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A Clearing in the Wild

Jane Kirkpatrick

  Praise for

  A Clearing in the Wild

  “A Clearing in the Wild is Jane Kirkpatrick at her finest. The story is quickly paced and engaging from the first to the last. One of the most difficult tasks for a writer—and Kirkpatrick’s specialty—is to contemplate the lives of real people and to re-create a believable episode in those lives that is accurate yet interesting, to both inform and entertain. The dialog sings masterfully with perfect tone, building characters and pushing the story line in succinct phrasing that never overstates. Emma Wagner Giesy’s story feels as genuine as if she herself were telling it.”

  —NANCY E. TURNER, author of Sarah’s Quilt and The Water and the Blood

  “Jane Kirkpatrick shines her unique light on a fascinating episode of Oregon Trail history as she follows young Emma Giesy’s struggles to prove herself a worthy wife and mother within the confines of her communal and highly patriarchal Christian community. This is a valuable read for those who appreciate having their history so fully and accurately imagined. Jane clearly knows her terrain, and by the time I finished A Clearing in the Wild, I felt I had lived through a damp winter or two myself in the rich but challenging country of the Willapa Bay of Washington State. This thoughtful and well-researched book will surely add to the numbers of Jane’s well-deserved fans.”

  —LINDA CREW, author of Brides of Eden: A True Story Imagined and A Heart for Any Fate: Westward to Oregon: 1845

  “Jane Kirkpatrick has done it again! A Clearing in the Wild introduces us to a feisty young heroine who, by her determination, ingenuity, and faith, helps to create a home and a life in the wilderness. Readers are sure to fall in love with Emma as she weaves the story of her life, creating a pioneer tapestry and leaving us anticipating the next layer of her inspirational story.”

  —RANDALL PLATT, author of Honor Bright and The Likes of Me

  “Through her careful research, Jane Kirkpatrick has captured the trials of those who are determined to settle a land that does not easily yield to civilization. She has brought to life another woman in our history whose faith, strength, and commitment is a testament to not only the pioneer spirit but the human spirit as well. Thank you, Ms. Kirkpatrick, for not allowing Emma Wagner Giesy to languish in obscurity.”

  —KARLA K. NELSON, owner of Time Enough Books in Ilwaco, Washington

  “Emma Wagner Giesy is brave, willful, and beautiful, and A Clearing in the Wild brings her to life without for a moment sacrificing her complexity. Kirkpatrick compels us to think again, and deeply, about the needs of the body, soul, and mind; and in these pages she proves once again that she is a gifted chronicler of the lives of women in the West.”

  —MOLLY GLOSS, author of The Jump-Off Creek and Wild Life



  A Land of Sheltered Promise

  Tender Ties Historical Series

  A Name of Her Own

  Every Fixed Star

  Hold Tight the Thread

  Kinship and Courage Historical Series

  All Together in One Place

  No Eye Can See

  What Once We Loved

  Dreamcatcher Collection

  A Sweetness to the Soul

  (winner of the Western Heritage Wrangler Award

  for Outstanding Western Novel of 1995)

  Love to Water My Soul

  A Gathering of Finches

  Mystic Sweet Communion


  Homestead: A Memoir of Modern Pioneers Pursuing the Edge of Possibility

  A Simple Gift of Comfort

  (formerly A Burden Shared)



  12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200

  Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921

  All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version. Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

  This book is a work of historical fiction based closely on real people and real events. Details that cannot be historically verified are purely products of the author’s imagination.

  eISBN: 978-0-307-55069-9

  Copyright © 2006 by Jane Kirkpatrick

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  Published in the United States by WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York.

  WATERBROOK and its deer colophon are registered trademarks of Random House Inc.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Kirkpatrick, Jane, 1946–

  A clearing in the wild / Jane Kirkpatrick.—1st ed.

  p. cm. — (Change and cherish series ; bk. 1)

  1. Women pioneers—Fiction. 2. Social isolation—Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3561.I712C57 2006




  To Jerry



  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page



  Cast of Characters


  Part I

  1: The Thread of Love

  2: Dancing Over

  3: A Ring Around the Fire

  4: Choose Life

  5: Sent Out

  6: A Woman’s Lot

  7: New Schooling

  8: So Many Questions

  9: As Singular as Sunrise

  10: Willing Things Well

  11: Open Places

  12: The Wild of the Outside World

  13: Into the Wilderness

  14: Accommodations

  15: To Need Another

  16: Original Sin

  17: Trees of Knowledge

  18: The Winding Willapa

  19: The Giesy Place

  20: Duty-Bound Steps

  21: Just a Woman

  22: Last Times

  Part II

  23: Virtue and Vice

  24: Natural Wealth

  25: The Confluence of Streams

  26: What We Set Aside

  27: Drowning in Bounty

  28: It is Finished

  29: No Salve, Save Love

  30: A Pearl Unique

  Discussion Questions

  An Interview with Author Jane Kirkpatrick


  Suggested Additional Resources

  Glossary of German and Chinook Words


  Emma Wagner

  young German girl living

  in Bethel Colony

  David and Catherina Zundel Wagner Emma’s parents

  Jonathan, age 18 Emma’s siblings

  David Jr., age 11

  Catherine, age 9

  Johanna, age 7

  Louisa, age 5

  William, age 3

  Christian Giesy

  appointed leader of the scouts;

