Monday, November 28, 2016

Vintage Christmas Cards Found In An Old Family Trunk



Vintage Santa Christmas CardSeveral years ago, my mother came across an antiquated box of family Christmas cards reaching back into the early 20th century. For those of you who enjoyed the British television series, Downton Abbey, this would encompass the Edwardian era before WWI (Season One). Other cards were sent during the Great War and soon after its conclusion. Some cards may extend even further back in time. This window into the past makes me very nostalgic. Reading the messages included in these holiday greetings transport me back to an age forgotten by many, but shouldn’t be.
I’ve often heard about these ancestors, fine people, and even remember some of them from my childhood. Others lived far later into my life, but began theirs when America was quite a different place. Some cards from family friends are people not known to me, but glimpsed through their greetings. These gentle folk wouldn’t be trampling each other at Walmart on Black Friday. There is a graciousness in this era, despite the World Wars, that we are losing. Hearken back with me to earlier days.
Vintage American Christmas Card--excited boy peering through windowThese cards Mom scanned are among the most colorful. Because the cost of ink was high in that era, many only had small colored images or were in black and white. To receive a truly colorful greeting would have been a real treat. I’m grateful my family saved these images and messages from a simpler, more refined time. Many of these folks lived in Virginia. Our roots in the Old Dominion go back several hundred years.
Because of my fascination with these bygone days, I’ve written two Christmas romance novellas: A Warrior for Christmas (set in Colonial America) and Somewhere the Bells Ring (set in the old Virginia family homeplace in the 1960’s with flashbacks to 1918). Both eBooks are on sale at Amazon and Barnes & NobleA Warrior for Christmas is also out in audio.
“Christmas is the gentlest, loveliest festival of the revolving year – and yet, for all that, when it speaks, its voice has strong authority.”  ~W.J. Cameron
Old Christmas Card Family Scene
“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder
“This is the message of Christmas:  We are never alone.”  ~Taylor Caldwell
Vintage American Christmas Card with Carolers
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”  ~Charles Dickens
“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.”  ~Washington Irving
“Christmas is the day that holds all time together.”  ~Alexander Smith
Early American Christmas Card--Romantic Couple
“A Christmas candle is a lovely thing;
It makes no noise at all,
But softly gives itself away.” ~Eva Logue
***For those of you interested in old trunks. The one containing these cards and other family memorabilia is pictured below. We think it dates from about 1870, but are not certain. If you have a better guess let me know.
old family trunk


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Vintage Christmas Cards & A Colonial American Christmas Romance



