Friday, October 29, 2021

Among the Lost

Hauntings is the first anthology by the Historical Writers Forum. It was a fun challenge to write a ghost story! I decided to place mine at the Northern Michigan Asylum - now The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

One of the buildings awaiting renovation
at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

By chance, I had visited this historic site shortly before the inquiry for Hauntings, so it was a ripe idea fresh in my mind. Edith Wharton is one of my favorite authors, and her gothic ghost stories, such as Afterward, were my inspiration for Among the Lost

Steam tunnels at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

I placed a young nurse at the center of a mystery. She fears that a ghost might haunt the asylum grounds, but that is not the greatest danger she faces.

Hallway in an unrenovated building at
The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

You can tour the abandoned asylum buildings if you happen to be in Traverse City. This is, of course, the best time of year to go 'Up North' as we say here in Michigan. The autumn colors are beautiful.

But, beware, you just might encounter a restless soul in need of your assistance.


Excerpt from Among the Lost:

A harsh northern Michigan breeze blew off the dark waters of the bay and turned autumn leaves into missiles as I raced across the frozen lawn. Nancy seemed to have waited for me but didn’t quite allow me to catch up. I didn’t pause until I reached the entrance to the shed. She had entered it, as I knew she would, but I began to consider what was inside and why I never saw her come back out.

Freezing and irritated by leaves smacking me in the face, I took a deep breath and pulled the door open.

She wasn’t there.

I found myself at the top of a steep stairway that led underground into an indiscernible dark gloom.

I gulped and closed the door behind me. At least the wind stopped. I peered down the steps, trying to decide if I should descend them. I heard my Dante’s voice in my head.

“Abandon hope all who enter here.”

Knowing I would be angry with myself in the morning if I stopped now, I forced my feet forward.....

KEEP READING Among the Lost by Samantha Wilcoxson in Hauntings

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

America in the 1910s


My readers will know that I have recently immersed myself in American history, so I am excited to welcome Tammy Pasterick to the blog today with some insight into America in the 1910s. 

Welcome, Tammy!

~ Samantha


America in the 1910s

Guest Post by Tammy Pasterick

When I decided to write a novel set in 1910s Pittsburgh, I knew a little about the time period, largely due to a genealogy project I had been working on for months. My research into the lives of my Eastern European great-grandparents had uncovered many fascinating details about immigrants coming to the United States in the early twentieth century. I had a solid understanding of their living and working conditions as well as the societal challenges they faced. However, I needed to learn so much more about the world outside my great-grandparents’ close-knit ethnic community in order to create an authentic story world for my novel. Below are some of the interesting facts my research revealed. 

During the 1910s, America evolved into an urban nation. Young people left rural areas and farms to settle in the cities to work in the steel, textile, railroad, and food production industries. Cities also expanded due to the ease of travel provided by automobiles, buses, and streetcars while American factories grew larger and more capable of producing a variety of goods. As a result, people stopped making their own clothes, food, and household goods and began shopping at local retailers and in the catalogs of Sears, Roebuck, and Co. and L.L. Bean.

As people moved closer to one another in urban and suburban neighborhoods, they became more fashion and lifestyle conscious. Fashion became more functional, and people avoided clothing that restricted movement. Magazines like
Vogue and McCall’s featured the latest in women’s clothing, hairstyles, and makeup. And as jobs outside the home became more available to women, they became enthusiastic consumers and spent their hard-earned wages. Manufacturers started producing products specifically designed for them.Automobiles such as the Ford Model T and the Cadillac Touring Edition began to take on a stylish look as did buildings. Architects experimented with new modern designs, and an increasing number of skyscrapers were built. The Woolworth Building was completed in New York City in 1913, which was the tallest building in the world until 1930 when the Chrysler building was erected. Pennsylvania Station opened in New York City in 1910, and the Hallidie Building was completed in San Francisco in 1918. It was the first glass curtain wall building in the country.

Throughout the decade, several segments of society continued to be outsiders. By 1914, every southern state and many northern cities had Jim Crow laws that discriminated against Black Americans. But despite their mistreatment, most African Americans approached World War I with courage and patriotism. Approximately 370,000 Black soldiers served during the war, including about 1,400 officers. 

Certain immigrant groups, such as those from Southern and Eastern Europe, were also isolated and viewed negatively by the mainstream. By 1910, they made up 70 percent of the immigrants entering the country. That same year, an estimated three-quarters of New York City’s population consisted of new immigrants and first-generation Americans. But sadly, their presence was not always welcome. The rapidly changing demographics of the country frightened and angered some native-born Americans>—many of Northern and Western European descent—and they deeply resented these impoverished newcomers. As a result, there was intense pressure on immigrants to assimilate and speak English in public. Many even felt compelled to change their last names to hide their ethnic origins. As America was about to enter World War I, anti-immigration sentiment peaked, and the Immigration Act of 1917 was passed. It established a literacy requirement for immigrants entering the country and stopped immigration from most Asian countries.

The reasons these new immigrant groups poured into the country were essentially the same as their predecessors. They wanted to escape religious, racial, and political persecution in their homelands or seek better economic opportunities. Italian and Greek laborers were often enticed to come with the promise of contract labor agreements known as padrones, while Hungarians, Poles, Slovaks, and Bohemians went to work in the coal mines and steel mills. They were hoping for a better life, but working conditions in the steel and coal industries were brutal. Accidents in the mills and mines were common, and injured workers were often let go and forced to pay their own medical bills. The dead were easily replaced by the countless immigrants arriving at Ellis Island every day. But the onset of World War I did provide some temporary victories for the labor movement as worker shortages gave unions leverage in bargaining with companies for higher wages and safer working conditions.

The 1910s were a period of transition in America. The rapid urbanization of the country and new technological developments rearranged people’s priorities and drastically changed the way they lived, shopped, and commuted to work. Changing demographics and the great war in Europe led to increased societal conflict, a rise in xenophobia, and modest advances in the labor movement. It was a decade of transformation—a decade that would spark the imagination of any author. When I completed my research, I had a wealth of ideas for bringing the world of my great-grandparents to life in
Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash. 


