Washington Irving on the Prairie. By Henry Leavitt Ellsworth. Edited by Stanley T. Williams and Barbara D. Simison. (New York City: The American Book Company, 1937. 152 pp. $3.50.)
This is the third of three classic accounts of the famous journey westward from Fort Gibson in the fall of 1832, through a portion of the country now included in the state of Oklahoma. This book was off the press in February, 1938, having been delayed from its planned issuance in 1937.
Washington Irving of New York and Charles Joseph Latrobe of England accompanied the Indian Commissioner, Henry L. Ellsworth, on an inspection of the prairie country west of the Cross Timbers roughly described as a westward ellipse through the Tulsa, Stillwater, Oklahoma City, and Okmulgee districts and back to Fort Gibson. Irving described it in "A Tour on the Prairies" in 1835 and Latrobe in "The Rambler in North America" in the same year.
After the return to Fort Gibson, Ellsworth, under date of November 17, 1832, while resting at the fort, wrote a narrative from his journal describing his experiences on the trip. It was addressed to his wife at his home in Hartford, Connecticut, and for over a century has remained unpublished. It required 148 pages of this book to print this letter to his wife. The original manuscript now reposes in the library of Yale University at New Haven. Numerous footnotes are supplied by the literary editors who are connected with the English Department of Yale. Mr. Williams is, without doubt, the foremost authority on the life and works of Washington Irving and this book adds notably to his Irvingiana.
This is a most fascinating story with new information relative to that trip through the prairie country which ranks first in the
traditions and history of Oklahoma. Ellsworth describes the trip in a manner to give a clear understanding of many points not mentioned by either Irving or Latrobe. He covers much of a personal nature relative to members of the party and their experiences as well as describing incidents of the tour. Those who have read in detail the accounts of Irving and Latrobe will be delighted to read the Ellsworth narrative to complete the picture of what these explorers found and encountered in Oklahoma now over 104 years ago.
The publication of this rare American manuscript has long been awaited by historians in the southwest and the editors are to be thanked for making it available in such an attractive edition.
—James H. Gardner
Adventure on Red River. By Randolph B. Marcy, edited and annotated by Grant Foreman. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1937. xxxi+ 199 pp. Illustrations, map, index. $2.50.)
This book was first published in 1854 as a House Executive Document under the title, Exploration of the Red River of Louisiana in the Year 1852. It is the official report of the expedition of Captain Marcy and Captain George B. McClellan to the source of the Red River, with careful descriptions of the topography, the soil, the plants and animals, and the wild Indians of that previously unknown region. It has long been known as one of the most attractive and readable books ever written about Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, but it has been out of print for many years. Now, thanks to the University Press, it is offered again in convenient form.
Marcy writes in a fresh and vigorous style, and he carries the reader to a clean and unspoiled land. He shows the rich diversity of stream and prairie and woodland in what is now southwestern Oklahoma, the rugged masses of the Wichitas, the austere and
savage beauty of the Staked Plains, and the lonely grandeur of the Palo Duro Canyon. With the enjoyment of the intelligent observer he notices the habits of the prairie dogs, he describes the experiences of the buffalo hunt, and he collects all possible information regarding the habits and customs of the Indians. His book will be used by the scholar and historian at the same time that it will delight the small boy and all lovers of brave tales well told.
The value of this reprint is greatly increased by the able editing. Unobtrusively but surely Dr. Foreman has supplied the necessary biographical and historical background, and he has traced the route of the expedition in a way that is very helpful to the modern reader. Only in the upper reaches of the canyon is he confessedly out of his locale. It is fairly clear from Marcy's account that he came up the Palo Duro to the forks just below the present town of Canyon, Texas, from which place he took the southern, or Terra Blanco, fork and followed it to its source; but his directions and measurements and descriptions do not correspond with known facts. When some future scholar comes to write the history of the Texas Panhandle, even as Foreman has reconstructed the vanished past of Oklahoma, this part of the route also will be clearly traced.
Trumpets Calling. By Dora Aydelotte. (New York City: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1938. 391 pp. $2.00.)
Pioneer days in Oklahoma have served as a theme for more than one novelist, for historians, and for scenario writers in search of colorful material. And much of what has been written has described the glamour and the romance of the period.
Now comes Dora Aydelotte's latest novel Trumpets Calling, which, though not disregarding romance and color, does present the picture from a new point of view. She takes us into the everyday lives, the toils, the struggles, and the achievements of
those plain prairie pepole who conquered the wilderness and built the foundations for the towns and cities which now prosper on what was the bleak, naked lands of those pioneer days.
Miss Aydelotte's novel recalls the period of 1893 and the opening of the Cherokee Strip. She paints a vivid picture of land-hungry pilgrims surging ahead in a mad dash to stake the best locations, the finest lots.
And among the pilgrims we find the Prawls whose pioneer experiences form the heart of the story. There were Dave Prawl, Martha, his wife, and their three children, Ben, Alma, and Ernie. The covered wagon was home to the family because Dave Prawl had the wanderlust and he had kept his family constantly on the move in search of better things just ahead.
But Martha Prawl had a fundamental longing for a home, for permanency, for a hearth fire instead of camp fires. And when she followed Dave on the Cherokee Run, she had declared this journey to be the end of journeyings in search of a home. Here in this sun-baked, dust-veiled land would she set the stakes for that permanent home which had been her aspiration from childhood.
