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"A Land Remembered" by Patrick D. Smith, Book Review

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Peggy Cole is a self-published author who enjoys writing fiction stories, book reviews and articles about simpler times.

A Land Remembered, Patrick D. Smith

A Land Remembered, Patrick D. Smith

Florida: A Changing Landscape

Modern-day Florida is filled with luxury hotels, beach-front resorts, tourists, orange groves and a collection of residents that usually come from other places. Few realize the raw nature of its existence before the railroad brought commerce to the area.

Rampant with alligators, snakes, marshy swamps, and mosquitoes, this land in its original state was home to the Seminole Indians. With razor sharp saw-grass to be traversed, devastating hurricanes and treacherous flooding coupled with sudden crop-killing freezes, settlers had a full-time job trying to stay alive.

During his research for this novel, Patrick D. Smith ran a trading post to gain insight into the lives of the native people of Florida. He describes the evolution of the state from its roots as a swamp and prairie to its explosive growth in population and major industry in a fictional story that captures the true spirit of early settlers.

Alligator Mississipiensis

Alligator Mississipiensis

The Florida Everglades

Most people have little idea of what it was like scratching out an existence living on roots, berries and raccoon stew. In his novel, A Land Remembered, Smith gives the reader plenty to think about.

Hardships after the Civil War included a serious shortage of even the most basic supplies. Groceries like flour, sugar, fabric for clothing, shoes, ammunition for hunting and cookware needed to prepare meals were hard to come by.

He tells of the "Cow Cavalry," a group commissioned by the state's governor to round up stray cattle. Their job was to drive the cows to Georgia to feed the remaining Federal troops. Along the way, they also collected and conscripted male settlers to run the cattle, whether willing or not, to travel through the harsh land with its collection of predators and diseases like malaria and dysentery. Federal troops were known to raid villages, taking "everything they could get their hands on" leaving settlers without their horses, mules and cows with no recourse. Buzzards would collect those who objected.

Florida Swamp

Florida Swamp

Confederate deserters, hiding out in the swamps to evade arrest, preyed on the families of isolated settlers, killing and devouring even their work animals.

Native Seminole Indians, that were also hunted and pursued, moved deeper into the swamps of the Everglades to avoid those who wished them harm.

Schooners traveled down the rivers carrying supplies for the local trading posts where settlers would bring animal furs to trade for their basic needs. There, they could occasionally get items they couldn't make or grow like coffee and flour.

Schooner built 1871, Photo by Stephen Taber

Schooner built 1871, Photo by Stephen Taber

Currency and Trade

Legal tender following the war was limited to Spanish gold doubloons carted around in wagons pulled by oxen. With the peril of extreme storms like hurricanes came the ever-present swamp creatures hungry and waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting.

As early cowhands pushed their herds towards the nearest marketplace, they crossed treacherous prairies and uncleared land filled with quick sand and hordes of mosquitoes. Often those dangers were enhanced by cutthroat cattle rustlers ready to kill for a profit and personal gain.

Quick's Store, Candler, Florida 1800s

Quick's Store, Candler, Florida 1800s

For what this one island is worth today my pappa could have bought the whole . . . state back in 1883 when I was born. Folks has gone as crazy as betsybugs."

— Solomon MacIvey, 1968

Modern Day Miami Beach, Florida

Modern Day Miami Beach, Florida

Solomon MacIvey

The story opens with a narrative by the elder Sol MacIvey who is at the end of his life. He has decided to defy his doctor's orders and return to his old home on the prairie of Southern Florida.

His earliest memories come flooding back as he reconnects with his Native American friend, Toby Cypress, who formed a lifetime bond with Sol's father through mutual need and respect. Sol's ancestors struggle to grow crops on their homestead while trying to keep their work oxen safe from deadly creatures that lurk in nearby woods.

They flourished despite the odds by capturing, branding and driving herds of cattle across the state to market.

Seminole family of Cypress Tiger at their camp, near Kendall, Florida, 1916. Photographer: Botanist John Kunkel Small, 1869-1938

Seminole family of Cypress Tiger at their camp, near Kendall, Florida, 1916. Photographer: Botanist John Kunkel Small, 1869-1938

The text weaves its way past a series of events through three generations of MacIvey's trying to establish a homestead. The author introduces their hired hand, Frog, whose dedication and respect for the family convinces him to stick around for a lifetime. Others join the small establishment in the scrubs to become an integral part of the family and its endeavors.

A mixture of "Bonanza" with its Ponderosa, and an impoverished post-Civil War “Gone With the Wind” existence, this tale keeps the reader engaged as they grow to care for and understand the characters portrayed.

The story provides insight into the erosion of the hard work ethic that prompted patriarch Tobias MacIvey to leave his roots and seek out a new existence in the developing south as life becomes easier with the passage of time.

