enjoy, so I avoid them. There are too many books I want to read to take time to read genres that don’t appeal to me. For instance, horror.
I happen to like historical fiction, but there is one big misconception that might be keeping you from reading novels that fall in that category.
Okay, what is that misconception?
Since the word “fiction” is part of the name of the historical fiction genre, there is a misconception that novels in the genre are not historically accurate. If you read reputable historical fiction writers, you know that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I had the privilege of hearing Sharyn McCrumb speak in conjunction with the publication of the ninth novel in her ballad series, The Ballad of Tom Dooley. Ms. McCrumb is a meticulous historical researcher. In her speech that day, she adamantly pointed out that some historical fiction books are better researched than history books.
That has really stayed with me more than a decade after hearing Ms. McCrumb speak.
When considering to read a historical novel, I suggest you turn to the back of the book and read the Author Notes. Very often there are several pages after the last chapter in the book in which the author explains her inspiration for the book and a bit of the research involved in writing the book.
The topic of literary license is often addressed in the Author Notes. Good historical fiction writers are transparent and quick to point out any instances in which they adjusted the time or place of an event to make the story flow more smoothly.
You might not be convinced yet to read historical fiction. You might think that just because historical novels contain conversations that cannot be documented, the book cannot be trusted as being true. If written by a conscientious writer, conversations and narrative in the novel will be true to the time and place to the best of the author’s ability. Keep in mind that it’s a work of fiction, and don’t get bent out of shape if some of the dialogue doesn’t ring true to you.
I write history and I write historical fiction. The research I do for the writing of historical fiction is just as detailed and important as the research I do for the writing of history.
You might be surprised to know that in the 1760s historical fiction I’m writing, I’m careful not to use words that were not in general use during that time. I keep English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh within arm’s reach while I’m writing. Sometimes there is a perfect word I want a character to say but then I discover it wasn’t in general usage until later. I have to find another word.
And you thought I spent all my time just gazing out the window and eating bonbons!
Next week’s blog post topic
Next week I plan to blog about something that happened on October 31, 1849 in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. I wrote about it for a newspaper article a few years ago. I look forward to sharing a bit of that well-researched article with you on my blog.
Since my last blog
I’ve worked on my novel, The Heirloom, every day except yesterday. (I really try to set aside Sunday as a day of rest.) I feel great about how the manuscript is coming along. I’m really having fun with it, imagining myself on The Great Wagon Road in 1766.
I’ve made progress toward getting my website redesigned. I’m excited about that and will keep you posted.
I finished formatting Harrisburg, Did You Know?—Book 1 on Saturday. The proofreading will take another couple of weeks. By then, I hope to have a photograph to use for the cover. Everything seems to be falling in place within the publication schedule I set for myself. By this time next month, I hope to be close to it being available as an e-book.
A word about my blog
You might have noticed on my blog where it says “Join ___ other followers,” the number plummeted this week. I spent the better part of an hour in chat with WordPress tech support before they identified the cause.
The verdict was that the widget that enables me to show the number of followers on my blog changed last week without bloggers (or apparently tech support) being told.
On Wednesday it said, “Join 2,104 other followers,” but on Thursday night it said, “Join 988 other followers.” My heart sank! Tech support stayed on the case until it was determined that now the widget only displays the number of email and WordPress bloggers who follow me. It no longer includes the 1,000+ people who follow my blog on social media.
If you have a WordPress blog, did you notice this change?
Until my next blog
I hope you have a good book to read – and time to read it!
In case you want to know about more book bloggers than I’ve written about in the last weeks, I’m suggesting a few more for you to check out. These are listed in random order.
The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog
I must admit, I was attracted to this blog by the word “chocolate” being in the title. What can I say?
Davida Chazan is originally from Illinois but moved to Israel at the age of 21. She writes this blog from her home in Jerusalem. She covers a variety of books, and you can always count on an honest review from her.
Here’s the link to Davida’s website: https://tcl-bookreviews.com/. By clicking on “A-Z Index of Book Reviews By Title” at the top of her website, you can bring up an extensive alphabetical list of the books she has reviewed. By “extensive,” I mean extensive!
