No, those aren't the names of Hollywood’s latest It couple. As I've written before, Asa Mercer was the first president of the University of Washington, then the Washington Territorial University. He figured large in the first book of my Frontier Bachelor series, The Bride Ship, as the real-life “Emigration Agent” who persuaded dozens of women to travel from the East Coast to civilize pioneer Seattle. I tried to depict Mr. Mercer as a shrewd fellow who was focused on a goal: bringing brides for bachelors. I read any number of biographies on him. And they all confirmed his claim to be the first president of the Territorial University.
What they didn't mention was when he stopped being president.
Perhaps it was the dizzying delight of finally getting to write about the Mercer Belles, a dream I've had since I was a girl. Perhaps it was the many things I wanted to research in these, my first books set outside early nineteenth century England. Either way, it never dawned on me that Mr. Mercer might have moved on in his profession before he made his fateful second voyage around which my stories are set.
This week, while trying to determine the school year at the Territorial University for a plot point in the fourth book, I delved more deeply into University of Washington history. It seems Mr. Mercer was only president from 1861 to 1863. In 1866, when the first four stories are set, William Edward Barnard was president of the university for the first part of the year and George Fred Whitworth (who founded Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington) was president the second half of the year.
Oh, but I hate to get things wrong! The mistake, unfortunately, affects three books. Mr. Mercer’s role as current president is mentioned not only in The Bride Ship, but in this month’s Would-Be Wilderness Wife and August’s Frontier Engagement. My deepest apologies, dear readers.
And I must apologize to another. You see, I am a graduate of the University of Washington. Mea culpa, alma mater, mea culpa.