Cattle drive (1913). Photo by William Creswell, USA

Cattle drive (1913). Photo by William Creswell, USA

Tobias MacIvey

Coming out of Georgia in 1858, with a horse-drawn wagon, his wife and their small baby, they crossed into Florida with "a sack of corn and a sack of sweet potatoes," and the tools necessary to clear the land and build a house.

His forty-acre farm in Georgia's red clay soil had failed. Seeking more nourishing soil and a new start, he sold the land for the goods he'd been able to stock into the wagon: "a few packets of seeds, a shotgun and a few shells, a frying pan and a cast-iron pot" which would have to serve the family for years to come.

He traded the wagon horses for a pair of oxen they named Tuck and Buck. As part of the trade, they got a guinea cow, a strangely diminutive animal which would provide milk for all of them.

Their journey through the wilderness, finding and establishing their first isolated homestead, losing it to disaster, then moving farther south to again, seek out richer soil leads them into a whole new world of experiences and eventual enrichment as their family grows and adds members.

With each generation, existence grows easier with successful crops, acres of producing orange groves and ready-made housing for the offspring that come along. When they found a way to earn bushels of money, they finally had it made.

Horse drawn wagon at an unknown street construction site.

Horse drawn wagon at an unknown street construction site.

Overall Impression

This story has all the appeal of a grandfather's tale, mixing pioneer adventure with a slice of history told by a seasoned storyteller.

This is a saga that will stay in your mind as a keen reminder of what the frontier held for our ancestors. It tells of hard work, sacrifice and reward that comes, but not without its share of loss and grief.

Patrick D. Smith Talks About the Book

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Peg Cole


Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on April 12, 2020:

Thank you, Franchesca.

F R A N C H E S C A on April 11, 2020:

It's an informative article, detailed and direct. Keep writing!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on December 03, 2019:

Thank you, Devika.

Devika Primic on December 03, 2019:

An interesting insight to this day. It a well written, and informed hub of a past and I enjoyed walking through this journey with you.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on November 23, 2019:

Hello Luis, Thanks for coming by. Glad to know of your interest on this topic. I love stories like the one Patrick Smith tells in the book.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 22, 2019:

I love your article. Thanks for sharing it. I am learning these kind of material.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 22, 2019:

Hi William,

Having the wilderness settled for us was a true gift. I'm sure there were early hardships up in your area back in the day.

Thanks for stopping in and for the nice comment.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 22, 2019:

Hello Genna,

It's such a pleasure to see you here at this book review. Thank you.

Many years ago when I lived in Miami, the church would sponsor youth group outings to the Everglades. It was always surprising to see the inhospitable conditions out in the actual swamps. Also, we used to fish out there back in the 60s when fishing was still good.

My paternal grandmother's mother used to tell us stories of her childhood when she would see Native Americans at the trading post and walking along the trails with their papooses. That would have been in the late 1800s. I wish that I had asked her more questions.

Thanks again for coming by.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on July 21, 2019:

I'm glad to be living up north in a settled land. Those times certainly were hard, and I admire those that paved the way for me, wherever it may be.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on July 21, 2019:

Hi Peggy...

What a beautifully written hub. Like Smith's book, you take us on the MacIvey journey through generations of family, progress and change. I don't think many people realize how inhospitable Florida was (and still is in some ways), and the challenges the Seminoles and other Native Americans that were forcibly relocated there had to face, as well as early settlers. This was a pleasure to read, Peggy. Thank you.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 21, 2019:

Good Morning, James,

It's always a pleasure to see that you've visited. Yes, can you believe, Florida cowboys? It's not what folks usually think of in terms of running herds.

I appreciate your comments and your kind words.

James A Watkins from Chicago on July 21, 2019:

I enjoyed the journey you took us on. A cattle drive in Florida!? Who would have thunk it. As always, your writing is crisp and your narrative interesting.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 20, 2019:

Thanks, Nell, for stopping in on this review and for the kind words. I love that you've discovered your roots across the pond! Maybe they were Pilgrims? My Mom's relatives came over from Vienna in the early 1900s. It's a small world.

Nell Rose from England on July 20, 2019:

I also love his voice. It's perfect for the story he is telling. I do love your reviews. After finding out that many of my relatives settled in Massachusetts I am fascinated by anything American now.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 20, 2019:

Hello Maria,

Thanks for listening to the Patrick Smith video. I was also enchanted by his southern charm and his way of talking. We are kindred spirits from Georgia heritage, that's for sure.

I'm glad you could glean some comfort from the comparison of homestead issues that we face these days versus what those folks in the story faced.

As always, I'm grateful for your kind compliments on the review.

