Mountains in the far western United States create a large desert region by blocking clouds and moisture from falling on the eastern slopes. This rain shadow formed a formidable landscape that had to be crossed before settlers found homes along the Pacific coast with more rain and cooler temperatures.
Trails forked near Fort Hall about 1300 miles from Independence, Missouri. The yellow cutoff road goes south to Sacramento, California. The main orange trail continues north along the Columbia River to the Oregon Territory.
In 1854 Sarah Sutton found the Oregon branch of the trail less crowded than the cutoff.
"Here we had to part with two good hands, that started for Calefornia. We were all loth to part with each other but the best of friends must part, such is life. What a great change in roads. Now the gras is near two feet high on each side of the road and not trampt down with stock. There is but few going to Oregon."The California bound followed the Humboldt River through the desert over the California mountains to Sacramento. From Independence to Sacramento was about 2000 miles.
Along the HumboldtA few details show clothing styles and romance.
In memories of her 1847 trip Emma Ruth Ross Slavin told her family of romance and a honeymoon:
"There was one marriage in our Co. After bride and groom retired to their wagon a party of men and boys hauled the wagon 1/2 mile from camp and left it there."The Humboldt River soon disappeared into the Humboldt Sink and travelers faced a stark obstacle, the 40 Mile Desert. On the other side: The legendary Pacific Coast.
Currier & Ives print of California's coast.
Women on their way to the California gold fields.
By the time the immigrants arrived in their new homes they were worn out, malnourished, sunburnt and dressed in rags. During the first decades of the trail clothing was a valuable trade item. Coastal tribes were glad to trade salmon to hungry travelers for garments and blankets.
In 1853 Mary Woodland in Oregon wrote her mother about her wardrobe:
"Had it not been for trading our clothes with [Indians] we should have been hungry many a time. I parted with a good many of mine and threw the rest way so...I had no clothes at all when I got into Oregon...."
Rocky Road to California by Becky Brown
B - Cut 4 squares 4-7/8". Cut each into 2 triangles with a diagonal cut.
C - Cut 12 squares 2-1/2".
Sewing the Block
Ragged and worn you may be but congratulations on arriving at the end of your journey.
And Emma Ruth Ross Slavin's memoir; Pioneer of 1847
Daniel Jenks's drawings at the Library of Congress:
This is the last of the free patterns for Westering Women. I'll leave them up here on the CivilWarQuilts blog for the next six months or so. I'm going to turn them into downloadable PDF's and paper patterns that you can order from my Etsy Shop. I'll let you know when they are ready for purchase.