BLOG: Meet Julia!
This summer, just like many other people, my husband and I finally have the opportunity to escape. COVID certainly put an end to travel for the past year, but it's time to spread our wings. We may not be able to hike as far, carry heavy backpacks, or scale mountainsides the way we used to, but whenever I get to visit the American West, I'm rejuvenated. Clean, pine-scented air that's crisp in both morning and evening, the sounds of owls and coyotes at night, and huckleberry pie. These are the things I look forward to this season.
Several months ago, I shared a blog on a man of vision--Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson had an eye on the American frontier and sent two extremely gutsy men out to explore it. Famous for their Corps of Discovery, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark journeyed from St. Louis all the way to what is now the Washington coast and back. Jefferson hoped they'd find a direct waterway to the Pacific, and though that didn't happen, their exploration turned out to be the most memorable journey in American history and their plethora of discoveries, from plant life to new species of animals helped create what became the Westward Expansion movement in the 19th century.
Lewis & Clark's exploration was fantastic, to be sure. But it's led me to ask some questions. What happened AFTER their journey west? What became of them? And even more importantly, how did their invaluable journals finally become The Journals of Lewis & Clark? And who was involved in that process? Ever since last November, I've been piecing together the beginnings of my next project, hoping to answer some of these questions. However, my protagonist will not be Lewis OR Clark, but a young girl by the name of Julia Hancock.
So, today, I want my readers to meet Julia!
Julia Hancock was the daughter of a Revolutionary War hero, George Hancock. She and her family lived in a small but vibrant community called Fincastle, Virginia. At the end of the 18th century, Fincastle had become the county seat of Botetourt County, named after a beloved British governor, Lord Botetourt, from pre-Revolutionary days.
The portrait of Julia on the right is the only known surviving likeness of her that dates from her lifetime. Sadly, she didn't live a long life. However, it was certainly an intriguing one. This fine work is shared by permission of the Missouri Historical Society Museum in St. Louis.
The Hancock family lived in a splendid Federalist-style mansion, known as Santillane.
Though much of the home was destroyed by fire in around 1811-12, the kitchen (at the right) survived. It's the oldest part of the home, dating from the 1790's.
Nowadays, the home is privately owned and continues to be a jewel in Fincastle's crown. Julia grew up here, along with her two sisters and younger brother, George, Jr. She was even married at the house.
Local lore from the area clings to an amusing story about a fated meeting between Julia and a soon-to-be famous red-headed gentleman--William Clark. That tale and the rest of Julia's compelling story will be a part of my next novel, because Julia eventually became Julia Hancock CLARK.
So please join me in the upcoming months as I continue sharing occasional bits and pieces of my new project. Just like Marc Antony, Julia and William had their weaknesses and faults. Yet, like anyone growing up in the American frontier, their story is full of intrigue and compelling.
People in early 19th century America were a scruffy but courageous lot. Where Fincastle had once been a frontier town, now St. Louis became the rough and tumble center, where French culture, Native American tradition, the stubborn courage of frontiersmen, and a young woman from Virginia blended into the great American melting-pot.
Read ON, everyone!