Book Review: A Bride Goes West by Nannie T. Alderson and Helena Huntington Smith

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The situation of women on the American Western frontier has not been documented as much as that of their male counterparts. Yet women often faced much the same dangers and hardships as the men. This book is the narrative of Nannie T. Alderson who was a young bride who married a cowboy and moved from West Virginia and a comfortable life to go to Montana and a very different life. Nannie was born in 1860 in Union, West Virginia. Her first sight of her future husband was in 1877 while visiting a Baptist preacher’s home a cowboy, who had moved to Kansas with his father and family. At the first meeting she thought he was rather odd. They met again later and he asked her to marry him and go west.

On getting to Miles City There were all sorts of men from various parts of the country who planned to go into the cattle business. When they reached the place they were to live, she found herself a hundred miles from any stores to pick up supplies. Without the help of neighbors she had to learn tasks such as laundry, which she did, not do back home. “On the ranch we had meat without end, milk, and butter (if I made it), and later a few vegetables.” (P39) All else came from Miles city and only once a year the men went there to ship cattle and buy supplies such as sugar, flour, coffee, sides of bacon, dried fruits and canned goods by the case.

Later she relates experiences with the Indians. They were mostly Northern Cheyenne’s who had been the deadliest fighters and enemies of the whites until two years before she came there. One visitor was “old chief Two Moons, who had played a leading part seven years before in chopping Custer’s Command to pieces at the battle of the Little Big Horn.” (P47).

Along the way she describes various visitors, some of whom were characters, such Packsaddle Jack, who was a Texan with a herd of cattle in 1880 or thereabouts. He had an old Texas saddle that was so worn that the wood tree showed through the leather. With the rickety saddle and a cocky manner “caused a few grins to appear” He asked for a job and the boss said he would hire him if he could ride. A cowboy roped an outlaw horse, which nobody had ridden successfully. She said the “animal almost bucked himself in two. But the saddle stayed together and the man stayed on...” That is when he got the name Packsaddle Jack. (P 86-87)

When she was staying in Miles City to have her baby and her husband was able to stay with her most of the time they got a telegram. Instead of congratulations on having the baby it read:” Indians have burned your house. Come immediately with sheriff and posse..’ (P99) The cause was some stupid horseplay by a cowboy.

She continues to describe life on a ranch and finally the accidental death of her husband. I think it a very interesting book both for the description of ranch life at that period in history and the role of a woman in it. She is not a cowgirl nor is she quite the meek sort of woman seen in western movies.

I highly recommend this book if you can find a copy and are interested in American western History. It tells well the story of a particular woman who leaves a comfortable southern life for the western by Nannie T. frontier and despite hardships is quite happy with the new life.

The original copyright date for this book is 1942 and the edition I have in paperback was printed in 1969.ISBN 0-8032-5001-0 Bison Books Edition It is an old book, which I picked up at a library sale. Mrs. Alderson told her stories to Ms Huntington who gathered them together for this book. J O’H illustrates it. Cosgrove II

© 2012 Don A. Hoglund

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Comments 10 comments

CASE1WORKER profile image


Sounds interesting- it must have been a major change to move away from family and friends into an area with no shops or amenities- I cannot imagine it myself

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

It was a major change but she was happy with the new life.Thanks for being the first to comment.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

This definitely sounds like an interesting book. Those pioneer women were a sturdy lot or they did not last in that environment. Thanks for the review. Voted interesting and up.

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi Peggy, thanks for commenting. Before I had my last incident of cancer I was trying the on-line book business. When I got too weak to process books I cancelled all my accounts. Anyhow I have a good number of books I had bought to sell and this is one of them. If I tried selling again I don't know if I could part with the books.

I like this book because it neither glorifies the west nor does it exaggerate the problems.

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 5 years ago from USA

It does sound like an interesting book. It is based on a true story then?

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Millionaire Tips thanks for commenting. The book is autobiographical. It is the experiences of a woman of the time who married and moved to the west. I found it very insightful.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Good review of an interesting book.

Use to find a library copy near you. lists dozens of copies for sale, for as little as 99c

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting and the information.

tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 5 years ago from North Carolina

Well done and very interesting. That time in history is unbelievable. I can't imagine living in some of those conditions. I like the fact that you showcased a bride's story!

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

tammyswallow,Thank you for the comment. I found the book an interesting read. Personal memoirs like this give a lot of insight into the times.

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