It was Martha's courage, determination, and strength that went into the fulfillment of that dream home, for Dave was useless in the long pull and the steady grind of heart-breaking toil. He shone like a meteor in the exciting episodes connected with pioneering in new country. We find him intimately concerned with the dubious enterprises which finally brought the "dee-po" and the court house to the struggling town of Cloud Chief. But the developments of the Prawl homesite fell to Martha and the boys.
It was Martha Prawl who unhesitatingly answered the trumpet calls of need, illness, and suffering which echoed constantly through the fledgling township—and, at the same time, guided her own nestlings through their adolescent problems.
There was Ben's tragic experience in his love for lovely Sarah Wolfe, his marriage plans shattered by the unhappy episode of Sarah's unfortunate sister. The gripping chapters treating of Ben
Prawl's unhappiness will leave no reader unmoved. Through them moved Martha, his mother, understanding and sympathetic, ever guiding Ben into decent behavior and finally seeing him reunited in a blessed marriage with Sarah.
There was Alma Prawl, drifting carelessly through a flirtatious adolescence and finally eloping with the dashing cowboy whose heroic action once snatched her from swift and certain death. It was Martha's sound common sense that helped the young couple through the difficulties and disappointments of their early married life and in the end Martha had the joy of seeing them prosperous and happy in a family life of their own.
With the passing years the Prawl homesite outgrew the original tiny pine shack and was replaced by a shining modern cottage. Only one shadow veiled Martha's happiness in it. Dave Prawl was no longer there to share her pride in the dream home, for in the typhoid epidemic of 1904 he closed his eyes in his last sleep.
Widowed, but not desolated, was Martha Prawl; for her three children struck roots beside her in that new land and were at her side to comfort and advise.
Through the twenty years during which Martha had moved like an angel of mercy through the growing community—she had forever remained the cheerful unassuming woman—in her own words "A plain prairie woman with sand burrs in my skirts."
So, when in 1914 the town celebrated its twentieth anniversary, Martha was totally unprepared for the public ceremony at which the townsfolk accord her full honors as "The Pioneer Mother" without whose courage and strength and effort the town of Cloud Chief would never have become "The Garden Spot of the World."
Speechless before the crowd's insistence for "Speech—speech, Miz Prawl," Martha stood looking through a mist of tears, seeing the past with its struggles and anxieties, but hearing through the applause of the crowds only the silver trumpets calling to further service, further striving, further accomplishment.
This is no pretentious novel—and herein lies its chief charm. For Miss Aydelotte has given us that deeper thing, —the sense of reality of her characters. They move through the book endearingly human, familiar, friendly, in a story the honesty of which makes it both great and good.
—Helen B. Schuyler.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Carbine and Lance, the Story of Old Fort Sill. By Captain W. S. Nye. (Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1937. XVIII+ 441 pp. $3.00.)
This is the definitive history of Fort Sill, giving different angles of the treatment of the United States Government of the southwest plains tribes and the reactions of the Indians to their "white father." The reader is treated to the history of these plains tribes who, "in a single life-span, have passed from the Stone Age to the era of the eight-cylinder motor car and low-wing monoplane."
A common fault of many early books about the red man written by the white man was that they gave only the white man's side; in recent years some books have told only about the white man's infamous treatment of the Indians. Captain W. S. Nye has tried to give, in an unbiased way, not only the actions of both races, but the circumstances and their heritage which caused them to act as they did.
The written sources of material for this book include old letters, papers, and reports in the Field Artillery School Library; old files of the Adjutant General's Office in Washington; papers of Generals Sherman and Sheridan in the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress; and old files of the Army and Navy Journal. Besides these, he gained valuable information from William H. Quinette, the storekeeper at Fort Sill, and George Hunt, a Kiowa. Through Hunt, Nye was able to talk with many of the old Kiowas who had lived through much of these incidents.
The chapter dealing with the missionary work among these Indians is particularly good and even it is not without its humor, which is one of the attractive features of the book. We are told of the preacher of whom the Indians said "He is mad at us" because he shouted and shook his fists. Again we are told that they created quite a deal of disturbance at their disappointment at not being fed when the preacher had prayed "Give us this day our daily bread."
Only rarely do we find a book that can be called both historically authoritative and beautifully written. But in Carbine and Lance we have such a book. We can but wonder whether Captain Nye's close association with his Indian friends has not imparted to him some of the poetic quality of their speech which is to be found in his writing. For simple beauty listen to "All through the night the weary troopers plodded over starlit prairie, or felt their way gingerly through black creek bottoms and treacherous prairie-dog towns. Toward morning they plunged into a chill blanket of fog, which hung motionless in the autumn air, clinging close to the billows of the plains." And again read "Fifty angry bowstrings were plucked as in the sudden pizzicato of a symphony orchestra. A chorus of yells and screams broke out. Five quivering Pawnees lay scalped on the grass."
The book abounds in photographic illustrations and has some maps. There are appendices, one on the present field artillery school at Fort Sill, a glossary of place names on the Fort Sill reservation, and a splendid index.
Carbine and Lance should prove helpful to the student in historical research, but it should do more: it should prove delightful to every Oklahoman who would know more of that interesting corner of his state and to every lover of the history of the old southwest. Here are made to live again with all their color, their heroism, and their pathos such redmen as Satank, Satanta, Geronimo, Lone Wolf, and Big Tree. A book so carefully, so beautifully, and so interestingly written deserves a wide reading.
—C. D. M.