New historical Christian fiction release
One of my favorite discoveries last year was Lori Benton. Her debut novel Burning Sky was one of my favorite reads for 2013. I recently devoured her new book, which releases today, The Pursuit of Tameson Littlejohn, in less than 3 days (would have been 2 but work and sleep got in the way). So, so good. I love the cover, too! In fact, I loved it so much that we included it as part of our blog heading above. Oh, the power I have (insert evil laugh here…).
In an act of brave defiance, Tamsen Littlejohn escapes the life her harsh stepfather has forced upon her. Forsaking security and an arranged marriage, she enlists frontiersman Jesse Bird to guide her to the Watauga settlement in western North Carolina. But shedding her old life doesn’t come without cost. As the two cross a vast mountain wilderness, Tamsen faces hardships that test the limits of her faith and endurance.
Convinced that Tamsen has been kidnapped, wealthy suitor Ambrose Kincaid follows after her, in company with her equally determined stepfather. With trouble in pursuit, Tamsen and Jesse find themselves thrust into the conflict of a divided community of Overmountain settlers. The State of Franklin has been declared, but many remain loyal to North Carolina. With one life left behind and chaos on the horizon, Tamsen struggles to adapt to a life for which she was never prepared. But could this challenging frontier life be what her soul has longed for, what God has been leading her toward? As pursuit draws ever nearer, will her faith see her through the greatest danger of all—loving a man who has risked everything for her?
I’m happy to have Lori here today to share about some of the history behind her new novel.
Can you name the fourteenth state? If you answered Vermont, you’re correct. But if you lived in some parts of the fledgling United States, in the year 1787, you might have had a different name in mind: Franklin. Never heard of it? Until relatively recently, I hadn’t either. Let me tell you the story of The Lost State of Franklin…
In 1783 the Revolutionary War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, but for those frontier settlers living in the river valleys west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the struggle for independence simply took another turn.
They’d always been men and women of independent spirit, those Overmountain folk. In 1772, before the region came under the jurisdiction of North Carolina, settlers along the Watauga River drafted a semi-independent government and called themselves the Republic of Watauga (or the Watauga Association). During the Revolutionary War, men from the Overmountain settlements fought bravely in the southern campaign, most famously at the Battle of King’s Mountain, where Patriot militia attacked and captured the Loyalist militia led by British Major Ferguson.
After the War came the need for the United States, newly independent and all but bankrupt, to pay down war debts. To help with this, the former colonies ceded their western territories to the federal government. North Carolina complied in 1784. Feeling neglected by the distant centers of power on the eastern seaboard, desperate for protection, aid, and structure, the western settlements took the opportunity to declare their own independence. They created a state government, elected a governor, and called themselves the State of Franklin.
That’s when things got troublesome. In short order, North Carolina re-asserted its claim on its western territories, and a civil war ensued. Neighbors chose sides against neighbors and defended their politics with acrimonious words, fisticuffs, sometimes even powder and lead. One was either a Franklinite (a supporter of the “New State”, Franklin) or a Tiptonite (a supporter of the “Old State”, North Carolina). The leaders of the opposing factions emerged as John Tipton for the North Carolinians, and Revolutionary War hero John Sevier for the Franklinites.
Despite more than one petition for statehood, and repeated appeals, the United States government failed to recognize Franklin’s legitimacy as a state. Left in limbo, for the next four and a half years the people of the Tennessee Valley found themselves living day to day under the simultaneous jurisdiction of two governments—two court systems vying for the same territory and tax dollars (or deer hides), when they weren’t raiding each other’s courthouses, menacing clerks, and stealing official papers.
Understandably this led to confusion. For instance, if a couple wanted to be married, it was a good idea to do so twice, once before a North Carolina judge, once before a Franklin judge—just to be sure of being legal in the end.
The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn opens in late summer of 1787, well into this unsettled situation. I thought it a fitting backdrop for a story about two young people from very different upbringings who find themselves thrown together in a moment of crises with two paths to choose—much as confronted the people of the frontier valleys. Tamsen Littlejohn and Jesse Bird are each faced with the choice of what kind of person they want to become, what sort of life they want to live, and what they’re willing to sacrifice to pursue that choice.
The story of the State of Franklin culminates in a battle that took place on a snowy day at John Tipton’s farmhouse, in February of 1788. The dream of a statehood crumbled swiftly after that, but the men and women of that Overmountain country, true to their independent spirit, found new dreams to pursue. On June 1, 1796, the land once called the Republic of Watauga, then the State of Franklin, finally donned a name that would endure: Tennessee.