Tuesday, May 30, 2023

How Long Island became a Summer Destination


Good morning, dear readers. As you know, I am currently working on a biography of James Alexander Hamilton, lifelong New York resident and pretty fantastic guy. So, today, I'm excited to welcome a guest who is sharing a bit of New York history with us. Have you ever wondered how Long Island became a famous destination for summer vacationers? Inez Foster is here to tell us!

Welcome, Inez!

~ Samantha


How Long Island became a Summer Destination

Guest Post by I.M. Foster

By the later part of the nineteenth century, Manhattan had grown into a major metropolitan center and financial hub. Wealthy gentlemen liked to be in the thick of the business world, while their socialite wives enjoyed the cultural aspects of big city life. For the middle class, it was seen as the place to rise up the ladder and meet influential people, maybe even marry well. As for the poor, in many cases, they could afford to go nowhere else. 

As the population of Manhattan grew, however, the wealthy and middle class sought to build their homes away from the crowded streets, in a more serene environment. They began to move their families further and further uptown and across the river to the City of Brooklyn, settling in residential neighborhoods like Park Slope The poor, too, hoped to escape the close quarters of downtown Manhattan, and many an Irishman, Italian, or German crossed the river to places like Greenpoint and Williamsburg. By 1898, Manhattan had annexed the Bronx and Staten Island and consolidated with the City of Brooklyn and half of Queens County, both of which were on Long Island, becoming the five boroughs of Greater New York.  

This gradual migration created a demand for better transportation. After all, men still had to frequent downtown to do business and their wives continued to enjoy the shopping and cultural entertainment the busy streets of Manhattan had to offer.  As a result, around 1878, the first el train was erected in Manhattan, eventually crossing over to Brooklyn, and thus affording residents of the outlying areas the best of both worlds.

In addition, the mid-eighteen-sixties had seen the Long Island Railroad head east to Long Island, opening up a world that had yet to be explored by most city-dwellers: the wide-open spaces and beckoning shorelines of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Populated mostly by farming communities, there were a few villages that became community hubs, Patchogue being one of them. It was known for the manufacturing of items such as lace and lumber, as well as for having, not one, but two, of its own department stores: Swezey and Newins and Hammond Mills. Best of all, it was away from the sweltering hot city streets, at least for part of the year.

Long Island offered a perfect playground for the rich and famous, many of whom built luxurious summer homes along both the north and the south shores. As the Railroad became more accessible, the opportunity was opened to middle-class and blue-collar workers as well. While they might not build grand homes, they could enjoy a day away from the grit and grime of the city, or maybe even a weekend. Soon large hotels and seaside cottages were being built to accommodate the rich and middle-class vacationers who came to enjoy the sun-drenched beaches. Patchogue was one of the villages along the south shore that served as a favorite destination. Hotels, boarding houses, and bungalows along the bay welcomed visitors from all economic backgrounds and became what author Hans Henke dubbed the Queen City of the South Shore.

Murder on Oak Street by I.M. Foster

New York, 1904. After two years as a coroner’s physician for the city of New York, Daniel O'Halleran is more frustrated than ever. What’s the point when the authorities consistently brush aside his findings for the sake of expediency? So when his fiancée leaves him standing at the altar on their wedding day, he takes it as a sign that it's time to move on and eagerly accepts an offer to assist the local coroner in the small Long Island village of Patchogue.

Though the coroner advises him that life on Long Island is far more subdued than that of the city, Daniel hasn’t been there a month when the pretty librarian, Kathleen Brissedon, asks him to look into a two-year-old murder case that took place in the city. Oddly enough, the case she’s referring to was the first one he ever worked on, and the verdict never sat right with him.

Eager for the chance to investigate it anew, Daniel agrees to look into it in his spare time, but when a fresh murder occurs in his own backyard, he can’t shake his gut feeling that the two cases are connected. Can he discover the link before another life is taken, or will murder shake the peaceful South Shore village once again?

Connect with I.M. Foster

I. M. Foster is the pen name author Inez Foster uses to write her South Shore Mystery series, set on Edwardian Long Island. Inez also writes historical romances under the pseudonym Andrea Matthews, and has so far published two series in that genre: the Thunder on the Moor series, a time-travel romance set on the 16th century Anglo-Scottish Borders, and the Cross of Ciaran series, which follows the adventures of a fifth century Celt who finds himself in love with a twentieth century archaeologist. 

