So yeah, I’m from Texas. But what does that mean really? Texas is a BIG place with pockets of very distinct culture and influence throughout. I’m from Southeast Texas, specifically what I grew up calling “The Golden Triangle.” I was born and raised in Port Arthur, one point on the triangle that includes Beaumont and Orange.
Want to learn a little about Southeast Texas? One of the things I do in almost ALL of my stories is include what I call “Trivia from Olivia.” See, I’m a history junkie and I just love giving folks a snippet of little-known facts to go along with my books. And since Texas is chalk full of interesting history, I have used the Lone Star state for quite a few of them. So, here are some of my favorites…
NUMBER ONE:All for Hope, the male MC loves to watch old movies, one of which is “High Noon” starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. It just so happens that movie won an Oscar for Best Song in 1952. The song was performed by a western singer who grew up in Nederland, Texas (within the Golden Triangle). Maurice Woodward Ritter, better known as “Tex” Ritter, was a star of the “western” film songs in the 1940s and 50s. He was also the father of the late actor John Ritter!
NUMBER TWO:Next year I’m going to continue a series I started a while back called “The Urban Legends of Texas.” Dark Road Winding is one of the first books I actually set in Texas. I have a vague memory of driving Sara Jane Road in Port Neches when I was a teenager and looking for the hanging corpse of Sara Jane.
Most of the folks I’ve asked from the Golden Triangle recall different versions of the story at the center of Dark Road Winding. In 2007 the Port Arthur News ran an article about Sara Jane Road and reported that local historian and author W.T. Block’s mother was in fact Sarah Jane Sweeney Block. The facts of Mrs. Block’s life don’t actually mesh with the legends so it’s hard to know if she could have inspired the story.
NUMBER THREE:To this day my absolute favorite Trivia from Olivia is from the third book in my Lynlee Lincoln urban fantasy series. In the story Lynlee gets visited by brownies, little magical creatures, who warn her of danger. Just before the turn of the twentieth century a man by the name of Arthur Stilwell was in the process of building a railway to connect Kansas City to the Gulf of Mexico. His original plan was to purchase the Houston East and West Texas Railroad and then to create a port terminal in Galveston, Texas.
Stilwell’s plans changed when, as he recounts in his autobiography:
I was warned by my nightly advisors not to make Galveston the terminal of the Kansas City Southern Railroad, because that city was destined to be destroyed by a tidal wave.
You see Stilwell claimed that from about the age of four he received messages from spirits which he called “brownies.” As a child he would warn his mother that relatives would be visiting days before the persons would actually arrive. He also pointed out his future bride when he was just 14 years old and in fact within five years Jennie Wood became his wife.
As to the railroad, Stilwell said that the brownies advised him to end the railroad at Lake Sabine and to build the terminal at the site which is present day Port Arthur. He followed their instructions, “not deviating from the plans revealed.” Just five years later the hurricane of 1900 devastated Galveston Island, killing around 8,000 people.
On April 7, 1924 Time Magazine featured an article titled “Brownies” which related the guidance Stilwell received from his nightly visitors. Other authorities at the time, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, believed Stilwell might truly have been psychic. I even located for auction a copy of one of Doyle’s books which was inscribed: "Yours in the great cause of Spirit-/Arthur Conan Doyle,/May, 31/22”
So there you have it… a crash-course in Trivia from Olivia. If you’re interested in checking out my books, you can get most of the series starters free. Just check them out on my website www.olivia-hardin.com.
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