Also, she has a fun drop-down list of authors you can access by clicking on “Countdown Questions Author Index.” You can really have some fun with this. Click on a book listed under the author’s name and it brings her Davida’s review of that book. Click on the author’s name, though, and it brings up a delightful list of questions Davida asked the author along with the author’s answers. The last time I checked, there are more than 40 authors on that particular list.
The website also has a clickable “Women in Translation” button at the top. Click on it to see the authors who write in a language other than English. They are celebrated in the month of August.
The Reading Ladies Book Club
Carol, a retired fifth-grade teacher is the brains behind this book blog. Her favorite genres are historical fiction, literary fiction, and contemporary fiction. She is an ardent reader and enjoys sharing her thoughts about the books she reads.
Here’s the link to The Reading Ladies Book Club website: http://Reading Ladies – Book Club. On the home page, you can easily peruse and click on the titles and covers of the books Carol has recently reviewed.
Click on “Blogging Resources for Bloggers” at the top of her website for blog posts in which Carol has shared advice for bloggers.
If you’re in a book club (or if you aren’t in a book club), I highly recommend you click on “Book Club Recommendations” at the top of her website. As you might guess, it brings up a list of books by genre and how many stars Carol gave each one.
To see a list of the books Carol has reviewed, click on “Book Reviews A-Z & Book Lists.” After the alphabetical list of books is a list of her blog posts that were about more than one book.
There is a section to click on if you’re just interested in nonfiction books, and she has a special section that harkens back to her days as a teacher: “My Newberry Award Project.” Click on that button to bring up a list of the annual winner of The John Newberry Medal every year4 since 1922! That award is given by the American Library Association to the author deemed to have made the best contribution to American books for children.
As you can see, there’s something for everyone in The Reading Ladies Book Club Blog.
Steph’s Book Blog
I love the subtitle of Steph’s Book Blog: “Read a Book – Be Amazed – Tell the World.” How great is that?
Steph says she is a lifelong reader who also dabbles in genealogy, local history, and photography. (Sounds a lot like me!)
By clicking on “Blog Posts” at the top of her website, https://stephsbookblog.com, you can scroll through her recent book reviews. Or, if you’re looking for her review of a book by a particular author, you can click on “Authors” for a drop-down menu of authors by alphabet.
There’s also a search box in which you can type a book title or author’s name.
Some authors participate in a “Blog Tour” in which various book bloggers read and review a specific book of theirs (usually a new release) on an organized schedule. Steph has a clickable “Blog Tours” button through which you can find a list of the books she has reviewed as part of a blog tour.
Bonnie Reads and Writes
I just recently found this book blog via Twitter. Bonnie says she’s “lucky enough to live in the Smoky Mountains.” I’d say she is, therefore, “lucky enough.” I love the Great Smoky Mountains! But I digress.
In addition to the three novels I blogged about last week, in September I read three other novels and one nonfiction book. It’s my pleasure today to blog about those four books. I hope at least one of them will appeal to you enough that you’ll decide to read it. Support your local public library and your local independent bookstore!
The New Neighbor, by Karen Cleveland
I read Need to Know, by Karen Cleveland in March 2018 and blogged about it in my April 2, 2018 blog post, More March 2018 Reading. I really enjoyed that novel, so I don’t know what it took me more than four years (has it really been four years since 2018?) to read another of her books.
The New Neighbor is a spy thriller. The main character and most of her neighbors on a quiet cul-de-sac work for the CIA. She’s been trying to identify and take down a spy who is working against the United States for 18 years of her career. The code name for this person is “The New Neighbor,” so it’s a constant play on words throughout the book – Is the new neighbor the actual new neighbor on the cul-de-sac, or is it one of her long-time neighbors and friends on the cul-de-sac, or is it someone who lives who knows where, or is it …?
I look forward to reading another of Karen Cleveland’s novels as soon as I pare down my current reading list. She is a former CIA Analyst.
