Hunting for Treasure through Historical Research by Cindy Christiansen

Hunting for Treasure through Historical Research

by Cindy Christiansen



When I laid out outlines for The Merchant Street Mystery series, I knew I was going to be writing about some kind of hidden treasure from the past in Fortune for Fools, however, I never dreamed that I would be getting into almost historical-type research. I do a lot of factual investigating for my contemporary books, but have never delved into history quite like what was required for this book.

Pioneer Picture



With a setting in Utah, what would work better than a pioneer story?  I had to research the timeline of the Mormon pioneer exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah and I had to coordinate it with a painting and the hidden map behind it. I also had to synch all of that with the time the treasure was hidden and found. I had to research buried gold coins, Mexican bandits, writing implements and paper of the seventeenth century, quilt symbolism, antique furniture, artists, paintings, and more. Sheesh!


The Kiss


Because I am also an artist, I really enjoyed researching Italian artist Francesco Hayez and his painting, Il bacio, (The Kiss). As you can see, it works in wonderfully with a romance book. It is not only Hayez’s best known work but also represents the best of Italian Romanticism. It was commissioned by Count Alfonso Maria di Saliceto and completed in 1859. It is considered amongst the most passionate and intense representations of a kiss in the history of western art. I am intrigued by the shadowy forms lurking in the background. How about you?

Of course, I also had to research that artists oftentimes painted more than one painting of the same subject but with different lighting and coloring. This gave me the opportunity to still use the painting even though the original is in the Pinacoteca di Brera gallery in Milan since Count Alfonso’s death.

In Fortune for Fools, I feel that you get two romances in one:  Zeke and Lavinia’s love story as they work together to discover the truth about the pioneer couple and the hidden treasure, and also Robert and Abigail’s love story as more and more history is discovered through bones, a quilt, the LDS Church History Library, antique furniture, letters, and journals. You won’t believe what poor Abigail went through.

Through researching some of my own ancestor’s history, I have found that I have relatives buried under Lake Powell in southern Utah. My ancestors on my mother’s side brought over the Nauvoo Bell in their wagon to Salt Lake City. I have a family member’s journal about this event and hope to someday write a non-fiction book about it. Here’s a little history about the bell:


Nauvoo BellThe Nauvoo Bell, weighing over 1,500 pounds, was originally donated by the British Saints for the Nauvoo Temple and brought to the United States by Wilford Woodruff. When pressure from mobs forced the Saints to evacuate the city, the bell was left behind and placed in a local Protestant church. It was recovered by members of the Lamoreaux family (my relatives) before they left Nauvoo to head west.

“One stormy night the men gathered in secret and without horses pulled the wagon to the Church and lowered the Bell, pushed and pulled the wagon by hand to the edge of the Mississippi River and carefully concealed it in the water. Andrew Lamoreaux and his brother, David, were chosen to bring the Bell to Utah with their families, concealing the Bell in their wagon with their provisions.”

On the journey to Salt Lake City the bell was used to “awaken the herdsmen at dawn, to signal morning prayer, to start the day’s march, and to sound during the night watches to let the Indians know that the sentry was at his post.” Once in Salt Lake City the bell was used in several locations such as the first old bowery, Brigham Young’s schoolhouse, a Church business building and the Bureau of Information on Temple Square. It didn’t find its present day location and permanent home until 1942 when the Relief Society placed it in a bell tower on Temple Square to celebrate their centennial.  (Taken from:

Do you enjoy history and genealogy as much as I do?  Let me know in the comments and have a great day.


Cindy will return tomorrow to share excerpts from “Fortune for Fools”.

Until then, here’s another little snippet to enjoy.

““Let’s be logical. We’re just not compatible. I’m thorough, well-organized, responsible, and studious. You’re a risk taker, impatient, and want immediate results.”



  1. Kathy Heare Watts

    What a wonderful excerpt and thank you for sharing the history and the pictures. As a genealogist this screams right up my ally of interest.

    • authordragonfly

      Thank you, Kathy. It has been one of the most challenging books for me, but also the most rewarding.

  2. Very Interesting

    • authordragonfly

      Thanks for stopping by, Liza.

  3. Great post, Cindy! Very interesting! I also do a great deal of research for my historical romances, like “Willow Springs.” You’re right–it is exactly like a treasure hunt!

    • authordragonfly

      Thanks, Carolyn. Not sure I could ever do what you do, but this was fun!

  4. Very interesting. I love genealogy and historical research. Sometimes I get so interested in the research that I go off in several directions instead of what I’m supposed to doing.

    • authordragonfly

      I understand completely, Christy. This made me want to delve more into my family history and write a non-fiction book about the Nauvoo Bell. Thank you.

  5. Great post. I loved the artwork. Best of success with FORTUNE FOR FOOLS.

  6. Have you read “Greater than Pain”, by Lynn Clelend? I highly recommend it. He writes of his re-enactment of his great grndmother’s trek on the hand cart trail, then interspersed is a historical fictionalized story based on his greatgrandmother’s experiences.

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