For 45 years, author Wm. Bruce McCoy made a living in Nebraska public schools, as a teacher, administrator and coach. He spent 10 of those years in Bellevue, part of the Omaha metro area along Nebraska’s border with Iowa.
In his novel “Bellevue,” McCoy tells the story of two families who set off in 1857 in a wagon that started rolling in Louisville, Kentucky, bound for Oregon.
But when the caravan reaches Bellevue, a flood wreaks havoc on one of the families. The water carries away Amy Franklin, leaving behind her husband and young son, Matt and Sammy.
The loss stuns Matt Franklin. He reveals that “the night before he had thought a lot about everything and pretty much decided to stay in Bellevue and not go to Oregon on the wagon train. He mentioned the dreams and plans he had discussed with Amy and how this tragedy destroyed those plans.
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Also deciding to put down roots in Bellevue, another wagon train family, which includes a young woman who babysits Sammy and keeps a secretly sweet eye on Matt. Over time, Matt learns how she feels about him – and how he feels about her.
It all sounds like a novel. But “Bellevue” largely reads like the story. A sample:
“The wagon train left Fairfield and traveled seven more days before reaching the town of Belleville, Illinois. Camping for six days on the prairie made the whole wagon train impatient to see some people again. The name Beautiful city means ‘beautiful city.’ George Blair named it in 1814. It was incorporated as a village in 1819 and became a town in 1850. It became a coal mining area in 1874 when a huge coal deposit was discovered. In 1879, 90% of the city’s population was either of German descent or of German descent. »
Here and there, McCoy again deviates from the fictional form, throwing in a bit of puny humor. For example: “Peter Sarpy’s two most successful ferries were at Bellevue and Decatur, and he greatly increased his wealth from them. You could say they were her ferry godmothers!
A negative note: only one of the book’s many photos bears a caption, and nowhere in the book can a reader find a map.
That said, readers will marvel at the skills required to head west in the 1850s. For example, Matt Franklin must know how to be a rancher, farmer, carpenter, landscaper, cook, surveyor, an educator, an accountant, a hunter, a horse breeder, a blacksmith and more.
The book’s dedication to author McCoy’s late brother, Bob McCoy, for years Post-Dispatch’s sports editor, will be of interest to local readers.
Manchester’s Harry Levins retired in 2007 as the Post-Dispatch’s senior editor.