Characters, Musings, Research

Bride Train Series

The Bride Train stories center around the women building Tanner’s Ford in the early 1870s, and the trios of ranching cowboys who appreciate a wife with passion and intelligence.

Why were there Bride Trains?

There were three main  ways woman could survive in Montana Territory in 1870: as a wife, a whore, or a mistress. With a couple of hundred eager men for every available woman, men would take dang near any wife they could get.

“Take” is the word, as a wife was the legal property of her husband. Everything she owned, including her body, was transferred from the ownership of her father, to that of her husband upon marriage. Even if a woman became widowed, she could be forced to marry a man who gave her no choice. He then owned her property and children as well.

After the war ended in 1865, hordes of men headed West to escape the destruction of their homes and families, to seek adventure, or to follow the lure of gold. This created a lack of husbands in the East. Pretty women who were obedient and wealthy did well. The ones who refused to bow down to the dictates of the men in their lives, or were too tall, too intelligent, or just plain ornery, remained old maids, at the mercy of the head of the household.

By 1870 Western towns realized they needed the stabilizing influence of wives and families to settle the men, and therefore build towns into something better. Mail-order wives were common, but some women wanted to meet their husbands before marriage.

The idea arose to send a special train carriage full of women eager for adventure, fed up with living in charity as a spinster, or refusing to obey their family. They could either pay their own way, or could be sponsored by towns or Eastern government officials eager to rid themselves of the problem of too many randy single men.

The response was positive and Bride Trains were sent during the warmer months from various Eastern cities. Hordes of men would be waiting in Virginia City when the Bride Train arrived. Some carriages arrived empty while others had a good number of potential wives to choose from. It was all up to the luck of the draw.

The women who made it all the way to Virginia City, Montana Territory without finding a suitable husband tended to be the more ornery of the lot. A few passed through Bannack City’s wildness to end up in the small town of Tanner’s Ford, the end of the line.

These are their stories.

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