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1870: Not With Our Blood

1870: Not With Our Blood

by Elizabeth Massie

Fifteen-year-old Patrick dreams of becoming a writer. But as he discovers, the booming mill towns of New England offer not opportuinty, but labor, hardship, and poverty. He wants to build a better life for himself and his family. But at what cost?


Fifteen-year-old Patrick dreams of becoming a writer. But as he discovers, the booming mill towns of New England offer not opportuinty, but labor, hardship, and poverty. He wants to build a better life for himself and his family. But at what cost?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Massie's sharp observations and eye for detail bring her characters to life and lend credence to the unfamiliar surrounding." Publishers Weekly on Sineater

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Young Founders Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
4.73(w) x 7.13(h) x 0.55(d)
Age Range:
13 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

1870: Not with Our Blood

Young Founders

By Elizabeth Massie

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2000 Elizabeth Massie
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-5605-5


July 6, 1863

Something is wrong. Mother hasn't come back from the barn. Abigail and Liam pestered me all afternoon to go out and see her, but Mother told me that we all must stay in the house. And so we have.

It's been nine hours. What is she doing out there?

I think Abigail and Liam are asleep now. I can't hear them talking anymore. They were both crying and crying and it made my head hurt so bad that I gave them some leftover stew for supper and sent them off to their mattresses in the loft. Liam went right away, but Abigail argued with me. She said she was nine and not a baby, so she didn't have to do as I said. I told her Father is dead now, so she has to listen to me, because I was the man of the house now, even if I was only a year older than she. I threw a biscuit at her and it hit her on the head and she stamped her foot, screamed at me, then climbed the ladder to the loft.

I cleaned up the bowls, but I couldn't eat any stew myself. My stomach hurts bad.

It's dark and Mother is still in the barn. From the table where I sit I can see out across the dark yard. Her lantern is burning in there.

This morning we got word that Father was killed in a battle at Gettysburg. They are bringing the body home for burial in a few days.

Gettysburg. It seems so far away. Father has been away nearly a year now. Mother hated to see him go. 'It's not your fight,' she had said.

Father told her he could not abide a system in which one man was made the master of another. He said, being Irish, he'd had enough of that with the English.

'This war is every man's fight,' he said.

I wanted to join the Union Army with Father. But he said 'no.' I was too young. And he needed me to help with the farm. He rustled my hair and smiled. 'There will be plenty of chores to do when I get back.'

Now, he's never coming back.

Mother thanked the man who brought the message, then turned to the three of us and told us to stay in the house. She didn't cry. She told us we best not cry, either. Then she put on her shawl, took a lantern, and went to the barn. Nugget tried to go in the barn with her, but she pushed him out with her foot.

Widow Muncy is dead. It happened last year when her husband was killed in the war. They found her all puffed up and purple in the rafters of her cabin. I wonder if she has hanged herself from grief.

Father is dead, too. If I think of it, I can't bear it. And now Mother may be dead as well. So many have died already. When will it end?

The politicians promised it would be a short fight. That was two years ago. And it doesn't appear that the rebel soldiers are ready to quit.

It hasn't gone well for the Union. People are growing tired of the fight. But I support President Lincoln. Slavery is an abomination. No man has the right to make a slave of another. Father said that.

And I believe him. What are we going to do now? I am the oldest. I am supposed to know, but I don't. We do not own this farm. We lease it with money we make from raising our chickens and cows. I can't raise them by myself. We will lose our home! What am I supposed to do?


Patrick Thomas O'Neill put his paper and pen away inside the cupboard, gave one more glance out the window at the barn, then climbed the ladder to join his sister and brother for sleep. In the darkness he felt his way along the rough wooden floor to his own mattress. He kicked off his shoes, leaned over, and opened the loft window to let in a cool Pennsylvania breeze. Then he lay down and drew his legs up beneath his quilt.

But sleep didn't come for many hours.

