"SEEING THE ELEPHANT"
THE OREGON TRAIL IN 1852
By Thomas Esson Ewing
[A history of the Oregon Trail in 1852, companion piece to this article, may be found at http://oregontrail1852.webstarts.com/index.html?r=20120511133907]
The rigors of the Oregon Trail in many ways defined all who took it—dust and heat; the daily search for grass, water, and fuel; dangerous river crossings; sickness and death. “Seeing the elephant” was an expression used by emigrants to describe the worst part of the journey, when their very lives hung in balance. The overland trip in 1852 may have been the hardest of them all for two reasons: congestion and cholera. More people by far took the Trail in 1852 than in any year before or after. This meant, among other travails, more animals chasing scarce grass and more hooves stirring up suffocating dust. There was also deadly cholera (although pioneers in 1849 and 1850 suffered from this disease as well). Every emigrant to Oregon that year "saw the elephant." The Stevens family was a part of that extraordinary story.
But the Stevens left no record of their five month odyssey. At one reunion on July 10, 1901 the gathered family "by unanimous vote" commissioned Isaac Stevens to write a history of the family's trek across the plains and to read it at the next reunion. He never did. In 1903 he gave, according to the family journal, a "most interesting and descriptive talk on the preparation and journey across the plains." Nothing more was written. We have for the most part only entries in the reunion journal, generally brief and unrevealing, reporting that one or another of the original Stevens shared stories of that experience. Over the years these stories became lost. This has been a matter of deep regret for later generations.
Although the Stevens left no diary, fortunately other emigrants did. While differing in the abundance of detail, they all tell essentially the same story. I found no diary which describes the trip as the Stevens took it—from Keokuk, Iowa to The Dalles in central Oregon; whence Lavina and six of her children floated down the Columbia River and Hanson and his son drove their livestock across the Cascade Mountains. They ultimately reunited at the Sandy River east of Portland. Therefore, I have necessarily had to draw upon the journals of several emigrants. Taken together, it becomes a diary that the Stevens would have written had they done so.
We begin with the journal John Kerns, who left Renssalaer, Indiana on March 15, reaching Nauvoo, Illinois, about ten miles north of Keokuk, on April 11 (I omitted that part of the diary relating the trip through Indiana and Illinois picking up his story at Nauvoo). He then traveled across Iowa, arriving in Kanesville (in the vicinity of Council Bluffs) on May 3. Both his route and timing were certainly similar to that of the Stevens. We follow Kerns's journey along the north bank of the Platte River (the "Mormon Trail") until roughly Grand Island. At that point, we pick up the story of Abigail Scott (Duniway), later a famous suffragette in the Pacific Northwest. The Scotts began their journey at St. Joseph, about 120 miles south of Kanesville, linking up with the Mormon Trail, where they crossed the river near Grand Island on May 30. Each of the Scott children was given a task; hers was to keep a journal. She did so faithfully. Abigail's diary is perhaps the best record of the trip in 1852 I have read.
We continue with the Scotts until they reached The Dalles, at which point they headed south, taking the Barlow Road across the Cascade Mountains. The Stevens, however, went directly west, down the Columbia River. At The Dalles, we take up the story of the twin sisters Cecelia Adams and Parthenia Blank, who took a scow down the river just as Lavina and her children did. Finally, Rev. John McAllister describes the difficult trek, performed also by Hanson and Issac, driving his livestock over the Cascade Mountains to the Sandy River.
Two further comments:
First, although endeavoring to stay with the principal diaries, I've excerpted portions from other 1852 diaries which add more color or detail absent in the principal ones at identical stages in the trip. Those excerpts are in italics. I hope this isn't confusing.
Second, I was rather liberal in my editing. To the extent possible, I tried to preserve the original texts of the diaries. But I freely deleted parts that were without interest, corrected misspellings and sentence structure when they impaired readability, and paraphrased when appropriate.
The Diary of John Kerns
John Kerns left Renssalaer, Indiana on March 15. He wrote that day:
"As we were leaving home and friends, perhaps forever, our feelings were somewhat unpleasant during the day, and our young friends and associates manifested a similar feeling when the hour for us to start had arrived. We bade them what we then thought a final farewell, and with heavy hearts proceeded upon our almost endless journey, casting as we went a last lingering glance upon our old and much beloved friends and young associates and also over the beautiful little town in which we had spent many a pleasant hour. As we went, the wind seemed to repeat the lonesome sound: Farewell, Farewell, Farewell, forever!"
[March 16-April 10: Across Indiana and Illinois.]
[In Iowa] April 11: We only drove six miles. Weather pleasant. We put up before night, as we understood feed was scarce on ahead. Saw the great Mormon city called Nauvoo today.
April 12: This day made eighteen miles. Pleasant weather and bad roads.
April 13: This day we only made a drive of seven miles. Ferried the Des Moines River at Farmington. This is a very pretty little town of about 500 inhabitants. The Des Moines is a very pretty stream, nearly as large as the Wabash River here. Tonight in the western slave state, Missouri. The country is tolerable good, but has a delightful appearance. The weather today was very warm and pleasant. The road was very good. Not to Oregon yet.
Diary of Polly Coon [in Iowa]:
May 2: Last night a very hard rain accompanied by thunder and wind. Morning found us rather a dreary company, but we succeeded in getting some breakfast, after which we picked up and started on—a constant succession of bad sloughs made the traveling very difficult.
May 3: Put up today at 2 o’clock on the same endless prairie which we have traveled on every since leaving Cedar River. Several of the teams have got into the sloughs today. We have been joined by friends, and now have 6 teams and near 70 head of cattle. Some are complaining of bad colds, but all in good spirits—and excellent appetites.
May 4: We came to a ferry over the Iowa River. We witnessed a most distressing scene. Some emigrants had arrived at the ferry before us, and had crossed over one wagon and part of the family. In attempting to go over with 3 yoke of oxen without having them chained to the boat, they backed off and sunk the boat, drowning three men: one of the emigrant’s sons aged 16 and two of the ferrymen. A fourth man succeeded in swimming out. I have never felt more sympathy for any distress than for the emigrants, who stood on the bank and saw one of their number sink in the rapid water without being able to render any assistance. A father, mother, brothers, and sisters bewailing their loss.
May 6: We have at length crossed over the Iowa River, after having lain on its banks one day and night, and have made 10 miles. Had a hard shower this morning, which has made the roads very slippery. Passed a number of camping grounds today—many of the emigrants have stripped the bark from the elms near the road, and written their names thereon. Have only made 11 miles today. The roads have been very bad.
May 7: Last night was one of a continuous storm of thunder and rain.
May 10: Reached the Des Moines River. Crossed by ferry. We camped tonight near a good well—but the owner, having a little too much of the swine’s nature for a specimen of humanity, refused to let us draw water from it, and we cooked from a pond of lizards, snakes, and tadpoles.
April 14: This day having come twelve miles. Bad roads, but pleasant weather. Crossed over into Iowa this afternoon again. Country not very good. All in fine spirits and in good health. Had some sport shooting game. Passed Dogtown, and Dogtown it is certain, not fit for anything but dogs to live in.
April 15: We laid on our oars, one of our horses being sick. We had to stop or leave it. Spent the time shooting game.
April 16: We traveled ten miles. The weather was cool and the road bad, and the country poor. Nothing happened worthy of record. We are going west very slowly but sure, as the Irishman says.
April 17: Today we drove fourteen miles. Road and weather about as usual. Iowa is rather a poor country in my estimation. And oh! The homely mortals we see along here—they are indescribable. To Oregon, far away.
April 18: We made twenty miles, hard road, weather and country, scarce of feed and everything else. Passed Drakesville [Iowa] today. Iowa can’t shine.
April 19: We shortened our journey sixteen miles. We passed one town called Unionville [Missouri]. There is some union here certain—homely people, homely houses, and mud all united. Feed is getting scarce. Corn is worth 75 cents, hay ten dollars per ton, oats 25 per dozen. Iowa, you must do better by us than this, or we will never come to see you again certain. Poorest of country here yet.
April 20: This day drove but ten miles. Cold weather but better roads. Country still not very desirable to me. Put up before night, as the weather was too cold to travel with any comfort. I wish I was out of Iowa. I does, so I does.
April 21: We made a good drive, leaving twenty-five miles of Iowa behind us. Throughout prairie without a house in sight. Passed over some nice prairie today and a rich-soiled country, but not well cultivated.
April 22: This day drove twenty miles to the west. Had a pleasant day and good roads. Saw some beautiful country. The prairie here is very high and rolling, possessed of a rich soil, producing well. Passed one small village named Sharridan [Sheridan, Missouri?]. All in good health and spirits. Nothing happened today of any importance. Over the Cascades. I’se [sic] going.
April 23: Left twenty miles more of Iowa behind. All prairie without a house in sight. Methinks this is some of a prairie or else the timber is all under the hill. Country about as usual. Weather still pleasant. I should not care if I should meet someone from Rensselaer tonight, so I wouldn’t.
April 24: We journeyed twenty-three miles and encamped on Grand River. Country beautiful, road good, and weather pleasant. Passed Mt. Pisgah [Iowa], an elevation of two or three hundred feet. Here is quite a settlement of Mormons, but all going to Salt Lake this summer. Saw some large elk horns today; some of them would measure five feet in length. Also saw quite a number of emigrants bound for Oregon and California. If I were back to Rensselaer tonight, I should go to church tomorrow with some of the balance of those youngsters, I would.
April 25: Traveled eighteen miles through prairie all day. Some timber where we camped last night. Not a house along here do we see; nothing but prairie with now and then a little skirt of timber along some little streams of water. This is, I think, a very good introduction to the lonesome plains. We are not alone, as we can see wagons almost all the time. Country, roads, and weather about as we have experienced for several days previous. Ho, for Oregon, I say.
April 26: We shortened our journey twenty-five miles. Saw some of the settlers today, and they were so ugly I couldn’t look them in the face. Thank fortune, there are but few of them. I hope there is no such looking critters in Oregon as I saw today. If there is, I’ll, I’ll—well, I do not know what I’ll do, but I won’t give any of them gals a quarter-section near me. Now in company with twenty wagons bound for Oregon and California. Beautiful country, good roads, and pleasant weather have attended us today. But them are ugly beings; I cannot help thinking about them. I wish I could see nobody at all until I could forget them.
April 27: Left twenty-five miles of pretty country, good roads, and homely people behind, accompanied with cool weather. Crossed the second and third branches of Ottawa Creek. These branches are very difficult to cross as the banks are high and the channel muddy. All in fine spirits tonight for we expect soon to be wending our way across the plains.
April 28: We traveled twenty miles westward and encamped on the east branch of Sine Bone [?]. Here is another large Mormon settlement. They have built a little whitish town, which they call Indian town. Beautiful country, etc., about here. Corn is worth 75 cents per bushel, hay 15 dollars per ton, everything else in proportion. The Mormons all calculate going to Salt Lake this summer.
April 29: We traveled twenty miles. Every feature of the country about the same as heretofore. Plenty of Mormons, which is about all we see worth of record, and this is not worth mentioning. Camped close to a little mill and ferry on west branch of Ase Botne [?]. Git out of the way, ye believers in Jo Smith. You are not fit to live in America.
April 30: Drove fifteen miles and encamped on Silver Creek with some 45 other wagons. Here are Mormons by the “hullsale,” as the Yankee would term it, all preparing to emigrate to Salt Lake. The country here is as handsome as I have seen on the road. The weather today was very unpleasant.
May 1: We journeyed fifteen miles and encamped three miles from Kanesville, our place of rendezvous. We have at least got to the end of the Hawkeye country, and all in good health and spirits. We are now on the western borders of the United States and at the end of civilization. We calculate to rest our teams a few days before starting out on the plains. Corn is worth 25 cents, oats the same, hay ten dollars per ton. There are a great many emigrants here preparing to cross the plains to the far-distant Oregon and California.
Diary of Polly Coon:
May 17: Crossed the west branch of the Nishabotna. Mr. McGraw brings discouraging news as to the prospect of crossing the Missouri, also for getting an outfit at the Bluffs, the emigration being so very large. We all feel a little damped in spirits.
May 18: Arrived in Kanesville. Procured our fit-out, and after being detained about three days, came down to the Missouri and lay one night on its banks. The next morning took the steamboat ferry and crossed, driving out some three miles to a lake, where we stayed 24 hours, packing and repairing and forming our train. Since leaving there, we have traveled in company with hundreds of teams in sight. Immediately after leaving our camp at the lake, we came to a small creek, where the Indians had thrown in a few brush and logs, and were taking a dime for one team.
May 2: We’re laying by; spent the time writing letters back to Indiana. All well satisfied to rest a short time before starting out from here. I should like to hear from old Jasper today, but I do not expect to hear for six months yet to come.
May 3: Yet laying by, resting our teams. Nothing happened of importance. Went down to the city of Kanesville, and a great place it is, not worth anything except for making money off of the emigrants.
May 4, 5, 6: We are laying by. Father had a chill of the ague during this time, and was very sick all the day. Nothing more for these three days.
May 7: We moved down to the ferry, a distance of nine miles, and encamped on the Missouri River bank. We shall stay here a few days more before crossing over into the wild, uninhabited land possessed by the Indians. The Missouri is about half-mile in width.
May 8-18: We are laying by these eleven days. Mr. Smith preached for us on the 9th. On the 10th we tried to get across, but had to give it up as there were too many teams ahead of us, so we did not get across until the 19th. Their way of ferrying here is very poor indeed. Their boats are old-fashioned flats. It was, or is, a dangerous undertaking for anyone to cross in these boats. One man was drowned and several more barely escaped with their lives. The current being very strong, it required great care in being safe. One man was killed on the 13th by getting drunk and letting a wagon and team run over him. I get very much discouraged while laying by so long, being very unwell most of the time. Father has got entirely well, and tomorrow, I think, we will make a break for the tall timber on the other side of the Cascades.
