One of the best sources of learning about life on the trail in the 1800s is the Covered Wagon Women Series, published by the University of Nebraska Press. The eleven volume series featured firsthand accounts of women actually traveling on the trails on which moved families west. Kenneth L. Holmes who complied the series also put together Best of Covered Wagon Women. Here's the description which summed up the whole series well.
The diaries and letters of women who braved the overland trails during the great nineteenth-century westward migration are treasured documents in the study of the American West...They were selected for the power with which they portray the hardship, adventure, and boundless love for friends and family that characterized the overland experience. Some were written with the skilled pens of educated women. Others bear the marks of crude cabin learning, with archaic and imaginative spelling and a simplicity of expression. All convey the profound effect the westward trek had on these women.
For too long these diaries and letters were secreted away in attics and basements or collected dust on the shelves of manuscript collections across the country. Their publication gives us a fresh perspective on the pioneer experience.
I started on January 1st, 1976, my fiancé's birthday, telling of what we did for his special day. And I continued to write short bits of my daily life, besides the intended lists of preparations for our wedding.
Forty years later I’m still writing in a page-a-day book. I sometimes get behind and don’t write for a week or two, but the majority of my life is recorded the forty books that are stacked in a file cabinet.
The neat thing is I can go back to any given day in any of those years to see what I did, or what the weather was like. I can go back to remember a special person’s birth or death, and be drawn into the same feeling I had that exact day.
My family knows I’ve written down my life—and theirs— through the years. I haven’t written down anything that will embarrass anyone, but I think the entries will give the next generations a good glimpse of their ancestor’s lives, and the times we’ve lived in.
Will that inspire them to keep their own diaries? I really doubt it, although it would be great if someone was motivated to write and pass down more of the family history.
What I hope my diary entries would do is to inspire descendants to remember family members as I mention their birthdays, to learn the history of the family pieces they inherited, and to give them a sense of whom their family was—and did during their lifetimes.
How you could pass on your life story to your descendants. How will you inspire them? It’s up to you….
Thanks for stopping by to enjoy today's Sweethearts of the West Blog.