The Seekers (novel)
1st edition (1975)
|Series||The Kent Family Chronicles|
|Preceded by||The Rebels|
|Followed by||The Furies|
The Seekers is a historical novel written by John Jakes and originally published in 1975. It is book three in a series known as the Kent Family Chronicles or the American Bicentennial Series. The novel mixes fictional characters with historical events and figures, as it narrates the story of the United States of America from 1794 through 1814. In 1979, the novel was made into a television film by Operation Prime Time and premiered on HBO on July 8, 1979, The Seekers.
The story begins in 1794, at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, in the Northwest Territory. Abraham Kent, the son of Philip Kent and Anne Ware, had enlisted in the Legion of the United States to help neutralize the threat of American Indians against expanding white settlements. He led a cavalry charge in the battle, but let a chance to kill Tecumseh slip away.
Philip Kent, his father, had grown affluent as the proprietor of the publishing firm, Kent and Son in Boston, and would have preferred to have Abraham follow him into the family business; however, Abraham was not interested in that trade and was uncertain what he wanted to do in life. Politically, father and son also had diverging views. Philip supported the Federalists, a party more friendly to urban industrialists, but Abraham did not.
Abraham fell in love with Elizabeth Fletcher, his stepsister, the illegitimate daughter of Judson Fletcher and Peggy Ashford McLean Kent. Philip had married Peggy after the death of his first wife, but never adopted Elizabeth as his own daughter. Elizabeth, who had inherited her late father's rebelliousness, resented him for this and did not want to live by his conservative rules. Sharing a common desire to leave Boston and Philip, Abraham and Elizabeth married in 1796 and planned to start a new life in the Northwest Territory. They purchased a tract of land on the Great Miami River, near Fort Hamilton, though Abraham feared that his young wife was too frail to make the journey. Along the way Elizabeth revealed that she was pregnant, but she lost the baby when their riverboat crashed in the Ohio River.
Once reaching their tract of land, Abraham took advice once given him by Thomas Jefferson and began farming corn. There, a son, Jared Adam, was born to Abraham and Elizabeth in 1798. Having lived there two years had not made Elizabeth any more content than she was when she was living under Philip’s roof in Boston. Her health was also suffering. Not wanting to see her in such distress, Abraham decided to sell his farm and move to a more populated settlement. This news seemed to raise her spirits, but just before the move, two Shawnee Indians wandered onto Abraham’s farm looking for whiskey. In attempting to expel them, Abraham killed one of the men, but the other one killed Elizabeth. Afterwards, Abraham, distraught, sold the farm, then made his way back to Boston with Jared to learn that Philip had recently died.
Gilbert Kent, the son of Philip and his second wife Peggy Ashford McLean, inherited control of Kent and Son after his father’s passing. He gave Abraham a job there, but it was a job marred by constant violent and drunken behaviour by Abraham. Abraham had never recovered from Elizabeth's death. Because of this, Gilbert tried to arrange for Abraham to participate in the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1803, but Abraham informed him that he could not participate because he had caught a disease from a prostitute. Abraham chose to leave, but tried to take his son with him. Gilbert’s wife, Harriet, would not allow it. Abraham pushed her down the stairs and she went into premature labor. Gilbert expelled him from his house after a violent scuffle. Abraham left without Jared, and Harriet gave birth to a daughter, Amanda. Abraham was never seen again.
Jared was raised by Gilbert and Harriet, though Harriet detested him and treated him cruelly. After the War of 1812 was declared, Jared enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served aboard the USS Constitution. He participated in the battle with HMS Guerriere that took place on August 19, 1812. During the battle Jared contributed to the maiming of 6th Lieutenant Hamilton Stovall, a superior officer who had earlier demanded sex from Jared, but was denied.
Later that year Gilbert Kent, had a seizure and died, and Harriet quickly remarried. Her second husband, Andrew Piggott, appeared to be a suitable mate before they were married; however, this was to prove illusory. He was a compulsive gambler and womaniser. He would lose the entire Kent and Son publishing firm to Stovall in a game of craps, which proved to be a setup as retribution for Jared's having rejected Stovall's advances. In his rage upon hearing this news from Stovall, Jared set fire to the firm and attempted to kill Stovall, instead shooting an associate of his. Thinking the man he shot was dead, Jared fled the city with his cousin Amanda. Earlier that day, Harriet had been hit by a carriage and died, leaving Amanda an orphan.
Having no specific destination in mind, they traveled to Pittsburgh. Once there, Jared made the decision to settle in New Orleans, but he was sidetracked along the way. While in Tennessee, near Nashville, Amanda was raped and abducted by William Blackthorn. Having been beaten up by Blackthorn and also badly ill, Jared was required to recover for a time at The Hermitage, the home of future US President Andrew Jackson. Jackson made inquiries as to Blackthorn’s destination, and learnt that Blackthorn may have gone to St. Louis. After recovering, Jared went there, discovered him in a brothel and shot him dead in self-defence. With his dying breath, Blackthorn told Jared he had sold Amanda to fur traders going up the Missouri River. He refused to name the traders.
Jared was jailed for ninety days for disturbing the peace; while in jail, he was visited by Elijah Weatherby. Weatherby, a fur trader, had witnessed Blackthorn’s death and he was impressed by Jared. The shooting had also prevented Weatherby from being charged over an alcohol-induced "frolic" he had been engaged in at the time. He was further impressed by Jared's story of his travels from Boston to St Louis, and the endurance that both he and Amanda had displayed. He told Jared he was going to Indian country to trade and that he needed a partner. Weatherby offered to aid Jared in his search for Amanda along the way. After some consideration, Jared decided to accept the offer, and they commence their journey in November 1814. The story ends without Jared and Amanda being reunited, but the reader learns that Amanda is alive and was sold by fur traders to an American Indian.
Historic figures Abraham Kent interacts with throughout the novel
- Anthony Wayne
- William Henry Harrison - he appears briefly at the Battle of Fallen Timbers as a staff officer of Anthony Wayne.
- Meriwether Lewis
- William Clark
- Robert MisCampbell
- George Washington
- Martha Washington
- John Adams
- Abigail Adams
- Henry Knox - John Adams, Abigail Adams and Knox all attended the wedding of Abraham and Elizabeth.
- Robert Morris
- Thomas Jefferson
Historic figures Jared Kent interacts with throughout the novel
- Henry Clay
- Albert Gallatin - Jared and Amanda eavesdrop on a conversation being held in 1811 by Gilbert, family friend Royal Rothman, Clay and Gallatin.
- Isaac Hull
- Charles Morris
- James Richard Dacres
- Abraham Lincoln – Jared and Amanda stopped briefly on their journey from Boston at the log cabin on Knob’s Creek were Lincoln lived as a boy with his father, Thomas, his mother, Nancy, and his sister Sarah.
- Rachel Jackson
- Andrew Jackson
- William Clark
- William Beamon (1 November 1979). "Ross Martin: He's A Bright Spot In Dreary 'Seekers'". The Phoenix. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
- New York Times: Seekers - TV MiniSeries Retrieved December 15, 2013
- July 1979 HBO Program Guide ("The Seekers" on cover), page 6