Sarah Damron Owens
contributed for use on oregonpioneers.com
The following information was contributed by Owens researcher:
Barbara Richards of Seaside, Oregon
"Daily Morning Astorian" of Aug. 1, 1897 by Bethenia Owens Adair titled "Sketch of Sarah Damron Owens, Pioneer of Or". The first part is an expanded version of the sketch in Bethenia's book - this part is about the trip to Oregon. Unfortunately, the next Sunday's continuation is missing from the microfilm.
"In the spring of 1843 my parents moved to Independence, Missouri, and there joined the immigration that year for Oregon.
"My Mother's Story"
The first day everything sent along finely and for several days thereafter. Our wagons were loaded with provisions and everybody was happy until we came to a creek called the "Blues". Here we camped and about midnight a fearful wild storm blew down our tents and the rain fell upon us in torrents. The next morning we found that about half our corn meal was wet. Then my husband said to the company, "At least half our meal is wet and unless it is converted into bread it will be lost and my advice is that we make fires and at once make it all into bread." This advice was unfortunately only followed by myself and few other women. Thousands of pounds of meal were left by the road side. Had Mr. Owens's advice been followed and economy practiced as it should have been, no person in that emmigration need to have suffered from lack of food.That day was principally devoted to getting dried out, ready for a new start. From here we moved on without special occurance till we reached the Platte River. Here we camped while the men found a good ford, which swelled be about a mile across. Then the wagon beds were raised about six or eight inches and from 40 to 50 wagons and teams were fastened together with long chains. Horses were attached to the first wagon and oxen in the rear. The men went ahead horseback with ropes tied to the front team. Upon reaching the other shore the men would pull in the ropes, in this way keeping the front team on the right course while each man sat in his wagon and directed his own team. In this way we all crossed in safety. Thus we journeyed until we came to Sweet Water, in the buffalo country where Mr. Owens was made captain of the hunters. I then took charge of the oxen and drove them through the buffalo section. While the hunters were killing game other men with pack horses were sent out to bring in the meat. As soon as it reached us the women set to work cutting it in thin slices and string it on ropes which were fastened to the bottoms of the wagon beds, within three days the meat would be well cured and ready to pack away in sacks.
This was a jolly train, we had music, singing and dancing nearly every night. In the evening while the men were attending to the cattle and horses, these wives and daughters would be carrying "buffalo chips" in their aprons, making fires and preparing supper, which was eaten and relished with appetites that only outdoors life can give. During all this time we never saw an Indian to annoy or molest us and not until we reached Independence Rock, where Dr. Whitman met us and when we got our first scare. Our hunters here saw a band of Indians and notified the train. This brought the only non social member of our company into close relationship. The Englishman, by name Eyers, was a very non social and disagreeable man, he usually camped a quarter of a mile away from the company; but the Indian scare brought him into line. After this, guards were stationed every night.
Dr. Whitman travelled with us until the Blue Mountains were reached and then went ahead and blazed our route. We proceeded on until we reached Chimney Rock (3 rocks) where we camped and sent out the hunters. They found the Buffalo very wild. There our first serious accident occurred. While the hunters were approaching the buffalo through the tall grass, a gun in the hands of one of them was accidently discharged and shot a Mr. Goodman through the hand, which crippled him for life. The hunters were successful and coming in with their game we proceeded on our journey."
The next evening after camping we had quite a scare from a band of at least 500 buffalo that were apparently coming down on us, but fortunately they swerved from their course sufficiently to pass us, while had they continued straight on we would have been trampled to death.
The next crossing of the "Platte" we found very deep and swift, detaining us three days, preparing to cross this turbulent stream. To do this we tacked buffalo hides on the bottoms of several wagon beds. In these novel boats was placed our portable goods, ropes were then fastened and good swimmers carried them over and pulled the boats across while other men swam along side to steady them and keep them from upsetting. In this way our goods and families were all safely landed. The wagons were then taken apart and ferried over in the same way. After which the stock were driven in and made to swim across. It required two days to prepare for our onward march. From this to Fort Hall we subsisted principally on antelope meat and small game, the buffalo having become very scarce. At Fort Hall those of the company who had become almost destitute of provisions procured some and here Mr. Owens sold his buffalo gun for $50.
A few days after leaving Fort Hall we had another "scare",; some 30 or so warriors of the Osage tribe came in sight. We at once stopped and prepared for battle, made a square enclosure with the wagons by placing the tongue of each wagon on the back of the one next to it. In this corral the stock was placed. Fortunately the Indians did not molest us.
When we reached the sage brush country our captain, Mr. Jesse Applegate, divided us into platoons of four wagons each in order that each platoon might take turns for one day in the lead breaking a road through the high sage brush. It would have been impossible to proceed otherwise as the sage brush was from 2 to 3 feet high. After passing through this section we reached Snake River and found a ford which we all crossed safely, except Mr. Eyers. Our wagons were hitched together and a man went a head with ropes to guide the foremost team. Mr. Eyer's family were afraid to cross with him and - ? - to go with -?- -?- and were landed in safety. Mr. Eyer would not heed the protestations of the company. He persisted in driving his fine mule team in by himself. The mules soon became unmanageable and turned down the stream and soon Mr. Eyers disappeared from sight, lost his life and everything he had. The company brought his family through.
Coming to the Powder River our troubles began in earnest for owing to carelessness and wastefulness by many in the company starvation began to stare them in the face. Captain Nesmith with a -?- of the company were a few days in advance. We found many dead and disabled cattle along the road which were used for food by them in need. Thus we proceeded to Salmon River where we bought some dried salmon and dried berries from the Indians. In this Snake River country we met the old mountaineer Pegleg Smith and did considerable trading with him and his squaws who were very friendly and represented quite a tribe. From here we went on the the Blue mountains where Dr. Whitman left us proceeding homeward to send us provisions. We -?- on until we reached and passed the summit of the Blue mountains. One night we were over rejoiced by receiving supplies of wheat, corn and peas from Dr. Whitman. Then the -?- of wheat and corn and the grinding of coffee mills made sweet music for our ears bringing encouragement and happiness to us all. In the midst of this pleasure and feasting, I was called to the bed side of Mrs. Olinger and soon was ushered into the world a girl baby, the first child born to the emigration of 1843.
(The writer is disposed to add that eight years ago she met a tall handsome lady of education who said Doctor are you any relative of Mrs. Thomas Owens of the emigration of 1843? "Yes, I am her second daughter, the oldest now living. She said I would rather see her, your Mother, than any woman on earth for she attended my mother at my birth on the Blue mountains. Her name is unfortunately forgotten.)
continued next Sunday" except not for microfilm readers at the Astoria Library!