Tag Archives: Journal

Mapping Intertwined Love’s Geographical Settings

For January 7, 2013’s WordPress.com weekly challenge participants were invited to incorporate their Google Maps embed feature by plotting out some of the favorite places that you’ve been, or the places you want to go…or the geographical sites in Intertwined Love

So I did.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS: A group of Revolutionary War military men gathered at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern and determined that land in the Northwest Territory, in Ohio, could be used as a way to pay military men for their war service. A group of unidentified men known as the Scioto Associates succeeded in acquiring a sub-grant under the 1987 Ohio Land Grant.

PARIS, FRANCE: The Scioto Associates sent a representative to Paris to meet a commitment to sell part of their newly acquired land in Europe. Joel Barlow was their representative in Paris. Luckily for Barlow the French Revolution created a desire for Frenchmen to leave France and the land sold like hotcakes.

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA: The French who purchased land in Ohio left Le Havre, France and sailed into Alexandria. Many left Alexandria to travel over multiple mountain ranges to (to continue reading click on Writing Challenge: Map It Out—Travel With Me Through My Novel-in-Progress )



British Guiana (Guyana): A Red Thread Weaves Through My Life

QUESTION: What do the following things have in common?

College paper

Jim Jones

Madame Rosalie de Leval

Tikwis Begbie

C. J.

Pittsburgh woman

Rien at Mt. Washington, N. H.

USA Today, June 22, 2012, pp 4D

Silver Green Turtle Soup Ladle

ANSWER: They are all part of a continuous Chinese red thread that is woven through the tapestry of my life. You know—that red thread of Asian myth that has been reinterpreted to mean that relationships between people are meant to be, and if thwarted, the proverbial thread would not, could not, be broken. The persons would eventually come together.

Each event and/or person is connects the tiny country of British Guiana/Guyana to me by an invisible thread that I never could have foreseen when I began my journey of writing a historic romance novel.


The surprise journey began with the writing of a paper on race relations in Surinam, the immediate neighbor of British Guiana (Guyana).

It was a paper that my professor graded shorter than I felt it was worth, about a country next to Guyana, the country that was brought into a discussion nearly fifty years later.


The next time British Guiana passed by was the horror of Jim Jones, which I won’t go into that except to say that

America’s perception of Guyana is colored by cult leader Jones, who in 1978, incited more than nine hundred followers to commit suicide by drinking a cyanide-laced beverage. Today, this small country is utterly lacking in Kool-aid irony…Ask random people here what “drinking the Kool-Aid” means, and they mostly just shrug. Jones’s dark legacy barely resonates here.

However, it’s the first thing many Americans think of when they hear of the country formerly named British Guiana. Through the years I’ve read the articles, listened to the news stories, and watched the movies about Jim Jones. It wasn’t a pretty story!


Sometime around year 2000 Madame Rosalie de Leval brought British Guiana back into my life. She was a French émigré who, to escape the French Revolution, came to the United States. Almost immediately she became involved an unsuccessful land speculation deal in Maine (with General Henry Knox and William Duer), married a Netherlands ambassador, and ended up on a plantation in British Guiana. She was introduced into my life because she allegedly gave my ancestors, Louis and Mary Googins des Isles, the land they lived on.  Since then I’ve been working on a historic romance novel on this story.


Which leads me to the next person on my list, Tikwis Begbie, who was discovered by a friend who helped me with research for my novel. Tikwis focus was saving historical British Guiana records from destruction. In her files she had records of van Berckle adn Madame, which she sent to me. Another strange thread emanating from a distant land. I owe her a debt of gratitude for her contribution to my  work.


The Guyana Flag. Also known as “The Golden Arrowhead”, the national flag of Guyana was adopted in May 1966 when the country achieved independence from the United Kingdom

The thread next wove from lands afar to my nextdoor neighbor, where I attended  party.

One of the guests, C. J., offered to help prepare a photograph on my laptop. While doing so, he asked me about my novel, which I stated went around the world—Boston, Philadelphia, France, Ohio, Maine, British Guiana…

When I mentioned British Guiana he jumped at me.

