Saturday, October 1, 2011

My Search for Inez by Guest Blogger Ann Parker

Today I welcome author Ann Parker to Colorado Reflections! Ann is the author of The Silver Rush mystery series set in Leadville, Colorado. I met Ann in Women Writing The West and soon discovered a kindred spirit with central Colorado family ties and a love for researching the history.

Please leave a comment on this post for a chance
to win a book of your choice from Ann's Silver Rush mystery series!
 


My Search For Inez

I may be a Californian, born and bred, but my family history reaches into Colorado. It was that history--and a bit of a family mystery as well--that led me to write a historical series set in 1880's Colorado, specifically Leadville.

                                                            Now I shall explain...

My mother and father were both raised in Colorado, and we regularly traveled back as a family for summer vacations, holidays, and so on. I recall Granny (my paternal grandmother, Inez Stannert Parker) telling stories of her life as a young woman in Denver--meeting Grandpa at Elitch Gardens (which were really gardens back then), raising her children: my father, Uncle Walt, and Aunt Dorothy, and so on. But it wasn't until long after she died that my Uncle    Walt told me she had been raised in Leadville.

My first reaction: She what?

Granny had never mentioned Leadville. No stories, nothing. So this was news to me.

My second reaction: What the heck is Leadville?
                        
My Uncle Walt, being an engineer in addition to being the family genealogist, immediately began to was enthusiastic about Leadville: "Why it is just the biggest, most amazing mining town in the world! Silver, gold, tin, molybdenum! Oh, Leadville was quite a place, quite a rough town in those days." I was intrigued. Tell me more, I said. Instead, Uncle Walt instructed me to go research Leadville. "I'll bet," he said, "that you could write a story based in Leadville.

Thus instructed, I started to dig into Leadville's past and the rest, as they is history. I did indeed write a "story based in Leadville"--in fact, three of them so far: Silver Lies, Iron Ties, and Leaden Skies. (The fourth, Mercury's Rise, is coming out in November, and although
it has key scenes in Leadville, most of the action takes place in
another Colorado town with a fascinating history: Manitou Springs.)

But, even as I penned my tales, I didn't forget Granny. In fact, I      
named my protagonist after her (with the blessings of the family). I
also continued to wonder about her mysterious life in Leadville.
Where did she live? What was her life like back then? What were
her circumstances? What was the town like in the late 1800's/
early 1900's, when she was growing from a child to a young
woman?
So, even as I researched for fiction, I also mined Leadville's considerable historical and genealogical resources for information 
about the real Inez. (Thank you, Lake County Public Library!)

Over the years, I have uncovered some small bits about her Leadville life. From my Uncle Walt's efforts, I knew she was born in
1886, the eldest daughter of Mary E. Stannert and Lawrence
Stannert, who himself was born in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and
was the eldest of six children (as far as I could tell). Inez had "half-
brother, Harry (the "half" is part of the family legend, but I've been
unable to verify this), and a sister Mary (who, again according to
family legend, was quite a, shall we say, "heck"-raiser in her days).
Thanks to Leadville's collection of city directories and various
 census records, I verified that they lived at 610 West 3rd Street.


Thanks to a cousin, I have a copy of Inez's "Certificate of Attainment," certifying that she satisfactorily completed the Course of Study prescribed for the Grammar Department of the Leadville Public Schools and that she was thus admitted to high school. The certificate is dated January 31, 1902, and is signed by the principal of Central School. Yet, I know well that one of the things she lamented late in life was never graduating from high school. What happened to stop her education? We don't know. We do know sh valued education highly, and made sure that her children "stayed the course." My Uncle Walt became an engineer, my aunt became a legal secretary (this would hav been in the 1930's...well before women were common such fields), and my father became a physician.

Another fascinating tidbit I uncovered was a listing in the 1905 directory that indicated that Inez Stannert was working at the Herald Democrat bindery. Did she leave school for employment? Seems likely. To help support the family? She was living at the same address as her father (and we assume the rest of the clan was there as well). At the same time, Lawrence Stannert is listed as a blacksmith working at the Arkansas Valley Smelter, so it's not as if he was unemployed.


