The Preacher’s Bride Claim
AN INTERVIEW WITH ALICE HAWTHORNE
We're speaking to Alice Hawthorne today, on the eve of her wedding to Elijah Thornton, pastor of the soon-to-be built church of Brave Rock, Oklahoma, one of dozens of new communities that were birthed on April 22, 1889, the day that a large section of the Oklahoma Territory was opened for settlement.
--Miss Hawthorne, how would you describe the experience of taking place in the first land rush to settle a large section of the Oklahoma Territory?
Alice Hawthorne: Exciting! And terrifying too, of course. How could it not be, with all of us waiting for days—some for weeks—in settlements along the border of the land to be settled, just waiting for noon on April 22, and the rifle shot that would signal a free-for-all scramble for choice plots of land. It was unprecedented— a hundred and sixty-four acres of land for free, and all one had to do to claim it was be the first to plant a stake in the land—and then, hold it against all comers. You cannot imagine the pandemonium that ensued when the rifle shot came at noon, with people taking off in wagons, on horseback, on bicycles, and even on foot to be the first to claim the land.
--Was it dangerous?
Alice: Of course! There were many incidents of wagons collapsing or overturning, of horses falling, and of course, always the possibility that the unscrupulous among us would use any means, fair or foul, to steal the land plots they wanted.
--There were unscrupulous people among the would-be homesteaders?
Alice: Oh yes, of course. Any time you have that many varied kinds of people together, you will have some bad people, I suppose, but one doesn't expect those who are assigned to protect us to be among them. But I must say no more about this, because the matter is still being settled.
--Did you have a particular location of land to settle on in mind, Miss Hawthorne?
Alice: Yes. Before the day of the Land Rush, several of us had become close in Boomer Town, which was the name for our temporary section along the border while we waited. Led by my soon-to-be husband, Elijah Thornton, we had started a temporary tent church which will, Lord willing, soon become a permanent church in Brave Rock. We were advised of a particularly choice piece of land along the Cimarron River by one of our members, a Danish man named Lars Brinkerhoff, who had lived among the Cheyenne Indians, and so we made for that point. I am happy to say we were able to reach Brave Rock, as we are calling the settlement because of the boulder that juts out above the river, first and stake our claim
--And tomorrow you are to become the bride of Reverend Elijah Thornton, Brave Rock's church's pastor.
Alice (blushing): Yes, tomorrow. Of course, it will only be simple ceremony in the middle of the meadow, since we have not had time to build the church yet—housing for the settlers must come first, naturally, but I trust it will be a lovely ceremony all the same.
--You look very happy and in love, Miss Hawthorne. Can you tell us how you and your husband to be met?
Alice:I came to Elijah's tent church in Boomer Town, before the Land Rush.
--And it was love at first sight?
Alice Hawthorne (blushing again): I don't know what Elijah would say, but it certainly was for me, although meeting the man I would one day marry was the last thing on my mind that day. I just wanted to come and worship the Lord, and lay out all my troubles in front of Him. But Elijah was determined to meet me, and so we met. He is a determined man, and once he decides upon something, he goes after it…
--Why was looking for a husband the last thing on your mind, Miss Hawthorne, if you don't mind my asking? With a handsome bachelor preacher present, surely that would be the first thing on many young women's minds.
Alice Hawthorne: Yes, but my independence has always been important to me, and I had decided never to marry. At the time I was fleeing from a…shall we say "unhappy relationship?"
--Would you care to elaborate, Miss Hawthorne?
Alice: (sighing) I suppose it is safe at this point, though I will not give the gentleman's name. Back East I had been courted by a rich and powerful, and unfortunately, unscrupulous and possessive man. In coming to the Oklahoma Territory I had hoped to leave this man and his influence behind forever, and have my own land which I would farm and provide a home for my aged mother. I will not go into details, but let me just say that the man I refer to is no longer a threat to my happiness.
--Excellent. Back to happier subject, how did your romance with the Reverend Elijah Thornton develop?
Alice (smiling again): I had been a nurse back East, and I assumed my nursing days were over, now that I was about to become a homesteader. But Elijah felt there were many unmet medical needs in Boomer Town, and persuaded me to accompany him on rounds around the tent city to visit those who were ill and injured. While he prayed for them and strove to meet their spiritual needs, I ministered to their medical needs. One of the first people we were able to help is our present deacon, Keith Gilbert. He was gravely injured due to an ax wound to the leg, and would have bled to death from it without our medical intervention and of course, the help of the Lord to heal him.
--And will you put your medical training to use in the new community of Brave Rock, Miss Hawthorne?
Alice; Yes, we plan to build a clinic next to our house, near the Brave Rock church, where the settlers can come for treatment of illnesses and injuries—with the Lord's help, of course. I'm not sure why I ever wanted to leave my profession behind.
--You speak of God often, Miss Hawthorne.
Alice (smiling): Of course. How could I not? He has blessed me so much, bringing me safely to Oklahoma, with providing me with a new home and tomorrow, a husband.
--I promised we would keep the interview brief because of your wedding tomorrow—a bride must get her beauty sleep, after all. Andd so we will thank you for speaking to us and giving us a glimpse into the exciting life of a new settler in the Oklahoma Territory. Is there anything further you would like to tell our readers?
Alice: Yes, I would like to say that Elijah's and my story, chronicled in THE PREACHER'S BRIDE CHOICE, is but the beginning of the story. In May, author Karen Kirst will continue the saga in THE HORSEMAN'S FRONTIER FAMILY, and in June, author Allie Pleiter will conclude the trilogy with THE LAWMAN'S OKLAHOMA SWEETHEART. All the books are published by Love Inspired Historicals. I hope you will read and enjoy all three of these exciting books about the settling of Oklahoma.
Note from Martha: I just finished reading this novel and loved it. I'm really looking forward to reading the next two in the series. You'll really enjoy how the town rallies around Alice and keeps her from making a horrible mistake stemming from her past the night before the land rush begins.
Laura will be giving away a copy of her book to some lucky person. Answer the question below and leave your email address with your comment to be in the drawing.
Would you have been as brave as Alice and set out to participate in the land rush alone?
Annoying legal disclaimer: drawings void where prohibited by law; open only to U.S. residents; the odds of winning depend upon the number of participants. No purchase is necessary. Winner will be selected next week-end and posted here on Monday, April 21. You must be 18 or older to enter. Remember to leave your email address for contacting you in case of win.