Diary of E.W. Conyers:
May 17: Reached Kanesville on May 9. Some one of our group makes daily trips to the different ferry landings to see what chance will be to cross the Missouri River. They report there are but two small scows now ferrying. Two wagons make a load for either, and they are propelled by two men using oars. They charge $4 per wagon, and we swim our own cattle. The current is very swift. The scows are miserable little flatboats, and some accident happens to them nearly every trip they make. Being so heavily weighted, they sink. The emigrants are pushing and crowding, and frequently quarreling and even fighting to get aboard the scows the moment they touch shore, so great is their haste to resume their trip across the continent.
May 18: This morning a steamer was seen coming up the river, and a crowd of emigrants rushed to the landing to be in readiness to board as soon as she touched the shore. The emigrants soon had the captain cornered, pleading with him to ferry them across the river. He agreed to do that in the next morning at $10 per wagon and four yoke of oxen included, and $2 every extra yoke. The steamer’s name is El Paso.
May 19: We drove aboard, and were soon across the Missouri. They crowded the cattle on the steamer so closely that one of our oxen had his horn broken off. While waiting, one of the ferry flats sunk and one man drowned. This evening we learned of another accident, which happened at the same ferry after we crossed. There was a team and several yoke of cattle on board the flat. They were owned by a young man and his sister. They were both in the wagon. When the flat reached the center of the river, the cattle became uneasy, and began crowding to one side of the boat. The wagon and cattle all went overboard. The current carried the wagon down. The emigrants on shore were frantic with excitement, women running up and down the shore screaming and wringing their hands, children crying, men hallooing at the top of their voices for the ferrymen to go and rescue those in the wagon. No one believed the occupants would survive, but to everyone’s surprise they did. Some Indians who saw the event plunged into the stream, swam out to them, and brought them both safely to shore.
Diary of Eliza Ann McAuley:
May 10: Got to Kanesville, four miles from the Missouri River, about noon. After a short delay, we went on to the river, and camped as near the ferry as we could get. There are thousands of wagons waiting to be ferried over.
May 11: Got up early and took the wagons down a little nearer the ferry, so as to take advantage of the first opportunity to cross. A dreadful accident happened here today. A boat manned by green hands was taking a boat of cattle across. The cattle rushed to one end of the boat, causing it to tip, and in a moment there was a mass of struggling men and animals in the water. One man was drowned. Another, who was a good swimmer, remembering that he had left his whip, coolly turned around and swam back for it.
May 19: This day we crossed the Missouri River and traveled three miles to the west. All got over safe, and then cast our last look at the states we have left behind, probably forever. We have now entered upon a long and tedious journey for about 2,000 miles, where, excepting the emigrants, we expect to see but little to cheer us up, but calculate to endure many hardships and privations until we reach the land of our destination. The country on this side of the Missouri is beautiful in appearance, and I think possessed of a rich soil. But timber, I judge, to be scarce. We formed a company this evening, consisting of nine wagons and 35 persons, including men, women, and children. We encamped on the bank of a small lake which extends south from the Missouri River. Had good camping, plenty grass, wood and water. Caught some fish in the lake this evening.
Diary of Martha S. Read:
May 19: Arrived in Kanesville. Traveled on four miles to the river and camped there.
May 20: Laid by and washed some. Had a good many Indians visit us. Fed them and sent them off. Had no trouble with them.
May 21: Crossed the river about 2 miles below here in a steamboat. Had to pay $14. Crossing the river, we went about two miles and camped. Several Indians visited us again; appeared very friendly. We can soon get rid of them by giving them something to eat.
May 22: Laid by to rest our teams. One of our company had an ox chased out of the drove by Indians on their ponies, while two of our men were watching them where they were feeding. They rode right into the drove, selected it, and ran it about four miles into the water. They shot three arrows into the ox. We gave chase, and the Indians abandoned the ox. The ox was pretty badly hurt, but will probably be able to follow in a day or two. Several have had their cattle stolen. There is common amount of Indian trouble.
May 20: We hitched up early and drove, fifteen miles, over a somewhat hilly and crooked but even road. Our route lay a northwest course and in sight of the Missouri River nearly all day. The weather was pleasant and the country handsome, which made the traveling very agreeable. We found a very good camping place by turning off of the road to the right, about half a mile to a little spring branch running due north. We had plenty of grass, wood and water. Attended to our teams and retired, leaving a guard over our cattle.
May 21: We only traveled five miles, as it commenced raining soon after we had started and did not cease until night. We encamped on a small creek called Papea Creek. Along the banks there is some timber, so we had plenty of wood and water; besides, we found plenty of grass for our cattle. The weather today was very unpleasant, as the air became quite cool shortly after it had commenced raining. Road was about the same also. We fell in company with about 100 wagons throughout the day, and one man died with cholera near our camp this evening. I understand his father and brother, who were in company with him, were going to turn back in the morning. All in good healthy and spirits. If it does rain and people die, we expect it, and we do not possess the least idea of being disappointed, as we had heard of the cholera and smallpox being among the emigrants before we left the Missouri River.
May 22: We only traveled about twelve miles, our road bore to the northwest until we came to Elkhorn River, which we ferried, paying $2.00 per wagon, staying some two hours to get across. This stream is some ten rods [about 160 feet] in width, and its banks are skirted with scrub oak trees. Besides paying $2.00 per wagon for ferrying, we had to swim our teams and loose cattle. We here saw the first natives since we left the Missouri River. They had one wickiup [a hut with a wood frame covered with grass, reed, or brushwood] made of at the ferry. After leaving the ferry, we traveled some four miles up the river, and encamped, finding plenty of grass, wood, and water. The weather today was very unpleasant, and roads had become muddy. The country through which we passed was delightful, but no timber excepting what little grew on the banks of the shall streams. Saw some Indian graves.
May 23: We traveled fifteen miles. Eleven miles brought us to the Platte River, and we traveled four miles up the river, where we found good camping. The country lying between the Elkhorn and Platte Rivers is low and level, besides rich, producing a luxuriant growth of grass. The country along the Platte is dry and rolling, and as handsome any we have yet seen. We saw a Pawnee Indian village on the opposite side of the Platte River. The road for eleven miles was very indifferent, but afterwards good. We got out of the Omaha Indian country after crossing the Elkhorn. They appeared very friendly, but I judge these Pawnees to be a set of rascals. They are constantly begging.
May 24: This day made a drive of twenty miles. Our road lay along up the Platte River all day, which runs a southwest course; all prairie excepting what little timber is along the river. The country is very handsome, weather pleasant, and road very good. All in good health and spirits. Saw some of the natives, begging as usual. Good camping all along here. Hurrah for Oregon. I wish I were there.
May 25: We came about eighteen miles. Our road is still up Platte River country, about the same in appearance. Road very good excepting a few sloughs which occur now and then along. Weather pleasant. Platte River resembles the Missouri for the muddiness of its water and banks. Although the Platte is about one mile wide here, it puts me in mind of the old Missouri, but not as deep and I think affords but little more water.
May 26: We journey thirteen miles; five miles brought us to the ferry of the Loup Fork of the Platte River. Here is good camping. They ask $3.00 per wagon for ferrying, and you do the ferrying, but we concluded to make for the ford 60 miles above as it is none out of our course. We made eight miles up Loup Fork, and found good camping place in Looking Glass Creek. Loup Fork is a hard stream. It is 50 rods [83 feet] wide, with low banks and sandy bottom and full of sandbars besides. The water is as muddy as a hog wallow. The country is very handsome and road good and weather warm and pleasant. We are all well, and have some sport as we go along. Saw a case of smallpox this morning at the ferry. Saw but few Indians today.
Diary of Cecelia Adams & Parthenia Blank:
June 10: Hard south wind for several days. Followed up the Loup Fork. This is a branch of the Platte, a very rapid stream filled with sand bars. Find a few wild roses and yellow daisies. Tonight we encamped on a beautiful spot with plenty of wood and grass. One of our oxen has become very lame. Timber is generally very scarce. Today we saw two new graves. On the headboard was written with pencil: “Marry Morris aged 19 and M.C. Morris aged 9 yrs.” We saw good clothing scattered around, which caused us to think they had died from some contagious disease. Here we did some washing. Made 18 miles.
June 11: Took an early start this morning. P and myself walked on several miles. We have very cold nights, and not very warm days, which makes it fine for our cattle. 12 o’clock stopped for dinner. This is all the time I get to write or read. The horseflies are very bad today. I never saw such large ones, and so many of them before. The boys are all laying under the wagons asleep. Today crossed Looking Glass Creek, Beaver Creek, Plumb Creek, and Ash Creek. We find quite a number of dead oxen and horses. Encamped on the Loup Fork bottom tonight. We could hear the Indians but did not see any. Made 20 miles.
June 12: Quite warm today, with a cool breeze. P and self walked on several miles. We came to an old deserted Indian village. The soil is very sandy. Grass is very good here. Cottonwood is the principal timber on these rivers. See no buffalo yet. This is a beautiful part of the country, very level.
May 27: Traveled about twenty miles. Our road lay along up Loup Fork and through some handsome country as we have yet seen. Crossed four beautiful streams of water from two to four rods in width, all affording the best of camping places. All in fine spirits this evening, but becoming somewhat impatient on account of making such little progress while on such good roads and almost surrounded by smallpox and cholera. The country along here is too good for the brawny skins of the wilderness to possess.
May 28: This day made a drive of about twenty miles. Weather, roads, and country about as yesterday. Crossed two streams of running water, one about ten o’clock and the other this evening, which was Loup Fork. The fording was very good, but requires some care in crossing as the stream is quicksandy in the bottom. The stream here is about fifty-five rods [900 feet] in width, but shallow, not exceeding two feet in depth. We encamped immediately after crossing. One man died near us this evening with cholera.
May 29: We shortened our journey about eighteen miles. Our road turned south towards the Platte River this morning, and continued so all day, passing over a sandy, broken and almost barren prairie. The weather was warm and pleasant, but roads heavy and the country not very attractive. I and James McCoy spent the day chasing antelope, but returned without securing any. We saw several buffalo skeletons in our tramp. Encamped by a large pond.
May 30: We journeyed about twenty miles. Our road still bore us to the south and southwest, passing through country similar to that of yesterday until 10 o’clock. Afterwards it brought us into a wet, marshy country, with several branches wending their way to the Platte River, crossing the road frequently but not difficult fording. Afterwards, the road was as good as we called for. Weather pleasant and country handsome, until we came within two miles of the Platte River, where we camped, finding an abundance of good grass and water, but had to go two miles to the river for wood. We passed several fresh and old graves during the day, but saw no one sick.
May 31: This day have traveled some sixteen miles, nearly a west course all day, and through a very handsome prairie country. Weather pleasant and roads good. After traveling about two miles this morning, we came to a beautiful little stream called Wood Creek, which runs south from the ford and empties into Platte River. Just above the ford it has a bend coming nearly from the west for some twenty miles. There is plenty of good camping places all along here as it is but a short ways to either the Platte River or Wood Creek from the road. We have hardly been out of sight of wagons all day. At times, they are visible for miles ahead and behind; some of them have plenty of cholera and smallpox in company, causing some deaths every day. Found a good place to camp.
Diary of E.W. Conyers:
May 24: We came 12 miles [from the Missouri River], and camped on the bank of the Platte. Pawnee Indians plenty, and the Italian Gypsy cannot beat them in begging. We are expecting a scrape with this tribe within the next few days. They tell us we cannot pass without giving them one steer out of every team, and this is impossible. Therefore, guess we’ll have to fight. We have joined with 12 other teams, making in all 24 teams, and we number 65 fighting men, if none runs. Tonight we are again in a city of tents. Music, singing, and merrymaking can be heard in all directions. At one camp they are dancing after the inspiring strains of the violin. At the adjoining camp, they are holding a religious meeting. And still at another many families are seated around a large campfire, prepared by the young men of that train, for a special evening of chat. Everyone seemingly happy. No fear of being attacked by Indians.
May 25: It is quite amusing to note the different mottoes on the wagon covers, such as “From Danville, Ill. And bound for Oregon,” “Bound for California or bust.” Another: “Root [?], little hot or die;” another “Bound for Origen [sic].” Soon after we struck the road and got into line; we joined the great multitude moving slowly onward toward the setting sun. We observed a four-horse coach, in which are seated four richly dressed young ladies and two young girls, ages 10-12, and a young man who was handling the lines. One of the young ladies was making music on an accordion, another was playing a guitar, all were singing as they trotted past, gay as larks. We observed that the emigrants are digging wells in the low lands for water, which they obtain by digging from eight to ten feet, rather than drink the muddy waters of the Platte. We were advised not to drink this water as it is strongly impregnated with alkali.
May 26: Last night we elected John Julian as our captain. As we expected to have trouble with Pawnee Indians, our captain requested every man in our company to see that his gun was in good order. Those who did not have to drive a team were to carry their guns in their arms. These men he divided into two squads scattered along on either side of the train. We see quite a number of Indians along the road, all dressed up in war paint, and having bows and arrows, their hair cut very short except one small bunch on the crown of their heads, which is allowed to grow to full length. The Indians were all on the beg, pointing over towards their village, which we could see, crying “Help Pawnee, all hungry.” The Indians become more plenty and threatening the farther we go. Our captain ordered the company to keep the teams as close together as possible. Came to a creek with a depth of about 8 ft. and 12 ft. wide with a narrow strip of willows. The emigrants cut and piled the willows into the creek level with the ground, thus forming a temporary bridge for their teams to cross. The company that did this then charged 50 cents per wagon until they had received what they considered sufficient pay for the labor, and then left the bridge. After they left, the Pawnees took possession of the bridge, and demanded one steer from each team. This demand was refused. We offered some flour, rice, and sugar, but these articles they indignantly spurned saying “Help Pawnee, much hungry.”
