Hannah Morris slips away from her autocratic stepfather and her Ohio home in 1872 to journey west in a wagon train. She goes with her intended husband, Dr. Lucas Bowman, a European-trained, bi-racial physician. They stop in eastern Colorado near a high-plains settlement, marry and begin homesteading.
Through a journal Hannah records her adventures and experiences as a pioneering woman on a working farm, the joy and anguish of marriage and motherhood, and her restlessness as an educated, sophisticated former city dweller. The couple make friends with a neighboring couple. They witness a murder and a lynching. Her infant daughter nearly dies of an unnamed disease. She loses a child in childbirth. Their livelihood and safety are threatened by a transplanted Southerner who is still fighting the Civil War.
Then Lucas is shot and says the shooter is the angry Southerner. Although Lucas recovers, he becomes severely depressed and finally orders Hannah to take the children and leave the farm. She moves to town and in time fashions a new life, teaching piano and helping to start a lending library.
When the renegade Southerner is fatally shot, he accuses Lucas of the act as he is dying. The sheriff arrests Lucas; Hannah tries to prevent a mob from lynching him. Friends come to her rescue to insure his safety until the trial.
Then Lucas is released from prison because the real murderer has confessed. They sell the farm and settle in the town. Hannah does not reveal in her journal the identity of the murderer. More than a century later, her great-granddaughter comes to the town and discovers the answers to several questions, including who committed the murder and why.
Copyright © 2009 by Barbara Fleming
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This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously.
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I boarded the train early this morning, with no one to see me off.
I left Mama and Karl a note saying that I was going to visit Cousin Carrie in Kentucky. I am of legal age; they cannot prevent me. But I told a lie, and I took something which did not belong to me. I should be burning up with guilt, but I find that I am, rather, full of excitement and joy.
In truth, I am heading west on this bouncing, noisy train. I sold Grandmother Evans’s brooch, which I spirited out of Mama’s room last night, to get the money for my ticket. We have agreed that Lucas will meet me in St. Louis, where we will try to find a wagon train. Then we must ferry to Council Bluffs. He is coming on the afternoon train. We will marry at the end of our journey.
Why should it be that two people who love each other cannot marry as they choose? Why must society be so blind?
Lucas is an honorable man. He has promised that we will not consummate our union until we are legally wed. We can claim 160 acres for our own if we can stay five years on them. Not many do, I am told. That seems such a vast expanse of land. I do not even know how much an acre is. It’s not an easy life, they say. But we will succeed! We will!