Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Lincoln on Love

07 Feb

The State of Illinois, the “Land of Lincoln,” offers many opportunities to study Abraham Lincoln, the famous statesman, who was revered throughout the state’s history. For those of us who grew up in Illinois, school was not closed on President’s Day, but on Lincoln’s birthday, endearing him further to school children who grew up admiring the man.

It was no surprise to find a newspaper clipping about Lincoln in my grandmother’s scrapbook, from an Illinois newspaper that was not identified. The text contained a love letter of sorts, from Abraham Lincoln to Mary Todd. The letter did not contain the word “love”, nor did it propose marriage, although it appears that was the intention. The couple was married in 1842.


My Dear Mary

You must know that I cannot see you or think of you with entire indifference, and yet it may be that you are mistaken in regard to what my real feelings toward you are. If I knew you were not, I should not trouble you with this letter. Perhaps any other man would know enough without further information, but I consider it my peculiar right to plead ignorance and your bounden duty to allow the plea. I want in all cases to do right and most particularly so in all cases with women. I want at this particular time more than anything else to do right with you, and if I know it would be doing right, as I rather suspect it would, to let you alone, I would do it. And for the purpose of making the matter plain as possible I now say you can drop the subject, dismiss your thoughts, if you ever had any, from me forever and leave this letter unanswered without calling forth one accusing manner from me.

And I will go further and say that if it will add anything to your comfort and peace of mind to do so it is my sincere wish that you should. Do not understand by this that I wish to cut your acquaintance. I mean no such thing. What I do wish is that our further acquaintance shall depend upon yourself. If such further acquaintance would contribute nothing to your happiness, I am sure it would not to mine. If you feel yourself in any degree bound to me, I am now willing to release you, provided you wish it, while, on the other hand, I am willing and even anxious to bind you faster if I can be convinced that it will in any degree add to your happiness. This indeed is the whole question with me. Nothing would make me more miserable than to believe you miserable, nothing more happy than to know you were so.

In what I have now said, I think I cannot be misunderstood, and to make myself understood is the only object of this letter. If it suits you best to not answer this, farewell. A long life and a merry one attend you. But if you conclude to write back, speak as plainly as I do. There can be neither harm nor danger in saying to me anything you think just in the manner you think it.

Your friend,   Lincoln


Happy Valentine’s Day on February 14 AND Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 2019


Merry Yellowstone Christmas

24 Aug

Savage Shadow Fumeroles

Yellowstone National Park has an interesting tradition, which supposedly began in the 1950s. According to the legend, a snowstorm in August trapped tourists at Old Faithful Inn. When they tired of being snowbound and became restless, a Christmas Party was organized. A Christmas tree was decorated, carols were sung, and a Christmas-like celebration ensued.

August 25 is annually celebrated as Yellowstone Christmas. Over the years, the origin of the tradition has become murky at best. Historian Lee Whittlesey suggests the tradition evolved from another custom called Savage Days.  “Savage,” a nickname for Yellowstone concession employees, was inspired in the early 20th Century by stagecoach drivers, a rowdy and colorful lot. Regardless of its origins, Yellowstone Christmas ranges from a sedate gathering of employees followed by a turkey dinner to a Savage excuse to blow off steam, so to speak.

My memories of traditions in Yellowstone Park, while I worked there in 1973, are happy ones. I wish a hearty and happy Yellowstone Christmas to my cherished “Savage” friends, and to all who love, respect and appreciate our oldest and largest national park.

To learn more, A Yellowstone Savage by Joyce B. Lohse
is available on e-book from

YP Christmas Keypunch 1

Comments Off on Merry Yellowstone Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized


Burro Days in Fairplay

19 Jul

Burro 2

Welcome – 2018 Burro Days Visitors!

During the last weekend in July, the Burro Days Festival takes place in Fairplay, Colorado. The center of attention are the pack burro races to Mosquito Pass and back, celebrating the tenacity of the hardworking little animals that were a necessity in mining districts during the gold and silver rushes in the mid- to late- 1800s. The handlers are athletes who train hard for the races, running while leading their persnickety partners over precarious terrain. The races are a proud tradition in the area. Festivities also include pack llama races, outhouse races, and a variety of fun and music for everybody.

This year, I will be joining my publishers at the Filter Press booth, as we “talk history” with friends and visitors, who stop to browse through our library of Colorado historical publications. This year, we will also be celebrating author Lydia Griffin’s beautifully illustrated book, Prunes and Rupe. It is based on the story of a miner and his donkey, and will be introduced and featured in new “storywalk” for visitors to enjoy around town.