Ever wonder about the history of Christmas Cards in America? Here’s what I found.
From Something Olde: Christmas Card History
“In the late 1700’s merchants sent their customers best wishes for the new year. The cards were created on lithographs and hand-colored. A lithograph is an etching on a stone that can be reproduced on paper. Sending Christmas cards first became popular in England over 150 years ago.  In the 1840’s John Calcott Horsely was a curator at the royal museum.  He was late sending his usual holiday letters to his friends and relatives for Christmas.  He asked the artist, Sir Henry Cole, to design and hand-color 1,000 cards.  He wanted the card to show people being fed and clothed to remind his friends of the needs of the poor during this season.”
Holiday Cards
The first American to print and sell Christmas cards was Louis Prang of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who began publishing cards in 1875.
(In 1953) President Dwight D. Eisenhower is given credit for sending the first “official” Christmas card from the White House. An art print also became the standard Christmas gift for the president’s staff, a practice continued to this day.
Vintage Santa Christmas CardFrom Idea Finder: “A relatively recent phenomenon, the sending of commercially printed Christmas cards originated in London in 1843. Previously, people had exchanged handwritten holiday greetings. First in person. Then via post. By 1822, homemade Christmas cards had become the bane of the U.S. postal system. That year, the Superintendent of Mails in Washington, D.C., complained of the need to hire sixteen extra mailmen. Fearful of future bottlenecks, he petitioned Congress to limit the exchange of cards by post, concluding, “I don’t know what we’ll do if it keeps on.”
Not only did it keep on, but with the marketing of attractive commercial cards the postal burden worsened. The first Christmas card designed for sale was by London artist John Calcott Horsley. A respected illustrator of the day, Horsley was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole, a wealthy British businessman, who wanted a card he could proudly send to friends and professional acquaintances to wish them a “merry Christmas.”
Christmas sleigh rideFrom The History of Christmas Cards: At Christmastime, many people would send letters to friends and family far away, and children at boarding school would decorate paper and write letters to show off the writing skills they’d improved upon that term at school. However, the first official Christmas card was created in 1843 in Britain.
Sir Henry Cole, director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, would write letters to family and acquaintances at Christmastime. He and others could buy decorative paper on which to pen greetings and good wishes, but he found it to be a cumbersome task. So Cole commissioned an artist friend, John Calcott Horsley to create a card with a simple message that could be duplicated and sent to all his acquaintances. Horsley lithographed and hand-colored 1,000 copies of this first commercial card. It was a three-panel card – the center panel showed a family celebrating and the two wing panels depicted people feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. The card bore the simple greeting, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You,” which would become the standard sentiment of the mass-produced Christmas cards.
old time SantaCHRISTMAS CARDS RISE IN POPULARITY
“Christmas cards were quite elaborate and though the lithograph printing process helped in producing cards, they first became popular among the upper-class in England. However, the development and improvement of the postal system, making sending cards more affordable, was a big part of the rise in the popularity of Christmas cards. Early cards were not necessarily religious Christmas cards but favored images such as beautiful flowers, birds, scenery and other pretty things.
In 1875 Louis Prang brought the commercial Christmas card to the United States. Prang, a German lithographer, had developed a new innovative way of printing that made the process of creating Christmas and other cards much simpler and more affordable. Like British Christmas cards, Prang’s cards included various images that were simply pretty and tasteful, not truly having much to do with Christmas or even necessarily winter. However, some cards did include holly, snow and some other wintry or Christmas images. His cards became extremely popular in the U.S.; his company printed almost five million cards a year by 1881.”
christmas-holly
Well, you get the idea. In my holiday release, A Warrior For Christmas, (also in audio) I journeyed farther back in early America to the colonial time period and the holiday celebration in a wealthy household. However, the hero, a former Shawnee captive, would rather return to his adopted people in the colonial frontier.
Blurb: Reclaimed by his wealthy uncle, former Shawnee captive Corwin Whitfield finds life with his adopted people at an end and reluctantly enters the social world of 1764. He plans to return to the colonial frontier at his first opportunity–until he meets Uncle Randolph’s ward, Dimity Scott.
Deaf since a childhood bout of Scarlet fever, Dimity Scott intends to be cherished for herself, not her guardian’s purse, even if it means risking spinsterhood. Then the rugged newcomer arrives, unlike any man she’s ever known. Dimity has learned to manage her silent world, but unaccustomed to the dangers of the frontier, can she expect love and marriage from Corwin, who longs to return to his Shawnee life?~
***A Warrior for Christmas is available from all major online booksellers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Christmas Bells“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”  ~Charles Dickens






Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankfulness

Autumn leaves on maple tree near green rye field on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley
On this fine Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my precious husband, family, and friends, including the furry ones. I'd add 'feathered' friends but the geese don't actually like me. I should get some ducks. I'm grateful to live on a farm in the beautiful, richly historic, Shenandoah Valley where my ancestors were among the earliest settlers. I'm surrounded by fields, meadows, wooded hills, mountains, and my slumbering gardens which will awake this spring and burst forth. Though I may need to toss more seed around and put in new plantings if the winter is too cold. Such is gardening. Still, I'm always delighted by what does survive--except for the weeds. For all its challenges, I love country life. (Image above taken by daughter Elise behind our farm)
farm-pond-and-wooded-hills-behind
(The farm pond with wooded hills behind taken by me earlier this fall)
Being a prolific author, I must include how grateful I am for a lively imagination, writing skills, an excellent editor, and publishing company. I am grateful for The Wild Rose Press. I recently finished a ghostly time travel romance entitled Somewhere My Lady, for my Somewhere in Time series, that will come out in the new year. As of yesterday, I am at work on a new paranormal/time travel for this series. With writing, and reading, you can travel all over the place and not leave your couch, chair, bed...Inspiration is all around me.
"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice." ~Meister Eckhart
What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? ~Erma Bombeck, "No One Diets on Thanksgiving," 26 November 1981
Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action. ~W.J. Came


Thursday, November 17, 2016

'Tis the Season for Rosemary

“There’s rosemary that’s for remembrance. Pray, you love, remember.” ~ Hamlet
Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, mostly just because. I rarely cook with it, but I love its scent and the wealth of history behind it. The scent is said to stimulate memory so I sniff it frequently and carry little sprigs with me. I have a large potted plant growing in my sun space now that I've kept going for several years. In summer, it stays outdoors, but our Shenandoah Valley winters are too cold for the plants to survive. I brought it back in this week.