Switchboard Soldiers: A Novel of the Heroic Women Who Served in the US Signal Corps in World War I, by Jennifer Chiaverini
This historical novel made me aware of the first women to serve in the United States Army. It was World War I and General John Pershing needed efficient telephone operators who were fluent in both English and French to serve throughout France – including the front lines.
It was taking male soldiers one minute to connect a call. That was unacceptable, so General Pershing did a radical thing. He put out a call for qualified female telephone operators. More than 7,600 women responded. The women could connect a phone call in ten seconds.
They proved themselves just as qualified and dedicated as any male American soldiers and were credited in helping the Allies win World War I. It’s a shame their story hasn’t been told for more than a century, but author Jennifer Chiaverini has down a wonderful job telling us their story now.
I learned in the Author Notes at the end of the book that, although they were considered soldiers in the US Army during World War I, took the oath of office, were issued uniforms, had to go through the rigorous gas mask training, had to obey all rules and regulations of the US Army, etc. – after the war they were not considered military veterans and were not eligible for any veterans’ benefits until 1977 when President Jimmy Carter proclaimed them to be veterans. Of course, by then fewer than 60 of the 7,600 women were still alive to enjoy any of the benefits.
In Listening Well, Ms. Morris writes a lot about her life. She grew up in New Zealand and now lives in Melbourne, Australia. She writes about her growing up years as a way to tell us about the elders in her family and how they – especially her great-grandfather – taught her to listen.
She recommends that we all practice listening actively and then she sets about to give practical tips of how to listen to elders and how to listen to children. She also encourages us to listen to ourselves and trust ourselves because if we can trust ourselves and be a friend to ourselves, we can be a good friend to someone else.
She writes about listening to Lale Sokolov, the tattooist of Auschwitz, and what an honor it was to listen to him.
Ms. Morris says that all too often we listen to someone only to think of what we can say and how we can turn the conversation about us and not the other person.
This is a good read. I imagine most of us can learn something from it.
Second Street Station: A Mary Handley Mystery, by Lawrence H. Levy
I wanted to read this book because it is a categorized as historical mystery. I read about 60% of it. It was a bit of stretch for there to be a female detective in the 1890s, but I was willing to suspend disbelief and go along with it.
It was a bit of a stretch to think of Thomas A. Edison being a criminal, but I kept reading. Where the wheels fell off the wagon for me, though, was when Mary Handley was able to watch the trajectory of ricocheting bullets and roll out of their way.
Since there had been no reference to Mary Handley having such superpowers, I felt completely pulled out of the story at that point. I read a few more pages and decided to move on to other library books that were needing my attention. It suddenly felt like historical fiction meets sci-fi.
If the book had been publicized as such, that would have been fine – and probably would make an interesting genre; however, that wasn’t a direction I expected “historical mystery” to take. I’ve since read several reviews online that were also thrown off by this part of the novel.
All that being said, though, I hesitate to be critical of a novel since I’ve yet to publish one of my own. I have much to learn about writing historical fiction. If you enjoy historical mysteries, give Second Street Station a try and let me know what you think of it. I’d like to be proven wrong in my assessment.
Since my last blog post
I took a free 3-Day online “How to Write a Series” course offered by Carissa Andrews of The Author Revolution. It was very helpful. And did you hear me say it was free? It will probably be offered again next year, so if you aspire to write a book series, I recommend you check out The Author Revolution online.
The historical fiction series I’m working on just might be five books instead of four. Book 2, The Doubloon is written and put away. Book 1, The Heirloom is my work in progress. Books 3-5, The Betrayal, The Revolution, and The Banjo are in various states of being outlined. My body is telling me I should have started this project decades ago.
I continued to format the local history newspaper articles I wrote from 2006 through 2012 for publication as two Kindle books. Look for future announcements about Harrisburg, Did You Know?- Book 1 and Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 2.
I started working through the video modules in Tim Grahl’s “Launch a Bestseller” course last week. The modules have already helped me understand the marketing tasks I need to do beginning seven to nine months before I publish my first novel.
In terms of marketing, I’ll have to condense some of those early tasks into just a couple of months or so for Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 1 and The Aunts in the Kitchen.
