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Whitcomb Springs

Historical Western Romance/Western

In the spring of 1865, a letter arrives in Whitcomb Springs for Evelyn Whitcomb. The Civil War has ended and the whereabouts of her husband is unknown, but she doesn’t give up hope. With courage, the help of a friend, and the love of a people, Evelyn finds a way to face—and endure—the unexpected. 

“Whitcomb Springs” is the introductory, stand-alone short story of the Whitcomb Springs series set in post-Civil War Montana.

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Whitcomb Springs, Montana Territory

April 25, 1865

The letter fluttered to the table. Evelyn stared at the sheet of paper but could no longer make out the words as they blurred together. Surrender. She prayed this day would come, they all had, and after four tortuous years, the war was finally over.

There would be more capitulation on the part of the South, and too many families who would never see their men again . . . but it was over.

Separated, yet not untouched, from conflict, Evelyn Whitcomb lived in the same town her husband and their two friends founded one year before news of the Civil War reached them. By way of her sister, who lived in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania with their parents, they were kept informed as often as Abigail could get a letter through. Evelyn often wondered if she should have returned to Rose Valley to help with the war effort, much as her sister Abigail had done, yet she found the needs of Whitcomb Springs to be vast as the town continued to grow.

Many men and boys left, leaving their wives, mothers, and sisters behind to fight for a cause they didn’t fully understand, yet still felt it their duty to serve. Others remained behind to continue working in the mine and watch over those families with or without kin.

Evelyn read over Abigail’s letter once more, letting the words settle into her mind, for even now she struggled to believe it was over—that her husband might return home.

Dearest Evelyn,

For too many years now I have shared with you the horrors and travesties befallen many of the young men with whom we spent our childhood. News has reached us that on the ninth of April, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. Oh, sister, I dared not believe it was true when Papa brought home the news. He tells us not to become overly excited for there will surely be a few more battles waged until the news reaches both sides, but we can thank God that this war is officially over.

Your news of Daniel’s disappearance has weighed heavy on my mind these past months since we heard, and Papa has attempted to learn of his whereabouts, to no avail. We have not given up! There is much confusion right now on both sides and Papa said it could be weeks or months more before the men return home. Do not lose faith, sweet Evie.

Your most loving sister,


Evelyn pressed her face against her open handkerchief and wept against the cloth. The letter lay open on the table where it landed, for the moment forgotten. She did not have to witness smoke rising from destructed battlefields or watch neighbors’ homes burn to ash like they did in the battle-worn regions back east, but Whitcomb Springs had not been spared from the emotional onslaught. Three husbands and two young sons had been sent home to be buried, including Charles Carroll, one of their partners in the founding of the town and mine. She wrote to Daniel when news of Charles’s death reached his widow and young daughter, but Daniel did not respond for months, and even then it did not sound as though her letter about Charles’s death found him.

He spoke of his love for her and of life after the war. They’d moved away from Pennsylvania five years prior, but he and Charles had still considered it their duty to fight. Friends since childhood, they did everything together, and going to war was no exception.

Evelyn slammed her fist on the letter and freed four years’ worth of accumulated anger into her tears. As the town matriarch, even at her young age, Evelyn taught geography and history at the school, worked alongside the townspeople to establish a community garden, and offered whatever comfort she could to the wives and children whose men were lost or still away. She filled four years of days with enough activity to keep her too busy to feel the weight of the lonely nights. Alone now in the quiet of her parlor with her sister’s letter dotted in tears, Evelyn relinquished herself to grief and the flood of memories from a happier time.

Nebraska Territory

June 15, 1860

“I wanted adventure, Daniel, but I do believe you’ve gone too far this time.” Evelyn dabbed her handkerchief against her neck. The air, still cool on the early summer day, warmed by degrees the farther they rode. It was her first time riding a horse outside a manicured park or gently sloping pasture, and the rough terrain proved to be more difficult than she’d originally credited.

Their guide, who went only by the name of Cooper, promised them what they’d see at the end of the trail would be worth the two days’ ride to get there. Evelyn had seen beautiful scenery, but nothing so far as to make her trust the man whose appearance was as untamed as the trail on which they now traveled.

“We’re almost there, Evie,” Daniel said. He urged his horse forward so he rode beside his wife.

“Didn’t I tell you the West was spectacular?”

“Yes, you did.” They were blessed with so much and yet they’d lost what was most important to them. Two children—sons—passed away shortly after their births, one year apart. They suffered together, mourned together, and dreamed together of a life far removed from their sorrows. He promised her adventure in a place grander than anything she’d ever seen. His promises were based on stories and reports of western expansion, and she loved him enough to believe in his dream as much as he did.

After weeks of train travel, cramped stagecoaches, and a few months’ extended stay in Helena, Evelyn had endured enough dreaming. “Daniel, please tell our guide we must stop and rest.”

Daniel pulled his horse to a stop, called out to Cooper, and helped Evelyn down from the saddle. The muscles in her back and legs were of little help to hold her upright. Daniel kept her steady, and she leaned toward him. He stood half a foot taller than her five and a half feet. Never one to be considered strong, he was lean and in excellent health from years of horse riding and exploring the Pennsylvania hills. When he asked if she wanted to remain in Helena while he joined the scout, she’d been quick to assure him she could handle the journey.

Four days of stage, wagon, and horseback, and she’d kept her silence until now. As though sensing she didn’t want to get back on the horse, Daniel positioned an arm at her waist and told their scout they were going for a walk.

Cooper lifted the saddle off his horse and moved to do the same on the others. “Be sure you stick to the trail and don’t go so far I can’t hear you shout.”

Evelyn glanced back at Cooper, wondering what event would require them to shout, and thought better of asking. She walked alongside her husband, staying on the trail as told. A steady rushing creek followed the trail as it widened, then narrowed. When they turned a bend around a copse of pine trees thick with branches and lush green needles, Evelyn stopped.

“Daniel.” Her voice was a reverent whisper. She dropped his hand and stepped forward, her eyes moving back and forth over the landscape so as not to miss anything.

“I promised you, Evie.” Daniel stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. They were home.

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Excerpt from "Whitcomb Springs" Copyright © MK McClintock. Published by Packsaddle Press. No duplication or copying allowed without permission from the author or publisher.

Whitcomb Springs

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