The Stannerts disappear from the Leadville directories after 1906, and Granny met her future husband in 1907 in Denver, and got married in Denver in 1908.

And that's about it. Photos from her time in Leadville are few and far between. I looked through my collection of old family photos and didn't spot any, although I found some dandy ones of other female ancestors. (Or female friends of ancestors. Without names, who knows?) Much of Inez's early life remains a mystery, despite my attempts to glean more about her. So, I did what I could to honor her by giving my character her name. As time goes on, though, I hope I can find out more about the real Inez, even as I continue to create stories for the fictional Inez, spun from my research and my imagination.




 Ann Parker is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. Her award-winning Silver Rush series, featuring saloon-owner Inez Stannert, is set in 1880's Colorado, primarily in the silver-mining boomtown of Leadville. The latest in her series, MERCURY'S RISE, will be released November 1. Learn more about Ann and her series at http://www.annparker.net

26 comments:

Alice Trego said...

What an interesting story about the real Inez Stannert! I always love to hear about the path authors have taken to create their characters.

Thanks for sharing, Ann. Thanks to Gayle, too, for inviting you here today :)

Alice

Vickie Boone Pavelko said...

I always enjoy finding new authors and the fact that Ann writes about an area where my ancestors also lived is a bonus. I am looking forward to checking out her books. Thanks Gayle for sharing your blog with Ann.

Ann Parker said...

Hello Alice! :-D
Everyone has a different road to writing, but I'm always intrigued by how many people start, in one way or another, from family... whether from their own lives or those of a relative.
Thanks for dropping in to Colorado Reflections and reading about the REAL Inez (who is still, in many ways, a mystery).

Michelle Black said...

What a fun family history! I had no idea you named your character after your grandmother. Cool!

Penny Rhodes said...

This was so fun to read. I truly admire you for writing women back into history, it's very special to me personally as a Colorado Native.

Wonderful, interesting information regarding Inez. I'm so glad you shared this :)

I'm so anxious to read Mercury's Rise! Is it 1.1.11 yet?

Penny Rhodes said...

Ann, this is fascinating and fun reading! As a Colorado Native, I'm thrilled and thankful to you for writing women back into our history, so to speak. What fun hearing about the real Inez!

I'm so anxious to read "Mercury's Rise"...is it 1.1.11 yet? :)

Ann Parker said...

Hello Vickie! You have ancestors from Leadville area? That's so neat! It was such a huge "boom town" and destination for so long...many people came to make their fortunes or otherwise start a new life. Some continued on and some stayed. Thanks for dropping by and commenting! Hope you reading the books as much as I enjoyed writing them! :-)

Ann Parker said...

Hi Michelle!
Yep, I sure did. :-) In fact, I've woven a number of family names (from over the generations) into my series. One little way I try to honor those who went before me.

Ann Parker said...

Hello Penny!
11.1.11 is coming! (What a cool release date, yes? :-) )
Hope we can meet in the "bricks 'n mortar world" when I come through Colorado in November!
You can see my schedule (so far) at http://www.annparker.net/app.htm . The Black Cat Books event is 4 -6 p.m., I think. I need to get that time in there.

LJ Roberts said...

What a wonderful article, Ann. I love seeing the original Inez Stannert. I'm awaiting your next book....

Gena Philibert Ortega said...

First, thanks to Gayle for having Ann as a guest blogger. It's really great to read about new books.

Ann, you mentioned the places you researched some of your family history. I'm wondering as you write your books are there other places you look to for writing about the place, people and events in your books? What type of research do you do to write your books?

Ann Parker said...

Hello L.J.!
I just wish I had an early photo of the real Inez. Family of a blacksmith, I guess there wasn't a lot of extra cash for getting photos taken...
It isn't long now until 11/1/11! :-)

Ann Parker said...

