A Snake River sojourn

As soon as an ox dies, he bloats as full as the skin will hold (and sometimes bursts), and his legs stick straight out and soon smells horribly. . ..Thus they lie strewed on every hill and in every valley, thus poisoning the otherwise pure air. The most die after getting over some hard place, or long stretch.

—Byron McKinstry, 1850 California emigration

We are near being eaten alive by the mosquitoes, there are thousands of them buzzing a bout our ears which makes one almost frantic. . ..

—Esther Belle Hanna, 1852 Oregon emigration

Lost two more oxen today out of our train, one drowned in the river, another died from fatigue. A camp near us at noon had 12 sick in it, all the same disease, some of them very low.

—Esther Belle Hanna, 1852 Oregon emigration

This day is excessively hot, almost melting, 65* dust blinding. O for more patience to endure it all.

—Esther Belle Hanna, 1852 Oregon emigration

Women, in particular, poured their unhappiness into their journals. Their camp chores— packing, unpacking, fuel-collecting, fire- making, cooking, dishwashing, laundry, mending, child care, childbirth—were exhausting and constant. In many cases, wives had had no voice in the decision to leave their comfortable homes and move their families thousands of miles in a covered wagon. Their husbands one day had announced they were going. They cried, but they went. It was what a good wife did.