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The Spirit Of The Border (1981)

The Spirit of the Border (1981)

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3.9 of 5 Votes: 4
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0505517396 (ISBN13: 9780505517395)
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About book The Spirit Of The Border (1981)

​Spirit of the Border (1906) by Zane Grey (1872-1939) is a historical novel about the American frontier during the American War of Independence (1775 - 1783). At this time, the United States' frontier began at Fort Pitt (present-day Pittsburgh), and the Ohio River was a main artery to penetrate the thickly-forested, unsettled and dangerous west country. The region west of Fort Pitt was inhabited by Indians (mainly of the Delaware, Shawnee and Huron nations), who were being incited by the Detroit-based British against the rebellious American colonists. The action takes place around Fort Henry (Wheeling, West Virginia), an American outpost, and further west at the Moravian Monastery site (an actual place that is now a tourist site), where at that time there was an ongoing, somewhat successful effort to convert American Indians to Christianity. The region in the vicinity of the Moravian Mission was in fact contested by the British (supported by loyalists and Indians) and the rebellious American colonies and some Indians. Thus, anyone living in this grey region between the British and the colonists (including the missionaries) was suspect and therefore vulnerable; woe to those caught in-between.At that time, the Indians were the major force in the region (though divided among themselves and manipulated by the whites). To appreciate how powerful the Indian nations were, one should recall that the greatest defeat of an American army by the Indians was not that of Custer in 1873, but occurred about ten years after the events in this book in 1791. At the Battle of the Wabash River (St. Clair's Defeat), an army of Indians inflicted about 1,000 casualties on the American army, killing about 650 (only 24 escaped unharmed). A hundred years earlier, Indians on the warpath in Virginia killed several thousand colonists. In between these large battles, thousands died on both sides. For many white men on the frontier, who had seen friends and relatives killed by Indians, distinctions between Indian friendlies and hostiles became blurred. Passions ran high, and this was a contributing cause of the Moravian Mission massacre.The story begins with Joe Downs going west from Virginia to the border country. He is soon caught up in the zest, beauty and, yes, violence and danger of his new life. He is joined by his identical brother Jim (a dedicated preacher), who has also come west, together with two sisters of another preacher, as members of the proselytizing Moravian Mission. But this book has no happy end. All the protagonists experience the terror of the border country -- Joe and his Indian wife are killed by a renegade white man; one of the sisters is raped and dies. Jim is almost killed and the other sister almost raped.The story's climax is the Moravian Mission massacre of several dozen defenseless Christian Indians (an actual event that occurred in 1783), who are herded into a few buildings and slaughtered (the actual figure was 96) and the buildings burned to the ground. Jim survives and marries the other sister, who barely escaped unharmed from a renegade white man. The couple chooses to continue living on the frontier but to lead a little less dangerous life at Fort Henry. This is the optimistic note at the end of the story.Zane Grey writes about a region with which he is intimately familiar. He is a direct descendant of some of the people mentioned in the book, who founded settlements in the area that exist today. He tells us in an introduction that he even utilized a diary of one of his ancestors. As such, one can feel that this book, though fiction, is a labor of love. Almost all the personalities, even the main Indians, are actual historical personalities, as are all the white men mentioned by name.It is unclear to me how much Zane Gray knew about the Moravian Mission massacre when he wrote this book, but the facts today, 110 years after publication of his book, seem rather different. The militia commander, Captain Williamson, had with him at the Moravian Mission 150 men not 80. Williamson did not, however, stand aside (as Zane Grey tells us) as Christian Indians were massacred by hostile Indians and renegade whites, the Girty brothers. On the contrary, Captain Williamson and his soldiers were the ones that committed the massacre of the Christian Indians (some soldiers refused to participate). Furthermore, the arch fiend in Grey's story, the renegade white man Jim Girty, was not killed as in the story, but rather appears to have later crossed the border with his brother into Canada (they were loyalists) and died there about 1820. The Girty's, it turns out, were prolific, and their descendants have made a concerted effort to rehabilitate their good name.This book is a good read for those who enjoy the Western genre (as I do) and have some historical context regarding the events and personalities described (you can consult Wikipedia). A down side is that the characters tend to be idealized -- the good guys are good-natured, brave and beautiful; the bad guys are evil, cowards and ugly (well, at least, we don't have any trouble telling them apart). On the positive side, Zane Grey does make distinctions between the positions of the main Indian leaders as well as between the various white men, both good and bad. The attitudes of the Indians are rationalized and explained. Zane Grey writes without prejudice; whites marry Indians without any stigma. He even distinguishes between the personalities of Jim and Simon Girty.Zane Grey is best when he describes the secrets of tracking and hunting and the pristine and natural beauty of the unsettled (by whites) forests. There is a brilliant episode where Lew Wetzel, the most skilled of the white frontiersmen, tracks Chief Wingenung through the forest with intent to kill him (both were real people). We have the following description:"What was there? A twisted bit of fern, with the drops of dew brushed off. Bending beside the fern, Wetzel examined the grass; it was not crushed. A small plant with triangular leaves of dark green, lay under the fern. Breaking off one of these leaves, he exposed its lower side to the light. The fine, silvery hair of fuzz that grew upon the leaf had been crushed. Wetzel knew that an Indian could tread so softly as not to break the springy grass blades, but the under side of one of these leaves, if a man steps on it, always betrays his passage through the woods. To keen eyes this leaf showed that it had been bruised by a soft moccasin. Wetzel had located the trail, but was still ignorant of its direction. Slowly he traced the shaken ferns and bruised leaves down over the side of the ridge, and at last, near a stone, he found a moccasin-print in the moss."In the end, Wetzel, after being led in circles, realizes that he has been outwitted. He is at a location where the Indian's footprints lead in two opposite directions!In conclusion, Zane Gray does indeed capture the spirit of the men and women who went west into that dangerous and unpredictable border area: good people seeking a better life, adventure seekers, unscrupulous men and, yes, even the American Indians who they encountered and resisted them.

