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Days on the Road: Crossing the Plains in 1865

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By: (1840-1914)

“We had spent almost all our money for toll, ferrying and other expenses on the road. It might be a serious matter to be in a strange place without money . . . There is nothing we can spare so well as Dick. . . . It would not do to be sentimental under existing circumstances.” This is the practical pioneer woman Sarah Raymond Herndon writing in her journal about selling her horse to finance the final days of her family’s trek across the plains to Montana. However, when her brother, Hillhouse, actually sells her beloved pony, Sarah is distraught. “I sobbed out loud. I could not help crying. I let the purse (with the money) roll out of my lap into the bottom of the wagon.” But then, she stiffens her resolve and displays a quiet sense of humor: “Of course, I knew the wagon bed was tight, and there was no danger of (the purse) being lost.” Sarah became the first school teacher in Virginia City, Montana. Her account of crossing the plains in 1865 is rich in emotion and incident.


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