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 A family of emigrants entering the South Loup Valley

[Detail] A family of emigrants entering the South Loup Valley

Narrative One

Excerpted from: American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
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My parents, who crossed the plains to Oregon in 1853, were originally from Kentucky. They then had five children, of which one was my sister Miranda. She was a very beautiful girl, quite young, I think not more than fifteen. I remember hearing them tell (There were twelve of us and I was one of the younger ones -- born in Oregon) of an outstanding incident of their trip, in the Snake river country.

The Indians, while not yet utterly hostile, were not very friendly, with tactics that harassed and worried the emigrants considerably. Every once in a while a bunch of mounted braves would bear down upon the train and demand tribute of anything that took their fancy. It seemed my father had a specially good knife of the hunting or skinning variety. He had this knife in his hands, doing something with it, when one of the Indians, a chief, or at least the leader of his gang, reached down and snatched it out of his hands. Of course there was nothing the white men could do under such circumstances, but, as the saying now is, grin and take it. In that case, however, it was the Indian who took.

Then the Indians caught a glimpse of this pretty sister of mine. They decided they wanted her too. They offered to buy her, however, and it took a lot of diplomacy and tact to get out of a most unpleasant situation, and from that time on whenever Indians came in sight, Miranda was hidden down in a little hole they arranged for her, in the bottom of the wagon.

As you can imagine, such a way of hiding was far from comfortable for Miranda at times. It was when they were fording the Snake River that mother and the children had a terrifying experience, that, looking back at it from today, seems strange. They reached the fording place late in the day, and, owing to the near by annoying Indians, were anxious to get on the other side without delay. When the wagons crossed -- the women and children being floated across in wagon boxes, made water-proof for that purpose -- mother and her children were left on the bank, to be carried over later. In the crossing there was trouble with the stock, and other things of an unforeseen nature happened, and before it was realized darkness had settled down -- and there was mother and her little folk, with no food and no protection from the cold, and unfriendly Indians lurking in the background.

To attempt to cross the river, cold and swift as it was, in the darkness, was suicide. There was nothing to do but wait till morning, with what feelings may be imagined. Mother always said it was nothing but her trust in God that helped her live through that awful night, as the children and she crowded close together for warmth and comfort, in a silence that formed their only protection from the redskins. At the break of day, of course, they were rescued.