“The First Comers”

(Great Characters in Literature)

Oliver Ball Windrow

Oliver Ball Windrow, a middle-aged woodcarver and philosopher in Stuart England, a man much like Orville Windom. Rejected in his suit for Mary Windling, he marries his housekeeper.

Matilda Bracken

Matilda Bracken, Oliver Windrow’s mute, devoted housekeeper. She marries him and bears him two children.

Mary Windling

Mary Windling, a lovely, spirited young friend of Oliver Windrow. She marries a Puritan, moves with him to Holland, and then sails to America on the Mayflower. She dies during the first winter.

John Spong

John Spong, her sturdy, affectionate, and pious husband. In America, he becomes stern and solemn, disapproving of all his daughter’s suitors.

Remember Spong

Remember Spong, the daughter of John and Mary, a lively, pretty young Puritan who attracts several suitors but loves Resolved Wayfare, a Separatist, and finds herself torn between orthodox and independent piety.

Orton Wingate

Orton Wingate, her middle-aged friend and suitor, a kind man with audacious opinions, much like Orville Windom.

Peter Ladd

Peter Ladd, her gay, handsome suitor, a sailor and gambler who settles down under her influence but returns to the sea when she refuses him.

Resolved Wayfare

Resolved Wayfare, an idealistic young man who follows Roger Williams and eventually wins Remember’s love. The two lovers part with vows of fidelity.

Roger Williams

Roger Williams, a rebel of conviction and integrity, a friend of the Indians and the founder of the Rhode Island Colony.

“The Arch Begins”

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ordway Winshore

Ordway Winshore, a Philadelphia printer, a man of character similar to Orville Windom. He loses two sons in the Revolutionary War.

Robert Winshore

Robert Winshore, his older son, a dashing, idealistic young man who loses his love because of his commitment to the Revolution. He dies at Valley Forge.

John Locke Winshore

John Locke Winshore, the more prudent younger son, a tradesman who joins the Revolutionary cause, becomes a military courier, marries Ann Elwood, and dies soon afterward.

Marintha “Mim” Wilming

Marintha “Mim” Wilming, a lovely young woman who rejects Robert’s love because of his political convictions. Later, she becomes a nurse for the rebels.

Ann Elwood

Ann Elwood, a sensitive, pretty young woman involved in a fraudulent marriage. She later marries John Winshore and has a child by him.

Oates Elwood

Oates Elwood, Robert Winshore’s rough, good-hearted, and patriotic friend.

Lieutenant George Frame

Lieutenant George Frame, Marintha’s suitor, a cultured British officer wounded in the war and sent back to England.

Sapphira Reggs

Sapphira Reggs, a Tory who recognizes Robert Winshore while her father is being tarred and feathered by patriots. She reports him to the British.

Mary Burton

Mary Burton, the warm, attractive widow who marries Ordway Winshore.

“The Arch Holds”

(Great Characters in Literature)

Omri Winwold

Omri Winwold, a gambler, a manly, amiable, and prophetic man somewhat like Orville Windom. He moves West, settles on an Illinois farm, loses three wives, and sees his sons killed or maimed in the Civil War.

Brooksany Wimbler

Brooksany Wimbler, his distant cousin and friend, a charming woman who moves with her husband and daughter to Illinois and dies there during the Civil War.

Joel Wimbler

Joel Wimbler, her hardy, sensible husband, a harness maker and abolitionist who becomes an officer and dies in the war.

Millicent “Mibs” Wimbler

Millicent “Mibs” Wimbler, their beautiful, spirited daughter. Though wooed by two other suitors, she swiftly decides, without her parents’ consent, to marry a cattle buyer and has a child by him. She goes to meet him when he is released from the military prison on Johnson’s Island.

Rodney Wayman

Rodney Wayman, her gay, intelligent, and manly husband, a former miner and cattle buyer who becomes a Confederate captain and is twice captured by Union troops. Embittered by the war, he nevertheless feels compassion when he learns of Omri Winwold’s losses.

Hornsby Meadows

Hornsby Meadows, a teacher, Millicent Wimbler’s keen but bigoted abolitionist suitor.

Danny Hilton

Danny Hilton, a farmer and contractor, Millicent Wimbler’s husky, lighthearted suitor.

Nack Doss

Nack Doss, Rodney Wayman’s business associate and friend, a rough, honest Southerner killed in a Civil War engagement in Mississippi.

Bee Winwold

Bee Winwold, Omri’s first wife, a wild, flashy, and promiscuous woman whom he deserts.

Andrew Marvel Winwold

Andrew Marvel Winwold, Omri’s son by Bee. He becomes an officer and loses an arm in the Civil War.

Henry Flack

Henry Flack, Bee’s second husband, a rather pathetic man who is attracted to prostitutes. After Bee deserts him and Anne Winwold dies, he and Omri become friends.

Anne Moore

Anne Moore, a widow, and

Sarah Prindle

Sarah Prindle, two affectionate farm women and sisters, Omri’s second and third wives. They bear him seven children.

