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[Detail] Emigrants Crossing the Plains. 1869.

Historical Comprehension

wagon train

Crossing the Plains in 1853, p. 20 The Lure of the Past, the Present and Future, George W. Bryan, 1911

Students can investigate the travel narratives in the collection for their compelling expressions of human thought and emotion in the face of hardship, hope, danger and separation. These personal records also provide straightforward glimpses of the daily life and material culture of the period. Search on frontier and pioneer life to find writings which illustrate the lives of those who made the crossing. For instance:

The traveler who flies across the continent in palace cars, skirting occasionally the old emigrant road, may think that he realizes the trials of such a journey. Nothing but actual experience will give one an idea of the plodding, unvarying monotony, the vexations, the exhaustive energy, the throbs of hope, the depths of despair, through which we lived. Day after day, week after week, we went through the same weary routine of breaking camp at daybreak, yoking the oxen, cooking our meagre rations over a fire of sage-brush and scrub-oak; packing up again, coffeepot and camp-kettle; washing our scanty wardrobe in the little streams we crossed; striking camp again at sunset, or later if wood and water were scarce.

Luzena Stanley Wilson, '49er; Memories Recalled Years Later for Her Daughter Correnah Wilson Wright, Chapter I, p. 3

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