Saturday, January 12, 2019

Oregon Trail Romance

by Rain Trueax

 map drawn by my daughter when she was at university
Having lived on what was an original homestead claim for 40 some years, the story of the trek west to Oregon has a very personal connection to my life. We have two of the wheels from the covered wagon that had traveled that trail. My interest in the journey though went back to my youth. The struggles these people went through, the very real dangers, were the very essence of adventure to my young mind.

You know, there are certain historic events that take on mythic qualities. In America, some of those have had lasting consequences, others not so much: Boston Tea Party; Revolutionary War; Lewis and Clark Expedition; Indian Battles; Pony Express; Building of the Railroads; Civil War; and on any list, the westward migration across the American continent.

When the United States government wanted to consolidate its power over this nation, the answer was to give away land. One such act was the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850:
"Arguably the most generous federal land sale to the public in American history, the law legitimized the 640-acre claims provided in 1843 under the Provisional Government, with the proviso that white male citizens were entitled to 320 acres and their wives were eligible for 320 acres. For citizens arriving after 1850, the acreage limitation was halved, so a married couple could receive a total of 320 acres. To gain legal title to property, claimants had to reside and make improvements on the land for four years."

"The Donation Land Law was significant in shaping the course of Oregon history. By the time the law expired in 1855, approximately 30,000 white immigrants had entered Oregon Territory, with some 7,000 individuals making claims to 2.5 million acres of land. The overwhelming majority of the claims were west of the Cascade Mountains. Oregon’s population increased from 11,873 in 1850 to some 60,000 by 1860." William G. Robbins in Oregon Encyclopedia
These giveaways attracted people from all walks of life. Mostly they were neither unusually rich nor poor. It cost around $1000 to acquire all needed to make the 2200 mile journey from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley. For a family of four, that meant wagon, clothing, tent, bedding, livestock, 600 pounds of flour, 400 pounds of bacon (packed in barrels of bran), 100 pounds of sugar, 60 pounds of coffee and 200 pounds of lard. Add to that sacks of bean, rice, dried fruit, salt, vinegar and molasses. Eggs packed into cornmeal were then used to make bread.
 photo of pioneers at Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, OR

If they brought a milk cow, butter was made by putting the morning's milk in buckets that churned it during the day’s travel (which illustrates how enjoyable riding in that wagon would be). They waited for the grass to green up in the spring and then hoped to beat the snows before they went over the last mountain ranges. If they brought something too heavy to make the whole journey, it would be left along the road. Worse, that road was littered with graves, which for the Oregon Trail wasn’t so much from Indian attacks as cholera and accidents.

Fortunately, for our understanding what they went through, some of the pioneers kept journals. We can read past the cold facts of the journey, to their own words, which tell of the sacrifices and difficulties they faced for the hope of a better life in Oregon.
“Then cholera took my oldest boy. His sister Isabel fell beneath the wagon And was crushed beneath the wheels.” from Overland 1852

 “The children and myself are shivering round and in the wagons, nothing for fires in these parts, and the weather is very disagreeable.” Amelia Stewart Knight, 1853

“This is the ninth case of death by violence on the route, three of whom were executed, the others were murdered. This route is the greatest one for wrangling, discord and abuse of any other place in the world, I am certain.”   Abigail Scott Duniway
It was into this saga, of hope and loss, sacrifice and danger, struggle and victory, that I set my first Oregon historical romance, Round the Bend. I first told the story of Matt and Amy verbally to my cousin during family gatherings. It was a simple story back then but it always held my interest.

When I decided to put it onto paper, I typed it out an old Royal. At the same time, I was doing a lot of research, back in the days where that meant a card catalog. Through the years, I'd improve on it; and when computers came along, I typed it into one. I continued to edit it as I'd come to see more depth in my characters and, of course, always research for enriching details-- trying to avoid using so many that they drowned my hero and heroine's story. 

This wasn't the first book I published from my backstories. I hesitated on it, not sure anyone would see what I did in this journey toward the Promised Land, and this young couple, who both had a lot to learn beyond the physical travails they were facing. 

At seventeen, Amelia Stevens, having grown up in a nurturing environment, is full of dreams and the many books she’s read. When her best friend, since childhood, Matthew Kane tells her he has other feelings for her, she pushes him away. He's ruining everything.

At almost twenty-one, Matt has already seen too much of the hard side of life. He holds few illusions about the trip or his own future. His family is as different from hers as darkness to light. Even if Amy changed her mind, it really couldn't work. She deserves someone more like the handsome wagon train scout, Adam Stone.

Round the Bend tells a story of the purest of love and the most driven of hate. It is the story of the westward march of pioneers. Most of all, it is the story of how a man’s highest ideals can change his life and that of others. Heat level (with 1 least and 5 most) is ♥♥♥♥. It, to my surprise, ended up being book one in a series of four about the settling of Oregon and one family.

Buy sites for eBook or paperback at:

other sites at
  Romances with an Edge

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Rain, for this peek onto the Oregon Trail and your travel towards the book.


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