Oregon Public Broadcasting


Transcript - The Days That Tried the Soul

Music: THE TRAIL BAND "IT WAS AFTER DARK BEFORE WE GOT TO THE CAMPING PLACE WHERE UNCLE SAM HAD A CAMPFIRE BUILT...NOT UNTIL THE NEXT MORNING DID WE SEE THAT THE CAMPFIRE WAS BUILT ON A GRAVE...PERMANENTLY CHANGED." (DRAWING TO GO HERE PICTURE ALREADY USED) HELEN CARPENTER GRAPHIC NEEDED?

Narrator: BY MID-AUGUST, MOST OVERLANDERS FINALLY REACHED THEIR NEXT STOPPING OFF PLACE.

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker: FORT HALL, IN WHAT IS NOW IDAHO, WAS CALLED THE FORT OF BROKEN DREAMS BECAUSE SO MANY OF THE WAGONS HAD FALLEN APART ON THIS WAY OR THAT WAY, HAD BROKEN DOWN PERHAPS HAD TO JUST BE STASHED RIGHT THERE.

Narrator: IT WAS AT FORT HALL, WHERE MANY TRAVELERS SEPARATED. CALIFORNIA EMIGRANTS WENT SOUTH THOSE BOUND FOR OREGON KEPT MOVING WESTWARD.

Barbara Roberts: A JOKE IN OREGON WE USED TO TELL ABOUT HOW YOU WOULD COME TO THE FORK IN THE ROAD WHERE YOU COULD SPLIT OFF AND GO TO OREGON AND CALIFORNIA, OR CALIFORNIA ON THE ONE SAID TO OREGON AND THE OTHER MARKER JUST HAD A PICTURE OF THE POT OF GOLD. AND THOSE WHO COULD READ CAME TO OREGON.

Narrator: FOR THE EMIGRANTS, THE HARDEST PART OF THE JOURNEY IS NOW AT HAND. SUE ARMITAGE5: MY VISION OF HELL IS TRAVELING ALONG THE SNAKE RIVER IN SOUTHERN IDAHO DAY AFTER DAY WITH THE RIVER BASICALLY AH OUT OF TOUCH, ITS HUNDREDS OF FEET BELOW YOU AND IT IS SO DRY AND DUSTY YOU CAN HARDLY, YOU'RE SWALLOWING GRIT.

Susan Butruille: THE FARTHER THEY WENT THE MORE THEY WOULD HAVE TO LIGHTEN THE LOAD SO THAT THE OXEN COULD KEEP PULLING THE WAGON. MUSIC: THE TRAIL BAND "WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND" "THIS TABLES TOO HEAVY, THIS MIRRORS BEEN CRACKED, AND THE OLD CHEST OF GRANDPA'S WILL JUST HOLD US BACK. OH THIS TRAILS LINED WITH (MUSIC CON) PIECES OF LONG AGO TIMES, I'M AFRAID I'M STILL MISSING WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND.

Marsha Semmel: ULTIMATELY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WAS GETTING THERE AND GETTING THERE SAFELY SO IF IT MEANT THAT YOU HAD TO LEAVE SOMETHING THAT SEEMED OFTLY IMPORTANT TO YOU WHEN YOU STARTED OUT IN THE EAST OR INDIANA OR EVEN IN MISSOURI, YOU MIGHT HAVE LEFT IT AT SOME POINT JUST TO REACH YOUR DESTINATION.

Sarah LeCompte: THERE WAS SO MUCH GARBAGE ALONG THE ROAD THAT A LOT OF EMIGRANTS TALK ABOUT BEING ABLE TO PICK UP SOME EXTRA SALT PORK AN EXTRA BAG OF FLOUR THAT HAD BEEN LEFT BEHIND OR TO COOK ON A STOVE THAT HAD BEEN DUMPED BEHIND.

Susan Butruille: PRETTY SOON YOU HAVE TRASH AND DIRT AND BODIES OF OXEN SOME WOMEN EVEN WROTE THAT YOU COULD SMELL YOUR WAY TO OREGON.

