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Posts Tagged ‘history’

Smashwords kicked off its 8th Annual Read an Ebook Week yesterday. It’s a giant promotion of ebooks published on its platform. Thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of ebooks are discounted anywhere from 25 to 100 percent from March 5-11.

It’s a great opportunity to get a great deal on ebooks from new authors. Because Smashwords is an aggregator, meaning they distribute their books to around two dozen ebookstores, you can find an ebook that fits your ebook readers.

I checked the promotion and saw that 10 of my books have been included. I’ve got history, historical fiction, biography, young adult, and horror titles that are part of the promotion. So if you are looking to stock up on some of my titles, here’s your chance.

50% Off Books

Saving Shallmar: Christmas Spirit in a Coal Town ($4.00 promotional price)

9f2a936d3ba79285caad2a928ffd477705b98828-thumbIn fall turned to winter in 1949, the residents of Shallmar, Maryland, were starving. The town’s only business, the Wolf Den Coal Corp. had closed down, unemployment benefits had ended and few coal miners had cars to drive to other jobs. When children started fainting in school, Principal J. Paul Andrick realized the dire situation the town was in and set out to help.

 

 

October Mourning: A Novel of the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic ($3.00 promotional price)

cabd7e2edf73bcd3295d24eba5d467e89829e78c-thumbIn October 1918, Spanish Flu left behind 40 million dead. In Cumberland, Md., Dr. Alan Keener wants to take steps to prevent its spread, but he is met with resistance from old-school doctors who believe that the flu’s deadliness is overblown and easily treated. His work is complicated as a street preacher named Kolas aids the flu’s spread.

 

 

Beyond the Battlefield: Stories from Gettysburg’s Rich History ($4.00 promotional price)

58bc7189378b3328a38ab711142c5868a7e9cef2-thumbBeyond the Battlefield is a collection of 47 true stories and 56 photos that tell the history of Gettysburg and vicinity beyond the famous Civil War battle.

 

 

 

 

A Byte-Sized Friend (Hackers #1) ($3.50 promotional price)

e0da6fbdc837e571342e9880a63a6abed1279ea2-thumbChris Alten’s world is limited to the wheelchair that an accident has confined him to. He is lucky, though. The same accident killed his father. Chris also has a mysterious new friend whom he meets online and shows him a brand-new world where he can once again walk. This new world comes with its own dangers when it is discovered that Chris’s new friend is an artificial intelligence program.

25% Off Books

Clay Soldiers: One Marine’s Story of War, Art, & Atomic Energy ($5.99 promotional price)

096b0d8946bc2b824034ba68d473b09b647f2bb2-thumbChuck Caldwell is a WWII vet and Purple Heart winner who has met Civil War soldiers, fought at Guadalcanal and Tarawa, and studied atomic bomb explosions in Nevada. Through it all, he painted and sculpted miniature figures that have become sought after by collectors around the country. Clay Soldiers is the story of a man who became part of the history of America and chronicled it through his art.

 

FREE Books

My Little Angel

e64185333e93433b9b7be9da00c1e7585bd02946-thumbJanet Sinclair is not looking forward to her first Christmas without her daughter. Janet still doesn’t know how she will go on without Danielle. Then Janet receives a beautiful porcelain angel that looks so much like Danielle that she can’t bear to look at it. As Janet tries to deal with Christmas, she finds out that the angel is more than just an ornament.

 

 

 

When the Babe Came to Town: Stories of George Herman Ruth’s Small-Town Baseball Games

85d5ff6c190421c86439ef06e7dfef0c142737f0-thumb“Babe” Ruth was a baseball legend. You can find out why in “When the Babe Came to Town.” This book shows how the Babe connected with the fans through his many exhibition and barnstorming games.”When the Babe Came to Town” is a collection of some of these stories highlighting games that Babe Ruth played in Emmitsburg, Maryland; York, Pennsylvania; Oakland, California and Cumberland, Maryland.

