Diary Entries Of the Journey West

Thank goodness for the men and women who kept a written record of their struggles and sacrifice as they journeyed West. I don’t know about you, but I find it interesting reading. I want to know what they went through and picture their lives in my head.

These diary entries are of women on the various trails that led West.

“I write on my lap with the wind rocking my wagon.” Wrote Algeline Ashley.

The following notations are by Lydia Allen Rudd. She was traveling to Oregon with her husband Harry.

May 7…I found myself this morning with a severe headache from the effects of yesterday’s rain. There was a toll bridge across the stream kept by the Indians. The toll for our team in total was six bits. We have had some calls this evening from the Indians and we gave them something to eat and they left. Some of them wore no shirt, only a blanket, while others were ornamented with faces painted and feathers. They were armed with rifles and spears.

May 8…We have come about 12 miles and made camp in the open prairie without any wood. We collected dry weeds and grass to make a fire and for supper cooked some meat and the last of our eggs with some hard bread with water.

May 9…We passed a new grave today…a man from Ohio. We also met a man that was going back. He had buried his wife this morning. She died from measles.

May 11…We passed another grave dug only this morning. The board stated he died of cholera and was from Indiana.

May 13…Soon after we stopped tonight a man, a Dutchman, came along with a wheel barrow going to California. He wheels his provisions and clothing all day and then stops for the night and sleeps on the ground in the open air. He ate raw meat and bread for his supper. I think he will get tired wheeling his way through the world.

May 14…Just after starting this morning we passed four men digging a grave. The man that had died was taken sick yesterday of cholera about noon and died last night. The corpse lay on the ground a few feet away. It was a sad sight. Then we passed three more graves this afternoon.

May 18…The wind has blown a perfect cloud of dust, covering us all with dirt. You could not tell the color of our skin.

October 27…We have reached Burlington. There is no house we can get to winter in. I expect that we shall not make a claim after all our trouble getting here. I shall have to be poor and dependent on a man my lifetime.

Another woman—Amelia Stewart Knight – is traveling with her husband and seven children and she’s pregnant with her eighth which she delivers by the roadside just before reaching Oregon. She mentions how the Indians along with way are much-needed guides and helpful in telling the men where to hunt.

May 14…Winds so high that we dare not make a fire and impossible to pitch a tent. The wagons can hardly stand the wind. Our wagon is full and some have to stay out in the storm. Some of the boys lost their hats.

May 17…We had a dreadful storm of rain and hail last night and very sharp lightning that killed one man and two oxen. The wind was so high I thought it would tear the wagon to pieces. Nothing but the stoutest canvas could stand it. The rain beat into the wagons so that everything was drenched. The wind blew hard all night and we woke surrounded by water and our saddles have been soaking in it all night and are almost ruined.

May 31…We traveled 25 miles today. This morning there were two large droves of cattle and about 50 wagons ahead of us. We either had to stay poking behind or attempt to pass them. The drovers threatened to drive the cattle over you if you tried to pass. They even took out their pistols. Husband came up just as one man pointed his pistol at Wilson Carl. We took out across the prairie and had a rather rough ride but were glad to be away from such a lawless bunch. We are now within 100 miles of Fort Laramie.

June 6…Still in camp. Husband and myself are sick. We supposed by drinking the river water that looked more like dirty suds.

July 28…Chatfield (her young son) is quite ill with scarlet fever.

Sept 5…Passed a sleepless night as a good many of the Indians camped around us were drunk and noisy and kept up a continual racket which made all our hands uneasy and kept our poor dog on watch. Doubtless they would’ve done some mischief if not for him.

Sept 17…Gave birth to my eighth child after which we ferried across the Columbia River. Here husband traded two yoke of oxen for a half section of land with one half acre planted in potatoes and a small log cabin and lean-to with no windows. We’re home.

These diaries are so fascinating and offer so many pictures of what it must’ve been like. To say it was difficult is an understatement. I don’t know if I’d had what it took to keep going. There was nothing to look forward to each day except more of the same, the struggles battering body, mind and spirit. These settlers have all my admiration and respect. Especially the women who followed their men and given little say in the situation. They were truly hardy souls.

Would you have kept going or turned around? I’d like to think I had what it took, but I really think I would’ve been one of those who turned back.

About LindaBroday

I'm a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of western historical romance. I love stories of the old West and the people who once lived there. I haunt libraries and museums and can hang out in them for hours. To tell all the stories that are in my head would take a lifetime.

Comments

Diary Entries Of the Journey West — 20 Comments

  1. Very interesting I would like to read more. I would like to think I’m wonder woman and would have made the trip. It was a hard long road.

    • Good morning, Yvonne……This book is riveting and has so many diary entries. I only picked out a few. But I love that the women felt compelled to record the trip. I can’t imagine how hard it was but there were zero complaints from them. They accepted their lot and made the best of it. I’m sure the promise of a new life at the end was all that kept them going.

