Two epic accounts of the women of the way westward
The first of these two first hand accounts by redoubtable pioneer women was written by Lavinia Honeyman Porter, a southern lady from a well to do family who was married to a professional gentleman who by her own admission, 'knew nothing of manual labour' and had no idea how to make a living on the plains of west or ensure' the crossing of the continent with an ox team was a successful venture'. However, in the early months of 1860 this family did embark on this epic adventure and after a six month journey arrived in California. On their journey they had encountered everything that the North American continent could offer from wild weather to hard terrain and bad men to the threat of attack by Indian tribes. Five years later, immediately following the cessation of the American Civil War, Miss Sarah Raymond set out on a similar journey (often handling the reins of a prairie schooner herself ) though her destination was Montana to settle near Virginia City. These two accounts, brought together for good value, in this special Leonaur edition are essential memoirs of the years of the great westward expansion during the 19th century, during which approaching 500,000 hopeful pioneers crossed the American heartland travelling towards the west on the Californian, Mormon and Oregon Trails. These were journeys of phenomenal hardship by the standards of the modern world and many left their bones along the way. However, the spirit of the pioneer was irrepressible; their aspiration was a better life for themselves and their families and these remarkable women ably demonstrated they were equal to the challenge of forging an embryonic nation.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
A band of mounted Sioux met us one day. They were friendly in their advances and stopped to trade with us. I would state here that the Sioux Indians were the finest looking warriors we had seen. Their ponies and horses were richly caparisoned, and their blankets, which were supplied by the United States Government, were gay with bright colours. The headdress of the men was unique and imposing. Sable braids of hair fell down each side of their painted faces, and the crowns of their heads were decorated with the coloured feathers from the wild birds of the mountain and plain.
Their buckskin jackets were jewelled with beads and hung with the teeth of wild animals. Descending from their long braids of hair, were graduating discs of bright silver made from the half-dollars that were paid them by the government. These were hammered out very thin, until the first was as large as a small saucer, and the others grew gradually smaller as they reached nearly to the ground. These discs were hung on strong but slender strips of buckskin, and glittered gaily in the bright sunlight, as the warriors, mounted on their fleet ponies galloped over the plain.
We found the Sioux tribe very friendly, too friendly in fact, for my peace of mind, for one huge brave, gayly bedecked and most grotesquely painted, took a great fancy to me. Bringing a number of ponies to our camp, he at length made my husband understand that he wanted me in exchange. This was the first time I was really frightened at their advances. Though I knew they were a friendly band and under the care and protection of the government, yet I was filled with a fear that I could not wholly overcome, and urged my husband to move on as rapidly as possible, so we left our camp next morning before the break of day. About noon, as we ascended some low rolling hills, I looked back on the plain and saw a number of mounted Indians approaching us very rapidly and driving a large band of ponies before them.
My heart almost ceased beating, as we were completely at their mercy if they meant us harm. Finally, they overtook us. We halted our team and had a lengthy parley with them. They proved to be the brave and his followers of the day before. He had added more ponies to his band, thinking my husband had refused to trade because they had not offered a sufficient number. After numerous signs and shakes of the head, they at last understood there was no prospect of business. Very reluctantly they mounted their ponies and left us, to my great relief. The next few days I rode very closely in the wagon. Before they departed, however, I cooked them a good dinner, and James treated them liberally to his best tobacco, so we parted good friends.
Early in the forenoon of one eventful day we met the first war-like band of Indians. I was walking some distance ahead of the wagon, when in that clear bright atmosphere there appeared on the level plain a cloud of dust far off to the left of our road. I usually carried the field glasses with me and I quickly looked to see what I could discover. At first the dust was so dense that the eye could not penetrate it, but soon there was revealed the forms of many moving animals. My first thoughts were “buffaloes,” and I hurriedly retraced my steps to the wagon and the protection of my husband and brother. I had scarcely reached the wagon before my ears were filled with the din of most uncanny character, and out of the cloud of dust on numerous ponies rode a formidable looking band of Indians, many of them arrayed in the most whimsical and barbarous style that one could imagine.