Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jesus Lives!

Most people have heard of the letter eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon sent to the New York Sun shortly before Christmas in 1897, asking if there really is a Santa Claus. Her letter found its way to Francis P. Church, an editorial writer, who responded with an editorial that has become famous.

In rereading Church’s editorial a few years ago, it occurred to me that with minor adaptations it would make an excellent response to those who deny the reality of Jesus. So in this Christmas season, I want to share with you my paraphrased version as a response to those who question whether Jesus ever really existed, and whether he, even today, wields power over humankind.

Yes, Dear Christian, Jesus Lives!

Dear Christian, in this day and age when Christian belief is coming under increasing attack, be assured that those who insist that Jesus was not God’s only begotten Son, that, if he even existed, he was only a man like us who died and remained dead, are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of this skeptical age. They refuse to believe what they cannot see. They think nothing can exist that is not comprehensible by their small minds.

All minds, dear Christian, whether they be adults’ or children’s are little. In this great universe of ours, humans are mere insects, ants, in their intellect as compared with the boundless world about them, as measured by the intelligence of the One capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge—indeed, the One who created truth, justice, mercy, and love even as He created the universe and everything in it.

Yes, dear Christian, there is a Savior who lives as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that these qualities abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas, how dreary would be the world if Jesus had not entered it, died for the sin of all humankind, and returned to the heavenly realms to reign over His vast domain. It would be equally dreary if no one still nurtured the wavering flame of faith. There would be no childlike faith then, no hope, no love to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment except in what we could perceive with our senses. The Eternal Light with which Jesus filled His world would be extinguished.

Not believe Jesus lives! You might as well not believe in angels, yet through the centuries multitudes have testified to entertaining these heavenly beings unawares, those who have received protection, healing, and guidance for lives spun out of control. If your eyes cannot perceive Jesus in this physical realm, what does that prove? Human eyes cannot see what is spiritual, but that does not prove the spiritual realm does not exist.

The most real things in the world are those that humans cannot see. Have you ever seen God’s angelic hosts surrounding you in times of trouble or danger? Of course not, but the proof of their presence resonates in your spirit and guides you through the danger to safety. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the vast universe or even in our own small planet. You can tear apart a machine and see what makes it work, but there is a veil covering the unseen world that not the wisest man who ever lived can either remove or penetrate.

Only faith, hope, and love can push aside that curtain and view and describe the exquisite beauty and glory that lie beyond. Is it all real? Did Jesus really leave His heavenly kingdom to pitch his tents among us and reveal to us Almighty God? Ah, dear Christian, in all this world, there is nothing else so real and so abiding!

Jesus is not alive? Thank God! He lives and lives forever! A thousand years from now, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to reach down into our history and make glad the hearts of all who believe.

Copyright 2006 by J. M. Hochstetler.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Okaaay . . . so I got distracted by my new covers. And getting the galley copies ready and sent out to reviewers. And cramming in as much time as possible to work on Crucible of War. So before I get sidetracked again, here are the last photos from the Gathering at Five Medals.

The first photo is of something I’d never seen before and it really fascinated me. It’s a knitting board. It was quite interesting to watch this reenactor use it. This tool turns out pieces that are finished on both sides and thus reversible. The photo on the right shows a small knitting board in the background behind a couple of samples of her work. Her husband makes them, and they’re available for sale. They look really nifty, but she did admit that she can work faster using knitting needles. Still, it looks like fun once you learn how to use it, and you end up with a double-sided piece.

The next photo is of a spinster—yes, that’s what women who spin yarn are called. As the reenactor demonstrated how to spin yarn on the spinning wheel, she explained that women whose profession was to spin were called spinsters. Often the oldest daughter in a family, they began their craft as young girls and when older could earn a good living at the trade. Many remained unmarried because they enjoyed the independence their work provided, while others married later in life. In any case, the term spinster was originally a very respectable one, indicating independence, intelligence, and skill. As this reenactor pointed out, it’s interesting to see how the meanings of words change over time.

Another interesting item I found was a type of chair the reenactor said was used as a birthing chair. I'd never seen anything like them before. The two boys appeared to be permanently parked on them, so I couldn’t get a clear shot, but I think you can get the idea.

The last two photos are of a wigewa, exterior and interior. They gave me a good idea of what it might be like to live in one. I’m looking forward to next year’s reenacting season . . . and to adding a few cool new items to my wardrobe . . .

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Covers!

You saw it first here, folks: the new covers for Daughter of Liberty and Native Son!!! I am ecstatic!! My designer, Marisa Jackson, is the BEST, and these covers are top of the line!!!

So give me some feedback. What do you think? Id love to get your reactions!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

More Gathering at Five Medals

Here are more views of the encampment. We’ll start with a photo of two young ladies nicely attired in colonial garb. I particularly admired them as they appeared to be quite at home in their period garb.

I got to the park a little after 12:30, and many of the reenactors were cooking their midday meal. The next two photos show something that particularly interested me. The young women were cooking roasted potato soup, and their campfire was suspended in a type of cradle. I’ve never seen anything like it before. They told me the Ojibwas and another tribe, which I’ve forgotten, used a similar type of device. I can see how useful it would be when the ground was muddy after rain.

This photo was taken at a camp where the woman shown was drying squash in a wooden rack over the fire. She had many gourds, squash, and other vegetables that she grows from heritage seeds, which she saves from her harvest year by year. She had packets of many different kinds for sale, and I meant to go back and get some before I left. But by the time I’d wandered around the camp for several hours, my poor knees were very unhappy with me. So I ended up limping all the way back to my car with a few treasures and heading home.

