Table of Content


September 1

On this day Jesse Harritt (1845) camped on a stream "opposite Fremont's Peak, one of the loftiest points of the Blue Mountains; found good grass and alder timber in abundance."

Traveling beside the Snake River in 1851, John S. Zeiber noted that the Indians encountered "have something of the meanness of the Pawnees. They beg, this the Shoshonees or Snakes of Green River did not do. They were for trading. . .The Shoshonees of Snake River have nothing to barter but salmon and most of them have a thieving and many a murderous disposition."

In 1852, Mrs. Cecelia Adams commented on the danger of fording the river near Salmon Falls. "It is dangerous" she wrote, "crossing the river, and they had drowned one horse and one ox in putting them over; but it is the only chance, and so we put them over and made a boat of one of the wagon boxes to ferry ourselves over all safe."

Descending into the Grand Ronde valley which he described as "nearly round in shape and has Powder river and Grand Ronde rivers", John T. Kerns (1852) was considerably impressed. "This is the best and most beautiful place we have seen on the whole road, or, in fact, in our lives, and is said to be a fair specimen of western Oregon. If so, our expectations will be more than filled."

In 1853, "Just at dark" Henry Allyn arrived "at the Cascades. . .The Cascades are 60 miles below the Dalles, and we have been on the way ever since Friday, 26th ult. (August) in traveling it."


September 2

Martha S. Read (1852) "Kept down the Boice River all day crossed it just at night. . .Saw 2 graves and 4 dead cattle. Campt near the river. Found very good feed and water and a plenty of dry willows and sage brush to burn."

Reflecting the fact that Indians were not impressed with oxen, John T. Kerns (1852) reported that "The Indians are after us yet to trade for cows. Oxen they will not have."

Abigail Jane Scott (1852) described the "Grand Round valley" as being "near ten miles in width and covered with luxuriant look(ing) grass. . .The indians at this place are very wealthy, they have numerous herds of horses and possess many of the luxuries of life in abundance."

Striking "over the hills. . .to the valley of Powder River", Celinda E. Hines (1853) "first beheld the Blue Mountains proper, although we had been traveling amid spurs of them for several days. . ." She went on to observe that they were "even more grand than the Rocky Mountains. . ."

September 3

"The men who drive Burrows' team were out of provisions" according to John S. Zeiber (1851), so they "killed one of their work oxen and were cooking parts of it all night."

Lucia Lorraine Williams (1851) "Arrived at Milwaukie (Oregon). Went into a house to live again. The first one that I had been in since we crossed the Missouri. H. nearly wild with joy. Did not want to camp out again."

Mrs. Cornelia A. Sharp's (1852) "road was over the Blue mountains, which were very steep and rugged. We camped in a pine grove. . .excellent water. . .abundance of Oregon grapes. Our camp this night had the appearance of camp meeting."

On this day, Amelia Knight (1853) reported that "here husband (being run out of money) sold his sorrel mare (Fan) for 125 dollars. . .crossed Olneys (or the 15 miles creed) 7 times and have encampt on the bank of it we are near the timber once more. . ."


September 4

"Froze hard last night," wrote Reverend Edward Evans Parrish (1844), "Made a fine day's drive and camped on the bear River. . .The road went winding down a hollow, exceeding rough for several miles, until we reached the valley of Bear River, when the road became better. My wagon stuck in the mud as we crossed a branch to-day."

Approaching Bannack Creek, Mrs. Cecelia Adams' party (1852) found a "notice that five miles below was a ferry across the river and plenty of grass on the other side." They found the ferry, which consisted of "two wagon boxes lashed together so as to make a boat, and a rope stretched across the river to pull it across", but "The day was so windy that we could not cross, so we had to stay on this side and swim our cattle across."