Me thinks I have too many irons in the fire!
Until my next blog post
Today I start taking the five-week online “Sticky Blogging – Master Class: “Attract Your True Fans” Course. Who knows? Perhaps in the coming weeks and months I’ll write better blog posts. Maybe I’ll come up with more interesting and eye-catching post titles.
I hope you have a good book to read.
Remember the brave people of Ukraine, the grieving people of Uvalde, and the devastated people of Florida.
August turned out to be one of those months when many books I’d been on the waitlist for at the public library all became available at the same time. I had to scramble to read and listen to so many books in a month. I guess it was a good thing August had 31 days.
Today’s blog post is about four of the eight books I read last month. I’ll blog about the other four next Monday.
The German Wife, by Kelly Rimmer
The basis of this novel is “Operation Paperclip,” although that secret US intelligence program isn’t mentioned by name until the author’s note at the end of the book.
I listened to this historical novel on CD. I almost gave up on it after the second of 11 discs because I felt like as soon as I became invested in Sofie’s story, I was yanked into Lizzie’s story. I found the random switching from Lizzie’s 1930s in the Dust Bowl days in Texas to Sofie’s 1950s in Huntsville, Alabama to Sofie’s 1930s in Berlin to Lizzie’s 1950s in Huntsville, Alabama more than a bit disorienting.
That said, a couple more discs into the book, I couldn’t stop listening.
One thread that runs throughout the novel is how people can justify their actions (or inactions) in the name of keeping themselves or their families safe. How many times in history and perhaps in our own lives does the excuse, “I was just following orders” come into play?
Another thread in the book is prejudice and discrimination. Family dynamics play heavily in the book. One of the characters is a World War II veteran suffering from what was then called battle fatigue but is now known as posttraumatic stress disorder. His sister, Lizzie, tries her best to help him, but in the process she enables him.
I found the book’s description of the horrors of the dust storms in the US during the 1930s to be so realistic that I felt like I was choking as Lizzie’s family tried in vain to keep the dust out of their house.
Sofie’s abiding friendship with Mayim, a Jewish woman, is a part of the story that will stay with me. It reminds us that there were Germans who were friends with Jews and whose hearts were broken by what the Nazis did to them. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have turned my back on Jewish friends – and Jewish strangers – if I’d been in Sofie’s place. But how easily humans can be brainwashed! We’re seeing it in our own country now.
The book shines a light on how German rocket scientists were brought to the United States after World War II to help develop NASA’s space program. I was aware of this, of course, but I’d never stopped to think about the interpersonal logistics of the Germans’ being accepted by the Americans so soon after the war. The fact that some of those German scientists had been complicit in Nazi war crimes was swept under the rug, as their pasts were erased by the US government to make it possible for them to work for the US space program.
In Ms. Rimmer’s author’s note at the end of the book, she explains how she, an Australian, learned about this piece of history in a roundabout way in a park in New South Wales. The fact that she learned about “Operation Paperclip” in 2019 and has already researched and written this novel, is amazing.
If you want to learn more about “Operation Paperclip” – the secret US intelligence program that brought more than 1,600 German scientists and engineers to America between 1945 and 1959 so they could work for the US government, do an online search for it and then follow up at your local public library.
The Lord is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-Third Psalm, by Harold S. Kushner
Many years ago I read Rabbi Harold S. Kushner’s book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Although Rabbi Kushner is Jewish and I’m a Christian, I found that book insightful and reassuring. It echoed many of my core beliefs. God didn’t promise us a carefree life. He promised to be with us.
When I found Rabbi Kushner’s book, The Lord is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-Third Psalm on CD for sale at a book sale at the public library, I was sad that it had been weeded from the collection. I had myself to blame, though. I’d never checked it out. Perhaps no one had checked it out in years and, therefore, it needed to be removed from the library shelf to make room for a new book. I was eager to read it, so I bought it – probably for fifty cents.
That was months ago, and I finally got around to listening to it. I enjoyed hearing the book read by the author. It was only four discs. I listened to the entire book over a two-day period.