June 2: The water is strongly impregnated with alkali. Here we dug our first well to obtain water.
June 3: A person came down with symptoms of cholera. Then later that night we learned two more persons came down with cholera. This was brought on, I believe, by drinking water from the well we dug the night before, it being thoroughly impregnated with alkali.
June 4: Little wood.
June 5: George Mossman breathed his last. We laid him out in his wagon, and came about nine miles and stopped to bury the young man and eat our lunch. This was our first misfortune. We dug his grave, wrapped him in his comfort and blanket, and buried him. The ceremony was read, a chapter in the Holy Bible, and then read the Lord’s Prayer, adding a few words of exhortation.
June 11: The sound of the violin and merrymaking has been seldom heard during the past week, and pleasure has given way to mourning and lamentation, and many new-made graves are to be seen by the roadside as we pass.
June 1: This day made our journey about twenty miles shorter, traveling up the Platte all day. Weather warm and pleasant, road good and country handsome. Good camping the whole way and the best water we have drank for a fortnight we got today. We are all well, and getting along well, but would like to be moving faster. Nothing happened of any importance during the day.
June 2: We drove about fifteen miles, our road lay along Platte, crossing three small creeks, one of which afforded some timber, consisting of cottonwood principally as grows on Platte. Encamped on Elm Creek nearly opposite Ft. Kearney. The emigrants are crossing over from the south side on account of cholera. We have heard of twelve cases this evening and all very dangerous ones. I begin to feel like I would rather it was somebody else than me. I believe I could count 5,000 wagons this evening at sight. I do not know where all these people intend going to make fortunes, but I am going to Oregon myself, so I am, go it while yer [sic] young, when old you can’t.
The Diary of Abigail Scott
May 29: Came 8 miles to Fort Kearney. We halted awhile to write letters, look at curiosities, &c. Traveled about 8 miles up the Platte. We have seen teams crossing it at a place and decided to do so too, for the wood and grass are much better on the north than the south side. We are camped on the banks of the river without ordinary fuel, but we find plenty of buffalo chips.
May 30. Sabbath day. Cross the Platte river, which was more tedious than difficult. The place we came through was about a mile and a half wide, about three feet deep, except in holes, where the cattle were sometimes covered for a time almost out of sight. It took a team one hour to cross it. Father had raised the beds of the wagons so as not to dip in the water. All the children were tucked inside the wagons. He told us not to be afraid. There were loud voices of the drivers as they yelled and whipped up the oxen, and the jogging of the wagons through the surging waters and over the quicksand.
June 1: Traveled about 18 miles. The weather is exceedingly hot, making going ahead a tedious and laborious occupation. Our sick folks, who were all rather better when we crossed the Platte, are getting along rather slowly. But amidst all the obstacles which seem to come across our way in the course, we are pursuing one hope that inspires us all–that of one day arriving at the place of our destination. We met a company today who had started back because of sickness and death. They buried one man yesterday and another this morning. We have suffered considerable inconvenience this afternoon because of the great scarcity of good water. The water of the Platte being so muddy and warm that it is impossible to drink. However, this evening we found an excellent spring. Passed four graves.
Diary of Martha S. Read:
June 7: Traveled 12 miles to a point of timber that forms an island on the Platte. Passed 11 graves today, which makes it rather gloomy. We are told this is the sickest part of the journey. Weather cold and windy. We stopped this morning to bury one woman out of our company. She had diarrhea. We had a prayer and a hymn sung. The men made a bark coffin, so that she was buried very decent. We are told that there are about 70 graves on Wood Creek. There are several returning on account of sickness.
June 10: Traveled 10 miles. Laid by in the afternoon on account of sickness. Buried another woman out of our company tonight; a young man is not expected to live. They are all taken with a diarrhea. The physicians think it is not the proper cholera, but the next thing to it. We passed six graves today.
Letter of Martha S. Read to her brother and sister, winter 1852-53
We have seen a great deal of sickness, sorrow, and death on the road. I counted 750 graves on the road, but I suppose that was a small part, for there were so many who camped of from the road and buried their dead. It seemed to be cholera that they died from on the Platte River. They frequently died in a few hours. They said there were 1000 graves on the south side of the river. We laid it to bad water. We drank no water, only what was made into tea or coffee. We escaped sickness until we got to the mountains. Clifton was then taken with the mountain fever. He was pretty sick for a week. We had a man in our company who doctored him. After that, I was taken with diarrhea and fever. I was pretty sick for about two weeks. We laid by one week. Lydia was taken soon after I was with the same complaint. I had two or three attacks after that with a diarrhea. You may depend that it was a hard place to be sick on the road, and jolting along in a wagon through the day and a hard bed at night.
Recollections of Dr. George Benson Kuykendall:
All along the trail we began seeing new-made graves, for the cholera was taking a fearful toll. During the first two months of our journey we passed hundreds of graves of those who had died of cholera. After that there was less cholera, but many of the trains had smallpox and mountain fever. Sickness, the hard grind of travel, worry, anxiety, dust and lack of food seemed to develop in many of the emigrants a spirit of bickering and dissension that made it almost impossible to get along with them.
June 2: Came 18 miles. The country is level. This evening the west wind rose and blew a perfect gale. We find tolerably good water this evening by digging near a kind of marsh or slough.
June 3: Traveled according to our [travel] guide about 19 miles. We found the roads very sandy. I ascended the bluffs on horseback to the top of the highest one. I could see the emigrants' wagons, cattle, and horses on the road in either direction as far as the eye could reach. Some of our company today killed a buffalo, which considerably changed the regular routine of our diet at supper time. They also killed a prairie dog. Last night we experienced all the realities of a Platte river storm. The rain fell in torrents until one o’clock, while the thunder and lightening were to some the most terrific, and to others the most sublime of any thunderstorm we had ever witnessed. The tents belonging to some of our company were upset in the midst of it, the wind blowing a perfect gale, rendering it almost impossible for even the wagons to keep their places.
Diary of Polly Coon:
June 2: About half an hour after we camped, one of the celebrated Platte River storms came upon us and lasted nearly all night. The wind blew from nearly every point of the compass. I never witnessed anything of a storm before. Some of the tents were blown down, and those that were not required two or three men to hold them all night. Those that slept in the wagons were nearly as bad off. It seemed every moment that they must blow over.
Recollections of Dr. George Benson Kuykendall:
One day we had laid over to allow the stock to rest. The women-folks spread the blankets and clothing out in the sun to air, took the covers off the wagons, and began unpacking. The air was so sultry that Mr. Booth warned that a thunderstorm would be coming, although there was no sign of one. The men hastily put the covers back on the wagons. Suddenly, huge black clouds began boiling up from the horizon, and in a few moments it was dark as night and a terrific wind came. It blew the tents down and tore the covers from the wagons. Blankets and tin pans began sailing away over the prairie. The thunder was continuous. The lightning so vivid it hurt one’s eyes. The rain came in torrents. The wind was so fierce that the men had to chain the wagons together. The cattle stampeded over the prairie. The next day was a quiet, beautiful one. The women walked a half mile out to retrieve the tinware. The men walked 12 miles to find the cattle.
June 4: Found excellent grass and hauled wood from an island on the river.
June 5: Came about twenty miles this day. Roads were very sandy. About the middle of the afternoon, a storm came up. We halted, arranged our wagons beside each other as closely as we could place them, chained up the cattle and horses, and pitched the tents and gathered a supply of fuel in about as short a time as anything of the kind could be accomplished. The storm abated in an hour and we were on our way again. We camped on the river. Passed four graves.
June 6: Sunday. We find that keeping the Sabbath rightly by lying by on the plains is “no go,” and we accordingly started as early as usual. Came twenty-one miles. The day is pleasant. We passed six graves.
June 7: Traveled about 16 miles. The roads are very sandy, rendering it difficult to get along. Killed another buffalo today. A man died last night in a train, which camped opposite to us. They buried him this morning.
June 8: Made twenty miles today. We passed eight fresh graves. Hear of considerable sickness in a great many trains. At one time today we saw upwards of sixty teams ahead of us besides two large droves of cattle, while behind us, as far as we could see, others were moving on. The great cause of diarrhea, which has proved to be so fatal on the road, has been occasioned in most instances by drinking water from holes dug in the river bank and along the marshes. We are camped again about one half mile from the river on the margin of a little stream. We saw three buffaloes this morning. It gave us a fair opportunity to see them. As they were the first I had seen, they excited my curiosity a good deal.
June 9: Traveled about twenty-two miles. The heat of the sun became very oppressive about noon, and continued so throughout the day until night. We camped again near the Platte. Passed eight graves.
June 10: Came 18 miles. The afternoon was so very oppressive that it seemed almost impossible to breathe. We passed two graves today.
June 11: Traveled 18 miles. The heat was oppressive about noon almost beyond endurance. About 3 o’clock, clouds arose in the west, and, although no rain fell, the wind blew such a gale that it was for a short time impossible for us to proceed. The sand blew in clouds, hiding everything from our sight. We passed six graves and camped near the Platte.
June 12: Traveled 20 miles. At noon, we for the first time hailed the rock known as the “Nebraska Courthouse.” After traveling a while, we came in sight of the renowned Chimney Rock. We passed five new made graves. We camped this evening on the river bank without buffalo chips and with no wood except a few small sticks of cedar. But we made our supper by eating sea biscuits. A hard storm came up about 6 o’clock, and, although but little rain fell, the wind blew so hard that the wagons rocked to and fro. One of the tents got blown over.
June 13: Carried some chips from the bluffs two miles off, which answered for cooking purposes. The day has been quite warm, but a shower about five in the evening cooled the air. Upwards of one hundred teams passed us today. Everyone is anxious to go ahead and we among the rest. But to rest a day will do our cattle a great deal of good.
June 14: We have seen very romantic scenery all day. The Chimney Rock has been in full view all day. We are now camped in full view of Scott’s Bluffs. We passed two graves.
June 15: We came in sight of Laramie’s Peak in the afternoon. We passed seven new made graves today, and camped about three-quarters of a mile from the Platte, where we get good water and grass but no fuel of any kind, even buffalo chips. We will be obliged to eat sea biscuits for supper.
June 16: Came about 24 miles. We had good roads, excepting some mud holes, which we had to cross. We have seen considerable water today called alkali. It is considered dangerous for cattle to drink, and all these sloughs and marshes are impregnated with it. There are several of our company sick, but we hope not dangerously. About 10 o’clock this morning we passed a train, who were busied in burying a body of a female who had died about two hours before. They had buried her husband a week before. What a sad thing to leave our friends in this uninhabited country inhabited only by the red man of the forest. We passed ten new made graves today and heard of considerable sickness in different trains.
June 17: We started this morning about half past seven. We have very good roads. We hope, after leaving the Platte river, that there will not be so much sickness.
June 18: We started early this morning. Passed Fort Laramie about 10 o’clock. Two of our company crossed the river and carried some letters which the company had written. We passed several Indian trading posts this morning. The tribe of Indians occupying this territory are called Sioux. They are represented as being thievish, but if proper precautions are used, emigrants need not fear. In passing a dirty stream, we met with quite an accident. A wagon belonging to the train upset, and surely I never saw such a mud hole. Fortunately, there was no person in the wagon. We stopped about two hundred yards away. There is very poor grass, and we will stay only long enough to get the unfortunate wagon reloaded and the cattle rested. Most of the sick folks are better. As we ascend the Platte, the scenery is more beautiful than any we have seen for some time. We have seen no timber for two hundred miles, and we will be heartily glad to see it once more. We find numerous beds of prickly pears, enough to astonish anyone in the States. The scenery is grand: high ranges of hills on each side, adorned with cedars and pine, while numerous wildflowers and plants of every description adorn the valleys, giving beauty and variety to the scenery. We are camped between two lofty ranges of hills, where we can obtain wood but no water. We will have to drive the cattle to the river, which is some distance off.
June 19: The train moved out about 7 o’clock. We came ten miles, and again met the Platte, which we are all glad to see. We found several delightful springs this morning. The water was clear as crystal and quite refreshing. We were very tired of the dull monotony of the plains, and are glad to see a change in the scenery. We have come to the long-wished for hills at last. There is not grass enough for the cattle, so we will move on until we can find it. We came to an excellent spring, and being uncertain when we can obtain more water, we thought proper to fill the casks. The road is hilly and rocky, and thus our progress is much retarded. Some of these hills are three hundred feet high. We are camped near some excellent springs, which seem to gush from the rocks. We have good grass and wood. Came 22 miles today and passed four new graves. We just heard that there is a woman dying about 100 yards from us. The part of our train who were sick are much better and improving all the time. It is generally the case that, if persons are sick and their health is restored, they are much healthier than they had been for some time.
June 20: Our mother was taken about 2 o’clock this morning with a violent diarrhea attended with cramping. However, she aroused no one until daylight, when everything was done to save her life. But her constitution, long impaired by disease, was unable to withstand the attack. This afternoon between 4 and 5 o’clock, her wearied spirit took its flight, and then we realized that we were bereaved indeed. A lady died last night in a train camped near us, and this morning they interred her lifeless remains and started off without delay.
June 21: This morning we dispatched our breakfast in silence, and with sorrowful hearts prepared to pay the last tribute of respect to the remains of the beloved lamented dead. She now rests in peace, beside the lady who died the night before. The place of her internment is a romantic one, and one which seems fitted for the last resting place of a lover of rural scenery. She was wrapped in a blanket in a shallow grave on the side of the road. Father and the others heaped stones over the grave so that coyotes and other animals would not disturb it.
