The unusual title refers to Range 16, Township 3, Section 3 of Delaware County, Ohio, and is the story of the European-descended people who settled there in the 1810s. Benajah Cook’s family is the main focus, and the narrative follows their attempts to acquire the property from speculators, build a home, and feed themselves off the land. They help other settlers get established, are friendly to the few Native Americans still left in the area, and work towards building a real town, complete with church and school.
The preface states that Tieche’s intention was a book that is “a combination of historical fact and historical fiction.” She provides end notes and an epilogue listing what happened to the real-life families after the close of the book, plus a list of sources.
I am interested in both the period and setting, but would not have finished the book if I weren’t compelled to in order to write this review. As an early draft it’s a pretty good effort, but it should have had many more revisions before publication. The storyline is mostly a ho-hum, first-they-did-this, and then-they-did-that kind of linear narrative. Not that I’m a particular fan of flashbacks and multiple points of view, but this could have used a few variations to liven things up. Some of the transitions are beyond banal: “The days went on.” The tiny amounts of conflict that exist are quickly resolved, which does not make for compelling reading. If the author was reluctant to stray too far off the factual path, then a nonfiction book would have been more interesting. One thing I did like: unlike some pioneer tales, the story acknowledges the fact that people in the 19th century had bodily functions and sexual desires, without being graphic about it.