Another favorite legend around Fairplay is about Silverheels, a good-hearted woman known for her extraordinary beauty, and her ability to sing and dance. After she selflessly helped miners’ families through a smallpox epidemic in the Fairplay mining district, nearby Mount Silverheels was named in her memory.

To learn more about the life and legend of Silverheels, click on the link below.
“The Place Where Silverheels Danced” is an article by Joyce B. Lohse,
published in Women Out West Magazine, summer 2008.

The Place Where Silverheels Danced

Enjoy! Joyce B. Lohse, 19 July 2018

For more about Burro Days, go to:


Comments Off on Burro Days in Fairplay

Posted in Uncategorized


Western Summer Reading

05 Jul

Elmer Kelton Cowboys

Quality Roundup Time with Elmer Kelton

In 2008, I almost met Elmer Kelton, a highly respected western author and member of the Western Writers Association (WWA). Women Writing the West (WWW) grew from WWA. Many of us long-time members belong to both groups. While attending the 2008 WWW conference in San Antonio, Texas, I drove 30 miles to the small town of Boerne, which I had visited in the past. I stopped by the bookstore and learned that Elmer Kelton would appear there the following day, on Saturday.

Bad luck. My roster was full on Saturday, keeping me busy at the WWW writers’ conference. However, I was able to return to Boerne on Sunday with a couple of author friends. We were thrilled when the bookstore owner invited us to sign a wooden tabletop autographed by Kelton the previous day. It was such a near miss.

Ten months later, Elmer Kelton passed away. I regretted that I was unable to shake his hand in admiration that day in Texas. Instead, he would have been pleased if I read some of his award-winning westerns, of which there are many. So I have. His books leave the legacy of a great storyteller and writer, doing his part to preserve the history and culture of the American cowboy.

Recently, I read Kelton’s Spur Award Winner, The Day the Cowboy’s Quit, published in 1971. The story is about a strike which erupts from a skirmish over a cow brand, rocking the lives of cowboys, ranch owners, and the community. The lively storyline confronts the ethics of a situation with no easy solution. In addition, it contains fascinating details about cattle drives, branding, and the relationship between large ranches and independent outfits scrambling to exist.

Wherever western writers gather, the topic of identifying the real west is often close to the surface. Consequently, a well-researched western book, written by a knowledgeable author such as Elmer Kelton, not only preserves the history and culture of the American West, but also provides a role model for other authors, and great reading material for western book enthusiasts.

Joyce B. Lohse, 5 July 2018

“A little honest swearin’ wipeth away anger and bringeth peace to the soul.”
— Elmer Kelton, “Lone Star Rising: The Texas Rangers Trilogy”, p. 104, Macmillan 2007.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Buffalo Days

An addendum: Following Kelton’s fine book about all things related to cowboy trail drives and roundups, I was fortunate to read a copy of Buffalo Days, an eye-witness account of the Wild West and the open range, by Colonel Homer Wheeler, pub. 1925. It reinforced the accuracy of research in Kelton’s fine work, and some others I have read.

As a journalist, I applaud Wheeler’s straight-on approach to documenting life in the cavalry, rounding up cattle, and his many interactions with native Indians. This is not a surgar-coated account, nor is it sensationalized. The author shares tales of his valor as well as faults and blunders in the face of many challenging situations. I appreciate the interesting and undiluted account of real life in the Old West. If you like straight-forward western history, this one is a great read. I coud not put it down. Thanks to my sister for the book loan, which belonged to our dad when he was young, making it special.   JL

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Comments Off on Western Summer Reading

Posted in Uncategorized


Summer Reading – a review by Joyce

05 Jun

Title: Ann Bassett: Colorado’s Cattle Queen
Author: Linda Wommack

Ann Bassett

Letters written by a tough pioneer woman in Northwest Colorado are woven into a riveting biography, Ann Bassett: Colorado’s Cattle Queen, by author Linda Wommack. Bassett’s true-life story describes her struggles to maintain her family’s cattle ranch, occasionally using dubious methods to manage her livestock and property.

Outlaws from the “Hole in the Wall Gang,” as well as others, occasionally sought refuge in the secluded Brown’s Park rangeland that Ann Bassett called home. Her life was enhanced and complicated by encounters and friendships with fugitives.

When Two Bar Ranch cattle baron, Ora Haley, boldly encroached on the area’s rangeland, Bassett was armed and ready to discourage his efforts. Her defiance escalated into personal outrage and revenge when Wyoming shootist Tom Horn, hired by Haley, gunned down Bassett’s fiance’, Matt Rash, and lifelong family friend, Isom Dart.

