January 14, 2010

The Sheriff's Surrender by Susan Page Davis and Stage Stops

Book: The Sheriff’s Surrender, book 1 in The Ladies’ Shooting Club series. Now in stores.

I am learning a lot about the stagecoach lines in Idaho, since my Ladies’ Shooting Club series is set there, in the Owyhee Valley. One thing that’s very interesting is the variety of stagecoach stops and the people who ran them.

For instance, along the long and arduous road from Boise to Silver City (which is high in the mountains and now a ghost town), you would find the Democrat Station. This was a house between Dobson and Reynolds Creek that was started by the only Democrat who owned a station along the road. So people would say, “We stopped at the Democrat’s house last night.” I imagine his political leanings started a lot of debates over the dinner table. 

Silver City

The Share House was another well-known stop along this line. Charlie Share was a veteran stagecoach driver, and he drove the run from Boise to Silver City for many years, starting in 1874. At this time the company running the line was the Northwest Stage Line. After a few years he retired from driving and started the Share Stage House along the way, and he and his wife ran it for 28 years. Later they moved to Nampa and opened a hotel (1906) which was also called The Share House. 

The Share Stage Stop was located on Charlie’s farm, which included a 25-acre orchard and 35 acres of timothy and alfalfa hay. In the mountain country, feed for animals was at a premium, as was fuel.

Another stop was Record’s Station, known for good cooking. You could buy a “first-rate meal” there for ten bits—a$1.25—in 1865, in gold dust if that was your currency. This was during the mining frenzy, and prices were high. At that time, you still had to cross the Snake River on a ferry “run by manpower,” as reported in the newspaper Owyhee Avalanche.

A lot of Chinese people came to this area during the mining heyday of the Owyhee Valley. After the local gold-silver rush went bust, a lot of them took jobs for other people, including cooking, doing laundry, and tending to chores at stage stops. 

Wages for workers at the stage stops in the 1880s (the time of my stories) was around $30 to $45 a month. The stage stops would put up travelers and feed their animals for a price. At the Share Stage Stop in 1888, a man paid $4 to have his eight mules “put to hay” and 75 cents for his dinner and his horse’s feed. 

The stage fares were fairly high at the time, too. From the Share stop to Nampa—and I’m not sure how many miles that was, but I’m guessing not more than 30—it cost $10 round trip. Also at this time (1888-1889) you could buy 100 pounds of wheat for about $2.25 and of barley for about $3. The Shares bought beef for about seven cents a pound. 

Hostile Indians were a concern along the stage lines until the late 1870s. One of the drivers was killed on this run in 1878. Passengers in the late 1860s reported Indian troubles, and the stage stop owners had horses stolen and other problems up until the end of the Bannock War. 

“Road agents” or stagecoach robbers also played their part, especially during the height of the gold mining period. In 1868, a gang plagued the stage lines. The Blue Mountain Gang was eventually splintered and many of them caught.

This area is rich in history and drama. Much of the information in this article comes from the book Sagebrush Post Offices, by Mildretta Adams. Other books I’m using in my research for the series include a reproduction of A Historical, Descriptive, and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho (first published in 1898), and Ben Holladay the Stagecoach King, by J. V. Frederick. 

The Sheriff's Surrender
Book 1, The Ladies' Shooting Club Series

When murder comes to Fergus, Idaho, the men of the town don't seem able to find the killer. Gert Dooley, the gunsmith's sister, teaches frightened women to handle guns in order to protect themselves. Will new sheriff Ethan Chapman be able to unmask the Penny Man—the mysterious killer who leaves an 1866 Indian head penny at the scene of each crime? Or will that honor belong to the Ladies' Shooting Club?
Barbour Publishing

  Click the cover to purchase at Amazon.com


Molly Noble Bull said...

Your bookcover is cute, and since I read one of your previous books, I'm sure the story and writing will be great.

Patricia PacJac Carroll said...

Interesting history. The book sounds like a good read. Love the idea of the ladies shooting club : )
Another book I'll have to add to my growing list.

Tina Dee Books said...

I just finished reading it and it was a great read, a lot of fun.

Susan Page Davis said...

Thanks, ladies! I enjoy writing westerns. During the time I lived out there I was always amazed at how far apart everything was. It's a different world, and I've tried to capture that in these books.

Carla Gade said...

Hi Susan,
All of that research makes for interesting detail in your novel. I'm steeped in stagecoach research right now and enjoyed hearing all about yours. Old Idaho sounds fascinating!

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

What a "novel" idea-a ladies shooting club. Looks like a good read, Susan!

Susan Page Davis said...

Thanks, Carla and Maggie. This series has been very educational and fun. I'm about a third done writing the third book, and I keep finding nuggets.

Anonymous said...

I just got my copy today, and the electricity is going out! I probably won't get to read it tonight, but can't wait until tomorrow. I also have your mysteries book today too! Now I need a snow day.

Susan Page Davis said...

Michelle, do like the old folks did--lantern light--or flashlight. Ha, ha. And that's what the folks in Silver City, Idaho do when the generator's not up. I sympathize with you. The sun is actually shining here this morning, after three days of snow. At least we didn't lose our power.

Debbie Gail Smith said...

Sounds like a good read. It must have been fun doing the research.

Stephen Bly said...

Love the concept of your ladies' shooting club. . .and how fun that your new series is set right here in Idaho!

On the trail,

Susan Page Davis said...

Thanks, Steve! We used to live in Oregon, but have been in Maine a long time. We get our western fixes by visiting our daughter and her family. Great to hear from you.

slfisher said...

How did you find out about Record's Station?