Diaries, Memoirs, Letters and Reports
Along The Trails West


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DECIPHERING OLD HANDWRITING
Not only have our words and their meanings changed throughout the years, the way we form the letters have too.

HOW TO SPEAK 19TH CENTURY
Just in case you're reading along and find a word that you can't figure out

INDIVIDUAL DIARIES, JOURNALS, LETTERS AND RECOLLECTIONS
  • Arthur, David: Across the Plains in 1843: Emigrant Wagons Roll Westward; The Historical Gazette

  • Ashley, William H: The Diary of William H Ashley: March 25 - June 27, 1825 Ashley owned a fur trading company based in Saint Louis, Missouri. This detailed diary describes the journey from the Platte River to the Green River and the division of the trapping party there. It also details Ashley's trip down the Green River in bullboats, and ends just a few days before Ashley's parties met on the Henry's Fork for the first Rocky Mountain Rendezvous. It contains lists of supplies, compass courses, and names of animals in the Ute language.

  • Bailhache, John: Notes from the diary of John Bailhache Listed on this site are the named members of his party, people he met, and graves he saw along the way.

  • Ball, John: Across The Plains to Oregon, 1832 The Autobiography of John Ball, a member of Nathaniel Wyeth's 1832 expedition to the pacific northwest. Included are accounts of Sublette's expedition to the Pierre's Hole Rendezvous and the battle with the Blackfeet that occurred there.

  • Barnes, Demas: From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Overland A series of letters written by Demas Barnes while traveling via the Overland Stage, 1865.

  • Becknell, William: The Diary of William Becknell Two expeditions from Boon's Lick to Santa Fe in 1823.

  • Becknell, William: The Letters of William Becknell regarding the early Southwestern trade in 1824

  • Bidwell, John: Life in California Before the Gold Discovery Written be John Bidwell, a Pioneer in 1841

  • Bigler, Henry W: The Diary of Henry W Bigler in 1847 to 1848 Henry Bigler was one of the laborers employed on Sutter and Marshall's sawmill in January, 1848, when gold was discovered there

  • Blinn, Richard: Richard Blinn's Diary Along the Santa Fe Trail via the Ft. Hayes/Ft. Dodge Road in 1868

  • Bonniwell, George: The Gold Rush Diary of George Bonniwell

  • Boone, Daniel: The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon, Formerly A Hunter Daniel Boone's Adventures is a first-person narrative and appears as he actually wrote it, using the grammar and syntax current in America in the 1700s.

  • Boyle, Charles E: The Gold Rush Diary of Charles E Boyle This is the diary of Dr. Charles E. Boyle, a Columbus physician who was one of 60 adventurers who left Columbus on April 2, 1849, to seek their fortune in the California gold rush.

  • Brackenridge, Henry Marie: Journal Of a Voyage Up The Missouri River, In 1811 The Diary of Henry Marie Brackenridge, who ascended the Missouri River in 1811 in the company of a party of the Missouri Fur Company, led by Manuel Lisa.

  • Bradbury, John: Travels In The Interior of America The Diary of John Bradbury of London, traveling in the years 1809, 1810 and 1811. Travel up the Missouri, interactions with the Indians, descriptions of flora and fauna, first published in 1819

  • Bradshaw, Elizabeth Simpson: Elizabeth Simpson Bradshaw A widow, with five children, the youngest only 6 years of age, walked across the American prairie pushing all her family possessions in a handmade, wooden handcart. This account is told by her grand-daughter Sarah Astle Call.

  • Brantner, Jonas: The Brantner/Smith Party Diary Along the Smoky Hill Trail

  • Breen, Patrick: The Diary of Patrick Breen of the Donner Party

  • Bristow, Elijah: Elijah Bristow: The first white settler in Lane County, Oregon

  • Brookmire, James Gordon: A Wheelbarrow Emigrant of 1850 Brookmire became one of the first handcart emigrants of record. Whether this was an example of the canny Scot in action, or because he lacked funds for a wagon and draft animals, Brookmire steps into the pages of history as the first handcart emigrant to be identified by name

  • Bryant, Edwin: What I Saw in California The complete detailed diary of Edwin Bryant who traveled over the Rocky Mountains to California in 1846.

  • Bushnell, George Edwin: Trip Across the Plains in 1864 George Bushnell and family traveled from Missouri to California following the Overland Trail through Colorado and Wyoming. He was the father of William Addison Bushnell whose Civil War diary follows.

