Classical Childrens Books

Moccasin Trail Chapter Summaries

Brief chapter by chapter summary of Eloise McGraw's historical fiction: Moccasin Trail.

Moccasin Trail Lesson Plan Cover

Chapter One

We are introduced to the main character, 19 year old Jim, who hunts beaver in the Oregon Territory with his companion, Tom Rivers. With the disappearance of beavers, the two men need to leave the area before winter. Flashbacks in this chapter include Jim running away from home at age 11 to follow his uncle to the west, a near fatal attack with a grizzly bear that left Jim scarred, his rescue by Crow Indians and adoption as the chief's son, and his desertion of the Crow tribe when one of the hunters carried a scalp that reminded him of his mother.

Chapter Two

Two Indians bring a letter to Jim that he cannot read but mentions his brother. Jim tells Tom how he left his family at the age of 11 and of his Medicine Dream at age 14. Jim now has to decide if he will go to a town to find someone who can read his letter.

Chapter Three

Tom and Jim part company for the winter and probably for good since the beaver are gone. Jim goes to The Dalles to find someone to read his letter and gets into several conflicts with the white settlers there. He meets a man Rutledge willing to help him. He finds out his parents are dead and his brothers and sister are in The Dalles and need him.

Chapter Four

Jim meets his brother Jonnie for the first time and is stunned by how much he has changed. He learns his siblings are impoverished and Jonnie desperately wants Jim to sign so he can claim land to farm in Oregon Territory. Jim is willing to help Jonnie claim land, but has no interest in farming. Jonnie is put off by Jim's Indian dress and language and his desertion of their family. Jim wants to pretend he doesn't care what Jonnie thinks, but he knows he really does.

Chapter Five

Jim's sister, Sally, is openly hositle and suspicious. The youngest brother, Daniel, takes to Jim right away - the only one in the family to do so. Jim finds they are hungry with little food and Jonnie unable to walk due sores from his poor fitting boots. He burns Jonnie's boots, then applies a soothing Indian ointment. He feeds them meat from his hunt and insists, inspite of their rejection, that he will be in charge as they are unable to meet the challenges of their trail ahead.

Chapter Six

The final leg of their journey begins as they leave The Dalles for their new settlement. They split up for the dangerous and difficult trip. Jonnie and Sally join the Rutledge family on their raft carrying the possessions of both families through the treacherous rapids. Jim takes Daniel and the cattle up over the mountain through a blizzard since they would not be able to travel by raft. Sally does not trust Jim with the care of Daniel, but has no other choice. On their own dangerous journey, Jim provides for Daniel and the animals. Daniel tells Jim he wants to be like him.

Chapter Seven

Jim and Daniel struggle with starvation on their trek through the mountains. Jim fights Moki to get raw meat for them to share. Finally they are reunited with Sally and Jonnie at the Cascades. Having arrived a few days before, the siblings had feared Daniel had died on the overland trail. Jim tells Jonnie it is his plan to stay with his family once they get their land. The final journey includes the difficult portage around the Columbia Cascades (waterfalls) and down the Willamette River. Jim takes them to a place he remembers camping at with Tom the year before. Jonnie, Sally, and Daniel are over-joyed when they see the land. Jim fears the settlers will destroy the area.

Chapter Eight

Jonnie and Sally exalt in building their cabin and clearing land for their farm. Jim is doubtful about the land-clearing and would prefer to live in a teepee. As he hunts, he notices more land is being claimed. Unexpectedly, the neighbors who traveled on the wagon-train come over for a surprise visit and Jim watches them dance and laugh as Jonnie plays the banjo. Lonely, he sneaks away. He finds the neighbors eye him suspiciously, but everyone likes Jonnie.

Chapter Nine

Jim overhears Jonnie tell a neighbor he is worried that Jim can't read or write and will be embarrassed that he can't sign the official papers for the homestead. Jim stays up all night to learn how to sign his name. Jonnie is relieved Jim can sign his name, and Jim is forced to face that fact that he cares very much what Jonnie thinks. Back at their new-owned homestead, Jim helps with the log house building, but frequently sneaks off with Daniel to show him skills he learned as an Indian. When Jonnie confronts them and tells Daniel they are not Indians, Jim's concern for Jonnie's opinion changes. He declares that the Indians are his people. Jonnie responds that his family are his people.

Chapter Ten

Jim continues to help build the cabin but thinks teepees are more practical, while Jonnie is convinced that Jim will see the value of the home once it is finished. But when Jonnie and Sallie move the family possessions and Mother's treasured clock into the newly completed cabin, memories Jim has tried to forget come back. Sally angrily confronts him that he is one of them and should quit dressing like an Indian. In anger, Jim runs away. Settlers report that a lone Indian attacked their farms and stole some horses (though the horses were found nearby.) A local Indian tribe was also attacked by a lone-Indian. The chapter infers that the attacker is Jim. Exhausted, Jim returns to the homestead but vows he will always sleep outside.