Hugs, dear one.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on July 19, 2019:

Dear Peg,

Your book reviews are some of the finest I've read.

I'm enchanted by the sound of Patrick D. Smith's voice, reminding me of my favorite Georgian Uncle.

This is a reminder to me that today's homestead issues are minor by comparison to the early pioneers.

Have a peaceful evening. Love, Maria

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 19, 2019:

Hello Dora,

You know, I'm amazed at the resilience of those early pioneers and others who braved raw elements to build a homestead. Thanks so much for coming by to check out this book review.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 19, 2019:

Hi Pamela, Glad you enjoyed the book review. How difficult it must be to live without air conditioning and other comforts. When we first built our home we didn't have a/c and those Texas summers are sweltering. Also, living in Florida as a kid, we had one wall unit air conditioner and used it only on Sundays.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 18, 2019:

Thanks for this interesting book review. The book seems filled with history, culture and raw human experience. We need this kind to help keep the stories and the memories alive.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 18, 2019:

Hi there, Flourish,

Thanks so much for coming by to check out this book review. It truly is the kind of story that inspires gratitude for the blessings we have with today's modern conveniences like grocery stores, air conditioning, automatic washers and dryers and electricity. Glad you could make it over. :)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 18, 2019:

This book sounds very interesting. You wrote an excellent review of the book as well. I can't imagine how tough it was to move to FL in that era, while I sit typing in my air-conditioned FL home. LOL

Comparing this story to 'Gone With the Wind' and 'Bonanza' made the book sound very good to me.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 18, 2019:

Hello Linda,

The story reminded me so much of the tales my own dad would tell us kids about our grandfather and his dad who lived a similar existence. My grandfather was born in 1880, the son of a sharecropper who fought in the Civil War and relocated from South Carolina to Georgia. How I wish I could go back and talk to him about life as he knew it.

Thanks for coming by and I hope you'll find this book interesting. It's on Amazon.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 18, 2019:

Hi Peggy,

The story is a far cry from the comfy life the Cartwrights had on the Ponderosa, but it tells of the struggles their poverty-stricken neighbors might have had during that time. The similarity to "Gone With the Wind" is the part where Scarlett has to pick cotton and dig for sweet potatoes and cries, "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."

I do hope you'll find a copy of the book and check out this story. He's written several others, too. Thanks for dropping by on this book review and for the kind words.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 18, 2019:

We sit in the AC and drive to the grocery store and restaurants for food while these folks really had it rough. What you describe is a really scary reality. We certainly do have it easy. You did an excellent job at summarizing this tale of intrigue and making readers want to read the book.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 17, 2019:

This article gives a fascinating look at life in the past. The people that you describe had very difficult lives. I'll definitely read the book if I find it. Thanks for reviewing it, Peg.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 17, 2019:

When you wrote that it had parts of "Bonanza" and "Gone With The Wind," that got my attention. Pioneers certainly had many hardships and faced uncertainty, but were obviously brave folks to take on such a mission. That is a wonderful book review, Peg.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 17, 2019:

Hello Bill, With your roots in history and storytelling, I believe you would like this book. I sure did.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 17, 2019:

That would be a fascinating read.Thanks for the review.Now I am intrigued, Peg!

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 17, 2019:

Hi Brandy, Thank you! Hope you find time to read the book.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 17, 2019:

Lisa Jane, There are many such "oh, wow!" moments in the book that tell of this woman's sacrifice for her family. Great reading.

Liz Westwood from UK on July 16, 2019:

You are fortunate to have a signed copy of the book. I have seen people queue a long time to get books signed by authors.

Brandy McGhee Nelson from Arkansas on July 16, 2019:

Great review! I have added it to my to be read list! Thank you.

Lisa Jane from Washington on July 16, 2019:

Peg, sometimes I think about how to live a simpler life now. I can't imagine having 1 dress

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 16, 2019:

Thank you, Lisa Jane. I'm with you about living during simpler times. One thing that struck me was brought out by the character, Mrs. Tobias MacIvey, who owned only one dress and she wore it for years before getting a new one. Amazing.

Lisa Jane from Washington on July 16, 2019:

Peg, you did a great job at writing this book review. It caught my attention and now I want to read it. By this review, I think people will get the notion that we have it easy today than our ancestors did. But I still wish that I could live in those days.

Peg Cole (author) from North Dallas, Texas on July 16, 2019:

Thanks, Liz. This book was a reminder of how easy we have it these days compared to the characters in the novel. I really enjoyed reading it. My brother met the author's son at a presentation and got my copy autographed for me!

Liz Westwood from UK on July 16, 2019:

I think sometimes we take for granted modern day life. You give a great review of this interesting historical book. It's good to reflect on how things were in the past. Hopefully it willmake us appreciate the present more.