It’s Pittsburgh, 1910—the golden age of steel in the land of opportunity. Eastern European immigrants Janos and Karina Kovac should be prospering, but their American dream is fading faster than the colors on the sun-drenched flag of their adopted country. Janos is exhausted from a decade of twelve-hour shifts, seven days per week, at the local mill. Karina, meanwhile, thinks she has found an escape from their run-down ethnic neighborhood in the modern home of a mill manager—until she discovers she is expected to perform the duties of both housekeeper and mistress. Though she resents her employer’s advances, they are more tolerable than being groped by drunks at the town’s boarding house.

When Janos witnesses a gruesome accident at his furnace on the same day Karina learns she will lose her job, the Kovac family begins to unravel. Janos learns there are people at the mill who pose a greater risk to his life than the work itself, while Karina—panicked by the thought of returning to work at the boarding house—becomes unhinged and wreaks a path of destruction so wide that her children are swept up in the storm. In the aftermath, Janos must rebuild his shattered family—with the help of an unlikely ally.

Impeccably researched and deeply human, Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash delivers a timeless message about mental illness while paying tribute to the sacrifices America's immigrant ancestors made.

Available now wherever you buy books! 
Amazon UK   AmazonUS   Amazon CA   AmazonAU   Barnesand Noble   iBooks   Books-A-Million 


Connect with Tammy:

A native of Western Pennsylvania, Tammy Pasterick grew up in a family of steelworkers, coal miners, and Eastern European immigrants. She began her career as an investigator with the National Labor Relations Board and later worked as a paralegal and German teacher. She holds degrees in labor and industrial relations from Penn State University and German language and literature from the University of Delaware. She currently lives on Maryland's Eastern Shore with her husband, two children, and chocolate Labrador retriever.

Connect with Tammy 

on her website


AmazonAuthor Page, and Goodreads

Monday, October 25, 2021

Edenton Ladies' Patriotic Guild

On 25 October 1774, a group of fifty-one ladies of Edenton, North Carolina, met to add their support to the patriotic movement taking place in the American colonies. The gathering was held at the home of Elizabeth King and included women from well-known families eager to do their part. Their first action was to serve an American herbal concoction rather than tea imported from Great Britain.

Penelope Barker, Edenton Historical Commission

Penelope Barker called the meeting to order and encouraged the women to share the patriotism of their menfolk and help them bear the burden in any way they could. Women would, in the years to come, endure much through the years of the Revolutionary War. Some would farm and perform physical labor of which they had not believed themselves capable. Others would run businesses while husbands and fathers joined the fighting. All women had to rearrange their lives around the fact that they lived and raised families in a country at war with dangers and threats sometimes just outside their door.

On this autumn day in 1774, however, the war had not yet started and many believed that the colonists were simply demanding their rights as British citizens who should not be treated as second-class simply because they resided in the American colonies. In addition to drinking tea made from raspberry leaves and other clever ingredients, the ladies agreed to boycott all imported British goods. They were bold in their intentions, proclaiming them in print and encouraging women of other areas to join them, even including their names.

3 November 1774 Virginia Gazette

Some men ridiculed the women's efforts and the women themselves. The political cartoon 'A Society of Ladies' is meant to portray the Edenton women as immoral and unattractive for their stance. Men might think this way because they supported King George III or because they didn't think women should be proclaiming any political opinions at all.  British artist, Philip Dawe, shows the women neglecting their children and carousing with men of questionable character. Of course, in his cartoon, the women are also all hopelessly ugly.

Others applauded the women for their patriotic efforts, though the women's "tea party" hasn't shared the fame of the men's tea party in Boston. Throughout the war, women would be less recognized for their efforts, regardless of what was accomplished or suffered. However, one can't help but wonder how successful the men would have been in their fighting and politicking without the support of women who kept home fires burning, maintained farms that fed troops, and sewed the uniforms that clothed them.

Boycotting British imports was a huge commitment for women who had to find a way to replace those items in a country that did not produce all of the items they were used to ordering from abroad. Homespun became a patriotic fashion to replace finer fabrics that were not produced in the Americas and women found ways of making many things that they had previously purchased in addition to other wartime obligations. 

Many women followed the Edenton ladies' example. Abigail Adams ran her family's farms during John's long absences, Esther Reed led the collection of $300,000 for women to provide soldiers with shirts during the war, and Martha Washington wore homespun as George's first lady. 


Read more in Women of the American Revolution, coming July 2022 from Pen & Sword.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Here There Were Dragons . . . and a ghost story challenge!


Being involved in the publishing of Hauntings has been a great experience. It is the first Historical Writers Forum anthology, and I hope there will be many more! At first, I wasn't quite sure what I thought of the idea of writing a ghost story. It was not something I had ever considered, but it turned out to be such fun. 

My guest today, Kate Jewell, also wrote a short story for Hauntings - her first published book - congratulations, Kate! Her story has already been mentioned as a favorite by one reviewer, and I think my readers will love it too. I am happy to welcome Kate to the blog today to talk more about her story, Here There Were Dragons.

~ Samantha


Here There Were Dragons 

Rising to the Hauntings challenge, becoming immersed in the mythical culture of Somerset, and going in search of a ghost.

Guest Post by Kate Jewell

Last November, (goodness, was it eleven months ago?), apart from getting panicky about packing up for my move from Leicestershire down to temporary accommodation with my daughter in Somerset, I was participating in a small critique group of writers. One evening I settled down to respond to various Messenger posts, one from Paula Lofting. Expecting to continue our previous day’s discussion on authorial voice, imagine my surprise when the conversation went like this:

Paula: I have something to ask you.
Me: Yes?
Paula: How would you like to join a bunch of us in writing an anthology of ghost stories for next year’s Halloween and have it published in a compilation?
Me: Sounds good. Tell me more.
Paula: Well, it’s me, Sharon Bennett Connolly, Samantha Wilcoxson, Lynn Dawson and Stephanie Churchill and we hope to enlist a few others. 10,000 story to be published for Halloween.
Me: 10,000 stories or 10,000 words? (grinning emoticon)
Paula: words lol
Me: Anything goes? Historical though, I presume.
Paula: Yes, but anything goes. I think probably we write in the period we usually would write, but also you might have an idea that’s local to you.
Me: Something West Country, then. My new area.

