Tuesday, March 31, 2015


In Belgian, now that his father could no longer tell Victor Vifquain what to do, the rebellious son returned to the military school he'd left when he sailed to America. There he finished his studies, and graduated.

Then, with no father to stand between him and his martial dreams, Victor
applied, in 1854, to the Paris school his father had attended, Ecole Speciale Military School of St. Cyr. This prestigious school chose only 3 percent of its applicants. 

The school picked bright, well-educated Victor as one of eight young men admitted from 350 applicants. 

Two tumultuous years followed. Victor, fond of hijinks, eclipsed the school's rascals. He loved escapades, preferring wild and reckless stunts despite rigorous discipline. As a result, he spent ample time in the guard house.

However, on May 25, 1856, he did graduate as second lieutenant of cavalry, a position his father once held in Napoleon's army.

Coming soon in 
by Marilyn June Coffey

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cooking Squirrel

Victor Vifquain felt at home on John Veuleman's Missouri cattle ranch. Each day, he planned to leave, but he couldn't part from the energetic French-speaking family. Plus their seventh daughter, fifteen-year-old Caroline, appealed to him. She moved like a colt. He liked her energy, her tomboy streak. 

She liked him, too, and why not? His chiseled face held deep-set eyes, and his mop of dark curly hair reigned over what would be a bushy mustache.

So Victor stayed, a regular at their dining table, listening to stories of how the Belgian family traveled down the Mississippi in a flatboat they'd made.

"I never lived in Belgian," Caroline said. "I was born in Louisiana."

"So you're American, not Belgian."

"Don't tell Mama!"

Victor went berry picking and fishing with Caroline, chaperoned by her much older sister, Joannes. Caroline knew all the good spots, where to find wild strawberries and red mulberries, where to snag catfish and how to clean and cook a squirrel. 

Or so she claimed.

Coming soon in 
by Marilyn June Coffey

Friday, March 27, 2015

How Could He Die?

"Go to America," Papa told Victor Vifquain. "Plenty of adventure there. Be a mountain man in the West. Trade beaver pelts with the natives. Take an Indian wife."

Victor grimaced. His father shrugged. "Or become an entrepreneur, establish a Belgian colony. Bring over businessmen first, then their families."

So Victor came to the United States to establish a colony somewhere between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains. He had no idea how huge America was. As he traveled west, time seemed to collapse.  

Two years passed, and he'd just reached the rolling plains of central Missouri when he heard the news of his father's death. 

His father, Jean-baptiste Vifquain, how could he die, he who had led flashing French troopers into battle for Napoleon?

Coming soon in 
by Marilyn June Coffey

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sea Legs

Victor Vifquain, sixteen, staggered down the gang plank, eager to feel the solid dock beneath his feet. 

"Christophe Colomb," he cursed as the dock rolled beneath him. "I need sea legs even here?"

He'd been so sure he'd be a French sailor, decked out in bell bottoms and blue jacket, wearing a stiff-brimmed hat trimmed with ribbons. But that rolling voyage on the Belgian schooner kept him hanging over the rail all the way to New York City.

He hated to admit it, but Papa had been right to say, "No," to his plea to join the navy. Victor stumbled, then righted himself. His gorge rose as he realized no matter how much he wanted to, he could never be a sailor.

Coming soon in 
by Marilyn June Coffey

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Bullet in His Brow

William Parker Carr worked on a Smoky Hill River ranch with Joseph Reed and E'lon. They tended a stable of stagecoach horses. E'lon, a black American, shod them.

Carr liked this job just fine until two dozen whooping Indians galloped up. He knew they hadn't come to hire stagecoach nags, so leaving the Indians to steal whatever they wished, Carr, Reed, and E'lon hightailed it through the barn's back door. 

Ahead in the prairie lay a big depression. "A buffalo's bathtub," Reed called it. When it held a few inches of water, herds of buffalo rolled in it, throwing dirt and water this way and that, then rising up plastered with mud. In this way, they fought flies. 

The three men dashed to the now-dry buffalo wallow, deep enough for the men to lie down and hide. They didn't remain safe for long. The Indians, intent on mayhem, showed up and put a bullet in E'lon's forehead. Carr and Reed dragged his body in front of them to act as a barrier. 

Sundown rescued them. Carr and Reed crawled out of the wallow. E'lon, more alive than supposed, stirred. Soon he appeared as alert as they did. 

"We thought you were dead," Carr said, "or we never would of used you that way."

But E'lon shrugged it off. "I didn't mind being your cover."

Coming soon in 
by Marilyn June Coffey

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Runaway Slaves

Nebraska Territory had few slaves--13 in 1855. Stephen Nuckolls owned two Virginia women, and Alexander Majors brought six slaves from Kansas City, Missouri. All lived in Nebraska City.

In 1858, Nuckolls's women ran away. He raged, offered $200 reward, and, with a U.S. Marshall's help, searched for them, but Nuckolls never saw them again.