June 22: We came twenty miles.. The roads are very sandy. For the last ten miles, our road ran over cliffs of rock and wound about so much that we cannot be more than ten or fifteen miles from where we started in the morning. We are camped on the Platte. We find but little wood, but with sage roots and what wood we have, we can get by. Passed five graves.
June 23: Traveled twenty five miles. We’ve seen in some places a few scrubby pines and cedars, but nothing in comparison to what we saw some days ago. Passed six graves. Poor grass.
June 24: Came five or six miles. At about 8 o’clock, finding a place of good grazing, we halted and turned our cattle out upon it. It started raining slowly. The roads were wet and slippery, but the hauling was not hard. Passed two graves. Camped near the Platte.
June 25: Started early and traveled until eleven a.m., when we came to good grass. We halted and waited until our cattle ate as long as they would, and started again. Passed no new graves.
June 26: We halted in a place of poor grazing, but it was the best we could obtain, as the sage brush was so thick that it was impossible for much grass to grow. We remained at this place until two p.m., and then we expected to take our final leave of the Platte. However, there would be no water for twenty-five miles, so we filled our water casks. We had expected to bade a final adieu to the river; contrary to our expectations, about two hours later we struck it again. We traveled in sight of it most of the time until night came. Passed two graves. We find no good grass. Mosquitoes are quite troublesome.
June 27: We took a new road this morning. Traveled along the Platte until near noon, when we came to a place of tolerably good grazing. We halted and turned our cattle upon the grass, pitched our tents, and ate a cold dinner. We then prepared to rest until evening. The mosquitoes are so troublesome and annoy us so much that it is quite hard to keep one’s patience. The Platte River here is not one-fourth as wide as below Fort Kearny, where we first struck it. However, it is deep and swift and almost impossible for a man to swim across. Ferrymen have been busy for several weeks on the other side of the river ferrying the wagons and emigrants across to this side. They take a loaded wagon across for five dollars and swim the cattle. We came today about eight miles. Passed two graves.
June 28: Came twenty-four miles. We get good grass, tolerably good water, but no fuel, except sagebrush and a few buffalo chips. We have gone over uninterrupted sage plain all day. Alkali abounds here to a great extent and requires great care to keep the cattle away from the water. We passed nine graves today. Had a light shower in the evening, which was quite pleasant.
June 29: We came twenty miles. We struck the Sweetwater River about two o’clock. Independence Rock is an immense mass covering an area of about ten acres, I think, and is about three hundred feet high. My sisters and I went to the base of the rock, intending to climb it. But we had ascended only about thirty feet, when a heavy hail and wind storm arose, stopping us. We crossed the river. Immediately after leaving Independence Rock, we came in sight of the well-known Devil’s Gate five miles ahead. We camped opposite to it on the bend of the river. We, in company with many others, paid this gate a visit. It is indeed worth seeing. The Sweetwater passes through it. The cliffs of rock on either side are at least four hundred feet high. The rocks are in many places covered with the names of visitors, a few of which date as early as ‘38, a great many were dated ‘50 and ‘51, but most were ‘52. We passed seven graves.
Diary of Polly Coon:
July 6: Camped ½ mile from “Rock Independence” among a multitude of people. We all visited the rock after tea, and traversed it over and around. We enjoyed the excursion very much. Someone had put up a banner on the 4th, and it still flutters in the breeze, a cheering symbol of “American Freedom.”
July 7: Camped on the Sweetwater. I paid a short visit as we passed the celebrated Devil’s Gate. We are again surrounded by camps. It is estimated that there are 500 people in a short distance.
July 11: We are camped on the Sweetwater. On every side of us are camped the busy bustling emigrants with their thousand cattle. Near us nipping the soft grass is a flock of sheep.
June 30: We came twenty-two miles. We traveled all day along the Sweetwater. We today passed two graves. One was a victim and beside him his murderer, hung on June 29, 1852 according to the inscription. We passed a trading post this morning belonging to a Salt Lake company. They asked $20 per barrel of flour, and $12 per galleon for brandy and other things in proportion. Killed a mountain sheep this evening.
July 1: Traveled 18 miles. We crossed the Sweetwater twice, and came out on the same side we were on before in order to avoid crossing the bluffs. We had to raise our wagon beds six inches. Passed eight graves today. Encamped about one-half mile from the river. Found better grass than we have for some days. No timber or sage, but chips are plenty.
July 2: Came eighteen miles. The air has been cool. We camped this evening on the Sweetwater. Grazing is poor. We use sage for fuel. Passed six graves.
July 3: Came eighteen miles. We came to a fork in the road: one was to ford the river and the other to cross the hills. As the fording was bad, we decided to go over the hills. By doing, so we were able to get ahead of thirty teams, which had been the source of never failing but very annoying dust in our faces all morning. The road over the hills and rocks is very tedious and difficult. The road is very hard on the cattle’s feet, though but few have become lame. We see a great many abandoned, lame, and worn-out cattle and the air is literally filled with stench from dead oxen. We passed one as often as every half mile through the day. We passed a trading post this afternoon, kept by French and half-breeds with some specimens of humanity for their wives, which plainly tells of the extent of their ambition. They are squaws of the most disgusting appearance imaginable, paying no regard whatever to cleanliness. We find very poor grass and our cattle and horses are much in need of a good feed. Passed four graves.
July 4: By following a ravine about two miles this morning, we found a place of tolerably good grazing. We herded our cattle at that place all day. We see a great difference between the exercises of the glorious Fourth this year and last. The weather is cold enough for snow.
Diary of Martha S. Read:
July 4: Laid by today. Cooked the best we had to celebrate the day. Had some buffalo meat for the first time. Found it good eating. We feel thankful that we are spared to celebrate another American Independence Day here in these lonesome wilds, where there is so much sickness and death.
Diary of John Kerns:
July 4: We celebrated the fourth day of July (in the 76th year of American Independence) by traveling twenty miles further up the Sweetwater, although some distance from it. But made a camp on the river bank. We have traveled over a very indifferent road all day, being an entire bed of sand and gravel. We passed the alkali and boiling springs this morning after traveling about four miles. Weather warm and pleasant. Now among the Crow Indians, and they look crowish enough to eat us if they dared. This is the fourth nation of Indians we have met with, but are not intelligent as the Sioux nation at Fort Laramie. I wish I were back to see how they have spent this day at the old home. How far I have been separated from them in one year!
July 5: Traveled westward twenty-two miles. Had cool weather after that little hurricane of last night, which happened to find Nathan and I about two miles from camp on guard. The storm commenced about 11 o’clock at night, blowing tremendously (raining but little), which routed our horses and cattle from their sandy, grassy bed, and scattered them equal to the Grecian Archipelagos, but we collected them after the wind ceased. Now among the Shawnee Indians. We saw about 500 of them today, and they all possess a good countenance, both as to intelligence and neatness. They lack nothing considering their situation.
July 5: Last night, we were visited by a tremendous windstorm, which upset two tents and made the wagons rock from side to side, and caused the cattle to stampede. We had omitted the usual custom of tying up our cattle around the wagons, in order to give them time to graze. After some difficulty and haste, the guard succeeded in bringing them to a halt without losing any. We crossed the Sweetwater. Passed four graves.
July 6: We traveled 18 miles through the South Pass. The ascent and descent is very gradual, it being impossible to exactly determine where the culminating point is. The first accurate conclusion we could form was at Pacific Springs, where we see that the waters flow towards the Pacific ocean.
July 7: Traveled twenty two miles. We started at half past four o’clock without our breakfast and traveled fourteen miles. At ten o’clock we struck the Little Sandy. Found some rather poor grass, but it was better than none. We got dinner over and started on at two PM and traveled until six, when we struck the Big Sandy and halted for the night. We find tolerably good grass. This evening, two Indians came up to our camp riding a pony. They were of the Shoshone or Snake tribe, and were the first we had seen since leaving For Laramie, except a few at two trading posts. They are as sensible and savage creatures as one might wish to see..
Diary of Polly Coon:
July 16: Camped on the banks of the Big Sandy. We have been visited by many Indians today. Traded with some with them, hard bread for moccasins and beads. They seem perfectly friendly and kind. Our fears of Indians have all disappeared.
Diary of John Kerns:
July 8: [Near South Pass] We let our stock enjoy rest on fine grass and good water. We were nearly all out hunting antelope and grizzly bear; saw a bear and killed six antelope. While out enjoying our hunt, some 300 or 400 Snake Indians came and pitched camp 200 or 300 yards below ours on the same branch, alarming the few at camp very much. We soon all were in camp, however, and watched the motions of the rascals close. This is a beautiful prairie country, but is in one of the coldest climates I every experienced. When the sun shines it is very warm, but the minute the clouds intervene, it is cold enough to be uncomfortable even with coat and vest on. The prairies are covered with snow in many places now, but in many places heavy coats of grass are to be found. The principal portion of the surface, however, is covered with sage brush. Game of several kinds, viz.: grizzly bear, antelope, deer, and sage hens. All well, but somewhat uneasy with or on account of so many Indians.
July 8: Came about twenty miles. To avoid the desert of forty miles between Big Sandy and Green River [Sublette’s Cut-off], we took a left hand road and are now in Utah territory. We find the roads very good. The weather is clear and cold. We carried water from the Big Sandy this morning, which answers for cooking purposes. We are now camped in sight of the Green River. We find plenty of wild oats at this place, which is an excellent substitute for grass, and our cattle are in need of all they can get.
Diary of John Kerns:
July 9: This morning, feeling somewhat alarmed in regard to our situation, we hitched up and drove off. The moment the Indians saw us getting ready to leave, they gathered up, mounted their ponies, and followed us for some ten miles and left us. We then nooned and drove on two miles, bringing us to the South Pass. This is a slightly undulating plain between the mountains, and its ascent is so gradual as to be almost imperceptible. We are now in Oregon territory some ten miles, but if this is Oregon, I will soon be out of it.
July 10: Traveled thirteen miles over some of Oregon’s sandy, barren plain, and arrived at the Big Sandy River. Here we expect to run into a desert [Sublette’s Cutoff]. The country is a sandy valley, surrounded with snow-covered mountains that penetrate the clouds. Saw some Indians. Road rather sandy.
July 11: Made off west twenty-five miles down Big Sandy, which runs a southwest course. Road very good. Saw a great many dead cattle along the way. Effects of alkali.
July 12: Drove twenty-three miles over a tolerable road, and encamped by as good a spring as ever was in any country. Saw a great number of dead cattle. More alkali about. Left Green River.
July 9: We traveled today about twenty miles. Green River is a very sweet and clear stream, and is very difficult to cross unless it is skillfully managed. The ferrymen have two boats, and we landed on this side with little difficulty. We camped for the night near the ferry. There is a trading station here. We have a fair specimen here tonight of the various occupations of different persons in the world: betting and playing cards is going on at one encampment; music and dancing at another; while, at a third, persons are engaged in singing religious hymns and psalms with apparent devotion. Indians of the Shoshonee tribe are encamped near us in several wigwams. They are as loathsome spectacles as one might wish to behold.
July 10: We traveled eight miles. Our road has been over hills and rocks most of the day. We crossed a small stream every few miles.
July 11: We traveled six miles, and came to a small stream with tolerably good grass. We halted, as our cattle are much in need of rest.
July 12: We came seventeen miles. We crossed hills and jolted over rocks all day, making the going tedious and laborious.
July 13: Came eighteen miles. The country is exceedingly mountainous, much more than any we have passed over before. This morning, the teams were obliged to go a semi-circle of about two miles in order to find a practicable place for ascending a ridge known as the “Devil’s Backbone.” To save walking this distance, a number of us decided to climb the mountain and strike the road in advance of the train. However, we found the ridge much higher than we had expected. We walked about two miles from the base to the summit. We traveled for a few miles in a comparatively level portion of country, when we again struck the mountains and did not leave them until night. These were more beautiful in appearance than those we saw in the morning. We passed through a grove of fir trees on the summit of a high peak. This awakened within us feelings of a pleasing nature, as it was the first timber through which we had passed deserving the name of a grove since leaving the timber of St. Joe. In the afternoon we descended a very long and steep hill, from whose summit we viewed the Bear River Valley Creek. We traveled two miles without unlocking the wagon wheels. In many places the men hold back the wagon, in addition to having both the back wheels locked. I walked ten miles today. Passed four new graves. A hailstorm came on about six o’clock, and the females repaired to the wagons and the men to the tents to wait until it should abate. Several of us, myself included, were so much fatigued that we went to sleep before the storm was over and did not wake until morning. We consequently missed our supper, which would have come very opportunely when we first halted, as we were quite hungry.
July 14: We came eleven miles today. There are plenty of Indians around us, and they are troublesome enough. We cannot trust them on any account, as they will steal whatever they can lay their hands on. We keep someone busy watching them constantly. There are mountains all around.
July 15: This day we remained in camp. We have been thrown into considerable excitement in consequence of a murder being committed in a train from Wisconsin, which is now camped one half mile from us. The men of our train were called upon to serve as jurymen. There had been an argument between two men, Olmstead and Dunmore, during breakfast. Olmstead left, going to his tent to finish his meal, eating it with a butcher knife. Dunmore followed him into the tent and began beating him. Olmstead asked for help. None came. So, Olmstead stabbed him. Within twenty minutes, Dunmore was dead. The jury, after an impartial investigation of the tragic affair, brought in a verdict of this effect: the wound made by the knife of Olmsted had caused the death of the said Dunmore, and the same was inflicted by the aforesaid Olmstead in self-defense.
This evening, the Indians were quite numerous and rather troublesome around our camp, so much so that a young man inconsiderately and roughly ordered one who was begging him for something to eat to leave. The Indian did not go. The young man seized a spider which happened to be near him, and pushed the Indian from him, blackening the Indian’s blanket (which was very white) with the spider. This enraged the Indian and the other Indians around him, and no inducement we could offer would make them act friendly with anyone. We could not get them to accept anything which we offered. They soon left the camp, and we feel considerable uneasiness about the final termination of this matter.