Longish pause while I digested this unexpected offer. Why on earth would these successful published authors want inexperienced newbie on their project? Well, it couldn’t be any more stressful than moving house? Could it?

Me, diving into unknown territory: Count me in!

A few days later, it finally sank in. A story up to 10,000 words – they wanted me…ME…to write 10,000 words – two chapters worth – in under twelve months – with a proper beginning, middle and end. The only other short story I had ever written had been 3,500 words and had taken me ages. And what on earth was I going to write about? Historical fiction, yes. But ghost stories? Definitely not my thing.

Inspiration finally struck on a miserable, wet, end-of-December day. Desperate to get out after months of lock down, we took a family excursion to Castle Neroche Forest on the edge of the Blackdown Hills. As we walked through this Forestry Commission mixed woodland, I was mesmerised by the lichen and moss-covered trees swathed in dripping ivy. Even in winter the terrain was stunning; high banks and deep valleys, steep tracks meandering into the distance, the sound of trickling water and two dragon heads carved into the remains of a fallen tree.

Carved wooden dragons face it out across the path

An information board told of a Norman motte-and-bailey castle built on the remnants of an old Iron Age Hill Fort, the motte tower overlooking the vast Taunton Vale, and I began to imagine a ghostly encounter under the trees beneath castle ramparts. Only what I scribbled down wasn’t making sense. I couldn’t work out what the ghost’s history was and who the apparition would choose to haunt. And what were those dragons doing in the forest? I needed research; that addiction that sends me chasing after ever-expanding threads that are crying out to be followed into a tangle of facts, dead ends and improbabilities. Surpassing himself, the lovely Mr Google took me by the hand and directed me towards a wealth of information, mostly in academic papers and land surveys.

The original Iron Age hill fort was constructed around 700BCE on a promontory at the northern edge of the Blackdown Hills. The natural defences of the 150ft escarpment were augmented by earth banks creating a secure enclosure. During the Roman occupation, the site was enlarged as a military camp in the campaign against rebel tribes but fell out of use after the Romans left Britain. In 1067 William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Robert, Count of Mortain, took advantage of the ancient earth works and built a motte-and-bailey castle. Preferring his castle at Montacute, he abandoned Castle Neroche 20 years later.

Castle Neroche: plan of site from Rev Warre’s paper, 1854
Image from the Biodiversity Heritage Library

It wasn’t until around 1138, during the civil war, known as the Anarchy, between King Steven and his cousin, the empress Matilda, that Castle Neroche was briefly refortified. The motte ditch was enlarged, and the wooden keep was replaced by a small stone tower, surrounded by a defensive wall. By 1147, the conflict was petering out and the need for a fortress guarding against incursions by Matilda’s supporters from the west diminished. By the mid 13th century, the castle was in a ruinous state, the stone no doubt plundered for local building. The surrounding land was a royal forest until 1633.

Acquired by the Forestry Commission in 1947, the immediate area to the north and east of the castle is now managed commercial mixed woodland as part of long-term proposals to restrict conifers to the poorer soils and expand broadleaf trees with dedicated woodland pasture and permanent open spaces.

Mysterious paths and steep steps in Castle Neroche Forest

Beyond the carpark and hidden behind the tree-clad southern ramparts, is Castle Neroche Farm. One of the forest paths, leading to the viewpoint on the motte, skirts a rough hedge and a fence. Through the bushes you can glimpse farm buildings and the gable end of a modest farmhouse, built in the outer bailey enclosure in the early 1830s. Could this be the venue for my story? What would an early Victorian farmstead be like? What about the family that lived there? Why would the place be ‘haunted’? Something to do with the 12th century castle perhaps.

Searching for images of old farming practices, I stumbled across a series of detailed papers about farming in the 19th century presented to the Devonshire Association at the begin of the 1920s. There were meticulous descriptions of the Victorian farmhouse exterior arrangement and internal organisation, based on studies of several old Devon ‘bartons’, or larger farms. Being in south west Somerset, my farmhouse couldn’t have differed greatly from those in the adjacent county of east Devon. I had struck gold; I could now visualise the farming family living amongst the remnants of this old castle, though my imaginary farmhouse bore little resemblance to the real one. I visualised my farmer, his wife, two older sons, a 15-year-old daughter and two much younger boys; toyed with names. Little Tommy for the youngest and, for the daughter, Annie, my main character.

The farmhouse at Castle Neroche Farm built c.1833 © Roger Cornfoot 2009

One research paper, presented to the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society in 1854, was a detailed survey of the Castle Neroche site by the Rev F Warre. His enthusiasm for his subject is clear, and he ends with an anecdotal twist; a tale of treasure seekers digging for money in the escarpment and meeting a gruesome end. This sent me down another rabbit hole of research, but the Reverend Warre proved elusive. I found little about him apart from Census records and the odd mention in the journals of the aforementioned society, of which he was a founding member in1849, being their General Secretary until 1867. He was the vicar of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, in Bishops Lydeard, Somerset from 1836. He obviously had a great interest in the area’s history, and I could imagine him being splendid company with many tales to tell. Here was someone I might be able to use in my story.

None of this research explained why there were those two opposing dragon heads in the forest.