Author Linda Wommack’s diligent research preserves an important resource about cattle ranching on Colorado’s early open range, the challenges of frontier life for pioneers during Western Expansion, women in the west, and Colorado history. Photographs, public records, and faded images augment textual details and Ann Bassett’s written pieces.

An Epilogue end-piece is dedicated to debunking popular theories and conjecture about Ann Bassett’s encounters with the Sundance Kid. Author and historian Linda Wommack’s solid research preserves an important piece of American Western History while transporting the reader back in time to the Wild West. This biography is a historical gem and should not be missed.

— Joyce B. Lohse


Comments Off on Summer Reading – a review by Joyce

Posted in Uncategorized


My Yellowstone Years

22 Feb

Whenever I learn about a Yellowstone Savage who has written a memoir of their unforgettable experiences living and working in Yellowstone Park, I set aside my cares and responsibilities to acquire and read the book. This was the case when My Yellowstone Years by Donald C. Stewart caught my attention. The book was published in 1989, the year following my memoir, A Yellowstone Savage: Life In Nature’s Wonderland. Stewart was a Savage in 1951, assigned as a dishwasher at Old Faithful. The following season, he became a naturalist Ranger through 1963, while he pursued a PhD in English literature. A career as an English Professor at Kansas State University resulted from his studies.

The preface to this book pulled me in, hand-tied fly hook, line and sinker. He said, “Each year I went out to Yellowstone, physically and mentally tired. Each year I returned, physically and spiritually renewed.” I knew then that this man “got it,” and that his account was bound to be a good read.

Stewart continued. “This, then, is the story of one man’s experience in Yellowstone. But it is also the story of many generations of Americans who had preceded me and who have followed me, either working for the park’s concessionaires or for the National Park Service. No one, to my knowledge, has yet told the story of Yellowstone’s summer ‘savages’ and ninety day wonders. But it is a story worth telling, a slice of Americana that was very special in the lives of all who experienced it.”

In his memoir, Stewart does a splendid job of describing the highs and lows of life in Yellowstone, without overtly gushing about the highs, or whining about the lows. He was fortunate to be assigned to what was then a remote and rustic Madison Campground with his new wife, where they made the best of rough living conditions, developed strong alliances with lasting friends around the evening campfire, and enjoyed fly fishing on the Madison River. He shared enchanting experiences and adventures from the perspective of a freewheeling Savage, then settling into his role as an exemplary ranger and family man.

I hope Professor Stewart became aware of my book, which barely preceded his in publication. Many accounts have succeeded both of ours, each telling a different perspective of Life in Wonderland. Connecting with some of the authors has been a pleasure and especially rewarding. Sadly, Don Stewart has passed on. However, he left us with a valuable piece of history from a time past in Yellowstone Park, which he treasured and shared, including the disastrous earthquake of 1959. I was so engrossed in his story that I could barely stand to put the book down. Stewart nailed it.



Comments Off on My Yellowstone Years

Posted in Uncategorized


Galvanized Yankees

14 Feb



One of the true pleasures of longtime membership in the Columbine Genealogical and Historical Society in Littleton, or a group like it, is that we learn so much from attending programs and sharing information with other members of the group. This was especially true recently during a presentation about Galvanized Yankees in the Civil War, presented by Karen Hancock. Her message for our group related to genealogy research. If we had such a person in our family tree, it might be a benefit in our search for Civil War records to find information about a Confederate solider in Union Army rosters. Since I had some difficulty understanding the larger questions, and the context of the subject, some additional research led me to some basic information.

What is a Galvanized Yankee? The term emerged when Confederate soldiers joined the Union Army for a variety of reasons, mostly relating to basic survival. Webster’s definition of “galvanlize” is to coat iron or steel with a zinc process to render it rust-resistant. The metaphor meant that although a Confederate soldier might switch from a grey to a blue uniform, the color change is a thin symbolic coating affecting outer appearance, but which does not define the heart-felt loyalties of the individual. A “white-washed reb”, or Galvanized Yankee, might change sides in exchange for release from prison, or might reenlist in Union troops if their home region was taken over by regulation or renegade troops in an effort to avoid execution or to protect property and family.

According to Wikipedia, 5,600 former Confederate soldiers enlisted in the “United States Volunteers”, organized into six regiments between January 1864 and November 1866. 1,600 Union army soldiers enlisted in the Confederate army, and were also referred to as Galvanized Yankees. Confederate Civil War records are often elusive due to their loss and destruction during the conflict. A genealogist may have better luck and find new information by checking Union Army rosters and indices.

