A FAIR AND HAPPY LAND: A Chronicle of Frontier America by William A. Owens

A FAIR AND HAPPY LAND: A Chronicle of Frontier America

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

This country will require much work to make it tolerable. The people are, many of them, of the boldest cast of adventurers, and with some of the decencies of civilized society are scarcely regarded."" So wrote Francis Asbury in his diary in 1784, thus suggesting that this Methodist missionary in Virginia was a kind of home-grown Alexis de Tocqueville with a vision of the growth of the new land. A Fair and Happy Land is Professor Owens' ninth book, and it chronicles the small and mighty events of backwoods and pioneer America. Chiefly it is the story of one family, the Cleavers, and their migration, over a two hundred year period, from Pennsylvania to Texas. The Cleavers, Owen's own ancestors, went forth, multiplied, and settled in nine states. Their lesser lives cross paths with the famous: George Washington, the Boones, the Lincolns, the Hanks, Andrew Jackson, and the Indian General Tecumseh. Great events--the French and Indian Wars, the American Revolution, the Louisiana Purchase, the Missouri Compromise--intertwine with the minor events of births, marriages, deaths, and last testaments. Owens conveys a fine sense of what it was like to sight the Blue Ridge Mountains, and to walk through the Cumberland Gap with no more possessions than could be carried by a pack horse. And why did they go, generation after generation, constantly pushing west? A search for freedom, independence, and land, writes Owen; they felt that ""if you can see the smoke from the chimney of your neighbor's log cabin, then you know he is living too close."" A celebration of a cruder, more dangerous, but infinitely exciting time. Homespun history.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Scribners