Dragon on the west side of the main path

Following up on the story at the end of Rev Warre’s paper, and knowing there are many mythical tales of buried treasure in the West Country, I went in search of Somerset legends. To my delight I found numerous mentions of dragons. I came across a fantastic book by Brian Wright specifically on Somerset Dragons, not only retelling mythical tales but presenting a factual record of dragon ‘portraits’ decorating churches in stained glass and carvings, public house signs, decorating old and modern buildings, in street art and as the centre piece of the Somerset county coat of arms. Somerset is awash with dragons; Brian Wright tells us. “Among the counties of England, Scotland and Wales, Somerset seems to have more dragon legends and various items of ‘evidence’ than most other counties…. Only Yorkshire exceeds its stories by two, but with a lot less ‘evidence’.” (Somerset Dragons, Tempus Publishing 2002). And in this book is an account of the drowning of the Castle Neroche dragon. There were more tales lurking on the World Wide Web, but to combine the Rev Warre’s anecdote with Brian Wright’s story would give me a foundation on which to build.

At last I had found a historical setting: the motte-and-bailey castle in 1148 and Castle Neroche Farm 700years later, a protagonist: the farmer’s teenage daughter, and a supporting character: the Reverend Francis Warre. I also had a kind of antagonist: a dragon.

All I needed now was the ‘ghost’ and a narrative to weave it all together.

Further reading and essential if you want to go dragon spotting in Somerset:

Somerset Dragons, Brian Wright, Tempus Publishing, Stroud UK, 2002


Find out how Kate brought this fascinating history together into a thrilling ghost story in Hauntings - available now on Amazon!


Chilling Tales that will take you through a labyrinth of historical horror.

You will encounter a tormented Roman general.

A Norse woman who must confront her terrifying destiny.

Meet a troubled Saxon brother, searching for his twin's murderer.

A young nurse tries to solve the mysteries of an asylum for the insane.

Down the passages of time, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn wander through a haunted garden and elsewhere, a lost slave girl is the soul survivor of a mass slaughter.

These are just a few of the eerie tales which ensure that Hauntings is not for the faint-hearted.

Hauntings is available in paperback and for Kindle
worldwide on Amazon.

Connect with Kate

Kate Jewell was brought up in Portsmouth and educated at boarding school in Bournemouth, both on the English south coast. An avid reader, Kate was grabbed by historical fiction at an early age, devouring Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth late into the night, with the aid of a torch under the bedcovers in the school dorm. A lifelong passion for the 15th and 16th century was ignited by a history teacher who, on hearing complaints about having to do more ‘boring Napoleonic battles’, suggested Kate joined an archaeology summer camp in Southampton, run by medievalist and university professor Colin Platt. Fascinating stuff for a 16-year-old.

Unsuccessfully applying to Brighton Art School, she ended up miles from the sea in Coventry, her pin-in-the-list second choice, where she graduated in Graphic Design. She has worked in advertising, as a book designer for a children’s book publisher, in a busy Local Government graphic design studio, and as a Creative Arts lecturer in Further Education. After retiring from her proper jobs, she worked part time in a Register Office doing weddings and registering births and deaths. After over thirty years in the East Midlands, she has finally escaped from landlocked Leicestershire to pastures new in West Dorset; a welcome return to the south with the Jurassic Coast only 12 miles away. Her elder daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons live nearby in Somerset. Her younger daughter and her partner are renovating a Provençal farmhouse, so keeping up with her two young “French” granddaughters has forced Kate to become expert in Zooming! When not writing, she can be found pottering in the garden, painting and drawing in her studio, or exploring the countryside with her camera.

Kate’s short story, The Daisy Fisher, set in 18th century Cornwall, won the 2019 Historic Writers Association/Dorothy Dunnett Society Short Story Competition, and her long-running series of articles on the Dorothy Dunnett book cover art is published in Whispering Gallery, the society’s journal. She has been working on a fiction project, following a group of adventurers through the turbulent transition from the Plantagenets to the Tudors. This has been going on for so many years Kate is amazed her characters haven’t used her procrastination an excuse to abandon their weapons and go in search of a quite retirement.

Here there were Dragons, Kate’s first foray into spooky fiction, is a ghost story with a difference, a dual era tale with a 700-year time gap. It seems as if the short story format is king at the moment!

Connect with Kate on Facebook and Twitter.

Interested in the Historical Writers Forum? Find them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Tragedy of Angelica Hamilton

On 25 September 1784, Alexander and Eliza Hamilton welcomed into the world their first daughter, Angelica, named for Eliza's closest sister. Little Angelica was baptized four years later at Trinity Church alongside her older brother, Philip, and younger brother, Alexander Jr, on 12 October 1788. Her affection for her brothers was undoubtedly encouraged in the growing, close-knit Hamilton family, but it would lead to Angelica's tragic downfall.

Trinity Church, New York City

Trinity Church was a familiar place to Angelica. Her mother, Eliza (Schuyler) Hamilton, made a priority of bringing her children to services, where they rented pew 92, even if her husband was often too busy to join them. Her father might not have always been at her side in church, but Angelica still had fond memories of singing and playing piano with him at home. As the first United States secretary of the treasury, Alexander was always busy, but he strived to make time for his growing family.

Alexander Hamilton

As familiar to Angelica as the bustling city of New York were the rolling fields of her grandfather's Albany farms. Philip and Catherine Schuyler often hosted Eliza and her children when they escaped the heat of the city, leaving Alexander behind to work. Angelica was too young to be aware of her father's more nefarious escapades. During one of her trips away from her father, Alexander wrote to Angelica to encourage her in her studies.

I was very glad to learn, my dear daughter, that you were going to begin the study of the French language. We hope you will in every respect behave in such a manner as will secure to you the good-will and regard of all those with whom you are. If you happen to displease any of them, be always ready to make a frank apology. But the best way is to act with so much politeness, good manners, and circumspection, as never to have occasion to make any apology. Your mother joins in best love to you. Adieu, my very dear daughter.

Angelica loved her family and had every reason to anticipate a bright future as the eldest daughter of the famous Alexander Hamilton. She was closest to her older brother, Philip, and her life unraveled when he participated in a duel with George Eacker on 23 November 1801. Philip was shot and died the next day.