When Patrick awoke, there was a puddle of morning sunlight on the loft floor. He rubbed his eyes and sat up. Abigail and five-year-old Liam were still sleeping. Patrick wasn't surprised. Yesterday had been hell. Today, he thought, might be even worse.

Patrick stretched his shoulders and clutched his quilt around himself. The quilt was a special one, made for him by his mother the year he was born, embroidered with his name and his birthday and all sorts of animals and flowers. Usually the quilt offered comfort. But not today. And even though it was stuffy in the loft, Patrick was cold.

Mother must still be in the barn, he thought, shivering as much from fear of what had happened as with the cold. What can she be doing?

Quietly he slipped into his clothes and went down the ladder. He stoked the coals in the hearth from yesterday's fire but only got a few red sparks. He would have to go outside for wood if he was going to fix a breakfast or heat water for washing linens.

But Mother had said to stay in the house.

He opened the door.

Nugget raced in, wagging his tail and dancing on his paws as if happy to be remembered. Patrick gave the brown mutt a quick pat on the head, then looked out the door, across the wide garden to the barn.

I have to find out what's going on, he told himself. I have to see what Mother's done.

He went out onto the covered porch, closing the door behind him. The air was warm. Soon it would be stiflingly hot. The broad leaves of the cornstalks in the garden stood motionless; the pole beans were ripe and heavy on the tangle of woven sticks. Patrick straightened his suspenders, set his jaw, and marched across the lumpy ground of the garden to the barn. If she was dead, he couldn't think what he would do.

Creeping to the open door, he took a breath. He looked at his feet. He looked at the sky. And then he looked into the barn.

Lucy O'Neill was there, alive and bustling. Her sleeves were rolled up and her apron was twisted slightly askew. There was a hammer in her hand. Dust swirled in golden sparkles of the filtered sunshine. There were nails clamped in Lucy's lips and a scowl of determination on her face.

She was repairing the old wagon. Patrick watched for a few minutes, then went back to the house.

Abigail and Liam were up, still in nightclothes, watching from the porch. Abigail hadn't brushed her hair. Liam's hair stuck up like the brush of a rooster.

"She's fixing the wagon," Patrick said.

"What for?" asked Abigail.

"I don't know."

"We going somewhere?" asked Liam.

"I don't know," said Patrick. "Let's have some oatmeal."

By noon, as Abigail was hanging out clothes to dry and Liam and Patrick were in the garden weeding, Mother came out of the barn. She strolled straight to the porch, called her three children to her, and explained that they would leave the farm and go to New Jersey.

"My brother Robert lives there," she said, weariness tugging on the sides of her mouth. "You don't remember my brother, but that is no matter. He will help us. That is what family is for. I will write him and let him know that we will work for our board. They needn't worry that we'll be a burden. They have cows and goats. You children know about animal care. You'll do as you are told, be the command from me or anyone in that household."

"New Jersey?" Abigail asked, pressing her hand to the bodice of her dress as if she was going to be ill.

"Yes," said Mother. "There will be no mourning for what we have lost here, because longing does no good. We must go on."

Liam began to cry, and Mother let him. But when Abigail's eyes teared up and Patrick put his fist to his mouth, she snapped, "I do not need this of you! I need your help and your strength. Change doesn't have to be a bad thing. Now, Patrick! I want you to write a flyer this very afternoon, telling of our need to sell. Then take it to the mercantile and tack it on the wall for all to see."

Patrick did as he had been told. He also secretly sold his father's good boots to the man at the next farm and kept the money hidden in the well- worn leather haversack his father had carried with him during the war.

Two months later, the O'Neill family left the farm with the wagon and horse and dog, two chairs, mattress ticks, and a chest, heading for Robert Norman's New Jersey farm.