Inez is a historian and librarian, who love to read and write and search around for her roots, genealogically speaking. She has a BA in History and an MLS in Library Science and enjoys the research almost as much as she does writing the story. In fact, many of her ideas come to her while doing casual research or digging into her family history. Inez is a member of the Long Island Romance Writers, the Historical Novel Society, and Sisters in Crime.

Connect with Inez through her website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Book Bub, Amazon Author Page, and Goodreads

Thursday, May 25, 2023

If you could change history, would you?


We all know the past is the past, but what if you could change history?

We asked eight historical authors to set aside the facts and rewrite the history they love. The results couldn’t be more tantalizing.

What if Julius Caesar never conquered Gaul?

What if Arthur Tudor lived and his little brother never became King Henry VIII?

What if Abigail Adams persuaded the Continental Congress in 1776 to give women the right to vote and to own property?

Dive in to our collection of eight short stories as we explore the alternate endings of events set in ancient Rome, Britain, the United States, and France.

An anthology of the Historical Writers Forum.

Get it for 99c on Amazon or read it FREE with Kindle Unlimited!

Meet the Authors:

Samantha Wilcoxson

Samantha Wilcoxson is an author of emotive biographical fiction and strives to help readers connect with history's unsung heroes. She also writes nonfiction for Pen & Sword History.

Samantha loves sharing trips to historic places with her family and spending time by the lake with a glass of wine. Her most recent work is Women of the American Revolution, which explores the lives of 18th century women, and she is currently working on a biography of James Alexander Hamilton.


Sharon Bennett Connolly

Historian Sharon Bennett Connolly is the best-selling author of five non-fiction history books, with a new release coming soon.

A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Sharon has studied history academically and just for fun – and has even worked as a tour guide at a castle. She writes the popular history blog, www.historytheinterestingbits.com. 

Sharon regularly gives talks on women's history; she is a feature writer for All About History magazine and her TV work includes Australian Television's 'Who Do You Think You Are?'




Cathie Dunn

Cathie Dunn writes historical fiction, mystery, and romance. The focus of her historical fiction novels is on strong women through time.

She loves researching for her novels, delving into history books, and visiting castles and historic sites.

Cathie's stories have garnered awards and praise from reviewers and readers for their authentic description of the past.




Karen Heenan

As an only child, Karen Heenan learned early that boredom was the enemy. Shortly after she discovered perpetual motion, and has rarely been seen holding still since.

She lives in Lansdowne, PA, just outside Philadelphia, where she grows much of her own food and makes her own clothes. She is accompanied on her quest for self-sufficiency by a very patient husband and an ever-changing number of cats. 

One constant: she is always writing her next book.




Salina B Baker

Salina Baker is a multiple award winning author and avid student of Colonial America and the American Revolution. 

Her lifelong passion for history and all things supernatural led her to write historical fantasy. Reading, extensive traveling and graveyard prowling with her husband keep that passion alive. 

Salina lives in Austin, Texas.




Virginia Crow

Virginia Crow is an award-winning Scottish author who grew up in Orkney and now lives in Caithness.

Her favourite genres to write are fantasy and historical fiction, sometimes mixing the two together. Her academic passions are theology and history, her undergraduate degree in the former and her postgraduate degree in the latter, and aspects of these frequently appear within her writings.

When not writing, Virginia is usually to be found teaching music. She believes wholeheartedly in the power of music, especially as a tool of inspiration, and music is often playing when she writes. Her life is governed by two spaniels, Orlando and Jess, and she enjoys exploring the Caithness countryside with these canine sidekicks.

She loves cheese, music, and films, but hates mushrooms.




Elizabeth K Corbett

Elizabeth K. Corbett is an author, book reviewer, and historian who has recently published a short story, “Marie Thérèse Remembers.” She is currently working on her debut novel, a gothic romance set in Jacksonian America.

When she is not writing, she teaches academic writing, something she is very passionate about. She believes in empowering students to express themselves and speak their truth through writing. Additionally, she is a women’s historian who studies the lives of women in eighteenth and nineteenth century North America. Mostly, she is fascinated by the lives of the lesser known women in history.

A resident of gorgeous coastal New Jersey, she takes inspiration from the local history to write her historical fiction. She is an avid reader who adores tea and coffee.




Stephanie Churchill

After serving time as a corporate paralegal in Washington, D.C., then staying home to raise her children, Stephanie Churchill stumbled upon writing, a career path she never saw coming.