Philip Hamilton
(some sources label this sketch as William Hamilton, which is possibly true)

His parents were grief-stricken by the loss of their 19-year-old son. Robert Troup, who was present at Philip's deathbed, reflected, 'Never did I see a man so completely overwhelmed with grief as Hamilton had been.' Eliza, pregnant with their eighth child, was so delirious with grief that it was feared she might suffer a miscarriage. The son she gave birth to on 2 June 1802 was named Philip after his deceased older brother.

Angelica was 17-years-old when Philip was killed, and she never recovered from the shock and grief of the event. Her parents tried every treatment available at the time, but early nineteenth-century mental healthcare left much to be desired. Angelica lived until 1857 speaking of her brother as if he had never died.

Hamilton Grange, New York City

The Hamiltons were in the process of building The Grange when Philip died, and they moved to the home that they had planned with such optimistic future hopes shortly after his death. Visitors can still see the piano that Angelica played with her father there. Although Angelica was courting age, she did not receive suitors and never left the care of her mother as her mental health steadily declined. Her conditioned worsened when Alexander was also killed in a duel not three years after his son on 12 July 1804.

Angelica took refuge in playing her piano and speaking to her dead brother as if he were still there, while often failing to recognize other family members. She eventually required the continuous care of a doctor and was placed in the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum directed by Dr James Macdonald sometime after 1825 but before Eliza's sale of The Grange in 1833.

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

In 1837, Eliza traveled to western territory in order to visit her son, William. She wrote to her youngest son, Philip, asking him to 'write to me and let me know how Angelica is.' Philip had either agreed to visit his sister at the asylum during their mother's absence or Angelica was being cared for in Philip's home. Angelica died on 6 February 1857, but her life had truly ended with her brother's long before. Her sister, Eliza, said of Angelica's eminent death, 'Poor sister, what a happy release will be hers. Lost to herself a half century!!'


Additional reading:
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Reminiscences of James A Hamilton by James Hamilton
The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton by Allan McLane Hamilton

Coming in 2022: 
Women of the American Revolution by Samantha Wilcoxson

Friday, September 17, 2021

Benjamin Franklin Goes to France


Join me in welcoming a new guest to the blog today! Steve Gnatz has written about Benjamin Franklin in Paris, and I can't wait to pick this one up. Why did Franklin go to France in 1776? Gnatz shares some insight below.

Welcome, Steve!

~ Samantha


Benjamin Franklin Goes to France

Guest Post by Steve Gnatz

On October 26th, 1776, Benjamin Franklin, along with his grandsons Temple (age 16) and Benny (age 7), boarded the American naval vessel USS Reprisal to be transported to France. This is where the story begins in my historical fiction novel The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris

Once in France, Ben would assume the position of the unofficial American ambassador to the French court of Louis XVI. 

Obtaining the support of the French against the British would be key to the success of the American Revolution. France and England were enemies at the time – and as it is said “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. France had lost face in the Seven Years War and was looking to recover some stature on the world stage, if nothing else. 

Still Franklin found that the French king could not be openly supportive to the American war effort. The support had to come via a very circuitous route involving a Spanish shell company and also needed to evade the watchful eye of British spies. One of Franklin’s own confidants, Edward Bancroft, was later revealed to be a “double agent” working for both the British and American causes. It is possible that Franklin knew of this duplicity as no information ever passed by Bancroft significantly changed the outcome of the war.

Despite all of the challenges he faced in France, Franklin’s efforts led to increasingly open support by the French – particularly after the first few hard fought American battles resulting in some victories against the British. 

By 1784, it was clear that America had won the conflict with French assistance, and the British capitulated. Ben was present at the signing of the Treating on Paris. An interesting historical note is that the British envoy to the signing failed to sit for his portrait – and it remains unfinished until this day.

Treaty of Paris

Of course, The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris isn’t only about the American revolution – even though these historical events play a major part in the background. 

 The book is really about the conflict between science and mysticism in late 18th century France. While in Paris, Franklin was invited to head a commission charged with investigating the quasimedical practice promulgated by Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer. 

Mesmer mesmerizing

Mesmer claimed that he could channel a mysterious fluid (force) that was capable of healing people. Today, we could probably consider his “discovery” to be hypnotism. But in the day, it was considered heretical to the medical community. They wanted him exposed as a fraud. 

Franklin, the pragmatic scientist, very carefully documented blinded experiments showing that no force existed. His commission is credited with the first well-documented scientific “blinded” experiments. They even used a real blindfold! 

The commission’s work complete and the American revolutionary war won, Franklin returned from France to America in July 1785. 

Franklin Returns to Philadelphia

He received a hero’s welcome when he disembarked in Philadelphia harbor.

The Wisdom of the Flock: Franklin and Mesmer in Paris


1776: Benjamin Franklin sails to Paris, carrying a copy of the Declaration of Independence, freshly signed. His charge: gain the support of France for the unfolding American Revolution. Yet Paris is a city of distractions. Ben’s lover, Marianne Davies, will soon arrive, and he yearns to rekindle his affair with the beautiful musician. 

Dr. Franz Mesmer has plans for Marianne too. He has taken Parisian nobility by storm with his discovery of magnétisme animale, a mysterious force claimed to heal the sick. Marianne’s ability to channel Mesmer’s phenomena is key to his success. 

A skeptical King Louis XVI appoints Ben to head a commission investigating the astonishing magnétisme animale. By nature, Ben requires proof. Can he scientifically prove that it does not exist? Mesmer will stop at nothing to protect his profitable claim. 

The Wisdom of The Flock explores the conflict between science and mysticism in a time rife with revolution, love, spies, and passion.

Get your copy of The Wisdom of the Flock today! 

