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The Emigrant Trail   By: (1870-1930)

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[Frontispiece: He gathered her in his arms, and bending low carried her back into the darkened cavern.]

THE EMIGRANT TRAIL

BY

GERALDINE BONNER

NEW YORK

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS

COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY

DUFFIELD & COMPANY

Published, April, 1910

CONTENTS

PART I

THE PRAIRIE

PART II

THE RIVER

PART III

THE MOUNTAINS

PART IV

THE DESERT

PART V

THE PROMISED LAND

THE EMIGRANT TRAIL

PART I

The Prairie

CHAPTER I

It had rained steadily for three days, the straight, relentless rain of early May on the Missouri frontier. The emigrants, whose hooded wagons had been rolling into Independence for the past month and whose tents gleamed through the spring foliage, lounged about in one another's camps cursing the weather and swapping bits of useful information.

The year was 1848 and the great California emigration was still twelve months distant. The flakes of gold had already been found in the race of Sutter's mill, and the thin scattering of men, which made the population of California, had left their plows in the furrow and their ships in the cove and gone to the yellow rivers that drain the Sierra's mighty flanks. But the rest of the world knew nothing of this yet. They were not to hear till November when a ship brought the news to New York, and from city and town, from village and cottage, a march of men would turn their faces to the setting sun and start for the land of gold.

Those now bound for California knew it only as the recently acquired strip of territory that lay along the continent's Western rim, a place of perpetual sunshine, where everybody had a chance and there was no malaria. That was what they told each other as they lay under the wagons or sat on saddles in the wet tents. The story of old Roubadoux, the French fur trader from St. Joseph, circulated cheeringly from mouth to mouth a man in Monterey had had chills and people came from miles around to see him shake, so novel was the spectacle. That was the country for the men and women of the Mississippi Valley, who shook half the year and spent the other half getting over it.

The call of the West was a siren song in the ears of these waiting companies. The blood of pioneers urged them forward. Their forefathers had moved from the old countries across the seas, from the elm shaded towns of New England, from the unkempt villages that advanced into the virgin lands by the Great Lakes, from the peace and plenty of the splendid South. Year by year they had pushed the frontier westward, pricked onward by a ceaseless unrest, "the old land hunger" that never was appeased. The forests rang to the stroke of their ax, the slow, untroubled rivers of the wilderness parted to the plowing wheels of their unwieldy wagons, their voices went before them into places where Nature had kept unbroken her vast and pondering silence. The distant country by the Pacific was still to explore and they yoked their oxen, and with a woman and a child on the seat started out again, responsive to the cry of "Westward, Ho!"

As many were bound for Oregon as for California. Marcus Whitman and the missionaries had brought alluring stories of that great domain once held so cheaply the country almost lost it. It was said to be of a wonderful fertility and league long stretches of idle land awaited the settler. The roads ran together more than half the way, parting at Green River, where the Oregon trail turned to Fort Hall and the California dipped southward and wound, a white and spindling thread, across what men then called "The Great American Desert." Two days' journey from Independence this road branched from the Santa Fé Trail and bent northward across the prairie. A signboard on a stake pointed the way and bore the legend, "Road to Oregon." It was the starting point of one of the historic highways of the world. The Indians called it "The Great Medicine Way of the Pale face."

Checked in the act of what they called "jumping off" the emigrants wore away the days in telling stories of the rival countries, and in separating from old companies and joining new ones... Continue reading book >>




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