Hello Gena!
Oooooh, I could go on and on about research! :-) A couple of great places to find information on Leadville: The two-volume set "History of Leadville and Lake County," by Don and Jean Griswold; and Colorado HIstorical Newspapers online (http://www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org). I have a great collection of letters from a young lawyer who came to Leadville in 1878 and wrote home to his family about his life in Leadville. And many many reference books on Colorado and Leadville history, biographies/letter collections of people who lived there in that timeframe, and specific topics ("The Saloon on the Rocky Mountain Mi.ning Frontier," etc.).

Gayle Gresham said...

Thank you, Ann, for joining us on Colorado Reflections. This is so much fun! Griswold's Lake County books are a must read for anyone interested in the history. Thank you for sharing your Granny's story!

Renaissance Women said...

Ann & Gayle,

So glad you hosted Ann. Ann thank you for sharing this fascinating story. I think if we will only look, we will find so much in our own personal families histories.

Renaissance Women said...

Gayle thank you for hosting Ann.
Ann thank your for this fascinating post. I think most people would be surprised at what is in their own family histories. It is like going on a treasure hunt and finding the trunk of gold. Of course I could use a bit of your talent and discipline, if I started writing my family story.

Linda said...

Ann, I envy you! Your family is fine with you using a family member as a character--many of us aren't that lucky (my family gets upset if they even think they see themselves in one of my characters LOL). This is such a cool story and I am looking forward to reading the series one right after the other (I'll wait to start in November and they will be my holiday reads).

And Gayle--thanks so much for hosting Ann ;-)

Jean Henry Mead said...

rembeI've enjoyed reading three novels in the series and look forward to Mercury's Rise. Ann, I'm sure your granny would have been proud to have the protagonist named after her.

Arletta Dawdy said...

I love this entry and bit of real life mixing with your imagination, Ann.
I've drawn on one-liners a brother-in-law told about his grandmother to find my protagonist...what fun that has been.
I hope someday, someone comes forward with a diary or other bit to fill-in about Inez.
Great post, ladies.

Jane Finnis said...

Ann, how wonderful to be able to combine researching for your books with researching your family's history. I hope you uncover more of Inez' mysterious and interesting life in Leadville as time goes on. Is Leadville still a thriving mining town today?

Ann Parker said...

Hello Jane, Arletta, Jean, Linda, and Doris!
Thank you all for your kind comments and for chiming in on family history, family in fiction (yes, Linda, I was lucky that my relatives were a-okay with me using Inez's maiden name...). And Jane: Leadville still exists, the last big mine, Climax, closed in early 1990s and the town became an "extreme sports" destination for runners, bikers, etc. However, the Climax mine is preparing to reopen, and it looks like Leadville will become a mining town (of some sort) yet again!

Ann Parker said...

Gayle,
Thank you so much for hosting me! It's been fun to share my Granny's history and chat with the people who've dropped by. It's been a bit of a virtual tea party! :-)
I suspect it's just about time to remove the cups and saucers from the table and pick a winner for one of the Silver Rush books... What do you think?

Ann Parker said...

The winner for a Silver Rush book of choice is... (drum roll) ...
Arletta Dawdy!

Arletta: contact me at annparker(at)annparker(dot)net, and we'll work out the details.
Thank you, everyone, for making this such a great conversation, and special thanks to Gayle for hosting me! :-)

Kathy Betty(Schreck) said...

Ann,
So happy to meet you at the reunion Saturday, Oct. 1. I looked at your website and ended up ordering your first book in the series, Silver Lies for my Kindle and am reading it every night after work!! I was hooked before I finished reading the first paragraph!! I have been in touch with the bookstore in Pleasanton and am thinking of getting your 2nd and 3rd book in hardback and autographed. I think I eventually want the whole series. When your 4th book comes out I want to get that one too. I love to read mysteries, historical novels, etc. so am so looking forward to reading your books!! Take care and hope to see you again....maybe on another of your signing tours?

Kathy Betty(Schreck)

Ann Parker said...

Hello Kathy~
It was a pleasure to meet you as well! :-) I'm glad you found Silver Lies to be a fun read! And yes, we'll be in touch... Bill gave me your email. :-)

coloradosaferepair said...

I love your story about women of colorado as many books leave out or dont write about the history of women