Oregon Public Broadcasting


Transcript - Pursuing the Journey

Music: THE TRAIL BAND MEDLEY

Narrator: IN ORDER TO GET TO OREGON BEFORE SNOW MADE THE MOUNTAINS IMPASSABLE, EMIGRANTS TRIED TO REACH INDEPENDENCE ROCK... IN WHAT IS NOW WYOMING... BY THE FOURTH OF JULY.

Voice Over: THIS IS THE FOURTH IN THE STATES, A GREAT MANY ARE CELEBRATING IT WITH PLEASURES OF SOME KIND. BUT WE ARE CELEBRATING IT BY TRAVELING IN THE SANDAND DUST. BUT WE HAD A GREAT DANCE TONIGHT. I WENT UP ON THE HILL AND TALKED OVER OLD TIMES. AND THEN WE COME DOWN AND DANCED UNTIL NEARLY ONE O'CLOCK. IT DONE VERY WELL FOR WANT OF BETTER FUN. IT IS A BEAUTIFUL EVENING. THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT, WE HAVE EXCELLENT GRASS. (GRAPHIC: HELEN CARPENTER.)

Susan Butruille: JULY FOURTH WAS A HUGE CELEBRATION DURING THAT TIME, OFTEN, BIGGER THAN CHRISTMAS. THEY WOULD CELEBRATE WITH ALL THAT EXCESS GUN POWDER THAT THEY HAD BROUGHT WITH THEM AND MAKE A LOT OF NOISE AND THEY WOULD HAVE FEASTING AND DANCING.

Voice Over: FOR YOUR AMUSEMENT, I WILL GIVE YOU A DESCRIPTION OF MY DRESS FOR THE OCCASION, A RED CALICO FROCK, MADE IN THE WAGONS, A PAIR OF MOCCASINS MADE OF BLACK BUFFALO HIDE ORNAMENTED WITH SILK INSTEAD OF BEADS AS I HAD NONE OF THE LATTER. AND A HAT BRAIDED WITH BULL (VO38 CON) RUSHES AND TRIMMED WITH WHITE, RED AND PINK RIBBON. (GRAPHIC: ELIZABETH WOOD, 1851)

Voice Over: THIS IS THE DAY OF OUR NATION'S JUBILEE OF LIBERTY. ENCAMPED FOR THE DAY TO CELEBRATE OUR INDEPENDENCE. WE HAD SOME GOOSEBERRY SAUCE FOR DINNER GATHERED FROM THE BLUFF AND HARRY KILLED AN ANTELOPE, WHAT A LOVELY DAY. (GRAPHIC: LYDIA RUDD, 1852)

Narrator: THE ELATION OF REACHING INDEPENDENCE ROCK WAS QUICKLY FORGOTTEN...CONDITIONS ON THE TRAIL BECAME INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT.

Voice Over: THE SUN IS MELTING, THE STENCH OCCASIONED BY THE DEAD CATTLE IS AWFUL, WE ARE NEAR BEING EATEN BY MOSQUITOES THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF THEM BUZZING AROUND YOUR EARS WHICH MAKES ONE ALMOST FRANTIC. (GRAPHIC: ESTHER HANNAH, 1852)

Voice Over: Rainstorms coming on: I was riding a horse: But when the shower came on, instead of taking me in the carriage, Mr. Gray let me have his rubber overcoat...He fixed it for me himself...Mrs. Godley took my sunbonnet into the carriage and let me have an old one of hers without pasteboard...My feet and almost the whole of my lap were uncovered. When Mr. Gray fixed me he said I would get all wet and muddy, and when I came into camp he would laugh at me, I told him I could laugh as hard as he could...I think I felt as much of a disposition to laugh as he did. I don't think he felt quite as much like crying as I did though...We drove through mud holes, when we stopped everything was wet...my feet and limbs cold as ice, and my face and head like fire.

Stephen Beckham: THERE WERE THOSE WHO WERE KILLED BY BEING STRUCK BY LIGHTNING. THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO DROWNED IN FORDING RIVERS AND MANY OF THESE PEOPLE DID NOT KNOW HOW TO SWIM.

Sue Armitage: THERE IS THIS HORRIFYING IMAGE THAT YOU FIND OVER AND OVER AGAIN OF MEN SWIMMING HORSES OR STOCK ACROSS THE STREAM AND DISAPPEARING BELOW THE WATER AND NEVER BEING SEEN AGAIN.

Narrator: AT RIVER CROSSINGS, WOMEN WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE UNPACKING AND RE-PACKING OF THE WAGON. THIS RITUAL ALSO OCCURRED AFTER HARD RAIN AND HAIL STORMS. (AMELIA STEWART KNIGHT BITE HERE.)

Narrator: PREPARING FOR RIVER CROSSINGS, WOMEN WERE PROVIDED WITH AN OPPORTUNITY TO FORGE NEW FRIENDSHIPS.

Voice Over: WE WOMENFOLK VISITED FROM WAGON TO WAGON, OR CONGENIAL FRIENDS SPENT AN HOUR WALKING AND TALKING OVER OUR HOME LIFE BACK IN THE STATES. TELLING OF THE LOVED ONES LEFT BEHIND, VOICING OUR HOPES FOR THE FUTURE, AND EVEN WHISPERING A LITTLE FRIENDLY GOSSIP. (GRAPHIC: CATHERINE HAUN, 1849)

Narrator: WOMEN DEPENDED ON EACH OTHER MOST IMPORTANTLY WHEN IT CAME TIME TO GIVE BIRTH.