As a result of writing a long-winded review of the book Lionheart, Stephanie became fast friends with its New York Times best-selling author, Sharon Kay Penman, who uttered the fateful words, “Have you ever thought about writing?” 

Stephanie’s books are filled with action and romance, loyalty and betrayal. Her writing takes on a cadence that is sometimes literary, sometimes genre fiction, relying on deeply-drawn and complex characters while exploring the subtleties of imperfect people living in a gritty, sometimes dark world.

She lives in the Minneapolis area with her husband, two children, and two dogs while trying to survive the murderous intentions of a Minnesota winter.




Michael Ross

Best selling author Michael Ross is a lover of history and great stories.

He's a retired software engineer turned author, with three children and five grandchildren, living in Newton, Kansas with his wife of forty years. He was born in Lubbock, Texas, and still loves Texas.

Michael attended Rice University as an undergraduate, and Portland State University for his graduate degree. He has degrees in computer science, software engineering, and German. In his spare time, Michael loves to go fishing, riding horses, and play with his grandchildren, who are currently all under six years old. 




Connect with Historical Writers Forum:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063689944203

Monday, May 22, 2023

Before the Salem Witch Trials


When I was researching Nathan Hale for But One Life, I realized that he was related to Reverend John Hale, who had been part of the Salem Witch Trials. I found it interesting but didn't really find a way to work it into Nathan's story. However, it did cause me to jump at the chance to welcome today's guest!

Lucretia Grindle has done some fantastic research into the era leading up to the Salem Witch Trials and written a moving novelization off this time that I can personally attest contains lovely prose and thought provoking themes. But I will let her tell you about it herself.

Welcome, Lucretia!

~ Samantha


Before the Salem Witch Trials

Guest Post by Lucretia Grindle

I began to think about the story that became The Devil’s Glove years ago when I first noticed something odd about the published research, and writing, on the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692. Let me explain. 

There are reams and reams written about the trials themselves, so much so that they have become a sort of American liturgy. We all know about yellow birds, and Giles Corey being pressed to death, and teen-aged girls screaming that they were being bitten and stabbed by pins. We’ve heard how Tituba livened up long winter evenings, probably rather more than she intended, telling fortunes. Thanks to court papers, and depositions, and Massachusetts’ general mania for writing every and anything down, we have more detail, more exhaustively researched and picked over, and over yet again, about the trials and their surrounding hoopla than we can possibly ever digest. But it all has the odd sense of having happened in a vacuum. What is conspicuously absent from both the fiction and non-fiction writing on Salem is the ‘before’ and ‘after’. Who were these people? Where did they come from? What happened to them after the hysteria wound down?

As I thought about Salem these were the questions that nagged at me, and I should say immediately that in looking for answers, I owe a huge debt to Mary Beth Norton. Her book, The Devil’s Snare, is one of very few that addresses the deep rooted problems and tensions that exploded in 1692. Following her lead, I looked farther backward, and found myself returning again and again to the coast of Maine, and specifically to the summer of 1688, when a number of people who would figure in the Salem witchcraft trials all found themselves living in the tiny, isolated settlement of Falmouth.

Judah White, an indentured servant at The Ordinary, would be named as a witch, but never tried. Mercy Lewis and her aunt, Mary Skilling, would both be prominent ‘accusers’. Foxy John Alden, a frequent visitor if not a resident, would find the finger pointed at him and waste no time escaping. George Burroughs, Falmouth’s minister, would be called the devil himself, and hanged. Abigail Hobbs, who was barely ten in 1688, would be the only person to happily confess. Providing a rapt audience in the Salem village meeting house with a litany of details, including demonic snack menus, she would claim that four years earlier she had ‘gone into the woods and signed the black man’s book’. The more I uncovered, the more it didn’t feel like coincidence.

The world I discovered as I tried to piece together what happened in that long ago hot summer was not what I expected. This was no colony of the devout – in fact many were drawn to The Eastward, as Maine was called, precisely because it was about as far as you could get from the Puritan regime in Boston. Instead, Falmouth was a frontier, a fractious world teetering on the brink of implosion, where the stakes were high and violence was never out of the question. Like all frontiers, it was also a borderland. A place ‘between’ where not only territory, but meaning and belief and identity – the very idea of what was ‘real’ - were contested, and therefore fluid. Maine in the summer of 1688 was a place where you could all too easily disappear. It was also a place where you could invent, and reinvent yourself. Or even be more than one person at once.

