I’ve been posting some fun facts, trivia, and behind-the-scenes info about Arriving from Arkansas on my Facebook page over the last few months, so I wanted to share it here as well!
Real-Life Women Prospectors in Nevada
Josie may seem to be a very forward-thinking character with her determination to become a self-made woman, but there were real-world examples of Victorian and Edwardian-era women with the same dream. Her story was loosely based on the lives of real women who made their fortunes in the Nevada silver mines. Two of these in particular were brought to my attention, which led to the brainstorming of the series: The first of these was Maggie Johnson, who moved to Virginia City sometime in the 1870s and by the 1880s was running her own successful boarding house as well as owning a stake in several prosperous mines; and the other was Josephine Pearl, who made her fortune in Nevada in the early 1900s, and who was the inspiration for Josie’s name.
However, these two were far from the only independent women who made fortunes for themselves in the silver hills and gold fields of Nevada. Upon doing more research, I discovered Eilley Bowers, who became a millionaire as a divorced woman in the 1860s, using her silver claims and money from her divorce settlement to build a mansion to rival Winthrop Manor; and Ferminia Sarras, a Nicaraguan woman who came to the US in the 1860s and soon made a name for herself as a spirited prospector who made her own way through the Nevada desert—wearing pants!
You can learn more about these and other remarkable, independent women of Nevada history at the Nevada Women’s History Project.
The Washoe Zephyr
Rattlesnake Ridge is frequently mentioned as being very windy. The wind in western Nevada is well-known for being very strong, particularly in the summer. Legendary American author Mark Twain lived in Virginia City for several years in the 1860s, and he described the wind, commonly known as the “Washoe Zephyr,” in his book Roughing It:
But, seriously, a Washoe wind is by no means a trifling matter. It blows flimsy houses down, lifts shingle roofs occasionally, rolls up tin ones like sheet music, now and then blows a stage-coach over and spills the passengers; and tradition says the reason there are so many bald people there is, that the wind blows the hair off their heads while they are looking skyward after their hats. Carson streets seldom look inactive on summer afternoons, because there are so many citizens skipping around their escaping hats, like chambermaids trying to head off a spider.
Read the full passage here—it’s hilarious.
Family Inspirations for Arriving from Arkansas Characters
One of my favorite characters to write in the book was Adeline Brown, the reverend’s wife. She was inspired by one of my own ancestors, a brawny frontierswoman also named Adeline. I don’t know much about Adeline, but her photo as well as her husband’s hangs in my family’s entryway. Like Mrs. Brown, great-great-great-grandma Adeline doesn’t look like she’s a woman to be trifled with.
(Unfortunately, Adeline’s photo is water damaged. I’m hoping at some point to have her portrait restored, but we’ve been having trouble finding someone local who can restore a large photo like this, and we’re hesitant to send it out due to its age.)
Adeline wasn’t the only character who emerged from my family’s history. The Percheron stallion that once belonged to Josie’s uncle Gideon is based on a family horse named Jungo, who was purchased by my great-great-grandparents in 1902, when my great-grandfather was 6. His pedigree also hangs in my family entryway. As you can imagine, my house looks something like a museum. 😆