In the book, Rabbi Kushner wrote about the Twenty-Third Psalm, line by line. He is a student of the Psalms and I appreciated his perspective. I like it when a Bible scholar tells me the nuances of the original Hebrew in which the Old Testament books were written. Rabbi Kushner did that numerous times throughout this book.
Being a Christian, I didn’t agree with what Rabbi Kushner had to say about the coming of the Messiah, but it was interesting to hear his Jewish perspective. Also, I believe that God created everything from nothing. Rabbi Kushner believes that everything already existed and God created order out of the chaos.
In The Lord is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-Third Psalm, Rabbi Kushner repeatedly revisits the theme that God doesn’t promise us a carefree life; He promises to be with us. On that, Rabbi Kushner and I agree.
Now that I’ve listened to this book, I plan to donate it to Goodwill where someone else can acquire it and ponder the Twenty-Third Psalm along with Rabbi Kushner.
Cold, Cold Bones, by Kathy Reichs
I really enjoyed listening to Cold, Cold Bones, by Kathy Reichs. It had the suspense we’ve come to expect in her novels with the added bonus of references to many locations in and around Charlotte.
Concord, the Appalachian Trail, and even Robeson County got mentioned. Of course, they were all mispronounced on the CD audio recording of the book, but that’s to be expected. I’m sure the reader wasn’t from North Carolina.
There were numerous clues given, and each one took me down another rabbit hole. All the time, though, I knew in the end Ms. Reichs would connect the dots and show how each thread came together.
The layers of this novel were revealed much like one peels layer after layer from an onion. Ms. Reichs certainly has pacing down pat. It kept me guessing who the chief villain was and what the common thread of each incident was until the very end.
This was a very entertaining read, and makes me eager to read another Kathy Reichs novel. The last novel of hers that I’d read was way back in May 2020. In my June 1, 2020 blog post, Books Read in May 2020, I wrote about her novel, A Conspiracy of Bones.
I don’t know why I waited two years to read another of her books. In case you aren’t familiar with Kathy Reichs, she is an adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She is a highly-regarded forensic anthropologist who splits her time between Charlotte and Montreal. The television series, “Bones” was loosely-based on her life and ran for 11 seasons from 2005 until 2016.
The Many Daughters of Afong Moy: A Novel, by Jamie Ford
I’ve enjoyed the other novels I’ve read by Jamie Ford, but I found this one difficult to follow. It’s received rave reviews. The writing is outstanding, but I found the jumping back and forth between centuries (past, present, and future) and the five points-of-view hard to follow.
I listened to nine of the 11 discs of this book on CD. I found the voice of one of the readers very irritating to my southern ears and the range in volume from soft to yelling was equally irritating to me as I have hearing loss and I was often listening to the book after I’d gone to bed.
All that said, the basis of the novel is a fascinating topic: epigenetics. It began with the first Chinese woman who came to America and how she became a spectacle due to her bound feet. She suffered physical and emotional pain as a result of this ancient Chinese tradition that crippled girls and women and kept them under the thumb of male society. The novel follows generations of her female descendants who carried her emotional scars.
Epigenetics is an interesting topic of study. There is debate about whether emotional traits and emotional traumas are passed from generation to generation through DNA or through a family’s traditions and oral history.
If you want to read my comments about one of Jamie Ford’s earlier books, Love and Other Consolation Prizes, go to my July 17, 2017 blog post, Reading South Africa and South Carolina Novels. I must have read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet before I started blogging about the books I read. It was good, too.
It was the format and not the prose in which The Many Daughters of Afong Moy was presented that didn’t appeal to me. I’ll still look forward to Jamie Ford’s next novel.
Since my last blog post
It’s been a strange week with some unexpected tasks and distractions. I continue to read more than write because those library books are still piling up. It’s a nice problem to have and I’m grateful to live in a country and a region with such vast free public library resources.
The arrival of September was a rude awakening. How is it that summer flies by and winter drags on and on? My Seasonal Affective Disorder is already rearing its ugly head, so I must strive to get and keep a positive attitude.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have so many books at your fingertips that you can’t decide what to read next.