The ‘settler’ population, which included not only the English, but Portuguese and French, people from the channel islands, especially Jersey, traders and ruffians, conmen, chancers and more than a few slave holders, was as fluid as the place itself. Rumor and gossip traveled up and down the coast. And fear traveled with it. Of New France, which was barely a day’s sail north. Of the meddling government in Boston, or the meddling government in London, depending on your politics. Of storms. Of wolves. Of the sea. And mostly, and always, fear of the terror that could burst at any moment from the endless surrounding forest.

By 1688, two very bloody wars – the Pequod war and King Philip’s war – had already been fought in New England. The events of that summer would ignite a third. A powerful confederacy of native tribes allied with the French had decided that though they could do little about Boston, they would fight for the north. What became King William’s war would effectively halt settlement on the Maine coast for a generation. Several of the key incidents that lit its fuse happened in and around Falmouth, and are at the center of The Devil’s Glove. Key among them are the raids in which hundreds of Anglo-European settlers were killed throughout New England, and hundreds more were taken captive.

Research begun by Mary Beth Norton has uncovered that a significant percentage of the girls who were accusers at Salem had family members killed, or had been orphaned, or been taken captive, or all three, in Native raids on the Maine coast prior to 1692. Some, like Mercy Lewis, were victims of multiple raids. I have long believed that in understanding and writing history, we do not take anywhere near enough account of the effects of trauma. When I looked at the history of the girls who would end up in the Salem village meeting house seeing yellow birds and writhing on the floor, one, or rather two things began to seem obvious. The first was that they were, with good reason, completely freaked out. The second was that they needed someone - or better yet many someones, and preferably someones in power - to blame. 

The other thing that fascinated me about the raids was how many of the people taken captive, especially the women, chose, when given the choice, not to return to Anglo-European ‘civilization’, even after ransoms had been paid for them. Instead, they stayed with the Native families and communities that had adopted them. We owe James Axtell for his ground breaking work on this, which has, in my opinion received far less attention that it deserves. The precise numbers are difficult to pin down, but Axtell has suggested that as many as 30% of the Anglo-European captives who were taken in Native raids, mostly in New England, decided not to come back. Needless to say, this didn’t always go down very well. Cotton Mather’s niece is a case in point. It must have been especially galling to believe you were anointed by God and hear the women in your own family saying ‘No Thanks’.

The captives who stayed with the tribes led me directly a number of people, especially women, who discovered the space in the northern borderlands of the late 17th century to create their own unique, hybrid identities. Women, both Anglo and Indigenous who found a way to move between European and Native worlds. In The Devil’s Glove, Resolve’s mother, and Resolve herself are obvious examples. 

Unlike most of the other characters in The Devil’s Glove, the Hammonds are fictional characters. But they are based on real examples. In writing them, I tried to be as certain as I could that I didn’t stray from what was both historically possible, and likely. Rachel’s parents were real. Her father was Philip English’s god father, and they did have a daughter called Rachel. There was a militia colonel in Rhode Island who sent his family to shelter with the sachem, Ashawonks during King Philip’s war. The French Baron de Castine, who is mentioned in The Devil’s Glove and plays a central role in Salem Book III, was married to the great war leader Madockawondo’s daughter, who carved an unique identity for herself, and her children, that straddled worlds.

To me, this is the glory of historical fiction. It is not about ‘making things up’, but rather peeling back layers papered over the past to reveal something totally unexpected, and finding in that unexpected place unexpected stories. Sometimes, those stories feel complete. But more often than not, they are filled with possibilities and tantalizing glimpses – the mention of a character, like Judah White, or Mercy Lewis, or beautiful crazy? Mad? Demonic? Witchy Abigail. All of them are there and gone. Each as if she ran around a corner leaving only the slimmest of traces, barely a hint of who she might have been and what she might have felt, but enough. Enough to fill in. Enough to color in the context, to open a page of time and place, to give form and substance, and indulge in the alchemy of resurrecting a life that might otherwise be lost.

The Devil's Glove by Lucretia Grindle

Northern New England, summer, 1688.
Salem started here.

A suspicious death. A rumor of war. Whispers of witchcraft.

Perched on the brink of disaster, Resolve Hammond and her mother, Deliverance, struggle to survive in their isolated coastal village. They're known as healers taught by the local tribes - and suspected of witchcraft by the local villagers.