  • Bushnell, James Addison: Autobiography In the spring of 1852 James Addison Bushnell, brother of George Edwin, left his young wife and baby son in Illinois to cross the plains to Oregon. He traveled on to California to seek his fortune in the gold fields. He did fairly well and wrote to his wife and mother to come to Oregon. When he hadn't heard from them he headed back East. When he reached Illinois, he learned that his wife, his infant son Charles Alvah, his mother, sister and brothers were already on the trail to Oregon. She and her family were on The Lost Wagon Train of 1853.

  • Bushnell, William Addison: Civil War Soldier The 1864 daily diary of Corporal Bushnell, Co. K, 2nd Infantry, California Volunteer. Stationed at the Presidio, San Francisco, traveled to Fort Goodwin, Arizona Territory, over much of the old Butterfield Trail. Diary covers from 1864-1866. This realistic look at military life on the frontier, in an era when half the enlisted men were illiterate, William Bushnell brings an educated humor to an otherwise bleak existence. His poetry and prose accounts, certainly the exception to an enlisted soldier’s view of his daily life, show a sensitivity and optimism in what must have been unbearable conditions.

  • Campbell, David: A Pioneer of 1846 This is a portion of the account of the David Campbell family migration to and experiences in California

  • Campbell, Julia & W.J. Memoranda or Travel From Iowa to Oregon, 1864 Even though this couple started for Oregon in late May, 1864, they didn't get to The Dalles until early December, traveling through rain, cold and snow.

  • Campbell, Robert: The Rocky Mountain Letters of Robert Campbell These letters to Campbell's family, were written from the fur trapping regions of the Rocky Mountains from 1832 to 1836

  • Carvalho, S. N:Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West With Col. Fremont's Last Expedition Across the Rocky Mountains; including three months' residence in Utah, and a perilous trip across the Great American Desert to the Pacific. Written by S. Carvalho, the artist of the Expedition

  • Catlin, George: Letters and Notes This extensive collection of letters written by George Catlin detail the manners, customs and conditions of the North American Indians, particularily the Blackfeet, life among the Mandans, The Sioux, and the Comanche. These letters were first published in London in 1844

  • Chambers, Lamech: Diary of Lamech Chambers In the spring of 1860 Lamech Chambers joined the Green and John Russell party on a gold prospecting expedition to the Rocky Mountains and present day Denver, CO.

  • Clappe, Louise Amelia Knapp Smith: The Shirley Letters From California Mines in 1851-52 written by Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe under the pseudonym of "Dame Shirley" to her sister in Massachusettes.

  • Clinkinbeard, Philura Vanderburg: Across the Plains in '64 by Prairie Schooner to Oregon transcribed by Anna Dell Clinkinbeard. The story of her g-g-grandmother's family crossing the plains in a covered wagon in 1864.

  • Clyman, James: Narrative: James Clyman "A short detail of life and incidents of my trip in & through the Rockey Mountains in the years 1824-25, 26, 27, 28 and a portion of 1829"

  • Coffey, Alvin A: A Black Pioneer Alvin A Coffee, a Negro pioneer, wrote this diary in his own words. He played a vital role in an eventful ox-team journey across the plains a hundred years ago.

  • Cole, Gilbert L: In The Early Days Along the Overland Trail, Nebraska Territory, 1852 Recollections of a wagon train journey from Monroe, Michigan to California along the Oregon Trail.

  • Colt, Miriam Davis: Went to Kansas Being a Thrilling Account of an Ill-Fated Expedition to That Fairy Land, and its Sad Results.

  • Constant, Isaac: Isaac Constant About 25 wagons made up the Isaac Constant Train in 1852 traveling the Oregon Trail to Fort Hall, then westerly along the Valley of the Humboldt to the Rogue River Valley in southern Oregon. These memoirs were told in part by his daughter Lavinia Jane (Constant) Robinson to her son Thomas Maury Robinson.