Life is short. Spend time with family and friends, and make time for a hobby.
Don’t forget the people of Ukraine, Uvalde, and Highland Park, etc
After blogging about a heavy and complicated topic last week – the Wilmot Proviso – I decided to give my readers and myself a break this week. Let’s have some fun today with my brush with fame.
Do you remember a suspenseful television series from a decade ago that was filled with political intrigue? The name of the show was “Homeland.”
Before it was named. I had my brush of fame in it as an “extra.”
Most of the show’s early seasons were filmed in Charlotte. A segment was to be filmed at Avondale Presbyterian Church on Park Road because it resembled a New England church sanctuary.
The production people wanted a full sanctuary for the filming of a funeral scene. An email went out to the churches in the Presbytery of Charlotte, part of the Presbyterian Church USA. The secretary at Rocky River Presbyterian Church sent out a notice to inform members of the congregation that extras were needed for the filming on August 12, 2011.
My sister and I had never considered doing anything like that, but it sounded interesting and exciting. We were advised to wear appropriate clothes for a funeral. We weren’t going to be paid, but lunch would be available.
We had nothing better to do that day, so off we went. It turned out to be a learning experience and one of those incidents that people who know me would probably be surprised to know.
Upon arrival, we were herded into the church’s fellowship hall. We sat with strangers around round tables. It was immediately time to “hurry up and wait.”
After several hours, we were led into the sanctuary. Sound and lighting were tested. I can’t remember now if the stars of that episode of the show, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, were involved in our first visit to the sanctuary.
We were told in no uncertain terms to memorize where we were sitting because later in the day we’d have to arrange ourselves exactly in the same place and in the same order. That was a bit stressful when you’re sitting on a church pew in a sanctuary you’ve never been in before and all the walls are covered in plastic to control the lighting.
It must have been at that point that we were served lunch. I can’t remember what it was, but I never turn down a free meal.
After that, we were left to just hang out in the fellowship hall. I’ve never had good timing. I took a minute to take a bathroom break. When I came back to the fellowship hall, my sister and a man we’d only met that morning were gone. The remaining extras at our table told me that someone came and asked them to go outside for the shooting of another scene.
This man had irritated us all morning, and now Marie was stuck being with him for filming outside. He was a loud know-it-all and we’d wished we could move to another table. Even so, I was a little envious because Marie was at least getting to do something, but I mostly pitied her for having to spend more time with this obnoxious man.
Marie and her new “husband” eventually returned to the fellowship hall. They’d had to walk together up the sidewalk leading to the church entrance over and over and over and over as if arriving for the funeral. Marie looked shell shocked and feared people would think they were an actual couple.
A little while later, we were instructed to return to the sanctuary. (All this time I’d been playing over in my head the clues I’d tried to detect that would help me sit exactly where I had earlier.)
As soon as everyone seated themselves where they’d sat that morning, members of the production crew started pointing and saying, “You. You, go sit over there. And you. You go sit over there.” This drill went on for a while until I’d completely lost sight of Marie and I was nowhere near where I’d started. I hoped she wasn’t being paired off with “obnoxious man.”
I liked where I ended up. I was near the aisle, and Claire Danes stood just feet away from me while she waited for her cue to walk forward. We even made eye contact while we waited. It was probably because I looked like a deer caught in headlights.
Filming finally started. Damian Lewis eulogized his deceased best friend from the Army. Over and over and over and over again. Claire Danes eventually got to walk up the aisle (over and over again) to her appointed seat.
In the middle of Damian Lewis’ eulogy, an actor portraying another of their Army buddies as noisily as possible dropped his crutches. The sound was quite startling to those of us in the audience who didn’t have a clue what was happening. That quite loud segment was filmed over and over again.
At one point, they were filming as if we were all sad and talking among ourselves about how sad it was that this Army veteran had died. It was hard to keep from laughing as we turned to the complete strangers sitting next to us and were instructed to quietly make specific comments about how tragic the whole thing was. By then it was late in the day and most of us were a bit sorry we’d volunteered for this unknown television show that probably would never even air.
