In their simplicity is their poignancy. On August 7, 1865, Mary Louisa Black noted in her journal that they were “nooning on a nice stream in a valey in the mountains.” A day later she observed that one of the men in the overland expedition had “buried an infant here yesterday—still born.” One can only imagine her emotional turmoil—she had buried her own daughter three months earlier, just as she and her husband set out for Oregon.
While each diarist and letter-writer had her personal joys and sorrows, collectively these invaluable accounts demonstrate the passion and courage of these nineteenth-century pioneering women who led and followed their families into the West, pursuing dreams of better economic or social situations. One can only marvel at their ability to persevere under conditions that sent many scurrying back home to the East.
About the Author
Kenneth L. Holmes was a professor of history at Western Oregon State College. He edited and compiled Covered Wagon Women, drawing on archives and private sources.
An associate professor of history at Southern Methodist University, Sherry L. Smith is the author of The View from Officers’ Row: Army Perceptions of Western Indians.