“It’s not Gi-ana,” he snapped. “It’s 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

The French Military in America During the American Revolution: Pt. II


French relations with women in America

de Verger Journal

Newport, Rhode Island, played an important part in the American Revolution by housing military personnel who arrived from France to help the Americans. Excerpts from three journals, kept by Jean Francois Louis Clermont-Crèvecœur, comte de; Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger, and Louis Alexandre Berthier, provide material for this second post on Newport, Rhode Island and American women. To read Part 1, click on The French Military in America During The American Revolution: Pt. 1.

      In 1780 women in America were very pale and seemingly frail. The men were “tall and well-built,” although some were big, fat and lacked vigor.

     This was according to diarist Jean Francois Louis Clermont-Crevecœur, one three French military officers in M. le Comte de Rochambeau’s army who kept journals which extensively described their observations and thoughts about Revolutionary America. The army spent the winter of 1780 in Newport, Rhode Island. Along with the other two diarists, Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger and Louis Alexandre Berthier, Clermont-Crevecoeur recorded his keen observations about Americans and their dating/marriage habits. Observations from two other diarists, Prince de Broglie (in 1782) and Comte de Segure, add to the word picture painted by Clermont-Crevecoeur, Verger and Berthier.

     Americans had a lifespan of sixty years, Clermont-Crevecoeur wrote. Some rare residents lived to be seventy, and occasionally even eighty, “…but it is exceedingly uncommon for them to reach that age. I knew one man who was ninety and still rode horseback with ease, was possessed of all his faculties, and enjoyed perfect health.” However, most American men “look as though they had grown while convalescing from an illness,”


     The French journal-keepers recorded apt descriptions about Newport and/or American women. Clermont-Crevecoeur wrote that he must admit “that nowhere have I seen a more beautiful strain.” In spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that the women had little color, nothing could “compare with the whiteness and texture of their skin.” They also had “charming figures, and in general one can say they are all pretty, even beautiful, in the regularity of their features and in what one can imagine to be a woman’s loveliest attribute.”

     Several of the names listed in Verger’s journal described particular belles whom the French greatly admired, including Mr. Champlin’s daughter. He was known for his wealth, “but even more so in our army for the lovely face of his daughter…,” who, when she appeared in the parlor, was examined “with attention, which was to treat her handsomely…” The French men observed that “she had beautiful Continue reading

The French Military in America During The American Revolution: Pt. 1



Newport, Rhode Island, played an important part in the American Revolution by housing military personnel who arrived from France to help the Americans. Excerpts from three journals, kept by Jean Francois Louis Clermont-Crèvecœur, comte de; Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger, and Louis Alexandre Berthier, provide material for this post on Newport, Rhode Island. This is Part 1 of a continuing discussion of the French in Rhode Island. To read the next segment click on: The French Military in America During the American Revolution: Pt. II

     During the night of October 30/31, 1780, a snowfall blanketed the navy ships that were transporting M. le Comte de Rochambau’s army to their winter quarters in Newport, Rhode Island. On the morning of the 31st, a thick mist enveloped the ship’s sails. “There was great activity as they hoisted their anchors to proceed to moor broadside,” according to Verger’s journal. The harbor they entered to moor at Newport was “rather difficult to enter,” but was “one of the best in the world. Easily a hundred vessels can winter there. It extends all the way to Providence, which is accessible to frigates… At the harbor entrance there is a lighthouse.”
     To view photos click on:
     Verger noted that Newport was “situated on a small island (known today as Acquidneck Island) about 12 leagues long by 6 wide” which “lies between 41 degrees and 42 degrees north latitude and 72 and 73 degrees west longitude.” 
     Berthier, in contrast, described the island as being “4 leagues long and 1 ½ wide” and “traversed by 9 superb roads.”
     “Like the province to which it gave its name, it is called Rhode Island. It is the capital of the province,” Verger wrote, noting that it was “occupied by 6,000-7,000 inhabitants.”
     The province of Rhode Island had “the healthiest climate of North America.” While the winters were quite cold, the summers were very pleasant, since the “excessive heat common in America is cooled by the sea breezes.” The land is generally quite fertile, though stony; its normal crop is corn.
     Clermont-Crevecroeur wrote that the “town of Newport could pass for Continue reading

Doing Historical Research in Philadelphia


Research at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Germantown, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

In September, 2008, my husband Monte and I spent twenty-eight days traveling along the northeastern seacoast. We began in Philadelphia and ended in the mountains of New Hampshire, before traveling through Vermont into New York. As I look back, three strands braided themselves together to form the story of our travels: first, research, second cemeteries and third, people— family, old friends and new friends. The post below relates our experiences doing research for my historic romance novel while we were in Philadelphia.  