“Homeland” did air. It was a successful series that lasted eight seasons. Marie and I watched almost every episode. It was fun to pick out local sights in the various episodes during the first several years when it was filmed in the Charlotte area. There was the staged explosion at Marshall Park in downtown Charlotte and even a scene at a small mom and pop motel in Mt. Pleasant here in Cabarrus County. And, of course, there was the episode that included the funeral at Avondale Presbyterian Church.
When the episode aired, we learned that Damian Lewis’ character had in fact murdered the man we heard him eulogizing.
It turned out that Marie and I were both seated so near the back of the sanctuary that we couldn’t even pick out ourselves in the crowd when the episode aired. Much to Marie’s relief, the entire segment of her and “obnoxious man” walking arm-in-arm to the church ended up on the cutting room floor.
Nevertheless, we know we were in Season 1 Episode 6 (“Good Soldier”) of “Homeland” and in the process we learned that it can take eight hours to film a two-minute segment of a television show. I don’t know how actors stand it.
We came to like the part Mandy Patinkin played in the series and regretted that we didn’t get to see him during our day of hurry up and wait.
It was more than a bit out of character for Marie and me, but we were glad we did it. It wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but parts of it were fun and it gave us a whole new appreciation for the tedium actors must endure.
Since my last blog post
I continue to work on the family cookbook, The Aunts in the Kitchen. It’s time to figure out the cover and write the bios for each of the aunts.
I also continue to work on my genealogy.
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Librarian Spy: A Novel of World War II, by Madeline Martin.
Until my next blog post
Find time for family, friends, and a hobby.
Don’t forget the people of Ukraine, Uvalde, and Highland Park, etc. and the people in Kentucky whose lives have been turned upside down by flooding.
“The what?” you say. I must admit I’m guilty, too. I had to look it up.
In a nutshell, the Wilmot Proviso of 1846 was a failed attempt in the US Congress to ban slavery in the western territories the US obtained as a result of the Mexican-American War. It was just this type action that paved the way for the American Civil War in 1861.
The proviso was named for David Wilmot, the Congressman from Pennsylvania who introduced it on August 8, 1846. The proviso was a rider on a $2 million appropriations bill three months into the Mexican-American War. The bill passed in the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate.
Perhaps in the southwestern US states, the Mexican-American War is taught in elementary and high schools, but it was my experience in North Carolina that the two-year war in the 1840s was just mentioned in passing. Or perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention. Anyway, I had to do some research to find the details of the Wilmot Proviso.
The Missouri Compromise of 1820 prohibited slavery in the remaining Louisiana Territory above the 36th parallel, 30 north latitude line. The “compromise” was that Missouri was admitted to the Union as a slave state at the same time Maine was admitted as a free state.
The controversy over the annexation of the Republic of Texas enters into the story, as did New Mexico and California, which had been captured by the US during the Mexican-American War. After substantial land area gains by the US early in the war, Congress started setting its sights on more expansion from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Slavery was a hot button issue and Democrats and Whigs (the two main political parties in the US at that time) tried to keep it out of national politics. There was no way to avoid it, however. It was the proverbial “elephant in the room.”
There was disagreement within the Democratic Party over the way Martin Van Buren had been denied the party’s nomination for US President in 1844 when southern delegates uncovered an old convention rule that required a nominee to receive a two-thirds vote by delegates. (I didn’t take time to thoroughly research that. I’m sure there’s more to the story than meets the eye.)
More and more over time, the Mexican-American War was more popular in the southern states than in the northern states. It was seen by many in the south as a way to gain more territory where slavery would be accepted.
Back to the Wilmot Proviso
President James K. Polk sent a request to Congress for $2 million to boost negotiations with Mexico to end the war. That was on Saturday, August 8, 1846. Congress was scheduled to adjourn two days later. A special night session was arranged by the Democrats so the request could be considered.
