Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Of Forts (and other important details)

First, if you scroll down my sidebar you'll find I’ve made a new blog button! As part of the process (and for easier reference), I’ve also given an official name to the blog here (which you can see on the adjusted header above). How do you all like it?

In addition, having just finished my current draft for Chapter 5 of On David’s Shoulders I've decided it’s the perfect time to share a few pertinent details and a splendid link. Chapter 5 moves my action from the vicinity of Boston to the the realm of western military forts (specifically in Colorado/Wyoming), so I’ve been studying and reading up on the subject quite a bit over the past few weeks. (Of course, I’ve seen movies and read lots of books, but I needed some heavy specifics.)

Demographics shifted and changed with such rapidity on the western frontier (every five years brought tremendous changes, let alone a decade!) that my search actually had some tricky moments. To begin, I found you can’t always go by name as not all forts were military. For example: not all military posts were stockaded, but a trader could establish an outpost, erect a stockade round it, and (correctly) refer to it as a fort—which name has often carried down on the maps today. I actually started by researching Fort Collins (north of Denver in CO), which was very briefly a fort/encampment. In the 1860’s (a decade too early for my WIP), it was declared unnecessary and dissolved, but the booming town had already taken its name, which is why it’s so big today.

So my search continued and at last I found exactly what I was hoping for (in the territory I really wanted!): Fort Russell just over the WY border (and later I think, by extension, Fort McKinney further up the stage line). Fort Russell was/is located strategically on the Union Pacific, a mile outside the territorial seat, Cheyenne; and I’ve since been able to hunt up all sorts of wonderful material—maps, diagrams, and historical details.

(An 1880's photo from Fort Bayard in NM.)

I first found both via this excellent compilation and since it’s so helpful I decided to share it! It’s not an exhaustive resource (as there were hundreds of forts in the old west), but with about 20 pages—touching on Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming—it makes a helpful starting place. The link is here

(Also, don’t forget to check out my new button!)

Let me know what you think! Do you enjoy western history?

Heidi Peterson is a lover of wide-spreading land, summer dust, white pounding waterfalls, and mountain tops; also of good dark coffee and rich stories. Most of all she's a lover of the One who is the Word, the Word made flesh. You can visit her additional blog (where she shares more about books, movies, and further marvels of life) at: Along the Brandywine.

Visit and contact at: Sharing the Journey // Along the Brandywine // ladyofanorien(at)gmail(dot)com


  1. I noticed your new title on your header! It's very nice! And your button is very pretty. :)
    Wow, that's so interesting about your research! To tell the truth, research like that for a story kind of intimidates me (I'd rather just WRITE, you know?) but I'm sure one day I'll have to do it for a story. :)

    1. Natalie,
      Thank you! And yes, I love finding out interesting historical details, but I generally try to pick them up organically as I go along (visiting a museum on a road trip, etc). Taking off a year or so from writing to do "research" before beginning a project doesn't seem to work as well for me -- so I tend to write until I reach a chapter (where I start needing a few missing details) and then go hunt them up. It seems to work well -- keeping up the drive and excitement and allowing for flexibility! :)

    2. Oh, that sounds like a great way of doing it! I'll definitely try that technique when I write a book that needs research.

  2. I just love your little new title, Heidi - oh and you button! I just love any kind of American history. :) One of my most favorite parts of western history to read about is the Oregon Trail - every little thing about that part of our history bewilders me (in a good way!). I would love to visit and travel it one day! Don't you think that'd be fun?

    1. Sarah,
      I'm so glad! The blog name actually came on the spur of the moment while I was trying to design the button. :P I'd been wanting one, but nothing seemed to quite fit. Sharing the Journey, though, seems to catch the essence of what I'm striving for -- as well as pointing to all sorts of other neat things (anything from the Oregon Trail to LOTR :)). So yes, I think I like it.

      And speaking of the Oregon Trail... Growing up, I read a lot of historical fiction with that setting. Do you have a favorite story (or several)? A road trip would be amazing. And thinking about it, a combined road trip would be incredible fun! (Perhaps impossible -- but hey, we can have wild dreams, can't we??? ;))

    2. Heidi,
      Yes one CAN dream - I do that quite often. I don't have a one favorite story of the Oregon Trail, just bits and pieces of history that I've grown to love and adore, well that and the pictures - they are deliciously wonderful! A road trip sounds just lovely!! Maybe someday...:)

  3. And Natalie and Sarah,
    I ended up having to delete and repost both my comments, so I do apologize!

  4. I like the name on the adjusted header, and the button looks great!
    That is quite an interesting bit of research. I know that it can be quite daunting to mine data on subjects like these. Keep it up! I can't wait to see this novel of yours.

    1. Dallas,
      Thank you and I'm glad you like the button! The research has been fascinating -- though (you're right) it is daunting at times, so thanks also for the encouragement!


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