The French Travel to Ohio 1: Vestal’s Gap Road, Virginia

     A road along the Potomac River was, in its beginning, probably an animal trail along a natural ridge that ran parallel to the Potomac River. It developed into an Indian trail prior to the invasion of explorers and settlers. The road, opened after 1722 when the Iroquois signed a treaty with Virginia Governor, went from Alexandria to present day Leesburg, through Vestal’s (now William’s) Gap, and on to Winchester, a total of about ninety miles. It was probably named after John Vestal, a ferry driver in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and has been referred to, at various times, as the Eastern Ridge Road, Keys Gap Road, and, by George Washington, the Great Road, and the new Church road.

     Between the 1720s and the early 1820s Vestal’s Gap Road was a principal route from Northern Virginia through the Blue Ridge via Vestal’s Gap to the Ohio country beyond, serving as an east-west corridor for commerce, emigration, and troop movement  in Northern Virginia.

     It was initially developed and used by planters to transport tobacco to the port at Alexandria.

     George Washington’s military missions over the road between, 1753-1755, are well documented. Between 1753-1799, Washington traveled along Vestal Road on various military, business and personal journeys.***** In 1754 and 1755 George Washington pushed to the west from Alexandria, taking a road that led across the Blue Ridge Mountains at Vestal’s Gap from which he looked down on the sweeping curves of the Shenandoah and the valley beyond. Jogging down the steep road to the river, Washington set off through the fertile countryside to Winchester.* In 1770, Washington traveled to Ohio via Vestal’s Gap.****

     An unidentified party crossed the Shenandoah River via John Vestal’s ferry and stayed that night at Gersham Keyes, “a fine Plantation…**

     General Braddock’s brigade under Sir Peter Halket marched from Alexandria towards Fort Duquesne  on the Vestal Gap Road.****

     And Vestal Gap Road was the first leg of the French émigrés journey from Alexandria, Virginia, to Continue reading


Correcting Historical Data


     A slim steel object that resembles a rusty bayonet is the center of a debate in Charlston, West Virginia.

     Part of an exhibit meant to portray the history of coal mining in that state, it represents a “Stickin’ Tommy:” it holds a stubby candle in a loop at its midpoint…Long before the days of carbide lanterns and helmet lamps, miners jabbed these into the seams they were working to light their way as they dug coal… Miners would hang the shared wick of homemade candles on the hook as spares…*

     The problem is a hook that rises up above the candle loop should…be facing downward. However, the hook is placed in the display upside down.*
      This error was discovered by labor historian Wess Harris.*

       I am not a trained historian, although a history professor I spoke with while I was doing research for a historical journal article and my historic romance novel** dubbed me an “independent historian.”

     During my research I’ve discovered numerous errors in historical books, documents, and local histories. My “lowest” experience occurred at an event during Ligonier, Pennsylvania’s, 250th anniversary.

     The speaker was an expert in the George Washington papers. I attended his talk because I wanted to know if he was familiar with Continue reading

Enoch Arden and Louis des Isles: Story Plots

Enoch Arden

     As I explored the background on Louis Des Isles, I came across the description of his relationship with Mary Googins as being “Enoch Arden.” I finally went to the computer to look up Enoch Arden, and discovered a twenty-two page poem, which I read.* Then I proceeded to compare Enoch Arden’s story with Louis Des Isle’s life.

     Point by point, the stories virtually matched. I wondered if perhaps some people will conclude that I stole the plot in my novel from Lord Alfred Tennyson. But then, that was impossible. After all, Louis’ story occurred during and after the War of 1812. Enoch Arden was published in 1864.

Louis des Isles

     I wonder if Tennyson knew Louis’s story, and used it as a basis for Enoch Arden.

     It is said there are only seven story plots—in researching, I cannot place which plot these two stories fit (I am so not a literary studies person…). There are three possibilities.

  • Are they TRAGEDIES, where a character, through some flaw or lack of self-understanding, is increasingly drawn into a fatal course of action which leads inexorably to disaster?
  • Are they Continue reading

Launching of the Intertwined Love (a novel) Blog Site

     A Hancock County, Maine, woman recently heard an intriguingly story about the region’s history: a refugee from the French Revolution, Madame Rosalie de Leval, attempted to develop a French community in Hancock and Washington counties in 1791.

     Both the storyteller and the listener concurred that Madame’s story should be written. The woman researched Madame’s name on the Internet. In doing so, she found this blog site.

     She called me. I assured her that the story was already being written.

     Welcome to the launching of, a blog site designed to inform you about the progress of and the background of my historic romance novel, Intertwined Love. To read its synopsis click on

     To celebrate, a prize will be sent to the person making the most comments between June 15-July 4, 2010.


     I’ve worked on this project for many years. It’s finally in the “writing” stage.

     Intertwined Love evolved out of research of the East Lamoine, Maine, branch of my family genealogy.

     These ancestors—Mary Googins, daughter of Rogers and Elizabeth Welch Googins, and Louis des Isles, a refugee from the French Revolution, who married Mary in 1796, are main characters in Intertwined Love.

     des Isles descendents (Eugene des Isles, Sue, nee des Isles, and Gladys Vigent) and visits to East Lamoine introduced me to the East Lamoine’s oral history, from which I learned about Madame. Extensive research disclosed her negotiations with Gen. Henry Knox, Col. Continue reading

Dock Creek in Philadelphia, PA


A water treatment operator from (Green Lane) Montgomery County (PA) has been charged with dumping raw sewage into an area creek (Perkiomen Creek) for as long as five years…*

The EPA alleged in 1991 that the municipality (Penn Hills, PA) dumped raw sewage into creeks. Penn Hills pleaded guilty in 1994 to three criminal counts…*****

    I read the above “blurbs” as I was writing about Madame de Leval’s** first exploration of Philadelphia. It is a reminder that dumping sewage into creeks existed in the pre-Revolutionary years of the United States.

     As I wrote about Madame’s arrival in early Philadelphia, I realized I had to research the city situation in that time. That’s when I learned about Dock Creek.

     Once upon a time, a tidal creek flowed through the oldest part of the Philadelphia…its name was Coocaconoon *** It was originally surrounded by marshes…and culminated in a pond …that was deep and uninviting****

     This creek was Continue reading



Amish Grace, Thomas Cornell, & Intertwined Love: Risks of Writing Historical Fiction

America’s First Manned Gas Balloon Ride

Blanchard: The First Professional Aeronaut


Discovering Hardy Lavender

Dock Creek in Philadelphia, PA

Doing Historical Research in Philadelphia Continue reading



The following INDEX lists photos pertaining to INTERTWINED LOVE posts that are situated on various FLICKR sites:






OVENS, THE Rock profile


PENOBSCOT RIVER, MAINE: Continue reading