Coming through the Blue Mountains, Abigail Jane Scott (1852) and her sister walked ahead of the wagons to escape the dust. They stopped within a mile of Lee's Encampment to wait for the wagons, only to learn that their train had "encamped two miles back. . .it was then sun-down. . .we started back and met our little sister coming after us on horseback; We went back all the way in a hard run. . ." The girls met a man who thought to have some fun at their expense by telling them that their camp was three miles further back down the trail "through the darkest road he ever saw, or heard of. . ." Disconcerted, the girls "were then about ready to give up with fatigue" when they met their worried father "who was quite out of patience at our ludicrous mistake. . .In runing I wore the soles off my moccasins against the sharp stones, and blistered my feet before I got near the camp"


September 5

Reverend Edward Evans Parrish (1844) likened the Bear River, "a very pretty little stream", to the Green River in terms of size and reported passing a "large spring, nearly as large as the Big Spring east of the Alleghany Mountains, which I saw while driving in hog time."

John T. Kerns (1852) "camped on the Umatilla river, near an Indian village. . .The Indians here are of the Cayuse tribe and resemble the Nez Perce, are wealthy and to some extent civilized. The chiefs speak the English language well and are very free and friendly with the whites."

". . .passed a sleepless night last night, as a good many of the indians campt around us were drunk and noise and kept up a continual racket" wrote Amelia Knight (1853), adding that the noise also "kept our poor dog on the watch all night, I say poor dog because he is nearly worn out with traveling through the day, and should rest all night, but he hates an Indian and will not let one come near the wagons if he can help it. . ."

"Tilla was very sick in the night, "reported Mary Louisa Black (1865). "I gave her a dose of worm medicine, when it operated she vomited and was very sick. . .we camped near Burnt river and got good bunch grass by going a mile up the Mt."


September 6

Reverend Edward Evans Parrish (1844) reported a livestock transaction: "Mitchell Gilliam swapped his mule for a back mare and recovered from the Indians a mare which they had stolen from young Holmes. He gave the Frenchman a heifer for helping him accomplish the recovery."

Two days beyond the Malheur River, Jesse Harritt (1845) "gradually ascended a beautiful mountain. . .a few miles farther a beautiful landscape appeared to sight; to the west a large valley; to the southwest the Cascade Mountains; to the northwest was the Columbia River. . ."

On this Tuesday in 1853, Henry Allyn "landed this morning at our destined place [about three miles below the mouth of Big Sandy Creek] and to our great joy found the rest of our company with the mules all safely over the Cascade Mountains. . . having all got through this terrible wilderness alive, I bring my journal to a close in the Valley of Willamette."


September 7


Elizabeth Dixon Smith (1847) "Nooned at Snake River. . . .while watering, some of their cattle swam over the river. One of the men swam after them, and before he got across he sunk to rise no more. He left a wife and three children." [The next day another man on horseback went after the cattle and "by some means got off of the hose and sunk and was seen no more. He left a wife and six helpless children."]

Indians of the Walla Walla tribe did not impress John T. Kerns (1852) at all favorably. Camped near the Umatilla River, he reported having "to watch the filthy miscreants or all of our cooking utensils would stick to their fingers and disappear pretty suddenly. They are as filthy as set of the brawny tribes as we have yet seen, and would steal swill from the hogs if they had a favorable lay."


September 8

In 1845, Jesse Harritt "had ten horses stolen last night by the Indians." That night there was a "dreadful occurrence, a few minutes after we were in camp-the sudden death of an infant by that disease which had been fatal before in our company-the whooping cough."

John S. Zeiber (1851) "crossed the Owhynee River", then proceeded to Fort Boise "which is situated on the north side of Snake River and only a short distance, perhaps 1/8 mile, below the mouth of Owhyhee. This is a very different from the incorrect account of Fremont and the erroneous map of Preuss."

Traveling a road closely hemmed in by trees so tall "I dare not look to the top of them for fear of breaking my neck", Amelia Knight (1853) wrote that her wagon went "up and down very steep rough and rocky hills, through mud holes, twisting and winding round stumps, logs, and fallen trees. . ." That night they camped "on a little steam called Sandy, no feed for the stock except flour and by driving them a mile or so, they can get a little swamp grass, or pick brush."

September 9 "These Soda Springs boil up in large places and are a curiosity, indeed" according to Reverend Edward Evans Parrish (1844). He also noted that "The Indian did not deliver the horse as agreed, so the pay was lost." [The day before "A Mr. McMahan bought a horse from the Indian and paid for him, the animal to be delivered in the morning."]