Susan Butruille: WHEN IT CAME TIME TO HAVE A CHILD, ON THE TRAIL, IF THERE WASN'T ANOTHER WOMAN TO ATTEND THAT BIRTH IT WAS DEVASTATING.

Narrator: PREGNANCY WAS A COMMON CONDITION FOR EMIGRANT WOMEN. LILLIAN SCHLISSEL9: MY STATISTICS INDICATE THAT ABOUT ONE IN FIVE WAS PREGNANT ON THE JOURNEY.

John Mack Faragher: FROM THE TIME THEY MARRY UNTIL THEIR MID-FORTIES MOST WOMEN ARE EITHER ALWAYS PREGNANT OR THEIR NURSING CHILDREN. LILLIAN SCHLISSEL10: IF YOU WERE DELIVERED YOU HAD A PROBLEM BECAUSE YOU COULDN'T STOP THE WAGON TRAIN. AND SO, LABOR IS PRETTY MUCH ACCOMPLISHED IN THE WAGON.

Sarah LeCompte: THE TECHNOLOGY FOR CHILDBIRTH AT THAT TIME WAS PRETTY BASIC. PEOPLE STILL CONSIDERED IT A NATURAL EVENT AND EVEN IN THEIR HOMES THEY DIDN'T NECESSARILY CALL A DOCTOR WHEN A BABY WAS BEING BORN AND ON THE TRAIL THERE WEREN'T A LOT OF DOCTORS AVAILABLE. THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM ON THE TRAIL WAS RELYING ON YOUR NEIGHBORS TO COME AND HELP YOU.

Lillian Schlissel: THERE ARE SOME DIARIES WHERE WOMEN TELL THAT IT RAINED, IT POURED WHEN THEY WERE GIVING BIRTH AND IF THERE WAS ANOTHER WOMAN IN THE WAGON THEY WERE WADING ANKLE DEEP IN WATER WHILE THIS POOR LADY WAS GIVING BIRTH. (DRAWING OF WOMAN GIVING BIRTH IN WAGON TRAIN.)

Sarah LeCompte: THE WOMEN IN A WAGON TRAIN HELPED AS MUCH AS THEY COULD IN TAKING CARE OF NEWBORN BABIES. UM OFFERING, YOU KNOW, IF THEY WERE STILL BREAST FEEDING, OFFERING TO BREAST FEED A BABY. OR IF THEY HAD A MILK COW ALONG, YOU KNOW, GETTING MILK FOR THE BABY AND DOING WHAT THEY COULD IN THAT RESPECT. (DRAWINGS TO GO HERE OF MILK COW TIED TO WAGON AND OF WOMAN HOLDING BABY.

Lillian Schlissel: ONE OF THE IMPORTANT STORIES I REMEMBER YEARS AND YEARS AGO WAS OF A TEENAGE GIRL WHO WAS THERE WHEN A WOMAN DIED IN CHILDBIRTH. SHE TOOK THE INFANT AND SPENT THE REST OF HER JOURNEY OVERLAND RIDING UP AND DOWN THE WAGON TRAIN TO WOMEN WHO WERE NURSING. VO49: I CARRIED A LITTLE MOTHERLESS BABE FIVE HUNDRED MILES AND WHEN WE WOULD CAMP I WOULD GO FROM CAMP TO CAMP IN SEARCH OF SOME GOOD, KIND, MOTHERLY WOMAN TO LET IT NURSE. AND NO ONE EVER REFUSED WHEN I PRESENTED IT TO THEM. (GRAPHIC: MARGARET W. INMAN, 1852)

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker: IT WAS NOT CONSIDERED PROPER TO LET ANYONE KNOW OF YOUR DISCOMFORT, OF YOUR NAUSEA OF ALL THE ATTENDED AIL, AILMENTS AND AND PHYSICAL STRAINS THAT COME WITH BEING PREGNANT. YOUR JUST CONSIDERED A WEAKLING AND LESS THAN A WOMAN IF YOU COMPLAINED.

Narrator: WEST OF INDEPENDENCE ROCK, IN WHAT IS NOW CENTRAL WYOMING, EMIGRANTS WOULD ARRIVE AT ANOTHER FAMOUS LANDMARK...DEVIL'S GATE.

Voice Over: AT NOON WE STOPPED ABOUT A FOURTH OF A MILE FROM DEVIL'S GATE AND IT SURPASSED ANYTHING I EVER SAW IN MY LIFE. THE SWEETWATER RIVER PASSES THROUGH A GAP OR GATE AS ITS CALLED OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS. (GRAPHIC: LYDIA RUDD, 1852)

Voice Over: THIS IS A BEAUTIFUL PART OF THE COUNTRY. THE FLOWERS SURROUND US, YESTERDAY IT WAS AS IF WE WALKED THROUGH MILES OF WILD FLOWER BOUQUETS. (GRAPHIC: CECILIA MCMILLAN ADAMS, 1852)

Narrator: CECILIA ADAMS AND HER TWIN SISTER PARTHENIA, BOTH 23 YEARS OLD, TRAVELED THE OREGON TRAIL IN 1852 WITH THEIR HUSBANDS AND FATHER. SUSAN BADGER DOYLE5: THEY WERE BOTH VERY ARTICULATE, OBSERVANT, ADVENTUROUS WE WOULD CALL THEM TODAY.

Voice Over: PARTHENIA AND I WALKED ON AHEAD OF THE REST OF THE COMPANY, WE CLIMBED ONE OF THE HILLS. PARTHENIA AND MYSELF HAVE SOME JOLLY TIMES EVEN IF WE ARE IN THE WILDERNESS.


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