 

 

The Race (Canawlers, Book 4)

295dc0e85e623c2c13f705aa78fdc5168b1c4bc3-thumbFollow the lives of the Fitzgerald family on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal as Tony and Thomas Fitzgerald race their canal barge against a train. If you enjoyed “Canawlers” and “Between Rail and River” by James Rada, you’ll want to follow this adventure set a few years after the Civil War during the canal’s heyday. Originally published as a limited-edition chapbook for CanalFest 2003.

 

 

Welcome to Peaceful Journey

8c8a7ab5d44d5d8a40c59c4f008be84ed971912b-thumbA collection of short stories featuring the most-unusual funeral home you will ever see. Welcome to Peaceful Journey Funeral where the journey from life to death can be anything but peaceful.

 

 

 

 

Kachina

ae894698c3f44c84c60a38c4864370d5cea5158c-thumbDavid Purcell was on his way to meet his girlfriend when he fell into a cave. Now he can’t remember the five weeks he spent in the cave. With the help of Adam Maho, a Hopi, David discovers that he must remember that lost time if he if he going to stop the ancient Hopi evil, the dark kachinas, from being released into the world again. To do so, David will have to find his way back to Kuskurza.

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This week only you can get two award-winning true stories about love gone wrong from James Rada, Jr. The Kindle version of A Love Returned is free this week!

CoverTrue love can take tragic turns

Here are two award-winning true stories from James Rada, Jr. This short work shows that history can be just as interesting, and sometimes, stranger than fiction.

A Love Returned (Associated Press 2003 Best Feature Story)

Steve Shaw finds a 30-year-old girl’s class ring at a Boy Scout Camp in 2003. He sets out to discover the owner and return the ring. He hunts down clues and slowly uncovers a decades-old love story that takes some surprising turns before its surprising conclusion. Steve also finds out that some loves never die.

The Death of Young Lovers (Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association 2015 Best Local Column)

Charles Twigg and Mary Grace Elosser were to be married on January 1, 1911. However, while sitting alone in a closed room on New Year’s Eve with Grace’s mother just in the next room, the couple was somehow killed. Just how they were killed and by whom remained a mystery for weeks as investigators sought information and witnesses. The case generated national headlines until the answers finally came from a cat and a rabbit.

Both of these stories were among the most popular articles I have written. I got dozens of calls about both of them.

“The Death of Young Lovers”, in particular, had a lot of excited readers. It ran in two parts, but apparently a lot of people missed the note at the end of the first part telling readers that the second part would tell what actually happened to the dead lovers. I got calls and e-mails from people asking me to tell them what had happened, or chastising me for leaving them hanging.

I hope you enjoy the stories as much as I did. They both hold a special place in my heart. If you do download a copy, please leave a review on Amazon. It will help me with my future marketing efforts.

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charlatan-9781400136070-lgI wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting when I bought Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam, but the topic caught my attention. I have to say that I loved it. It was a narrative type of non-fiction that I like to read and Pope Brock can tell an intriguing story.

Of course, he also found a great subject to write about, which is half of the battle.

In the early 20th century, confidence man John Brinkley came up with his ultimate money-making scheme. He would use surgery and goat testicles to restore male virility. It makes most men cringe nowadays, but think about some of the odd things we still do to maintain our youth that involved surgery.

Brinkley also developed a sideline of selling potions and pills that turned out not to contain what they claimed to contain. This sort of thing was going on before Brinkley with snake oil salesmen and still continues today.

I found myself reading the book and thinking how could people fall for this, but then I thought about the modern equivalents and wondered how many times I’ve been taken in without knowing it.

Brinkley made a fortune off his quack theories and inspired a lot of copycat “doctors.” He also left behind dozens of dead and maimed people, all the while claiming success.

So, if Brinkley was the antagonist, the protagonist would be Morris Fishbein, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. I’m not sure about other readers, but I just didn’t like Fishbein. I actually found myself hoping that he would fail in his efforts to destroy Brinkley. On the other hand, I found myself cheering for Brinkley at times because he wouldn’t be stopped. He kept reinventing himself to work around the restrictions that were thrown at him. I admired that even though I hated what he was doing.

dr-_john_r-_brinkley

“Dr.” John Brinkley looking like a medical professional.