Known as the herb of remembrance from the time of ancient Greece, rosemary appears in that immoral verse by Shakespeare. My fascination with herbs plays a significant role in my ghostly murder mystery romance novel Somewhere My Love, as does Hamlet, for that matter. I always wanted to write a murder mystery with a focus on herbs and parallels to a Shakespearean play, and so I did. I just completed a paranormal time travel romance, Somewhere My Lady, with flavors of Somewhere My Love, but different. The new addition to my Somewhere in Time series will release in the new year.
A Modern Herbal by Maud Grieve, a wonderful source of herbal lore as well as practical information on the medicinal uses and growing requirements for a myriad of plants, is an invaluable guide. I have volumes one and two of Ms. Grieve’s work and can easily lose myself in their pages. She refers to her herbal as modern, and in comparison to the ancient herbalists it is, but A Modern Herbal is charmingly quaint and published in the early 20th century.
Regarding Rosemary, she says,
The Ancients were well acquainted with the shrub, which had a reputation for strengthening the memory. On this account it became the emblem of fidelity for lovers. It holds a special position among herbs from the symbolism attached to it. Not only was it used at weddings, but also at funerals, for decking churches and banqueting halls at festivals, as incense in religious ceremonies, and in magical spells.
At weddings, it was entwined in the wreath worn by the bride, being first dipped into scented water. Anne of Cleves, we are told, wore such a wreath at her wedding. A Rosemary branch, richly gilded and tied with silken ribands of all colours, was also presented to wedding guests, as a symbol of love and loyalty. Together with an orange stuck with cloves it was given as a New Year‘s gift…
In early times, Rosemary was freely cultivated in kitchen gardens and came to represent the dominant influence of the house mistress ‘Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.’
The Treasury of Botany says:
‘There is a vulgar belief in Gloucestershire and other counties, that Rosemary will not grow well unless where the mistress is “master”; and so touchy are some of the lords of creation upon this point, that we have more than once had reason to suspect them of privately injuring a growing rosemary in order to destroy this evidence of their want of authority.’ (Meanie heads.)
Rosemary was one of the cordial herbs used to flavour ale and wine. It was also used in Christmas decoration.
“Down with the rosemary and so,
Down with the baies and mistletoe,
Down with the holly, ivie all
Wherewith ye deck the Christmas Hall.”—HERRICK.
Rosemary Christmas TreeRosemary Christmas Trees
Although an herb, rosemary is often shaped into lovely miniature Christmas trees. The plant is well suited for this purpose as its essential oils produce a scent similar to pine trees and it has a natural evergreen shape and needle-like leaves.
If you purchase a rosemary plant whether as a Christmas tree or for your indoor herb garden, remember it needs good light and moderate watering. Allow the soil to dry before re-watering to avoid root rot. The most common cause of death for potted rosemary is over watering. In spring transfer your rosemary to a clay pot. The clay will help wick excess water out of the soil. Fertilize monthly to maintain health. To this advice I add that you can also kill them by allowing the plant to dry out, so don’t do that either.
Because rosemary is native to the hot, dry hills of the Mediterranean, growing it indoors can be a problem. You may find you get more dense vigorous growth if it is kept outside during most of the year. Trim the plant periodically to preserve the Christmas tree shape. (If it lives that long.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Armistice Day–Now Veterans Day–and My Grandfather