Chapter Eleven

Jim spends more time away from the homestead and living the life of a Crow Indian. He is restless, though, because there are no enemies hunting him or to be hunted. He teaches Daniel to "count coupe" by stealing things from the cabin, then giving them back. The chasm between Jim and Jonnie widens until one day when Jonnie watches Jim riding Buckskin furiously. He compliments Jim's horse, and Jim lets him ride it. Excitedly, Jim gets his rifle and leaves the homestead with a new plan.

Chapter Twelve

A group of neighbors ask Jim to help them track a thief who stole their cattle. Jim is an expert tracker and quickly realizes the thief is a Cayuse Indian disguised as a white man. They track the cattle to the Cayuse village. Mr. Rutledge stops Jim from making an all out attack on the village that could lead to further blood shed. Jim, instead, sneaks in and gets the cattle. He also steals a horse for Jonnie who doesn't have one. When the neighbors see that he has stolen a horse, their approval at his talent turns to disapproval and Jonnie's pride in his brother turns to shame.

Chapter Thirteen

In rage and embarrassment of Jonnie's rejection of his gift, Jim returns the horse to the Cayuse village. He is chased and attacked. In the struggle, he kills an Indian and himself suffers a bullet wound and knife wound. He escapes, but then thinks of the warning of the settlers that the attack will cause trouble for their families. He is relieved to remember that he was dressed as a Crow Indian so the settlers will not be blamed by the Cayuse. He realizes Jonnie and the others were right, and he wants to return and live among the settlers rather than continue a life of raids and coups.

Chapter Fourteen

When he gets back to the cabin, Jim finds his siblings worried that he had left them for good. They apologize for rejecting his culture and accept his different way of life. They bandage his wounds and he rests. When he awakes he gets a visit from the sheriff, a respected mountain man with a reputation known to Jim. He likes Sheriff Meek, but realizes he would be a dangerous opponent if Jim continues to break the law. When Meek tells him how he left the mountain life to farm in order to survive, and then became a sheriff looking for wolves (criminals), Jim realizes that he, too, might have an exciting life among the settlers like Meek has. But first he has to prove himself and give up his wild raids. Jim is also pleased to hear that the neighbors would not tell on him when the sheriff asked questions. Realizing he has a chance to begin again and fit in with his family and community, he moves his belongings out of the teepee and into their cabin.

Chapter Fifteen

Jim has settled down to the life of a farmer, much to the dismay of Daniel who yearns for the freedom-loving brother who used to take him on forages to learn native ways. Now, Jim learns from Jonnie how to work slow-and-steady and begins to take some pride as he sees their farm take shape. But inside, he is still restless. Seeing the forlorn Daniel, he takes him out and teaches him how the natives became fast and agile - by chasing butterflies. He compares the "medicine" of the natives with that of his siblings: the Bible, Jonnie's music, etc. Still restless, he tries to visit Sheriff Meek who is gone. Instead, he heads to Williamette Falls to hunt. To his delight, he finds his old trapping buddy, Tom Rivers.

Chapter Sixteen

Tom listens as Jim describes his new life, and stays on to help with the harvest. Tom did not encourage Jim to start trapping again. At a community get-together men discussed the new-comers who can't build rafts to cross the Cascades as the first settlers had done because timber was depleted. Some are going to try to cross the mountains with wagons, a task Jim and Tom don't think can be done. Tom realizes Jim is lonely. As the chapter ends, Tom and Jim are riding side by side towards the western mountains.

Chapter Seventeen

Jim is again on trail with his buddy Tom. As they watch the bourgeways brace their wagons against an almost possible descent, Jim has an epiphany. He realizes times have changed, Tom's life will go on until he dies, but he himself belongs with his family. They separate and joyfully Jim heads back to the cabin. When he reaches it, he finds that Daniel is gone and Sally blames him that Daniel chose to run away and live with the Indians. Jonnie and the neighbors have looked in all the nearby Indian villages but can't find him. Jim, however, guesses and barks orders to Sally before dashing off. He is certain Daniel has been captured as a slave by the Umpqua tribe.

Chapter Eighteen

Jim tracks the Umpqua tribe and attempts to rescue Daniel; but he himself is caught, shot, and tied and dumped into a boat. With no chance of escape, and realizing the hopeless fate of his little brother, Jim recognizes that his careless decisions have caused so many problems. A last minute rescue occurs when Meek arrives with Jonnie. Meek congratulates Jim on his knowledge, prowess, and tracking ability - and leaving the trail Meek could easily follow. He offers Jim his desired position to be his deputy. But Jim, remorseful about his decisions, says he will be leaving Oregon and returning to the East.

Chapter Nineteen

Sally welcomes Jim and her brothers back - thankful to Jim rather than resentful. He holds on to his plan to leave, but Jonnie accuses him of running away again. When Daniel insists he wants to run away and be an Indian like Jim, Jim cuts off his braids and storms away. Jonnie follows and talks to Jim who shares his medicine dream. Jonnie helps Jim to understand that he is part of their family and one of them, but his Indian culture is also part of his life. They return to the cabin together. The last sentence states: "Jim Keath had come back home again, at last."

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