 

I’ve seen a few movies and read some books lately where I didn’t like either the protagonist or antagonist. Who do you root for then?

Besides his gross medical malpractice, Brinkley also had an impact on politics, radio, and country music.

One reason why Brinkley was successful with his scams was because he was a master marketer. His initial marketing efforts dealt with newspaper advertising and direct mail. He recognized the marketing potential of the new media of the day, radio, and made the most of it.

When the government started to crack down on how the airwaves were used, Brinkley moved south of the border and opened a radio station in Mexico that eventually broadcast more than a million watts. Not only was this more powerful than his Oklahoma radio station had been, it was more powerful than all of the U.S. radio stations combined.

Besides pitches for his products and surgeries, Brinkley also presented entertainment. Many of the performers he chose went on to become pioneers in country music.

When Fishbein started to have an impact on Brinkley’s goat gland empire, he used his radio popularity to move into politics and very nearly became elected governor of Oklahoma as a third-party candidate.

I found Charlatan to be a fascinating story. I kept guessing at what Brinkley would do next to outwit Fishbein and his other detractors.

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tri-state_tornado

A mid-afternoon tornado on March 18, 1925, left a killing swath in its wake.

The tornado actually traveled through five Midwest states, but it was three Illinois towns that bore the brunt of the destruction. “Where it did the worst damage the tornado lasted less than five minutes,” reported the Ada (OK) Evening News.

Tornado Arrives

The tornado came out of the Ozark Mountains in mid-afternoon. This is a bad hour for a tornado to hit because schools and businesses are packed with people. This proved to be the case with this tornado as well.

Its main path was measured at around 200 miles long, but this tornado took erratic and deadly detours before returning to the main path. When the distances traveled on the offshoots was added in, the total mileage was around 700 miles.

 

1925tornado-p2o-b

The destruction of Griffin, IN, after the 1925 tornado swept through.

The Destruction

 

The Ada Evening News described the destruction in this way: “It flattened heavily constructed school and business buildings with worse results than in lighter dwellings.

“Babies in homes were special sufferers.

“Fires still raging or smouldering and millions of dollars worth of wreckage delayed counts of the larger death lists.

“The hardest hit places were three small-cities in southern Illinois, West Frankfort, Murphysboro and Carbondale.

“Nearly all the  destruction was in the soft coal fields.

“Next to Illinois the worst sufferers were in Indiana and Missouri with fatal results of the tornado reaching Tennessee and Kentucky.”

In DeSoto, IL, the tornado flattened a school with 250 students in it. Only three escaped without injury and 88 were killed. In the entire town, only five buildings were left standing.

“So terrific was the force of the storm that bodies were reported carried a mile while timbers from the wrecked town of DeSoto, Illinois were found in DuQuoin 15 miles away,” reported the Ada Evening News.

In the town of Parrish, IL, only three people in a town of 500 escaped injury.

Aftermath

The tornado traveled through five states – Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky – and killed people in 26 towns.

The tornado left many fires in its wake, which hampered the efforts of rescuers.

Around 1000 people were killed and 3000 injured. About 10000 were left homeless by the tornado.

The Red Cross moved in following the tornado to offer help. Relief trains were sent and many people sent donations. The day after the tornado the Illinois Legislature authorized $500,000 in relief aid.

“As reports from various sections were gathered today no doubt was left that the disaster is the worst of its kind in the country’s history. The greatest death toll previously taken by a cyclone was in 1908 when five hundred were killed in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.

“The terrific blow of yesterday was followed today by high winds in Pennsylvania. Michigan and Northern New York,” reported The Sheboygan (WS) Press.

Total damage was estimated at well over $10 million.

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The big top and midway of the Tom Mix Circus (formerly the Sam Dill Circus). Courtesy of circusesandsideshows.com.

Early Wednesday morning, July 19, 1933, a long train arrived in York, Pa., and stopped near the fairground. The Sam B. Dill Circus had arrived.

“Young America, having caught the infectious circus spirit is likely to be in ahead of both morning orb and circus and be on the lot along with enthusiastic adults to greet the show train on its arrival there,” The York Dispatch reported the day before the train’s arrival.

