By Judy Reed
What was life like when our ancestors first settled here, some 15 years before the Civil War? How would one take a covered wagon through heavily forested and/or swampy areas? Those are just a couple of the questions local author Dean Cumings, of Kent City, will address when he speaks at the Cedar Springs Public Library tonight, June 30, at 7 p.m. as part of the “Novel Destinations” summer reading program, for adults.
Cumings wrote Ellie—a pioneer girl’s journey west 1845, after reading a journal of a distant relative who made the trip from New York to Sparta in the 1840s with his family. He decided to drop his granddaughter, Ellie, into the middle of the story, and tell it from a young girl’s perspective. Using historically accurate language, tools, environment, food, travel and activities, the 10-year-old Ellie shows her boundless curiosity and independent spirit in two years of preparation and travel in her family’s move.
“It follows very closely the attitudes and philosophies of both the political and religious lives of people during that time period,” said Cumings.
Cumings said he did a lot of research, including working with two historical journals from relatives, and using a Noah Webster 1828 dictionary, to make sure that certain words and phrases were in use at the time.
Dennis Allen, Book Review Editor, for The Historical Society of Michigan, wrote:
“Ellie may be a fictional account of a young girl’s journey west, but it’s historically accurate to the place and times of rural Michigan in the antebellum (pre-Civil War) period…Ellie sees the world through the eyes of a young girl, and Cumings channels that persona into an interesting mix of historically accurate fact and fiction.”
The first printing was in 2010 and has since went through several printings. He is also working on a sequel, which would take place a few years after the first book ended.
Cumings, a former counselor, will be on staff at the Maranatha Christian Writer’s conference this year, and will also speak at the Rockford Historical Society in October.
Ellie can be purchased by visiting the author’s website at www.deancumings.com, or one of the major bookstores in our area.