Religion in Family History
The Prospering is a historical novel that was written by Elizabeth George Speare.
This is the least know of her historical novels, but in my opinion it is one of her best.
The Prospering brings together several of my interests.
The story is told through the life of Elizabeth Williams who was the daughter of Ephraim Williams one of the early settlers of Stockbridge.
Ephraim Williams was the nephew of my ancestor Elizabeth Williams who married Richard Cutter in the mid 1600’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I found it interesting to read about close cousins of my ancestors.
The Williams family moved to Stockbridge in 1737 when western Massachusetts was just beginning to be settled. Timothy Woodbridge and John Sergeant had started the Indian mission just a few years earlier.
John Sergeant would eventually marry Abigail Williams an older daughter of Ephraim Williams. When John Sergeant died he was succeeded by Jonathan Edwards as minister and missionary in Stockbridge. Jonathan Edwards played an important part in the Great Awakening and is considered one of the most important colonial theologians. He had previously ministered in Northampton, Massachusetts where some of my ancestors lived.
Abigail Williams Sergeant later married General Joseph Dwight who had moved to Stockbridge to become a trustee of the mission.
The novel not only gives the secular history of Stockbridge, but also gives an insight into the changing religious environment brought on by the Great Awakening. Conversations based on the writings of several of the ministers are included in the book and we are able to better understand the reasoning behind their beliefs.
The most interesting thing for me is that the story was told from the perspective of someone that little is known about. She was surrounded by very influential people and we are able to see them from her perspective.
Elizabeth Williams married late in life as the second wife of Stephen West who was also a minister.
The book is very well researched and Speare does an excellent job of weaving the different streams of the story together. She also covers topics that are very similar to her other writings.
I mentioned above that The Prospering is one of Speare’s least known historical novels. You may recognize the titles mentioned below.
Speare’s first novel was Calico Captive which was published in 1957. I mentioned Calico Captive in my post on The Deerfield Raid. The Deerfield Raid also involved some of my Williams cousins.
Her next novel was The Witch of Blackbird Pond which won a Newbery Medal in 1958.
The Prospering was her fourth novel and was written for adults. It was published in 1967.
Her last novel was written many years later. The Sign of the Beaver was the recipient of a Newbery Honor award in 1983.
Many of you may recognize the titles of her other books as The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Bronze Bow are required reading in many schools. However, most of you have probably never heard of The Prospering. It is usually not included in lists of her books.
I did find out that she also wrote a book called Life in Colonial America. I need to find a copy and read it. I am also on the lookout for a copy of The Prospering to add to my collection.
This post is part of a series on Religion in Family History. See also: