Pale Horse Revelations: Who was Jesse Chisolm?
Hello readers and welcome to the first (official) entry of my weekly blog. As promised in last week's introductory post, this blog will explore the historical elements that I incorporated into my debut novel, "Behold a Pale Horse: The Legend of the Pale Rider Part I." This first entry will focus on the character of Jesse Chisolm. Please be advised that this blog may include some spoilers if you haven't finished reading the book.
This topic was an easy choice because the character ended up playing such an important role in much of the story. The first insight I want to share is that that wasn't my original intent. Initially the character was included only to lend some historical significance to the story. And yet, he ended up in over half of the novel. Why? you might ask. Simply put...he was too interesting not to include.
I selected Chisolm because he is a little-known historical figure and would therefore be less likely to encounter any preconceived notions from the average reader. Obviously, his mannerisms, speech patterns, and personality are the product of my imagination. But much of his back story and adventures in the story are based upon fact.
So, who was Jesse Chisolm? He was born around 1805 to a father of Scottish decent and a Cherokee mother. His early career was spent as a trailblazer. In 1826 he was involved with a group who explored much of present-day Wichita Kanas in search of gold. Four years later he helped blaze a trail between Fort Gibson and Fort Towson. In 1834 he was a part of the expedition that made first contact with the southern Plains Indians on behalf of the federal government.
As mentioned in the story, Chisolm was fluent in many languages. Thirteen Native American dialects and Spanish to be exact. This talent led him to spend the next twenty years in diplomatic roles negotiating treaties between these tribes and the Republic of Texas and later the United States.
By the time he appears in our story he has returned to the business of trading. He did, in fact, establish a trading post at the mouth of the Little Arkansas River next to a Wichita village. The layout of the trading post and inclusion of his cottage are, once again, products of my imagination.
In the course of my research, I discovered that he led a herd of 3,000 cattle to sell to the Sax and Fox Reservation. The temptation to work this into the story was just too great to pass up. I also discovered that shortly after that he embarked on trade expedition through Indian Territory and into Texas. Since this fit perfectly with the direction I wanted to take Matthew Garrison, it was only natural to use this fact as a vehicle for moving the story forward.
There is very little in the historical record about what happened on this trade run. I expect that it was relatively uneventful. The characters who accompanied him and the conflict they encounter are once again products of my imagination with the dual purpose of crafting an entertaining story while providing further character development.
The trail that our adventurers blazed in the book would later be known as the Chisolm Trail. Chisolm is credited with transforming what was once a military and Indian trail into a road capable of carrying his fully loaded wagons. It is the famous route later used by cattlemen in Texas to drive their herds to the stockyards in Abilene, Kansas.
Sadly, the historical Jesse Chisolm's life would come to an end just two short years after the events of the novel. He died on March 4th, 1868, as a result of food poisoning. In 1974 he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners and his gravesite is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is my sincere hope that his inclusion in my work of fiction will help ensure that his legacy will continue to live on in the imaginations of my readers.
I hope you enjoyed this short exploration into the history of one of the key characters from "Behold a Pale Horse: The Legend of the Pale Rider Part I." I have tried to keep it intentionally short but encourage those interested in knowing more to do a little research of their own. If you enjoy this blog, please sure to subscribe and get updates on future entries.
As always, thank you for your readership.