The year is 1837. United States' President Andrew Jackson, his Vice-president, Martin Van Buren, and financier and fur trader, John Jacob Astor, are in a race with the British and the Russians to settle and claim the Oregon Territory. Jackson calls upon his close friend, mountain man and rugged veteran Sam Brentwood, to put together a wagon train with the purpose of traveling overland to Oregon and settling the territory. The train of prairie schooners eventually includes over 500 people - folks who were willing to risk their lives to make the first overland trip across America in an entourage of this kind. They were motivated by the gift of 600 acres of free land to homestead in Oregon, and the opportunity to start new lives. The financial situation in the US was terrible during this period. Due to a major depression many of the potential Oregonians had lost their jobs, life savings and/or property.
Brentwood, the wagonmaster, and his assistant Whip Holt, begin the journey in Long Island along with a beautiful, feisty widow, her younger sister, and the sister's elderly husband. The small group pick up more people and covered wagons as they slowly move cross-country to Independence, Missouri. Missouri is the frontier town where Sam Brentwood will set-up a trading depot and leave the wagon train in charge of Whip Holt. Missouri will be the pioneers' last look at civilization until the Pacific Northwest is reached.
This is Book 1 of 24 in Dana Fuller Ross's fabulous "Wagons West" series. This fictional account of the first wagon train to cross the US is extraordinary. The characters are complex and very well developed. They obviously grow and change throughout the journey of almost three years. The author vividly brings history to life here. And the politics behind the settling of the West are fascinating, as are the descriptions of the land and the Native Americans the group encounters along the way. As one would expect, the novel is filled with tales of adventure, hardship, courage, love, loss, tragedy and triumph. Many details have been taken from actual diaries and journals of early settlers. Reader BEWARE! Once you start this book you won't be able to stop until you have read all 24 novels. The next one is "Nebraska," and deals with the second leg of the trip from Independence to the foothills of the rocky Mountains. Very highly recommended!