     Our research journey began in Philadelphia, at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the repository of the Bingham Papers. In the 1790s, Henry Knox and William Duer purchased the Penobscot lands in the Maine territory of what was then Massachusetts. When they went “belly-up,” the land was returned to the state, freeing it for William Bingham’s land speculation.

     However, the Bingham purchase wasn’t my only interest. I’m writing a historical journal article profiling a female French émigré, Madame Rosalie de Leval. Her goal was to create a French colony in what is Hancock County, Maine, today. Her land purchases became caught in the tidal wave crash of the Duer bankruptcy. I’d been unable to locate information on her, and the reference alluded to above indicated that packets of letters and documents, to and from her, were lodged in the Bingham papers. These papers would be of value prior to any further research I was doing. Thus, I knew I had to travel to Philadelphia, and the best way to do so would be to go there enroute from my home in Southwestern Pennsylvania to Newport, Rhode Island, the starting point for our New England travels.

     Once my husband, Monte, and I determined to travel to New England via Philadelphia, I decided to visit the church where Madame was married in 1794. The starting place was the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, in Germantown. I’d prearranged with the historian, John E. Peterson, to obtain information and perhaps a photograph.

     While there, I learned that the Zion Lutheran Church and St. Michael’s Lutheran Church congregations were once tied together, although each had a separate pastor. I also saw a painting of the pastor who was most likely to have performed the ceremony for Madame and her husband. We were shown a model of the two churches as they were in 1794—they had been rebuilt several times since then—and best of all, the historian offered to locate the original book where Madame’s wedding was recorded in 1794. He also gave us materials, including a beautiful pamphlet on Henry Melchior Muhlenberg and The Colonial Lutheran Church. In it are pictures of the models and copies of documents.

     By then it was mid-afternoon. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania was (to continue reading this story click on: DOING HISTORICAL RESEARCH IN PHILADELPHIA





I recently presented a program to fifth grade students in my granddaughter’s reading class, which had been reading The Sign of the Beaver. I picked the book up when she was visiting, and discovered its setting was on the west side of the Penobscot River. My research has been mostly on the east side of the river, but I had viewed the river from the Penobscot Narrows Observatory in September, and, using the pictures and the results of much of my research, I believed I had something valuable to share with the class.


     The Penobscot River and bay area is rich in Native American history. In former times the region was part of the traditional homeland of the Wabanaki Confederacy, one tribe of which was the Penobscot tribe. The Confederacy at one time, thousands of years before the arrival of the white man, controlled much of New England. Ancient remains of their campsites have been found on the bay’s shores and islands, where they hunted, fished, gathered clams and ate other food in the bay area of the Penobscot River watershed. Today, they believe they are the caretakers of the Penobscot River and its watershed, with carries a sacred duty to protect the river and its surrounding region.

     The spelling of Penobscot was a difficult matter for the French…a Dr. Ballard discovered nearly sixty different ways the French people spelled it…the English did better, catching the sound, Penobscot.The word “Penobscot” originates from a mispronunciation of their name “Penawapskewi.” The word means “rocky part” or “descending ledges. The Tribe has adopted the name “Penobscot Nation.”

The late Dr. Frank Siebert, whose death was in recent years, actually lived among the Penobscot Indians. He was the last white man who fluently spoke the Penobscot language, and at the time of his death he was compiling a dictionary, in an attempt to keep the language alive. Much of his artifact collection is at the Abbey Museum in Bar Harbor.

     Mr. Treat and his family, who settled in this area in 1759, are considered the first permanent European settlers on the Penobscot River. His oldest son, Joshua Treat, Jr. (1756-1826), built the first log house, saw mill, and vessel in (Frankfort), near Castine, about nine miles up the Penobscot River from Fort Point.

     With the exception of the wetlands, mountain tops, a few barren and burned areas, the Penobscot river basins were forested with (to continue reading click on: http://carolyncholland.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/the-spectacular-penobscot-river-a-natural-wonder-in-maine-part-2/