Audrey Austin

Audrey Austin
Proud to be a small town indie author

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Meet Barbara Hettwer,of Scotts Mills, Oregon: Featured Author for February, 2014 ...

An excerpt from The Seamstress of Jamestown by Barbara Hettwer
Chapter 1: Jamestown

Twenty-one-year-old Emma Randall opened her eyes and for a moment could not remember where she was. The surroundings were unfamiliar. As she studied the tan wallpaper, which was patterned with gently flowing brown stems and green leaves, she smiled and pressed the back of her head deep into her pillow. “Jamestown, California! I’m in the West!”

She noticed the absence of the lavender-scented talc that had filled her childhood room. The air was drier and smelled of a dry herb, perhaps some local weed. Sagebrush was commonly mentioned in the western books she had read; maybe that was the gentle odor that filled her room.

She listened carefully. The sounds were different. She could hardly wait to get outside to observe every detail of her new hometown. Slowly the aroma changed; it was definitely coffee. She excitedly dressed as the fatty scent of bacon blended with the essence of coffee and rushed downstairs to the dining room of the National Hotel.

There was one large table and several smaller ones. Guests were eating and conversing softly. They were scattered around the room at unmatched tables, each with a unique tablecloth. Not knowing propriety, she sat alone at the smallest table. It was draped in a pale green cotton cloth with a design of small white flowers. In the center was a small vase with wildflowers. Soon a blonde girl in gingham approached her and asked if she would like the bacon, eggs, and fried potatoes they were serving that morning. “Yes, but not too much; just a small serving, please.” Emma’s digestion had not been good on the trip. There were so many things she would have to adjust to: the air, the food, and the people who were different somehow. Their attire was definitely more casual than the East Coast fashions.

After finishing her breakfast and the strong coffee, she walked onto the wooden front porch of the hotel. The proprietor had brought out several chairs that morning for the guests. She sank into a comfortable chair that was covered in maroon velvet upholstery. Emma was happy. She tried to think of the words that could describe how she felt—content, satisfied, fulfilled—but none were good enough. She had a fluttering in her stomach and excitement in her heart. She had a little smile on her face that she could not hide. Happily she enjoyed the thought, “I’m in Jamestown.”

Emma reminisced back over her trip from Baltimore through uncivilized country to California. She recalled her years of dreaming, imagining, and hoping; her mind swirled with excitement. She mused, “That long, boring train trip on those despicable, hard, wooden benches followed by a bouncy, dusty stagecoach ride was rough on my eastern lady’s constitution. Now it doesn’t seem to matter one bit. I know I’m in the middle of a grand adventure. I don’t feel adventurous or brave, but maybe I am. So far everyone’s been very kind.” She concluded, “The Wild West really isn’t so wild after all. I wonder how much of what I read in all those books and magazines is true. I wonder if there are other single women here. I never thought of that!”

She let her mind settle on observing her surroundings. Emma sat looking and listening. She wanted to note mentally every sight and sound that was new to her. There was a willow tree in town; it did not look native, but rather as though someone had planted it. There were tall trees that seemed to border the creek behind the buildings across the street. Some looked fifty feet tall. Among the high branches there appeared to be some white fuzz. She later discovered that they were cottonwood trees.

But mostly there just seemed to be dirt. The street was dirt. Dirt wafted through the air as every wagon or horse passed by. Most of the squared-off mountain that served as a backdrop for the town was bare dirt, especially the side hill facing the town which had mining holes bored into it. “How could one stay clean in such a place?” she wondered.

An exciting new sight was the clear blue sky. She hadn’t seen a cloud in days—ever since crossing the Rocky Mountains. Once she got up from her comfortable chair and stood in the middle of the street to look in every direction, but saw not one tiny white puff. Her cracked lips and gritty mouth attested to the fact that the air was very dry.

Although Jamestown was tucked up against the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains, it was at a low enough altitude to have an amenable climate. She studied Table Mountain, which rose behind the buildings across the street. This wide, flat hill was small compared to the Sierras rising behind it.

