Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Squire Hawkins of Obedstown, Tennessee, receives a letter from Colonel Beriah Sellers asking Hawkins to come to Missouri with his wife, Nancy, and their two children, Emily and Washington. Moved by the Colonel’s eloquent account of opportunities to be found in the new territory, the family travels west. On the journey, they stop at a house where a young child is mourning the death of his mother. Feeling compassion for the orphan, Hawkins offers to adopt him. His name is Henry Clay.
The travelers board the Boreas, a steamboat headed up the Mississippi. The Boreas begins to race with another, rival steamboat, the Amaranth. The boiler on the Amaranth explodes, causing a fire on board and killing or injuring scores of passengers. As the Boreas rescues survivors, Hawkins finds a stray child, Laura, whose parents apparently have died. The Hawkinses, although now burdened with four children, find hope in the promise of Tennessee lands that they still own and adopt Laura.
After a tiresome journey, they reach their new home, a log cabin surrounded by a dozen or so other ramshackle dwellings. There Colonel Sellers helps the Hawkinses start their new life. However, Squire Hawkins does not prosper as he has hoped; rather, he makes and loses several fortunes.
Ten years later, Colonel Sellers is living in Hawkeye, a town some distance away. Squire Hawkins, by this time, is impoverished. Clay has...
(The entire section is 1310 words.)
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