Author Archives: joyce4books

About joyce4books

As a journalist, genealogist, photographer, and biographer, I have written several award-winning books and articles about Western pioneers. I write for the "Now You Know Bio" series from Filter Press, and I work as administrator for Women Writing the West. When I am not doing admin. chores, writing or presenting stories to groups, you can find me on research jaunts, lurking around cemeteries and archives in Colorado.

Lincoln on Love

A letter from Lincoln

The State of Illinois, the “Land of Lincoln,” offers many opportunities to study Abraham Lincoln, the famous statesman, who was revered throughout the state’s history. For those of us who grew up in Illinois, school was not closed on President’s Day, but on Lincoln’s birthday, endearing him further to school children who grew up admiring the man.

It was no surprise to find a newspaper clipping about Lincoln in my grandmother’s scrapbook, probably from a Springfield, Illinois newspaper, although the source was not identified. The text contained a love letter of sorts, from Abraham Lincoln to Mary Todd. The letter did not contain the word “love”, nor did it propose, although it appears that was the intention. The couple was married in 1842.


My Dear Mary

You must know that I cannot see you or think of you with entire indifference, and yet it may be that you are mistaken in regard to what my real feelings toward you are. If I knew you were not, I should not trouble you with this letter. Perhaps any other man would know enough without further information, but I consider it my peculiar right to plead ignorance and your bounden duty to allow the plea. I want in all cases to do right and most particularly so in all cases with women. I want at this particular time more than anything else to do right with you, and if I know it would be doing right, as I rather suspect it would, to let you alone, I would do it. And for the purpose of making the matter plain as possible I now say you can drop the subject, dismiss your thoughts, if you ever had any, from me forever and leave this letter unanswered without calling forth one accusing manner from me.

And I will go further and say that if it will add anything to your comfort and peace of mind to do so it is my sincere wish that you should. Do not understand by this that I wish to cut your acquaintance. I mean no such thing. What I do wish is that our further acquaintance shall depend upon yourself. If such further acquaintance would contribute nothing to your happiness, I am sure it would not to mine. If you feel yourself in any degree bound to me, I am now willing to release you, provided you wish it, while, on the other hand, I am willing and even anxious to bind you faster if I can be convinced that it will in any degree add to your happiness. This indeed is the whole question with me. Nothing would make me more miserable than to believe you miserable, nothing more happy than to know you were so.

In what I have now said, I think I cannot be misunderstood, and to make myself understood is the only object of this letter. If it suits you best to not answer this, farewell. A long life and a merry one attend you. But if you conclude to write back, speak as plainly as I do. There can be neither harm nor danger in saying to me anything you think just in the manner you think it.                                                  

Your friend,   Lincoln


Happy Valentine’s Day on February 14 AND Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12.


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Merry Yellowstone Christmas

Savage Shadow Fumeroles

Yellowstone National Park has an interesting tradition, which supposedly began in the 1950s. According to the legend, a snowstorm in August trapped tourists at Old Faithful Inn. When they tired of being snowbound and became restless, a Christmas Party was organized. A Christmas tree was decorated, carols were sung, and a Christmas-like celebration ensued.

August 25 is annually celebrated as Yellowstone Christmas. Over the years, the origin of the tradition has become murky at best. Historian Lee Whittlesey suggests the tradition evolved from another custom called Savage Days.  “Savage,” a nickname for Yellowstone concession employees, was inspired in the early 20th Century by stagecoach drivers, a rowdy and colorful lot. Regardless of its origins, Yellowstone Christmas ranges from a sedate gathering of employees followed by a turkey dinner to a Savage excuse to blow off steam, so to speak.

My memories of traditions in Yellowstone Park, while I worked there in 1973, are happy ones. I wish a hearty and happy Yellowstone Christmas to my cherished “Savage” friends, and to all who love, respect and appreciate our oldest and largest national park.

To learn more, A Yellowstone Savage by Joyce B. Lohse
is available on e-book from

YP Christmas Keypunch 1

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Posted by on August 24, 2018 in Uncategorized


Burro Days in Fairplay

Burro 2

Welcome – 2018 Burro Days Visitors!

During the last weekend in July, the Burro Days Festival takes place in Fairplay, Colorado. The center of attention are the pack burro races to Mosquito Pass and back, celebrating the tenacity of the hardworking little animals that were a necessity in mining districts during the gold and silver rushes in the mid- to late- 1800s. The handlers are athletes who train hard for the races, running while leading their persnickety partners over precarious terrain. The races are a proud tradition in the area. Festivities also include pack llama races, outhouse races, and a variety of fun and music for everybody.

This year, I will be joining my publishers at the Filter Press booth, as we “talk history” with friends and visitors, who stop to browse through our library of Colorado historical publications. This year, we will also be celebrating author Lydia Griffin’s beautifully illustrated book, Prunes and Rupe. It is based on the story of a miner and his donkey, and will be introduced and featured in new “storywalk” for visitors to enjoy around town.

