Strength of Stone, the Pioneer Journal of Electa Bryan Plumer, 1862-1864

Told through journal entries and letters, this novel brings to life the wife of the notorious Bannack Sheriff William Henry Handy Plumer. As the Civil War rages on, the gold fields and open valleys of the Rocky Mountains fill with treasure seekers, fugitives, and missionaries, twenty-year-old teacher and adventurer Electa Bryan finds her way to the Sun River Government Farm. In the company of her brother-in-law, sister, niece and nephew, she arrives in the Territory prepared to assist her sister in running the household and her brother-in-law in the work of "civilizing” the Blackfeet.

ARTICLES:
“By providing her schoolteacher protagonist with a portable writing desk, the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the novels of George Eliot, and the notion that the observations of a woman [traveling west along the Missouri] ‘should be no less interesting than those of Clark and Lewis,’ novelist Diane Elliott has made Electa Bryan a credible narrator whose decision ‘to record the whole of it’ affords readers a new perspective on one of the most famous, or infamous, incidents in Montana history.

“Rich in the details of everyday living - riverboat travel in the midst of the Civil War, women’s work on the Sun River Government Farm, married life in Bannack’s Yankee Flats, and sprinkled with the comings and goings of such familiar figures as Granville Stuart, Johnny Grant, and Sidney Edgerton, Strength of Stone invites a willing suspension of disbelief and serves as a strong reminder that life, love, and even history, are all a matter of perspective,”
--Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith,
Women Writing in the Westward Movement

“This novel brings us to the heart of one of the most intriguing mysteries of the Western frontier- the guilt or innocence of an early lawman hanged by Montana Vigilantes. This compelling story from America’s past is beautifully written. The author’s meticulous research has unearthed colorful details which re-create daily life during the gold-rush era. A delightful, rewarding read!”
--R.E. Mather, Co-author,
Hanging the Sheriff A Biography of Henry Plummer

“Elliott has created a wonderfully vivid picture of the earliest days of what eventually become Montana, basing her story on years of research into the lives of her heroine and the better known figures that surrounded her, most notably the notorious and very possibly falsely maligned sheriff of Bannack, Henry Plumer. Elliott follows 20-year-old Electa Bryan as she journeys up the Missouri River with her sister, brother-in-law and their children. The novelist imagines Electa’s first meeting with the dashing Plumer, and their brief, intense romance.

Although Electa’s time in Montana was limited, Elliott’s residence has been long in that peculiar territory of the writer where there’s no rational reason to keep writing but you find yourself unable to stop. Through her painstaking research, her imagination and her wonderful way with words, she ushers us into the earliest days of our state’s “civilization” …We are reminded of the power of romantic love, the satisfying work of making a home, and of the obstacles our forefathers and foremothers faced in settling this beautiful place."
--Marjorie Smith, Columnist,
Bozeman Daily Chronicle


Strength of Stone, garnered the Willa finalist award in historical fiction and was short-listed for the 2003 William Saroyan Prize for Literature.

Out of Print but
Hard Cover still available through the
Sun River Historical Society
P.O. Box 155,
Sun River, Montana 59483
$19.50 plus shipping