I'm wanting to write a novel taking place in the early to mid 1800s in the U.S...I need some info on things relating to settlers migrating to the west

Nov 2018
32
St. Louis, MO
#31
So, I've started planning out a route for my character to take through the American West. Would 20 miles a day be a reasonable distance for a mounted rider to cover per day? That's about what I'm gathering from my research
 
Oct 2013
5,034
Planet Nine, Oregon
#34
I've never heard of that! I'll give it a look-see in the morning. Thank you for the information! :)
You bet! Funny thing, a librarian I had worked with for 20 years (now she's retired), periodically searched eBay for anything pertaining to Lake Oswego, and there was a decaying diary offered from someone on the east coast and she bought it and we republished it! Then some more work found his descendants, and they came out for a big reunion and book event. Much rain and feeding of horses in the Pomeroy diary.
 
Nov 2018
32
St. Louis, MO
#35
You bet! Funny thing, a librarian I had worked with for 20 years (now she's retired), periodically searched eBay for anything pertaining to Lake Oswego, and there was a decaying diary offered from someone on the east coast and she bought it and we republished it! Then some more work found his descendants, and they came out for a big reunion and book event. Much rain and feeding of horses in the Pomeroy diary.
That sounds amazing! Hopefully she made back a sum that made the effort in publishing the journal worth it!

I miss the west coast. Late last month, I went to Olympia to visit my best friend.
 
Jun 2010
3,292
Colorado Springs (PA at heart)
#36
So, I've started planning out a route for my character to take through the American West. Would 20 miles a day be a reasonable distance for a mounted rider to cover per day? That's about what I'm gathering from my research
It depends on the horse but yes, in general, 20 miles is very reasonable. A horse in peak physical condition, which travels long distances often will probably be able to go much further. Just like with humans, their endurance depends on their condition and training. I am assuming the horse is walking - at a trot or faster, depending on the condition of the horse, he may not be able to travel as far.
 
Nov 2018
32
St. Louis, MO
#38
I never published but years ago I wrote a lot of historical fiction.
1. Join some on-line writer's groups. They have all kinds of useful information.
2. If you don't already know it, learn your mechanics - spelling, grammar, and punctuation. It's an essential tool of the trade. Especially in writing groups, they won't take you seriously if your chat postings are full of mechanical errors. Start simply by paying attention to what you write. You can catch most errors just by proof reading.
3. Research first. When you start to write, get the details right the first time. It's much more difficult to remove errors later.
4. Decide your setting and set up some infrastructure for yourself. Get maps, decide costumes and props (weapons, tools, animals), figure out where the different Indian tribes lived, etc.
5. Make yourself a list of names to later assign to your characters. Some names like John, James, William, Edward, Charles, and Henry never go out of fashion. Other names have a distinctly 19th century feel to them: Meriwether Lewis, Jedediah Smith, Abraham Lincoln. You don't have to get all of your names from the Old Testament, but a few will add a feel of authenticity to your book. Don't forget female characters. The best and easiest source of authentic 19th century American names is your research readings. Keep a list of first names and another list of surnames that you encounter in your readings, then mix them up so that fictional characters don't have historical names, unless you want your character to meet historical people.
6. I found it useful to outline my books before I started writing them. Others feel outlining crimps their creativity. I planned to write 20 chapters each of aprx 5,000 words. I outlined 16 chapters leaving myself some room to add more material later. My outline only indicated milestones - by the end of this chapter the story should advance to point X. I still had plenty of freedom to get there a variety of ways.
7. When you finally start writing, set yourself a goal like 1,000 words per day. That's about a page and a half depending on how you set your margins. The first three or four weeks are the hardest. Once you're in the habit of writing every day it gets easier. You know you have the necessary discipline when you feel guilty for not writing your 1,000 words yesterday so you actually do make it up today. If you can fall behind by two or three days and still make it up, you're on the right track. There will be days when the words just do not flow, and there will be days when you can write 3,000 words in half an hour. That's just the way it is. On your first draft it's most important to get words down on paper. Don't agonize over the difference between happy and glad at this point. You can agonize on subsequent drafts.
I wrote the first 700 words last night if you would like to take a gander at 'em!

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Jan 2010
3,983
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#39
You might want to contact the US Park Service. I bought some very good short pamphlets some years ago on various aspects: Oregon Trail, Mormons, etc.

In the early years, homes were log cabins; on the plains, adobe (punded earth).

One of the best things I read about the settlement of Tennessee is the earliest part of Robert Remini's biography of Andrew Jackson.
 
Nov 2018
32
St. Louis, MO
#40
I'm sure those books will give you good service.
Earlier I mentioned Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang. They were based out of Johnson County, Wyoming, between Sheridan and Caspar which is not far from Montana. If you want outlaws in your story, you might find some potential there. You can start with Wiki:
Hole-in-the-Wall Gang - Wikipedia
Figured you might like this...

Messaged the Farmer's and Merchants Bank in Hannibal, MO to ask where their original location was, as they were the first Bank in Hannibal, founded in 1870. Some of the founders were friends and family of Mark Twain himself.

The original location was on he northwest corner of Main and Center streets.


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