The unloading and setting up of the circus tents and shows worked smoothly. All of the performers knew their jobs. They had been doing it multiple times each week since the circus had opened its season in Dallas, Tex., on April 9.

Wagons containing the menagerie were rolled down ramps. Trunks were carried off to other areas. Elephants and roustabouts worked to raise the big top as the sun rose. Within a relatively short time, the big top tent was erected and the performers went to work preparing their equipment inside while the roustabouts set up the bleacher seating.

By the time everything was finished around 9 a.m., the cooks in the circus kitchen had breakfast ready.

The Sam B. Dill Circus was scheduled to play two performances, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., for York residents.

“Sam B. Dill’s Circus isn’t the biggest circus in the world but what it lacks in size it makes up in quality,” the Amarillo Sunday News and Globe wrote about the circus.

Dill had managed the famous John Robinson Circus, but when it was sold to the American Circus Corp., Dill had struck out on his own. Though not a large circus, Dill’s circus was popular and tended to sell out its performances.

After breakfast, everyone had a short rest and then they began to scurry around getting the menagerie wagons harnessed to horses and in a line. Performers dressed in their bright and flamboyant costumes. At noon, “a long column of red, gold and glitter, with bands playing and banners flying will move sinuously out of the Richland avenue gate,” The York Dispatch reported.

From the Richland Avenue, the parade moved east on Princess Street, then north on George Street to Continental Square. From the square, the circus moved west on Market Street and then back to Richland Avenue. Thousands of spectators lined the route to watch the performers, hear the music, and marvel at the wild animals.

The first wagon was the band wagon where Shirley Pitts, the country’s only female calliope player, conducted the band. Then came the wagons pulling tigers, monkeys, seals, and more. Other flat wagons featured clowns goofing off and Wild West displays.

When the parade arrived back at the fairgrounds, many of the spectators followed them. Although the big top wouldn’t open until one o’clock, they wandered the midway, playing games, getting an up close look at the menagerie, or visiting some of the shows in the smaller tents.

The three-ring show under the big top had dozens of animals such as Oscar the Lion, Buddy the performing sea lion, camels, zebras, horses, elephants, dogs, monkeys and ponies.

Christian Belmont swung on the trapeze, along with aerialist Rene Larue. Mary Miller performed a head-balancing act. The four Bell Brothers showed off their acrobatic skills and Betha Owen owned the high wire. Among the clowns, young Jimmy Thomas was noted as the “youngest clown in the circus world.” He traveled with his mother Lorette Jordan, who was also an aerialist with the show.

The circus also liked to feature a western movie star with its Wild West acts. In 1933, that performer was Buck Steel. The following year, Tom Mix joined the circus. He had been a major western movie star who had seen his popularity decline in the 1920s. In 1935, he bought it from Dill and renamed it the Tom Mix Circus.

Following the second performance at 8 p.m., the performers broke down the circus and loaded it back on the train to head out for the next city by midnight.

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The Arion Band performing in 1908 in Frostburg. Courtesy of the Albert and Angela Feldstein Collection.

For longer than anyone has been alive today, Frostburg, Md., has always had the Arion Band. Before Alexander Graham Bell said, “Mr. Watson, come here I need you,” Watson could listened to the band playing a march or other popular piece of music.

Through the Great Depression and victory at war, the Arion Band brought joy to Western Marylanders and celebrated with them whether it was a holiday or victory at war. Even as music styles changed, the Arion Band kept up with them and adapted.

“The Arion Band is believed to be the oldest, continually operating band in the country,” says Blair Knouse, president of the band. You might find bands that have been around longer, they have gaps in their history where most likely they weren’t performing for a time.

While the Arion Band’s membership fluctuates from season to season, it maintains about 30 active members who love making music, much like the founders of the band. Knouse has played flute with the band for five years.

Back in 1875, German coal miners in the Frostburg area formed a chorus that performed locally. The following year, the chorus purchased instruments so that the singers would have some accompaniment. Local furniture maker Conrad F. Nichol organized the musicians into the German Arion Band and became its first director.