Joe Downs was taken with Nell Wells but he was only escorting her group to the Village of Peace where her uncle was joining the missionaries in converting the indians to Christians. Nell and her sister had no other family so they were staying with their uncle in his dangerous mission. One of the ministers that was to join the group at Fort Pitt was unable to make it so Joe's brother joined the group instead. A ledgendary man that had vowed to make the border area safe for the new pioneers, Wetzel becomes the idol for Joe. Joe wants to hookup with him and learn all that he can.All of this makes for the most interesting, gory, romantic and sad tale of western action. It was said of Zane Grey that he had the knack of tying his characters into the land, and the land into a story. Other writers had fast and furious action but Zane was one who could make the action not only convincing but inevitable and somehow you got the impression that the bigness of the country genetated a bigness of character. You will become so involved that you won't want to stop reading. So enjoy!

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Zane Grey's talent to transport his readers into another era is beyond comprehension. In "Spirit of the Border," you experience first hand the turmoil of this nation in its formative years as the struggle between the American Indian and the European settlers was reaching its zenith.It's hard to imagine a society where hardship and death were commonplace, even an integral part of life. Yet, that's an accurate description of life on the American frontier in the late 1700s.This is Zane Greys second book, a fictional account based on truth. As with all his writings, excellently done!

A Zane grey classic. Once again we meet with the Zanes, Ebnezer, Betty, |Jonathan and Issac and the Indian hunter Lewis wetzel. There is danger lurking on the border and a few renegDE WHITE MEN ARE THE MOST DANGEROUS, SUCH AS THE gIRTY BROTHERS. a SUCCESSFUL , PEACEFUL CHRISTIAN VILLAGE OF CONVERTED CHRIATIAN Indians are those in danger as well as any white women in the border district. The antion tiurns a bit gruesopme with vivid shocking details and circumstances of death of some of the characters, However apparently this book tells hw it was way back then. A frightening and scary time period in American history,
—Fred Ann

When I was a child, I loved spending hours, during the blissful weeks I often spent on my Grandparents' farm, perusing Grandpa's bookshelf and reading through his collection of Zane Grey books.25+ years later, I hadn't read or even thought much about his old books in years when one day Grandpa, by then suffering the effects of senile dementia and nearing the end of his life, handed me 4 of them and urged me to read them, so I could see what good writing was. I accepted them with pleasure and anticipated a pleasantly nostalgic few days of reading ahead.Sadly, I was sorely disappointed. What to my childhood sensibilities first read as exciting, heroic, adventurous, and virtuous now seemed to be jingoistic, hackneyed, prejudiced, propagandistic, and poorly written, and I gave up after finishing this book and _The Short Stop_.Dejected and unwilling to discuss the books with my Grandpa, I waited a few weeks and stealthily, guiltily returned them to his bookshelves, and sought to absolve myself by confessing my actions to my Mom, his daughter.Maybe Grey’s writings are explainable as a product of his times; he certainly was widely read and enjoyed. But I will satisfy myself by remembering the pleasure his books brought me as a child and by recalling the idyllic environment in which I read them rather than by my later reflections on his work. I miss you, Grandpa & Grandma.

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