In 1909 it's unusual for a smart, single woman from an established family to decide on her own to leave her small village and cross the country to start a new life. Anna Hartle has nurtured her siblings since their parent's unexpected death. But her fortitude is tested after leaving Ohio for California. Like her brothers, Addison and Purl, she is swept into the American western migration at the turn of the last century.
Wyandot County, Ohio
When well to do Adam Milo and Rhoda Hartle died of pneumonia in 1901, their eight children are sent to live with relatives. Anna, the eldest at sixteen, abandons her plan to attend Oberlin College and becomes a teacher in a one room schoolhouse. By the start of the story in 1908, she feels the need to leave the confines of her small village. It's been hard to keep a distance from her students and school board members who are friends and family.
During a real estate transaction she impresses the agent, Hiram Cowell, and he invites her to move to California with his family to help establish his business. Two fateful meetings change Anna's life—only one for the better. Hiram introduces her to Daeida "Ida" Hartle Wilcox Beveridge, a cousin she was unaware of, a founder of Hollywood, who helps Anna through difficulties in her new environment. Anna also meets Martin Jackson, five years younger, whom she unfortunately marries. Twists in the plot involve Martin's past.
Some of the action is described through letters among the characters, all far from home. Anna taught them well, so they are good readers and writers. Her brothers are always on the move, Purl in the Pacific with the Army Cavalry, and Addison, pursuing the fledgling aviation industry.
The photo of Anna the teacher on the 1906 class memory book shows an unpretentious individual. What a difference when her photograph appears in newspapers in 1911. The sophisticated Anna is the perfect Gibson girl. Her chestnut hair is in a pompadour. She's about 5'8", slim, and her long, graceful arms and legs give a healthy, athletic appearance. It's obvious that she has also learned the art of make-up.
Regardless of the change in her appearance, one theme is consistent for Anna. To borrow from Thomas Wolfe, 'you
can't go home again'.
In the next blog, one character's plans are affected by the Titanic disaster.