Art, Books, and History

I have selected well-known artist William B. Bledsoe of Jonesborough, Tennessee to create the cover of my next book Adam’s Daughters, which is about the lives of Adam Mitchell’s daughters – Margaret (Peggy), Rebeckah, and Ibby – growing up in the glory days of Jonesborough ca. 1788-1820.

As with my first book in the Westward Sagas, Spring House, I chose to commission original artwork rather than using graphics for the cover. After spending years researching the true life characters of my books followed by months writing and editing the manuscript, I just couldn’t bring myself to use a cover created from clip art in a few minutes.

How I happened to find Billy, as his family and friends call William Baxter Bledsoe to differentiate him from his father with the same name, is quite a story in itself. It seems as if the ghosts of my ancestors are driving the direction of my books and the decisions I make to bring them to you, my readers.

Four years ago, after I finished my research for Spring House, in Greensboro, North Carolina, I decided to drive to Jonesborough, Tennessee. I tried to replicate as best I could the westward journey the Mitchell Family would have taken in 1782 over the Appalachian Mountains to what was then the western part of North Carolina.

As I drove down the main street of the historic town of Jonesborough, I spotted a bed and breakfast called the Eureka Inn that was established in 1792. Not having time to spend the night on this trip, I made a note to stay there on my next visit. It would be October 2003 before my next trip to Jonesborough. I arrived late in the evening and checked into the Eureka Inn. I would learn that Robert Mitchell, son of Adam Mitchell, sold the land for the hotel to Peter Miller to build it. Miller is the son of a true life character in Adam’s Daughters.

First on my to-do list the next morning was to find the Jonesborough Presbyterian Church (JPC) where, according to my research, Adam Mitchell had been one of the founding elders in 1790. When I opened my window blinds the next morning, there was the JPC – directly across the street from the Eureka Inn. After visiting the church I found the Christopher Taylor House next door, where it had been moved from its original location near the Mitchell farm. This house and its occupants play a major part in the story of Adam’s Daughters. Things were falling in place rather nicely. I completed my research and checked out of the hotel to head home, grabbing a very attractive brochure from the Historic Jonesborough Tourism Cooperative on the way.

This September I made my third trip to Jonesborough and spent a week there in my RV with Lulubelle, my yellow Lab. As I met with many people while finalizing my research, I asked for suggestions for a local artist who could capture an 1800 downtown Jonesborough street scene for the cover. The name Bill Bledsoe kept coming up.

I had been interviewing other artists for the cover and had sent each a photocopy of the Historic Jonesborough brochure as an example of what I wanted on the cover.

When I made contact with Bill by phone, I told him what I was looking for by describing the street scene on the cover of the Jonesborough brochure. There was a long pause before he said, “I did the cover for that brochure.”

You can see why William B. Bledsoe is creating the original artwork for the cover of Adam’s Daughters.

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