  Emma’s husband

  Andrew his son


  his daughter

  Wilhelm Keil leader of Bethel, Missouri colony

  Louisa Keil Wilhelm’s wife

  Willie his son

  Aurora his daughter

  Gloriunda his daughter

  Several other Keil children
r />   Andreas and Barbara Giesy Christian’s parents

  Helena Giesy one of Christian’s sisters

  Mary Giesy sister-in-law to Emma and Helena

  Sebastian Giesy

  Mary’s husband; Christian’s brother

  Karl Ruge German teacher in colony

  John “Hans” Stauffer scouts sent west

  John Stauffer

  Michael Schaefer Sr.

  Joseph Knight

  Adam Knight

  John Genger

  George Link

  Adam Schuele

  Christian and Emma Giesy

  John Stauffer returning scouts

  Michael Schaefer Sr.

  Joseph Knight

  Adam Knight

  John Genger

  George Link

  Ezra Meeker Washington Territory settler

  * Nora and the gut doctor couple at Fort Steilacoom

  *Simmons and Marie their children

  *Frau Flint and Frau Madeleine women at Fort Steilacoom

  *An-gie Chehalis maid

  *Pap her daughter

  *N’chi her grandson

  Captain Maurice Maloney

  commander at Fort Steilacoom

  Sam and Sarah Woodard settlers at Woodard’s Landing

  James Swan

  early resident/writer of Willapa region

  Opal the mule

  Opal the goat

  Charlie the seagulls

  *fictional characters

  You can tell they’re all related even though they’re each unique. They resist exposing their tender innards. Something hard must happen to break them open; a foreign source invades. Then a knife slice and they unveil their treasures deep within.

  ANONYMOUS, “On Oysters”

  And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?… And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done?… Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

  GENESIS 3:9, 13, 21

  And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need.

  ACTS 2:44–45, RSV


  The Thread of Love

  Some say that love’s enough to stave off suffering and loss, but I would disagree. Quietly, of course. Words of dissent aren’t welcome in our colony, especially words from women. I should have learned these lessons—about dissent and love—early on before I turned eighteen. But teachings about spirit and kinship require repetition before becoming threads strong enough to weave into life’s fabric, strong enough to overcome the weaker strains of human nature. It was a strength I found I’d need one day to face what love could not stave off.

  But on that Christmas morning in Bethel, Missouri, 1851, celebrating as we had for a decade or more with the festivities beginning at 4:00 a.m., a time set by our leader, love seemed enough; love was the thread that held the pearls of present joy. It was young love, a first love, and it warmed. Never mind that the warmth came from the fireplace heat lifting against my crinoline, so for a moment I could pretend I wore the wire hoop of fashion. Instead of something stylish, I wore a dress so simple it could have been a flannel sheet, so common it might belong to any of the other dozen girls my age whose voices I could hear rising in the distance, the women’s choir already echoing their joy within our Bethel church. Winter snows and the drafts that plagued my parents’ loft often chilled me and my sisters. But here, on this occasion, love and light and music and my family bound me into warmth.

  Candle heat shimmered against the tiny bells of the Schellenbaum, the symbol of allegiance my father carried in the church on such special occasions. The musical instrument’s origin was Turkish, my father told me, and militaristic, too, a strange thing I always thought for us German immigrants to carry forth at times of celebration. The musical instrument reminded me of an iron weather vane on top of one of the colony’s grain barns, rising with an eagle at the peak, its talons grasping an iron ball. Beneath, a crescent held fourteen bells, alternating large and small, dangling over yet another black orb with a single row of bells circling beneath it. A final ring of tiny bells hovered above the stand my father carried this early morning. As a longtime colonist, he walked worshipfully toward the Tannenbaum sparkling with star candles placed there by the parade of the youngest colony girls.

  My father’s usual smiling face wore solemn as his heavy boots took him forward like a funeral dirge, easing along the wide aisle that divided men from women, fathers from daughters, and mothers from sons even while we faced one another, men looking at women and we gazing back. All one thousand members of the Bethel Colony attended. The women’s chorus ended, and I heard the rustle of their skirts like the quiet turning of pages of a book as they nestled down onto the benches with the other seated women.

