Wilse brings "news of the Kentucky country where (Jethro's mother) had been born, and of the relatives from whom she so seldom heard". He also brings news of the feelings of the Kentuckians towards the Civil War which seems imminent.
Wilse Graham is Ellen Creighton's sister's son. Ellen and the family are glad to see him, and to hear what has been going on with the family back home. At supper, "the talk for a while (is) of family affairs...there had been a death of someone in Kentucky who (is) only a name to Jethro, but a name that (brings) a shadow to his mother's face...there (are) reports of weddings and births, of tragedies, and now and then a happy note of good fortune". After sharing the news of the everyday lives of the relatives, however, Wilse and the Creightons begin to talk about what is on everybody's mind during these times - "the troubles of the nation".
Wilse says it is likely that Kentucky will "go secesh". He makes a good case for his own opinions on the matter, voicing the Confederate stance that the South only "wants...the right to live as it sees fit to live without interference". Although he cannot quite justify slavery, he points out that the North has no plan about how to take care of the slaves if they were all of a sudden to be set free. Matt Creighton admits that, in Southern Illinois, a majority of the people have roots in the South, but his own feeling is that dividing the union of states is wrong. Wilse argues that a division is inevitable, because "half of the country has growed rich...but (is) jealous and fearful that the other half is apt to find good fortune too". Wilse expresses the Southern belief that it is the arrogance of the North towards the South that is the underlying cause of the conflict (Chapter 2).