July 16: We traveled twenty-five miles. On our way this morning, we met some Indians who were going to bury a man who had been thrown from his horse and got his neck broken. They were wailing in a most piteous manner. We traveled through the Bear River Valley. It is one of great beauty, being covered with good grass, with mountains behind, before, and on either side. At half past two, we came to two toll bridges built across a stream known as Thomas’s Fork of Bear River. They charged us one dollar per wagon for crossing the two bridges. We camped near the Bear River and find good grass. The mosquitoes are troublesome in the extreme. Passed four graves.
July 17: We came twenty two miles, traveling all day in the Bear River Valley. The valley and mountains are covered with grass, and the summits are adorned with splendid groves of fir, making the scenery beautiful. We passed a small stream every few miles. A horse ran away today, causing a train head of us to stampede. All was consternation, hurry, and confusion for a few minutes, but they soon got everything straight again, and no serious damage was done.
July 18: Wood was scarce at our last night’s camping place, and we decided to move on this morning until we could find wood, water, and grass. The heat of the sun is quite oppressive. We find plenty of black currants near the river, which we gather and serve up. They make an excellent substitute for green fruit.
July 19: We traveled twenty-two miles. About 11 o’clock, we came to Soda Springs. They are a great curiosity. The first view we had was two mounds of lime-stone rock. The water boils up about one foot from the top of the wall. It is quite cool. When sweetened with the addition of a little vinegar, it makes a drink equal to any prepared soda in the States. A half mile farther we came to the Steamboat Spring. The water puffs up out of a solid rock. It puffed to the height of one and two feet alternatively. In the afternoon, we came to the Soda Pool. This is a large rock reservoir. It boils up in one small chasm and runs off a little, but most of the water remains standing in the pool.
July 20: We traveled eighteen miles through the Bear River Valley. The scenery is beautiful and the weather is delightful. The roads were excellent, with the exception of some mud holes, which were rather difficult to get through. We halted at noon by one which contains water that must be unhealthy, for the cattle became sick. We gave our cattle a dose of vinegar and molasses, which has the tendency to counteract the effects of the alkali and soda, with which the water of this slough is impregnated. The grass is excellent. We camped near a creek, from which we obtain some mountain trout. Fuel is quite scarce. We passed one grave.
July 21: We traveled but twelve miles. Our cattle were so weak after last night’s sickness that we did not leave the camp before noon. We came to a bridge, whose proprietor wished to tax us twenty-five cents per wagon to cross. However, the fording was not very difficult. And we got over without trouble.
July 22: We traveled twenty miles this day. Our road was over the mountains all day. This country is barren and sterile in the extreme.
July 23: We traveled 18 miles, bringing us to Fort Hall. A half mile after starting, we struck a sandy road and traveled through the heavy sand for seven miles, with the dust and sand blowing so thick that it was difficult to see our way. There was no vegetation but only sage and a very small amount of grass. The fort is built of sun-burn brick (adobes). It is rather shabby looking, but in case of an attack could be tolerably well protected. It was abandoned by the government, and is occupied by traders. After leaving the fort, we had our first view of the Snake or Lewis River. We camped two hundred yards from a ford. The mosquitoes were so thick during supper that it was difficult to finish our repast.
July 24: We traveled nineteen miles. We came to the crossing of Portneuf. This is a clear stream about one hundred yards in width and six feet deep. It has a remarkably swift current. We raised our wagon beds by tying ropes under them, across the standards. By doing so, we managed to keep our goods free from damage. After crossing, we encountered sand and sage plain. The road is very bad, being hilly and rocky in the extreme, in addition to the deep sand and dust, which blew so thick that we could scarcely see our way. We camped near a spring. The weather is warm, the mosquitoes annoying, and a dead animal not far from our camp in no way exacerbates our enjoyment. We are two miles from the Snake River. Owing to the carelessness of one of the drivers of the wagon in which I and my sisters were riding, we ran into a deep mud hole and upset. We were very much frightened, but fortunately did not get hurt. The wagon contained a chest of clothing and feather beds, with which it was heavily loaded. The wagon bows were all broken. The most serious loss is a small fund of money, which my father had saved to buy needed oxen. His money is going fast from purchases of food supplies, and he can ill afford this loss. It greatly affected him, and he ordered the driver to leave the train or take a horsewhipping. He chose to leave.
July 25: We remained in camp as our cattle were quite weak, and the grass is good. A man died in the afternoon in a train near us with mountain fever. There are five other persons sick with the same disease in the train. The weather is oppressively hot.
July 26: We traveled twenty miles. Five miles brought us to American Falls. The roads were bad. We encamped on Snake River. The weather is excessively hot, and the dust is so dense that it is with difficulty we can see our way.
July 27: Traveled ten miles, arriving at Raft River, where we watered our teams and let them run on the grass. We filled our casks with water, as it is 16 miles to the next stream. Owing to the want of discipline, a part of our men pushed ahead with the loose stock, to the no small annoyance of some of us. We were compelled to travel until midnight before arriving at Marshy Creek, and then the grass was so poor that our cattle could obtain none. We shall get out of this “snap” as quick as possible, for our motto is “better luck next time.” At Marshy Creek, we discovered a dead horse and ox about twenty steps from our wagons, which caused us all to feel much discontented.
Diary of Polly Coon:
August 1: Came down to the Lewis [Snake] River valley [past Bear River Valley]. A little after noon we were obliged to camp, as one of Mr. Goodrich’s oxen was sick. The animal died in a few minutes after we camped of the Murrain, a disease which seems to be prevalent and in almost every instance fatal.
August 5: [At American Falls] Mr. Stillman has had 2 sick oxen, but both better. Mr. Preston found one of his oxen sick this morning, and before noon he died. We have counted over 40 dead animals today near the road.
August 8: Arrived at the Snake river. While here, Charlotte had a second ox taken sick, which had been sick a day or two. Both died.
Diary of John Kerns:
July 30: Lay by on Raft Creek, which runs through one of the poorest countries in God’s world. Weather as usual very warm. Four more cattle dead.
July 31: Our road was over a rocky sage brush, but is a little better around these springs. Had a shower of rain this afternoon.
August 1: Drove seventeen miles, encamped on Snake River. In good health and spirits. One ox died out of the train. Weather pleasant, and road dusty.
August 2: Traveled only twelve miles down the Snake River, which is here about 100 rods [1650 feet] wide and very deep. Five head of cattle died last night out of the train, which makes us think the elephant is not far off.
July 28: We traveled fifteen miles. The roads were much better than yesterday.
July 29: We traveled eighteen miles. At ten o’clock, we again struck the river, and at noon halted on its banks. We hired a seine and caught a good quantity of fish. A wagon in the train broke down, and we stopped earlier than usual to repair it. The roads this afternoon were very rough and rocky. Some of the work cattle are failing very fast. We found the grass good this evening. The scenery here is of a truly wild and romantic description. Hugh piles of rock rise up in bold array around me, with often a cedar nodding at their tops. I look with admiration upon this wild plain, and reflect that, far, far beyond it is the home of my childhood, together with dear relatives and friends whose faces I perchance may never behold again. A feeling arises in my breast of peaceful sadness, which may be imagined but not described.
July 30: This morning our broken wagon was repaired, and we got ready to pack up. The cattle were taken to the river to drink. One of them started to swim across the river and the rest immediately followed. As the current was so swift, no person could get around them. They all swam over and landed on the other side. Two of the young men decided to swim across the swift water at this place. One of them was an expert swimmer, and got over without difficulty. The other had never swam in swift water. He was carried down the river and drowned! It was impossible for any one to render him assistance, as he floated down so fast that a man could not run on the bank and keep even. His untimely death has cast a gloom over every countenance. His name was John McDonald.
The young man who swam across could not drive the cattle over without assistance. Four men headed back upstream to where we fished. Two intended to swim with three horses and the other two to return to the camp and report if they got into difficulty. They started across the river on the horses, but the horses were so weak that they could not swim the current. Our favorite and faithful Sukey was drowned, and came floating down the river long before the men returned. Fortunately, the man and other horses escaped with their lives, but did not succeed in getting across. They hired two men from another train to go across for thirty dollars. They went and, with the assistance of the man who went over in the morning, were able to drive the cattle into the water. But they were unable to get them to swim across. The man who had swum over was so weak that he could scarcely stand. He was in a hailstorm in the afternoon with very light clothes, and got badly bruised with hailstones.
July 31: About a half dozen men hunted for some logs and carried them to the camp to build a raft. But, again, owing to a want of proper discipline, a part of the company opposed this measure, and they went back without the raft. They went back to the place where we fished, but only one or two of our company ventured across the river. So, they hired other men to do so, along with those who went before, by paying $64. However, they were unable to drive the cattle across. So, they corked a wagon bed, placed an air-tight water cask on each end and a large log at each side. They took this and crossed the river in it without difficulty. The cattle were driven into the river again, and, by the greatest exertions on their part, the cattle were made to swim across the river. By ten o’clock that night, they were all drove into camp and tied up.
August 1: In the morning we discovered three of our cattle dead. We found a good camp, the grass being much better than we have seen for a long time.
August 2: We traveled twenty miles. The roads were as usual rocky and dusty. The money from the sale of John McDonald’s property was placed in the care of Mr. Swearingen to refund to the father of the deceased at the first opportunity.
August 3: We traveled 17 miles. We found a quantity of dry bunch grass. As our cattle were very hungry, we turned them out upon it for an hour. They ate this grass very greedily. We saw no grass after we left this place. The roads were very rough and stony. At night, we came to the river bluffs. By driving our cattle down them for one mile, we managed to get them to the water. The men packed water in kegs and buckets to the camp. We passed a grave this forenoon. We find poor grass.
August 4: We traveled about fifteen miles. We were favored with a very refreshing shower. The roads were very dusty until the rain fell. We encamped at the river. We find no grass; nothing for our cattle but willows.
August 5: We traveled but nine miles. Four miles brought us to Salmon Falls Creek. It is about one hundred feet wide and two and one half feet deep. We crossed this stream. We encamped at Salmon Falls. The roads were very hilly and the sand six inches deep. We traded with the Indians this evening for salmon. They are the best fish I ever saw. The Indians will take almost anything in exchange for them that the emigrants have to dispose of.
Diary of Esther Hannah [traveling on the south side of the Snake River]:
July 28: The bluffs here are one thousand feet high--solid rock. We had to unyoke and drive the cattle down them a mile and a half to water. We see no signs of grass yet, nothing but sage, and it is black and dried with the intense heat. This is the most desolate and barren region on our whole route. Am very much afraid that our stock will git [sic] out. Have nothing to eat but hard bread, could not even wash our dishes today for want of water. The sun is melting, and not a bush or shrub as far as the eye can reach to rest or shade our tired and burning limbs. Came to the river this afternoon & got water. Some of the cattle were nearly given out for want of it. Camped on Salmon River Creek.
July 29: This has been one of the hottest days I ever experienced. Could not go down to the grass by the river on account of the stench occasioned by dead cattle. They are so numerous that we can scarcely get a pure breath of air anymore. The heat is so intense that putrefaction takes place immediately, rendering the air loathsome nearly all the time. Have seen several Indians spying around today.
July 30: Started this morning. Deep sand, which was scorching to the feet. Came to the Salmon Falls. Felt today like giving up in despair, the intolerable heat and dust, together with fatigue, make me almost sick at heart. There is an abundance of salmon. The Indians catch them and trade them to the emigrants for old shirts, cooking utensils, fish hooks, powder or anything they can get. We got a very fine one weighing about 21 pounds for an old shirt. We could have gotten half a dozen for almost nothing—they appeared so anxious to swap, as they term it. These Indians call themselves Shoshones. They go entirely naked with the exception of a small cloth around the waist. They are very proud to get a shirt on.
July 31: Started last night about six o'clock; traveled until 9, when we stopped an hour and a half to get supper. We then started again, and did not stop until daylight. We had dreadful roads. Our cattle were very much exhausted this morning, traveling all night and nothing to eat but a little dried grass and no water. We could scarcely get a pure breath of air there was such a quantity of dead cattle. They could certainly average one ox to every mile. Started this morning. Got along tolerably well until noon. Some of our cattle began to give out. When we stopped, one of our best oxen died. The rest were not able to go on and haul the cart. Our young men became discouraged when we came to the conclusion of leaving our cart and also what things we could most easily spare. We put a yoke of oxen into another wagon, throwing away such things as we could not take. We started again, leaving our cart with provisions, such as meat, hard bread, salt etc., also dishes, clothing, a trunk and box. One of our mules appeared near giving out, so I started on foot, the sun burning hot, the sand in many places ankle deep and almost scorching. My feet were almost blistered. I gave out once; got into the carriage and rested awhile, then got out and went on. Dead cattle are strewn in every direction, some lying in the road just where they had fallen down and died.
August 6: At ten o’clock we found some dry grass and let our cattle graze for two hours. We did not get to water until nine PM, when we came to the river bluffs and encamped. The distance down the bluffs to the river is one mile. The men packed water this distance to the camp. We find no grass.
August 7: We traveled eleven miles to the river crossing. Emigrants were busy ferrying in their wagon beds. Grass, wood, and water are much easier to obtain on the other side. But, a part of our company is afraid to run the risk of crossing. So, we will be compelled to go down on this side with no better prospect for grass than we have had for one hundred miles. We filled our casks at the ferry and moved on one mile and encamped. We find a small quantity of dry bunch grass. We left one ox who was worn out and starved!!
August 8: We traveled seven miles. Five miles brought us to the second crossing of the Snake river. Tolerable good grass. About noon, a party of ten men and two women passed us going down the river in a boat made of a wagon bed. They were bound for the Dalles, and from thence to Oregon City.