I must say, I’m not at all happy with blogger’s latest upgrades. It’s now impossible to resize photos manually in the post, so I had to set them all to small to avoid having text crunched when I use photos that are landscape orientation. Which means you have to click on the photo to get a good view of it. And when you move them around in the post, they break up the text. Not only can’t you can’t get a decent copyflow, depending on how you place them, they run over part of the text! Then to delete them, you have to go into edit html and delete the code. You can’t do it in compose view.

I wonder what other nasty surprises I haven’t discovered yet. I just love it how software companies and online sites “improve” their software or service so that it’s actually harder to use and lacks features that were particularly helpful before! Nice going, google! This is a perfect example of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!!

Ah, well. Up in my next post: spinning and knitting. And as soon as I get the jpegs of the new Daughter of Liberty and Native Son covers, I’ll post those too. They are gorgeous, and I am soooo excited!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

This morning I headed out to River Preserve County Park, southeast of Goshen, for the Gathering at Five Medals, a reenactment of the history of the Midwest from the 1660s to 1828. After days of cold and copious rain, the sun came out, the ground dried out, and the temps hovered around 60 degrees. So it was a very pleasant day, and the setting was lovely. Not so lovely, the encampment was pretty spread out, which was very nice in appearance but really hard on my knees. So I was one tired puppy by the time I hoofed it back to my car, but very happy that I went.

According to the brochure about the event, the Elkhart River Potawatomi first settled in the area during the 1760s. Five Medals Town, named after Chief Five Medals, was located near the reenactment site. The town was active in the fur trade and was frequently visited by European and American fur traders. During the War of 1812, young warriors from the town allied with Tecumseh and the British. Soldiers from Ohio and Kentucky destroyed the town twice during the conflict.

Accounts from travelers, military officers, and Indian agents describe twenty homes, surrounded by sixty to seventy acres of corn, situated along an extensive prairie. As white settlers pushed west, displaced Miami and Kickapoo from Ohio often settled briefly in the town before moving on. In 1828, as Americans settled the area, the town was abandoned and its residents moved west and merged with a different tribal group.

The event included a variety of sutlers, period craft demonstrations, artillery and weapons demonstrations, fur trade reenactment, River Rogues, and a Woodland Indian village and Voyageurs encampment. I enjoyed walking around—until my knees got too sore—and talking with the reenactors about the crafts they were doing and the characters they portrayed. I picked up a wonderful little book titled Some Thoughts on Scouts and Spies by Gerry Barker that promises to be a gold mine of information. And I also got several packets of wild rice mixtures and one of dried veggies that will be delicious as side dishes with our meals. And I found a sweet, inexpensive little embroidered bag to go with my petticoat.

In the next few posts I’m going to share some of the interesting photos I took. First up are a couple of young women who immediately attracted me, as they were portraying couriers. Both were garbed as me, and we had a very interesting discussion about the role of women during the American Revolution as spies, couriers, and even soldiers. Imagine that! So I gave the young woman on the black horse my card and asked her to email me so we could continue the discussion and I could ask her questions. What a fortuitous meeting!

In my next post, I’ll share more pix and interesting tidbits of info that I gleaned. And of course, I should have a cover or two to share before too long! But for now, Jay has gotten home from Alabama (after stopping to have lunch with my daughters in Noblesville). We’re heading into Bristol to check out the little pizza parlor—now that we’re about to head back down south!—and then walk down to the Stone Soup Emporium. We’ve only been here since mid March, and there are still a lot of places we haven’t taken the time to visit, so we’d better get busy!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Catching Up

What a week this has been! I got back from my jaunt to Greenville Sunday evening and plunged right back into the daily grind on Monday. Today is the first day I’ve been able to come up for air—but only briefly before I get back to finishing up the last few tasks left over from the week. Oy veh!

What a great experience I had with Laura and her mom Chris . . . and her dad Chris! There’s nothing better than making wonderful new friends, and I’ve adopted them. lol! I’m already looking forward to next year and hoping I can keep that weekend free. The morning was rainy again, but the afternoon cleared up a bit and there was a lot of traffic to the festival. It’s exciting to see how people in the area support this event! Here are a couple more pix I snapped on Sunday afternoon—a group of reeneactors whose authentic period costume just begged to be snapped, and the matched team that hauled the shuttle wagon. Aren’t they beautiful guys?

This entire week has been cold, rainy, and windy. Which means it’s been good for staying inside and getting work done. It’s hard to stay organized when two people are living in a 344 square foot 5th wheel, though, so I’m having to improvise, like spreading papers across the furniture and floor while I’m working, then gathering them up again once I’m done. Boy, do I have a ton of filing to do. It’s not on the top of my priority list, though, so the piles keep getting taller!

We’ll be heading back to Tennessee later this month, and if it gets cold enough this winter, we’ll probably spend a couple of months or so in Florida. I have to admit I’m sad to be leaving northern Indiana, but hopefully we’ll be back when it warms up next spring. It looks like we’re going to be nomads for a while.

