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Friday, 28 March 2014

FFB - A Small Part of History

Peggy Elliott's 2008 book is a fictional account of a wagon train journey from Missouri in the 1840s to Oregon. The trek took them just under eleven months, often only travelling a few miles a day.

It’s told from the women’s perspective: there’s Sarah’s diary and the Journal of Rebecca Springer, recently wed to John. She’s his third wife, his previous spouses, Hannah and Mary, having died. Travelling with them are John’s only daughter Sarah and his three sons, Matthew, William and Daniel; Daniel’s new wife Elizabeth and their baby daughter Betsy.

In all there were fifty wagons, 200 people but only fifteen were women; these statistics were quite normal for the time.

Another character observes in her notebook: ‘Friends find one another by instinct, no matter how unlike they may be.’ This is certainly true of the characters in this wagon train. Circumstances shoved them in close proximity where privacy was tenuous and privation was commonplace. Combatting rain and mud and sweltering heat took its toll. Accidents were unavoidable and some perished as a result. The weak and the obstinate fell by the wayside; many gave up and went back to Missouri. The trail was littered with discarded furniture and utensils and graves both adult-sized and small.

A heartening and often heart-rending story about the tenacious women who helped win the West against tremendous adversity.

The story is well told and engrossing, though I feel that the male characters don’t seem to have been brought to life as much as the females. It's still a rewarding read.

The title comes from a notation made in Rebecca’s Journal: ‘Like it or not I was going to be a small part of the history of the nation.’


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