      Love and hugs, my dear!

  2. I think I would have kept going because this is how I am. I don’t give up when it gets to tough to Handle. Even in today’s world you can not give up or you would be no better off than the people in your blog.

    • Good morning, Charlene……I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I’m sure there were a lot of tears shed, private ones of course, because these women would’ve kept a positive face. But how very hard it must’ve been. After reading these entries, I have a new respect and admiration for all of them. Soldier on, Charlene!

      Much love!

  3. Good morning Linda, wow these are very fascinating. I’d liked to think I’d kept going, but living out here in the prairie in KS., I’ve often thought of how those settlers survived these harsh conditions. So I guess I would of tried to keep going, but can’t really say. I applaud all of those that braved the elements to discover the West, they certainly didn’t have it easy.
    I hope you have a blessed and wonderful week. Love you Dearly.

    • Good morning, Tonya………I have a hard time tearing myself away from this book. It’s absolutely blowing my mind. Those pioneers deserve every bit of respect and admiration. Especially the women. Many had no say in the matter and had to follow their husbands. Everything was unknown–the land, the people they encountered, what lay at the end of the journey. They knew absolutely nothing and death was around every corner. So much disease and accidents, not to mention crossing Native American’s land.

      Have a blessed week! Much love and hugs!

  4. I’m not sure what I would have done. I just can’t even begin to imagine what the full journey was like. I really don’t think I would have turned back. I might would have settled somewhere along the way before arriving at my intended destination but if I had started the journey at all there would have been a major reason therefore I don’t think I would have turned back. Very interesting blog! Loved it!

    • Good morning, Steph……I’m happy you enjoyed my post. It certainly gives you food for thought. Many married couples lost their mate on the trip and that would’ve changed a lot of things. I can’t imagine being suddenly alone and finding courage to complete the trip. Very scary. Women were never given a say in the matter to start with. They did whatever their husbands decided. But I just can’t imagine a woman with 7 kids and pregnant with her 8th making the trip. Good heavens! Still, despite everything, none of these women complained, none, in their diary entries. Amazing.

      Have a blessed week! Much love and hugs!

  5. I just don’t know if I could have endured but you do what you have to. I really enjoyed reading this blog

    • Good morning, Glenda……I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I thought you might. These diary entries sure put things in perspective. Reading about their daily struggles, sacrifice, and hardship really gave me a new appreciation for these pioneers who followed a dream. Just amazing.

      Have a blessed week! Sending love and hugs your way, dearest!

  6. I love to read the diaries of these travelers but even though I like to think of myself as tough I don’t know if I could have made this journey.

    • Hi Ruth……This trip really would’ve tested the most hardy soul. And especially for a woman who was only going along with her husband’s wishes. And then what would’ve happened if he died? What would’ve been left for her? This gave me a lot to think about. Have a blessed week.

      Much love and hugs!

  7. Hi Linda – Thank You, for your blog. It was rough back in the early West years. Yes, I would have tried to move forward, if you had gone that far, why turn back… Happy Holidays to you & your family. Looking forward to your new book in April of next year.

    • Good morning, Lois…..So happy to see you. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Times were really rough on that trail and only the most hardy survived the horrible cholera, storms, and daily struggle to get a few more miles.

      Thank you and Merry Christmas to you too. Oh no, my dear, the next release is January then the second in April.

      Blessings and love!

  8. I love this, sister. We can only imagine what life was really like back then, but when we read first-hand accounts like this one, we get a closer view. How horrible to be out in a violent storm with no shelter. I don’t think I could do it. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Good morning, Jan…….First hand accounts make life back then more vivid and real. These women knew exactly what they were writing about and I still think it odd that none complained one bit. But that was the times. Women didn’t voice their opinions or feelings.

      Love you dearly, sister!

    • Good morning, Quilt Lady……Thanks for coming. I’m always so happy to see you. You must be a very hardy soul or else mighty determined. Yeah, I can see you going forward no matter what happened.

      Blessings and Love!

  9. I keep sayin’ some day I want to take time to read the historical/diary entries of these brave men and women. And in fact, one of my favorite Oregon trail stories did have the chapters start out as a diary entry as it flowed into real life. I loved it!

    Even though I know it would be tough, I’d so be pushing through to get there! Well, unless of course my husband and family were seduced by the Rocky mountains and settled in the green valleys surrounding them…. ha! But yeah, wherever we ended up deciding that home was, I would get there!

    This makes me wonder — do you have a Oregon trail story brewin’ in the back of your mind??? 😉 I’m all for that!

  10. Oh, and just sayin’…. had I been unattached and kidnapped by some Indian warrior, I could see me surviving that as well and rockin’ life as a captured (turned treasured) bride. haha! I think I read too many romantic tales of that. lol