Work is progressing on the new covers for Daughter of Liberty and Native Son. My designer told me she’ll have roughs for me next weekend, and of course I’ll share them here. I am sooooo excited—can’t wait to see them!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Prairie Days

Obviously I didn’t have time to post pix of me in my reenactor duds before leaving. Couldn’t have anyway since Jay was out of town and I don’t have anyone else to man the camera. But here are some photos I took today at Shawnee Prairie . . . after the rain departed. For the most part, anyway. Hopefully tomorrow will be dryer, though I didn’t mind the cool temperatures at all. When one is clad in voluminous 18th century dress, it’s easy to overheat.

The photo above is of the opening ceremonies this morning in front of the park’s authentic log cabin. As I told my friend Laura and her mom, Chris, “I want one of those!” The next photo is of part of the encampment. This event isn’t really large yet, but they’re working hard to develop it, and they’re getting really good attendance.

The last photo is of me and Laura. It was delightful to finally meet her in person, and her parents too! But I gotta learn not to smile so my cheeks bunch up and make me look like a chipmunk! With the camera already making me look 20 lb. heavier, it isn’t exactly flattering, and having only minimal makeup on doesn't help either. I know, I know—vanity, thy name is woman! Guilty as charged. LOL!

I’m hoping to do more running around tomorrow and take more pix of other parts of the event to share. The rain put the damper on that today. And I want to get someone to take a good full-length shot of me so you can see how nicely my outfit turned out. I’m going to look kinda wrinkled, though, after getting pretty damp this morning!

It was a great day, all things considered. It started this morning at breakfast when several of the other ladies staying at this B&B asked about my books. They all ended up buying copies. My table out at the park is in a high-traffic location, so this afternoon after the rain moved off and I could safely put the books out for display, I sold a bunch there and enjoyed some lovely discussions with the folks who came by. Hopefully I’ll sell more tomorrow so I won’t have to lug many back home. I want to get most of these editions cleared out, and then focus on the revised edition with those beautiful covers!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Final Preparations

I’m getting there slowly but surely!

Last evening I finally finished hemming my petticoat for the Prairie Days encampment this weekend, and all I have left to do is to iron my shift. I washed it a couple of times to soften it up, and cotton always ends up in a mass of wrinkles, as I’m sure you know. Later this afternoon I’m going to head to Staples to get my posters printed, and then I’ll be ready to go!

Yesterday my buddy Laura, who invited me to participate, emailed me this lovely press release, which was sent out to announce the event. She and her family are reenactors, and her father works at Shawnee Prairie. I’m so looking forward to finally meeting them in person! I hope if you’re in the area this weekend, you’ll stop by.

Popular Christian fiction author J. M. Hochstetler will be attending the upcoming Friends of the Darke County Parks Prairie Days on September 24-25. A writer for over 20 years, Ms. Hochstetler will be promoting her American Patriot Series, which tells the story of the birth of our nation.

The American Patriot Series masterfully weaves the tale of two lives, American Spy Elizabeth Howard and British Captain Jonathan Carleton, who has his own secrets to hide. The story expands not just on the usual battle fields of the east coast, but spreads into the Ohio River Valley and the Native Americans’ perspective.

At Prairie Days Ms. Hochstetler will be signing her series of books as well as selling copies to the public. She will also be walking amongst the visitors at the festival in period dress as a wandering author. Come and stop by the festival to visit with Ms. Hochstetler and see what else is at the festival this year. For more information visit the park website or Ms. Hochstetler’s blog and website at ,

I’m going to try to squeeze in time to post pix of me in costume tomorrow, and then after I get back I’ll post pix of the event. That is, if I remember my camera. I have a terrible tendency to forget to bring it, so maybe I better put it with my things right now!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Announcing ... New Series Cover Art!

Sometimes the stars are in the right alignment . . .

Can you tell I’m so excited I can hardly stand it? I’ve found the perfect art for the covers for this series—at least most of them—and they were right under my nose! It just never occurred to me until recently that these gorgeous and historically accurate paintings might be available for licensing.

If you’ve ever done much research into American history from the French and Indian War through the Civil War, you’ve undoubtedly run into Don Troiani’s paintings. Several years ago I purchased his beautifully detailed Soldiers in America: 1754–1865, with text by Earl J. Coates and James L. Kochan. I refer to it whenever any questions about the uniforms and weaponry of the Revolution arise. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Troiani’s work, here’s his bio from the dust jacket.

Mr. Troiani’s paintings have appeared in numerous national collections, including the National Park Service, West Point Military Academy, and the Smithsonian Institute. Known for his incredibly accurate renditions of the American Revolution and the Civil War, he is also a respected authority on uniforms and equipage of the American military. His collection of military antiques ranks among the most important in the country.

Once it occurred to me that I might be able to get the rights to use some of Mr. Troiani’s images, I did an internet search, which immediately led me to the Military and Historical Image Bank. I was pretty sure the fee to use them was going to be more than I could afford, but happily good folks at MHIB were willing accommodate my budget. It always pays to ask!

There are also a whole lot more of Mr. Troiani’s paintings than are shown in the book. I was able to match several to the volumes in the series, along with several smaller images for some of the back covers, such as one of an officer of the British 17th Light Dragoons, to go on the back cover of Daughter of Liberty to represent Jonathan Carleton. There are only a couple of volumes that I’ll need to find other artwork for. Below is a list, with the volume and the corresponding image. Since I only have permission for the first image so far, the others are shown with the watermark.

1. Daughter of Liberty: Stand Your Ground, the Battle of Lexington Green
Back cover: British 17th Light Dragoons (an almost perfect stand-in for Carleton!)