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker: LOSS WAS A CONSTANT COMPANION. AND WHEN YOU LOOK INTO THE DIARIES OF THE WOMEN, OFTEN IN THE EARLY STAGES WHEN THERE WAS LOSS THAT TOUCHED THEM DIRECTLY, THEY WOULD CALL DEATH THE MONSTER DEATH. BY THE TIME THEY GOT TO THE OTHER END OF THE TRAIL, THEY HAD LOST SO MANY THAT IT BECAME LESS A MONSTER AND JUST THE CONSTANT COMPANION AND THERE IS EVEN ONE DIARY THAT CALLS IT THE CONSTANT FRIEND.

Voice Over: THERE WAS AN EPIDEMIC OF CHOLERA, THINK IT WAS CAUSED FROM DRINKING WATER FROM THE HOLES DUG BY CAMPERS. ALL ALONG WAS A GRAVEYARD. MOST ANY TIME OF DAY YOU COULD SEE PEOPLE BURYING THERE DEAD. SOME PLACES FIVE OR SIX GRAVES IN A ROW. IT WAS A SAD SIGHT. NO ONE COULD REALIZE IT UNLESS THEY HAD SEEN IT. (JANE D. KELLOGG, 1852)

John Mack Faragher: THE GREATEST DANGER ON THE TRAIL WAS THE DANGER OF DISEASE AND THE DANGER OF POOR SANITATION. YOUR ON THE OVERLAND TRAIL YOUR ON YOUR WAY TO OREGON AND THERE ARE 20 OR 30 THOUSAND PEOPLE AHEAD OF YOU. AND EVERY NIGHT WHEN YOU STOP AT A CAMP SIGHT, THOSE PEOPLE HAVE PROCEEDED YOU.

Susan Badger Doyle: NINETY PERCENT OF THE DEATHS ON THE TRAIL WERE DISEASE RELATED. VO58: THE MOTHERS HAD THE FAMILIES DIRECTLY IN THEIR HANDS AND WERE WITH THEM ALL THE TIME. ESPECIALLY DURING SICKNESS. SOME WENT THROUGH A GREAT DEAL OF SUFFERING ON THE TRAIL. I REMEMBER ONE GIRL IN PARTICULARLY ABOUT MY OWN AGE THAT DIED AND WAS BURIED ON THE ROAD. HER MOTHER HAD A GREAT DEAL OF TROUBLE AND SUFFERING (GRAPHIC: MARTHA ANN MORRISON, 1844)

Voice Over: THE SICK MAN IS DEAD THIS MORNING, WE STOPPED TO SEE HIM BURIED, THEY WRAPPED HIM IN BED CLOTHES AND LAID HIM IN THE GROUND WITHOUT A COFFIN. WE SUNG A HYMN AND HAD PRAYER. OH IT IS SO HARD TO LEAVE FRIENDS IN THIS WILDERNESS. (GRAPHIC: CECILIA MCMILLAN ADAMS, 1852)

Voice Over: THE HEART HAS A THOUSAND MISGIVINGS AND THE MIND IS TORTURED WITH ANXIETY AND OFTEN AS I PASS THE FRESH MADE GRAVES I HAVE GLANCED AT THE SIDEBOARDS OF THE WAGON NOT KNOWING HOW SOON IT MIGHT SERVE AS A COFFIN FOR SOME ONE OF US. (GRAPHIC: LODISA FRIZZEL, 1852)

Sarah LeCompte: SOME PEOPLE IN THE EARLY PARTS, STAGES OF THE JOURNEY TRIED TO HAVE A CASKET, TRIED TO HAVE A REGULAR FUNERAL. BUT AS WOOD BECAME SHORT AND SUPPLIES BECAME SHORT AND THEIR TIME BECAME SHORT. SOMETIMES THERE WERE VERY HASTY FUNERALS. MAYBE SOMEBODY WRAPPED IN A BLANKET OR QUILT IF THEY HAD THAT AND RATHER HASTILY BURIED AND THEN THE WAGON TRAIN HAD TO MOVE ON.