  • Coon, James Madison: The Coon Oregon Trail Diary The Diary of James Madison Coon and Nancy Iness (Miller) Coon on the Oregon Trail from Mercer County, Illinois to Clackamas County, Oregon in 1847

  • Craig, William: Early recollections of William Craig Written by Thomas J. Beall, William Craig was a sub-Indian agent for the Nez Perce Indians in 1857, and a Rocky Mountain Fur Trapper

  • Crooks, Ramsay: Who Discovered the South Pass? The Detroit Advertiser having asserted that Colonel John Fremont was the discoverer of the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains, a correspondent of the Detroit Free Press denies the truth of statement and the editor of that journal publishes this letter from Ramsay Crooks, Esq., of New York in June 1856. He writes in part: "But even if the Colonel had discovered the 'South Pass,' it does not show any more fitness for the exalted station he covets than the numerous beaver hunters and traders who passed and re-passed through that noted place full twenty years before Col. Fremont had attained a legal right to vote, and were fully his equals in enterprise, energy, and indomitable perseverance, with this somewhat important difference, that he was backed by the United States treasury, while other explorers had to rely on their own resources. "

  • Darnell, William The Reminiscences of William Darnell From the Kansas State Historical Society.

  • Donner Relief: The Donner Relief Party Diary : (1846-1847)

  • Duniway, Abigail Scott: "Journal of a Trip to Oregon" Abigail Scott Duniway,an Oregon and Pacific Northwest leader in the suffrage movement for 41 years, traveled to Oregon in 1852. She first met her husband, Benjamin Charles Duniway, near the end of the Oregon Trail, when he came out from the Willamette Valley to help his father and family who also migrated in 1852. Abigail Duniway became a teacher, farmer's wife, poet, novelist, milliner, newspaper editor and lecturer. Her husband's support and that of her children were essential in the long fight for women's property and voting rights. It began with the publication of her newspaper,The New Northwest in Portland, 1871-1886.

  • Durgin, Millie: Millie Durgin Another Indian Captive of the Elm Creek Massacre... or was she? Read about the controversy.

  • Dye, Thomas and Zacharia: From Clark County, Missouri to Meigs County, Ohio : 1861 Dr. Thomas Dye and his brother Zacharia, living in Missouri decided to return to Ohio in 1862. Why is unknown, but events of the Civil War probably played a major role in that decision. It is known that they traveled in a covered wagon.

  • Ebbutt, Percy G: Emigrant Life in Kansas This account of Kansas emigrant life in the 1870's was written by a young man who had returned to his home in England and was writing his account for a British audience. Consequently, he describes and explains many things that were so familiar to an American of the time that they are rarely mentioned in American books written for Americans.

  • Elgin, James Henry: Over the Plains 50 Years Ago written by James Elgin in 1902 for the Oregonian. James was 18 when he traveled west in 1852 with his parents and siblings.

  • Emmons, Samatha Jane: Samantha Jane Emmons Dillard's Story Posted by her Great Grandson John Christopher Stone. Samantha traveled from Mercer County, Illinois to Oregon in 1866.

  • Engelson, Charles: The letters of Harold Charles Engelson From Minnesota to Valdez and the Klondike, 1897 following the gold trail

  • Ferris, Warren Angus: Life in the Rocky Mountains "A Diary of Wanderings on the sources of the Rivers Missouri, Columbia, and Colorado from February, 1830, to November, 1835 By W. A. Ferris then in the employ of the American Fur Company"

  • Finley, Newton G: Memoirs of Travel From Saline County, Missouri, to San Jose, California in 1852. Written by Newton G. Finley about his trip west with a group of 44 others

  • Ford, Neneveh: "The Pioneer Road Builders" A narrative by Nineveh Ford, a pioneer traveling with Marcus Whitman to Oregon in 1843. This is the website of Cecil Houk who is the great great grandson of Neneveh Ford. Visit Cecil's Website for lots of Historical and Geneological information

  • Freeland, Benjamin: Letter from Benjamin Freeland to his brother Calapooya Postoffice, Oregon Territory, Feb 3rd, 1854

  • Fremont, John Charles: Selected text from: Fremont's Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-'44

  • Garland, Hamlin: The Trail Of The Goldseekers: A record of travel to the Klondike in prose and verse, by Hamlin Garland; published in 1899

  • Gallego, Don Pedro Ignacio: The Diary of Don Pedro Ignacio Gallego Four hundred Soldiers under the command of Captain Don Pedro Ignacio Gallego, Militia Urbana of New Mexico, following the trail of Comanche Indians discovers William Becknell and his Company on his First Trip across the Plains to Santa Fe in 1821

  • Garrison, Henry: Reminiscences of A. H. Garrison His Early life, Across the Plains And Of Oregon from 1846 to 1903

  • Geer, Calvin: My Trip to Oregon The account of a trip across the plains and mountains from Illinois to Oregon in the spring and summer and early autumn of the year 1847, when the Geers came to Oregon. Calvin Geer wrote these memories at the age of 87. He was a boy of ten when his family crossed the plains.

