This book is a novel, a fictionalized version of the third handcart company. However there are somethings in this book which are interesting, and worth of inclusion in Isaac's history, and also the story of the Ashton girls.
This book is a bout handcart members from Wales. A woman in the company dies in childbirth, and her husband is too grief stricken to take the baby. A young girl, age thirteen, takes the baby, and cares for her and carries her on her back across the plains. The thought of someone taking care of someone else points me to the Ashtons. I wonder who cared for the baby Sarah Ann, that was born near Florence, when Great Grandmother Sarah Ashton passed away. The baby lived for almost two weeks, so someone in the company must have been a wet nurse to the baby; and somebody else probably took care of the baby. When William Ashton left the company, the other girl, while supervised by a family, I am sure, were basically in the care and supervision of Betsy, eleven years old at the time. When Betsy passed away, they would have been in the care of others, as orphan girls.
One of the characters in the book, John, is escaping the coal mines as part of his trek West. The dialogue is very interesting.
Boyfriend talking about working in the coal mines.
“I am free here,” he says. “I can stand up straight. Stretch out my arms and legs. Look up whenever I choose and see the sun. You have no idea what it is like to go for days and days without seeing the sun because you are buried in the belly of a mine.”
…”Papa took me to work with him the morning I turned thirteen,” he says. “I felt proud of myself as I walked in the colliery with him. I was a man. Just like Papa. Just like my brother,…”
“ By the time Papa and I reached the pithead, I was sick with excitement. I couldn’t wait to enter the mines with the rest of the men. I stepped into the crowded pit cage, waiting to be lowered to the bottom.
“The dropped us nearly a quarter of a mile.
“The ride was fast and hard and dark. Bits of dust and coal blew into my face. Wind whistled in my ears. I screamed, Charlotte. In front of all of them.…”
John shrugs, “I hated the deep darkness of the pit and the way is smothers a soul like a filthy blanket. I hated tasting dust and slithering on my stomach through tight places. And I hated myself for hating it all….”
The ast bit of information, useful for our study of Isaac and his part in the handcarts, is included in a letter to the Reader, after the story is complete. It explains the reason for travel by handcart.
“A Letter to the Reader “
Nineteenth-century Mormonism, with its emphasis on social equality and
communal living, had a special appeal for Europe’s poor; who suffered
under rigid class systems favoring the rich and powerful. For this
purpose, the Perpetual Emigrating Fund was established—to outfit
emigrants … and assist them in reaching Zion.
Economic reverses in the territory of Utah during the 1850s,
however, strapped the church’s resources. Brigham Young therefore
conceived of a radical plan to cut costs while providing European church
members with an opportunity to emigrate to America. Nothing like it
had been tried before: Emigrants would pull their own small wagons
across prairies and over mountains to reach their new home. (243-244)
Charlotte’s Rose, A.E. Cannon, Wendy Lamb Books, 2002, New York, N.Y.
It was fun to find some useful information, when I was mostly reading for fun.
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