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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Massacre at Fall Creek by Jessamyn West

   

A solid bit of historical fiction

For this Hoosier reviewer, The Massacre at Fall Creek is most interesting since the places involved are no more than a 45 minute drive from my house.


Jessamyn West 
(1902-84)
Jessamyn West does a great job of getting the "feel" of an 1824 frontier community - how small it was, how truly far away it was from "civilization" and how that isolation created a unique culture.

The storyline is based on a real incident in which several white men from a community to the north of Pendleton, Indiana killed two families of Indians, including their children and stole their furs. Records from those days are "iffy" at best so West has to fill in a lot of blanks as she goes along. In fact, she even uses fake names for the white men involved, although it may be that in the 33 years since her book was written additional research has revealed the names of the men.

Of course, the Indians were outraged at this treaty violation and the U.S. government decided that there was going to be a real trial and it paid for a team of prosectution and defense lawyers to conduct a real trial. A jail was built (ironically, Pendleton is the site of one of Indiana's prison facilities nowadays as well) and a trial was held for four of the five white men. The fifth white man was never captured by white authorities.

The book focuses on the love life of one of the young ladies of the settlement (her love interests intertwine in all aspects of the case), the trial and the aftermath. At times this book reads more like a romance novel, at othertimes like a legal thriller but it is a solid, enjoyable read about a sad, tragic moment on the Hoosier frontier.

I rate this novel 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on June 27, 2008.

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