On this day, Mrs. Cecelia Adams (1852) "found ten graves, all in a row; all had died from the 28th of July to the 4th of August. Disease unknown."

Crossing the Sandy four times following "the worst road that could be imagined or thought of", Amelia Knight (1853) noted the presence of "a great deal of laurel. . .which will poison the stock if they eat it, (there is no end to the wagons, buggys ox yokes, chains, etc. that are lying all along this road some splendid good wagons just left standing, perhaps with the owners name on them; and many are the poor horses and mules, oxen cows &c, that are lying dead in these mountains. . ."


September 10

On this day Reverend Edward Evans Parrish (1844) "Camped again on a small creek. Neal Gilliam says these are Columbia waters, but others say that they empty into the Bear River."

William Clayton (1847) "arrived at the river A La Perle at three o'clock and camped for the night having traveled seventeen miles. . .One of the men killed a wolf out of which we got considerable grease for the wagons."

How difficult the trail west was to traverse was strikingly described by Amelia Hadley (1853) when she noted that "this road is cut down so deep that at times the cattle and wagons are almost out of sight, with no room for the drivers except on the bank. . .and to make matters worse, there was a slow poking train ahead of us, which kept stopping every five minutes, and another behind us which kept swearing, and hurrying our folks on, and there they all were, with the poor cattle all on the strain holding back the heavy wagons on the slippery road."


September 11

Camping on Burnt River, John S. Zeiber (1851) noted "Our tent is pitched immediately on the bank. . . I have not yet looked for gold among its sands but will before we leave."

". . .there is such a perfect cloud of dust arising constantly," noted Mrs. Cecelia Adams (1852) "that it almost suffocates our cattle and is disagreeable to us, and we cannot keep anything clean."

Camping at Willow Creek, Abigail Jane Scott (1852) recounted two instances of hardship on the trail: "A man came to the creek this evening saying that he had nothing at all for his family to eat until he could purchase something: another told us (he) had walked forty five miles, and eaten nothing but a few grains of wheat and he could not find anything to eat anywhere."

Elizabeth Austin (1854) reached Fort Walla Walla, but could not get ferried over until tomorrow. We crossed the Walla Walla River 4 times before we got to the fort."

Traveling up the North Platte River Valley, William Chandless'(1855) train "had an alarm of Indians coming over the Bluffs on our side, four or five miles ahead". Facing this danger, wagons were circles, arms and ammunition was distributed as the emigrants prepared to defend themselves, though Chandless himself somewhat cynically "offered to bet that our men caused more casualties among us than among the Indians, or than the Indians among us". However, "After waiting the best part of an hour, the supposed Sioux turned out to be a troop of cavalry scouring the country; so much for a cheap telescope."


September 12

"To-day we passed over the divide between the waters of Bear River and those of Lewis (Snake) River" noted Reverend Edward Evans Parrish (1844). "We are now drinking not only western water, but the waters of Columbia or Lewis River. The western waters are better than the eastern waters, so far. How they will be when we get clear of the mountains we know not."

Reporting that "One of our oxen died", Elizabeth Dixon Smith (1847) also noted that "The Indians along Snake River go naked except an old rag tied about their hips. They have few horses; no blankets. The immigrants trade them old cloths for fish, which were dead no doubt when they were caught."

Celinda E. Hines (1853) "Crossed the river (Umatilla), the struck over to a creek ten miles. . . Saw at the river a house, The Indian Agency. The first building which looked like civilization since Laramie. . .A lady came to camp whose husband has died since they started on the plains."


September 13

The day he left Willow Creek, John T. Kerns (1852) expressed considerable displeasure with the country: ". . .methinks if this be Oregon, it is not the place I started for; and I will not be in Oregon long either. . .The Creator must have intended an abundance of wickedness in the world, and all such country as this for a refuge to those who could not bear the countenance of honest men."

The day before reaching the John Day River, Abigail Jane Scott (1852) had a happy surprise. ". . .we met our cousin Mr. J.L. Johnson from Oregon He was returning to meet us, and his then unexpected appearance, thrilled each kindred heart with joy."