Amazon UK - Amazon US - Amazon CA - Amazon AU -  Barnes and Noble - Waterstones

Also Available on Kindle Unlimited

Connect with Steve

Steve Gnatz is a writer, physician, bicyclist, photographer, traveler, and aspiring ukulele player. The son of a history professor and a nurse, it seems that both medicine and history are in his blood. Writing historical fiction came naturally. An undergraduate degree in biology was complemented by a minor in classics. After completing medical school, he embarked on an academic medical career specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. There was little time for writing during those years, other than research papers and a technical primer on electromyography. Now retired from the practice of medicine, he devotes himself to the craft of fiction. The history of science is of particular interest, but also the dynamics of human relationships. People want to be good scientists, but sometimes human nature gets in the way. That makes for interesting stories. When not writing or traveling, he enjoys restoring Italian racing bicycles at home in Chicago with his wife and daughters. Connect with Steve through his Website - Blog - Facebook - BookBub - Amazon Author Page - Goodreads

Monday, September 13, 2021

El Cid: Discerning Fact from Fiction

It's a pleasure to welcome Stuart Rudge to the blog again today with some insight into discerning fact from fiction when writing historical fiction in his Legend of the Cid series. How much of that story is true? It just might surprise you!

Welcome, Stuart!



Ed Cid: Discerning Fact From Fiction

Guest Post by Stuart Rudge

The previous three novels of the Legend of the Cid series dealt with the early life of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid Campeador, from his humble beginnings as a knight from Castile, through his tenure as alferez to Sancho of Castile and his role in the struggles between the sons of Fernando. Master of Battle advances the story with some of the most significant events in his life; his marriage to Jimena Diaz, his acquisition of the legendary sword Tizona, and how he came to receive the title of El Cid.

Rodrigo and Jimena

By 1073, after the long period of unrest in Leon and Castile caused by Fernando’s death nearly a decade earlier, Rodrigo would have been around thirty years of age. For a man of his importance and age to be unmarried was rather uncommon. We do not know the circumstances of their first meeting or betrothal, but we know Rodrigo and Jimena wed in the city of Palencia on July 1074. It is generally accepted that Jimena was an Asturian, the daughter of the Count of Oviedo, and a distant cousin of Alfonso through their grandparents. Royal blood and a Visigothic lineage would have made her a worthy bride for any lord looking to advance his status. Perhaps the royal connection was a tool Alfonso used to ensure Rodrigo’s loyalty, having served Sancho so vehemently for years. The original marriage contract survives to this day, and the signatories included the king himself as well as many of the leading lords of the kingdom, showing the marriage was a grand affair and celebrated by many in Leon and Castile. After years of civil strife, it was proof Leon and Castile could coexist together once more.

Rodrigo and Jimena in Amazon’s El Cid
Source: Daily Express

Part of the mythical legend of the Cid has him kill Jimena’s father in a duel, as depicted in the Charlton Heston film, but there is no historical evidence to support this. Indeed, there is debate as to who her father was; Diego Fernandez, the count of Oviedo featured in this series, may not have been a real person, but to me is the most likely candidate. Almost nothing is known of her mother, but her two brothers Fernando and Rodrigo both served as counts of Asturias at some point in their lives.

In regards to Master of Battle, there is nothing to suggest Jimena ever had an affair with another man, for her early years are shrouded in mystery, and the complex love story between Antonio and her is purely fictional. Rodrigo and Jimena would go on to have three children; Christina, Maria and Diego, and with a swath of estates from their marriage, they would not have lacked for wealth. The initial years of marriage seemed to be fruitful and uneventful. But there is always something, or someone, willing to upset the status quo.


The name of the sword of the Cid first appears in the Cantar del mio Cid, where it is called Tizon; the poem dates to around 1160-1200 AD, just a few generations after the Cid lived, and thought some historians doubt its existence, it seems highly likely to me that he carried a blade of that name. The name seems to come from the Latin titio, which means 'embers, burning wood', or ‘firebrand, burning torch’. Though a real sword with the same name is currently housed in the Museum of Burgos, it is most certainly not the original. An examination of the blade in 2001 suggested it could have originated in the eleventh century, but the cross guard and pommel are of a Gothic style and date to a few centuries later, and so it is unlikely it the true blade which the Cid carried in to battle.

Tizona in the Museum of Burgos
Source: Wikipedia

The origins of the blade remain a mystery. The Cid had a military career spanning nearly four decades, and fought countless battles, so it is almost impossible to say. It could have been taken from a Moorish captive after some raid or significant battle; it may have been a gift from the amir of Zaragoza or Seville. The Cantar del mio Cid claims he won it from the King Yusuf of Valencia. As a historical fiction writer, I have used a little bit of research and creativity to produce an original origin story for the Cid’s acquisition of Tizona.

The Historia Roderici claims that the Cid did battle and defeated a champion of Medinaceli, but does not provide a date as to when this duel allegedly took place. Medinaceli is a town in eastern Spain, and the name derives from the Arabic Medina Salim, which meant ‘the safe city’ as it was perched on top of a hill, surrounded by a stout wall and protected by a castle. In the year 1080, a raiding party of Moors proceeded north from Medinaceli, or the area around it, and attacked the fortress of Gormaz, at that time under Castilian control, and laid waste to it. In retaliation, El Cid led an attack of his own and devastated the Moorish countryside, taking many slaves back to Castile with him. In popular tradition this act intensified an already strained relationship between Alfonso and the Cid. During the Cid’s act of retribution against the Moors, is this where he faced the champion of Medinaceli? It seems entirely plausible, and so in Master of Battle, it was all too tempting to include the duel and have the Cid take the sword of his adversary as his own.

The Battle of Cabra

The first third of the book heavily involves Garcia Ordóñez. During the reign of Sancho he had been lord of Pancorbo in eastern Castile, and seemed to have held a position of prominence; he was the signatory of several of the king’s charters, and his father had once been alferez to Fernando of Leon-Castile. In 1074, we know that he held the same position as alferez to Alfonso, and he was even a witness and signatory of Rodrigo and Jimena’s marriage contract. Then he vanishes. He is not seen in court again until the year 1080, when he

is named as count of Najera in the Rioja. Where had he been for the previous six years? We cannot be certain, but it may be he was stripped of his power and exiled from the kingdom for some undisclosed slight against the king, and it is this little snippet of possibility which I use for the inspiration for the trial of Antonio and Jimena and his subsequent exile.