  Later, the band would play festive tunes, and we’d sing and dance and give the younger children gifts of nuts and apples, and the men might taste the distillery’s nectar of whiskey or wine, though nothing to excess, before heading home to open gifts with family.

  We began the Christmas celebration assembled in the church built of bricks we colonists made ourselves. We gathered in the dark, the tree candles and the fire glow and our own virgin lanterns lighting up the walnut-paneled room as we prepared to hear Father Keil—as my father called him—preach of love, of shared blessings, of living both the Golden and the Diamond Rules. He’d speak of loyalty to our Lord, to one another, and ultimately to him, symbolized on this day by the carrying of the Schellenbaum and the music of its bells across the red-tiled floor.

  As my father passed in front of me, I spied my older brother, Jonathan, my brother who resembles me. He, too, is small and slender with eyes like walnuts framed by thick brown eyebrows set inside a heart-shaped face. I used to tease my brother about his chipmunk cheeks until the day I overheard Helena Giesy say, “Emma Wagner and her brother look like twins, though Jonathan is two years older. Such puffed up cheeks they share,” she said. Our rosy cheeks bind us.

  Jonathan held his lower lip with his teeth, then raised his eyebrows, letting his eyes move with deliberateness toward the front and the tall, dark-haired man standing next to Father Keil. Now my heart skipped. Jonathan lifted his chin, grinned. My face grew warm.

  I never should have told him.

  At least I kept the secret from the little ones, though Catherine at nine, wise beyond her years, would claim she was adult enough to know, but she’d have clucked her tongue at me for even thinking in the way I did. David, Johanna, Louisa, and William, well, they’d have blabbed and babbled without knowing what they really said.

  The bells tinkled and the band struck up notes. Later, if the weather held, the band would move out onto the platform around the church steeple and play Hark! the Herald Angels Sing so loudly that perhaps the ears of those in Shelbina thirteen miles south would be awakened and our colony would intrude on them, but in a glorious way. We were meant to be set apart by our commitment to the common fund, Father Keil told us, and yet to serve. Lately, Shelbina and its railroad threatened us. My father said Father Keil grew worried that Shelbina’s life might lure young men away. Father Keil would do his best to keep Bethel’s sons loyal, separated, even though he said our passion should be to bring others to our fold, save others from God’s planned destruction of our world, give to those in need, especially to widows and their children. We were to bring to the colony, through our acts of love, the women who wore white globes called pearls around their necks, the fine ladies who sought after jewels and gems that marked false loyalties to luxury over faith.

  Neighbors. The people of Shelbina were good neighbors, I always thought. They bought our gloves, our wine, and our corn whiskey. But few of us really knew them. We had no way of knowing if they’d heard about the coming destruction or if they suffered from worries and woes. Our religious colony cherished lives of simplicity, sharing frugal wealth
in common, all needs of colonists met, silencing desire for unnecessary passions. Whatever cash we earned went to the common purse. If we needed cash for some outside purchase, we went to that same coffer. Whatever we needed from the colony’s yield, we simply walked to the storehouse to secure it. My mother said it eased all worry about the future; I saw it as one more person to have to convince to let loose the purse strings.

  We colonists were different from those around us in Missouri; we were an island of our own. We worked to stay unsullied by the larger distractions of the world that Shelbina symbolized even while we attempted to bring others into the joys of our colony’s ways.

  Only the strongest of us could reach outside and yet stay faithful, Father Keil said. I smoothed my skirt and felt the ruffle.

  The brass horns pierced the room, announcing Father Keil’s beginning words. Angels’ trumpets. Music is the perfect way to celebrate a glorious occasion, I’ve always thought. Jonathan played in the men’s band. Not me. Not girls, not young women. Our music came from our voices raised in the choir or while beating rugs or dyeing wool or serving meals to men. I couldn’t carry a tune in a candlestick holder, something else that made me different.

  But separation from the women’s choir or the brass instruments of music did not keep me from the joy of this day especially.

  My father set the Schellenbaum on its stand, then took his place across from us, sliding next to my brothers, who then wiggled on down the bench, a place they always sat. We’d been a part of this colony for as long as I could remember. My father had been one of three scouts sent out from Pennsylvania by our leader to find a “place of separation” in the unknown territories, far from the larger world. I was five years old when we moved with other German families discouraged by the changes in George Rapp’s colony at Harmony, Pennsylvania. We seceded first to Phillipsburg, then into Indiana, then into Shelby County, Missouri, where our leader imagined Bethel into being. It is a joyous place, Bethel, even though my father says many will be summoned in the morning to discuss reasons we might have to leave again.