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Louisa Cook Walters Correspondence- MMS 1289

Letter Written on the Oregon Trail

On the plains near Boice [Boise] River,
Oct 12 [1862]

Dear Sister Emma,

I wrote a letter to Mother last night & will put in a few words to you. In the first place, this is one of the greatest old trips that was ever heard of & we have had a full sight of the Elephant you may be sure. Only think of not sleeping in a bed for 6 or 7 months, not eating at a table, drinking out of tin cups, eating on tin plates spread on the ground, no letters from home, no news about the war or the country, wandering for weeks among the mountains, teams nearly worn out, provisions nearly gone & then talk about seeing the elephant. We are with the soldiers now & so we are all right now & look forward to getting through sometime this fall. You would laugh to see us come into camp about 5 every afternoon; tired, hungry & of course, cross, ragged shoes, every article of clothing trimed [trimmed] with fringe (all the style here), hoopless [hopeless], spiritless & disposed, would we give way to our feelings, to be dissatisfied with every thing. But after supper, what a change. Some 6 or 8 camp fires burn brightly round the corell [corral] & round these a cheerful group of men & women seated on a box, inverted pail, or true Indian style squatted on the ground, laughing over the exploits of the day and cracking jokes at one anothers expense. Truly, with all that is disagreeable, there is much that is enticing about this wild gipsy life. I suppose you have enjoyed yourselves at home as usual this summer, grumbling if your biscuits were not light enough, your coffee sweetened too much or not enough, potatoes rare done, sweet cake heavy, apples too sour & so on, never thinking how glad your sister Louisa has been to get a dry piece of bread & a tin cup of black coffee, thinking it was sumptuous fare if there was only enough of it. Well, I dare say I relish my meals much better than you do, but if ever I get into civilized society again, won't I know how to enjoy it.

I have been much disappointed in what I have seen of the Indians. I thought when I got away from the white man's settlements, where they could roam at will & live uncontaminated by society, that we should see some of those noble qualities that have been attributed to them by so many writers, but O dear, what a contrast. Filthy, degraded, deceitful & treacherous they seem to be, but a little above the brute creation. They often visit us in camp to beg or steal, no difference which, sometimes a blanket around them or perhaps an old shirt or vest or coat. Seldom but 1 single garment. There have been a good many emigrants killed along the route by Indians, but we have been very watchful, never being without from one to four guards, but one night since we left Leavenworth & then we lost 2 oxen. We know that we are watched all the time, but they do not like to attack a good sized train & we stick close together. Indeed, we do not realize that there is any danger, only when we hear of others being killed or losing stock. We often pass graves where some poor emigrant has died or lost a wife or child. A week ago we passed three little graves & on coming up to the soldiers last night we found the parents of 1 of the children, the father very sick & I fear unlikely to recover. His disease, like most others, is mountain fever. There are no children but Mary in Mr. Smith's train, but in the wagons accompanying him there are some 24. Well, I can think of nothing else & will close. Write often & do not wait to get an answer or if you do not hear from me for a long time you must not think I am dead or married (might as well be one as the other), but keep writing. Direct to Portland, Oregon.

Your affectionate sister,
Mrs. L.C. Cook

Manuscripts by Subject | Women's Studies Collections - Part 2