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                       by Nellie Mae Batson



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In the year 1858, Jess Swinson and his sons, Jesse and James, begin a journey from Ireland to America in hopes of reclaiming the family fortune and reuniting their family.  As Jess stands on the deck of the ship, biding farewell to his wife and five children, he exclaims, “With God as my witness!  I vow that an heir of my seed will one day reclaim the Swinson fortune and social standing.”


The path that unfolds before the three Swinson men is wrought with trial and heartbreak as they slowly make their way to America, only to be separated once more, causing James to go his own way.  Jess and Jesse make their way to the wilderness of North Carolina to start a new life. In Clinton, North Carolina, Jesse mets Colista Anita Batts, a young woman of courage and determination to match that of Jasse. The wide-canvas story that evolves will  keep the reader on edge as they wait to see the end result.


Swinson is a story of great loss, great love, and the promise of tomorrow as Jess’ vow is never forgotten and is passed down to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren after his death.


This story is written in the dialect of the setting of its time and place.


ISBN 978-1-934936-02-3


Paperback-356 pages-$20.00


Second Edition available now.


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Reviewed by Elizabeth Silance Ballard


SWINSON, the author’s second book, is riveting. Here, she presents to us in vivid detail the hardships and courage of the earlier settlers of our country. This is the type of writing and information which would serve well in history books for classrooms across the nation.  It would be a good supplementary reader for budding American history scholars who truly want to understand the mindset and motives of those who left family, friends, and property behind to join in the settling of new territory. It moves beyond the “facts and dates” of our history and shows us the people, the personalities and character, as well as the motives behind the willingness to leave the familiar for the hardship of beginning anew, literally out of wilderness. We already knew about the Irish potato famine. SWINSON shows us the results of that famine in a very personal way.

            With primary research gleaned from letters and business papers from an heirloom trunk, Nellie Mae Batson, has brought alive for us the three men who were the first in the family to set foot on American soil. It chronicles the outright starvation, physical abuse, and long days of despair as they encountered the harshness of working aboard ship.  Their fear is our fear as that ship is taken over by a renegade privateer’s ship.  From that point on, the Swinson men learned just how rough and downright cruel life could be away from all who knew, loved and admired them, away from the familiar.

            The Swinsons finally had an opportunity to jump ship and escape their tormentors. Working their way across the countryside, they finally settled in eastern North Carolina.  Jesse found the love of his life along the way and we marvel at how Listy Ann left a life of privilege and ease to join the trek to the North Carolina property.  We admire how this same girl, who had nothing in her background to prepare her for the hard life of the wilderness, used her ingenuity and resourcefulness to become a good helpmate for Jesse.

            To us, who have grown up in a later day in this country, with a sense of entitlement, with an air that nothing is quite good enough, that things should be made available to us with little effort on our part, SWINSON opens our eyes to the true pleasures and pride of accomplishment experienced by those who came before us.  We feel the excitement of Listy Ann as she sees her new home being built from logs from their own trees, sawed with their own sawmill, yet we still feel the pleasure she took from living in a lean-to until that house could be built.

            We watch and admire as Listy Ann learns to make everything the family needs and we realize how well she, Jesse and Jess, worked in harmony and with a single purpose.  We enjoy their newfound friends and neighbors as others move into the area and begin their own homesteads.

            Although this is her family’s history, the author has not whitewashed the story.  She shows the bad along with the good. She does not judge but simply states what took place in  the family through this narrative which takes us to the year 1929.  The book ends as  we are told that the story continues in Nellie Batson’s next book, SKEET APPLES.  Though we feel a letdown,

at the same time we are eager to follow the family on into the next phase of their history.

            We also wonder if there will not be a third book in the Swinson chronicles.  This book started out with Jess and his family living in Scotland, then moving to Ireland, then forced by the potato famine to move on to America.  But what about the earlier beginnings?  How did the Swinsons get to Scotland from Sweden?  And why?  Maybe this will be the author’s next book.

            Anyone who enjoys the “Little House on the Prairie” books, or Janette Oke’s books about the settling of the west, will enjoy Nellie Mae Batson’s books. Like those two authors, Mrs. Batson brings to life characters we end up loving, admiring and wanting to hear more about.