History,  Western Pennsylvania

Colonial Stranger Danger

I started kindergarten in the 1980’s. So – I learned about stranger danger before I learned not to eat my crayons.

Now, I blogged about this young adult book from 1973 titled Hannah’s Town  by Helen Smith and George Swetnam. It’s about a little girl named Hannah who lives in colonial Westmoreland County in the 1770’s. On the appreciation page, the Westmoreland County Historical Society thanks the Greensburg Lions Club (among others) for the wide distribution of Hannah’s Town.

Most of the Hannah’s Town strongly, strongly resembles the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, especially Little House in the Big Woods.

Except – Little House in the Big Woods is set in Wisconsin in the 1870’s, and Hannah’s Town, of course, is set in Hannas Town, Pennsylvania in the 1770’s.

Oh, and also – Halfway through Hannah’s Town, the 9-year-old main character spends the night at a friend’s cabin half a mile away from her own. Her parents debate whether to let her walk home alone the next day. Her mom says that it’s too dangerous. Her father says that young Hannah will be fine.   So it’s settled. Hannah is to walk home alone for the very first time.

Partway through the walk, Hannah realizes how empty Forbes Road seems.

Then – “maybe two hundred men” from a rival militia show up on horseback. One of them rides up next to Hannah, threatens to carry her off to Virginia with him, and swoops down to grab her.

Young Hannah slips out of his arms, runs away, and hides for the next hour.

When the coast seems clear, Hannah runs home to her parents and tells them what happened.

Hannah’s parents “look serious” and tell her that she “did just the right thing.”

That chapter ends. And then – nobody ever mentions this again. The next chapter is about staying warm in the winter. The chapter after that is about maple syrup. Maple syrup!

Then the Revolutionary War starts, and Hannah’s family packs up to move back east. The British and chief Guyasuta attacked and burned Hannas Town at the end of the war. So this story ends several years before the town’s biggest historical event.

I want to know why the authors did this. Why did they leave out the attack on Hannas Town, but write a chapter about a near abduction of a nine-year-old walking home alone for the first time? Man, the 1970’s were a strange, strange time.

Still, this was a short, fun read. The main character witnesses several events in the founding of Westmoreland County and its townships. (The main character is excited to learn that she lives in Hempfield Township.) When I was a kid, I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, so it’s okay with me that Hannah’s Town is just so similar. I’ll pass this book down to my little niece or my little cousin who actually lives in Hempfield Township.

I just need to warn their moms about the “stranger danger” chapter.