In the United States, November 11 was Armistice Day, observed in commemoration of the signing of the armistice ending World War I in 1918. Since 1954, it has been incorporated into the observances of Veterans Day. My grandfather was a WWI veteran who fought in some of the worst battles in France. He was Charles J Churchman (Senior), a Lieutenant and a Captain of the Marines in the “Fighting 6th Marines”. My brother, John Churchman, did some research into him for specifics. Our grandfather’s commendation for the French Croix de Guerre is framed and hangs on the wall, as does the image of him in uniform. He also received the Silver Star Citation and was wounded 3 times. At least once, severely. He fought in the battles of Verdun, Chateau Thierry, Belleau Wood, Aisne-Marne Offensive, St. Mihiel and the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge.
Apart from his war service, he was an amazingly talented and good man who died far too young. We will never know and can only guess why he collapsed in his early forties, leaving an adored wife and four small children behind. My father was only three at the time of his death. I have often wondered if an overlooked fragment of shrapnel eventually found its way to his heart. Others have different theories. Even though I never knew him, his loss has affected me deeply. Like ripples on a pond, his untimely death circled out to encompass my generation. He is loved and admired even now.
More of him my brother gleaned: “Second Lieutenant Charles J Churchman of Staunton Va former football and basketball star at the University of Virginia was cited for bravery shown while commanding a trench mortar platoon in the operations in the Bois de Belleau on June 6 and 8, 1918, The citation reads, Commanding the Trench Mortar Platoon in the operations in the Bois De Balleau on June 6 and 8, 1918, contributing in a large measure to the success of an attack *** and from the testimony of prisoners their fire had a demoralizing effect upon the enemy machine guns. He placed his guns in position on the night of June 6 upon an emergency order and remained with his guns without relief until June 15. The professional ability, the operation of the mortars within a stone’s throw of positions, the untiring efforts of this officer have been highly commendable at all times.”

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The True Story Behind NA Historical Romance Novel The Bearwalker's Daughter

Historical romance novel, The Bearwalker’s Daughter, is a blend of carefully researched historical fiction interwoven with an intriguing paranormal thread and set among the clannish Scots in the mist-shrouded Alleghenies. The story is similar to others of mine with a western colonial frontier, Native American theme, and features a powerful warrior or two. My passion for the past and some of the accounts I uncovered while exploring my early American Scots-Irish ancestors and the Shawnee Indians is at the heart of my inspiration.

A particularly tragic account is the driving force behind the story, the ill-fated romance of  a young captive woman who fell in love with the son of a chief. As the result of a treaty, she was taken from her warrior husband and forced back to her white family where she gave birth to a girl. Then the young woman’s husband did the unthinkable and left the tribe to go live among the whites, but such was their hatred of Indians that before he reached his beloved her brothers killed him. Inconsolable and weak from the birth, she grieved herself to death.
Heart-wrenching, that tale haunts me to this day. And I wondered, was there some way those young lovers could have been spared such anguish, and what happened to their infant daughter when she grew up? I know she was raised by her white family–not what they told her about her mother and warrior father.
Not only did The Bearwalker’s Daughter spring from that sad account, but it also had a profound influence on my historical romance novel Red Bird’s Song.  Now that I’ve threaded it through two novels, perhaps I can let go…perhaps….
The history my novels draw from is raw and real, a passionate era where only the strong survive. Superstition ran high among both the Scots and Native Americans, and far more, a vision that transcends what is, to reach what can be. We think we’ve gained much in our modern era, and so we have.  But we’ve also lost. In my writing, I try to recapture what should not be forgotten.  Read and judge for yourself. And hearken back.  Remember those who’ve gone before you.
As to bearwalking, this belief/practice predates modern Native Americans to the more ancient people. In essence,  a warrior transforms himself into a bear and goes where he wills in that form, a kind of shapeshifting.
 Blurb: A Handsome Frontiersman, Mysterious Scots-Irish Woman, Shapeshifting Warrior, Dark Secret, Pulsing Romance…The Bearwalker’s Daughter~
beautiful dark haired womanKarin McNeal hasn’t grasped who she really is or her fierce birthright. A tragic secret from the past haunts the young Scots-Irish woman who longs to learn more of her mother’s death and the mysterious father no one will name. The elusive voices she hears in the wind hint at the dramatic changes soon to unfold in the mist-shrouded Alleghenies in Autumn, 1784.
Jack McCray, the wounded stranger who staggers through the door on the eve of her twentieth birthday and anniversary of her mother’s death, holds the key to unlock the past. Will Karin let this handsome frontiersman lead her to the truth and into his arms, or seek the shelter of her fiercely possessive kinsmen? Is it only her imagination or does someone, or something, wait beyond the brooding ridges–for her?~
family musket and powder horn image by my momThe Bearwalker’s Daughter is available at: Amazon Kindle.
*Cover by my daughter Elise Trissel
*Image of old family musket, powder horn, and shot pouch by my mom Pat Churchman
***The Bearwalker’s Daughter is a revised version of romance novel Daughter of the Wind Publisher’s Weekly BHB Reader’s Choice Best Books of 2009 
“Ms. Trissel’s alluring style of writing invites the reader into a world of fantasy and makes it so believable it is spellbinding.” –Long and Short Reviews

