Many sparrows, p.1

Many Sparrows, page 1


Many Sparrows

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Many Sparrows

  Praise for

  Many Sparrows

  “Stunning. Many Sparrows is everything I want in a book: settings that spring to life, characters I love, rich historical context, heart-wrenching drama, timeless spiritual insights, and prose that reads like poetry. Lori Benton handles the conflicted eighteenth century with sensitivity in this tender tale of hope and fear, faith and doubt, loss and new life. Truly, this is an inspired masterpiece sure to stir the soul.”

  —JOCELYN GREEN, award-winning author of The Mark of the King

  “Intense. Enlightening. Lustrous. Many Sparrows is a lesson in early American history wrapped up in a beautiful romance, one not only of the human heart but of God’s heart for His creation. I cherished Clare and Jeremiah’s quietly blossoming love and deeply felt their struggle to trust and reach that painful yet unburdening place of surrender. Many sighs. And many thanks to the author.”

  —TAMARA LEIGH, USA Today best-selling author of The Vexing and Lady Betrayed

  “Lori Benton vividly portrays characters wrestling with a God they can’t explain but desperately need to trust. Many Sparrows is a heart-searching story where love trumps hate, and hard-won forgiveness leads to soaring hope. Held captive to the end by the characters’ inescapable conflicts, I shouted for joy when I read the masterful ending. Truly, this is history made personal and believable.”

  —MESU ANDREWS, author of Miriam

  “Lori Benton weaves a beguiling tapestry of prose, pathos, and faith in Many Sparrows, a story as hopeful as it is heartrending. Shedding light on the ferocity of a mother’s love and the beauty and complexity of Shawnee culture and community, Benton’s boundless talent shines ever brighter as a rich and mesmerizing story unfolds. Each character is wonderfully authentic and honestly drawn, but it is Jeremiah’s devotion to God, the tension between his two worlds, and the vow he made to a grieving woman that caught my breath many times over. Exquisitely told, Many Sparrows reaches all the deep spaces of the heart, abiding long after the last page is turned.”


  “Many Sparrows is a beautifully threaded tapestry, rich with spiritual imagery and relatable characters, set in the boiling-pot world of the pre–Revolutionary Ohio-Kentucky frontier. With her customarily poetic voice and singular ability to bring eighteenth-century America to sparkling life, Benton weaves a story of fierce loyalty, breathtaking love, and the battles waged when faith is in crisis and survival is unlikely. Another burn-the-midnight-oil piece of literary fiction from one of the finest writers in inspirational fiction.”

  —RACHEL MCMILLAN, author of the Herringford and Watts series


  The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn

  Burning Sky


  The Wood’s Edge

  A Flight of Arrows


  All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version.

  The characters and events in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental.

  Trade Paperback ISBN 9781601429940

  Ebook ISBN 9781601429957

  Copyright © 2017 by Lori Benton

  Cover design by Kristopher K. Orr; cover painting by Homer Dodge Martin, Bridgeman Images

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  Published in the United States by WaterBrook, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

  WATERBROOK® and its deer colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Benton, Lori, author.

  Title: Many sparrows : a novel / Lori Benton.

  Description: First edition. | Colorado Springs, CO : WaterBrook, 2017.

  Identifiers: LCCN 2017015973| ISBN 9781601429940 (softcover) | ISBN 9781601429957 (electronic)

  Subjects: LCSH: Frontier and pioneer life—Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION / Christian Historical. | FICTION Christian Romance. | FICTION Romance / Historical. | GSAFD: Christian fiction. | Historical fiction. | Love stories.

  Classification: LCC PS3602.E6974 M36 2017 | DDC 813/.6—dc23

  LC record available at





  Books by Lori Benton

  Title Page




  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Readers Guide

  Author’s Notes and Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  This book is dedicated to:

  Doree Crawford Ross, whose many-times great-uncle, William Crawford, was busy on the Ohio frontier in 1774, taking care of business.

  And Jeanette Puryear Johnson, a native Virginian who made sure her children were born so too.

  Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father….Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

  MATTHEW 10:29–31

  MAY 1, 1774


  Jeremiah Ring had witnessed death as often as the next man on the Allegheny frontier, but in all his thirty years he had encountered no deaths more dismaying than those confronting him now.

  The dead had been laid on the wet spring earth near Joshua Baker’s tavern and trading post, made as decent as such desecrated bodies could be. Now the living moved among them as men whose joints had aged a score of years, tongues held captive by grief and outrage. Jeremiah’s friend, the Mingo, Logan, wept in silence beside the body of a young woman, his sister Koonay.

