Book Review Thursday: Worthy Brown’s Daughter

WorthyBrownAccording to author Phillip Margolin’s book notes, he based this book on the Oregon Territory court case of Holmes v. Ford. Colonel Nathaniel Ford owned two slaves, Robin and Polly Holmes, and their children in Missouri. When Ford moved to Oregon, he told his slaves that if they would help him establish a farm in Oregon the he would grant them their freedom. The Holmes family fulfilled their part of the agreement but Ford did not completely fulfill his part – freeing the parents and one small child but keeping several of their other children as servants.

During this period of time Oregon was not a welcoming place for blacks, free or slave. The state constitution of Oregon was adopted in 1859 and had specifically barred freed Negroes from entering Oregon – only those who were actually residing in the state at the time the constitution was adopted were allowed to remain. The Holmes family found a white lawyer to help them get their children.

Young lawyer Matthew Penny had made his way to Oregon Territory from Ohio with his wife Rachel, except Rachel didn’t arrive in Oregon as a result of a river-crossing accident. Matthew opened a small private practice in Portland with a clientele of mostly farmers and shopkeepers with little money with which to pay him for his services. One day Matthew has an encounter with Worthy Brown, a freed slave who still works for his former owner and needs legal counsel. Worthy’s wife Polly is dead and his former master refuses, however, to free his daughter Roxanne. In exchange for some information regarding another case, Matthew agrees to help Worthy.

The book is filled with plot twists and turns, as all good stories are, including elements of slavery, murder, moral dilemma, romance and justice in nineteenth century Oregon. No matter though, as the author manages to connect them all and tell an interesting story based on the historic Oregon legal case. If those elements sound intriguing and you enjoy historical fiction with a bit of romance, then this book is a must read.

Rating: ★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

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© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.

 

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