Whatever Garcia’s political status in 1079, in some versions of the Cidian legend, it is recorded that he led troops belonging to the amir of Granada and attacked the taifa of Seville. Whether or not this venture was authorised by Alfonso is unclear, but it just so happened Rodrigo, one of Garcia’s most prominent political rivals, was in Seville at the time, collecting the parias tribute. Details are sparse but, believing he was defending the king’s interests in al-Andalus, Rodrigo did battle with Garcia, defeated and captured him at Cabra, and held him captive for three days. But the king was enraged with such an act, and whilst Rodrigo was reprimanded by Alfonso and his standing plummeted, Garcia’s stock rose with him becoming a count and gaining a bride of high standing in Urraca, the sister of the late King Sancho of Navarre.

A Map of Al-Andalus, 1079 AD
Source: Stuart Rudge

The term Cid derives from the Arabic honorific title al-Sayyidi, and translates as “The Master”. There is no definitive date for when Rodrigo gained this title, and neither do we know the identity of the man who bestowed it. In Amazon’s El Cid series, he is given it by the Moors after the battle of Graus in 1063. If Rodrigo did perform heroics in the battle, it is entirely plausible to have been named the Cid, but personally I believe he would have been too young to receive it after Graus. I have decided to bestow it upon him after Cabra, where a host of Muslim warriors and the amir of Seville himself would have witnessed Rodrigo’s heroics and prowess. Placing it at this point also gives the likes of Pedro Ansúrez, the king’s closest advisor, and Garcia Ordóñez an extra reason to petition the king for punishment against him; after all, if a Christian warrior is given an honorific title by the Moors, it can only increase the animosity with his jealous comrades.

I must now confess that, as a historical fiction writer, I have bent the truth of history slightly to satisfy my narrative. In this novel, the Battle of Cabra takes place after Rodrigo’s raid in to the taifa of Tulaytula; in reality, it was the other way round, for Cabra took place in 1079, and the raid in 1080. In the real series of events, the fact that Rodrigo would fight for a Muslim amir against his own comrades from Castile was a point vehemently taken up with the king by his enemies, and he most likely received a reprimand for it. Then in the following year, when raiders from Toledo attacked the great fortress of Gormaz, Rodrigo led his own incursion in retaliation – without the authority of the king. After defeating the Moorish force, Rodrigo laid waste to the surrounding area, allegedly taking thousands of slaves and returning to Castile as a rich man. But for all the wealth he plundered, his actions had serious ramifications…

Master of Battle by Stuart Rudge

Peace reigns in the Kingdom of Leon-Castile, and Antonio Perez returns to his native Asturias to discover the fate of his remaining family. Whilst there, he reconnects with Jimena, his childhood companion and the girl he once loved. But when his loyal friend Rodrigo and Jimena fall in love, Antonio is consumed by jealousy. As the wedding of two of his closest companions approaches, Antonio must battle his enemies and his inner demons, lest it lead to the ruin of all he holds dear.

Having secured his borders, Alfonso VI of Leon-Castile pushes south against the Moors. When a raid by the Moors threatens Castile, Rodrigo leads his men on a daring campaign of vengeance. But with the venture a credible threat to the uneasy peace Alfonso has brokered with the taifa kings, Rodrigo’s bravado could have dire consequences to himself and the security of the kingdom. With enemies old and new circling, will Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar find greatness on the battlefields of Hispania, and cement his reputation as one of the most feared warriors in the land, or will his actions lead to his ruin?

Master of Battle is the exhilarating fourth instalment of the Legend of the Cid.

Available now on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Connect with Stuart

Stuart Rudge was born and raised in Middlesbrough, where he still lives. His love of history came from his father and uncle, both avid readers of history, and his love of table top war gaming and strategy video games. He studied Ancient History and Archaeology at Newcastle University, and has spent his fair share of time in muddy trenches, digging up treasure at Bamburgh Castle.

He has worked in the retail sector and volunteered in museums, before working in York Minster, which he considered the perfect office. His love of writing blossomed within the historic walls, and he knew there were stories within which had to be told. Despite a move in to the shipping and logistics sector (a far cry to what he hoped to ever do), his love of writing has only grown stronger.

Rise of a Champion and Blood Feud are the first two instalments of the Legend of the Cid series. He hopes to establish himself as a household name in the mound of Bernard Cornwell, Giles Kristian, Ben Kane and Matthew Harffy, amongst a host of his favourite writers.

Connect with Stuart through his blog, Facebook or Twitter.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Puritan Life in Massachusetts Bay Colony


I have been studying colonial and early American life for my upcoming book, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to host Meredith Allard. She has written about life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for her Loving Husband Series and is here to share with us some interesting details about life in Puritan society.

Welcome, Meredith!

~ Samantha


Puritan Life in Massachusetts Bay Colony

Guest Post by Meredith Allard

The main reason I felt drawn to writing Down Salem Way was because there wasn’t much space to explore James and Elizabeth’s lives in during the Salem Witch Trials in 1691-1692 in Her Dear and Loving Husband. We get glimpses of that time through memories, but the focus in Her Dear and Loving Husband is how the past influenced the present.

James and Lizzie are not Puritans, but they live in a society ruled by Puritans. As a result, the Puritans’ strict laws do affect the Wentworths. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony believed that idle hands became tools for the devil, and they were a hardworking, driven people who worked from dawn until dusk. When they were not working in the fields, tending to animals, or completing other chores necessary for survival they focused on following what they believed to be God’s plan for them. Attending church was mandatory.