  • Gibson, John McTurk: Journal of Western Travel A diary by John McTurk Gibson, traveled on the Oregon-California Trails in 1859 during the Pike's Peak gold rush. A companion of Gibson's, John. W. Powell, also recorded his experiences on the trip. Both accounts are provided here, in their entirety, along with maps, photos, links and other information for the enjoyment of others with an interest in trail history. This great web site is published by Gibson's g-g-grandson, Weldon Hoppe.

  • Greeley, Horace: An Overland Journey Horace Greeley's Diary written in 1860. A bit difficult to read this scanned in version... but try it!

  • Hall, Lucy Jane: Reminiscences of a Trip Across the Plains in '45 Lucy Hall's father, Lawrence Hall, was elected captain of the train which started out with thirty wagons and about fifty men.

  • Hamerick, George R: The Overland Trail Journal of An American Emigrant and His Family: An excellent site of an account, copied word for word from notes made during the journey, of travel by wagon train from Missouri to California in 1863, by George R. Hamerick. This site is put together by his g-g-grandniece, Jill O'Neall Ching. Includes monthly links of the exact daily entries in the journal, also links to the major events occurring during the journey, places traveled are listed in chronological order and even the names contained in George's journal are indexed separately.

  • Hand, Sergeant George: Marching Up The Gila River Excerpts from Union Sergeant George Hand's Diary of Military Service in the Southwest, 1861 - 1864. Mr. Hand's diary reveals the abundance of wildlife this desert riparian area used to support.

  • Hastings, Lansford W: The Emigrants' Guide to Oregon and California From the Preface by the author in 1846: "Sincerely hoping that the following pages may prove useful to all those who contemplate emigrating to Oregon or California..."

  • Helman, Abels: Diary of A Journey from Oregon Territory to Ohio in 1858 Here's an interesting diary of a journey from west to east via Panama

  • Hill, Hank Neville: The Lost Trail a reminiscence by Hank Neville Hill This is the story of the trip across the plains, in 1853, of Hank Neville Hill and his family.

  • Huff, William P: The Gold Rush Diary of William P Huff A journal of an overland trip from Richmond, Fort Bend County, Texas, to Mariposa in Southern California in the years 1849 and 1850.

  • Immigrant Letter: An Immigrant Letter of 1858 A letter from a Norwegian at the Fraser River Gold Rush in British Columbia to Norway.

  • Jacobson, Abraham: A Pioneer Pastor's Journey to Dakota in 1861 Abraham Jacobson came to America from Norway in 1848. This is his story of traveling to Dakota Territory.

  • James, Thomas: Three Years Among the Indians and Mexicans This Journal tells about the adventures of Thomas James on the Upper Missouri in 1809 with the Missouri Fur Company, and his later adventures as one of the first American traders in Santa Fe and with the Comanche Indians.

  • Johnson, Joel Hills: The Journal of Joel Hills Johnson A Mormon pioneer. A lengthy journal transcribed by Bertha McGee (Joel's great granddaughter), and her family

  • Jordan, Aurelia Paez: "The Diary of a Pioneer Woman" in three parts from the Wyoming Companion Magazine.

  • Kermott, William: Memories of William Kermott Traveling the Santa Fe Trail as a young boy with his parents, Pioneer Missionaries

  • Leonard, Zenas: A Narrative Written by Zenas Leonard of Clearfield County Pennsylvania, this tells of the adventures of a company of 70 men, who left St. Louis in the Spring of 1831, on an expedition to the Rocky Mountains, for the purpose of trapping for Furs, and trading with the Indians. This narrative details a minute description of the incidents of the adventure, and a valuable history of this immense territory from personal observation.

  • Lewis & Clark: Journals of Lewis and Clark The complete journal, includes a "search" feature

  • Lott, Judge Charles F: As It Was in '49 An account of the journey in 1849 from the Missouri River to the Sacramento Valley.

  • Loveland, Cyrus C: California Trail Herd: The 1850 Missouri-to-California Journal of Cyrus C. Loveland. The paucity of information on the northern cattle trail to California lends the Cyrus Loveland diary in the California State Library great historical value. The Loveland account documents one of the first cattle drives to California from Missouri.