Their precarious existence becomes even more chaotic when summoned to tend to a poisoned woman. As they uncover a web of dark secrets, rumors of war engulf the village, forcing the Hammonds to choose between loyalty to their native friends or the increasingly terrified settler community.

As Resolve is plagued by strange dreams, she questions everything she thought she knew - about her family, her closest friend, and even herself. If the truth comes to light, the repercussions will be felt far beyond the confines of this small settlement.

Based on meticulous research and inspired by the true story of the fear and suspicion that led to the Salem Witchcraft Trials, THE DEVIL'S GLOVE is a tale of betrayal, loyalty, and the power of secrets. Will Resolve be able to uncover the truth before the town tears itself apart, or will she become the next victim of the village's dark and mysterious past?

Connect with Lucretia

Lucretia Grindle grew up and went to school and university in England and the United States. After a brief career in journalism, she worked for The United States Equestrian Team organizing ‘kids and ponies,’ and for the Canadian Equestrian Team. For ten years, she produced and owned Three Day Event horses that competed at The World Games, The European Games and the Atlanta Olympics. In 1997, she packed a five mule train across 250 miles of what is now Grasslands National Park on the Saskatchewan/Montana border tracing the history of her mother’s family who descend from both the Sitting Bull Sioux and the first officers of the Canadian Mounties.

Returning to graduate school as a ‘mature student’, Lucretia completed an MA in Biography and Non-Fiction at The University of East Anglia where her work, FIREFLIES, won the Lorna Sage Prize. Specializing in the 19th century Canadian West, the Plains Tribes, and American Indigenous and Women’s History, she is currently finishing her PhD dissertation at The University of Maine.

Lucretia is the author of the psychological thrillers, THE NIGHTSPINNERS, shortlisted for the Steel Dagger Award, and THE FACES of ANGELS, one of BBC FrontRow’s six best books of the year, shortlisted for the Edgar Award. Her historical fiction includes, THE VILLA TRISTE, a novel of the Italian Partisans in World War II, a finalist for the Gold Dagger Award, and THE LOST DAUGHTER, a fictionalized account of the Aldo Moro kidnapping. She has been fortunate enough to be awarded fellowships at The Hedgebrook Foundation, The Hawthornden Foundation, The Hambidge Foundation, The American Academy in Paris, and to be the Writer in Residence at The Wallace Stegner Foundation. A television drama based on her research and journey across Grasslands is currently in development. THE DEVIL’S GLOVE and the concluding books of THE SALEM TRILOGY are drawn from her research at The University of Maine where Lucretia is grateful to have been a fellow at the Canadian American Foundation.

She and her husband, David Lutyens, live in Shropshire.

Connect with her on her websiteFacebookLinkedInInstagramAmazon Author Page, and Goodreads

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Friday, May 5, 2023

Deborah Sampson: A Woman at War


An excerpt from Women of the American Revolution:

A soldier’s life was dangerous. If one was not injured or killed in combat, they still had the unsanitary camp conditions to deal with. High casualties can be attributed to disease, cold, and heat rather than any British weapon. Reasons women might disguise themselves in order to fight were numerous, despite the risks. Those who were enslaved or indentured servants might see it as a path to freedom, especially if they were light complexioned enough to claim Caucasian ancestry once away from those who knew of their origins. Women might attempt to leave behind a shameful past or hide a premarital pregnancy. Like Deborah, they might hope to escape poverty or the insecurity of being a single woman in a nation at war. Some fled abusive husbands or parents, and, just as their male counterparts did, some women wanted to join the war effort due to passionate patriotism. 

Whatever was Deborah’s inspiration, in April 1782 she enlisted in the army, claiming to be Timothy Thayer. Discovered and in fear of prosecution, she fled her native Middleborough, Massachusetts. Whether she had intended to honor her enlistment or whether she, like many others, was hoping to slip away with her signing bounty in hand, is unknown. But when she enlisted a second time on 20 May 1782, this time as Robert Shurtliff, a name common enough in the area to allow Deborah to remain anonymous, she accepted a bounty of £60 and joined new recruits at Worcester for muster.  The American victory at Yorktown had taken place the previous October, but three-year recruits were still being signed on in the case that a treaty did not follow as expected. After all, it was not the first American victory of the war and news took weeks to cross the Atlantic. The Continental Army could not yet rest.

Read more about Deborah and her life after the war in Women of the American Revolution! It is available at Pen & SwordAmazonBook DepositoryBarnes & Noble, or your favorite book retailer. 

Also available now at Audible and audiobooks.com!

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