  Jeremiah felt his gorge rise as it had at first sight of Koonay. Someone had draped a blanket over her after cutting her down from the tree in which her body was found hanging, but they’d all seen what was done to her. Koonay had been heavy with her second child, but not even the unborn had escaped this slaughter. No one had yet found her firstborn, a daughter, two years old, though they knew she’d been with her mother in one of the canoes that crossed the Ohio River to Baker’s post, a thing done in friendship many times before.

  It wasn’t only Koonay whom Logan grieved. Jeremiah choked back his own sorrow, watching the man absorb the slaughter of nearly all the blood kin he’d had in this world—his older brother, his mother, his nephew, his sister, her unborn child. The few warriors who’d accompanied them, slain along wit
h his kin, had been Logan’s friends.

  For the first time since he’d met the man, Jeremiah felt chary approaching Logan, stony-faced even as he wept for his dead. Logan’s warriors backed away, leaving them alone.

  “Cresap.” Logan didn’t look at Jeremiah as he spat the name in a strangled voice. “He has done this.”

  Jeremiah felt his gut twist. Michael Cresap, trader and land hunter, had made it plain he meant to slaughter any Indians unlucky enough to cross his path. This was due in large part to rumors being spread by Major John Connolly, commander at Fort Pitt, who’d gone so far as to assert the Ohio Indians—Shawnees and Mingos—were on the verge of striking the frontier settlements in open war. Cresap had decided to strike first. But had the man grown so hard, so heartless, to have done this?

  Whoever was to blame, the senseless killings were bound to escalate an already tenuous situation on the Ohio. Until now, Mingos like Logan, along with many Shawnee chiefs including their principal chief, Cornstalk, had counseled against open warfare with the whites invading their hunting grounds south of the river. These whites weren’t traders, who’d come among them for years, beginning with the French. Nor were they missionaries, who’d settled among the Delawares and now had whole villages of Christian converts. These men came to blaze the trees and cut them down, to put up cabins and corn, kill the game and fill the land with cattle and hogs; an endless stream of settlers spilling down the Ohio like floodwaters.

  Fiery young warriors, seeing their hunting grounds taken, couldn’t always be controlled by elders who urged peace. Even the Shawnee war chief, Puckeshinwah, who’d spent the past months in talks with the Indian agents at Fort Pitt, was ready to raise the war club in the face of Virginia Governor Dunmore’s inability to stem the tide of illegal settlement down the Ohio.

  Three days ago, Jeremiah had left the frustrated Puckeshinwah and his Shawnee delegation in Pittsburgh and descended the Ohio with Koonay’s husband, the white trader John Gibson, hoping to discover whether the alarming rumors being spread about Indian attacks had basis in fact. Assured by a band of Shawnees met on the river that their warriors hadn’t been out killing whites, Gibson felt sure the rumors were false. Major Connolly was attempting to excite alarm, likely to further some land-grabbing scheme of Governor Dunmore’s to snatch up the Ohio territory before Pennsylvania could claim it. Gibson had traded canoes for packhorses and continued overland toward the Shawnee towns on the Scioto River to do his trading.

  Less sanguine about the rumors, Jeremiah had turned his canoe for Yellow Creek. Surely Logan’s warriors weren’t raiding across the river—he was known widely as a friend to the white man—but perhaps he’d know if others were.

  Logan had been away at a hunting camp when Jeremiah arrived, but what caused a true disquiet was learning Logan’s family had crossed to Baker’s post, lured by the invitation of some white men promising whiskey. Distant shots had echoed across the river almost before the news was shared. Jeremiah had gone over by canoe with the warriors sent to investigate, only to be repelled by more gunfire. Runners had been sent to Logan’s hunting camp to bring him in. That morning they’d finally made it ashore, to find the dead lying scalped and mutilated, the killers long fled.

  Jeremiah sought for words to fill a mouth gone dusty. He wanted to comfort Logan, caution him not to rush to blame, say something to turn aside what could easily follow this atrocity—a full-scale border war. To mind rose memory of Koonay’s lifeless face, beaten almost beyond recognition, and he thought it would take a rare man, faced with such violation, to turn aside from vengeance.

  “Maybe it was Cresap. Maybe not. Surely the Indian agents at Pittsburgh will…”

  Jeremiah fell silent when Logan’s gaze lifted, knowing nothing he could say would matter. What he’d seen this day would haunt Jeremiah for his next thirty years, should he live so long. So would what he read in the tormented eyes turned on him now. Where once had leapt the flame of friendship for Jeremiah’s race, there blazed a hatred mere words could never douse.

  Alarm crawled over Jeremiah’s scalp. Not for himself. In Logan’s eyes he was no longer a white man. His alarm was for every settler fool enough to linger west of the mountains after today.