“By 1877, they were saying, ‘This is fun. Let’s forget about singing,’” says band director Ron Horner, who has been in that position since 1995 and is only the seventh director that the band has had.

The band started practicing at the Gross and Nichol Furniture Store on February 5, 1879. This was where they continued to practice until the store burned down in 1888.

“The blaze claimed instruments, uniforms, music, and even the director as Mr. Nichol set about rebuilding his business,” Jay Stevens wrote in his history of the band, which was included in the program for the 125th anniversary performance.

Band members and residents of communities in the area bought new instruments for the band and rehearsals continued in the Odd Fellows Hall in Frostburg.

In 1889, while under the direction of the second band director, John Miller, the band was sworn in at the 4th Battalion Band, a component of the Maryland State Militia. The band nearly went to war during the Spanish-American War.

“The entire band was drafted en masse as an army band, but then the war ended so they wound up not going into the war,” Knouse says.

As anti-German sentiment rose during World War I, the band, under the direction of its third director, George Vogtman, decided to drop “German” from its name.

During the Great Depression and much of World War II, R. Hilary Lancaster led the band. He was followed by Darrell Zeller, who led the band from 1943 until 1989. George McDowell led the band from 1989 until 1995.

Now in its 138th year, the Arion Band continues playing each summer season from mid-May through mid-September. During the season, they will play around 10 performances. They stay local playing at festivals, nursing home, and sporting events. Practices are held in the Arion Band Hall on Uhl Street, which was built in 1900.

“The furthest we’ve ever traveled since I’ve been a member is Altoona to play for at an Altoona Curves baseball game,” Knouse says.

However, the band did travel by train to Luray, Va., where it performed in the caverns, according to Stevens’ history.

The band gets its name from the ancient Corinthian, Arion He was a poet who was known for his musical invents, including the dithyramb. He is also remembered for the Greek myth of being kidnapped by pirates and thrown overboard, only to be rescued by dolphins.

All of the members are volunteers, who participate because they love playing music. They range from middle-school students to retired musicians.

“We have a lot of nice history and multiple generations playing,” Knouse says. This includes a father and daughter who play trumpets, in-laws, aunts, and cousins from local families.

There was time in its early years when musicians had to try out for the band. Once in the band, there was competition to play in the first seat for a particular instrument. This meant that musicians were serious about their practicing.

“If you were talking, they could hold your instrument for a week so that you couldn’t practice,” says Vice President Jeanette Tucker.

In modern times, the band has been open to anyone who has a desire to play music.

“We will work with whoever comes to play,” Tucker says. “The ones who don’t fit in kind of weed themselves out.”

She joined the band 19 years ago after she heard them performing at the Frostburg Soapbox Derby Day.

“I heard them play and I thought, ‘That’s what I want to be a part of,’” Tucker says.

Any money the band gets from its performances are used to pay the band’s expenses, such as travel and hall upkeep.

“We keep going because we have a sense of responsibility to keep the tradition alive and keep it going,” Horner says.

One way the band keeps that tradition alive is through their music choices. Horner’s job as director is to find the music that will appeal to the audiences that they play for. This has led to an evolving repertoire that remains top quality.

The musicians themselves are another reason for the longevity of the band. Once members join, they tend to remain with the band because it is fun and they form close relationships with the other members.

“We create something together that no one can do individually,” Horner says.

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Editor’s Note: This is the final article in a series of three articles about the great Ransom train wreck in 1905.

train-wreck-002

Courtesy of Thurmontimages.com.

The first report of the deadly Western Maryland Railroad train wreck to reach Thurmont was on Saturday, June 17. It said that 40 to 60 people had been killed. The numbers slowly dropped as more became known and passengers and crew were accounted for. In all, 26 people died and 11 were injured. It was, and remains, the worst accident in the history of the Western Maryland Railway.

“The scenes of agony and distress at the homes of dead victims of the accident cannot be described. They were harrowing in the extreme, and those who witnessed them will never forget the wails of widowed women, orphaned children and relatives of the dead,” the American Sentine reported.

