At one time, The Allegheny Mountains of Virginia (included West VA then), parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, The Ohio Territory, Kentucky (Kaintuckee), even the Shenandoah Valley where I live, comprised a huge chunk of the western frontier. Untold drama, adventure, triumph, tragedy and bloody battles took place in the forging of America in those early days. The only movie I can think of that does a super job of depicting this era is the 1992 film with Daniel Day-Lewis, The Last of the Mohicans. Although I differ with the film when Hawkeye tells Cora the only land available to poor people was in the wilds of New York State. True, colonial Williamsburg and populated Virginia were out, but hardy folk could settle back in the mountains and risk their lives there, too, during the Indian Wars. And did, to their peril.
This primal, essential time period has always had a huge draw on me and is the setting for many of my books. Historical romance novel The Bearwalker’s Daughter is a blend of carefully researched historical fiction interwoven with an intriguing paranormal thread and set among the clannish Scots in the mist-shrouded Alleghenies. The story is similar to others of mine with a western colonial frontier, Native American theme, and features a powerful warrior or two. My passion for the past and some of the accounts I uncovered while exploring my early American Scots-Irish ancestors and the Shawnee Indians is at the heart of the inspiration behind this novel. I was also given assistance in my research for this and other novels by the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band in Ohio, though that was ten years ago. They have an interesting and informative website you might like to visit. A number of historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, and reenactors have also been invaluable. But back to The Bearwalker’s Daughter.
A particularly tragic account is the driving force behind the story, the ill-fated romance of a young captive woman who fell in love with the son of a chief. As the result of a treaty, she was taken from her warrior husband and forced back to her white family where she gave birth to a girl. Then the young woman’s husband did the unthinkable and left the tribe to go live among the whites, but such was their hatred of Indians that before he reached his beloved her brothers killed him. Inconsolable and weak from the birth, she grieved herself to death.
Heart-wrenching, that tale haunts me to this day. And I wondered, was there some way those young lovers could have been spared such anguish, and what happened to their infant daughter when she grew up? I know she was raised by her white family–not what they told her about her mother and warrior father.
Not only did The Bearwalker’s Daughter spring from that sad account, but it also had a profound influence on my historical romance novel Red Bird’s Song. Now that I’ve threaded it through two novels, perhaps I can let go…perhaps….