Originally Published: August 6, 2015 7:08 p.m.
"Mattie: A Woman's Journey West," by Nan Weber
While wandering through Yellowstone National Park, Nan Weber came across a gravesite on a strip of land between Nez Perce Creek and the Firehole River. A single rose had been carved into the tombstone of Italian marble; below it was the name, Mattie S., along with her husband's name and the fact that she had been 30 years old when she died. Something about the elegance of the grave and the way it had been protected from buffalo by wooden posts and pipe railing made Weber wonder just who this woman was, and how she came to be buried in such a spot. This led Weber to spend years searching out what answers she could find, resulting in her book, Mattie: A Woman's Journey West, which chronicles her search and what she learns about the life of the lovely and high-spirited Mattie S.
Finding information about an unknown woman who lived in a rather unpopulated area at a time when records were erratically kept, was not an easy task. "Women's history sometimes is difficult, records of women's lives-especially in the 1800s-often are more of a personal nature than a civil one," says Weber. For instance, there was not even a record of Mattie's death. But Weber's determination to uncover this unknown life, to rescue it from obscurity drove her forward.
She also determined that she had to separate truth from the "Mattie myths" around it. Sometimes conflicting stories about a mysterious daughter visiting her grave until 1950, about her dying in childbirth which resulted in her husband feeding the infant elk's milk needed to be either verified or discarded. Weber says when she started to picture Mattie's husband milking an elk, she got to work researching for facts. Lucky for us, Weber was no stranger to research, having looked into her own family history. Come hear Nan Weber talk about her book and the life she uncovered at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 15 at the Peregrine Book Company, which will followed by her signing of this fascinating book.
Reviewed by Susan Lang, Peregrine Book Company Event Coordinator
Peregrine Book Company, 219-A N. Cortez St., is in downtown Prescott.