2. Native Son: The Battle of Oriskany, 1777 (Okay, it’s the wrong battle and date for the story and the Indians are Oneida instead of Shawnee, but this is as close as we’re gonna get!)

3. Wind of the Spirit back cover image: Shawnee Indian Warrior 1750-80

4. Crucible of War: General George Washington at the Battle of Princeton (tentative, above). To the right is the image I’d love to have.
Back cover (left): Battle of Eutaw Springs, Sept. 8, 1781. (Yeah, I know, but it’s a great stand-in for Carleton in this volume when he comes within a hair's breadth of being captured by the British. Ummm. . . forget I mentioned that!)

6. Refiner’s Fire: The Cavalry Battle at Cowpens 1781 (tentative)

7. Forge of Freedom: A Prayer of Thanksgiving, April 19, 1783

For the front covers of Wind of the Spirit and Valley of the Shadow, and also potentially for Crucible of War, I’ll need to find other artwork. I’m hoping to find appropriate historical paintings that can be licensed. Valley of the Shadow and/or Refiner’s Fire will need a naval image. There’s one of the battle between the Bonhomme Richard and the Serapis (right) that would be perfect for Refiner’s Fire, if I can only find out where it’s located and whether it can be licensed. Also one of Washington at the Battle of Princeton that would be absolutely fabulous for Crucible of War, but I haven’t yet been able to determine who the artist is or where the painting resides. But I’m working on it.

These images will take up only part of the front cover, either the top or bottom. The rest of the space will have an image representing Elizabeth Howard or something else relevant to the volume, and a bar with the title and my name. I’m saving up my pennies to purchase the rights for each as we get to work on the cover, so it’s going to take a while to get them all done. But at least I finally have a plan and a basic design, and that feels great. And Crucible of War is flowing right along, which feels pretty exhilarating too!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gearing Up for Reenacting

I was really excited this week when my order from Jas. Townsend & Son showed up in my mailbox way ahead of schedule. I settled on a bedgown and petticoat, and I’m very pleased with how they turned out. As you can see in the picture, the petticoat is the same fabric as the gown I would have loved to get, but can’t afford. But this is almost as good, and won’t require those really expensive stays. I still have to wash them to remove any sizing and to soften the fabric, then hem the petticoat. I ordered it unfinished so I could adjust the length to the shoes I purchase.

I’d already bought the shift, which goes under everything—with nothing beneath except stockings! A bit breezy, I’d think, but that was the custom. I also already purchased the nice white, fashionably clocked, thigh-length stockings shown to the right, and now just need the slippers to match. I’m lusting after the lovely ones from Burnley & Trowbridge shown below, and joy of all joys, they do come in red! Which, of course, is what I’ll order as soon as I’ve saved up my pennies.

I had decided on the lappet cap, shown next. I like it fairly well, but I’m thinking I may substitute the country cap below, instead. Thankfully they’re not expensive. I was going to buy a straw hat to go on top when outdoors, but I’m going to save the money and not worry about it. My friend who invited me to the event told me that her costume is a work in progress, which makes me feel better. I can always add accessories if I end up doing this on a somewhat regular basis. Adding a shortgown a different color that coordinates with my petticoat would be a lovely choice, too, for multi-day events, and then maybe a second petticoat in a solid color to layer underneath with the print petticoat looped up over it for a nice contrasting effect. And a fichu around the neck . . . Well, nobody ever accused me of not being obsessive!

Next week I’m going to order a set of replica silver pins to close my bedgown down the front for a slightly more formal look, instead of tying it shut with an apron, as was common. And I’ve also decided to buy a set of pockets, which are tied on beneath the petticoat and reached through the petticoat’s side slits. That way I won’t need a reticule for essentials, which could be a pain to carry around at events. Thankfully these pieces are all inexpensive. I might need to make another field trip down to Pierceton, where the shop is located, just to pick through what they have. They’re only about an hour away from where I’m spending the summer in northern Indiana.

Thankfully this outfit will allow me to go without stays, although I’d like to try them at some point as I’ve heard are actually comfortable when properly fitted. That is, as long as you don’t lace them to the point of misery to make your waist smaller. Unlike Civil War days, that wasn’t the idea in the 18th century. They were to provide support for the back and bosom and to create the conical shape, pointed in the front, that was the height of fashion at the time. Very sensible, I say.

Once I have all the pieces ready, I’ll have my husband take a picture of me all geared up. I’ve tried everything on, of course, but I can’t wait to see the full effect when everything is in place as it should be! What fun!!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Stepping Back into History

Through a reader I’ve corresponded with for several years who’s become a good friend, I’ve been invited to participate in a reenactment event. I’ve attended a number of reenactments as a spectator, but this will be my first foray into the reenactors’ world as a participant. I’m thrilled at the prospect of living in the period of my story to some degree, if only for a weekend.

The event is the Prairie Days Festival at Shawnee Prairie Preserve just outside of Greenville, Ohio. This is Darke County Park’s largest park, with about 2 1/4 miles of trails winding through a number of different ecosystems in the 118-acre park. According to the park’s website, archeological evidence confirms that at least a portion of the preserve was the site of a village founded by Tecumseh’s brother, Tenskwatawa, or the Prophet, where he rallied fifteen woodland Indian nations in response to the Treaty of Greene Ville in 1795.