Puritans attended church at least two times a week, and all church members had to pay tithes. Select men were chosen to vote and make decisions for the church, and the Puritans’ daily rituals were controlled by the ministers and the town patriarchs.

The Puritans believed in living simply and peacefully, but woe to those who did not agree with them or follow their directions. Those who did not obey the laws would suffer punishments such as being banned from the colony, whippings, cutting off of ears, sticking head and arms through a stockade while being left to the whimsies of those looking for entertainment, and hangings. The punishments were doled out publicly—think of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter wearing her beautifully embroidered A on the scaffold for the whole village to see. The punishments were meant as public teachings. You do not conform, you do not heed our laws, and you will suffer the consequences. This person hanging from the tree could be you if you do not do what is expected of you.

A Pilgrim's Grace by Henry Mosler, 1897

Some men were farmers, but they might also be ministers, coopers, millers, tanners, furriers, or surveyors. The lives of most colonial women, especially those living in rural centers like Salem Village, were centered around farming chores. Due to the poor quality of land in the Salem area the best most could do was subsistence farming. Farm families tended to live in small, one room, musky homes with little privacy where often the entire family slept in the same room. The men worked the fields and the women chopped firewood, tended the fires, gathered eggs, milked cows, and prepared meals over the open fires of the hearths. Even with the hearth fire lit, it was still cold inside during the winter months.

The nearness of the Atlantic ocean meant that fish was an important part of their diet. They also ate meat salted for preservation, pottages, cornmeal, and porridge. Women had to preserve food for the bleak winter months, and they had to make clothing for themselves as well as everyone in their family. As if that weren’t enough, women had to make soap and candles. They tended the gardens, dried the herbs, and fermented cider for the beer. They also raised the children and their husbands, because let’s face it—husbands need raising too—and they cared for immediate as well as extended family members whenever illness struck, which was frequently in the colonial era. Childbirth was extremely dangerous. Something like one in 30 pregnancies resulted in the death of the mother, which explains why so many men were on their second, third, or fourth wives (From The Daily Life of the Colonial Woman).

The Puritan-ruled Massachusetts Bay Colony was a patriarchal society. Puritans (male Puritans) used the Bible to convince followers that women were there to act as help meets for their husbands and birth the next generation of God-fearing Puritans. Women were thought of as property passed from father to husband, and they weren’t allowed to vote or make decisions in the church. One Puritan minister said, “the Husband is to be acknowledged to hold a Superiority, which the Wife is practically to allow.” Seriously, he said that. Women’s thoughts, opinions, and knowledge were not valued in general, although that wasn’t true across the board.

There were fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons who recognized thoughtfulness and intelligence in their womenfolk. One such fortunate woman was Anne Bradstreet. Bradstreet’s father made certain she was well educated and he encouraged her literary aspirations. Her book of poems, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America, was published in London in 1650. She continued writing poetry as she raised eight children and her husband, who was himself successful in colonial Massachusetts. She wrote one poem in particular, “To My Dear and Loving Husband,” that I may have mentioned once or twice before.

Weddings were interesting affairs in Puritan New England. For a marriage contract to be considered legal there were several steps: (1) a promise to marry; (2) publishing of the banns; (3) the marriage ceremony; (4) a celebration in public of the event; and (5) consummation of the marriage. I made much of James and Elizabeth’s wedding in Her Dear and Loving Husband. I particularly enjoyed writing those scenes where James’ father, John, makes much of Elizabeth’s bride cake, and Elizabeth herself, calling her Daughter even before the marriage ceremony was performed. Elizabeth wore no special gown but rather her own dress. James and Elizabeth had their families there to celebrate and encourage the new couple to “please, gratifie and oblige one another, as far as lawfully they can” (From

The Puritans were more like us than they were different, which is generally what we discover when we study history. They had aspects of their lives that scared them, they felt driven to conform to the expectations of their society, and they did their chores, gossiped about others, and lived their lives the best they could.


Clark, Alice. The Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century. A.M. Kelley: London, 1968.

Earle, Alice Morse. Home Life in Colonial Days. Courier Corporation, 2006.

Dexter, Elizabeth A. Colonial Women of Affairs. 2nd rev. ed. Augustus M. Kelley: Clifton, NJ, 1972.

Gale Group. The Daily Life of the Colonial Woman. 1999.

Kent, Kathleen. A Day in the Life of a Puritan Woman. Retrieved from

Mixon, Franklin G. “Puritanism and the Founding of Massachusetts Bay Colony.” Public Choice Economics and the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria. Palgrave Pivot, New York, 2015. 21-31.

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750. Vintage Books: New York, 1980.

Down Salem Way

How would you deal with the madness of the Salem witch hunts?

In 1690, James Wentworth arrives in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony with his father, John, hoping to continue the success of John’s mercantile business. While in Salem, James falls in love with Elizabeth Jones, a farmer’s daughter. Though they are virtually strangers when they marry, the love between James and Elizabeth grows quickly into a passion that will transcend time.

But something evil lurks down Salem way. Soon many in Salem, town and village, are accused of practicing witchcraft and sending their shapes to harm others. Despite the madness surrounding them, James and Elizabeth are determined to continue the peaceful, loving life they have created together. Will their love for one another carry them through the most difficult challenge of all?

Available worldwide now on Amazon.

Also available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks.

Connect with Meredith

Meredith Allard is the author of the bestselling paranormal historical Loving Husband Trilogy. Her sweet Victorian romance, When It Rained at Hembry Castle, was named a best historical novel by IndieReader. Her nonfiction book, Painting the Past: A Guide for Writing Historical Fiction, was named a #1 New Release in Authorship and Creativity Self-Help by Amazon. When she isn’t writing she’s teaching writing, and she has taught writing to students ages five to 75. She loves books, cats, and coffee, though not always in that order. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit Meredith online at You can also connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Book Bub

Other books in The Loving Husband series by Meredith Allard:

Her Dear and Loving Husband  

Her Loving Husband’s Curse  

Her Loving Husband’s Return