Shannon here: Patricia Lee shares the inspiration behind her latest historical romance, The Descendant’s Daughter. Comment or answer the question in this post to enter the drawing for winner’s choice of one of the first four novels in her Mended Hearts series. Deadline: Jan 9th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Patricia:
How long would you wait for your intended? For lovers, time often seems to stand still. But for my great-great-grandparents, waiting for each other was a given, in light of the times they lived in. In my newest release, The Descendant’s Daughter, part of the story focuses on the courtship of my great-great-grandparents and the legacy they left behind for a 21st century young heroine to discover. The two timelines merge as the novel progresses.
Story Behind the Story:
I grew up on a Century Farm, or rather the five-acre parcel that remained of a Donation Land Claim filed by my great-great-great grandfather in 1847. I’d heard the stories of him, a determined pioneer who crossed the plains on horseback, following the dream of owning a homestead in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Every summer of my childhood, his descendants met for a reunion at a park he’d donated.
But it wasn’t until I matured and began writing that I discovered the love story between him and his beloved. Hearing that tale I was intrigued and needed to know more.
Cornelius Joel Hills had been a cooper, a tradesman who made barrels, in Cortland, New York. An injury forced him to abandon the job. He walked to join his family who homesteaded in Wisconsin, but living there didn’t satisfy him and he wanted more. He’d inherited the wanderlust spirit from his father, and when he learned of free land in the West, decided to follow his dream. He was advised by others who had been west to travel to Athens, Iowa to secure the aid of a well-known wagon master, Lester Hulin, with whom he could travel. While in Athens, a sweet, young, dark-haired beauty caught his eye. He courted her, offering a promise of marriage when he returned. She accepted.
I can’t imagine what thoughts went through her head when my great-great-great grandfather said goodbye and rode out of her life into an unknown future. She hadn’t known him long. Would she ever see him again? Indians, wild animals, and the hazards of an untamed land waited ahead. How would she ever receive word of his fate?
Letters were rare in those days. Most correspondence among settlers headed west was written and left at Independence Rock in Wyoming, the post office of the prairies. Hopeful pioneers placed their missives, trusting that the letter would be picked up and carried east by travelers returning from westward journeys. The families wanted to let relatives back home know how they fared. But relying on such a questionable means of delivery didn’t promise great results.
My great-great-great grandfather didn’t return for four years. Yes, you read that right. Four long years. He proved up his land, built a cabin, then followed the lure of gold to Sacramento in 1849. When he returned to his homestead, he had to make some additional changes on his land. He headed back to Athens in late 1850. His arrival date isn’t noted but I wonder if his bride-to-be spent New Year’s Day 1851 wondering if this would be the year he returned. Or should she lose hope and marry another? I know I would have considered it. My great-great-great grandparents were married in February of 1851.
She had been diligent while he was away, spinning yarn, making quilts, and preparing for a home in the wilderness. They loaded their wagon and spent their honeymoon traveling with a larger party. Those other settlers included her parents, and two of his brothers, all journeying by prairie schooner back over the terrain that my great-great grandfather had already crossed twice. This time he captained the wagon train.
Her parents left the wagon train sixty miles south of my great-great-great grandparents’ final destination. She was distraught leaving her parents behind. She and my grandfather now only had each other. They continued north to the Willamette Valley. When they arrived, rain fell in buckets, she was pregnant, and the one-room cabin was not inviting. With few neighbors and a host of nearby natives, they managed to survive. They were married fifty three years, reared eight children, and were known for their kindnesses to those about them. When I think of all they endured to be together, I stand in awe.
About Patricia: Patricia (Pat) Lee has had a fascination with words and what they can do since she wrote her first short paragraph at the age of six. She doesn’t remember the content of her story, but her teacher became excited at what she’d done. “Obviously,” Pat says, “words made people happy.”
Pat worked as a stringer for a local newspaper during her middle and high school years representing the school’s news to the community. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oregon, then went on to work as a tabloid newspaper editor at her local church.
After she married, she began her freelancing career and sold to various publications, including Expecting, Moody Monthly, and Power for Living. More recently she has published in two anthologies, Cup of Comfort Bible Promises and Heavenly Company, as well as featured articles in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine. An Anchor On Her Heart, her debut novel, released in July, 2017. Love Calls Her Home, the second in the Mended Hearts series, released March 1, 2018. The third novel, A Kite on the Wind released October 1, 2018. The final story in the Mended Hearts series, Love’s Autumn Harvest, released earlier in 2020.
She lives with her husband in the Pacific Northwest. They have two grown children. She is a member of Oregon Christian Writers (OCW) and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Learn more & connect:
About the Book – The Descendant’s Daughter:
Halle Jayne Murphy can’t imagine change.
She loves her career. She shares an apartment with her best friend. She’s happy.
She has lived an idyllic life in San Francisco growing up as the only child of Maisie and Fred Murphy. A graduate in architecture of the Art Institute, Halle works for one of the city’s historic home tours, a job that suits her.
But one Sunday while she’s working her mother slips at church and falls, the head injury claiming her life. At the memorial service the pastor presents an envelope of documents that he says will rock Halle’s world. Now officially an orphan, everything Halle believed about herself will soon prove to be false. Will she accept the challenge?
Garrett James has studied the life and adventures of his great-great-grandfather Cornelius Joel Hills, tracing his westward migration from Cortland, New York to Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1847. Garrett has searched for clues that will lead him to a lost bag of gold Cornelius buried but never reclaimed. Garrett believes the answers lie in the old family mansion no one seems to want. He decides to let himself into the house with a hammer and nails, only to discover the long lost owner has finally arrived.
Will this pixie of a girl allow him to look for answers or has he stumbled upon a greater treasure?
Question for Readers: Are there any interesting stories in your family history? Tell us about it.
Come back Jan 5th for Sherry Kyle!