The Minturn Chronicles

The Minturn Project 1984-85

The Minturn Project was conducted in the 1984-85 school year by students in Bill Coate’s sixth-grade class at Howard School.

Abby West Minturn lived most of her life with a dreamer. Born in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1820, at the age of 23, she married Jonas Minturn. She followed her husband up and down the east coast, as he attempted to make his mark in his family’s shipping business. In time Jonas ceased his wandering and settled down on a farm near Bristol. It appeared that Abby would enjoy her twilight years in her beautiful two-story home on Narragansett Bay. Then came the bombshell.

In 1870, Jonas concocted another scheme. He decided to take one more plunge–one more gamble–and come west. So, at the age of 50, Abby packed up again and moved to the desolate wastes of the San Joaquin Valley. With “the heart of a lion” she faced her new environment and set about to “make the desert blossom.”

Jonas and Abby invested their life savings in a farm, and then he suddenly died, leaving her to carry on with the help of her sons. When her oldest committed suicide, Abby’s life began to unravel. By the time of her death in 1899, she had lost everything. She was laid to rest on the old home place beside the Chowchilla River, and on her tombstone, the following words were inscribed, “Her Children Shall Arise to Call Her Blessed.” Eighty-five years after Abby West Minturn died, a group of children DID arise to call her blessed in their book, “The Minturn Chronicles.”

Picture of the Minturn Chronicles book cover

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