Stopping "at the first farm to noon", Amelia Knight's party (1853) found the asking price for beef, butter, eggs and onions "too dear for poor folks so we have treated ourselves to some small turnips at the rate of 25 cts. per dozen." She then recorded a significant fact: "We may now call ourselves through, they say; and here we are in Oregon. . ."


September 14

Reverend E.E. Parrish (1844) described the valley of the Lewis River in the vicinity of American Falls as "decidedly the best range for cattle that I have seen in the country. There is plenty of grass for great quantities of cattle, winter and summer."

". . .camped on the banks of a tributary to Burnt River," John S. Zeiber (1851) reported that "This morning Mr. Slough and six other young men left us to walk as far as Walla Walla or to The Dalles of the Columbia."

The day before reaching the John Day River, Mrs. Cornelia A. Sharp (1852) recorded the fact that "The greater part of us sick, and owing to darkness we were unable to obtain anything for fire but green cedar, which would not burn, consequently we crept into bed supperless."


September 15

Elizabeth Wood (1851) "passed a tastefully built frame house, the first we have seen. Mount St. Elias is in the distance, and is covered with snow, so you can imagine somewhat the beauty and grandeur of the scene. . . .While we are getting supper tonight a squaw is near us engaged in picking vermin off from her papoose's head, and eating them, and while she is engaged in this dainty repast, I will repair to my tent and write to friends at home and far away."

Driving up a long hill, Mrs. Cecelia Adams (1852) "got a grand view of the Boise river valley." Many Indians were present, and "They will trade a very good pony for a good rifle or a coat. Our company traded two guns for two ponies."

Leaving the John Day River, John T. Kerns (1852) reported that "Mounts Hood and St. Helens look as though ten miles' travel would bring a person to them, but are about eighty miles off yet."

". . .about 4 oclock this evening we reached the Columbis River and camped on its banks" according to Abigail Jane Scott's father (1852). "several of our cattle got stuck fact in the quick sand," he added "and it was with difficulty we could get them out."


September 16

Elizabeth Dixon Smith's train (1847) found "Good grass by driving up the stream a mile or so where two cattle were shot with arrows by Indians, but not mortally wounded."

Indians met during the day later came to the camp of John S. Zeiber (1851) with fish for trade. Invited to stay for supper, "they took off their hats and caps and in their language asked a blessing, at least such it was supposed to be. . .At about 9 o'clock they sang a hymn and prayed in their language."

On this day, John T. Kerns (1852) "reached the Columbia river" and camped for the night at "the ferry on Deschutes or Fall River".

September 17

Martha S. Read (1852) "Found a tremendous rough road. Lydia and I have nearly like to have died, it hurt us so to ride. Saw 20 dead cattle to day. It looks like misery along here. The cattle are a dying off and people are getting out of provision and a great many sick and some are dying."

Ferrying the Deschutes River, John T. Kerns (1852) reported that "The opposite side of the Columbia presents a country more mountainous than on this (south) side, but destitute of timber."

"We this morning sent two of the wagons by the way of the Dalles to be sent to Oregon City by water" wrote Abigail Jane Scott (1852), adding that "Mr. Stevenson also left us at this place in order to go down the river, as he has been a long time sick and was too weak to think of crossing the mountains."

O.H. O'Neil (1857), a member of the South Pass & Honey Lake Wagon Road Expedition, was much impressed by Devil's Gate. "It is difficult to imagine a more sublime scene that is here presented" he wrote, "The stream foaming through the chasm and over the numerous fragments of granite. The towering cliffs and the surrounding solitude all are calculated to produce a feeling of awe. Certainly many of the scenes to visit which men cross the ocean to Europe are far inferior to this. . .At a short distance in the valley beyond the Gate stands a deserted Mormon station, which has been abandoned but a short time before our arrival. It is simular in appearance to the trading post at the bridge [Upper Platte]."


September 18

". . .encamped near the Dalles, or Long Narrows of the Columbia river" John T. Kerns (1852) described them as "quite a curiosity, the whole of the Columbia river runs through a channel of some twenty or thirty yards in width for about one-fourth of a mile, but how deep, the Lord only knows."

