Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Excerpts from the diary of Elizabeth Dixon Smith, a pioneer woman migrating with her family to Oregon, started April 21, 1847-- excerpts here [original spelling and absent punctuation (with sentence break-pauses I can't reproduce here)] are from the latter part of the journey, waiting to portage down the Columbia River:

Nov 18 my husband is sick it rains and snows we start this morning round the falls with our wagons we have 5 miles to go I carry my babe and lead or rather carry another through snow and mud and water al most to my knees it is the worst road that a team could possibly travel I went a head with my children and I was affraid to look behind me for fear of seeing the wagon turn over in to the mud and water with evry thing in them my children give out with cold and fatigue and could not travle and the boys had to unhitch the oxon and bring them and carry the children on to camp I was so cold and numb that I could not tell by feeling that I had any feet at all we started this morning at sunrise and did not get to camp untill after dark and there was not one dry thread on one of us not even my babe I had carryed my babe and I was so fatigued that I could scarcely speak or step when I got here I found my husband lying in Welches wagon very sick[...]

Nov 20 Rain all day it is allmost an imposibility to cook and quite so to keep warm or dry I froze or chilled my feet so that I cannot wear a shoe so I have to go round in the cold water bearfooted.

Nov 21 rain all day the whole care of evry thing now falls upon my shoulders I cannot write any more at present[...]

Feb 2 to day we buried my earthly companion, now I know what none but widows know that is how comfortless is that of a widows life espesily when left in a strange land without money or friends and the care of seven children -- cloudy

Feb 22, 23 [...] to day we left Portland at sunrise no one to assist us we had to leave one waggon and part of our things for the want of a teem we travled 4 or 5 miles all the way up hill and through the thickest woods I ever saw all furr from 2 to 4 ft through with now and then a scattering cedar and an intolerable bad road we all had to walk some times I had to sit down my babe and help to keep the wagon from turning over when we got to the top of the mountain we descended through mud up to wagon hubs and over logs 2 feet through and log bridges torn to pieces in the mud sometimes I would be behind out of the sight of the wagon carrying and tuging my little ones along sometimes the boys would stop the teams and come back after us made 9 miles encamped in thick woods found some grass unhitched the oxon let them feed 2 hours then chained them to trees these woods are infested with wild cats panthers bears and wolves ... we made us a fire and made a bed down on the wet ground and layed down as happy as circumstances would ad mit[...]


When you realize the courage and risk, pain and effort, trust in one's own powers that went into building America, you can only hope that we of this day have inherited that courage, that that power is still in good hands...

1 comment:

Gina said...

..."that that power is still in good hands..." or do you rather mean:

..."will be in good hands" ....

But the story should make us think, wherever we live.

Gina from Germany