I mentioned in yesterday’s post that the pioneer era is one of my favorite eras of history to learn about. Maybe it comes from my childhood love of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” book series.
So I especially appreciated the second part of last night’s “Who Do You Think You Are?“, when Kelsey Grammer drove to Baker City in eastern Oregon to walk in ruts left by thousands of covered wagons crossing the high desert on their way to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s fascinating to me that the ruts are still there.
Grammer’s third-great-grandparents Joseph and Comfort Dimmick, along with their many children and other relatives, followed the trail from their homes in the Midwest to land near Salem, Oregon, that they received under the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850.
Grammer read from a pioneer diary the Dimmicks’ nephew kept during the journey. It described how the oldest Dimmick son drank contaminated water from a creek and died of cholera, one of the most common diseases trail migrants suffered. He was buried alone along the trail.
There’s no single comprehensive list of westward pioneers. WDYTYA historians were tipped off to Grammer’s pioneer ancestry because of the time period and birthplaces in census records: A family that lived in Oregon before railways reached the area had parents and older children born in the Midwest.
Do you have pioneer roots? Here are some resources for tracing them, from Family Tree Magazine‘s guide 7 Tips for Researching Pioneer Heritage:
- The Oregon-California Trails Association Paper Trail site indexes names from more than 3,500 documents about the Oregon and California Trails. Search for a name for free; subscribe for access to more information.
- Brigham Young University’s free Trails of Hope: Overland Diaries and Letters, 1846