Because her father agreed to care of four horses for the remainder of the journey to Oregon City, Abigail Jane Scott (1852) once again had "the privilege to ride on horseback; a privilege which I have not enjoyed but little since our Sukey got drowned in Snake river. . ."

Before her party forded the "De Shoots near its mouth", Celinda E. Hines (1853) had a surprise when "we very unexpectedly met Uncle Joseph Hines, who was sent out as a missionary after we left N.Y. . . . We were almost overjoyed at so unexpected a meeting. Uncle J. piloted us across the river. (An Indian had just done the same for him.)"

Mary Louisa Black (1865) reported that "John was quite sick when we stoped. Took Opium & slept all evening Emaline and 2 of her children on the sick list I have my hands full with sickness & stubbornness. I am almost at a loss to know what to do but resolve to do my duty."


September 19

On this day, John S. Zeiber (1851) "Started late for the Blue Mountains."

On this Sunday, Mrs. Cornelia A. Sharp's train (1852) traveled some fifteen miles, which brought us to the Columbia, where we camped. The road was good."

Laying over as The Dalles, John T. Kerns' party (1852) decided to split up, with "Father, Thomas James and the women, to take the goods" and proceed by water, "while James McCoy, Samuel and myself take the team, cattle and horses over the mountain."


September 20

Passing "through several narrow avenues (canyons) where the mountains closed in on both sides," Jesse Harritt (1845) was "compelled to follow down the channel of the Sandy for several hundred yards in water up to our wagon beds, continued to follow its meanders, crossing its channel a number of times. . ."

Crossing the river at Fort Boise, Mrs. Cecelia Adams (1852) reported that "A great many had depended on getting provisions here, but failed entirely of getting anything except fish. . .some families are already entirely out of bread, and many more will be in the course of one or two weeks. We had enough to last us through, but we shall have to divide, if necessary."

Advised by her uncle not "to cross the Cascades" but rather to go down the Columbia from The Dalles, Celinda E. Hines' party (1853) left their baggage for later shipment and "repaired on board the steamboat, Allan, which was already crowded with passengers." This "poor apology for a boat. . .is the only steamboat which plies between The Dalles and the Cascades. It was brought here last spring from the Sacramento, being the first steamboat which ever run on that river. Were about seven hours running down (50 miles). The scenery was very romantic indeed. . .This river is not so wide as the Ohio, but much deeper, and unlike that river, the waters of the Columbia are clear and pure."


September 21

Fourteen men left the train of Mrs. Cecelia Adams (1852) "to pack their way through to The Dalles. . .They expect to make the trip - 300 miles - in ten days, while it will probably take our teams, in their present condition, at least twenty days, and perhaps more."

In similar fashion, one Mr. Davis (1852) recorded in his diary the fact that "a party of fourteen of us with three horses started on with packs. . .camped on Malheur River."


September 22

Approaching Salmon Falls on "the Snake or Lewis River", Reverend Edward Evans Parrish (1844) reported that "as little Rebecca was trying to get on or off the wagon, she slipped and fell, the wagon wheel rolling over and breaking her thigh. A sad accident for her and us all. Glad, however, that it is no worse."

According to John S. Zeiber (1851) "This day we left the Blue Mountains and really they proved the pleasantest part of our journey."

Also in the Blue Mountains, Martha S. Read's party (1852) "Started in the morning without our breakfast, went about 3 miles to water, stopt and got breakfast and then went on. . .Saw 3 graves and 9 dead cattle. . .Lydia and I (are) not able to walk."

How much of a problem were river crossings? Elizabeth Austin (1854) provides a partial answer. On this day her train "traveled. . .up the Naches River & crossed it 14 times. . ." [This train crossed the same river eleven more times on September 23, and on September 24, another thirty-two times]


September 23

At a trading post on the Umatillah River, John S. Zeiber (1851) learned that "the Nez Perce had sent a war party among the Black Feet, and the party was very successful, having secured 32 scalps and lost only 4 of their number. The scalps were in an Indian lodge at the trading post. . ."

