Emma of Aurora is a book based on the life of Emma Giesy. She was instrumental is the scouting out of the Washington territory eventually the settling of Aurora Mills, Oregon. Emma Wagner was raised in the Germany community of Bethel, Missouri. She was raised in a common community of Christians who were under the leadership of Father Wilhelm Kiel. Father Kiel’s word is law. Everything in Bethel belongs to the community under the name of Kiel. If anything is needed from flour to fabric or lumber it must be first obtained from the community storage building. Everything earned by the community went into the community fund. Women had little or no say not only in this community but anywhere in the country legally. This book is a compilation of 3 books in the Change and Cherish Trilogy. It chronicles Emma Wagoner’s life from young adulthood into middle aged. In the first book, A Clearing in the Wild Emma marries Christian Giesy, a man that she has been long admiring from a distance, against Father Kiel’s denial of his agreement to marry. Christian had been sent on a mission to bring in others to the community of faith. Father Kiel’s rules include celibacy and he discourages most marriages stating that it decreases working for the community. Father Kiel’s family on the other hand is quite large. Christian and Emma finally obtain permission to wed but Father Kiel will not preside over the ceremony—they must go elsewhere to have their wedding. Quickly Father Kiel sends Christian again off to work in the hills of Kentucky. When he returns Father Kiel wants to again send off Christian to scout out the Washington territory to move the entire community. It would take at least a year. Emma can’t stand the thought of being away from Christian that long and starts to devise a plan to go as the first woman scout. Against many odds Father Kiel allows her to go but Emma has no idea of the hardships entailed with exploring through Indian Territory to get to Washington territory especially as a young pregnant woman.
The second book chronicles the settling of Willapa Bay in Washington territory by the scouts lead by Christian Giesy and the settling of Aurora Mills, Oregon by Father Kiel. It tells of the hardships of the dividing of the original Bethel, Missouri group into two divisions and the difficulties of each. Father Kiel is getting older and also has moved away from some of his religious fervor (though not the rules set down by him) and moved toward economic enterprises that would make the community more money. This book is told through the eyes of Louisa Kiel, Father Kiel’s wife and Emma in alternating chapters. This leads the reader to understand both the reasoning behind the Kiel family and the Giesy family. It leads the reader to a deeper understanding of both families. Emma goes through the emotional grief of losing her husband and marrying a man in hopes of saving the farm for her sons but ends up in a loveless and violent union. Emma frantically writes to her family for help but no letters come. Emma has decisions to make in order to keep her children safe from her husband Jack Giesy.
The third book is A Mending at the Edge. In this story we read of Emma and the raising of her children and the difficulties she has depending on others for her safety from Jack and escaping into Aurora Mills. She finds that the city is less than the Kiels had earlier described but that life is easier than in the territory cabin that she lived in with her drunk and often violent husband. She learns to heal and forgive and live a life of meaning where she is not always in control of her destiny. She learns to find happiness and to accept the forgiveness of others. Emma matures as her children do. She finds ways to provide for them food, clothing and education for not only her boys but also the girls. Life is still difficult at times but manageable with the help of faith, friends and family.
I thought this book was one that should be read by those interested in the history of the settling of the west. I love history so I was enthralled. I however had to set the book down at times—sometimes because of my anger, sometimes because of the extreme sadness of the times. Life was hard for our first settlers and I don’t think we always appreciate all that they did for us. We owe a debt of gratitude to them. They weren’t perfect just as we are not but they persevered and changed our country into the one we live in today—for better and for worse.
This book was provided by WaterbrookMultnomah for this review.