August 9: We traveled fourteen miles, eight of which were through a rock canyon. The traveling here is very difficult and dangerous, much more so than any before. In many places the wagons were held by two or three men, or they would have been precipitated over the rocks into the river. We saw no grass on this side of the river until night, when we encamped. We again saw some men going down the river in a wagon bed bound for the City.
August 10: We traveled about eight miles this morning, and arrived at the river. As the weather is very warm and our cattle much in want of rest and food, we decided to remain here this afternoon. The weather is oppressively hot and dusty, and the country all around extremely barren.
August 11: We traveled today about 14 miles. Six brought us to Catharine Creek. Here is good grass. Father has been quite sick today, but is some better this evening. I have got the toothache gloriously.
August 12: We came to the river every few miles during the day. At night we encamped on its banks. We find no grass, willows, or even sagebrush. Nothing like vegetation is to be seen, except the thorny Greasewood and a species of herb resembling the garden wormwood. We have seen no grass at all during the day. After getting supper over and allowing the cattle time to rest, we decided to move on six and one-half miles to a small branch, where we are informed by our guidebook that grass could be obtained. We accordingly drove in the cattle and got about half of them yoked, when we discovered that several were missing. As it was dark, we could not find them, and we were compelled to unyoke and wait for morning.
August 13: We traveled fourteen miles. We found good grass and water. We halted for two hours. The dust today and for the last 100 miles has been very annoying. It is as light and as easily stirred up as the dust of the summer threshing floor, almost suffocating man and beast. The country all around is extremely barren, interspersed with deep canyons and high rocky bluffs.
August 14: We started this morning in good season, as we had 16 miles to go, and 14 of the last without grass or water. We found this the hardest day on our teams of any yet traveled. We arrived here late in the evening, thirsty and weary, with poor grass for our cattle. Here, we lost another of our cattle from drinking too much water. This makes eight head we have lost out of our five teams. In all probability we shall have to leave one of our wagons.
August 15: We are encamped on the banks of the Snake river. The weather is oppressively hot. We shall remain here until morning, and then resume our toilsome journey. We abandoned “Mother’s wagon” because of the shortage of oxen and their weakness. The road along the Snake River is already littered with such derelicts and abandoned furniture of advance travelers, which have been thrown away to lighten the loads. Today, five of our company concluded to go on by water. They accordingly fitted up two wagon beds for the purpose and launched them onto the Snake. They seem to answer a good purpose. They plan to float down the river to Fort Boise, fifty miles, and thence to travel on foot because of river rapids and falls. Today we lost another of our cattle by drowning!
Diary of John Kerns:
August 7: Only drove six miles as our teams were much fatigued and had a very poor living for the last 100 miles. Passed the Salmon Falls on the river. Some were fishing in wagon boxes, etc. We camped near a ford in the evening but will not cross over. Country more stony and broken. Weather warm.
August 8: Laid by until 5 o’clock, and then drove eight miles on a thirty-three mile stretch without water, extending from Salmon Falls to the first crossing of the river. Saw a few Indians who had a lot of fine salmon, which they wished to swap for shirts. Hot weather and dust are the only authorized subjects of suffrage around here.
August 9: Traveled about fifteen miles. Got water by taking our teams down a bluff 300 feet high to the river. Counted forty-eight dead stock today along the road, besides eight wagons left and other things. Weather and roads as usual, a little on the infernal order.
August 10: Drove ten miles only over a sandy, dusty road through very warm weather. Passed where emigrants were ferrying the river in wagon boxes, and camped at the ford four miles below, but will not cross.
August 11: Drove some twelve miles over a bad road through warm weather, as usual. Were much suffocated by dust, and frequently hemmed in to the river by the stony bluffs. One wagon upset and spilled the contents into the river.
August 12: Only traveled about eleven miles, camping on the best grass we have seen for some time. Road rather indifferent; weather warm. We find good water, a scarce article around here. Have to drink the river water altogether, and so many cattle having taken up their everlasting abodes in it, it is a difficult cross to satisfy thirst with it. Our train of twenty-two wagons divided off into three companies today, leaving us in a train of eight wagons. This was done to give our cattle a better chance to graze.
August 13: Made a cross from Snake River to Catherine’s Creek, ten miles distant. Then down it five miles, and camped, having good water and grass. Road as usual very dusty, and country a barren, deserted, burnt-to-death waste. Weather warm enough to bake better food than we have along. Girls look as cross as I feel.
August 15: Laid by as our teams were about to call a halt, besides about starved. Have tolerable grass but poor water and no wood, not mentioning sagebrush. This, however, has been our substitute since we left Fort Hall. Bad luck to the man who is such a sinner as to have to seek refuge in such a country as this.
Diary of E.W. Conyers:
July 31: 12 miles to Marsh Creek. Had a good shower here, which laid off the dust. First rain we’ve had for a long time. Williams went for water up the creek. He found 8 to 10 cattle lying in the creek just above our camp. One half mile up that creek and every few steps there was a horse, mule, or an ox, and in some places three or four in a pile. A scum consisting of all the colors of the rainbow was oozing from them and floating down the stream. We counted over fifty head of dead oxen, horses, and mules lying in the creek.
August 1: Crossed Marsh Creek three times, but we drank no more from it. The grass has all been eaten off anywhere near our camp. Obliged to drive our cattle about one mile from camp, and then grass not good. Some deep ruts made by wagon wheels, but no chance to evade them.
August 4: Very little grass or fuel. Hard getting down to the river, more so than at any place since crossing the Missouri. Little grass for cattle.
August 5: 10 miles over rough road. No water and little grass. Three miles to Snake River. Obliged to descend very rough and rocky and steep hill to reach the river, not knowing if we would be able to get our cattle back up. It is so steep and bad that many cattle are too weak to climb the hill, and therefore are left at the foot of the hill to perish among the big basalt boulders that cover the narrow bottoms of the Snake River. After watering our cattle, we traveled three miles. We have scarcely enough water to make coffee and tea.
August 6: Traveled 7 miles over very good road, and descend a very long and steep hill to Snake River. Watered our cattle and traveled 3 miles over a heavy sandy road to Snake River. Grass all eaten off.
August 7: Here the road leaves the river and rises to the table lands. Five miles brings us to Salmon Falls. Very little grass or sagebrush. We are now on the desert, which our guidebook says is 33 miles without water.
August 9: Seven miles to the Snake River and Shoshone Falls. Decided to cross the river at this place to avoid the desert and expect better grass for cattle. Calked two wagon beds and used them as a ferry to cross the river, one tied before the other. Safely crossed the river.
August 16: We resumed our journey and went 7 miles. We found good water to the left about one mile above the road. The grass is rather poor. We grazed our teams, and then went on to the hot springs 5 miles further, making today’s travel 12 miles. The grass is miserable, the dust very annoying, and the sun oppressively hot. We lost another ox today from eating some poisonous herb.
August 17: Today, we came but five miles and stopped on the top of the bluff, taking our cattle back two miles to the foot of the mountain to grass, where there is good water. We carry our water for camp use up the river bluff near half a mile, which is very laborious. We find this continual travel rather wears on our strength, but we are in good spirits and “right side up.”
August 18: We traveled twelve miles. The roads in the forenoon were quite hilly, and in the afternoon very hot, the sand being six inches deep. At noon, we found dry grass for our cattle. The road followed the river for about three miles, and there turned away from the river. Owing to our negligence in filling the casks, we were without water for dinner. We encamped on the river bank upon the first decent looking grass plot we have seen since we left Catharine Creek. The day has been warm, but the evening is pleasant.
August 19: We came nine miles. Finding some dry bunch grass, we encamped to rest our stock and let them graze. Our cattle are very much jaded, and many of them too nearly worn out to work. A number of the company and two of our own family are sick, some of them dangerously so, in consequence of which we feel much discouraged. My sister Mary nourishes our two brothers with special care from the food and medicinal reserves. We are encamped upon the river bank.
August 20: We traveled twelve miles. The roads are very heavy and hilly, and we are all very tired, as every person has to walk who is able to go alone. The country around is barren in the extreme. We saw some trees this afternoon in a S.W. direction from us along the Snake River. We encamped upon the Owyhee. There are two graves of a recent date. We have seen several graves every day for the past week, but I have been rather negligent and consequently took no note of them. Some of our folks are yet quite sick, others are getting better. But there is none among us who can say they are quite well. The warm weather and bad water cause diarrhea, with which almost every person is troubled.
August 21: We came three miles, which brought us opposed to Fort Boise. I did not get a good look at it, but I’m told it has much the appearance of Fort Hall, but is even a poorer concern. It was once owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company, but is now in the possession of traders. However, they had nothing to sell except sugar and tobacco.
August 22: We came about fifteen miles, which brought us to the Malheur. This is a stream of ten yards in width. The road today was through a winding ravine and is mostly down hill. The sand hills on either side present an extremely barren appearance. We found but little grass at the present encampment, the first emigrants having taken it all. The water of the Malheur is not very good, but when we can get no other, we are content to use it.
August 23: We traveled fourteen miles. We came to the crossing of the Malheur, and here halted to consider what course to pursue, as our next water is twenty miles from this place. One of the children went ahead to look for some strayed cattle, and returned to say that the road after two miles came near a branch of a creek, which appeared from the number of willows upon it to be as large as the other and a principal stream.. We went on and found it, but the stream bed was dry. There was no alternative but to stop, as it was then the heat of the day. We dug four or five feet and found good water for camp use, and drove the cattle back to the Malheur to drink. We halted at this place until three o’clock, when we yoked up and drove on to sulphur springs, three miles, and encamped. The water of these springs is not very palatable.
August 24: We traveled about ten and one half miles to Birch Creek, and one half mile to another point of the same, where we encamped. The Snake River is about one mile distant. A range of mountains of great beauty is situated just beyond it.
August 25: Today we made eight miles. Five miles brought us to the canyon on the Snake, which is the last place we shall see this river [Farewell Bend State Park], and three more brought us to Burnt River. The hills are mostly covered with grass, though now it is dry, yet our cattle eat it very well. Father is quite sick and has been unable to walk for the last two days. Our dear little “Willie” is not expected to live twelve hours, as he evidently has the “Cholera Infantum,” or Dropsy in the brain. The Doctor tells us that it is in vain to administer any medicine, as he must surely die. This to us is heart rending, but God’s ways are not our ways. O! May we bow with submission to his will. One of our young men is also very ill with diarrhea. We shall lay by half this day on account of sickness. Today we lost another ox.
Diary of Martha S. Read:
Sept 14: Traveled ten miles. Lydia is quite sick yet. This morning we had to leave one of our big oxen and our big wagon. Camped tonight on Burnt River. Found pretty good feed. Saw 12 dead cattle today. Saw 4 graves today.
Sept 15: Traveled 14 miles, crossed the river about a dozen times. Found some pretty hard hills and rough road. Lydia and I found ourselves very tired come night and very weak. Saw 7 graves and 12 dead cattle. Found but little feed. It is mostly burnt off through here by some ill-disposed person.
Sept 16: Traveled 14 miles. Found a rough uneven road. Saw 3 graves and 15 dead cattle.
Sept 17: Traveled 20 miles. Found a tremendous rough road. Lydia and I have nearly like to have died, it hurt us so to ride. Saw 20 dead cattle today. It looks like misery along here. The cattle are a dying off and people are getting out of provision and a great many sick and some are dying. Camped near a small run. Found but little water and poor feed.
Sept 19: Found a pretty smooth road. Crossed Powder River 3 times. Saw 5 graves and 13 dead cattle.
Diary of Cecelia Adams & Parthenia Blank:
Sept. 27: [At the Burnt River] Some packers overtook us from behind hurrying on to procure provisions. They give a sad account of the destitution of those who are behind. Say there are but few who have more than five days provisions.
Diary of John Kerns:
August 23: Drove fourteen miles and encamped near a sulphur spring [on the Malheur River]. Road good but some dusty. Weather very warm. Our route was up a dry branch and through a beautiful valley most of the day. Some of our train are severely afflicted with a bloody diarrhea, the mountain fever, and the scurvy, which begin to make us think we are treading the elephant’s tail.
August 26: Today we came 14 miles. Contrary to our expectations, our dear little Willie is still alive and in about the same condition as yesterday. We have watched him incessantly for the last 96 hours, and there appears no visible change; yet he evidently grows weaker. Father is some better and has walked all day. “Our hope is in god.”
August 27: We traveled about fifteen miles. The first eight miles was along the Burnt River, across which the road passes a number of times. The road is exceedingly mountainous all day, and sometimes rather difficult to pass over. We encamped on the Burnt River. Our little Willie lingered through the day, but he is so debilitated that he cannot live much longer.
August 28: Two months and seven days this morning since our beloved mother was called to bid this world adieu, and the ruthless monster death not yet content, has once more entered our fold and taken in his icy grip the treasure of our hearts! Last night, our darling Willie was called from earth, to vie with angels around the throne of God. He was buried today upon an elevated point, one hundred and fifty feet above the plain in a spot of sweet seclusion. A beautiful cedar, the only tree in sight, waves its wide spread branches over his tomb. My father carved Willie’s name into the tree. Here, beneath its share, I have wandered in remote seclusion to be alone with Willie and his God. He was four years of age. Before his illness, he talked of dying, and wanted to die and meet his mother, who doted upon him. We shall lay by this day to recruit our cattle, as they are much jaded and in want of rest. We too are worn down with fatigue and long watching, and need rest. Father is still feeble, but is slowly improving. Our sick man is no better and but little hopes are entertained for his recovery.
August 29: We traveled 14 miles. The roads have been rolling but good. The grazing is poor. Our sick man is still living, but we have no hope that he will recover. The evening is cold and windy.
