Welcome to author Pam Hillman! She has some great history and pictures to share with us. Be sure to check out her books- I've thoroughly enjoyed each one I've read and can't wait to read more!
Sometimes you live within a few miles of something that impacted your community—or the world—and don't even know the significance of it. You might not even know it exists. This happened to me this last year. I was introduced to the Soulé Steam Feed Works, which is about fifty miles from me in Meridian, MS.
A nameplate for the lumber stacker manufactured in 1897. Samuel Frazier in The Evergreen Bride would have given his eye teeth for one of these.
Soulé focused on servicing the lumber industry from 1892 until the mid-1950s. And since I was writing two novellas set in Mississippi in the 1890s focused on the steam-powered logging industry, I found the entire place fascinating. The founder of Soulé Steam Feed Works, George W. Soulé, patented more than 20 items during his lifetime. Some of Soulé's most notable products were rotary steam engines, lumber stackers, mechanical log turners, and a cotton seed huller. Soulé's steam engines are still in operation today, deep in the forests of India and Australia.
Technology students from MCC demonstrate the antique equipment in the machine shop. The Soulé Steam Works Machine shop contains an operating 120' (that's FOOT) line shaft with original belt-driven equipment that dates from the turn of the 20th century.
I signed books at the Soulé Live Steam Festival on October 31-November 1, 2014 and enjoyed the experience tremendously. Approximately 2000 people tour the restored buildings and watch the steam engines belch out steam, while reminiscing about the industrial revolution each year at the festival.
Several steam engines doing their "stuff" at the entrance of the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum where the festival was held. The lattice truss frame sign was completed in 2013.
Given the nature of this event, many of the attendees were male. Late on the first day, one of the museum volunteers and a steam engine enthusiast who'd just arrived hurried into the area where I’d set up my table next to the welcome desk. Both men looked like two kids on Christmas morning. The enthusiast had brought a steam whistle that was so large he hadn't been able to build up enough steam to blow it. They made plans to connect it to a bigger steam engine so they could try it out.
Manual Underwood typewriter. One of the curators at the museum gave me a private tour a couple of months ago, and she said that Mr. Soulé kept everything, so a lot of the antiques are literally pieces that were used in the daily operations of the business. The vault even has copies of receipts and payroll records from the 1890s and early 1900s.
Periodically, a loud blast could be heard throughout the whole facility. I later found out that it was a steam whistle (equipped with a safety valve, of course) with a rope pull that kids could pull to make the blast. No wonder we were treated to the whistle multiple times throughout the two-day event!
I didn't get as many photos as I would have liked since I was signing books, but I hope to be back in November 2015. There were so many people I would have loved to interview for future blog posts.
This is the brick-paved alley between two of the buildings that are part of the museum complex. The ambiance between the buildings with the steam billowing out of the pipes was an interesting experience. The museum staff and volunteers have done an amazing job restoring the buildings and the steam engines.
Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I’d love for you to check out my stories set in this era.
Annabelle's plans for a white Christmas in The Evergreen Bride (12 Brides of Christmas) involve a trip to Illinois to visit her relatives, in particular her cousin Lucy Denson, a dainty petite city gal.
The Lumberjack's Bride (12 Brides of Summer) returns to the same heart of the Mississippi pine belt 18 months later. Many of the characters return in the sequel when the family sawmill and logging operation has expanded. They need additional help and ask for business assistance from Lucy’s father, and he moves the family to Mississippi. The pretty young woman soon catches the eye of Eli, a rough-and-tumble Mississippi lumberjack in an earth-shattering meeting deep in the forest.
Pam is also excited to share news of her latest full-length novel, STEALING JAKE. When Livy O’Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-Fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she’s helping to run an orphanage. Now she’ll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.
Sheriff’s deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy―literally while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town―as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off―Jake doesn’t have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can’t seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn’t willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.