Our view of the past is as though we are looking through a dark glass, with only vague shadows of our ancestors visible from the present perspective. Names, dates, and places, are often easier to find than personal details about their lives. I love to find personal narratives and historical fiction that shine some light on their everyday lives, the struggles they faced, tactics they used for survival, and people they knew.
While researching the Plymouth Bay Colony and the first colonists to arrive, I stumbled upon this book I was excited to find. It is called "Christopher Jarrett of New Plymouth", by Winona Strachan, published in 1957.
I was lucky enough to find a copy on Amazon, and provided photos of the book's introductory summary from the interior flaps, shown below.
Sailing into the harbor aboard the shallop to which he had been transferred mid-ocean, the settlement of New Plymouth presented a disheartening prospect to twelve-year-old Christopher Jarrett. this was to his new home, through no choice of his own! Three years after the Mayflower had sailed back to England, leaving its pitifully small but determined group of passengers on the shore of the New World, the settlement they had built in the wilderness appeared to offer little to a child of the London gutters.
Cocky and resentful, Christopher struggled to adapt himself to life in Governor Bradford's household, his thoughts constantly on his sister, Betsy. Ever since that night in London when she had been snatched from him, as he fought with their assailants, he had known that if he ever found her it would be as a bound-girl in Virginia. Thwarted in his attempts to leave Plymouth to search for Betsy, he finally came to accept this wild land as his home, adjusting to the rigors of wilderness life, the grueling hours of labor, the distraction of constant hunger.
As Christopher helps to push back the forest, build cabins and boats, fight marauding wolves, haul herring for fertilizer, plant and harvest crops, a vivid picture of life in New Plymouth is created for the reader. Great names form America's past emerge as real people...Miles Standish, Governor Bradford, John Alden, Elder Brewster...all the hopeful men and women...the temperamental, the sad, the courageous, the greedy...who dare to believe that a dream could be a reality.
Although this is primarily the story of Christopher Jarrett and his search which leads him to find not only his sister but himself as well, it is far more than that. It is the story of the first stumbling steps in the growth of America, recreated in absorbing and authentic detail.