Joyce B. Lohse


Comments Off on Galvanized Yankees

Posted in Uncategorized


Family History In a New Age

08 Oct


Whoever said you can’t go home again wasn’t kidding! I thought I knew Chicago. I grew up in Illinois and was familiar with the sights. After I graduated from Northern Illinois University, I made a beeline for the Rocky Mountains, and made Colorado my home. However, I returned frequently to The Heartland for visits. A trip to Chicago with the family this summer proved there were many new things to learn about that old city. I had never seen Millenium Park, home of a giant mirrored sculpture, known as The Bean. This made me think about ways in which our experience and landscape are affected by change in general, and technology specifically.

The reason for the trip was a family reunion, finalized with a burial ceremony in a pioneer family cemetery among the cornfields of Illinois. How does one commemorate such an event, and provide a way for the young participants to remember the trip and understand its significance? How can they learn from what they have seen and carry it with them?

I provided each family cluster with a flash drive, brightly colored on a lanyard, so it would be easily visible, and not get lost. It contained a pedigree chart, a copy of the story of the family’s history, which was presented aloud at the cemetery, and an electronic scrapbook containing historic family photos, including important captions identifying people and places in the photographs. Paper might have been more visual, but would have been cumbersome, and might eventually get lost in the shuffle. The 8 GB flash drive could also serve as a storage place for photographs from the trip. The unspoken purpose was for backup for safekeeping that multiple copies of the family history artifacts provided. I certainly hope flash drives endure.

What do we do with our photographs these days? In the digital age, hundreds of prints for scrapbooks are not practical. CD storage has become an option with an uncertain future. Who knows where we go from here. Trends are ever changing. Recently at a Red Rocks concert, many people sitting nearby entertained themselves while they waited for the performance by taking photos of one another and themselves, then sending them off to friends on their phone, hardly bound for longevity or preservation. At a recent wedding, the groom read his vows from an electronic notebook, then handed it to the bride so she could read hers. Will these trends seem outmoded as an eight track tape player in ten years time? Will artifacts we store now using one method be accessible a generation from now? I guess all we can do is hope for the best, and pay close attention.

Joyce B. Lohse



WHERE are you?

02 Aug

Oak Ridge Abe Lincoln

A rub of the nose on Abe Lincoln’s bust by his tomb assures good luck.

When you visit cemeteries to collect data and photos for your family research this summer, don’t forget to notice your surroundings. My term for this important element is “territorial context.” This information will serve you well if you share directions to the location with another person, or if you ever return to that location. You need to answer and record information about certain aspects of your destination. What direction are you facing? What landmarks do you see? Who are the neighbors?

This summer, I visited ancestors buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. Although I was not equipped with a GPS, I had done my homework. A library book provided me with a detailed map of the cemetery, and internment forms I obtained previously contained lot numbers. More importantly, when I visited the site previously, I knew a remarkable landmark stood a short distance from the site. My family was a stone’s throw from Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb. You could not miss it. That detail told us we were near the family plot.

Illinois Cemetery

Where am I?

During the same trip, we visited another little pioneer family cemetery, which was not so easy to locate. When the paved road disappeared, we wondered if we were on the right course with barely visible ruts to lead us on. Corn fields in all directions blocked our view. Which way were we going? The sun was overhead, and we had no large landmark to guide us. But we pushed on until we came to a clearing surrounded by robust crops. This was the place. Next time, it will be much easier to find. Next time.

Illinois Cemetery 3

Another view provides territorial context.

Joyce Lohse

Comments Off on WHERE are you?

Posted in Uncategorized


Who are your relatives?

19 Jul

Mary Ann Elkin

Headstone of Colorado pioneer Eliza Routt’s mother

The big event in our family this summer was a trip to Illinois. We transported the cremains of my folks to their homeland, where we became reacquainted with the people and the soil of our upbringing and our ancestors. With this powerful experience still fresh in memory, I hope to shift the focus of this blog from western history in general to topics closer to the heart. This will allow me to share tips about researching, preserving and sharing family history.

You may wonder why it matters, or what is the big deal about family history and genealogy. Perhaps this list will put it into perspective. At least, this is a good starting point.

Can you climb YOUR family tree?
1 You
2 Your parents
4 Grandparents
8 Great Grandparents
16 GG Grandparents
32 GGG
131,072 GGGGGGGGGGGGGGG Grandparents!

Now, that’s what I call a family tree!

Joyce Lohse,

Comments Off on Who are your relatives?

Posted in Uncategorized