Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hearts West True Stories of Mail Order Brides On The Frontier by Chris Enss

During the Gold Rush when men from all walks of life dropped everything to follow their dreams of riches in the uncivilized wilds, they soon discovered that they greatly outnumbered women sometimes by as many as 12 to 1. As many began to hanker for a helpmate, matrimonial agencies and lonely hearts newspapers began to do a thriving trade in the Mail Order Bride business.
This book tells the stories of several women who took a chance and ventured into the unknown hoping to find their soulmates in the wild, wild west. A surprising number of these matches made by letter turned out very happily, but there were also frauds and heartaches.
One particularly poignant tale included in this slim but fascinating little volume is the story of schoolteacher Eleanor Berry, who, at age 22, feared spinsterhood and spending the rest of her life alone. She began a correspondence with a lonely miner named Louis Dreibelbis, which culminated in a proposal of marriage, which Eleanor accepted. As she neared her destination her stagecoach was held up by a masked man who gallantly spared her trousseau at her request, taking the trunk down before he used gunpowder to blow open the strongbox positioned on the luggage rack beside it. When the shaken bride and the trunk of dresses she planned to start her new life in arrived for the wedding she noticed the groom had a jagged, lightning bolt scar on his hand.; a scar she recognized. She had seen it when her trunk was being lifted down. Eleanor fled back to her hometown and tried to keep what had happened secret, fearing ridicule if people found out about her harrowing and humiliating experience as a mail-order bride, but the truth eventually came out, and Eleanor attempted suicide. What happened after that, if Eleanor ever found love or grew old alone, is unknown.
There is also the inspiring tale of a woman who fled a lazy ne'er-do-well husband and became the first female doctor in Oregon.
I have read several of Ms. Enss' books and have found them all fascinating, and though they tend to be short in length they never fail to tell me something new and make me want to know more about the fascinating women of the Old West she writes about.

1 comment:

librarypat said...

I have this book and LOVE UNTAMED: ROMANCES OF THE WEST which she cowrote with JoAnn Chartier. I saw them at Brenda Novak's auction last year. I didn't win the bid on her books, but ordered them later. She has a few more I'd like to get. One of these days.