  • Lovejoy, Julia Louisa: Selected Letters from Kansas, 1855-1863 The Letters of Julia Louisa Lovejoy were written to the Independent Democrat , Concord, New Hampshire and to the Zion's Herald, Boston, Massachusetts

  • Luttig, John C: The Journal of a Fur-Trading Expedition on the Upper Missouri 1812-1813 Written by John C. Luttig who ascended the Missouri River in 1812 in a party led by Manuel Lisa. Luttig was a clerk of the Missouri Fur Company.

  • McAuley, Eliza Ann: Iowa to the Land of Gold Eliza McAuley (1835-1919) traveled from Iowa to California in 1852. She went with her brother and sister and a handful of others to meet her father in California while her mother and sister stayed behind in Iowa. Ms. McAuley is seventeen years old at the time.

  • McClain, Martha Ann Tuttle: The Reminiscences of Martha Ann Tuttle McClain Crossing the Plains in 1853: Iowa to Oregon via the Applegate Trail.

  • McCormick, William and Lavina "Pioneers of 1859" It is probable that there was never another immigrant train made up of people who were all related to one another in some way, as this train was. Among the number were Billy and Lavina, who were starting on their honeymoon.

  • McCully Family: The McCully Train in 1849 and through 1853 Although not a "diary", the authors of this web site have put together much information about the McCully Train from other first hand accounts

  • McDannald, John: Rules Of The Road Excerpts of a diary written in 1865 by John McDannald.

  • McDowell, John E: There's a Long, Long Trail Awinding... An overland diary written by John E. McDowell in 1882 during a wagon train trip from Crestline, Kansas to the Kittitas valley near Ellinsburg, Washington. Mr. McDowell is the Great-Uncle of H Marc Lewis of Spokane, WA.

  • Meek, Joe: The River of the West "Life and Adventure in the Rocky Mountains and Oregon; embracing events in the life-time of a Mountain-Man and Pioneer with the Early History of the North-Western Slope including An Account of the Fur Traders, the Indian Tribes, The Overland Immigration, the Oregon Missions, and the Tragic Fate of Rev. Dr. Whitman and Family."

  • Meek, Stephen Hall: The Autobiography of Stephen Hall Meek "When scarcely twenty years of age I became imbued with that restless spirit of adventure that has since been a marked characteristic of my life, and left my home for the then comparatively unknown West."

  • Melton, Florence Courtney: The History of a Pioneer Family Written in 1923 by Florence Courtney Melton who was about 10 years old when her family departed Iowa for Oregon in 1868.

  • Menard, Pierre: Letters by Pierre Menard Written to his brother-in-law detailing activities of the Missouri Fur Company at the Three Forks of the Missouri in the Summer of 1810

  • Miller, Hiram & James F Reed: The diary of Hiram Miller and James F. Reed The existence of the diary, covering the time from May 1846 until October 1846, was not known until the estate of Martha (Patty) Reed donated it to Sutter's Fort Historical Museum in 1945.

  • Minto, John: As Things Were in 1845 John Minto Tells of Pioneer Settlers in Oregon

  • Montgomery, C E: The Lost Journals of a Pioneer Believed to be of a Mr. Montgomery, an attorney in Sacramento, California, 1851. See also Part II

  • Munkers, Mary Elizabeth Crossing the Plains in 1846 From nearby Liberty, Missouri, in early April 1846, about fifty families prepared to make the journey to the far away Oregon Territory.

  • Newell, Robert: Memorandum of Robert Newell's Travels in the Teritory of Missourie. Besides the memorandum, Newell's notebook includes several pages of shopping lists and accounts that provide additional insight into the life of a trapper and trader in the Rocky Mountains during height of the fur trade.

  • Ogden, Peter Skene: Snake Country Journal, Peter Skene Ogden: 1825-26 A chief trader of the Hudson's Bay Company

  • Osborne, Sarah Jane: A diary written by Sarah Jane Osborne traveling from Texas to South Dakota in 1885 and put onto the web by her great-grand-daughter, Vanessa Blake who lives in England.

  • Owen, Benjamin Franklin: "My Trip Across the Plains: March 31, 1853 - October 28, 1853. Benjamin Franklin Owen was one of eight young men who was part of the group of emigrant companies later known as "The Lost Wagon Train of 1853."

  • Palmer, Harriet Scott: Crossing Over The Great Plains By Ox-Wagons Although Harriet Palmer was a young girl only 11 years old, she distinctly remembers many things connected with the trip across the plains in 1852. A well written memoir.

