Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.
Reviewed by Mark Lardas
December 24, 2023
“The Buster Clan: An American Saga,” by K.P. Kollenborn, Independently Published, 2023, 441 pages, $26.00 (Hardcover), $18.00 (Paperback), $6.99 (E-book)
K.P. Kollenborn, like many Americans, is interested in genealogy, Like many, she began tracing her ancestry. One great-grandmother was born a Buster; her maiden name was Myrtle Buster. The last name amused and intrigued Kollenborn. She began a hunt for ancestors of that name.
“The Buster Clan: An American Saga,” is the harvest of that search. It traces the descendants of one man, William Bustard, from the 17th century to the present. Because the name is virtually unique, most people today surnamed Buster (the family name changed to Buster in the early 1800s) are likely to have descended from William Bustard.
What results is a history of America from its Colonial Era to the present. Kollenborn begins by introducing William Bustard. Records are scarce. Much of this is pieced together and includes inferences. Kollenborn spends the first chapter trying to nail down William’s origins. The best evidence indicates William came to the New World as an indentured servant in either 1701 or 1708. She shows he settled in Virginia and then traces the family forward from there.
A kaleidoscopic history of America follows. The Virginia Busters spread west into Kentucky and from there throughout what is today’s United States. Kollenborn does not create a compressive Buster history. Rather she follows different members through Kentucky, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico Territory, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas. While the family started from English stock, through slavery and marriage it acquired branches with Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian Buster descendants.
Along the way they participated in America’s story. There were slave-owning Busters and Busters opposing the institution. Many were farmers, especially at the beginning. Others became doctors, shopkeepers, drovers, lawyers, politicians, and inventors. They fought on both sides during the American Civil War, participated in the Gold Rush, settled the frontier, and fought Indians. While none became Henry Clay, William Sherman or Henry Ford famous, some Busters played prominent roles in politics, academics, entertainment, medicine and technology over 400 years.
Kollenborn tells their stories, just as she tells the stories of the everyday Busters and the outlaw Busters. She does not shrink from the less reputable aspects of their history presenting both the good and bad. Without excusing it, she puts slave-owning and the casual bigotry of their lives in historical context. “The Buster Clan” history tells America’s story bottom up, through the eyes of William Bustard and his Buster descendants through 400 years.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com. This review appeared in a different form in Epoch Times.