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California-Oregon Trail Diary
An 1850 overland diary recording an emigrant's passage from Dubuque, Iowa to the Salt Lake Cutoff. The diary is a small volume of 11 cm., written entirely in pencil, with 54 leaves and 104 pages of manuscript. Its narrative runs to around 6000 words, with regular entries from 25 March (and the emigrants' departure from Dubuque, south of Clayton County on the Mississippi) to 19 July (when the volume concludes with the party at the northern end of the Salt Lake Cutoff, on the present-day Utah-Idaho border). No subsequent volume is present, or known. The emigrants' route took them across Iowa to Council Bluffs on the Missouri, and thence along the north side of the Platte and North Platte Rivers (the Council Bluffs Road) to Fort Laramie, the Sweetwater River and South Pass in modern Wyoming (reached on 24 June). At South Pass the party followed the trail's southern fork to Salt Lake City, and the Salt Lake Cutoff. Six loosely sketched maps appended to the narrative (pp. 92-97) suggest that the party proceeded to the Humboldt River (called Mary's River, p. 92) and on to California.
The narrative provides ample description of the trail and conditions thereon, as well as many other circumstances of the journey. Typically, overland diary texts limit themselves to the basic facts of travel—miles achieved, routes taken, river crossings, the availability of wood, water and forage, landmarks, other parties encountered. One reason for recording this information was to facilitate the passage west for those who followed. 1850 was one of the peak years for overland travel—an estimated 44,000 went to California alone, mainly to the gold fields—and emigrants found the trails unexpectedly crowded. The volume also includes the aforementioned maps and other non-narrative material.