Rules mandated that debate be limited to two hours. No one member of Congress could speak for more than ten minutes. A Polk supporter and friend to many southerners, David Wilmot was selected to present the bill to help ensure its passage.
The following language was included in the proviso that would apply to all territory the United States would acquire from Mexico by virtue of any peace treaty: “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted.”
The Senate took up the House bill and there was a push to pass it with the exception of the Wilmot Proviso. The Democratic politicians thought the House would then be forced to pass the bill without the proviso due to the bewitching midnight hour when Congress had to adjourn.
Senator John Davis, a Massachusetts Whig, schemed that he would speak on the floor of the Senate so long that the Senate would have to vote on the bill as written because it would be too late to return the bill to the House of Representatives.
Does anyone know what time it is?
In a twist of fate (or by design?), there was an eight-minute difference in the official clocks of the Senate and the House. The clock in the House struck midnight before Davis could call for the vote in the Senate. The 1846 session of Congress had adjourned without full passage of the $2 million bill.
Proponents introduced the bill again in 1847 as a $3 million bill, but it had the same results. There were efforts to resurrect the proviso in 1848 as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but those efforts also failed.
The Wilmot Proviso would have effectively made the 1820 Missouri Compromise null and void.
What happened about slavery in the western territories/states?
California’s constitution banned slavery, so it was given statehood as a free state in 1850. Nevada was admitted to the Union as a free state in 1864. The US. acquired New Mexico and Utah in 1848, and slavery was legal in those territories until slavery was banned in all US territories in 1862.
How did Texas play into this?
My research about the Wilmot Proviso prompted me to delve into the history of Texas. The Republic of Texas was annexed by the United States and granted statehood in 1845 – just months before the debates over the Wilmot Proviso began. I knew there were slaves in Texas. We just recently celebrated Juneteenth, marking the anniversary of the slaves in Texas finally being told they were free.
I learned that there were African slaves in Texas as early as 1529. Texas joined the United States as a slave state. Slavery was a deciding factor in the annexation of the Republic of Texas while James K. Polk was US president.
Therefore, since Texas was already a US state prior to the debate over the Wilmot Proviso of 1846, slavery in Texas wouldn’t have been affected by the proviso, had it passed. It would have only pertained to territories the US gained as a result of the Mexican-American War.
What a difference one action or inaction can make
My research last week brought to mind how nations evolve and how peoples’ lives can turn on a dime with decisions made by governments. What if the Wilmot Proviso had passed in 1846 (or 1847 or 1848?) What if Texas had not been a state in 1846? What if the US had not won the Mexican-American War? What if the South had won the Civil War? What if African slaves had never been brought to North America? What if America had been defeated in the American Revolutionary War? What if Germany and Japan had won World War II?
How different world history would be if just one of those decisions or wars had gone the other way!
Aftermath of the Wilmot Proviso
If nothing else, the Wilmot Proviso brought to light how divided the United States was between the North and the South. The Democrats and Whigs were both split by regional loyalties.
Neither party wanted to vote on the issue of slavery, but the vote on the Wilmot Proviso pulled the cover off and began to lay bare the true division within the country. What had begun some 70 years earlier as an experiment in democracy was now under more pressure than ever and would ultimately be tested in a civil war just 15 years later.
Even with the end of that civil war, the issue of race relations in the United States would not be settled and, sadly, remains a point of conflict to this day. It is still “the elephant in the room” – that difficult conversation we still struggle with in our society today.
Since my last blog post
As you might guess, I spent several hours researching the Wilmot Proviso and condensing my findings into a somewhat digestible blog post. You’re probably saying, “That was more than I wanted to know about the Wilmot Proviso.” I felt the same way as the history got increasingly complicated.
With the Wilmot Proviso out of the way, I turned my focus to working on my family cookbook project, my historical short stories, and some reading.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I’ve already read a one this month and I’m ready to share my thoughts about it in my September 5 blog post.
Life is short. Make time for friends and family.
If you don’t have a hobby, find one.
Don’t forget the people of Ukraine, Uvalde, and Highland Park, etc. and the people in Kentucky whose lives have been turned upside down by flooding.