Saturday, May 27, 2017

Adele: The Woman I Named My Heroine After

As an author of historical fiction, history is my passion. Reading about events and people from the past feeds my very active imagination in a way contemporary stories can't. The question, "What was it like to live back then?" is always on my mind. Whether I'm visiting a museum, a pioneer farm, or reading one of my favorite Civil War research books, the lives of people who came before us play out in my head like a movie, complete with drama, romance, and intrigue.

My husband and I are blessed to live and work on a 400-acre ranch in the Texas hill country. We often wonder if various Indian tribes might have lived on this land before settlers arrived in the 1820s when Stephen Austin gained Mexico's permission to bring Americans into Texas. We've found a few broken arrowheads here and there, so we feel fairly certain there were natives living off the land here at one time.

Adele's resting place on the ranch
But sometime in the 1800s, a settler named Adele lived here. Adele is actually her middle name. We can't read her first or last names on her headstone as the weather has worn them off over the past 100+ years. We don't have much information on her despite attempts to track it down. We don't know when she arrived in Texas nor how long she actually lived on this property. But the few facts we do know about her have stirred my imagination to the point I had to name the heroine in my historical novel THE PLANTER'S DAUGHTER in her honor.

So let me tell you a little bit about Adele.

Adele was born in Switzerland on July 23, 1837. She was the wife of Henry James. I believe she was preceded in death by at least two children because the inscription at the bottom of her headstone makes reference to "her babies." She died in 1885 and her resting place now sits beside a small pond just down the hill from our caretakers house. Every morning when I look out our picture windows to greet the day, I see Adele. We call her "our neighbor" since we can't see any other houses from our location.
You can clearly make out "Switzerland" beneath the metal bar
that is part of the protective covering over her headstone

Early morning with Adele and a foggy pond
Adele's life here in the hill country would not have been easy. We've often wondered what her husband did for a living, as cattle ranching in these rocky hills would have been extremely difficult. Farming is completely out of the question. This property is not located near any large cities and the nearest town was probably little more than a wide spot in the road (and it still is). Perhaps the town had a mercantile and a few other businesses, but even then it would have taken several hours for Adele and her family to reach it by wagon or horseback.

We've tried to figure out exactly where her house stood, but other than finding some old square-headed nails and a few other small items, we haven't come to a positive conclusion. I feel certain it wouldn't have been too far from her grave, so we've narrowed the location down to a couple different areas due to their being the only flat patches of ground around.

Pioneer home located on the LBJ Ranch
Here is where my imagination takes over. I envision Adele and her family living in a cabin made from logs cut from the property. There are lots of live oak trees, cedar, and other varieties that would have been available in the 1800s. If her husband Henry was young and strong, he might have gathered rocks from the abundance on the property and built a house similar to this one located on the LBJ Ranch a few hours from here. It boasts four rooms in a "dogtrot" style. There was of course no indoor plumbing, so an outhouse would have been situated not too far from the cabin. A washbasin similar to the one pictured no doubt sat near the door for easy access. It gets mighty hot here in Texas, so splashing ones face with cool water would have felt really good after a long day of work. Henry would have dug a well and they probably had a windmill. Despite the land not being suited for raising herds of cattle, they would have had animals like pigs, chickens, and horses. A herd of goats would have done well on the rocky terrain and might have provided milk and cheese. A garden full of fresh vegetables might have been planted in the same location as mine.

Every now and then I'll walk down to Adele's and just sit and enjoy the peace and quiet and think about her life here. I'd like to plant some wild flowers in her little graveyard, but between the deer, the sheep and the llamas, they probably wouldn't last long.

I think Adele would be quite surprised by the changes that have taken place on her old homestead. She could have never imagined the grand house, pool, and tennis court that now sit atop a beautiful mesa overlooking the valley. But I also think she'd be happy to know the owner's and their family, as well as my husband and I, truly enjoy living here.

Someday we'll be gone too. In a hundred years, someone will poke around the property, wondering about the people who came before them. Maybe I'll bury a time capsule with a copy of my book and some pictures of what the place looks like now for someone to find.

If you'd like to meet Adella Rose, the character named after Adele, go HERE to order your copy. THE PLANTER'S DAUGHTER is getting lots of great reviews and is currently holding at 5-stars on Amazon! Adella's life in Texas was no doubt different from Adele's, but they would have faced many of the same struggles, had many of the same hopes and dreams. I think Adele would be tickled to learn I named my character after her.

It's funny to think the life we are living right now will one day be history! I'm determined to make it interesting!

Have a fabulous day as you make your own history!



Patti Shene said...

This was really an a neat post! I enjoyed reading about Adele and the past you have created for her through your observations and your imagination.

Michelle Shocklee said...

Thank you, Patti! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by the blog!

Have a blessed day!