  Logan seemed to read his thoughts. Lifting his shoulders until he stood lance-straight, fingers curving round the tomahawk thrust through his sash, the Mingo bound Jeremiah with that burning gaze.

  “For every life here taken from me,” he said though lips set tight with rage, “by my hand ten whites will die. Ten. In your hearing this day I vow it. Go and tell what has been done here if you will. Speak for these ones who have no more voice. But do not promise peace. Not from Logan.”

  MAY 6, 1774


  Clare Margaret Inglesby, twenty-six years of age and eight months with child, wondered how she’d come to this: trapped in a jolting wagon advancing into perilous wilderness.

  She clenched her teeth to prevent them rattling out of her head and to hold back the flood of grievance amassing on her tongue. Though in danger of losing hairpins, cap, and sundry other trappings to the bucking of their conveyance, that was nothing to the sense of impending disaster that had dogged her every mile they’d traveled from the place they’d last called home, the Augusta County farm belonging to Clare’s uncle, Alphus Litchfield.

  In seven years of marriage, the Inglesbys had never owned a home of their own, despite all Philip’s promises.

  And likely never shall, she thought, as the forest west of Redstone Fort enclosed them in its dark embrace for a second day of misery. The men of Redstone had warned Philip the track they followed was unsuitable for a wagon’s passage, suggesting they go by canoe instead.

  Philip had dismissed their advice. He was in a hurry to reach Wheeling Settlement and hadn’t the patience to wait for a canoe to be built. James Harrod and his settlers, whom Philip meant to join up with, were said to be in Wheeling, but only for a short time before they departed downriver. If they could reach Wheeling quickly, Philip had maintained, they were bound to catch Harrod’s party.

  Always certain he could find a way or make one was Philip, no matter the inevitable disappointment that followed.

  Inevitable. Precisely when had she transformed into a woman of such dark presentiment? Had this nagging expectation of doom been her companion before she became Philip’s wife?

  Perhaps she’d made passing acquaintance with it then, even as she and Philip ignored her father’s cautioning and wed under the cloud of devastation that had settled over Philip and his mother with the self-perpetrated death of his father and the ruination of their fortunes.

  Certainly she’d done so five years later when, reduced to tenancy after repeated failures to regain said fortune, she and Philip had cast themselves upon the mercy of Clare’s uncle and left Richmond, with its cobbled streets, bustling shops, and established society—and painful memories—to move onto Alphus Litchfield’s vacant farm in the Shenandoah Valley.

  There’d been no place else to go, for Philip had flatly refused to seek the aid of her parents yet again.

  “Only for a while,” he’d assured her. “Until we get our feet under us.” A year. Maybe two.

  Clare, who’d taken to farming with a liking that surprised no one more than herself, began to hope they’d found their place at last, however modest. Perhaps one day Uncle Alphus, who operated a gristmill in nearby Staunton, might be induced to sell the land to them.

  Six months later the name Harrod fell from Philip’s lips. Hot on its heels came Kentucky.

  She’d opposed his intention of uprooting them again and making for the Ohio frontier, where land was fast being surveyed and claimed despite King George’s Proclamation meant to halt settlement at the crest of the Allegheny Mountains.

  “The wording of the Proclamation isn’t clear on that point,” Philip had argued. “There are grants to be made to veterans of the French War, land that must be found west of the mountains.
The Proclamation Line could never have been intended as a permanent demarcation, Philip had reasoned. “It’s only a matter of time before the Ohio country is officially open to settlement. We must be among the first!”

  Clare had shuddered in the face of his enthusiasm. Who could say what fate awaited them across the mountains, or who might be nearby to aid them when that fate—bedecked in war paint—chose to descend upon them, hatchets raised? Though her own troubles had risen large in recent years, she was aware enough of the wider world to know the land for which they made wasn’t truly unclaimed.

  Had it ever ended well when the worlds of red and white men collided?

  Such collision had occurred just miles from Uncle Alphus’s farm. Years ago, raiding Indians had stolen a young pregnant bride right out of her cabin while her husband was away. The husband had abandoned his farm and gone tearing off into the wilderness after his wife. Neither ever returned. Clare couldn’t recall their name: Bud, perhaps? Or was it Bloom? Regardless, the story haunted her.

  Now here she was pushing deep into territory where such unspeakable things still happened.

  “Why not stay on Uncle Alphus’s farm?” she’d pleaded. “He requires someone to work it, and he’s welcomed us here as long as needs be.”

  “No, Clare.” As always, Philip’s eyes had looked beyond what rested safe in his hand to something more he wished to grasp. “I cannot abide it, farming another man’s land.”

  “Is it the lack of ownership or the farming itself to which you object?” she’d asked, having her suspicions. “If the latter, how will it be better where land must first be cleared?”

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