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Wagon Train Overlanders Speak

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Since I write women’s historical fiction, it makes sense that I’d want to hear from women and men from the time and period in which I’m setting my stories. For my Hearts Seeking Home Series, I turned to the diaries and journals of folks who had made the trek west by covered wagon. The grammar, spelling, and punctuation remains authentic, as found in the diary entry.

March 14, 1854 We picked out two other quilts with patterns Ann and I especially like: the Memory Block, made with bits of material from relatives’ clothing, and the appliqued Mountain Lily in bright colors. The Slave Chain quilt, stitched by our black mammy, we kept to remind us of the dear woman who took care of us when we were young. Trail of Thread – Historical Letters 1854-1855 by Linda K. Hubalek

Dutch Oven

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

March 19, 1854 Soaked dried pumpkin slices for a pie. I had to wait until the chickens laid some eggs before I could stir up the filling. Rolling out the crust was a little frustrating because the wagon end we use for a table is much higher than the table in my kitchen. I couldn’t get the leverage I needed until I stood on my overturned pail. With limited baking utensils along, I have to plan the meal around what I can fit in the skillet, or the kettles. Trail of Thread – Historical Letters 1854-1855 by Linda K. Hubalek

April 27, 1851 This is the second Sabbath of our journey. This morning it was windy and unpleasantly cold, but this afternoon the sun is shining brightly, and thought the wind still blows ugly, it is warm, and everything seems cheerful, rejoining in the goodness of its Creator…. At noon Mr. Kern’s children and ours, including myself, went in the woods and held a Sabbath school. We sang a hymn, read the 27th Psalm, spoke of it, read a tract, sang the doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” then returned to the camp. It was very pleasant and I trust that good Being of whom we met to converse, looked upon us approvingly.  Eugenia Zieber, Covered Wagon Women – Diaries & Letters From the Western Trails, 1851

May 8, 1953 Still in camp waiting to cross. There are three hundred or more wagons in sight and as far as the eye can reach, the bottom is covered, on each side of the river, with cattle and horses…. Every company should have a waterproof wagon for this purpose. Amelia Stewart Knight, Going Along the Emigrant Trail

oxen_in_yoke[1]May 8, 1851 Crossed the Missouri River. Drove 2 miles and encamped. Our company consisted of 14 wagons with from 4 to 6 yokes of oxen to each and about 30 head of loose cows and young cattle and 14 horses. Susan Amelia Cranston, Covered Wagon Women – Diaries & Letters From the Western Trails, 1851

May 23, 1866 Perhaps you would like to know what we have at our meals. We sometimes boil potatoes. We then pick up some codfish and cook it with milk…. We have tea for supper. Ellen “Nellie” Gordon Fletcher, Going Along the Emigrant Trail

May 26, 1851– A violent thunderstorm, with rain from midnight till 8 in the morning; started about noon, the roads very heavy, went 6 miles, when the Captain’s wagon tongue and axle broke, so we are obliged to wait. May 27– All day repairing the Captain’s wagon. May 28– Got 4 miles, when Jones run on a bank and smashed of of his wagon wheels. And awful thunderstorm this evening. Jean Rio Baker, Covered Wagon Women – Diaries & Letters From the Western Trails, 1851

June 3, 1851 Cattle wandered. We consequently did not leave camp till late, fine day & good roads. John spilled over his wagon soon after we started but soon picked up again. Passed several small sheets of water which looked tempting, but Death was lurking there in its limpid waters. Harriet Talcott Buckingham, Covered Wagon Women – Diaries & Letters From the Western Trails, 1851

Photo Credit: Nebraska State Historical Society

Photo Credit: Nebraska State Historical Society

June 7, 1853 Rained some last night, quite warm today. Just passed Fort Laramie, situated on the opposite side of the river. This afternoon we passed a large village of Sioux Indians. Numbers of them came around our wagons. Some of the women had moccasins and beads, which they wanted to trade for bread. I gave the women and children all the cakes I had baked. Husband traded a big Indian a lot of hard crackers for a pair of moccasins. Amelia Stewart Knight, Going Along the Emigrant Trail

June 10, 1866 There is a large family that had been obliged to lie by on account of an accident which happened to a little child four years old. He fell out of the wagon and the wheels ran over his head and thigh. His head was badly cut and his thigh broken. They had been there several days and the little boy was getting better. He is a sweet little fellow, and reminded me of Rollo. Ellen “Nellie” Gordon Fletcher, Going Along the Emigrant Trail

June 15, 1853 Came 19 miles today; passed Independence Rock this afternoon, and crossed Sweetwater River on a bridge. Paide 3 dollars a wagon and swam the stock across. Amelia Stewart Knight, Going Along the Emigrant Trail

June 19, 1865 We passed two graves this morning that have been made within a month. The first a man who shot himself accidentally three weeks ago. The other a woman, forty years old, who died one month ago to-day. As I stood beside the lonely graves, I thought of the tears that had been shed, the prayers that had been uttered, the desolation of heart that had been endured by those who had been obliged to go on and leave their loved ones here in this wilderness. Sarah Raymond Herndon, Days on the Road – Crossing the Plains in 1865, The Diary of Sarah Raymond Herndon

Flag ripplingJuly 10, 1866 we are hauled along by four yoke of cattle. “Stars and Stripes” about 3 ft. long, on the bottom of our wagon is heavy machinery filled up with blankets, tobacco for the men–canned fruit–a small keg of whiskey–carpet sacks, mess kit & the blankets making a comfortable loading place. From the Diary of Thomas Alfred Creigh

August 1, 1853 Still in camp, have been waiting all day, and all hands have had all the wild currants they would eat, they grown in great abundance along the river: There are three kinds, red, black, and yellow. Amelia Stewart Knight, Going Along the Emigrant Trail

September 6, 1953 Still in camp, washing and overhauling the wagons to make them as light as possible to cross the mountains. Amelia Stewart Knight, Going Along the Emigrant Trail

September 17, 1853 Evening–came 6 miles and have camped in a fence corner by a Mr. Lambert’s, about 7 miles from Milwaukie. Turn our tock out to tolerable good feed. A few days later my eighth child was born. After this we picked up and ferried across the Columbia River, utilizing skiff, canoes, and flatboat to get across, taking three days to complete. Here husband traded two yoke of oxen for a half section of land with one-half acre panted to potatoes and a small log cabin and lean-to with no windows. This is the journey’s end. Amelia Stewart Knight, Going Along the Emigrant Trail

August 6th, Book 1 Hearts Seeking Home Series

August 6th, Book 1
Hearts Seeking Home Series

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YOUR TURN TO SPEAK UP

Which comment did you find most intriguing or poignant? Is there a particular time period or historical setting you especially like to read about in diaries? Do you have a favorite historical diary?

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