Unclaimed Legacy by Deborah Heal

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Unclaimed Legacy

The olden days aren’t all they’re cracked up to be . . .

I call it time-surfing,” Abby said.

It’s like being there,” Merri said, “except no one can see or hear us.”

Whatever you call it,” John said, “that was crazy—beyond realistic. I mean, I was inside that guy’s head.”

Those who have read Time and Again  know that Abby Thomas is a college student on a summer service project with 11-year-old Merri. And they know that the summer is not going the way Abby had expected—but in a good way. For one thing, she meets a very nice guy named John Roberts. And for another, she discovers a strange computer program called Beautiful House that lets her fast-forward and rewind life. Not her own, of course, but those of the people who lived in Merri’s old house.

And now Beautiful House comes in handy when Abby, John, and Merri agree to help the “Old Dears” next door with their family tree.

Except Abby and John learn more about one of the ladies’ ancestors than they ever wanted to know. Convicted in 1871 of murder and arson, Reuben Buchanan is a blight on the family’s reputation. But was he really guilty? Abby and John must get inside the mind of a murderer to find out.

And while they’re rummaging around in the Old Dears’ family history, they also find Nathan Buchanan, a heroic relative connected to the Lewis and Clark Expedition—and a legacy waiting to be reclaimed.

But the most important discovery they make is that God’s promise to bless a thousand generations is true.

Did you catch that clue?

The blurb doesn’t say a lot about it, but Unclaimed Legacy features Lewis and Clark. I’ve always been fascinated by them partly because I knew the explorers spent the winter of 1803 at Hartford, Illinois, near where I grew up in Woodburn.

They chose that site for the camp they called Camp River Dubois, because it was near the mouth of the Missouri River, which they would ascend the next spring. The captains spent the winter laying in supplies and training their men. I decided it would be fun to let Abby “time-surf” back to see Camp River Dubois.

I loved doing the research for the book and was delighted to learn that on their way to Hartford, Lewis and Clark took a side trip to Bellefontaine, today known as Waterloo, the town where I now live—45 miles south of Hartford. It’s a small world.

I uncovered another interesting tidbit, which I included in Unclaimed Legacy. A local pioneer woman—a widow—was hired to wash clothes for the men at the camp that winter. Three of Lewis and Clark’s young soldiers were ordered to build her a wash hut. They would have rather been assigned more heroic tasks, but this was punishment for sneaking off to get drunk. (The local population was fewer than 100 and yet they already had a liquor store!)


A reproduction of Camp River Dubois at the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site in Hartford, Illinois. I hope you’ll get the chance to visit it.

Lewis and Clark took along Peace medals with Jefferson’s image to give to Indian chiefs as a good will gesture. (This is a huge clue in Unclaimed Legacy, so pay attention.)

I learned lots of other interesting things about about Lewis and Clark’s time in the Illinois country that I won’t get into now. History buffs may read more about it HERE

Two Historical Loopholes.

I didn’t want to write about any of the actual heroes of the Expedition. It would be too easy to get it wrong, and besides, others have already written about them. And I didn’t think it would be fair to invent an explorer if the historians were definite about the Expedition roster. And so I was happy to discover that historians do not know exactly how many men went on the trip.

Even after assembling all the military records and journals, and with diligent work of historians, there never has been a precise roster of the full company that traveled from the Illinois country to Fort Mandan.” –Robert Hartley

Experts also don’t know how many of the men kept journals of their experiences. Everyone knows about the Lewis and Clark journals, but according to historian Robert Hartley, President Jefferson encouraged all the men to keep journals. And we know that least six members did.

So there. It could have happened!

Knowing these two historical loopholes, I felt like I had permission to invent my hero Nathan Buchanan, son of the Camp River Dubois washer woman. And without giving away the whole story, let me just say that Abby and her friends discover some artifacts while they’re “time-surfing” that Nathan Buchanan left behind—an unclaimed legacy, as it were.


Deborah Heal, the author of the Time and Again time-travel mystery series, was born not far from the setting of Every Hill and Mountain and grew up “just down the road” from the setting of Time and Again and Unclaimed Legacy. Today she lives with her husband in Waterloo, Illinois, where she enjoys reading, gardening, and learning about regional history. She has three grown children, four grandchildren, and two canine buddies Digger and Scout. She loves to interact with her readers, who may learn more about the history behind the books at her website www.deborahheal.com and her Facebook author page. Her books may be purchased in paper and ebook formats at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com

Unclaimed Legacy is 99 cents until the end of September


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