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BLOG: An Author's Travel Journal

JUNE 15, 2024

Greetings, readers all! As I write this blog, I'm in St. Charles, Missouri--a historic hot-spot located along the lazy southeastern stretches of the Missouri River. My husband and I are on the road for a month, following a portion of the Lewis & Clark Trail and even stopping by a few spots pertaining to my next project.

Today, we toured three places of interest: Fort DuBois (Illinois side of the Missouri), Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, and the Missouri History Museum.

At right, I'm at Bellefontaine Cemetery, next to the grandiose obelisk marking the site of William Clark's grave. Interred with him are several of the sons he had with Julia Hancock; also, Harriet Kennerly Clark is buried next to him under the obelisk. Harriet is "Harri" in WEST OF SANTILLANE. She became his wife a year or so after Julia's death.

Fort DuBois was where the Corps of Discovery began their journey. While Lewis was busy purchasing their final supplies for the journey, Clark was tasked with remaining with the men at this small fort he had them build. Their uniforms at this point were rather attractive and colorful. However, once on the voyage upriver, linen and wool garments began to wear and tear, and by the time they returned several years later, everyone was in buckskin!

What looks like ordinary green chairs, aren't!

These were office chairs used in William Clark's office, and they were in remarkably fine condition, too. Green verdigris and lined with gold trim, they must have been impressive. It makes me wonder whether they were some of the furnishings that Julia picked out in Louisville on their way to St. Louis.

I was especially delighted to come face to face with this lady on the left. This is Madame Chouteau--a steely-eyed and influential matron of merit in St. Louis. In fact, she and her lover, Pierre LeClede were the FOUNDERS of the city. The entire Chouteau family was both powerful and influential in both the fur trade and early St. Louis politics.

Madame's style of dress is especially intriguing, as it's typical of the New Orleans Creole culture. After spending several days in 95F degree heat here in the St. Louis area, I'm not envious of what looks like some rather heavy attire.

If you haven't yet read WEST OF SANTILLANE, my newest historical fiction novel, I encourage you to do so. American history has plenty to offer, and the early years of my country were full of drama, as people began to push westward. As I push westward over the next several weeks, I'll be taking photos like any tourist, but will also try to post additional material as I can. In the meantime, grab a copy of WEST OF SANTILLANE. And READ ON!!!

JUNE 16, 2024

The late novelist James Alexander Thom wrote a stellar book on George Rogers Clark. Americans in his day began referring to him as the "Conqueror of the Northwest Territories"--which in Revolutionary America were mostly the Ohio Valley, Indiana, and Illinois. According to Thom, Native Americans called Clark "Long Knife". He was an undefeated General who became a rather bitter man, since he never received reimbursement from Congress for the money he forked out to sustain his men.

As evidenced by this bust, he looked remarkably like his younger brother. In WEST OF SANTILLANE, Julia presents William Clark with a letter from his sister, Lucy Croghan. In a touching scene, William learns that an aging George Rogers Clark suffered a tragic accident while at his home. He literally fell into a fire. With a leg so badly burned, it had to be amputated, and so Lucy insisted he come live with her.

A few days ago, I had the chance to visit Lucy's beautiful home, which still stands in the Louisville, Kentucky area. It's called Locust Grove, and it was here that George Rogers Clark spent the rest of his life--mostly in a wheelchair that looked surprisingly like ones used today.

Since researching WEST OF SANTILLANE, I've been amazed at the influence of Clark family history on early America. From a planters family of twelve, moving from Virginia to Kentucky, three sons serving in the Continental Army--one of whom became one of our Country's most celebrated explorers.

I had to smile when I approached Locust Grove. A pancake-sized medallion, representing the Corps of Discovery is inlaid among tiles leading to the Visitor Center. It's testimony that both Lewis & Clark visited there. Julia Hancock, as wife to William Clark visited there, too--later in their marriage.

There's just SO much history and so little time! Read ON, everybody!



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