  • Pennebaker, William Gaines: The 1868 Diary of William Gaines Pennebaker The Pennebaker family left Peoria on April 20, 1868, to cross the plains traveling the Overland Trail route to California

  • Peoria Party: The Journey of the Peoria Party A collection of journal entries written by members of the Peoria Party in 1839

  • Pierce, Hiram Dwight: Excerpts of a letter from Hiram Dwight Pierce to his wife Sara Jane Pierce.

  • Porter, Elizabeth Lee: Elizabeth Lee Porter's Diary from Iowa to Oregon, 1864. Elizabeth and her husband traveled with 5 children ranging in age from 15 to 2. The journey took six months. After arriving in Oregon, the couple had 4 more children.

  • Porter, William: William Porter's Oregon Trail Diary, 1848 The William Porter party began their westward travel from Independence, Missouri, and arrived six months to the day later at what is now known as Aumsville, Oregon.

  • Potts, Daniel T: The Rocky Mountain Letters of Daniel Potts Dating from 1824 through 1828, these letter provide lots of information on day-to-day life of a trapper. "...I beg to be excused for my bad spelling and writing. I have more knews than I am able to communicate whereas I will give you the most important."

  • Pierce, Sara Jane: And Excerpts of a letter From Sara Jane to her husband, Hiram Dwight.

  • Read, Martha S: A History of our Journey Martha Read (1811-1891) traveled from Illinois to Oregon in 1852. She and her husband first moved from New York to Illinois, and from there to Oregon.

  • Reed, James R: The James Reed Diary A very graphic diary written in the early spring of 1847 and tells of the trip back to the Sierra Nevada site to rescue the Donner Party

  • Reed, Martha Williams: Reminiscenses of 1841

  • Ring, Eugene: A Memoir of the California Gold Rush Sketch of a three years travel in South America, California and Mexico by Eugene Ring (1827-1912)

  • Russell, Osborne: Excerpts from A Journal of a Trapper 1834-1843 From the Overland Trail Pages

  • Ross, Alexander: The Journal of Alexander Ross - Snake Country Expedition, 1824 Ross arrived on the Columbia in 1811 and assisted in the building of Fort Astoria and also Fort Okanogan

  • Russell, Osborne: A Journal of a Trapper 1834-1843 The entire text written by Osborne Russell. This is one of the most important first hand accounts of the mountain man era. In it, Russell provides a detailed narrative describing the day-to-day life of an ordinary trapper in the Rocky Mountains.

  • Ruxton, George Frederick: Wild Life in the Rocky Mountains From 1846 until his death in St. Louis at an early age, this world traveler provides a very detailed picture of life in the Rocky Moutains.

  • Sager, Catherine: Across the Plains in 1844: A diary written by Catherine Sager. Includes the Whitman Massacre.

  • Savage, Americus: Across the Plains in 1851 Portions of a diary written by the Captain of a company.

  • Sessions, Sarah Crossley: Sarah Crossley Sessions A member of the Martin Handcart Company

  • Shackelford, Ruth: The Diary of Ruth Shackelford Along the Overland Trail from Clark County Missouri to California, 1865

  • Shaw, Thomas C: Reminiscenses of 1844 Thomas C. Swaw's memoirs of his overland journey in 1844 as a member of the wagon train headed by Cornelius Gilliam.

  • Skinner, Eugene Franklin: Eugene Franklin Skinner The founder of Eugene City, Oregon

  • Smith, Azarith: Azarith Smith: 1847 - 1848 Smith was employed by John Sutter on the American River in California where he was present at the discovery of gold.

  • Smith, Jedediah Strong: The Crossing of the Great Salt Lake Desert A Diary written in 1827 by Jedediah Smith

  • Sortore, Abram: The Western Trip of Abram Sortore Keokuk Iowa to California, Via the Oregon Trail, 1850. This diary was given to me by Gilbert Sortor, a descendant of Abram Sortore.

  • Spencer, Lafayette: The 1852 overland diary of Lafayette Spencer The group with which he traveled left Van Buren County, Iowa on May 11th and reached Portland, Ore. on Oct. 26th.

  • Sprenger, Sarah Bird: Reminiscence of Sarah Sprenger, Ohio to Oregon - 1852 Sarah Bird Sprenger Fisher was a child of ten years when her family traveled west. The original narrative was written from memory in December, 1925, seventy-three years after these happenings took place.