On the Umatilla River, Martha S. Read (1852) noted "the first timber we have seen since we left the Platte River of any account." She also reported seeing "a large Indian town. We counted 4 or 500 ponies."


September 24

"It rained in the night and the temporary tent which Uncle H. had put up leaked and we became very wet" wrote Celinda E. Hines (1853), though "Not many of our things were wet but the bedding. Called at one of the stores and the merchant gave us some peaches which were truly a rarity, as we have been deprived of fruit all summer."`


September 25

"Made an early start" wrote Jesse Harritt (1845) in his diary, "traveled six miles and encamped on Chutes or Fall River; this river is the most singular in its character of any we have seen; it washes the eastern margin of the Cascade Mountains and flows with a rapid current through a deep avenue (canyon) or rock, having a channel of from twenty to thirty yards wide, and is from three to four hundred feet below the level plain."

Stopping at the Indian Agency on the Umatillah River, John S. Zeiber (1851) reported that the agent, one Mr. Wampole, had "a large new frame house, which was at this time unfinished within. . .Most of the materials with which this house has been built were brought from the late Dr. Whitman's station."

John T. Kerns (1852) "Got up our teams early, passed Barlow's toll gate, paying him five dollars to travel his road over the mountains."[The Barlow Road had been laid out in 1845 as a means of completing the journey to the Willamette Valley by land instead of having to proceed by water west of The Dalles]


September 26

Nooning on "the branch of the Hot or Boiling Spring," Reverend Edward Evans Parrish (1844) described it as "one of the curiosities of nature. The water boils out of the ground in five or more places boiling hot and makes a branch large enough to run an overshot mill."

Two days after leaving the Snake River and crossing to Burnt River, Mrs. Cecelia Adams' (1852) train "Crossed the river five times in about six miles." [The next day she noted that they had crossed that river nine times in all]

On this day, Rachel Taylor (1853) "Came to the Junction of the California and Oregon roads and are now fairly out upon the desert."


September 27

"R. Vincent and James Miner left us this morning to go afoot to The Dalles" reported John S. Zeiber (1851).

Rachel Taylor (1853) reported that the water at Rabbit Hole Springs was "plenty but poor."

Elizabeth Austin (1854) reported that "Mr. Judson's wagon turned over, coming down a very bad hill. . .Dick upset his wagon twice coming down the same hill. We crossed Green Water several times in the afternoon; camped in the road;no feed but brouse for the cattle."


September 28

"This morning we met some traders from Oregon, buying lame cattle," Mrs. Cecelia Adams (1852) noted in her diary.

On this day Abigail Jane Scott (1852) "traveled eight miles when we reached the far famed Oregon city we found it to be a long, narrow town situated in a kanyon, on the Willamette river; It is half as large as Pekin Ills but is a hard looking place."

Stopping for breakfast at Black Rock Springs, Rachel Taylor (1853) noted that the "water in the spring is boiling hot, but below some distance it gets cool enough for cattle to drink."

This day Mary Louisa Black (1865) nooned "at the entrance into the Mt. called Barlow's gate they talk of making a short drive into the Mt. I am not well."


September 29

In his diary, Mr. Davis (1852) noted that his party "lost our ponies-either strayed or stolen; hunted during A.M.; did not find them; came five miles to river (Umatilla River) and cooked; divided our provisions. . ."

Rachel Taylor (1853) "counted the smokes from 22 hot springs all within the distance of half a mile." [This train crossed the Klamath River in southern Oregon on October 22 and on October 27 were "through our long tedious trip, safe and sound."]

According to Mary Louisa Black (1865), when her train camped for the night one "Rosenberger . . .made his fire against a very tall pine which stood near his wagons. . .will raised the alarm that the tree was windshaken and rapidly burning down." The wagons were backed up the hill, the the burning tree was cut down. Unfortunately, it "fell square across the road, which had to be cut off and drawn to one side by oxen this morning which detained us considerable."


September 30

Starting early, John S. Zeiber's party (1851) came to a spring in eight and a half miles which afforded "water for cooking but not enough to water many cattle, and we were obliged to drive on to John Day River before we could get water for the cattle."

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