August 30: We came sixteen miles. Mr. Clason, the young man who has been sick, was still alive when we started this morning. But, he was so near gone that we did not wish to remove him. As our cattle had no grass, we could not stop. We therefore left horses and a wagon, a tent, and three men to attend him. He was highly esteemed among us, and his melancholy fate is a cause of deep regret to us all. The weather has been cold all day. Since writing this, the men who remained with Mr. Clason returned, stating that he died one hour and a half after we started in the morning. There are mountains all around us, some of them appear covered with snow, but we are told that it is white clay. Others are densely covered with timber.
August 31: We traveled fourteen miles. This morning our cattle were much scattered, and we could not find them all until nine o’clock. We consequently started late and were obliged to drive hard. We camped on the Powder River.
September 1: We traveled sixteen miles this day. In nine miles we came to a small slough, where we got water for our cattle; grass is good. We halted here for two hours. We then directed our course over plains and bluffs, till we reached the brow of a mountain overlooking the Grand Round [Grande Ronde, today La Grande]. We then descended this mountain and ascended a rocky ridge, which has the longest and most difficult descent of any hill which we have yet entered. The dust would blow for a time in clouds, hiding the wagon teams and roads entirely from our view, when a sudden contrary breath of air would clear away the dust for a few moments, allowing us to proceed. The rocks so filled the road that anyone who had not begun to “see the elephant” would have been afraid to have attempted the descent. When we came to the base of the mountain, we were delighted to find ourselves safely in Grand Round. We were all hungry and tired, and hastily preparing our supper, we gladly retired to rest.
Diary of John Kerns:
September 1: Traveled only about ten miles, which brought us to the Grand Ronde valley. We descended the most difficult and highest hill we have yet seen. This is the best and most beautiful place we have seen on the whole road or, in fact, in our lives, and is said to be a fair specimen of western Oregon. This is a valley nearly round in shape, and has the Powder River and Grand Ronde rivers. It is about twenty-five miles in diameter, and would give home to 1,500 or 2,000 settlers. Saw quite a number of the Nez Perce tribe of Indians here, who appear to be more intelligent, clean, and sociable than any Indians I ever saw. They have good horses, as good as I ever saw in any country, and are eager to trade them for cattle. I traded off a couple of cows which were about to give out, and got two very good ponies for them and five dollars in money.
September 2: Road good and weather fine. The soil is rich and is covered with a luxuriant growth of grass, wild clover, and herd grass. The Indians are after us yet to trade for cows. Oxen they will not have. Their squaws are good looking, and dress quite tasty, ride fine horses and on saddles beautifully decorated with beads.
Diary of Esther Hanna:
August 20: The dividing ridge between Powder and Grand Round is very uneven and stony. The road leading down into the valley of Grand round is very circuitous, and the most rocky and difficult of descent of any we have seen on the route. It is certainly one of the loveliest valleys the eye ever rested upon, stretching far and wide, covered with the most luxuriant grass.
August 21: Came 7 miles down the valley this morning. This appears more like the noise and haste of a city than a remote spot far removed from civilization. Wagons are pouring in by dozens, and the whole valley appeared alive with cattle and Indians galloping about in every direction. This appears to be a gala day with them. They have on their richest dress, covered with beads. We have not had a minute to ourselves today, being visited by men, squaws, and papooses. They all come on horseback. If we speak pleasantly to them, they alight, squat down beside us, and chatter like as many magpies. The squaws bring dried June berries, peas, cherries, etc. to trade for articles of tinware, clothing, or almost anything. The men brought ponies to sell or swap, but they ask such exorbitant prices that few were sold.
September 2: We traveled eight miles through the Grand Round valley, when we came to the foot of the mountain and encamped to rest our cattle preparatory to ascending the mountain [Blue Mountains]. The valley is near ten miles in width and covered with luxuriant looking grass. High mountains are ranged all around it. Mr. Swearingen remained in the Grand Round to recruit his cattle, and our five wagons are now alone. The Indians at this place are very wealthy. They have numerous herds of horses and possess many of the luxuries of life in abundance. Contrary to our expectations, we found no provisions here for sale, except flour at $40 per cwt.
September 3: We came, I think, eleven miles over the mountains. The scenery was delightful all day, but the road was extremely hilly and rough. The descent of the mountain down to the river bottom was the most dangerous looking place we had yet come down, but we reached the river without accident. After crossing, we took a long rest, as our cattle were very tired. We then started over the mountains again, and traveled three miles, when we came to an excellent spring and encamped, having traveled through heavy timber almost all day. We lost another ox this day.
September 4: We came fourteen miles over the principal range of the Blue Mountains, traveling all day through a densely timbered region. We found good water in a deep ravine. The grass was also good, and our cattle fared well. We halted at this place for two hours, and then filled our water casks and started. Another train was just ahead of ours, and my sister and I, wishing to get out of the dust, went ahead of it and walked all the afternoon, thinking that our teams were coming on. But, after a time, we were told that our wagons had encamped two miles back. It was then sundown and the road back to our camp was through heavy timber. We started back, and met our little sister coming after us on horseback. We went back all the way in a hard run. We then met Father, who was more uneasy, if possible, than we, and who was quite out of patience at our ludicrous mistake. In running, I wore the soles off my moccasins against the sharp stones, and blistered my feet before I got near the camp.
September 5: We came but five miles, about three from Lee’s Encampment, a creek which now contains water standing in pools but which at certain seasons of the year is quite a stream. We encamped near the road in a heavy grove of pine.
Diary of Cecelia Adams & Partehenia Blank:
October 5: [In the Blue Mountains] Mr. Miller’s company from Iowa is here entirely out of flour. Have some loose cattle, which they kill now and then for food. Traded them some flour for beef, sold them some, and lent them some to be repaid at The Dalles. Hard times. Many cattle are failing and all are very poor, and a good many get lost among the thick timber. A good many wagons are left, some broken and some good and sound, because the cattle are not able to take them along.
Diary of Esther Hanna:
August 23: From Grand Round the road ascends the Blue Mountains and for two miles is quite steep, stony, precipitous and very difficult to ascend. We had a delightful view from the summit of the Round and all the surrounding country on that side. On the mountains there are thick groves of yellow pine; some of these trees are very large and lofty. At the end of the four miles we took down the mountain to Grand Round river, crossed it, and ascended again a very steep and long hil,l which in one or two places appeared almost impossible to ascend, requiring some of us to double-team.
August 24: Continued our course over the mountain. Have a very rough, stony road, passing over rocks, ridges, going down deep ravines; thick groves throughout, which the daylight could not penetrate.
August 25: Came out in an open prairie. The scenery is very fine. Had a fine view of the Cascade mountains to the west.
September 6: We traveled about sixteen miles. Ten miles was through the timber, and four and a half over the last part of the mountains to the Umatilla. While on the summit of the last mountain, we got the first view of the Cascade mountains west of us, while Mount Hood reared its snow-crowned summit in awful grandeur high above the other mountains. The valley below also presented an appearance of unparalleled beauty, while far as the eye could penetrate over the plain the country was a rolling prairie with no timber in sight, except that which grows along the Umatilla. We pursued our way down to the banks of this stream, and were showed by an Indian where to water our cattle. We traveled down the river one and a half miles and encamped. Grass is very poor, the numerous herds of Indian ponies having eaten it close to the ground. We here obtained fresh beet at 12 ½ cents per pound from a French trader. We lost another ox today.
Diary of Cecelia Adams & Parthenia Blank:
October 8: Started for the Umatilla River. Commenced the descent into the valley. The grass here is very poor, having been fed off by the ponies [of the Cayuse Indians] and cattle. This valley is the headquarters of the Cayuse Indians. They are more civilized than any we have seen before. Bought a few potatoes from them. They are killing some very fat cattle, and sell the beef at 15 to 20 cents per lb. No other provisions can be had here, and that is a death blow to the hopes of many hungry people.
October 9: Our friend from The Dalles [he had left his company to obtain provisions and then returned] advises us to stay and recruit our cattle as we shall have no more good grass as we have here. But the prospect here is nothing but starvation for ourselves and teams.
September 7: We traveled about eleven miles. One of the oxen was missing in the morning, and we were detained some two hours before he could be found. We traveled near the river for five miles, when the road turned to the left over a high grassy plain. The dust was extremely suffocating. In six miles, we again came to the Umatilla, crossed it twice. Grass is poor. We had a fine dish of pheasants for supper.
September 8: We came twenty miles this day. After ascending a long ride, we again came in sight of Mt. Hood, and off to the northeast we viewed Mt. St. Helens. Traveling over the plain for seventeen miles without water. We again came to the Umatilla. Grass is good.
September 9: We traveled fourteen miles. Four miles brought us to the Indian Agency, which is now unoccupied. Here was a new looking frame house, the sight of which animated us all a good deal as it was the first we had seen since we left Fort Kearny. We camped at Alder Creek. Grass is good but dry.
Diary of Cecelia Adams & Parthenia Blank:
October 13: Traveled down 3 miles to the Indian Agency, the first framed house we have seen since we left the Mo. River–and they have actually got a stoned-up well. We left two of our wagons there, sold three cattle to some traders, put all the teams to Stephens wagon, and proceeded. Our loads are light, but our cattle are getting powerful weak, and we think best to favor them as much as possible. An Indian here has some flour for sale at 50 cts. per. lb. A white man has some corn brought from Ft. Walla Walla, which he sells at the rate of six pint cupfuls for a dollar, and it sells fast. 70 graves since leaving Ft. Boise.
Diary of John Kerns:
September 5: Traveled eighteen miles, twelve in timber and six in prairie, descending the hills into the Umatilla valley, and camped on the Umatilla near an Indian village. The country around here is very handsome. The Indians here are of the Cayuse tribe, and resemble the Nez Perce. They are wealthy and to some extent civilized. The chiefs speak the English language well, and are very free and friendly with whites.
September 6: Drove sixteen miles down the Umatilla River.
September 7: Drove but twelve miles, stopping at noon. Plenty of Indians along here of the Walla Walla tribe, and we have to watch the filthy miscreants or all of our cooking utensils would stick to their fingers and disappear pretty suddenly. They are as filthy a set of the brawny tribes as we have yet seen, and would steal swill from the hogs if they had a favorable lay.
September 8: Laid by till 1 o’clock, then drove five miles. Three brought us to the Indian agency, where we procured wood and water for a dry camp. We were somewhat surprised to see so nice a house as the agency here. It is a building about 40 by 20 feet of frame and nicely painted. Some of the emigrants are about to suffer for want of provisions. Three men came into our camp this morning, about starved, had not had a mouthful for three days, and footing it too to get along.
September 10: We traveled twenty miles. This was a hard day for our cattle, as we found no water until we arrived at Well Springs. There were about thirty wagons here before us, and the cattle had to be watered out of buckets, a slow process when so many were wanting water. We found but little grass.
September 11: We traveled about fifteen miles. The roads were quite hilly but solid. We found no water during the day, and at night encamped upon Willow Creek. Here is a trading post where very poor flour can be purchased at 40 cents per lb. We used our last flour for supper, and were obliged to purchase this at an enormous price. A man came to the creek this evening, saying that he had nothing at all for his family to eat until he could purchase something. Another told us he had walked forty-five miles and eaten nothing but a few grains of wheat, and he could not find anything to eat anywhere. We lost an ox today. Willow Creek is now dry, except in low places. Grass is good.
September 12: We remained in camp until three o‘clock, when we filled our water casks and started on over the bluffs. We encamped at nine pm, having traveled about seven miles. The dust was so dense that traveling in the night was rather dangerous, as the ground was full of chuck holes which, in the dust and darkness, we could not see. We found no good grass of any but little description.
September 13: Early this morning we resumed our journey, and traveled until eight o’clock, when we found good grass and halted to feed ourselves and the cattle. We then marched on, and about three o’clock came near a small spring at the foot of a bluff.
September 14: We traveled twelve miles this day. The road was through a deep rocky canyon. We struck John Day River, a stream of fifty yards in width and two feet deep. Our food was gone, when to our inexpressible joy we met our cousins Mr. Lawson Scott, an immigrant of 1847, and Mr. John L. Johnson and Foster Johnson from the Willamette Valley, who came in 1850. They brought a quarter of beef, some flour, and one of them a bottle of “Oh, be joyful,” thus horrifying our teetotaler crowd. Levi Caffe had been addicted to drink in Illinois, and Father had forbidden him from using liquor as a condition of his coming to Oregon in the Scott party. But, he began drinking, got tipsy, and engaged in a carnival of drunken songs, much to diversion of the children in the company.
September 15: We traveled today about 20 miles. Last night we watered our cattle, filled our casks, and ascended the bluff by way of a winding rocky ravine, which was the worst piece of road we have traveled over. We went on about five miles and encamped. Early this morning we resumed our journey over excellent roads. About 4 o’clock this evening we reached the Columbia River, and camped on its banks. Several of our cattle got stuck fast in the quicksand, and it was with difficulty we could get them out. Father got very wet here, and the wind blew so cold that he took a severe chill, and then was crazy with a fever all night.
September 16: Early this morning we took up our line of march and came four miles, when we came to Deshutes of Falls river [Deschutes River]. This stream is about one hundred and fifty yards in width, and courses its rapid way through rocky canyons, forming numerous cascades until it reaches the Columbia. We got an Indian to pilot the wagons across the river, and also one to take the females over in a canoe, for which service they taxed us four dollars. After getting all safely over, we ascended a long steep and somewhat rocky hill. Five miles from this place brought us to Five-Mile Creek. After crossing the creek, we directed our course over the rolling plain for about one mile, and encamped near a sulfur spring
September 17: We came eighteen miles this day. We crossed Five Mile Creek several times. Several members of our party left this morning for The Dalles to go to the Willamette River by the “easier route” of the Columbia river. They took two of the six wagons, which will be sent to Oregon City by the Columbia River route. One of the persons, George Stevens, left his team of oxen and hour horses with us to be used for the rest of our journey. Father went to The Dalles at this time to buy supplies, including shoes for his daughters and food provisions, which are very expensive. He plans to rejoin us tomorrow. We also left one yoke of oxen and a mare here to be herded and delivered to us in the spring.