The buildings were not nearly as nice as those in Baltimore, at least not on Bolton Hill where she had grown up. But nothing was too old either, as Jamestown had begun to bloom only twenty years earlier, in 1850, with the gold rush. Some of the buildings were wood framed, and the nicer ones were whitewashed. Others were brick or adobe, which she assumed would certainly be safer in avoiding the fires that must ravage this arid climate.

She tuned her ears to the dull clomp, clomp sound of the horses’ hooves on the streets, which sharply contrasted the clickety-clack of the hooves on the cobblestone streets of Baltimore. The wagons and carts also rolled along more quietly, each creating a little, brown cloud that followed it. The ka-clump, ka-clump of boots on the wooden walkways was music to her ears. She closed her eyes and listened to that sound. She wanted to feel the rhythm of Jamestown as though she were listening to a symphony by Mozart. The voices were the violins and violas, the rolling wagons the cellos, the horses’ clomps the percussion section, and the footsteps the woodwinds. This orchestra was accented by the occasional cymbals of bird songs.

She wished she knew more about birds. To try
Tryingto hear little
softchirps, tweets, and coos above the bustle of the town took concentration. That required an entirely new focus of her attention. She recognized the cooing of the doves. The blue jays were familiar to her, though their heads were almost black, much darker than the bright blue she was used to. She loved blue jays because of their color, although her mother had never liked them for she said they were too noisy and pesky during outdoor picnics. There were several other small birds that she could only describe as tweety birds, for she was not sure what they were. And there were the crows. How could she have come 3,000 miles and not rid herself of these noisy creatures? Their caw was not at all a bird warble, as she felt was suitable, but more like an ugly squawk. Well, she wouldn’t permit a bird to upset her reverie.

The other noticeable difference was the people themselves. Some of the men who passed by tipped their hats and said, “Howdy, ma’am.” She would calmly nod in return while her heart pounded at the western twang of their talk and the sound of the first truly western word spoken to her: “Howdy.” Then there were the others, those of a different race or color. She had seen colored folks in Baltimore, but none here so far. However, there were some who looked Spanish. Not being familiar with them, she could only guess that perhaps they were from Mexico. She felt a little surge of excitement every time she saw an Indian. She knew what Indians looked like from pictures in her schoolbooks. She was heartily disappointed that they were dressed like everyone else—no feathers, buckskin, or moccasins, just shirts, trousers, and boots. Nonetheless, their presence assured her that she had truly found her West that she had so longed for.

She continued to sit on the porch for a few hours just to drink in her environment—her new home. She was in no hurry to begin work. There was time for that, a lifetime. This was June. She had planned her arrival so that she would have time to adjust to her new life and then find a job before Winter set in. For now, she let the atmosphere permeate her mind. It had taken eight years of planning to get here so she was determined to notice every twig, squirrel, and lizard.

At noon she reentered the dining area. The same blonde girl who had served her breakfast was working. “For dinner today we have pot roast. You can also always get a sandwich or soft-boiled eggs. What would you like?”

“The pot roast sounds perfect. My name is Emma Randall and I have recently arrived from Baltimore.”

“Nice to meet you. My name is Dorothy Hodges. Do you know anyone in Jamestown?”

“No, I don’t. I’ve come here alone. The West has always had an appeal to me.”

“Let me finish serving dinner; then I’d love to sit and chat with you.”

Emma slowly enjoyed her pot roast, potatoes, and carrots with the drink Dorothy recommended—lemonade. Emma had warm lemonade once as a child when she had a cold. This lemonade was served cool and was the most refreshing drink she ever had. The sweetness mixed with the tang seemed to cleanse her throat from the dirt collected during the morning on the porch. After savoring her meal, she sipped on the glass of lemonade Dorothy had refilled.

Soon Dorothy sat across from her, wiping her hands on her apron. “So, you came here all alone?”


“That’s awfully brave! May I ask how old you are?”