Another favorite legend around Fairplay is about Silverheels, a good-hearted woman known for her extraordinary beauty, and her ability to sing and dance. After she selflessly helped miners’ families through a smallpox epidemic in the Fairplay mining district, nearby Mount Silverheels was named in her memory.

To learn more about the life and legend of Silverheels, click on the link below.
“The Place Where Silverheels Danced” is an article by Joyce B. Lohse,
published in Women Out West Magazine, summer 2008.

The Place Where Silverheels Danced

Enjoy! Joyce B. Lohse, 19 July 2018

For more about Burro Days, go to:


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Posted by on July 19, 2018 in Uncategorized


Western Summer Reading

Elmer Kelton Cowboys

Quality Roundup Time with Elmer Kelton

In 2008, I almost met Elmer Kelton, a highly respected western author and member of the Western Writers Association (WWA). Women Writing the West (WWW) grew from WWA. Many of us long-time members belong to both groups. While attending the 2008 WWW conference in San Antonio, Texas, I drove 30 miles to the small town of Boerne, which I had visited in the past. I stopped by the bookstore and learned that Elmer Kelton would appear there the following day, on Saturday.

Bad luck. My roster was full on Saturday, keeping me busy at the WWW writers’ conference. However, I was able to return to Boerne on Sunday with a couple of author friends. We were thrilled when the bookstore owner invited us to sign a wooden tabletop autographed by Kelton the previous day. It was such a near miss.

Ten months later, Elmer Kelton passed away. I regretted that I was unable to shake his hand in admiration that day in Texas. Instead, he would have been pleased if I read some of his award-winning westerns, of which there are many. So I have. His books leave the legacy of a great storyteller and writer, doing his part to preserve the history and culture of the American cowboy.

Recently, I read Kelton’s Spur Award Winner, The Day the Cowboy’s Quit, published in 1971. The story is about a strike which erupts from a skirmish over a cow brand, rocking the lives of cowboys, ranch owners, and the community. The lively storyline confronts the ethics of a situation with no easy solution. In addition, it contains fascinating details about cattle drives, branding, and the relationship between large ranches and independent outfits scrambling to exist.

Wherever western writers gather, the topic of identifying the real west is often close to the surface. Consequently, a well-researched western book, written by a knowledgeable author such as Elmer Kelton, not only preserves the history and culture of the American West, but also provides a role model for other authors, and great reading material for western book enthusiasts.

Joyce B. Lohse, 5 July 2018

“A little honest swearin’ wipeth away anger and bringeth peace to the soul.”
— Elmer Kelton, “Lone Star Rising: The Texas Rangers Trilogy”, p. 104, Macmillan 2007.

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Buffalo Days

An addendum: Following Kelton’s fine book about all things related to cowboy trail drives and roundups, I was fortunate to read a copy of Buffalo Days, an eye-witness account of the Wild West and the open range, by Colonel Homer Wheeler, pub. 1925. It reinforced the accuracy of research in Kelton’s fine work, and some others I have read.

As a journalist, I applaud Wheeler’s straight-on approach to documenting life in the cavalry, rounding up cattle, and his many interactions with native Indians. This is not a surgar-coated account, nor is it sensationalized. The author shares tales of his valor as well as faults and blunders in the face of many challenging situations. I appreciate the interesting and undiluted account of real life in the Old West. If you like straight-forward western history, this one is a great read. I coud not put it down. Thanks to my sister for the book loan, which belonged to our dad when he was young, making it special.   JL

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Posted by on July 5, 2018 in Uncategorized


Summer Reading – a review by Joyce

Title: Ann Bassett: Colorado’s Cattle Queen
Author: Linda Wommack

Ann Bassett

Letters written by a tough pioneer woman in Northwest Colorado are woven into a riveting biography, Ann Bassett: Colorado’s Cattle Queen, by author Linda Wommack. Bassett’s true-life story describes her struggles to maintain her family’s cattle ranch, occasionally using dubious methods to manage her livestock and property.

Outlaws from the “Hole in the Wall Gang,” as well as others, occasionally sought refuge in the secluded Brown’s Park rangeland that Ann Bassett called home. Her life was enhanced and complicated by encounters and friendships with fugitives.

When Two Bar Ranch cattle baron, Ora Haley, boldly encroached on the area’s rangeland, Bassett was armed and ready to discourage his efforts. Her defiance escalated into personal outrage and revenge when Wyoming shootist Tom Horn, hired by Haley, gunned down Bassett’s fiance’, Matt Rash, and lifelong family friend, Isom Dart.

Author Linda Wommack’s diligent research preserves an important resource about cattle ranching on Colorado’s early open range, the challenges of frontier life for pioneers during Western Expansion, women in the west, and Colorado history. Photographs, public records, and faded images augment textual details and Ann Bassett’s written pieces.

