Genealogy, Inspiration and a Christmas Novella Part I: Kizzie


My genealogy inspired “The Dogtrot Christmas.”

More than once, I’d wondered why I spent so much time on the family genealogy.

It seemed such a silly way to spend my time while living in Hawai’i.

Years later, I discovered the reason when I wrote my first novella.

My editor provided several parameters when I wrote “The Dogtrot Christmas” for The Log Cabin Christmas Collection.

Because it’s part of a Christmas collection, something in the story needed to touch on that holiday. In addition, a log cabin needed to play a major role and it needed to include a frontier romance.


A log cabin? I merely had to reach into my family history to find an accessible log cabin story.

Kizzie’s Diary

Keziah (Kizzie) Hanks Colwell (or Caldwell?) wrote a diary as her family traveled from Maury County, Tennessee to eastern Texas in 1835. The wagon train was led by her father and my great-great-great-grandfather, the Reverend Thomas Hanks, a Primitive Baptist Circuit Riding minister.

Gladys Hanks Johnson, a researcher, saw Kizzie’s diary and took notes. Someone allegedly wrote a Master’s thesis on it.

(If anyone knows where I can find that diary, PLEASE contact me. I’ve been seeking it for years!)

Kizzie had quite a task ahead of her. Her sister died in childbirth shortly before they left Tennessee, meaning she had to nurse a newborn along with one of her own four children, manage the wagon, encourage her husband, and follow her Dad. Not to mention write up her diary notes.

Chinked log cabin genealogy

A dogtrot cabin–with chinking done.

Once they got to east Texas, the family threw together a log cabin and they worked the land. Kizzie did the cooking, chinking, teaching, child tending and of course, tried to keep her nephew alive. One day she returned to the cabin to find the baby restless on the straw tick. When she looked a little closer, she saw a Native American‘s hand reaching between the unchinked logs, patting the baby on the back.

That scene made it into my story. 🙂

Meeting the neighbors?

Another time, she was down at the creek washing clothing. She looked up when the baby cried, to see him being swung by the foot. A Native American chattered at her in his unknown tongue and indicated a nearby tree. Laughing, he swung the baby’s head in the direction of the trunk. Kizzie threw down the clothes, shrieked and grabbed for the baby.

The Native American handed him back and slunk away.

Of course that scene appears in my novella.

But since this was a romance, I needed to find a romantic element and a married couple, just wasn’t going to be sufficient.

So, I invented my heroine.

You can read about the (fictional) Molly Faires, next time.

But in the meantime, celebrate women like Kizzie Hanks Colwell who went above and beyond the life of any “normal” woman of the time to give her children a future in Texas!


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  1. Thank you for sharing about Kizzie’s story. That will give the story much more meaning.

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