Oregon Public Broadcasting

The Women

Cecilia and Parthenia Adams
Twin sisters who traveled the Oregon Trail with their family in 1852.

Marilla R. Washburn Bailey
"My most vivid recollection of that first winter in Oregon is of the weeping skies and of mother and I also weeping." 1852

Keturah "Kit" Belknap
A strong woman who had helped her father log their land as a teenager, Keturah left Ohio for Oregon with her new husband in 1839 at the age of 19.

Helen Carpenter
In 1857, Helen Carpenter wrote about the endless chores a woman had to perform during the trip. She wrote with revealing detail and humor.

"Although there is not much to cook, the difficulty and inconvenience in doing it amounts to a great deal. Then there is washing to be done and light bread to make and all kinds of odd jobs. Some women have very little help around the camp. Being obliged to get the wood and water, make campfires, unpack at night and pack up in the morning." 1857

Lucy Ann Henderson Deady
Lucy was only eleven when she traveled the Oregon Trail in 1846, but she wrote with great detail about the agony of leaving prized possessions on the side of the trail and the fascinations of meeting groups of Indians.

Elvina Apperson Fellows
Only ten years old during the trip in 1847, her father died on the trail and her mother finished the trip with her family.

"When we reached Portland our family consisted of my mother and nine children. Mother had no money and had nine hungry mouths to feed in addition to her won. So she would go to the shops that came and get washing to do." 1847

Lodisa Frizzel
Leaving home for Oregon in 1852, Lodisa Frizzel wrote in her diary about the sadness of leaving home and later passing the graves of those pioneers who had died before them.

"Who does not recollect their first night when started on a long journey. The well known voices of our friends still ringing in our ears. The parting kiss still warm upon our lips and the last separating word 'farewell!' sinks deeply into the heart." 1852.

Amelia Hadley
A pioneer in 1851, Amelia Hadley wrote about the daily life on the trail and the pleasure they had playing music at the end of the day in camp.

"We are a merry crowd. While I journalize, John of the company is playing the violin, which sounds delightful way out here. My accordion is also good as I carry it in the carriage and play as we travel." 1851

"We may now call ourselves through they say, and her we are in Oregon making our camp in an ugly bottom and no home except our wagons and tent. It is drizzling, and the weather looks dark and gloomy. This is the end of a long and tedious journey." 1851

Catherine Haun
Pioneer in 1849 who wrote about the daily activities along the trail, including the quick burial of their dead.

"Our trunk of wearing apparel consisted of bare back underclothing a couple of blue checked gingham dresses, several large stout aprons for general wear. A pink calico sunbonnet and a white one intended for dress up days." 1849

"I wore a dark woolen dress which served me almost constantly throughout the whole trip. The wool protected me from the suns rays and penetrating prairie winds. It also economized in laundering which was a matter of no small importance, the chief requisite water being sometimes brought from miles away." 1849

Mary A. Jones
"In the winter of 1846, our neighbor began talking of moving to the new country. My husband was carried away with the idea too. I said "Oh, let us not go." It made no difference. We sold our home and what we could not take with us and what we could not sell we gave away." 1846

Elizabeth Keegan
"The first part of the route is beautiful and the scenery surpassing anything of the kind I have ever seen. Large rolling prairies stretching as far as your eye can carry you. The grass so green and flowers of every description." 1852

Rebecca Ketchum
"I almost wonder how I could have undertaken such an expedition. I was in good spirits and little daunted by the vastness of my enterprise." 1853

"Camille and I both burnt our arms very badly while washing. They were red and swollen and painfol. Our hands are blacker than any farmers. And I do not see that there is any way of preventing it. For everything has to be done in wind and sun." 1853

Amelia Stewart Knight
In 1853, Amelia Knight wrote about the many hazards the pioneers faced on the trail, including poisonous alkali water and lightening strikes. She also wrote about her fear of the Indians, which proved to be unfounded.

"We are creeping along slowly, one wagon after another, the same old gait, the same thing over, out of one mud hole into another all day." 1853

Margaret W. Inman
"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." 1852

Jane D. Kellogg
"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 their 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." 1852

Martha Ann Morrison
A thirteen year old during her journey in 1844, Martha Morrison wrote about the strength she saw in the mothers of the group.

"Their 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. Mothers on the trail had to undergo more trial and suffering than anybody else." 1844

Lavinia Porter
In 1860, Lavinia Porter wrote about her internal struggle when it was time to leave her sister and family and go west with her husband and child.

"I would make a brave effort to be cheerful and patient until the camp work was done. Then 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." 1860

Mary Riddle
"As I sit writing by the campfire, Johnny keeps piling on the sticks to see them burn. Henry is sitting on a campstool saying 'Oh dear, I believe I'll die of joy.' Indeed we are all as happy as can be." 1878

Agnes Stewart
Agnes traveled with her family on the Oregon Trail in 1853. One of her sisters and her husband were left behind along the trail because their over-loaded wagon could not keep up with the rest. That sister would make it safely to California, but Agnes and the rest of her family continued to Oregon.

Inez Parker
"The seven girls slept in the loft and the younger ones slept on the floor in the front room by the fireplace. Father in exchange for our housing taught school to the tenant children and at night made furniture consisting of chairs, tables, brooms and bedsteads." 1849

Lydia Rudd
"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 it's called of the Rocky Mountains." 1852

Francis Sawyer
"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." 1854

Elizabeth Dixon Smith (Geer)
Described the dusty and thorny trail in her diary of the journey in 1847.

"You in the states know nothing about dust. It will fly so that you can hardly see the horns of your oxen. It often seems that the cattle must die for want of a breath. And then in our wagons, such a spectacle. Beds, clothes and children completely covered." 1847

"It rains and snows. We start this morning around the falls with our wagons. I carry my babe and lead or rather carry another through the snow, mud and water almost to my knees. I went ahead with my children and I was afraid to look back behind me for fear of seeing the wagons turn over into the mud. My children gave out with cold and fatigue and could not travel. And the boys had to unhitch the oxen 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." 1847

Eliza Spalding
She and Narcissa Whitman were the first two white women to cross the Continental Divide in 1836.

Narcissa Whitman
She and Eliza Spalding were the first two white women to cross the Continental Divide in 1836. Narcissa Whitman helped her husband, Marcus, build and operate a Mission in what is now southeastern Washington state. Narcissa and her husband were killed in the Whitman Massacre in 1847.

Lily Dixon Williams
Left home with her family from Missouri to Washington in 1880 at the age of ten. Listen to her tell her own story.

Margaret Herford Wilson
Pioneer woman who faithfully followed her husband to Oregon in 1850 and left her home behind.

Elizabeth Wood
Traveled the Oregon Trail in 1851, and recorded with vivid detail such events as the Three Island Crossing on the Snake River in Idaho.

"I have a great desire to see Oregon. The beautiful scenery, the wild animals and Indians and natural curiosities in abundance." 1851

"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 rushes and trimmed with white, red and pink ribbon." 1851 (talking about the 4th of July)


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