Emma smiled to find such a well-spoken girl in what she had presumed would be a savage land. “I’m twenty-one.”

“Oh, you’re the same age as my older sister, Julia. I should introduce you to her. You won’t find many ladies here of your caliber, but my parents have insisted that their children be educated and polite, so I think you’ll get along fine with Julia. My ma insisted we finish eighth grade. We have a gathering at our home every Sunday noon. You’d be welcome to come. You don’t happen to be Catholic, do you? We meet after Mass. We live on Donovan Street, right between here and the church.”

Emma pondered the definition of “polite” in Jamestown. Dorothy was rambling without taking a breath to allow Emma to answer her questions. “Yes, I am Catholic and gladly accept your generous invitation.”

“Oh good. I’ll introduce you to Julia after Mass. You’ll like her.”  With a little giggle and her hand to her mouth, she blurted, “Oh, I already said that.”

Emma found Dorothy to be delightful. Emma had come to this western land to escape the pretenses of high-society back east. The young waitress caused a wave of assurance to sweep through Emma’s heart. It was a feeling that she had come home to folks who were genuine

The two young women visited a little longer, and then Emma spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking and going for a short walk to Wood’s Creek.

There was a different waitress for supper. After enjoying a ham sandwich and more lemonade, Emma retired to her room and snuggled into her bed to reread The Luck of Roaring Camp by Bret Harte.

Chapter 20: What Was Left Behind in Baltimore

        That Summer of 1895, Joe visited home and helped at the livery. He had several long talks with his Uncle Tom. They could not make any sense of what Joe had experienced. Tom remembered the look on his mother’s face when he had asked about the Carlton family. Now he was sure both she and Mrs. Carlton were hiding something. Did Robert have a brother who perhaps was a scoundrel that no one wanted to talk about? Joe promised to try another visit the following school term.

In September, he braved a visit to the bookstore Mrs. Carlton had mentioned. He casually perused the religious book section then asked an employee if a Mrs. Carlton still worked there. He was informed that she did, on Wednesdays. So, during his Christmas break, Joe went to town on Wednesday and entered the bookstore. He browsed the religious books again and spied her a few aisles away.

He approached her with a book in hand and said, “Oh, Mrs. Carlton, how nice to see you. I hope you and your family are well. Did you have a nice Summer?”

“Well, it was a little too hot for me, as usual, but it was fine. And you? How are your studies?”

“Oh, just fine, thank you. I went home for the Summer. Did you ever know my mother?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Oh, but you knew my grandfather, Robert Randall.”

“Yes, look, I’m supposed to be working. It’s been nice seeing you again.” She turned away.

Joe was so frustrated that he wanted to stop the polite routine and ask point blank how she knew his family, why his grandfather paid her a fortune to educate her children, and why Ralph looked like the Randall men. Instead, he set his book down and marched out. He went to another shop nearby and asked for a copy of the city directory. Under “Attorneys At Law,” he found a Menlow Carlton. He memorized the address, asked the clerk for directions, and walked the mile to the law office.

He entered the building and looked around until he found the door with the words “Menlow Carlton, Lawyer,” neatly painted on the glass. He froze. What was he doing? What would he say? Yet, anything would be better than his confusion and frustration, so he entered. There was a handsome, well-dressed young man standing next to the desk of a middle-aged woman giving her instructions. Joe presumed her to be the secretary. The young man looked up. “May I help you?”

“Um, well, yes. I would like to speak to you about…an education fund.”

“Well, that’s not exactly my area of expertise, but I would be glad to discuss it. Come in.”

He escorted Joe into a small office with a nice desk, leather chairs, and a painting on the wall. There was also a framed degree from Maryland University and, in a matching frame, a certificate from the Maryland Bar Association. “Please be seated. Now what is this fund?”

“It’s the Carlton Fund. Perhaps first I should give you some background on who I am.”

The attorney stiffened and in an unfriendly tone said, “Yes, I think you should.”

“First, I need to know if your mother is the Mrs. Carlton of Eden Street.”

