The Dark and Bloody Ground
|1/7/2006 7/1/2008 - new review added||Rating:|
Hundreds of years ago the rich mountainous land of eastern Kentucky was called "the dark and bloody ground" by the Native Americans. The fertile area was the site of many tribal wars and the ground was soaked with blood from those wars. The nickname was apt.
In 1840 Morgan Collier moved his wife and daughters from their family farm in Ohio to new land that had been willed to him in eastern Kentucky. He and his wife Liddy quickly settled into their new life. Their neighbors, Dan and Ruthie Edwards and their sons help the Colliers get their house built and fields cleared for farming. Liddy made close friends with Ruthie and learned of the herbal remedies abundant in the forest covering the side of their mountain.
When he was grown, Albert Edwards went to Ohio and brought back a bride to their eastern Kentucky region. Although the Edwards family tried to stay out of the Civil War that raged around them, two of their teen aged sons were killed. After the war their other two sons moved into the "nearby" town and made business lives for themselves. Their beautiful daughter married a rogue and moonshiner against their wishes.
Levi Cantrell and his young wife worked hard in the late 1800's and into the 1900's. He found a piece of property on the Virginia side of the mountain that he had to own. They worked hard to save the money to buy the property that he knew was perfect for his vision of his family's future.
By the time the Cantrell sons were grown, industry had discovered the rich coal that had been buried in the mountain. In the early 1900's the coal business boomed. Ben Cantrell stayed in contact with his father and visited often, but lived in the company town as the manager of the mill that provided the wood for the mine and the town. His sons grew in time to participate in World War II.
Author Roberta Webb has written a fiction novel based on her own family history from that section of eastern Kentucky. Much of The Dark and Bloody Ground is drawn from facts of happenings of her own family. She offers to let the reader know what is true and what is fiction. I quickly decided Morgan Collier's death is based on fact. It is too unreal to have been made up. I'm sure many of the happenings in the novel are also factual. The history in this novel is fascinating. Although it is focused in Kentucky, the outside world cannot be ignored, especially as time passes.
The saga of the family from the Colliers through the Cantrells is intriguing. The writing is uneven - sometimes a compelling read, sometimes slow. The novel is about 400 pages which is too short in some areas and too long at others. I recommend this first novel by Roberta Webb, especially for the history buff.
Review by Molly
The year was 1840, Morgan Collier was resolute; he and his family were leaving at daybreak for the trek into southeastern Kentucky. From that beginning we journey with the Collier family as they enter the expedition leading to the place where they will reside in the natural beauty of an area filled with vitality, liveliness and splendor.
On the pages of her first work of fiction Author Webb has fashioned a charming work of historical fiction. The Dark And Bloody Ground is overflowing with profusely detailed characters who refuse to accept hindrances. The perfect example of Kentucky strength is portrayed eloquently, devoid of pretense.
Morgan Collier's father John was working as blacksmith apprentice in England before his arrival to Boston in the early 1800s. He soon established himself as a master craftsman. It was Boston where he met and married his wife, Ingrid Thorsen. Soon the pair journeyed to Ohio where they settled down, built a home and raised their family.
Ingrid was overcome with a sense of premonition, she was certain that she would never see her beloved son again. 1828 had found eighteen year old Morgan marrying his sixteen year old neighbor Liddy Kreiger. Now, a dozen years later, Morgan was all set to set out with his wife and three young daughters ages seven, nine and ten for the wild, untamed Kentucky mountains, friend Calvin Kelly, the Collier's most frequent and value customer during the years of 1805 to 1807 had talked of during his visits to Ohio.
Set in Kentucky, The Dark And Bloody Ground is a history of five generations of one family. Writer Webb proves her talent as she illustrates the assorted characters, manages to keep them in line as she intertwines through time and generation and adroitly creates a plot that is fascinating, motivating, and furthers reader concentration through clashes, prohibition and bootlegging, the dreadfulness of the war between the state, and later world wars, births of children and deaths of fathers and sons and the myriad episodes of life that strengthened them as the generations continue. Coal mining and the rigors the family tolerates in a potent and evolving land are all part of the tale.
Much of the work relates how the family adjusts to mountain living in the wilds of unfamiliar land. The day by day struggles the family meet focus the narrative and move the chronicle forward. Morgan's daughter, Sarah, marries the son of one of the family's neighbors.
From that point; a great deal of the sequence of events focuses on this particular pair, their four sons and one daughter, Amy. Amy in turn marries the son of another neighbor, and the couple produces seven sons. Amy's husband, Levi, launches a successful moonshine production, which thrives during nationwide prohibition, foils all revenue agent endeavors and leaves the family very wealthy. The account follows Levi's whole family, while remaining focused on Ben, his wife and their family.
Learning to acclimatize to the natural untamed surroundings facing accomplishment involving elemental and human enemies, and the power of familial bond all continue the fast pace narrative onward. Morgan's heritage is secured when his daughter Sarah gives birth to her own daughter. Amy will be the mother of Ben Cantrell, Morgan's progeny, and grandmother of Thomas, Ben's son.
In due course, the all-embracing record of Kentucky record from early pioneer days to the mid 1900s, The Dark and Bloody Ground is the account of five generations who go all-out to build a paradise in the Big Sandy Valley. The Dark And Bloody Ground offers a wide-ranging account of Kentucky all the way through the mid-twentieth century from the pen of a gifted Kentucky native. I enjoyed the read very much. Happy to recommend.
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