The latest book in the Knowledge Keepers Series is two books in one: the story of Chalres E. Young and his journey westward with a freight team, and the diary of Sarah Raymond Herndon and her days with a wagon train. If you love pioneer stories, you need to read these two diaries from the Oregon Trail in Freighers and Pilgrims: Two Stories of Western Immigration.
The two stories told in this volume took place during the summer of 1865, and nearly along the same route from Missouri to the West.
The first book, Dangers of the Trail in 1865 is the biographical narrative of 19-year-old Charles Young, who followed Horace Greely’s advice to “go west young man, and grow up with the country.” Young, along with two friends, left New York near the end of the Civil War in July 1865, bound for Colorado. He traveled west as a cook with a freight team.
It is from his narrative that I took the title for this book:
“We were not long in finding a suitable camping spot a mile from the town and the same distance from the many corrals of the great Western freighters and pilgrims, as the immigrants were called.”
The second book in this volume is Days on the Road, the diary of Sarah Raymond on her trip overland from Missouri to Montana. Her account was written each night on the trail, and later published in The Husbandman, a local newspaper.
As I researched these two stories, I found that both Charles and Sarah traveled roughly the same route much of the way to Colorado, experienced some of the same river crossings, and heard the same tales of Indian massacres.
While both stories are similar in many ways, there are some stark difference: Sarah’s journey was with families moving west to settle, and was fairly safe and pleasant; Charles experienced a more dangerous journey with a group of all male freighters and the rough atmosphere of the mining towns. There are some interesting comparisons to be made.
If you’ve read True Stories of Nebraska Pioneers or Up the Western Trail, two other books in this series, you’ll notice how Nebraska played a very important part of the western migration. The plains, the Platte River, the Indians… thousands of pioneers, cowboys, Indians, trappers, miners, and other characters of the Western story had their time in the wilds of Nebraska.
Speaking of the Indians, both writers shared similar views of the natives of the Plains. Their opinions will shock some readers today, but history is best read just as it happened. We cannot defend or judge the people of the past; we were not living in their times. Charles Young, in Book One, gives a very apt description of relations between the Indian tribes, the United States Government, and the settlers in the West.
Given hundreds of books with stories like these, a reader could never come to a single conclusion about the Indians and the settlers. Individuals are just that: widely varied and unpredictable. All throughout history there were winners and losers, conquerors and conquered. America is about the youngest and the last in a long timeline of migrations.
As with each title I publish for Knowledge Keepers, spelling and grammar are original to the authors. The handful of footnotes in these books are also original.
I hope you enjoy these ordinary and priceless pieces of American history. If you haven’t already, collect all the titles in the Knowledge Keepers Home Library series, and join me in preserving our history in print for generations to come.