Children of the Western Plains: The Nineteenth-Century Experience

Overview

On December 7, 1828, Lewis Bissell Dougherty was born at Cantonment Leavenworth, the military post of the Missouri River. For the rest of his life, Dougherty carried a footnote to his name: he was one of the first white children to be born in Kansas. These "first" children came to be celebrated as white America's first steps onto the Western frontier. In Children of the Western Plains, Marilyn Holt rescues the experience of children from the usual adult perspectives on Western history. Her book is the first in a ...
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Overview

On December 7, 1828, Lewis Bissell Dougherty was born at Cantonment Leavenworth, the military post of the Missouri River. For the rest of his life, Dougherty carried a footnote to his name: he was one of the first white children to be born in Kansas. These "first" children came to be celebrated as white America's first steps onto the Western frontier. In Children of the Western Plains, Marilyn Holt rescues the experience of children from the usual adult perspectives on Western history. Her book is the first in a new series that will emphasize the experience of children during different times and at different locales in the American past. The books will be abundantly illustrated with black-and-white photographs and drawings. They will take advantage of primary source materials, reminiscences, documents, and secondary works in telling the story of American children throughout the nation's history. In Ms. Holt's book, she explores what life was like for youngsters who lived on the Great Plains in nineteenth-century frontier life. She is especially interested in how they were raised, how they were influenced by their environment, and what sort of independence they experienced while growing up. Her chapters address a breadth of experiences and perceptions: why families came to the Great Plains and where they decided to settle; how families and communities were organized for education, work, and play; how health care, accidents, and mortality affected childhoods; and what children experienced outside the home. As much as possible, she lets the children speak for themselves. This is their story. With 25 black-and-white photographs.
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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
...Meticulous, yet accessible...a terrific resource for research and curriculum support...
Nebraska History
Holt’s account of child life on the Plains is well written and beautifully illustrated.
Journal Of Social History
Every reader will find issues that resonate with his or her own experiences and interests.... A clear success.
Dallas Morning News
Holt...creates a vivid picture of what life was like for the children of the first European and African-American immigrants.
Great Plains Quarterly
...A worthwhile addition to the growing collection of literature about youngsters in the nineteenth-century American West.
Journal Of The West
Holt's work is a well-written and compact study of an important topic in Western history.
North Dakota History: Journal Of The Northern Plains
Holt carves out her own territory and brings her own insights...There is much to be commended in this book.
CHOICE
A deeply researched book. The book provides an abundance of information about 19th century children's experiences on the Great Plains that is a valuable addition to historical knowledge. Recommended.
ForeWord Reviews
...Provides plenty of historical background while zeroing in on the subject at hand—how children were affected.
Journal of Social History
Every reader will find issues that resonate with his or her own experiences and interests.... A clear success.
Robert W. Richmond
She continues to skillfully give readers valuable information on the roles played by children in the American West.
Laurie Winn Carlson
Thick with vivid details and personal accounts.
Gerald W. McFarland
Well-researched...vivid.
Manhattan Mercury - Robin Farrell Edmunds
She provides plenty of historical background information while zeroing in on the subject at hand—how children were affected.
South Dakota History - Gail Didonato
By restoring children to the saga of the plains, Holt does indeed broaden the perspective of place.
Utica Source
You will be amazed at the depth of frontier hardship, freedom and joy.
The Region
This type of cultural history provides a useful balance to the statistics and plans of academics and policy officials...
Great Plains Quarterly
...A worthwhile addition to the growing collection of literature about youngsters in the nineteenth-century American West.
Choice Magazine
...The book provides an abundance of information about 19th-century children's experiences.... A valuable addition to historical knowledge.
Children's Literature
Defining children as anyone under sixteen, this first volume of the "American Childhoods" series gives a voice to those previously considered ancillary to the homesteaders, town builders, missionaries, and military families that settled and developed the Great Plains. While adults answered the call of Manifest Destiny, children had no choice but to "stick." Yet, the children's diaries, which this study builds upon, do not contain complaints so much as first-hand descriptions of the experiences. If they survive infancy, these youngsters may count on: extended family support, educational opportunity through home schooling or a schoolhouse, responsible roles as workers at home or outside of it, play and games that reflect their experiences, and accepting death as a part of life. The book includes Euro-Americans migrating from within the U.S., immigrants from Europe, and African-Americans moving after the Civil War, as well as relocating orphans. Segregation and separate cultural holdovers are part of the Western experience, but there is a mutual sympathy among those facing the same environmental adversities. The study is well researched and includes extensive footnotes of both primary and secondary sources. The selected photos also speak out for the children. The work is a huge undertaking and is an essential introduction to this subject. One would like to hear more from the U.S. immigrant children and the African-Americans, but it appears that those diaries are minimal. Nevertheless, an adult reader will get a good insight into the children who became the first generation of Mid-Westerners. 2003, Ivan R Dee, Ages Adult.
— Carol Raker Collins, Ph.D.
Library Journal
This work is a welcome addition to the small but growing collection of scholarly books about children of the Western frontier. Holt (Indian Orphanages), who has written several titles on Western children, here draws upon primary sources to examine European American and African American settlement upon the Great Plains after the Civil War. Beginning with the records of European immigrants, Holt describes the context within which children were born and raised as families moved into new areas and established agricultural communities. The education, work, and play of children are well illustrated and discussed, as are their healthcare, illnesses, and deaths. Personal accounts are used to good effect, such as the story of a boy who for Christmas received a yarn-and-leather baseball handmade by his sister. Other accounts are quite sobering, such as the "schoolchildren's storm" of 1888 after which many children were found frozen, one wrapped in the skirt of her teacher. This well written book is suitable for all public and academic libraries with an interest in the topic. [This work debuts Ivan R. Dee's new "American Childhoods" series.-Ed.]-Nathan E. Bender, Buffalo Bill Historical Ctr., Cody, WY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566635400
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 10/20/2003
  • Series: American Childhoods Series
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Marilyn Irvin Holt was born in southern Illinois, where her parents still maintain a farm. She studied at Eastern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Springfield, and is a former editor for the Illinois State Historical Library and a former director of publications for the Kansas State Historical Society. She has also written Indian Orphanages; Linoleum, Better Babies and the Modern Farm Woman; and The Orphan Trains. She lives in Abilene, Kansas.
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Table of Contents

Part 1 Introduction Part 2 Perceptions and Expectations 9 Part 3 Travel and Settlement 33 Part 4 Family and Community 57 Part 5 Education and School Building 81 Part 6 The Work of Children 106 Part 7 Play and Leisure 128 Part 8 Matters of Life and Death 149 Part 9 Common Threads 171 Part 10 Notes 177 Part 11 A Note on Sources 205 Part 12 Index 211
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