Held annually the last full weekend of September, this event focuses on the prairie way of life from about 1780 to 1810 and features crafts, games, and trades of the period. I’ll not only be appearing in the persona of a writer of the time, with my books available for purchase, but I’ll also be helping to judge the pie baking contest. I’m particularly looking forward to that as pie is my favorite desert!

For the past week I’ve been busily putting together as authentic an ensemble as I can afford without actually sewing it myself. I’d love the challenge, but alas, I simply can’t cram another project into my already insane schedule. Modern life is just way too busy, and I’m sure you know all about that! So I’m purchasing all the accoutrements I need from several suppliers such as Jas. Townsend & Son and Burnley & Trowbridge. In my next post I’m going to share more details of my costume and some pictures as well.

Below are the dates and times for Prairie Days.

September 24 and 25, 2011
Hours: Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The preserve is located on State Hwy 502, just outside of Greenville, Ohio. A map is posted on their website. If you’re in the area, I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Faith of Our Fathers

Increasingly in these days the idea that our nation was founded on Christian principles is attacked, discounted, and outright denied. The historical evidence overwhelmingly proves the opposite, however. So on this week in which we celebrate our independence as a nation, for our inspiration and encouragement, I thought I’d allow our Founders and other leaders of our great nation to speak for themselves.

The following are quotes from the historical record that appear on the Wallbuilders Web site. Many more complete historical documents can be found there supporting the claim that the United States was founded as a Christian nation based on biblical principles. If you’re unfamiliar with the site, I recommend it highly.

“For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; he will save us” (Isaiah 33:22).
Acknowledged by James Madison as the inspiration for the 3 branches of our government, judicial, legislative, and executive

“I . . . recommend my Soul to that Almighty Being who gave it, and my body I commit to the dust, relying upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins.”
From the will of Samuel Adams, Father of the American Revolution, Signer of the Declaration of Independence

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence, judge; diplomat; one of two signers of the Bill of Rights; second president of the United States

“I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God that gave it: and my body I recommend to the earth . . . nothing doubting but at the general resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mercy and power of God.”
From the will of John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence

“This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.”
From the will of Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, Firebrand of the Revolution

“First, I think it proper to express my unshaken opinion of the immortality of my soul or mind; and to dedicate and devote the same to the supreme head of the Universe—to that great and tremendous Jehovah,—Who created the universal frame of nature, worlds, and systems in number infinite . . . To this awfully sublime Being do I resign my spirit with unlimited confidence of His mercy and protection.”
From the will of Henry Knox, Revolutionary War General and Secretary of War under President George Washington

“My only hope of salvation is in the infinite, transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!”
From The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence

“I entreat you in the most earnest manner to believe in Jesus Christ, for there is no salvation in any other [Acts 4:12]. . . . [I]f you are not reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, if you are not clothed with the spotless robe of His righteousness, you must forever perish.”
From The Works of John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration of Independence; “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation Through Christ,” January 2, 1758

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1789

“A moral Ruler of the universe, the Governor and Controller of all human power, is the only unlimited sovereign acknowledged by the Declaration of Independence; and it claims for the United States of America, when assuming their equal station among the nations of the earth, only the power to do all that may be done of right.”
From an oration by John Quincy Adams, President of the United States and son of John Adams, on July 4, 1837

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wedding in Colonial America

Today on the Colonial Quills blog I posted on colonial weddings, so I thought I’d carry that topic over to this blog as well. The following is an excerpt from an article by historian Alice Morse Earle in the Journal of American Folklore (April-June 1893). It’s quite long, but highly entertaining. How customs have changed! Probably a good thing too . . . !

Old-Time Marriage Customs in New England

Marriage celebrations and marriage customs followed in the New World many of the customs of the Old World. Sack-posset, the drink of Shakespeare’s time, a rich, thick concoction of boiled ale, eggs, and spices, was drunk at New England weddings, as we learn from the pages of Judge Sewall’s diary; but it did not furnish a very gay wassail, for the Puritan posset-drinking was preceded and followed by the singing of a psalm—and such a psalm! a long, tedious, drawling performance from the Bay Psalm Book.

The bride and groom and bridal party walked in a little procession to the meeting-house on the Sabbath following the marriage. We read in the Sewall diary of a Sewall bride thus “coming out,” or “walking-out bride,” as it was called in Newburyport. Cotton Mather thought it expedient to thus make public with due dignity the marriage. In some communities the attention of the interested public was further drawn to the new-married couple in what seems to us a very comic fashion. On the Sabbath following the wedding, the gayly dressed bride and groom occupied a prominent seat in the gallery of the meeting-house, and in the middle of the sermon they rose and slowly turned around to display complacently on every side their wedding finery.

In Larned’s “History of Windham County, Conn.,” we read a description of such a scene in Brooklyn, Conn. Further attention was paid to the bride by allowing her to choose the text for the sermon preached on the first Sunday of the coming-out of the newly married couple. Much ingenuity was exercised in finding appropriate and unusual Bible texts for these wedding sermons. The instances are well known of the marriage of Parson Smith’s two daughters, one of whom selected the text, “Mary hath chosen that good part;” while the daughter Abby, who married John Adams, decided upon the text, “John came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and ye say he hath a devil.” This latter ingenious and curious choice has given rise to an incorrect notion that the marriage of Abigail Smith with John Adams was distasteful to her father and her family. Mr. Charles Francis Adams tells me that this supposition is entirely unfounded, and that old President Adams would fairly rise in his grave to denounce any such slander, should it become current.

