Sunday, June 16, 2024


By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

         Land in the Northwest Territory was usually given to the Continental soldiers as payment for their wages earned during the 1775 to 1777 Revolutionary War. These often penniless soldiers were glad at the chance to become landowners. This transpired through the Treaty of Paris in 1783, formally ended the Revolutionary War for the 13 colonies and extended American boundaries from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River.  

Those 13 colonies that fought in the Revolutionary War were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The lands of the northwest Territory consisted of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, parts of Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

Early settlers built their cabins and churches first. Then schools to teach their children to read the Bible. They knew the way to success was a knowledge of the Word of God. Education was no longer a luxury for the affluent.

The road to improve themselves lay ahead for the next generation. Dreams and hopes of a bright future for the settlers and their offspring abounded. The words of the Constitution of the United States became a living inspiration for all—because now all could read them.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801. His dream was to send explorers across North America. So, when this opportunity arose, he was more than willing to negotiate a deal with France to extend America’s boundaries past the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains.

In 1803 France decided on a purchase agreement of $15 million that encompassed 530,000,000 acres of territory in North America that Americans know as the Louisiana Purchase.

Some historians say the Louisiana Purchase was the greatest real estate deal in history. These lands stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. This territory doubled the size of the United States and created the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and parts of Minnesota, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado.

On July 18, 1803, General Horatio Gates said to President Jefferson, “Let the land rejoice, for you have bought Louisiana for a song.” Or was it Divine Intervention that put the thought into Napoleon Bonaparte’s head to sell this vast wilderness to President Jefferson?

In 1802, in a little town in Cane Ridge, Kentucky, the Second Great Awakening evolved from a simple camp meeting. These embers ignited such a fire that inspired the first circuit rider, and the missionaries who would travel across the vast unknown regions of the wilderness to preach the Word of God.

The first to explore this vast land was the Lewis and Clark expedition sent out by President Jefferson. They were thought lost, maybe even dead when they didn’t return at the expected time. But in 1806, they returned with plants, seeds, and tales of the territory’s vast resources and Native Americans.

The next group were the trappers. And the brave missionaries came in 1835, motivated by the Second Great Awakening to spread God’s salvation message to the natives west of the Mississippi River, and across the treacherous Rocky Mountains where no white woman had ever trod.

         Women like my heroine in Wilted Dandelions willingly gave up their luxuries at home for the mission field to teach and school the Native Americans about Jesus. As Narcissa and Marcus Whitman did back in 1835.  They faced freezing-cold rivers, want, and peril to bring the salvation message to the ignorant and teach the young children to read and write.

         Christians throughout the years have demonstrated their zeal for spreading God’s Word throughout America. Such was the case during the 1860s when landowners were prohibited from teaching slaves to learn to read and write. However, in Swept into Destiny, my heroine Maggie, though the whip and gallows could be her fate, taught all who wanted to learn.

Past generations knew the value of the ability to read. The billionaire Warren Buffett says he spends at least 80 percent of everyday reading.

In Psychology Today, April 11, 2018, Alan Castel Ph.D. says, “Lifelong reading habits, especially in older age, help to preserve your mental ability, and also improve your memory. Almost 300 older age people were tested who had strong reading habits on their memory and thinking ability every year for six years. They answered questions about their reading and writing habits throughout their lifetimes—from childhood to now.

         After the participants’ deaths, (at the age of 89) the researchers examined their brains for physical signs of dementia, which typically include lesions, plaques, and neural tangles, the brain abnormalities often associated with memory lapses. Those people who reported that they read were protected against brain lesions and tangles and self-reported memory decline over the six-year study.”

         Remaining an avid reader through old age reduced memory decline by more than 30 percent, compared to other mental activities. People who read the most showed the fewest signs of dementia.

         Your brain needs activity. Reading puts your brain to work. People are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than people who spend their downtime on less stimulating activities. This research was published in Neurology Magazine and they encourage exercising the brain through reading, chess, or puzzles. Inactivity increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

         In the 1800s and early 1900s this was not a problem. Reading was one of the pleasurable avenues to spend a social evening. Home libraries were a welcome retreat for the well-to-do. Today, it’s video games and television programs that fill our and our children’s time.

         A twenty-year study found people who grow up with more books in the home are more likely to achieve a higher education, income, and better cognitive function later in life. Regardless of income or educational level, parents with more books in the home will have children with higher levels of education—in comparison with parents with fewer books in the home and independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class.

         The study also revealed that reading could appeal less to children as they get older. There are big cognitive benefits to reading and getting lost in a book. Reading to younger children gives vital brain health. Exposure to books and reading leads to good exercise skills for your brain later in life.

         According to the Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” According to Begin to Read, 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth-grade level.

         One would think reading for knowledge was far better than fiction. However, research says reading fiction provides more important benefits than nonfiction because fiction helps develop empathy, theory of mind, and critical thinking. When readers step into an imaginary person’s inner world, they are improving their skills to do the same with actual people.

         Reading is one of the best ways to expand your mind and continues to be useful for young children to learn and develop. Later in life, reading is a continuous brain boost, both connectivity and cognitive functions.

         E-books have grown increasingly popular through the years. However, to remember what you’re reading—printed words on paper pages provide your brain with context that will lead to a deeper understanding and improved comprehension of what you are reading.


Most importantly, reading the Written Word continues to enlighten, feed, and fulfill our human needs—and the human heart. Our Christian heritage has proved this throughout the ages. Invest in reading, it works like no health pill ever has.

         “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4 NKJV).

Wilted Dandelions: Rachael is ready to leave her luxurious life in Buffalo, New York, to share the gospel with the Native Americans in the Oregon Territory. But the Missionary Alliance requires their missionaries to be married. Rachael agrees to a marriage of convenience with a man she hardly knows and learns God doesn’t create coincidences—He designs possibilities.

“I loved this quote… ‘I’m still such a babe in Christ. Will I ever stop seeking my desires and reasoning it is God’s will that I satisfy my own whims?’ Can you relate?” Grandaddy A.

“My readers are my encouragers and God's Word is my inspiration!”

Catherine is an award-winning author of the inspirational historical romance Wilted Dandelions, and Destiny Series, Swept into Destiny, Destiny’s Whirlwind, Destiny of Heart and Waltz with Destiny Her newest book, is the inspirational Amish futuristic romance Love's Final Sunrise.

Her history books are: Images of America: The Lapeer Area, and Images of America: Eastern Lapeer County.

She is a longtime Michigan resident. Catherine lives with her husband of 51 years, has two adult children, and four grandchildren.

See for more information about her books. 


  1. Thank you for posting today. I found the statistics and studies you mention very interesting.