December 21, 1864

I'm sick of this place. It hasn't gotten better, only worse. Nugget ran away. Nobody likes us. We O'Neills are just a bother to the Normans. I have to tell my stories and jokes to Abigail and Liam when no one else is around because they think a child should be seen and not heard. Back in Pennsylvania, before Father went to war, he taught me to read and write. Although there are many men who have never had the chance to learn their letters, my father believed it was one thing a man needed to know in order to do better in life. My favorite books were Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels, two tales of adventure! But here they have only a few books, and would be angry if they knew I borrowed them to read at night. They know nothing of adventure.

I think grouchy old adults shouldn't have to be seen or heard.

The work here on the Normans' farm is not hard, only dull. The animals here in New Jersey are just like the ones we had back in Pennsylvania. But even though I've tried for some time now, I still hate Uncle Robert and Aunt Sadie. I hate them! Mother says we have to obey, and we do. We only have one cramped bedroom for all of us, and we have to smile and say thank you for every crumb. Uncle Robert never speaks to children except to yell, and Aunt Sadie is afraid of her own shadow. She spooks Liam and Abigail at night, telling them tales of ghosts in the attic and in the well.

The story that scares them the most is one she tells about the old woman who used to live at a farm nearby. The old woman had white hair and white eyes. The old woman would wait until she could see children from her upstairs window, then would beckon them with her bony fingers to come over for cakes. When the children got close enough, she would reach down her arms, which could stretch ten feet, and grab the children. She would then cook them for dinner.

A few nights ago, I went outside when everyone was asleep and held a mop covered with a white cloth up to Aunt Sadie's bedroom window and tapped on the glass lightly. She awoke, saw the mop in the moonlight, and screamed that the old woman was after her. I hid in the shed while everyone searched the yard for the demon. I laughed, but couldn't share the trick with anyone else or I'd be in serious trouble. When Liam is older, I'll tell him.

It would be more fun if Uncle Robert and Aunt Sadie had children to play with, but Mother says God hasn't blessed them.

Good news. The War may soon be over. General Grant is chasing Lee back through Virginia. It's only a matter of time now. Then it will be over.

I wonder what will happen then? Uncle Robert grumbles about falling prices for farm goods, now that the war is coming to an end. I heard him talking with a neighbor about something called a "depression." I'm not sure I know what that means. When I asked Uncle Robert, he barked, "It means hard times are coming!"

The Negroes are free. Thank God. It makes me think Father's death was not in vain. He would be so proud. What would he think of me then? Sometimes I wonder if freedom means so much when you are poor. Like us. This journal paper is poor quality, but it is all I can get. Father used to buy me paper when he would go to town, but, of course, he is gone. I used the money I got from selling his boots to get these sheets and this ink. I feel bad about it because I never told Mother I had the money, but I had to be able to get paper. I have to be able to write.

I am going to be a real writer someday. I'll make up stories of adventure and excitement! One day I'll be paid for my stories and my poems. I'll be famous, and will help my family buy a new farm. My father will know it, even though he is dead. And Liam will be so proud of me. I'm twelve now. How old does one need to be before he can be a real writer?

I wonder.

It will be Christmas soon. I think it might be a dreary holiday this year. Father used to make Christmas a jolly time.

I pray there are beautiful candles and wonderful food in heaven at Christmastime.


By late 1867, talk of the war was beginning to fade. Patrick had read in newspapers that the South was having a hard time rebuilding homes and lives due to the great destruction and lack of industry. But in New Jersey, people worked and farmed and went to church as usual. Aunt Sadie, who had said she would never be able to have children, bore twins, two little girls with red hair and squinty baby eyes. Sadie swore to anyone close enough to listen that the pain of the birth had nearly killed her.

It was then that Uncle Robert made it clear that the strain of too many people on too little land was making Sadie's tribulation even greater. By the end of the harvest in August, the O'Neills packed up and prepared to leave in search of yet another, stranger life.