Perhaps the most curious wedding customs obtained among the Scotch-Irish settlers; for instance, the Presbyterian planters of Londonderry, New Hampshire, as told in Parker’s history of that town, page 74 et seq. The ancient wedding sport known in various parts of the British Isles as “riding for the kail,” or “for the broose,”—a pot of spiced broth,—and also called “riding for the ribbon,” took the form in America of riding a dare-devil race over break-neck, half-cleared roads to the house of the bride to secure a beribboned bottle of whiskey. The privileged Protestants had been in Ireland the only subjects permitted to carry or discharge firearms, and they ostentatiously paraded, at every celebration or festivity, their franchised condition by frequent volleys of blank cartridges. Their descendants kept up the same noisy custom in the new land, and the firing of guns formed a large part of a wedding celebration.

A Scotch-Irish marriage in Londonderry was prefaced by widespread formal invitations at least three days previous to the wedding day. An invitation of a single day’s warning was almost an insult. The wedding festivities began by a gathering of the groom’s friends at his home as an escort; the groom and his party proceeded with frequent discharges of musketry at every house they passed, until they met about half way a party of the male friends of the bride. Each group of wedding guests then appointed a champion, who “ran for the bottle” to the bride’s home, and the victorious one returned with it to the advancing party. Upon reaching the scene of the wedding, the bridegroom and his party of friends entered a room, and sat there till the best man brought the bride into the room, and stationed her before the parson by the side of the groom. The best man and the bridesmaid stationed themselves behind the bridal couple, and at a certain point in the ceremony bride and groom each thrust the right hand behind the back and the attendant couple withdrew the gloves, taking care to have the two gloves removed at precisely the same moment. At the end of the ceremony all kissed the bride, and the beribboned bottle of whiskey was not the only one that regaled the company. The bride and groom started on their journey with many parting volleys of musketry. In some neighborhoods, as a further pleasing attention, hidden groups of men discharged blank cartridges from ambush at the bridal pair as they rode through the woods.

Occasionally the wedding bells did not ring smoothly. One Scotch-Irish lassie seized the convenient opportunity, when the rollicking company of her male friends had set out to meet the bridegroom, to mount a pillion behind a young New Hampshire Lochinvar and ride boldly off to a neighboring parson and marry the man of her choice. Such an unpublished marriage was known in New Hampshire as a “Flagg marriage,” from one Parson Flagg, of widespread notoriety, of Chester, Vermont, whose house was a sort of Yankee Gretna Green. The government of New Hampshire, previous to the Revolution, as a means of increasing its income, issued marriage licenses at the price of two guineas each. Sometimes easy going parsons kept a stock of these licenses on hand, ready for issue, at a slightly advanced price, to eloping couples. Such a marriage, without proper public publishing in meeting, was not, however, deemed very reputable.

In some communities still rougher horse-play than unexpected volleys of musketry was shown to the bridal party or to wedding guests. Great trees were felled across bridle-paths, or grapevines were stretched across to obstruct the way, and thus delay the bridal festivities.

A custom prevailed in many New England towns that was doubtless an ameliorated and semi-civilized survival of the customs of savage peoples, when young girls were carried off and made wives by force. A group of those young men who had not been invited to the wedding would invade the house when the marriage ceremony had been performed, and drag away the bride to an inn or some other house, when the groom and his party would follow and rescue her by paying a forfeit of a dinner to the bride-stealers. In western Massachusetts this custom lingered until Revolutionary times; on page 245 of Judd’s “History of Hadley” the names of stolen brides are given. Mrs. Job Marsh, married in 1783, is said to have been the last bride thus stolen. A very rough variation of this custom is reported to be still in vogue in some localities. In the town of Charlestown, Rhode Island, last summer, a very respectable young married woman, a native of the town and wife of a farmer, was asked whether she had ever ridden on the cars. She answered that she had once done so, when she went to Stonington to be married. When asked why she had not been married at home, she said that she knew better than to do that, that the young men of the neighborhood went at dead of night to the house sheltering the newly married couple, pulled them out of bed, and carried the bride downstairs. If the rough invaders found the door locked, they beat it down with an axe.

Madam Sarah Kemble Knights, in her journal of a horseback ride from Boston to New York in 1704, tells of a curious variation of this marriage custom in Connecticut. She writes thus:

They generally marry very young; the males oftener, as I am told, under twenty than above: they generally make public Weddings, and have a way something Singular (as they say) in some of them, viz., just before joining hands the Bridegroom quits the place, who is soon followed by the Brides-men, and, as it were, dragged back to duty—being the reverse to the former practice among us to steal Mistress Bride.

I think this is the most despicable, ungallant bridal custom that I ever heard of, and Connecticut maids must have been poor-spirited, down-trodden jades to endure meekly any such sneaking desertion, an it were merely an empty following of a local fashion. The most eccentric marriage custom that I have noted in America is what has been termed a “smock marriage,” or “marriage in a shift.” It was believed in this country, and in Old England (and I have heard that the notion still prevails in parts of England to this day), that if a widow should wear no garment but a shift at the celebration of her second marriage, her new husband would escape liability for any debt previously contracted by her or by her former husband. Mr. William C. Prime, in his delightful book, “Along New England Roads,” page 25 et seq., gives an account of such a marriage in Newfane, Vermont. In February, 1789, Major Moses Joy married widow Hannah Ward; the bride stood with no clothing on within a closet, and held out her hand to the major through a diamond-shaped hole in the door, and the ceremony was thus performed. She then appeared resplendent in brave wedding attire, which the gallant major had previously deposited in the closet for her assumption. Mr. Prime tells also of a marriage in which the bride, entirely unclad, left her room by a window by night, and, standing on the top round of a high ladder, donned her wedding garments, and thus put off the obligations of the old life.

