By: Sam Sackett
Publication Date: January 2010
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: August 2011
Sweet Betsy From Pike is a poem in prose that tells the story of a preacher's daughter in Missouri who wants to marry her local beau, Isaac, but her father refuses to give his blessing.
The story begins in the year 1849, Betsy Potter is 18, her beau Ike McNab is 19. When the Reverend Potter tells Betsy that she can't marry Ike, the two take matters into their own hands and sneak away from Louisiana, Missouri to head to California and join the Gold Rush. They take as much as they can including Ike's dog, Nimrod, a wagon and a brace of oxen that belonged to Ike's father. Betsy volunteered a hog and some chickens so they would have eggs in the morning. Unfortunately, she sent Ike for the livestock and he brought back one very young pig and what he thought was a chicken but, in fact, it was a rooster who crowed every morning but, did not supply them with any eggs.
It's a long and sometimes very dangerous trek from Missouri over the mountains into California and Betsy and Ike had no way of knowing just how hard it would be. They were smart enough to join a wagon train with a very learned Captain but, the whole train faced many dangers including Indians (most of them friendly but, not all); climbing mountains, the likes of which they had never seen; crossing rivers and deserts with a side trip through Salt Lake City, where Brigham Young himself asks them all to stay and join the Mormon Church. As the author states, The Gold Rush wasn't really a rush and the going was slow and very hard.
There are some people and places within the story that readers will identify with including: Philip Armour, who is the founder of the meat company that bears his name and who ran a butcher shop in Hangtown (now called Placerville); Mark Hopkins, who helped to found the Central Pacific Railroad and ran a grocery store, and John Studebaker who eventually built automobiles. Also Joaquin Murrieta, a Mexican bandit; Lola Montez a famous dancer; and Bayard Taylor, a poet from New York City.
Before each chapter heading there is a verse of the song Sweet Betsy From Pike that takes readers into the chapter and tells what happens on their trek across the country.
Quill Says: A wonderful story of the brave people who jumped into a wagon and started out for places they had never seen or expected to see. Pick this one up, you won't be sorry.