Smith, Daniel Blake
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In the early years after the Revolution, Americans were on the move, seeking to establish a new way of life. And, more than the church or the school or the courthouse, it was the family that nurtured the American Dream.
In this novel-like narrative, Daniel Blake Smith vividly brings to life the Fletchers, a family of loving, ambitious, at times insecure pioneers who scattered across the vast expanse of post-revolutionary America but kept in touch through letters despite their wildly different life paths. On a hard scrabble farm in Vermont, the patriarch, Jesse Fletcher, struggled with debt and depression but managed to educate his children, especially his son Elijah, a Yankee who moved to Virginia, shocked by the horrors of slavery but then seduced by the plantation lifestyle. Another son, Calvin, left at age 17 for Indianapolis to become a self-made lawyer, banker, and a prominent citizen and passionate abolitionist. The grandchildren include Indiana, a women's education activist who donated her home to create Sweet Briar College; black sheep Lucian, who went to California to join in the gold rush; and physician Billy captured as a spy during the Civil War.
Through letters and diaries, we find in Our Family Dreams that the Fletchers appear surprisingly similar to us; they dream, fret, fight, and love. Despite numerous heartaches and setbacks, their spirit of enterprise, sacrifice, mobility, and education endures as American values to this day.