[We leave the Scotts, who now traveled south to cross the Cascades over the Barlow Road, and take up the story of Cecelia Adams and Parthenia Blank.]
The Diary of Cecelia Adams & Parthenia Blank down the Columbia
October 22: Rose early and drove down to the great Columbia River for wood and water for breakfast. Had a very long but not very steep hill to descend. At the foot found a trading station selling flour, pork, sugar, and tobacco at 40 cents per pound. Stopped and got our breakfast—no wood but very poor willows and some greasewood. Drove on to the Deschutes River. 3 miles. No grass in the bottom, all eaten off. The Columbia here is a very rapid and shallow stream flowing over a rocky bottom with frequent falls and not navigable for canoes. Banks very high, steep, and rocky. Deschutes River is to all appearances nearly as large as the Columbia , though it must be much smaller, and comes dashing down over the rocks as rapid as water can come on a plane inclined one foot in 20. Here is a ferry at $2.00 for those who have money, and a ford for those who have not. The latter is the most numerous class. After crossing the river, we climbed a very steep and long hill but good road. Passed on about a mile on the level, and camped for the night. Found rather poor grass, but thought best to stop for fear we could not climb the other hill.
October 23: Traveled on about 2 miles and came to another hill as bad as the last. Hard pull. Our cattle are so much weakened, but it is the last we shall have. Then down a steep hill to Olney’s Creek. Here is a house and a white man, Mr. Olney, living with a squaw. There are also 2 houses at the Deschutes River and some tents belonging to Walla Walla Indians, who do some ferrying and act as guides to those who ford. Pretty shrewd fellows for money—but very civil. From thence we went over bluffs, ascent and descent very gradual, to a creek 5 miles from The Dalles called 5 Mile Creek, and encamped for the night. Stephen had gone before to The Dalles and returned, bringing the intelligence that Mr. McMillen had returned there with some provisions for us from the valley. Stayed all night and did some cooking for the journey down the water. Have long been convinced that we are too late to cross the Cascade Mountains with safety, we concluded to leave our cattle and wagon at The Dalles and proceed down by water. Hire a man to take care of the cattle at $6.00 per head and deliver them in the valley in the spring as soon as it is safe to travel over the mountains.
Diary of Esther Hanna:
September 6: Came to The Dalles this forenoon. I was rather disappointed in the appearance of things here, as I expected to see more houses, etc. There are two stores, which are pretty well stocked with provisions, dry goods, etc., one blacksmith shop, and one or two other small houses. The boat landing is near. There are large flatboats capable of holding 30 or 40 wagons when taken apart, and much else besides. These go to the Cascades 40 miles below, where steamboats receive the loading and take it to Portland, Oregon City, etc. We bought some provisions, as ours were nearly exhausted. Paid at the rate of 18 dollars per hundred for flour, two and a half dollars for potatoes.
October 24: Traveled to The Dalles, 5 miles, and found a boat ready for sail. Put our loading on board and got on ourselves, and were ready to be off. Stephen stayed to take care of the cattle and some other business, and the rest of us went on. It was an open keel boat rowed by three men, and we went on at a pretty good rate. The appearance of the river here changes from being a rapid, shallow, and narrow stream. It becomes wide, deep, and still in places, more than a mile wide. The water is clear and fine, and the banks are precipitous and rocky, and several hundred feet high in most places. We had a very favorable run, for the weather was calm. This is said to be a very windy stream, and the channel being so deep it often prevents boats from running for 3 or 4 days. During the night it rained a good deal, and we got pretty thoroughly wet. About 2 o’clock we hove to, to wait for daylight. Went on shore and got breakfast. Rained hard nearly all the time. Here is a narrow bottom and some balm of Gilead growing, some of the trees more than 4 feet in diameter. We are now only 6 miles from the Cascades. The mountains are covered with a thick growth of lofty pines and fir, and the pack trail which passes along here seems almost impassable, the mounts being so steep.
Passed down to the Cascades, which consists of an immense pile of loose rocks across the Columbia, over which the water runs with great rapidity for 6 miles. The Indians have a tradition that many years ago the Columbia ran above here, but the mountains got into a fight and threw large rocks at each other which, falling into the river, dammed it up. Indeed, the river appears like a vast millpond. The distance from The Dalles to the Cascades is 45 miles. Here is a large warehouse, and from it proceeds a railroad 3 miles long of scantling and plank without iron. On this runs a small car propelled by a mule. The mule is attached to the car by a rope, and the engineer walks and guides the car. The charge is 75 cents per cwt., but takes no passengers. At the end of the railroad, the goods have to be let down perpendicularly some 150 feet to the river, from whence they are taken on a boat to the steamboat landing, about 3 miles more. Rained hard most of the day. Women walked down on land and expected their goods that night, but could not get them down. Had no tent, no beds, and no feed, except what they bought. Mr. Miller stayed with the goods, and the rest of us went to the tavern to stay. The steamer Multnomah came up about dark, and stayed till morning. Early in the morning, Mr. Miller came down with the goods, and we all got on board the steamer. Charge $6 per passenger. Distance to Portland 65 miles.
Reminiscences of Jane D. Kellogg:
About the first week of October we reached The Dalles. Drove down the Columbia River as far as the wagons could go, and built a raft of logs, cut down small trees, cut them to the desired length, made wooden bolts, and fastened them together. Took the wagons apart, laid the wheels on the raft, placed the wagon boxes on them, then filled them with our stores. Got aboard and started for Portland. We were afraid to start over the mountains so late for fear of getting snowed in.
Some of the men drove the stock down the trail, while others attended to the raft. We were over two weeks getting to the upper Cascades. There were so many up-stream winds that we could not go at all at times, and had to go ashore to camp. Thought we would never get to the Cascades. The logs of our raft were covered with about two inches of water all the time, which made it very hard to manage with the two oars, one on each side. Sometimes when the men were working their very best, we would take sight from the trees and find we were not making any headway, so had to go ashore for the day. One time during a hard windstorm we could not go at all. Went into a little cover behind some rocks for shelter, and had to stay there two days.
J.B. Kellogg, with the other men driving the stock, had reached the Cascades, but could not find us. He hired an Indian with his canoe, took some bread with him, and started out to hunt us, not knowing but that we had drowned. Sister Rachel and I were down with mountain fever, having taken sick coming down the raft. At last we reached the Cascades, where we found Uncle Jimmie Stephens and his ferry boat wanting to take emigrants to Portland. Traveled all night and reached Portland in the morning.
Diary of Lydia Allen Rudd:
October 6 [at The Dalles]: We have engaged our passage down the Columbia this morning in a canoe with the Indians. Left our wagon to be shipped to order after the rush is over. The wind blew so heavy that we were obliged to lay by, not being safe to travel in the canoe. We left the boat and walked about two miles before we found a convenient place for the boat to land. It is too heavily loaded with seventeen persons and a quantity of luggage. This was about 10 o'clock. Stopped until 3 o'clock. The wind not quite as heavy. Expected to travel all night, but were again obliged to lay by on account of the wind.
October 7: Made another start in our frail bark early this morning. The weather calm. Our company is rather interesting, making the time pass very agreeably. The scenery on the shore of the river is very wild and picturesque. The wind again caused us to go on shore about 3 o'clock. Very anxious to reach the Cascade falls tonight. Within nine miles, we stopped about two hours and again started, the wind still blowing violently. Not quite safe. It was now getting dark, and the wind increasing so much that the waves washed over the canoe and as high as my head, completely drenching us with water. Our dark companions then tried to make for the shore, but were unable to manage the canoe. Fortunately, there were more oars on the boat, and our men assisted all they could. And after a long time we safely made the shore, which was more than we expected. Glad to lay down on the sand in our wet clothes and on our wet bed. One lady was very much alarmed, screaming every breath as loud as she possibly could. A sorry time.
October 8: Started early this morning without any breakfast for the very good reason that we had nothing to eat. Still three miles from the falls. Safely landed about 8 o'clock, tired, hungry, and with a severe cold from last night's exposure. Something like civilization here in the shape of three or four houses. There is an excuse here for a railroad of a mile and a half on which to convey baggage to below the falls, where they can again take water for the steamboat landing. Harry packed our baggage down the railroad, and the rest of us walked. The railroad car is drawn by a mule, and they will carry no persons but the sick. We again hired an Indian with his canoe to take us from the falls to the steamboat landing. Arrived about sundown. A great many emigrants waiting for a chance to leave the steamboat landing, and several flat boats lying ready to start out in the morning. Encamped on the shore for the night.
Diary of Rev. John McAllister driving livestock over the Cascade Mountains
October 10: [At The Dalles] Today we intended to start with the cattle on the packer's trail, but we were defeated by losing a mule, which could not be found.
October 11: Today we divided into two parties: one to mend the boat and the other in which I was to drive the stock down the packer's trail. So we prepared and started with the stock about 2 o'clock PM. Crossed Garrison Creek. Took the mountain soon after crossing the creek, but passed a small spring and kept up a ravine before reaching the main mountain, one mile. This ascent is long and steep; very hard on stock. Reached the summit of the mountains about 3 o'clock. Covered with grass. The trail gradually descends right of a hollow. There is a spring but is very weak, hardly affording water sufficient for stock. Found plenty of grass and fuel. Camped here.
October 12: Crossed the hollow here. Went down to Swamp Ash Creek. Plenty of water, some grass. Crossed and kept down the creek. The road becomes very rocky, which continues to the mountain, which has several very steep ascents. The surface is loose gravel, which slips underfoot making it almost insurmountable for weak stock. After the third ascent was a gradual ascent and grass. Another ascent, then kept on the left side of the mountain near its summit. There is another hollow, where there is a spring left of the road but not water sufficient for stock. Passed another spring in descent of the mountain to Dog River [Hood River], 60 or 70 yards wide and two or three feet deep. Rapid current. Camped here. Plenty of grass on the mountain and valley of the river.
October 13: Detained half a day to collect stock from the thick brush. Crossed four branches to reach Red Creek about 3 o'clock. Plenty of grass most of the way. After ascending a bluff, we then descended the mountains, which is hardly passable for mountain goats, much less stock. After the descent, came into the Columbia River bottom. Level road. A swamp right of the road. Camped at the lower end of the swamp.
October 14: Crossed a creek, and came to a junction of river and mountain. If the river is low, stock may be driven in the edge of the water around the point. The road over it is very rough. Second junction, similar to the last. Three or four rods around in the water. Kept near the river to the upper ferry about 5 o'clock. The mountain joins the river, and is the most awful place I suppose that ever stock were driven over, the surface being huge rocks which lay loose and movable. The road or trail runs on the side of mountains. Extremely rough rocks. I would from appearance advise drivers to cross their stock here. No grass. Many cattle and horses killed here. Camped on a swamp. Plenty cattle got mired here.
October 15: Spent half a day hunting stock. Followed down the river shore to the lower ferry. Crossed here. The river is about 3/4 of a mile but little current. Cascades of the Columbia were four miles by land through the timber and about 2 1/2 by water. Here we found part of our plunder and people. Camped. Browsed the stock on willows.
October 16-19: Laid by. Rained. Another boatload came down.
October 20: Loaded the wagons and started to the steamboat landing. The road is wet and slippery. Several difficult places when it is wet. To the end of the railroad. On the left are several houses, which are made of zinc. Steepest ascent, after which is good road to the steamboat landing. Fair weather all day. Some grass.
October 21: Started with stock down the pack trail at 2 o'clock. Big rock [Castle Rock]. This rock is about 1000 ft.; nearly all perpendicular. Tolerable good grass near it. Very dense copse in places. Rained on us all evening. A long lake left of the trail.
October 22: Kept well to the right along this lake. At the junction of the lake and river are several trails that branch out, but we were watchful and took the most right-hand ones. Foot of mountain was very thick brush. Some muddy sloughs. The ascent is gradual till near the summit, where there is a place somewhat difficult, especially in wet weather. Afterwards the road is more open, the brush almost disappearing. Took the last ascent. Was a little steep. Summit of mountain was covered with ferns. Fern Creek. To the next slough was about 1/2 mile. This slough was bad to cross, mud three or four feet deep but not wide. In a short distance we struck thick timber and brush. Great care is required to keep the stock from straying. Brush hollow and creek. The descent into this is very difficult. In wet weather many cattle are killed. It is not rocky and not very steep, but in wet weather stock cannot keep their feet. No fit place to stop on account of the dense timber and brush. The ascent is long and steep. About one mile to top of the steepest part, gradually ascending for some distance. Then the road is a little descending. Prairie. Camped on a ravine right of the trail. Some water. Plenty of fuel.
October 23: The country is mostly open and descending to the valley, about four miles. No very bad places in descending. Here you strike settlements of Oregon. It is but a short distance to the Columbia River to the left, but the valley gradually widens, the mountain disappearing. About two miles to the mouth of the Sandy River. On the other side of here we left our stock and went alone to the ferry of the Columbia, which is just above an island. It commenced raining about 8 or 9 o'clock, and continued the rest of the day. After crossing the river, we found our folks. Camped on a sandbar.
October 24: Sunday. Promising fair weather. Left here in the evening. Rained 1/4 of the day.
October [?]: Reached Oregon City. The country between the Sandy River and Oregon City is mostly covered with dense fir forests.
[The Stevens traveled from the Sandy River to the "Silverton Country", establishing their donation land claim near present-day Silverton.]