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Betty Zane
Zane Grey

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Betty Zane

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Betty Zane
The Authorized Edition
By Zane Grey
Center Point Large Print, (2003)
ISBN: 1-58547-325-1
Genre: Historical Fiction, Western

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - October 9, 2003

Zane Grey is best known for his westerns that featured virile, hard working, and honorable young men who strove to tame the West. In the process these young men usually managed to win the love of a worthy young woman with whom they carve out a farm or ranch in the wilderness and with whom they would raise a family. Grey's novel, Betty Zane takes a slightly different track. Rather than focusing on the trials and tribulations of a male protagonist, this riveting tale centers upon a young woman.

Betty Zane was Grey's first novel, and rather than being set in the frontier 'west' of his later works, it is set in the American 'west' of the 1780's. This story takes place in and near Fort Henry, which was located in what is now downtown Wheeling, West Virginia. In 1782 the fort was attacked by a joint force of British Rangers and Indian combatants. As the fighting progressed, the defenders of the fort began to run out of gunpowder. In an attempt to save the fort, Elizabeth "Betty" Zane boldly left the safety of Fort Henry and ran about sixty yards to her brother's nearby cabin, where a store of gunpowder was kept. Gathering up as much as she could in her apron, she ran back to the fort in full view of the attackers. Had it not been for the heroic actions of Betty Zane, the fort may well have fallen into enemy hands, and those not killed in the action would have faced the prospect of being carried away into captivity by the Indians.

Grey's novel, Betty Zane is a fictionalized account of Betty Zane's life and the daring actions that she took to save the fort. At the time of the attack she was only sixteen-years-old, and had only been living at the fort for a short time, having moved 'west' to live with her brother Colonel Ebenezer Zane who founded Wheeling.

This riveting and exciting narrative about Betty Zane begins with shortly after her arrival at the Wheeling Creek Settlement and recounts what her life was like in the frontier settlement. Grey presents a young woman who was brave, headstrong, and self-assured - and a bit of a tomboy. This story details the events leading up to the siege of the fort, what happened inside the fort as the siege progressed, and how she came to perform her heroic exploits. Grey also provides a brief overview of what happened to Betty after the siege. Betty's story is further explored in the two sequels to Betty Zane that Grey wrote, Spirit of the Border and The Last Trail.

Before moving west to live with her brother, Betty Zane had been living in with an Aunt in Philadelphia. She moved to the frontier after the death of her Aunt, and had been living in the wilderness only about a year when the fort was attacked in 1782. She married shortly after the attack, and spent the rest of her life near Fort Henry. In the course of this story, the readers are introduced to a host of famous pioneer personalities, including the various Zane and Wetzel brothers that were instrumental in settling the Ohio Valley region. Also recounted are the romantic tales surrounding Isaac Zane's capture by Indians and his long-term love affair with a Huron Indian Princess, as well as the exploits of the famous (and perhaps deranged) woodsmen and Indian hunter, Lewis Wetzel.

Betty Zane is a marvelously fast paced, riveting adventure tale that is suitable for, and will delight, readers of all ages. The story is part unbridled adventure, part history, and part love story. Betty is a fascinating heroine, and her story is made even more compelling by the fact that the exploits described by Grey actually took place. It takes someone with a very stout heart to run out in front of a couple of hundred armed combatants and taunt them into shooting at you by carrying gunpowder to 'their' enemies. This is a monumental work of American Revolutionary literature, and an extremely good story in its own right. As a first work, Betty Zane is a phenomenal novel that clearly shows Zane Grey genius when it comes to weaving the realities of frontier and western into riveting adventure stories.

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