On March 25, 2001, we lost one of America’s foremost historic fiction writers – Terry C. Johnston. His Plainsmen series covers the period of the Indian Wars between 1866 and 1877.
In this series we follow frontier scout Seamus Donegan from Ft. Phil Kearney in Wyoming to Ft. Robinson in Nebraska, from the Fetterman Massacre to the death of Crazy Horse. Another series covered the era of the fur trade and the mountain men and it was to his character Titus Bass that Terry personally related.
Terry was the best of storytellers and his attention to historic detail phenomenal. Although a writer of fiction, I considered Terry one of the best historians on Western History.
Nancy and I had the privilege of going on a “Terry Tour” with History America in 1996. Our destination – the Northern Plains. We both agree it was the best trip of our lives. Spending an entire week surrounded by folks who love frontier history and having Terry there to explain in detail what had happened at each site was amazing. Neither Nancy nor I wanted to leave that special “crack in time” and return to our everyday routine.
I think one thing that made Terry’s books so accurate is that he would travel to the historic sites, often on the same day corresponding to an event in history, so that he could experience the geography, the weather conditions, the difficulty traversing a place on horseback, as people did over one-hundred years ago. Perhaps that gave him an understanding of events that we lack from only reading about them as opposed to standing in history’s footsteps.
When we went to the site of the Battle of the Rosebud it was the first time I recognized the huge scope of that battle – reading about it previously had definitely narrowed my perception of that place.
We miss Terry and his storytelling and will always have the fondest of memories of our time spent with him. If you love this period in Western History, you owe it to yourself to read the works of Terry C. Johnston. The story doesn’t get any better than this.
For a listing of Terry’s books in the Plainsmen Series and the Titus Bass Series at Amazon, just click.