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker: THERE IS A LOVELY PASSAGE FROM ONE OF THE WOMEN WHO SAID THAT A MOTHER AND HER NEWBORN DIED TOGETHER AND THEY WRAPPED THEM IN THE QUILTS, THE WOMEN ALL GOT TOGETHER WITH THEIR QUILTS WRAPPED THEM TOGETHER AND THEN LAID THEM ON THIS WEIRD AND LONELY FOOTSTOOL OF GOD.

Susan Butruille: THAT WAS ONE OF THE BIG WORRIES OF THE WOMEN, THAT IT WOULD ALL CLOSE IN ON THEM, THAT IT WOULD ALL BE TOO MUCH AND THAT THEY WOULD JUST LOOSE THEIR MIND.

Voice Over: I WOULD MAKE A BRAVE EFFORT TO BE CHEERFUL AND PATIENT UNTIL THE CAMP WORK WAS DONE. THAN STARTING OUT AHEAD OF THE TEAM AND MY MEN FOLKS, WHEN I THOUGHT I HAD GONE BEYOND HEARING DISTANCE, I WOULD THROW MYSELF DOWN AND GIVE WAY LIKE A CHILD TO SOBS AND TEARS, WISHING MYSELF BACK HOME WITH MY FRIENDS AND CHIDING MYSELF FOR CONSENTING TO TAKE THIS WILD GOOSE CHASE. (GRAPHIC: LAVINA PORTER, 1860)

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker: THE WHOLE ATTITUDE WAS KEEP YOUR CHIN HIGH AND YOUR STOMACH SUCKED IN AND JUST KEEP GOING.

Sue Armitage: I'M PRETTY SURE THAT THERE MUST HAVE BEEN A LOT OF RECRIMINATIONS, WHETHER THEY WERE SPOKEN OR NOT. A LOT OF MEN THINKING, THIS WAS THE STUPIDEST THING I EVER DID IN MY LIFE AND A LOT OF WOMEN SAYING YES INDEED IT WAS.

Sarah LeCompte: THEIR FOOD SUPPLIES WERE RUNNING LOW, THEIR WAGONS WERE BREAKING DOWN, THEIR DRAFT ANIMALS WERE GETTING TIRED AND THEY THEMSELVES WERE EXHAUSTED.

Susan Butruille: AS THEY KEPT GOING AND GOING AND SEEMED LIKE THEY WERE NEVER GOING TO GET THERE, THEY WERE RAGGED THEY WERE HUNGRY.

Voice Over: OH DEAR IF WE WERE ONLY IN THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY OR WHEREVER WE ARE GOING FOR I AM TIRED OF THIS. (GRAPHIC: AGNES STEWART, 1853)

Sarah LeCompte: THEY HAD TO MAKE IT OVER THE BLUE MOUNTAINS AND THE CASCADE MOUNTAINS BEFORE SNOW STARTED BEFORE OCTOBER OR NOVEMBER GOT THERE.

Voice Over: WE CROSSED THE BLUE MOUNTAINS AT THE SUMMIT AND IT WAS AWFUL ROUGH. IT WAS JUST BOUNCE, BOUNCE, BOUNCE DOWN THE MOUNTAIN THERE, THE WAGONS.

Sue Armitage: THE BLUE MOUNTAINS IN NORTHERN OREGON WERE TERRIBLE. WAGONS HAD TO BE INCHED DOWN INCLINES, ROPED DOWN. FREQUENTLY THE BREAKS DIDN'T HOLD AND THEY TUMBLED OVER CLIFFS. MUSIC: THE TRAIL BAND, "INDIAN FLUTE"

Sue Armitage: THEY CAME DOWN OUT OF THE BLUE MOUNTAINS INTO THE GRANDE RONDE VALLEY AND FOUND INDIANS, HELPFUL INDIANS.

Sarah LeCompte: FREQUENTLY CAYUSE INDIANS WOULD BE THERE TO TRADE FRESH VEGETABLES, GET FRESH VEGETABLES AND MAYBE TRADE FOR A NEW HORSE.

