Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Colonel Beriah Sellers

Colonel Beriah Sellers, an improvident opportunist of Missouri and an operator on a grand scale.

Squire Hawkins

Squire Hawkins, of Obedstown, Tennessee, persuaded by Sellers to move to Missouri, where his affairs fail to prosper.

Nancy Hawkins

Nancy Hawkins, his wife.


Emily, their daughter.

George Washington

George Washington, their son.

Henry Clay

Henry Clay, an orphan adopted by Hawkins during his journey.


Laura, the survivor of a steamboat accident, who is also adopted by Hawkins. She is fraudulently married by Colonel Selby, who already has a wife. When she sees him later, she shoots him. At the trial, she pleads insanity and is acquitted, only to die of grief.

Colonel Selby

Colonel Selby, of the Union army.

Major Lackland

Major Lackland, who boasts of knowing about Laura’s missing father.

General Boswell

General Boswell, a real-estate man who employs Washington Hawkins.

Louise Boswell

Louise Boswell, the general’s daughter, in love with Washington.

Philip Sterling

Philip Sterling, a young New York engineer who is building the railroad in Missouri.

Harry Brierly

Harry Brierly, his friend, in love with Laura.

Ruth Bolton

Ruth Bolton, who is in love with Philip and eventually becomes his wife. She wants to study medicine.

Eli Bolton

Eli Bolton and

Margaret Bolton

Margaret Bolton, Ruth’s Quaker parents of Philadelphia. They are shocked by her modern ways.

Alice Montague

Alice Montague, whom Ruth visits in New York.

Senator Dilworthy

Senator Dilworthy, who investigates Seller’s request for congressional funds to improve the area. The senator’s bill to establish a university for blacks on Hawkins’ land is defeated when his attempt to buy votes is exposed.