The Stories

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

The rock stood in the cedar-shaded garden of former Supreme Court Justice Orville Brand Windom, a giant boulder about which he had scattered earth from Plymouth, Valley Forge, Gettysburg, the Argonne. The justice was old, with a deep and brooding concern for the American land, its history, its people. He spoke some of his ideas to the world in a radio broadcast he made in 1944. He recorded others in three chronicles of the living past that his grandson, Captain Raymond Windom, veteran of Okinawa, found in a locked box after the old man’s death. These tales, like the antique bronze plaque inscribed with Roger Bacon’s Four Stumbling Blocks to Truth, were Justice Windom’s legacy of wisdom and love to his grandson, his grandson’s wife, and their son, Joseph Stilwell Windom.

In the first, red-haired Oliver Ball Windrow, the woodcarver, had on one side of his face the look of a poet and dreamer and, on the other, a countenance of wrath and storm. A seeker and questioner, he loved Mary Windling, a girl only half his age and a member of the Separatist congregation that worshipped secretly at Scrooby, and for her, he made a small plaque of bronze, on which he inscribed Roger Bacon’s Four Stumbling Blocks to Truth, to wear on a silver cord around her neck.

Mary liked his sudden whims and strange humors, but in the end, she married a young workman named John Spong. This happened in 1608, just before the Scrooby congregation escaped to Holland. For twelve years, Mary Spong and her husband lived in Leyden. Infrequent news came from England. Windrow had wed Matilda Bracken, the devoted mute who kept his house. Then, in 1620, he and his two daughters died of smallpox. Mary’s sadness for her friend was lessened by promises and fears surrounding plans of the Puritans to try their fortunes in the new world.

The Spongs and their daughter Remember were passengers aboard the Mayflower when it sailed. Little Remember had only one memory of Plymouth. One day, while she was playing on the wharf, some boys began to torment her. Another boy came with an ax handle and beat them off. She forgot to ask his name.

Mary Spong, dying during that first terrible winter in the wilderness, gave her daughter the tarnished keepsake Windrow had made years before. Remember grew up in Plymouth, a cluster of houses between forest and sea, and those gaunt years of hardship and toil helped to shape her strong body, her resolute will, and her sober decorum that hid deep passions. Her father grew grim and silent as time passed. He disliked Orton Wingate, a sojourner in Plymouth, a man whose face showed peace and calm on one side, turmoil on the other. Wingate was Remember’s friend, however, and came to sit with her from time to time. She knew without his saying that she could have had him for her husband. Restless and uncertain of her own mind, she waited.

Sometimes she rebelled against the harsh Puritan laws, as when she concealed Hode Latch, a convicted drunkard for whom constables were searching, and then she was afraid that she was damned. Perhaps Peter Ladd sensed that wild streak in her when he came courting. He was a young seaman who drifted into Plymouth, steadied himself for a while, and then fell once more into dissolute ways. When Remember refused him, he went away to make his fortune in the slave trade. Two years later, he was drowned in a wreck off the Virginia capes.

Roger Williams, a free-thinking preacher, lived in Plymouth for a time. Several years later, he was shaking the colonies with his liberal beliefs and teachings. A new age was beginning when Williams, a fugitive, built his own town beside Narragansett Bay, but Remember Spong could not know how far-reaching were to be his challenges to usages of authority and custom. She feared him most because he revealed the rebel in herself. For that reason, she was of two minds about Resolved Wayfare, a newcomer to the colony in 1638. Wayfare had crossed the ocean to learn for himself the meaning of Roger Williams’ message. He was also the boy, grown to manhood, who had defended Remember on the Plymouth wharf.

After he saved John Spong’s life during a blizzard, Remember nursed the young man back to health. During that time, there was a battle of wills between them. He wanted her to go with him to Providence, but she, like her father, held that the teachings of Roger Williams were of Satan. Although Wingate’s wisdom and the cruel lashing of an unmarried mother finally convinced her of the folly and blindness of custom, she could not quite make up her mind to go with Wayfare on his journey. Yet she walked with him some distance into the forest, and before they parted, she gave him the bronze keepsake she had from her mother. Knowing that they would meet again, they vowed to be true as long as grass would grow or water flow. That was the solemn promise between them.

The second tale begins in March, 1775. Ordway Winshore, master printer, left Philadelphia to visit his sons in New York and Boston. Below rusty hair, his face on one side promised peace, on the other wrath and doom—a face half serious, half comic, making him a man easy to confide in. Among his fellow travelers were two young British lieutenants, Francis and George Frame. During a tavern halt, Francis Frame broke his hand by striking a blacksmith who had cursed King George. The Philadelphia printer felt that the war was beginning.

Winshore spent two days in New York with Locke, his younger son, a typesetter for Henry Tozzer, printer of Independence leaflets. Locke reported that his brother Robert was deep in the activities of Massachusetts patriots. He also hinted at Robert’s romance with a dressmaker’s assistant.

Another passenger in the coach to Boston was Marintha Wilming, to whom George Frame paid marked attention. Winshore liked her, not knowing, however, that she was the girl his...

(The entire section is 2410 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

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Hallwas, John E., and Dennis J. Reader, eds. The Vision of This Land: Studies of Vachel Lindsay, Edgar Lee Masters, and Carl Sandburg. Macomb: Western Illinois University Press, 1976.

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Yannella, Philip. The Other Carl Sandburg. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996.