Stephen Beckham: ONE OF THE MOST POIGNANT ACCOUNTS OF INDIAN AH NATIVE, INDIAN, EMIGRANT EXPERIENCE OCCURRED IN THE GRANDE RHONDE VALLEY WHERE A WOMAN, HARRIET TALCOTT BUCKINHAM, WAS SITTING ON THE TONGUE OF THE WAGON DOING HER EMBROIDERY WORK. AND A NEZ PERCE WOMAN CAME ALONG AND SAT DOWN BESIDE HER AND TOOK A FEW STITCHES FOR HER AS IF TO SAY, THOUGH I CAN NOT COMMUNICATE IN YOUR LANGUAGE, I TOO KNOW HOW TO SEW JUST LIKE YOU DO.

Susan Badger Doyle: INDIANS HAD DEVELOPED AN INTEREST IN CALICO SHIRTS, THAT WAS THE MAJOR TRADING ITEM THEY VALUED. (DRAWING OF WOMEN TRADING WITH INDIANS SHIRT FOR FOOD)

Lillian Schlissel: WOMEN WRITE TO OTHER WOMEN, WHEN YOU COME NEXT YEAR BE SURE TO BRING CALICO SHIRTS OR YOU'LL BE NAKED BECAUSE THE INDIANS WILL HAVE TRADED YOU FOR EVERY CALICO SHIRT YOU'VE BROUGHT.

Sue Armitage: ONE IMPORTANT THING TO KEEP IN MIND IS WHEN THE EXCHANGE IS ABOUT FOOD, IT IS WOMEN WHO ARE DOING THE EXCHANGING. (DRAWING OF WOMEN TRADING SITTING ON BLANKET. FOOD FOR CLOTHES)

Narrator: BY THE TIME THEY REACHED THE MILITARY OUTPOST OF THE DALLES, SUMMER WAS OVER...THE WEATHER BEGAN TO CHANGE.

Sue Armitage: BY THAT TIME FOR MANY PARTIES IT WAS OCTOBER, NOVEMBER, WONDERFUL OREGON WEATHER, WITH LOTS OF RAIN AND AND GRAYNESS. A HARD END TO WHAT HAD REALLY BEEN A HARD TRIP.

Sarah LeCompte: WHEN THEY GOT TO THE CASCADES THAT HAD TO MAKE A DECISION, EITHER TO GO OVER THE CASCADES OR FLOAT DOWN THE RIVER.

Sue Armitage: THIS IS THE UN-DAMED COLUMBIA RIVER, SO YOU DON'T JUST PLACIDLY FLOAT DOWN THE RIVER THERE IS ONE GRAPHIC ACCOUNT BY ELIZABETH DIXON SMITH GEER OF STUMBLING AROUND THE RAPIDS.

Susan Butruille: BY THE TIME THEY GOT THAT FAR, HER HUSBAND WAS SICK, SEVERAL OF HER CHILDREN WERE SICK AND SHE HAD NO SHOES. THINKING OF PEOPLE AT THAT STAGE OF THE JOURNEY WITH NO SHOES AND THEY STILL HAVE TO SOMEHOW FINISH THE JOURNEY.

Sarah LeCompte: THE BARLOW ROAD OVER THE CASCADE MOUNTAINS HAD A LOT OF STEEP ASCENTS AND DESCENTS. AND PRETTY HEARTBREAKING FOR SOME PEOPLE TO MAKE IT THAT FAR AND THEN HAVE THEIR WAGONS SMASHED TO PIECES GOING DOWN THE LAST DECENT BEFORE YOU MAKE IT TO THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY.

Voice Over: I SAW A WOMAN ON A VERY POOR HORSE WITH A LITTLE CHILD IN HER LAP AND ONE STRAPPED ON BEHIND HER AND TWO OR THREE TIED ON ANOTHER HORSE. I FELT THANKFUL AND IMAGINED I WAS ONLY ON A PICNIC. (GRAPHIC: FRANCIS SAWYER, 1854)

Barbara Roberts: IT WAS A VERY HARSH AND DIFFICULT AND TRYING TIME. BUT I HAVE NO QUESTION IF YOU SURVIVED IT YOU CAME OUT MUCH STRONGER THAN WHEN YOU BEGAN THE JOURNEY.


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