In some cases the marriage was performed on the public highway. In Hall’s “History of Eastern Vermont,” page 587, we read of a marriage in Westminster, Vermont, in which the widow Lovejoy, while nude and hidden in a chimney recess behind a curtain, wedded Asa Averill. “Smock marriages” are recorded in York, Maine, in 1774, as shown on page 419 et seq. of “History of Wells and Kennebunkport.” It is said that in one case the pitying minister threw his coat over the shivering bride, one widow Mary Bradley, who in February, clad only in a shift, met the bridegroom on the highway, half way from her home to his.

The traveller Kalm, writing in 1748, says that one Pennsylvania bridegroom saved appearances by meeting the scantily-clad widow-bride half way from her house to his, and announcing formally, in the presence of witnesses, that the wedding clothes which he then put on her were only lent to her for the occasion. This is curiously suggestive of the marriage investiture of eastern Hindostan.

In Westerly, Rhode Island, other smock marriages are recorded, showing that the belief in this vulgar error was universal. The most curious variation of this custom is given on page 224, vol. ii. of the “Life of Gustavus Vassa,” wherein that traveller records that he saw a shift marriage take place on a gallows in New York in 1784. A malefactor, condemned to death and about to undergo his execution, was reprieved and liberated through his marriage to a woman thus scantily clad. This traveller’s yarn deserves not, of course, the credence accorded to the previously stated authentic records. In the early days of the colonies a marriage “contraction” or betrothal sometimes took place,—so states Cotton Mather; this custom was abandoned after a few years of life in the New World. It could never have been of any use or much significance, nor, indeed, productive of high moral results.

In a new land, with rude manners of living, many rough courtships are recorded, and some rude methods of wooing. The custom of “bundling” has been for years a standing taunt against New England morality; as a full account of its prevalence, influence, and extent has been given by Dr. Stiles in his book, and more recently and with more fairness by Charles Francis Adams in his paper entitled “Some Phases of Sexual Morality and Church Discipline in Colonial New England,” which was delivered before the Massachusetts Historical Society in June, 1891, I will dwell no further on it here.

A more formal method of courtship is suggested by what is termed a “courting-stick;” one is preserved in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. It is a hollow tube eight feet in length, through which lovers, in the presence of an assembled family, could whisper tender nothings to each other.

Judging from the pages of the Sewall diary of the length of time elapsing between a proposal or agreement of marriage and its consummation, it is evident that short engagements were the mode, and that wedding arrangements were begun as soon as the engagement was announced. I find no indication of the use of betrothal rings, though Judith Sewall’s lover sent her, after her acceptance of his offer, a “stone-ring with a noble letter.” Neither were wedding rings in common use.

Wedding gloves were sent by the bridal couple as gifts to friends, as were mourning gloves at funerals. Judge Sewall records many gifts of gloves from newly-married friends. I have seen old wedding-gloves, gold-laced and fringed, with rich gauntlets, far from an inexpensive gift. I do not learn that it was customary to give presents to the bride, though Judge Sewall tells of his presentation of a psalm-book at a wedding. Bride-cake was made in early days, and was served with cheese at the wedding. A rich wedding feast was frequently given, and the bride was kissed by all present, though I must state that in some parts of New England bride-kissing was discountenanced. So, also, was dancing at weddings, especially at taverns, as “abuses and disorders” arose. This was specially in early days, when marriage was held to be merely a civil contract and was performed by magistrates, not by ministers.

In a community that opened every function—a training, bridge-planning, christening, house-raising, or journeying—with prayer and psalm-singing, it was plain that the benediction of religion would not long be withheld at weddings, and by the close of the seventeenth century the Puritan ministers solemnized marriages.

Curiously enough, the Quakers, professedly simple in living, made a vast deal of celebration of weddings, though the wedding ceremony itself was simply “passing the meeting.” Much feasting took place, and the bride seems to have had to pass through a most trying ordeal of promiscuous and unlimited kissing from every male Quaker for miles around. Visiting the bride was a favorite fashion. We read of one Boston bride, Mrs. Jervis, who received her guests, in 1774, “dressed in a white sattan night gound.”

Other old-time English wedding customs are reported to have been in vogue in New England, such as throwing the stocking of the bride, to be scrambled for as a luck-bearing trophy. Along the coast from Marblehead to Castine, the bridesmaids and unmarried girls strove to steal the bride’s garter by dexterity or craft. At a Pennsylvania Dutch wedding the bride’s shoe was sought for, and the groomsmen protected the bride from the theft, and if ineffectual in their protection were obliged to redeem the shoe with a bottle of wine. I find no record of our modern fashions of throwing slippers and rice after the departing bride.