An Epilogue end-piece is dedicated to debunking popular theories and conjecture about Ann Bassett’s encounters with the Sundance Kid. Author and historian Linda Wommack’s solid research preserves an important piece of American Western History while transporting the reader back in time to the Wild West. This biography is a historical gem and should not be missed.

— Joyce B. Lohse


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Posted by on June 5, 2018 in Uncategorized


Colorado Day — August 1, 1876

How did Colorado Territory’s citizens, referred to by eastern politicians as living in a “state of semi-barbarism,” achieve statehood? When John and Eliza Routt stepped off the train in Denver in 1875, Colorado Territory citizens were skeptical and suspicious. Seven governors had rotated in and out of the office over fifteen years. The latest in the string of carpetbaggers and inept politicians was Edwin M. McCook, who had misused his power and position until Coloradans protested his appointment and he was withdrawn.

The Rocky Mountain News welcomed Routt’s appointment as “a new era of honesty and good government inaugurated.” He quelled concerns that he was not a resident by saying, “I was getting ready to come and make my home in Colorado anyway.” On March 29, 1875, John L. Routt took his oath of office as Colorado’s Territorial Governor. He then went to work to usher Colorado into statehood.

Creating a new state was no easy matter. Colorado’s quest for statehood encountered strong resistance from eastern politicians, who considered Colorado too wild and uncivilized for statehood. The first hurdle was to establish a state constitution under the Colorado Enabling Act. A committee of delegates studied the constitutions of nearby states, using them as models to construct Colorado’s document.

Denver Capitol w gold dome

Under the management of Governor John L. Routt, the cluster of thirty-nine delegates, worked feverishly to construct the new constitution. A half-year later, the document was presented and ratified, and Colorado was accepted as the thirty-eighth state in the union. The event was punctuated with a July 4 celebration in 1876 unlike anything Denver City had experienced. Then the real work began. Politicians clamored to be elected governor by popular vote. Meetings took place in scattered offices on Larimer Street. Plans were soon underway to build a capitol building for a center of government while tending to the welfare of the new state.

When Colorado’s bid for statehood culminated on July 4, 1876, it became known as the Centennial State on America’s one-hundredth birthday. President Ulysses S. Grant signed Colorado’s proclamation for statehood on August 1, 1876. That date became Colorado’s official birthday, and was known and celebrated thereafter as Colorado Day. For Routt, it was a sweet victory, and the beginning of a quarter century of public service to his adopted state.


More information can be found in First Governor, First Lady: John and Eliza Routt of Colorado, by Joyce B. Lohse, Filter Press, 2002, ISBN: 0-86541-063-1, List: $14.95



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My Yellowstone Years

Whenever I learn about a Yellowstone Savage who has written a memoir of their unforgettable experiences living and working in Yellowstone Park, I set aside my cares and responsibilities to acquire and read the book. This was the case when My Yellowstone Years by Donald C. Stewart caught my attention. The book was published in 1989, the year following my memoir, A Yellowstone Savage: Life In Nature’s Wonderland. Stewart was a Savage in 1951, assigned as a dishwasher at Old Faithful. The following season, he became a naturalist Ranger through 1963, while he pursued a PhD in English literature. A career as an English Professor at Kansas State University resulted from his studies.

The preface to this book pulled me in, hand-tied fly hook, line and sinker. He said, “Each year I went out to Yellowstone, physically and mentally tired. Each year I returned, physically and spiritually renewed.” I knew then that this man “got it,” and that his account was bound to be a good read.

Stewart continued. “This, then, is the story of one man’s experience in Yellowstone. But it is also the story of many generations of Americans who had preceded me and who have followed me, either working for the park’s concessionaires or for the National Park Service. No one, to my knowledge, has yet told the story of Yellowstone’s summer ‘savages’ and ninety day wonders. But it is a story worth telling, a slice of Americana that was very special in the lives of all who experienced it.”

In his memoir, Stewart does a splendid job of describing the highs and lows of life in Yellowstone, without overtly gushing about the highs, or whining about the lows. He was fortunate to be assigned to what was then a remote and rustic Madison Campground with his new wife, where they made the best of rough living conditions, developed strong alliances with lasting friends around the evening campfire, and enjoyed fly fishing on the Madison River. He shared enchanting experiences and adventures from the perspective of a freewheeling Savage, then settling into his role as an exemplary ranger and family man.

I hope Professor Stewart became aware of my book, which barely preceded his in publication. Many accounts have succeeded both of ours, each telling a different perspective of Life in Wonderland. Connecting with some of the authors has been a pleasure and especially rewarding. Sadly, Don Stewart has passed on. However, he left us with a valuable piece of history from a time past in Yellowstone Park, which he treasured and shared, including the disastrous earthquake of 1959. I was so engrossed in his story that I could barely stand to put the book down. Stewart nailed it.



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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in Uncategorized