  • Stabæk, Tosten Kittelsen: An Account of a Journey to California in 1852 Tosten Kittelsen, as he was always known, was born in Rollag, Numedal, Norway in 1830. He emigrated in 1850 to Illinois, traveling to Califonia in 1852.

  • Stewart, Elinore Pruitt: Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart, a young woman who went to Denver to seek support for herself and her two-year-old daughter

  • Sturges, William: The Journal of William Sturges This journal records the life in a late 18th century NW Coast Kaiganee Haida Indian village by a fur trapper

  • Swain, William: Letter from William Swain Written to his wife Sabrina from Fort Laramie, Wy on July 4, 1848 and also a letter written by Swain The "Diggings" in California

  • Thorn, Elizabeth Totten: Life on the Plains Elizabeth married at the early age of 15; these memoirs tell of early life in Kansas

  • Thornton, J. Quinn: 5 Months and 2000 Miles to Oregon A diary written by J. Quinn Thornton in the year 1849.

  • Thornton, William Anderson: A Military Expedition to New Mexico The Diary of William Thornton written in 1855 when Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War, sent Major Thornton to New Mexico where he served as Chief of Ordnance of the Dept. of New Mexico until 1857.

  • Thomas, John Preston: The Diary of Travel by John Preston Thomas From Wayne County, KY to Burnet County, TX in 1855

  • Tillson, Christina Holmes: A Woman's Story of Pioneer Illinois Christiana Tillson (1798-1872) traveled from Massachusetts to Illinois in 1822. Mrs. Tillson traveled to Illinois as a young bride from Massachusetts

  • Towell, Emily: Diary of Emily Towell - 1881 From Missouri to Oregon where she wrote: "There were new hopes, aspirations and ambitions as there was much work to be done. Homes must be made. At last the long journey with its hardships and heartaches was over!"

  • Townsend, John Kirk: Across the Rockies to the Columbia An account of a young ornithologist, John Kirk Townsend, published in 1838, who journeyed overland on what was to become the Oregon Trail, to the trapper's Rendezvous on Ham's Fork of the Green River; continuing west, his party established Fort Hall, near what is now Pocatello, ID. Thence onward to Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia.

  • Tucker, Edwin: The Diary of Edwin Tucker In 1857 Edwin Tucker with his father, David, and his uncle, Elijah came to Kansas from Beloit, Wisconsin, in a covered wagon and, with others, founded Eureka, Kansas. This diary was donated to the Kansas Collection by Walter Cole, great-great grandson of Edwin Tucker.

    Twain, Mark: Riding the Overland Stage, 1861 This eyewitness account is excerpted from Roughing It by Mark Twain

  • Vaughan, William Hatchette: An Emigrant of 1843 William Vaughan, or "Uncle Billy", as he was called, was obsessed with the idea of the vast frontier opening on the Pacific coast. In the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon, William was one of a party of volunteers who cut down trees to clear a wagon road through the forest.

  • Villard, Henry: The Historical Gazette The Oregon Trail In 1883: Henry Villard, the man who gave us a railroad connection with the East

  • Welch, Mary Frances Patton: Our Journey Across the Plains in 1862 This journal tells of the emigrant train of 100 persons and their perils and adventures enroute from Iowa to California, then to Oregon. The grandfather of Mary Frances, John Parham, was the captain of the train. Her baby sister Annie was born on the way.

  • Wells, Thomas C: Letters of a Kansas Pioneer, 1855-1860 Written by Thomas Wells to his family, the first one begins: "...I met James at the depot in Providence and he had found the tickets at the Express Office. I must say I had really hoped that he would not get them and that would furnish a reason for returning home, -- not that I shrink from any hardships real or imaginary which I might be called to endure in Kansas... "

  • Whitman, Narcissa: Diaries and letters on board Steamboat Siam, 1836

  • Whitman, Narcissa: The Letters and Journals of Narcissa Whitman: 1836 - 1847

  • Whitman, Narcissa: The Letters of Narcissa Whitman Letters written along the trail in 1836

  • Williams, Joseph: A Tour To The Oregon Country The diary of Joseph Williams, a 64-year old preacher, who went to Oregon in 1841, and returned to St Louis in 1842. Includes discussions of Indians, settlers, and the missionaries he met, with strong opinions throughout, along with a good description of the country, weather, and conditions along the trail and in early Oregon.

