Candace Wheeler, Mississippi Author
Candace Wheeler, Mississippi Author
Cradle in the Oak

Cradle in the Oak

Published by: Dogwood Press

Set in the year 1906 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Cradle in the Oak opens with protagonist and young mother Carrie Burns waking up to discover her husband left in the middle of the night with their two young sons and their sixteen-year-old sitter. Making it her life’s work to find her beloved children, Carrie lands a job and reinvents herself as a resourceful businesswoman in order to save enough money to travel across the country by train and search for her sons. There’s action, suspense, and romance in a novel that’s deeply submerged in Coast life. Long time Coast residents may recognize one of their ancestors among the more than ninety real-life characters scattered throughout this novel and recognize many of the landmarks that still exist on the Coast today. Join Carrie Burns as she learns how the seafood industry built the city of Biloxi and enjoys the annual regatta of the majestic schooners, affectionately referred to as White Winged Queens. Take a journey through the South as she strives to rescue her sons and bring them back to the Coast to live the legacy they were born to live.

Personal Note from the Author

Inspiration for this novel came from an intriguing newspaper clipping from 1906 found among the possessions of my husband’s grandmother, Carrie Artemis Bosarge Barnes Wheeler, describing the creative way she searched the country for her missing children and estranged husband. Since she kept this difficult period of her life a well-guarded secret, this novel is a product of my imagination, embellished by the fascinating history of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the East Coast of Florida. After her divorce from her unfaithful husband, Carrie married James W. Wheeler, for which I will be forever grateful. From that union, my husband, David, and our sons, Drew and Jeffrey, are in this world today. I am a fourth generation Biloxian, a descendant of Anna Gillen Cox, a character in this novel, born in Biloxi on February 14, 1875, who married Edward Roumold Cox, an Irishman from New Orleans at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Biloxi on January 17, 1900. I hope you enjoy this journey to the year 1906 as much as I enjoyed traveling back in time to get there.

Book Reviews

"From the inspiration of a 1906 newspaper clipping, Wheeler has created an historical novel that can be enjoyed not only for the intriguing and suspenseful escapades of its main character, but also for the historical research that underpins it."

-The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS)

"A suspenseful read... as well as a heroine in Carrie Burns that you will never forget."

-Mississippi Magazine

Inspiration

Presented here is a collection of photographs from around Biloxi, MS which helped inspire Cradle in the Oak.

Biloxi Lighthouse
1906 June McCalls', sailor dress, hat trim
Biloxi Lighthouse
Meet Maria Younghans, Biloxi’s lighthouse keeper for 53 years. The combined years of service of Mary Reynolds, Maria Younghans and Miranda Younghans resulted in Biloxi’s still unbroken record of female keepers for more years than any other lighthouse in the United States.
Back Bay Postcard
With the opening of the wooden pedestrian bridge in 1901, Biloxi residents no longer had to board a ferry to travel to the North side of the Bay. Walk across the mile-long bridge and let me show you the view.
Oyster Postcard
By the turn of the 20th Century, Biloxi had earned the prestigious title, “Seafood Capital of the World.” Travel back in time with me and meet some of the hard-working immigrants who accomplished this amazing feat.
Biloxi Park Postcard
As this sign welcomed visitors from New Orleans and cities throughout the South in the early 1900s, I welcome you to enjoy these historical images related to Cradle in the Oak.
Howard Avenue Postcard
Stroll with my characters down Howard Avenue and visit the only two banks in Biloxi in 1906: the Peoples Bank and the Bank of Biloxi.
Oyster car and oyster pail
Oyster car and oyster pail on display at the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum located in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church
Three of the original stained glass windows at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Biloxi, donated by Mrs. Lazaro Lopez.
Spanish moss
Spanish moss draping like long grey beards on ancient oak on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Tchoutacabouffa River
Sandy shoreline along the Tchoutacabouffa River, the river where George Ohr collected red clay from the bluffs to make his pottery.
Henry Diaz Grocery Store
Henry Diaz Grocery Store on Back Bay, Biloxi
Peoples Bank
Downtown Biloxi Cruisin’ the Coast with the old Peoples Bank in the background, now home to Ellzey’s Hardware Store.
Peoples Bank Weathervane
The weathervane atop the old Peoples Bank in Biloxi
Southern Coast Yachting Association
The Southern Coast Yachting Association, consisting of yacht clubs from Mobile, Point Clear, Ocean Springs, Biloxi, Gulfport, Bay-Waveland, and the Southern Yacht Club of New Orleans (formerly of Pass Christian) held regattas up and down the Coast.
Sailing regatta
Sailing regatta
Reading Group Guide

  1. Carrie is faced with constant reminders of her missing sons, especially each time she passes the empty cradle in the oak. Can you name a few other reminders?
  2. Carrie’s tragedy helps her find an inner strength that allows her to achieve extraordinary goals. Do you think it is possible for someone to change this much because of one incident in their life? Do you think she could have made these changes without the support of her family and friends?
  3. What resources do we have today to find missing persons that Carrie didn’t have In 1906?
  4. After the Hurricane of 1906, the resilient residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast rebuilt bigger and better than before the storm. Why do you think they continued to live in this area and why do you think so many residents continue to do so today?
  5. There are many references to delicious food dishes in this book. Do you have a favorite recipe passed down through your family over the years?
  6. Carrie has a special relationship with her friend Molly who offers her encouragement and support. What other characters help her along her journey?
  7. If you were in Carrie’s shoes, would you have been suspicious of David’s character? The relationships in their lives caused them both to have trust issues. How did their friendship allow them to trust again?
  8. In 1906, the term “New Woman” indicated a new, modern, independent woman. Since that time women have earned the right to vote and fashions have changed considerably. What changes are you most thankful for today?
  9. There were several clues in the book to where that place “up North” could be. Did you figure it out before Carrie did?
  10. Did you learn anything interesting while you were reading this novel that you didn’t know before you read it?