(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Portius Wheeler’s family had written from Boston to the trader at the post near Sayward’s cabin to inquire about the woodsy girl Portius was living with. Sayward told the trader to write back that she was a woods girl, all right, and she could not read or write, that she had married Portius legally even if the ceremony had taken place while Portius was drunk, but that she was not keeping him from returning to the Bay State because she had not known that his family had written Portius to come home. She said Portius could have gone back if he had had a mind to, but since he wanted to remain she was staying with him.

Genny helped Sayward when the Wheelers’ first boy was born. At that time, Portius had gone on business to the territory seat. He was away for days. Knowing he was no woodsman, Sayward remembered stories of Indian atrocities along the trace. When he finally came home, he would not look at his son, but in his powerful voice told Sayward that the Chillicothe convention had ratified the constitution. Now they lived in Ohio State. He warmed so to his subject of politics and government in the wilderness that he scared the baby, who yelled until Portius had to look at his son. It was a question of who was the more scared, father or child. Sayward thought Portius should get used to children because she intended to fill the cabin with them.

The handiest meeting place the neighbors had when a circuit rider came around was a sawmill, open to the sky and hemmed in by trees, but Sayward felt that the Lord knew it was His place when folks gathered there. Genny felt His presence too as she sang the hymns, with her beautiful voice reaching out farther than any other. Sayward could not believe it was Genny singing; that was the first time Genny had sung since her husband, Louie Scurrah, went off to the English lakes with her sister Achsa. Portius, a disbeliever, refused to go to the meeting, but Sayward took her son with her and had him christened Resolve.

Sayward had three boys and a girl by the time their township was formed. On Old Christmas, Portius asked everybody in the settlement to come to his cabin to make out a taxing list. That was what Sayward liked, a lot of people in the house, particularly in winter when a body was not apt to see neighbors often. They made a party of it. By the time the men worked out the taxing list, everybody realized that their township was a reality.

Sayward named her first girl for her lost sister Sulie. Sayward’s Sulie was the liveliest and brightest child she had ever seen, but she never forgot the tokens she had had before Sulie was born. Resolve thought he had seen a strange little black boy, all dressed in white, peeking in the window. The day before Sulie was born, Resolve saw his first black man, a new hired man in the settlement. He could not stop talking about Caesar’s color. When her blonde baby girl came, Sayward could only sigh with relief. Sulie was burned to death when she was about three years old. Resolve, seeing her charred body in the...

(The entire section is 1242 words.)