"We need housing and jobs," Mother said. She was sitting with her children in their narrow bedroom at the back of the Normans' house the night before they left. All four were on Mother's bed, the bedside lantern battling feebly with the night gloom, a moth battling feebly with the lantern. Mother had a newspaper, and was pointing at an announcement. "There are many textile mills in Massachusetts which are in need of workers. You children are strong and healthy. We'll do well."

"What's a textile mill?" asked Liam.

"Makes cloth," said Mother.


"I don't know," she said. "Doesn't matter. They'll show you. Article here says that many mills up north let go thousands of workers during the war, thinking they couldn't run their mills to profit. Now that the war's done, they're running full again, selling not only to our own country but other countries. There is much money to make in the mills, and they need workers. They're filling up with immigrants, but there may well be room for a Pennsylvania family."

"If we have to move, I want to move south," said Abigail. "Father had a cousin in Virginia. Can't we go there? I don't want to work in a mill."

"The South is poor," said Mother. "One reason they lost the war is because they didn't have factories to make what they needed in bulk for their soldiers. Clothes. Weapons. And now the little they did have has been burned or knocked down. The southern plantations are producing cotton, but the money's not there, it is in the cloth the cotton produces. And the cloth is made in the factories. We'd be worse off than we are now if we went south. Our only hope is in the North."

"I don't like the sound of it all," said Abigail.

Mother said, "We're going to find us a mill."

"What mill, Mother?" asked Liam, leaning into Patrick, and Patrick putting his arm about his little brother's shoulder. "Where is the mill?"

Lucy didn't answer. It was clear she was thinking this over. Patrick said to his sister and brother, "This will be good. We can go and make some real money. We'll start over, and soon we'll be able to get a new farm, all our own."

"Really?" asked Liam.

"Of course really," said Patrick.

"We'll go to Leeland," said Lucy at last, as if she hadn't heard Patrick. Then she turned down the lantern, shooed the children off the bed, and said no more.

The next morning, after a hurried breakfast and good-byes, the O'Neills steered their horse and wagon onto the rain-rutted dirt path, heading northward.

Leeland, Massachusetts, which was on the Merrimack River just southwest of Lawrence, was different from other towns Patrick had seen. It was not a farming town. It was an industrial town. When they first rounded the bend in the road and looked down the gentle slope of the hill, Mother pulled the horse up short and all four of the family stared, eyes wide. Abigail, sitting in front with her mother, caught her breath audibly. In the back, Liam and Patrick got up on their knees.

The first thing that struck Patrick was the smokestacks. They were dark and tall, pointing to the sky. They were part of the enormous factory compound along the river. Within the walled compound were several single-story brick buildings, a tall bell tower, and one main brick building, which was four stories high and quite long. Windows dotted the tall building's sides. Even from the top of the knoll where the O'Neills sat, the huge building seemed to groan with its mysterious inner workings. Two canals and a train track ran through gateways into the compound.

Patrick held his breath and clutched his journal to his chest. He had been writing in the wagon whenever there had been a stretch of straight road, but much of what he'd written was a jumbled, scratched mess.

"I don't like it," said Liam to his mother.

Patrick tried to picture his family working here, making lots of money and becoming rich. It was hard to imagine. The place was so stark.

"Train brings in cotton and takes away the cloth when it's done," said Mother matter-of-factly to her children in the wagon.


Excerpted from 1870: Not with Our Blood by Elizabeth Massie. Copyright © 2000 Elizabeth Massie. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Massie is author of numerous novels for young adult, middle grade, and primary readers. These include the Young Founders series, the Daughters of Liberty trilogy, The Great Chicago Fire: 1871, The Fight for Right, Read All About It, and more. A former middle school teacher, Elizabeth enjoys exploring both important and little-known moments in American history and presenting those moments to readers through the struggles and triumphs of her characters.  

     Elizabeth lives in the historic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, very close to where her family moved in 1747. She says, “Every place is historic. Well-known or not, every town, city, and county has its own compelling tale of people and events, a story that plays a part in the continuing story that is our history.”  

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