It is said that along the New Hampshire and upper Massachusetts coast the groom was led to the bridal chamber clad in a brocaded night-gown. This may have occasionally taken place among the gentry, but I fancy brocaded satin night-gowns were not common wear among New England settlers. I have also seen it stated that the bridal chamber was invaded, and healths there were drunk and prayers offered. The only proof of this custom which I have is the negative one which elderly Judge Sewall gives when he states of his own wedding that “none came to us” after he and his bride had retired. There is no reason to suppose, when the wedding of an English nobleman of that period was attended by most indecorous observances, that provincial and colonial weddings were entirely free from similar rude practices, but the greater simplicity of life in the New World naturally crowded out many roystering customs.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Subjugating a smaller, poorer, and less experienced opponent

In the Introduction to The Philadelphia Campaign: 1777-1778, Stephen R. Taaffe gives an overview of the importance of this particular campaign on the American War for Independence, and writes this: “The Philadelphia campaign demonstrated Britain’s inability to formulate and implement a successful plan to subjugate a smaller, poorer, and less experienced opponent.”

After I stopped laughing hysterically, I realized what profound implications that statement has for those who decide to gird up their loins and take a giant step outside the box. Like David facing Goliath. Or the Americans defeating the British, for that matter. The one who has all the training, resources, and experience isn’t necessarily going to win the contest. We forget how difficult it really is to formulate and implement a successful plan to overcome someone who isn’t burdened with previous experience that leads to “the way things have always been done” kind of thinking. If you lack size, wealth, training, and experience when facing a larger opponent, then you have to find the determination, courage, and ingenuity to overcome the monolith. The most impressive and far-reaching victories have always been won that way.

These reflections led to the following scene, which I sketched out while eating dinner (yes, I DO read at mealtime when I’m alone!). At the Battle of Trenton, the Americans captured almost 900 of the Hessian soldiers garrisoned there. They were taken back to the American camp, where General Washington hosted the officers at dinner. I can just imagine THAT scene! Well, here’s part of my take on it in a very quick rough draft. I’ll substitute real names of the Hessian officers present in the final version, and give them accents too.

The Hessians’ Dinner with Washington

Leaning back in his chair, one of the Hessian officers pointed out triumphantly, “You Americans do not possess the training, experience, and resources we and the British do, so regardless of this minor, temporary victory, it is impossible for you ultimately to win the war.”

Thoughtfully Carleton took washed down a bite of his dessert with a drink of wine. “That is exactly why we will win,” he broke in.

Everyone at the table turned to him. It took a moment for the Germans to mentally translate his words, then they erupted in incredulous titters, while Carleton’s fellow officers regarded him as though he had unexpectedly dropped into the room from the sky.

“I see that you, sir, are an idealist,” the oldest of the Hessians said with a smile.

“Wars are won on ideals,” Carleton responded. “What you consider to be our weaknesses are, in fact, our strengths. Because we are not burdened with the training and experience you are, we are free to invent something entirely new, something you, my dear sir, do not anticipate.” He waved his hand in an airy gesture. “Witness the events of the past few days. Why, for instance, are you enjoying our hospitality, not as our conquerors, but as our prisoners?”

Nonplussed, the German officers exchanged glances. Several faces reddened, but around him the American officers relaxed and began to chuckle.

Washington motioned to the servant to refill everyone’s goblet, then lifted his with a faint smile. “To your health, gentlemen. And to King George the Third. Long may he rule . . . England.”

The Germans had no choice but to join in the toast, though more than one scowled as he did so. But Carleton was not finished.

Tossing down the wine, he set down his goblet with deliberation. “Another reason why you will lose is that you have nothing personal at stake in this conflict, whereas everything we have to lose—or to gain—is very personal indeed: our homes and families, our land, our freedom, the legacy we will leave for our children. A man will gladly die before he will give that up.”

The room was silent now, and for the first time Carleton saw respect in his fellow officer’s eyes. And in the eyes of the prisoners.

Copyright © 2011 by J. M. Hochstetler. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Colonial Quills

Today Colonial America Christian Writers is inaugurating a new blog called Colonial Quills that focuses on 18th century America. If you’re interested in the early history of this country and/or want to learn more about this pivotal era, you won’t want to miss the fun, intriguing, and inspiring information and fellowship you’ll find on Colonial Quills!

Blog hosts include Carla Glade and Carrie Fancett Pagels, whose inspiration led to the founding of Colonial Quills. Other members include Laurie Alice Eakes, Laura Frantz, Louise Gouge, Jennifer Hudson Taylor, Lynne Squire, Roseanna White, Rita Gerlach, Lori Benton, Pat Iacuzzi, Gina Welborn, and of course, moi. Columns include In Ye Olden Days, with topics on colonial life ranging from family life to food, politics, folklore, religion, and much more; Tools of the Trade with tips on writing and researching the American colonial era; and themes centered on holidays and special events.

We hope you’ll drop by and join in the conversation about the beginnings of this country!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Exciting New Resource for Lovers of 18th Century America!

I’m really excited about a new venture a lovely group of American colonial-era writers I belong to is beginning tomorrow! I’ll be a regular participant, and we’re planning to have fun and offer a lot of interesting insights and information at the same time.

Check back here in the morning for the formal announcement. If you’re interested in 18th century America, I think you’re going to love this new resource on all things colonial!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writing a Novel

If you’ve never attempted it, this is pretty true to life, though I’ve always described it as trying to pull your brains out through a pinhole in your forehead with tweezers. . . .

Monday, March 14, 2011

One More Gown

Here is a lovely red brocade. I didn’t note where I found this gown either—silly me—but I believe it is authentic and from the mid 1700s. Click on the images for a larger view.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Costuming

I also found this gown on the website of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It dates to 1760. I especially love the detailing, the lace, and the lovely blue color. Click on the images for a larger view.

In my next post, I’ll share images of a lovely deep red brocade.