It could have been worse, though. Reports credit the Engineer George Covell of the No. 5 with reducing the casualties, though he didn’t survive himself. He applied the emergency air brakes as soon as he recognized the problem. The track was curving at the collision point so that “the force of the impact was much less upon the coaches than it would have been in a direct line. Railroad men say it is extremely probable that if the collision had occurred on a straight track the coaches would have been telescoped and the passengers subjected to frightful loss of life,” according to the American Sentinel.

The towns affected the most by the wreck were Thurmont and Catoctin Furnace, having 17 of their men killed and seven injured. It also left 13 women widowed and 38 children fatherless according to The New York Times.

“Close family ties and friendships existed among these people. No one was untouched by the tragedy which left a number of widows and fatherless children and dominated thinking in the village for Catoctin Furnace for years,” Elizabeth Anderson wrote in Faith in the Furnace.

With such a large number of the dead coming from a small community, many of the dead were related. McClellan Sweeney was the father of Frank and William Sweeney and brother of Harry. Charles Miller and Charles Kelly were brothers-in-law and E. M. Miller was Charles Miller’s son.

E.M Miller, who escaped injury, helped the reporters identify many of the dead and would not take any payment for the service. When he had finished helping the reporters, he turned to them and said, “My father, Charles T. Miller, and my uncle, Charles Kelly, are both in the wreck and I am sure they are both dead.” He said it with dry eyes, but the newspaper report noted that it was apparent he was “stunned and dazed by the magnitude of the calamity,”  American Sentinel reported.

Residents poured out to the local train station in a macabre replay of the townspeople’s regular Wednesday ritual.

“Many of the locals would go to the Thurmont station every Wednesday and take baskets with good things to eat,” George Wireman wrote about the wreck. “They sent them down the line to their family who were working on the railroad.”

On this June night, food was far from their thoughts as residents gathered to await word of whether their sons, fathers and brothers were among the casualties.

Some survivors arrived after midnight, bringing more accurate and horrifying accounts.

On Sunday, June 18, word spread that a train would arrive with the dead at 7 p.m. The train didn’t arrive until about 12:30 a.m. Monday, but the people were still waiting, as was a hearse driven by undertakers Clarence Creager and Elmer Black.

“During that whole of Sunday great throngs of people were at the station waiting for the train that should bring home the silent disfigured forms of those who had gone forth strong and well. It was about 12:30 a.m. when the first shipment of bodies arrived and then came the long procession of hearses and wagons through the town and in the peaceful moon light wended their way to the Catoctin grief stricken homes where the majority of the dead men lived in life,” reported The Catoctin Clarion.

Seventeen funerals were held in Thurmont over the next two days. Out of respect for the town’s loss, all the local businesses in Thurmont closed Monday during the funerals.

Because the dead were all employees of the Western Maryland Rail Road, it quickly became apparent there was no relief plan to help the families with their loss.

“If there had been, these unfortunate men would have under that system, provided for their families in case of death,” a newspaper editorial in The Catoctin Clarion noted.

The Western Maryland Rail Road was running its normal schedule two days after the accident; the same day the dead in Thurmont and Catoctin Furnace were being buried. The accident didn’t tear up any track so the only impediment was the wreckage that needed to be removed. For them, business would go on as usual.

The legal authorities in Carroll County where the wreck happened decided not to hold an inquest about the accident for which they received a lot of criticism, according to the American Sentinel.  The State’s Attorney decided that the inquest was not needed because not only was the cause of the accident known but those responsible for the accident had been killed in the collision. Just a week earlier the Carroll County Commissioners had passed an order that the county wouldn’t pay for inquests that weren’t required. “Under the provisions of these articles inquests are only necessary in the cases of persons who die in jail or when the cause of death is unknown and there is a reason to suspect a felony. Neither of these contingencies are applicable to the wreck case and Mr. Steele considers that it would be an unnecessary expenditure of the people’s money to hold an inquest in the case,” the American Sentinel reported.

Even if the state’s attorney had been able to prosecute those responsible for the accident, it wouldn’t have brought back the fathers, brothers, husbands and son who died on the tracks at Ransom.

 

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