In 1860, all of Majors's slaves disappeared and never returned, even though Major offered $1,000 bounty. 

All eight slaves probably escaped via the Underground Railroad, a path used by runaway slaves on their way to safe Canada. 

Maybe they hid on the Allen Mayhew farm near Nebraska City. There Mayhew built a cabin and, below it, dug a room reachable only through a tunnel. 

Then runaways could cut across the Missouri River and head to Tabor, Iowa, where abolitionists supported another stop on the Underground Railroad.

See a picture of Mayhew's cabin on the back cover of 
by Marilyn June Coffey
coming soon.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wukkin' on the RR

The Civil War hindered railroad construction, but in July 1865, workers laid down Union Pacific track in mud flats near Omaha. 

Construction crawled. At the end of 1865, Union Pacific tracks totaled just 40 miles. But by October 1866, the rails reached the 100th meridian, 247 miles west of Omaha.

Union Pacific celebrated. 

Two trains chugged down the track to the 100th meridian. Red, white, and blue streamers billowed alongside the cars, and festive antlers perched on top of locomotives. 

The first train lugged supplies for a party, Western style, including tents, buffalo robes and cases of champagne. The second train brought 140 party goers—the guest list loaded with influential capitalists and Congressional dignitaries. 

They whooped it up for three days, dancing around a huge bonfire, peering at a prairie dog town, applauding Pawnee war dancers, and eating fresh-killed antelope for dinner.

Find out soon in 
A Saucy History of a Nebraska County Seat War 
by Marilyn June Coffey

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bullets Cascade

One day in 1864, William Parker Carr drove an Overland Stage along the Little Blue River Trail. With Carr rode three passengers (two men and a woman) plus two guards protecting the U.S. mail. 

Then with no warning, two dozen Indians on swift ponies attacked the stagecoach, firing hard upon it. 

One guard, a fourteen-year-old, leaped on top of the coach and rode there, shooting again and again.

Bullets surged around Carr as he lashed his four horses into a dead run.
One bullet lodged in the seat behind him, and another shattered the lamp beside him. Still another bullet struck the bridle of his horse and brought it to its knees. 

Did Carr and his passengers survive?

Find out soon in 
A Saucy History of a Nebraska County Seat War 
by Marilyn June Coffey

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hornet's Nest

Benjamin "Ben" Holladay hired William Parker Carr, the teamster. When they met, Holladay, forty-four, retained a Kentucky accent from his childhood. As a lad, he helped his Pap lead wagon trains through the Cumberland Gap, so it's not surprising that he now owned the largest stagecoach line in the world, the Overland Stage Company. 

But the Stagecoach King, as some called him, didn't hire Carr to drive. Instead, Holladay wanted Carr to shoot deer, elk, and buffalo to feed the stage line that ran from Atchison, Kansas, to San Francisco.

"Locate yourself in the Republican River valley," Holladay said. "It's a world-class place to find game." And so it was.

Carr had excellent timing. He saw the idyllic valley just before it became a hornet's nest of Indian raiders: Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho.

Coming soon in 
A Saucy History of a Nebraska County Seat War 
by Marilyn June Coffey

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Who's to Know?

President Lincoln asked all Northern governors to provide troops for the Civil War. But Missouri Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson, refused.


Instead, he called up the Missouri State Militia and commanded it himself, making him the first sitting governor to lead troops into battle and the first to lead them against his own Union.

July 5 William Parker Carr fought Governor Jackson's men in the Battle of Carthage, the Civil War's first major on-land battle. It pitted 1,100 Union volunteers, armed and well-drilled, against the governor's force of 6,000. Two-thirds bore arms; the rest were raw recruits, hurriedly gathered, barely trained.

The fight featured fluttering battle flags, cannons booming, and a bayonet charge. As Union forces retreated, Carr saw Governor Jackson's 2,000 weaponless recruits, unable to fight, hanging about in the woods, moving like deer among the trees.

Carr heard gunfire, a voice shouted from the woods, "For God's sake, stop! You're shooting your own men!" 

Who's to know? Recruits, who had no Confederate uniforms, wore whatever they could.

Coming soon in 
A Saucy History of a Nebraska County Seat War 
by Marilyn June Coffey

Thursday, March 12, 2015


When Fort Sumter kicked off the American Civil War, William Parker Carr joined the Union army. He and his unit traveled from Nebraska to Missouri singing--would you believe this?--"I Wish I Was in Dixie." The bright tune made for good marching, but their enemies, the Confederates, those Southerners, claimed "Dixie" as their anthem. Why was the song so popular? That was Lincoln's doing. He made that song all the rage, in the north as well as the south, the moment he named "Dixie" as his favorite song.

Coming soon in 
Thieves, Rascals & Sore Losers: 
A Saucy History of a Nebraska County Seat War 
by Marilyn June Coffey