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Paranormal Accounts from The Shenandoah Valley and Mountains

These excerpts are taken from Supernatural Tales,The Virginia and West Virginia Mountain and Valley Folklife Series by late Shenandoah Valley author and historian John Heatwole. Mr. Heatwole interviewed many inhabitants of Brock’s Gap and wrote up a wonderful collection of stories included in his series. He said, “The Brocks Gap section of Rockingham County is rich in folklore of all kinds. It is an area in the northwest part of the county isolated by the North Mountain range.”
The following spooky stories are a great source of entertainment while snug inside next to a warm hearth, but not so much fun if you find yourself out on your own in the woods and hollows after dark.~
“Frank Caplinger lived across the road from the old Caplinger Chapel near the Criders Post Office in western Brocks Gap. In the evening Frank would sometimes hear pews scraping on the floor of the church on the other side of the road. Each time he walked over to check on things he would find the building empty with no signs that anyone had been there.
Once Frank was crossing the German River on the old suspension foot bridge; he was going to the post office on the opposite bank. As he entered the bridge he looked up and saw a strange man sitting on top of the cable frame, still and quiet. When Frank neared the other end of the bridge he looked back and the figure had vanished. It was impossible for the man to have scrambled down and run out of sight that quickly.” 
****
“Other folks remember strange lights on the mountains or in the cemeteries.  Harrison May recalled: ‘We’d see lights up in the Caplinger Cemetery every so often. When we got there to check there’d be no lights anywhere. Guess they were just spooks.’”
Moonlit Night
“When Nelson Whetzel was a young man he had an interesting experience while walking home from work one evening. In Brocks Gap in earlier times the only things to light ones way were the stars or the glow from a lamp in a neighbor’s window. 
As he walked Nelson heard a horse coming up the road behind him.  Nelson stopped for a moment, thinking, ‘Good! I’ll have someone to talk to.’ But the sound of the horse’s hooves stopped when he did. He called out, asking who was there in the pitch-black.
No answer came and Nelson began uneasily walking again, this time a little faster. The sound of the horse picked up pace to match Nelson’s. He stopped a second time and the sound of the horse ceased to be heard. Nelson started trotting and the sound horse’s hooves were heard at a trot behind him, close on his heels. He grew very frightened and began to run as fast as he could.  The galloping horse seemed to be so close, Nelson thought he felt the breath on the back of his neck.
Up ahead Nelson saw the lighted windows of the cabin belonging to George and Mat Smith. He was so terrified that he hit the Smith’s front door at full force. He knocked it down and went right through the structure, knocking down the back door as he exited. The Smiths blinked at each other in wonder and amazement. They saw no phantom horse follow Nelson through their home.
Immediately after his encounter with the doors Nelson noticed the sound of the pursuing horse was gone, however, he ran on home as fast as his feet would carry him.”
*That tale reminds me of the headless horseman from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Scary!
“The Roadcaps lived in a two-story log cabin just down the road from Gospel Hill Mennonite Church. All of the girls of the family shared a room upstairs.  One night one of the sisters, Peggy by name, went to the bedroom alone.  There she saw a woman sitting up on the iron headboard of one of the beds.
The woman didn’t say anything or move toward the frightened child, just sat there and looked at her. Peggy was rooted to the spot in fear but able to find her voice and call to her father to come to her aid.  There was something in her voice that demanded immediate attention and she heard his heavy footfall as he hurried up the stairs. As her father neared the room, the woman vanished into thin air.  Peggy never entered that room alone again.
****
The children of the Roadcap family loved to play on the banks of the little Shoemaker River near their home. Once they came running home and told their father they’d seen a woman all dressed in white walking along the opposite bank of the river from where they played. They’d never seen her before and being shy had not spoken to her but only observed her progress.
Their father listened thoughtfully and then told them they had seen the spirit of a young woman who had died years before of a broken heart. They were told they would probably see her again and that she would do them no harm. They were to behave as they had before and refrain from calling out to the spirit.
They believed their father. There were not that many people living in those parts and the children knew them all. They promised not to disturb the apparition if they encountered her again. During their childhoods they witnessed her strolling along the river on several more occasions.~
That story reminds me of the novel, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, which was a very intriguing BBC mystery/thriller starring Tara Fitzgerald. I saw the film on Netflix and highly recommend it.
***If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy the one I wrote entitled:
***John Heatwole's books are at Amazon, but may only be available as used copies.