August 2010 Time Capsule: On the Move

August 2010 Time Capsule: On the Move

Our ancestors in their own words. In this issue: a pioneer diary.

May 8, 1852
We have come about 12 miles and were obliged to camp in the open prairie without any wood[.] Mary and myself collected some dry weeds and grass and made a little fire and cooked some meat and the last of our supply of eggs with these and some hard bread with water we made our supper.
 
May 9, 1852
We passed a new made grave today…a man from Ohio[.] We also met a man that was going back[.] He had buried his Wife this morning[.] She died from the effects of measles[.] We have come ten miles today encamped on a small stream called Vermillion creek[.] Wood and water plenty[.] Their [sic] are as many as fifty wagon on this stream and some thousand head of stock[.] It looks like a village the tents and wagons extend as much as a mile.
 
Lydia Allen Rudd kept a diary during her family’s trek from Missouri to Oregon. She and her husband, Harry, had no children, but traveled with friends known only in the diary as Mary and Henry. Like many women documenting their westward migration, Lydia kept track of the distance the group traveled each day, their food supply, places they camped for the night, the weather, the number of graves they passed, their barters with Indians, and illnesses such as mountain fever, dysentery, measles and cholera.
 
Lydia’s diary is transcribed in Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel (Schocken Books); you’ll also find it online.
 
If you have a pioneer ancestor you suspect kept a journal, begin by looking for published transcriptions in books similar to this one. For unpublished diaries, check local historical societies and state archives where the ancestor lived, the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections and the links at American Women’s History: A Research Guide, Archives and Manuscript Collections.
 
From the July 2010 Family Tree Magazine

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