HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: West of the Scioto: The Wilderness Opens to a New Nation
Author: Robert G. Lowe
Illustrator: Robert E. Tojet
Publisher: Markas Publishing, 1992
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Lowe, Robert G. West of the Scioto: The Wilderness Opens to a New Nation (published in 1992 by Markas Publishing, P. O. Box 415, Dublin, OH 43017). When the story opens, it is 1795 and Jeremiah Zithri (Jerry) Hale is a nineteen-year-old young man who has returned to renew his family’s claim to their homestead on the west bank of the Scioto River in what is now Delaware County, OH. The book then goes back to 1784 to tell what had happened when he, at eight years old, his father, Hobart Jeremiah Hale, and his older brother Joseph Nadab Hale, age twelve, settled the claim. Hobart, leaving the boys, went back to Ft. Pitt (Pittsburgh, PA) for his wife, Anne Coleen, but didn’t return at the appointed time. A short time later, Joe disappeared too, captured by Shawnee Indians. Befriended by a fifteen-year-old Delaware Indian boy named Straight Arrow who had escaped the massacre of the Moravian Indians at Gnaddenhutten, Jerry, now without any family, abandoned the claim, worked with a couple of trappers named Sailor and Chink for a few years until their deaths, and then became a scout for the army.
After covering the period of Jerry’s life from 1784 to 1795, the story then picks up and moves forward with Jerry’s renewal of the claim, finding a wife, and participation in the founding of what is Millville, now Warrensburg, OH, which is the home of the author. Will Jerry ever locate his family? Will he even learn what happened to them? Though the plot and characters are fictional, the book does include references to many actual historical events, and some of the situations described are based on tales about real people from that time period. The author says, “It is also Christian, with only a little romance to advance the story.” Aside from a few common euphemisms (gosh, gee, tarnation, golly), the word “Lord” used a couple of times as an exclamation, and a host of grammatical errors (“saw the Indian laying just beyond the cat,” “Jeremiah and Arrow met them and soon was in their favor,” “it contained…a heavy hickory bar that worked smoothly in it’s slides,” “he grabbed a stool setting nearby,” etc.) which illustrate the importance of the need for a good editor, it is an enjoyable read.
Several references to rum do occur, but the general emphasis is on the evil that drinking rum created among the Indians, and it is interesting to note that while Sailor and Chink initially sell rum in addition to their trapping, they gradually cease this trade through the religious influence of young Jeremiah, especially after Chink is converted. There is a surprise twist at the end. Rowe, who has worked as a farmer, carpenter, and minister, is not a historian per se but became interested while listening to the many tales of the elderly at the loafing bench in the general store. The back of the book includes several “Recollections of pioneer life in the western part of Delaware County” by W. P. Crawford, written in 1899 and taken from the now-defunct Democratic Herald of Delaware, OH. We did West of the Scioto, which was recommended to us by a good friend of ours who was born and raised in the area described in the book, as a family read aloud in our series of historical fiction. Occasionally the action is a little hard to follow while the author chases a rabbit trail, but generally everyone enjoyed the story.