Westering Women Block 1
by Becky Brown
We'll begin our trip to the Pacific coast where the westering women began their real adventures, at the far edge of the United States. In the 1840s when the wave of western migration began, the land beyond the Missouri state line was Indian and Mexican Territory stretching to the Pacific.
The western trail began for many in Independence, Missouri, near a bend in the great Missouri River.
Independence's town square in 1854, published by Herrmann J Meyer.
The county courthouse was in the town square.
The most efficient way to get to the trailheads in the early years of the migration was to take river boats from eastern homes to the Missouri and Iowa borders. The Missouri River continued north while the immigrants headed over land west by northwest.
Clothing indicates photo from about 1900
The town of Independence was located far from the riverbank because flooding was an annual problem. Several entrepreneurs offered transportation from river boats to the town square.
Wagon train traffic photographed during the Civil War.
Thousands of wagons left Independence in the first few weeks of May every year.
In 1849 Tamsen E. Donner wrote her sister from Independence:
"I am seated on the grass in the midst of the tent....My three daughters are around me one at my side trying to sew....I can give you no idea of the hurry of the place at this time, It is supposed there will be 7000 waggons start from this place this season. We go to California, to the bay of San Francisco. It is a four months trip. We have three wagons furnished with food and clothing &c, drawn by three yoke of oxen each."
Most travelers used oxen rather than horses to pull their wagons.
Two of Tamsen Donner's surviving
children with a foster mother after their parents perished on the trail.
The courthouse is still on the Square in Independence, Missouri,
It's BlockBase #1621
Independence Square by Denniele Bohannon
Cutting a 12" Block
A - Cut 4 squares 3-1/8"
B - Cut 16 rectangles 4-1/2" x 1-7/8"
C - Cut 4 rectangles 3-1/8" x 1-7/8"
D - Cut 9 squares 1-7/8" x 17/8"
Sewing the Block
Make a Nine Patch
See the set information by clicking on the introduction yesterday here:
"Trying to Sew"
Do note Donner mentions that her daughter was "trying to sew" while camping in their tent in Independence. Women were more likely to mention sewing when they were temporarily settled for any length of time rather than when they were camping at noon and night.
References and Links
I read Tamsen Donner's letters in Volume 1 of Kenneth L. Holmes Covered Wagon Women: Diaries and Letters from the Western Trails, which includes documents from 1840 to 1849.
Here's a link to a Google Book preview:
A link to online excerpts from her writing:
Ric Burns and PBS did a documentary on the Donners. Read the introduction at this link, which gives us a good summary of the motivation behind the overland migration:
"If ever there was a moment when America seemed in the grip of some great, out-of-the-ordinary pull, it was in 1846. The whole mood was for movement, expansion, and the whole direction was westward."
If you are brave enough to watch it bring snacks and a couple of warm quilts. Just remember it's a worst case scenario.