Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Wreck of the James Davidson

What better way to start a historical romance set on the Great Lakes in the 1880s than with a well-researched shipwreck? At least ... that's what I thought.

Anna's Tower, part of The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides collection, starts with the wreck of the James Davidson.

At over 200 feet long, the James Davidson was considered a giant in its day. Hauling coal and towing the barge Middlesex, the captain miscalculated the position of Thunder Bay Island and rammed into the shoal not far from the lighthouse.

The crew at the lifesaving station on Thunder Bay Island rescued all involved. The barge Middlesex was floated away unharmed, but the James Davidson was damaged beyond repair. Battered by waves, it eventually broke up and sank.

I determined the hero of Anna's Tower would be a stowaway aboard the James Davidson. Hauling coal and towing the barge from Buffalo, New York, to Duluth, Minnesota, I needed to find a likely person who would have been aboard the vessel. That sent me digging into the history of both ports.

Duluth was fast becoming a farming area, growing grain that would feed the masses on the East Coast. The poor immigrants of that day included many Russians who fled the pogroms - Russia's attempt to exterminate the Jewish race. My hero, therefore, was a poor Russian farmer.

I knew nothing about poor Russian farmers.

It's a good thing I enjoy research. I dove into it with a passion and discovered that - as with Germany years later - it wasn't just the Jewish people who got swept into the pogroms. My hero, therefore, was Russian Orthodox, and that made my story easier in many ways.

This is what I love to do. I take great pains to never change the history, but to weave my story through it as seamlessly and logically as possible. It's a craft. It's a passion. It's just ... what I do. I hope readers will enjoy it as much as I did.
I'm giving away Beacon of the Bay Shawl to celebrate the release of The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides collection. All my shawls are made from wool off my own sheep! I do everything from shearing to spinning to knitting these one-of-a-kind shawls. No two are ever just alike. One lucky subscriber to my newsletter will be the winner on Nov. 30th. To be a subscriber, join here.

Pegg Thomas
Writing History with a Touch of Humor


  1. I loved reading about your research for Anna's Tower.

  2. I love reading about shipwrecks in the great lakes. I have quite the shelf of books about them! Some amazing stories out there. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes shipwrecks and Great Lakes stories. :)