“Yes, but who are you?”

Joe spoke in a confident, businesslike manner, “My name is Joe Cullen. I’m a seminary student at Woodstock College; however, I grew up in California. My grandfather was Robert Randall. He made payments into the Carlton Fund of $100 per month for nine years, then he passed away. For the past eleven years, my uncle has continued to make those payments. I have met with your mother five times. She is lovely and has been nothing but kind and pleasant toward me. She said the fund was an education fund my grandfather set up to educate her children. As your brother is just about finished with his schooling, we were considering ceasing the payments to the fund, as your mother actually suggested. What might your opinion be on this matter?”

“Please stop the payments. I want nothing to do with Robert Randall.”

“Why not? How can you say that about the man who paid for your education and made all this possible?” Ben gestured with his hand to the nice furnishings and framed certificates.

“Hmmph! There’s more to life than money, education, and fine furniture. There are more important things.”

“Certainly, I agree. What did you want from my grandfather that he did not give you?”

“Get out of here! Keep your money. My mother doesn’t need it. I can take care of her now.”

Joe was getting angry in response to Menlow’s rage. He knew he shouldn’t, but felt this ingrate was besmirching his kindly grandfather’s name. “Of course you can take care of your mother, thanks to Robert Randall and his support for the past twenty years. Neither you nor your mother ever even sent a thank-you note. Who are you? Why would my grandfather have done anything for you anyway? Are you related to the Randalls?”

“Related? Related? Well, did you see Menlow Randall on the door when you came in? No, you didn’t. So, how could I be related?”

“I don’t know, but your brother looks like my uncle and grandfather.”

“My brother? You’ve bothered him too?”

“I met him twice when I was visiting your mother.”

“Stay away from my family. You go back to your highfalutin family and your holy college.” He stood up and pointed to the door.

“No, I want to know what you are so angry about. Tell me.”

“Tell you? Why? You are everything I despise. I became an attorney to make it in the fancy world your grandfather lived in. We lived in another world. While your grandmother was riding around in a fancy carriage with her respectable husband, my mother was walking to the market and working her fingers to the bone cooking and cleaning for us kids.”

“What does that have to do with my grandfather? How did your mother know him?”

“She thinks I don’t know, but I was older than the others, and I remember him. We called him Uncle Rob. He came over at noontime and occasionally on a Saturday. We never went out with him. Oh, no, he wouldn’t want to be seen in public with us. He would play games with us in the house. I was nine when he quit coming. My mother’s face always lit up when he came, but when he stopped coming she didn’t smile for a long time. I hated him. Eventually I figured out the truth when I discovered the Carlton Fund and where the money was coming from. Mom always said my father was an importer who sailed back and forth to Europe. Then, around the same time Uncle Rob disappeared, she told us our father died at sea in a shipping accident.”

Gravity had gotten stronger. Joe was pressed into his chair. He had never had such venom spewed at him. He could not believe what he was hearing. Worse yet, he could not believe what he thought was being implied.
“Who do you think your father really was?” Joe finally asked softly.

I am definitely a small town author!  I live 6 miles outside Scotts Mills, Oregon, which has a population of 355. Being a small town author certainly presents it challenges, but it has its advantages also.  Everyone in town wants my book  :) 

The Seamstress of Jamestown
follows Emma Randall from her wealthy and comfortable childhood in Baltimore during the Civil War to Jamestown,California - one of those gold rush towns.  It had a population of 4000 in 1870 - 1900 when my book takes place and still has a population of 4000 today!  The hotel and steam engine RR in my book are also still there. 

My husband and I live in a large home that he built on 165 acres in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.  We have a blended family of 10 children and 19 grandchildren.  I am a retired high school teacher.  My mother was a seamstress in NY and tailor in CA - thus, my inclination to write about a seamstress.  There are many dress design and sewing details in my book as well as intrigue and romance.

Thanks for considering my post for your blog, and thanks for doing such a blog.  It's a great idea!

You can look inside The Seamstress of Jamestown at 


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