  • Wilson, Luzena Stanley: Her Memoirs as Taken Down by her Daughter in 1881. "The gold excitement spread like wildfire, even out to our log cabin in the prairie... when we talked it all over, it sounded like such a small task to go out to California, and once there fortune, of course, would come to us."

  • Wisner, Nancy Davis & Zara Judson: Recollections of Pioneer Life These recollections were written in the year of the fiftieth wedding anniversary of Nancy Davis and Zara Judson Wisner: April 27, 1900. From the writings: "We moved to Kansas in the spring of 1857. We were the first ones to settle on the prairie, so they called us "those folks on the prairie." There were plenty of Indians. "

  • Work, John: Known Journals of John Work Written by a trader of the Hudson's Bay Company from 1823 through 1851, these journals provide a wealth of information about the Pacific Northwest. It is of interest to recall that the year 1830 found in the camps of the American trappers in the Snake country some of the "mountain men" who afterward took an active part in the early government of Oregon, namely, Joseph L. Meek, Doc. Robert Newell, Joseph Gale and others.

  • Wriston, Jennie Atcheson: A Pioneer's Odyssey Jennie Wriston traveled from Missouri to Colorado in 1873. In this memoir, written so her grandchildren would have her stories, Mrs. Wriston has linked dozens of vignettes to a chronological progression. In her Forward, she mourns the loss of the buffalo, antelope, Indians, and "hardy pioneers" as the "history makers of the Great West."

  • Wyeth, John B: Oregon: A Short History of a Long Journey Written by John B. Wyeth who went West in 1832 with the expedition to Oregon led by his cousin, Nathaniel J. Wyeth. After many misadventures, they made it to the Rendezvous in Pierre's Hole that summer. There, about half of the party quit the expedition and returned to Boston. John B. Wyeth was one of that number, and shortly after returning, he published this book relating his perspective of the expedition, his grievances with his cousin, and his opinion of the crazy notion of trying to settle Oregon in the first place.

  • Wyeth, Nathaniel J: Journal of Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth's Expeditions to the Oregon Country This journal is of the First Expedition in 1832.

  • DIARY COLLECTIONS
  • Civil War Collection Diaries, Letters, and Recollections.
  • Diaries, Narratives, and Letters of the Mountain Men These documents are accounts of the Rocky Mountain fur trade during the first half of the 19th century. Most of these are either primary or secondary historical sources.
  • The Foremothers Tell of Olden Times Diaries from the Gold Rush Pioneer Women
  • Historical Diaries A good collection of Women's Diaries and Civil War journals... also more modern diaries
  • The Iowa Civil War Site Letters, Journals, Diaries, Oral Accounts and Historical information from the Civil War
  • Letters, Diaries, Memoirs, Reminiscences and other writings from the Kansas Collection
  • Library of Fur Trade Historical Source Documents Diaries, Narratives, and Letters of the Mountain Men
  • The Merrill Mattes Research Library and Archives Over 2,000 trail diaries, letters and first person recollections comprise the nucleus of this library. The focus of the library is the trans-Mississippi West from 1800 to 1880.
  • Pioneer Diaries and Emigrant Biographies from the End of the Oregon Trail Intrepretive Center.
  • Spotlight of the Month July, 2001 Spotlight of the Month The Trails Project: Wyoming and Idaho Journal Entries by Location This wonderful collection of Diary Quotes, organized by location and by date for Wyoming and Idaho, were taken from a 1979 cultural resource study of the Oregon Trail from Ft. Casper to Ft. Hall. The study was produced under contract by the Idaho State Historical Society for the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management. Entries include many for Independence Rock, Wyoming, considered an important landmark and should have been reached by July 4th by the pioneer immigrants along the Oregon Trail.

  • Women's Archives The Special Collections Library at Duke University has diaries of the Women's Liberation Movement, African American Women, and Civil War Women.

    OCTAs On-Line Bookstore OCTA has one of the most comprehensive bookstores for trail literature, including Emigrant Diaries. OCTA members get a 10% discount off all book orders.


  • Links to Other Personalities Along the Trails West
  • Links to Trails West and Lots of Information about the Westward Movement


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    I hope that you enjoy searching through these diaries, as I've spent considerable time collecting them. If you find other information on the web or elsewhere that might be appropriate for this page, please let me know! I'm particularily interested in finding other emigrant diaries and journals or other records of the westward movement.

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