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A Home in the West

Or, Emigration and Its Consequences

M. Emilia Rockwell, Sharon E. Wood

Publication Year: 2005

This is the first novel published in Iowa. Printed in Dubuque in 1858, it was written to recruit emigrants to Iowa; what makes it unique among emigration literature is the fact that it was directed at women, using the form of a domestic novel loaded with gentle mothers and stalwart fathers, flower-gemmed prairies and vine-draped cottages, and lots of tender words and humble weddings to encourage women to settle in the new state.

Mary Emilia Rockwell tells the story of Walter and Annie Judson, who one desperate March night decide to move to the West in search of a better life. Walter is an exploited, debt-ridden carpenter who knows that “if we could go to the West, to one of those new States where work is plenty, wages high and land cheap, we could make a more comfortable living, and besides soon have a home of our own.” Annie has “all a woman’s devotion and self-denial”; loving and supportive, she takes the path of duty and moves her little family to “a pleasant little village in Iowa.” In Newburg, everyone is newly arrived, hard-working, and self-sacrificing, facing difficulties with the certainty of prosperity and independence to come. In spite of dramatic setbacks, Walter prospers, and he and Annie build a “beautiful and commodious” house in the growing community of Hastings. The book ends with a return visit to Connecticut, where the Judsons and a series of surprising events persuade Annie’s parents to move to Iowa too, and everyone is reunited in their home in the West.

Teacher, administrator, and writer Emilia Rockwell (born about 1835, died about 1915) writes a conventionally sentimental story. However, she actually divorced her first husband, became the administrator of a juvenile reformatory in Milwaukee, and married a second time; she lived in Lansing, Iowa, for only a few years. Her writing is romantic, but she accurately portrays the economic challenges and transformations of this pioneer period and, historically, touches upon the Panic of 1857, the Mormon Handcart Expedition, and Native Americans in Iowa. Sharon Wood’s illuminating introduction presents Rockwell's biography and places the novel in its historical and literary contexts, including such events as the Spirit Lake massacre and the Dred Scott decision. A Home in the West is a satisfying read and an intriguing combination of boosterism and literature

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page

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pp. 1-26

When printers at the Dubuque Express and Herald peeled the freshly inked pages of A Home in the West, or, Emigration and Its Consequences from their press, they surely never imagined it would endure to find readers in another century. The pamphlet they stitched and trimmed in 1858 was an object for ...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 27

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CHAPTER I. The resolution.

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pp. 33-39

The humble home of a mechanic in a pleasant village of Connecticut, is the opening scene of our story. In its cheerful kitchen, with its neat rag carpet, glowing coal fire and white curtains, sat Annie Judson awaiting the return of her husband to the evening meal. It was nearly six by the busy little clock upon the ...

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CHAPTER II. Preparation.—The Journey.

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pp. 40-48

The arrangement for removal went on rapidly for as Walter had intimated, it was not a sudden impulse, but a fixed determination to which the consent and approval of Annie had removed the last barrier, that had found expression on that desponding evening. He had no near relatives of his own, and his wife and ...

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CHAPTER III. Fair Prospects—Indians—A Sad Story.

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pp. 49-56

... pleasant little village in Iowa—Newburg by name—was the anticipated residence of Judson. Though its location dated but three years into the past, it was fast becoming a beautiful and desirable situation for settlers of all pursuits in life. Neat cottages and tasteful yards and gardens were daily ...

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pp. 57-64

The beautiful, widening river, its waters lying smooth and glassy beneath a cloudless sky, flowed between high banks of novel beauty.—Between these “bluffs” lay the most cosy little vallies, stretching back until they met the wooded hills beyond, whose ...

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pp. 65-72

The first snow storm came, and winter set in “for earnest” early in December. The river was frozen over, and the daily mail by steamboat was exchanged for a weekly one by stage. All communication with the world around was cut off, except by sleighs to the nearest rail road depot. And then speculators ...

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pp. 73-80

... said Walter, as he sat down to dinner one day, producing from his pocket a delicate white envelope, addressed in a pretty hand to “Mrs. Walter Judson.” “Ah, an invitation to take tea this afternoon with the lady I met at Mr. Wilmot’s, and was so much pleased with—Mrs. Waltham. And my acceptance ...

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pp. 81-88

She married a merchant you recollect,—Arthur Newcome, I think his name was,—and went to live in Providence. He was wealthy then, but Mary writes that they have heard that he failed two years ago, and they came West and bought a farm with the little they had, and are now living in Westville.” ...

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pp. 89-94

Perhaps there is no one thing in which we are so likely to err in the up building of society in this new land, as in too great adoration of what we term the useful. The money-seeking, speculative character of the dreams of many, lead them to denounce all that is elegant and beautiful simply, and many of the ...

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pp. 95-102

The “new comers” were soon housekeeping by themselves, and Mr. Waters duly installed as foreman in the flourishing hardware establishment of Mr. Wolcott. The summer opened with much promise to Walter, as he had just closed a contract for building a large flouring mill under peculiarly advantageous ...

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pp. 103-112

The letter mentioned in the preceding chapter, was from a settler in the neighborhood in which lay Walter’s purchase of land, stating that the township was becoming thickly settled and land much more valuable than formerly: that at about the point occupied by his land, it was thought best to establish a ...

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pp. 113-119

Early in April Walter was prepared for a removal to the new village. The journey was not a pleasant one, for the roads were yet very much unsettled and the Spring rains had made them extremely muddy, yet they arrived with sound though weary limbs on the fourth day after leaving Newburg. Mr. Judson found ...

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pp. 120-126

Dr. Leonard’s studies were finished, the long coveted diploma received, and with all his new professional dignity, and arrived at the mature age of twenty-three, he was visiting again at his parents’ home. With all his knowledge of Western growth and improvement, he could scarcely believe his own ...

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pp. 127-134

The little community at Hastings continued to be prosperous and hopeful, while Walter Judson found himself rapidly accumulating wealth and influence in consequence. He had come westward with the expectations only of earning a comfortable livelihood by manual labor, and feeling that with that he could ...

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pp. 135-141

That sweet Addie Leonard must be her bridesmaid, was fully decided by Mary before the close of the first day after their arrival, and “brother Henry,” the grave, thoughtful young lawyer, would stand beside Hervey in the trying moment. They were married by the same pastor who had united Walter and ....

E-ISBN-13: 9781587295973
E-ISBN-10: 1587295970
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877459439
Print-ISBN-10: 0877459436

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 2005

Edition: Critical

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Subject Headings

  • Women pioneers -- Fiction.
  • Women immigrants -- Fiction.
  • Married women -- Fiction.
  • Iowa -- Fiction.
  • Domestic fiction. -- lcsh.
  • Western stories. -- gsafd.
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