My great-grandmother’s trip to “homestead” in Oregon.

original manuscript

The manuscript from which I transcribed this

Ella Colburn Miner

Ella Colburn Miner age 18

Transcription E. L. Miner’s account of trip to Oregon
June 8, 2015 at 9:16am
Bits of Family History Eva Louella Coburn and Judson David Miner En Route for Oregon
(Must have been 1884 or thereabouts Spring–[Frances Spencer Powell penciled note])

First day out. [Tuesday] Left Chicago at 11.30, so did a great many others. There was the usual variety of people including babies and a love sick couple. The lover was a “bonanza” to the train boys as he bought everything they came along with for his lady-love’s delectation. Then went even the same car with us as far as St. Paul, where we took the Emmigrant train or car and they continued in the usual way of traveling. Their destination being W. T. From K.K.K (Kankakee?) on we noticed the country will gradually grew wetter and every now and then we crossed a angry little streams. Judging Northern Illinois as we saw it from the car windows, I wouldn’t take as a farm gift and be obliged to live there. Land flat and wet, with no chance for drainage. Wisconsin was not much better. At Milwaukee we stopped 25 minutes but could not see much of the place from the car windows. The railroad runs through the back streets and alleys and but for one [manuscript torn] had of the city before we reached it we should have [manuscript torn] a very poor impression of it. It grew dark soon after leaving [manuscript torn] we spent the night as best we could in a crowded car. Our satchels and bundles made it much worse for us as we had no place to stretch out comfortably. Jud took occasional trips to the smoking car so as to give me the seat to rest in. So ended the first day and night.

(Second day out.) [Wednesday] We reached St. Paul at 7:20 and had to spend the day there. The day was very unpleasant -a light snow falling and melting as it fell. We went on tour a little while but the streets were so dirty and slippery that there was little comfort in it. It is a very pretty little city, but the streets are very narrow. We laid in a supply of bread there and got it very reasonable. The depot was clean and pleasant, well warmed and conveniences for wash and combing etc. At about 7 o’clock the Depot Master came to us and advised us to go on the car early and secure our berths. Here we were turned over into the hands of a burly, important Irishman, who settled us according to his liking and then left us. The train did not leave until 8:30 so we had ample time to settle ourselves and take a view of our fellow passengers. A family of six settled themselves behind us. A man, a woman and 4 children; three of them under 6 years of age. Twins and it might have been worse. We concluded to make the best of it although the children yelled in chorus; for the poor woman looked tired to death. (she had some from [manuscript torn] Co. N. Y.) At last the train started, we made up our beds [manuscript torn] retired to peace(?)ful [sic] slumber. We slept soundly, as we [manuscript torn] had so little rest the night before. That is, we did until the earthquake struck us. The first we knew babies were squalling by the dozen, men were swearing, women scolding and all was confusion. To explain, we had reached Minneapolis and the overflowing emigrant cars ahead of us had generously sent us a delegation. There were three families and they had 11 children. They were from Missouri and tired out with their trip. The men had been standing up and the women sitting on the floor holding their children in their laps. But we knew nothing of this and we were tired too, and didn’t relish being disturbed. We women sat up and jawed and pounded our pillows while we remarked that they had better not try to put any young ones in with us. Zina and Will were luxuriating in a berth apiece but when the conductor invited them to take in a few children, they crept in together, careful to take their bedding with them. At last the conductor had them piled in and very corner was full. We didn’t take any children into our bunks. We had solos and choruses all night but slept considerably not withstanding., we were so tired. When morning came and we all turned out, there wasn’t room to swing a cat. We were not favorably impressed with the newcomers. They were dirty, ignorant, and taken altogether not our style. We gave an upper berth to them and one seat in the day time. But when the trespassed farther we soon settled them. Scenery very uninteresting so far.

(Third Day) [Thursday] Morning found us in Dakota–snow on every side, nothing but sleighs in use. The weather was quite cold, we sat with shawls on, and had a good fire in each end of the car. The car has double windows and those who raised the inside one to get a better view, soon had no view at all as the windows were quickly covered with frost. The children, poor dears, had bad colds and their mothers were short of handkerchiefs or didn’t know what they were made for. The first part of Dakota that we passed through was quite flat. None of us were pleased with it. The last part was more rolling, and what we say by daylight more thickly settled and more pleasing every way. Although the snow still covered it all. At Fargo, we made a long stop; it was a nice looking little city. We had not time to explore however and one cannot see much from car windows. Jud is off the minute the train stops no matter how short the stay. I expect to leave him somewhere on the road.

(Fourth Day.) [Friday] We arose and put on our clothes, behind our curtains (which was a luxury but few enjoyed). Early in the morning we passed through the town of Glendive, a pretty little place. And now the weather began to moderate, and snow was melting although the sun refused to shine. We haven’t had a pleasant day yet. If it wasn’t actually storming, the weather was still cloudy. We stopped about half an hour here and women and all got of a few minutes. Glendive is on the Yellow Stone River and the second station we passed through in Montana. We picked up a few stones as relics and marked them Glendive. The Yellow Stone in not a large river, not wider than the Iroquois and not as deep on the average I should judge. There are high bluffs along the river and the cars ran along underneath for some distance. Jud was nearly sick with his sore eyes and throat but the colored glasses he got at Fargo relieved his eyes considerably. We ran along the Yellow Stone all day not being more than a half mile distant at any time. We reached Billings a little before night. A man came on board the train for the first time with provisions. Offered nice bread for ten cents a loaf, big loaves and good bread; men were off of course so although we were nearly out, did not get any. Nearly dark now and in the night we left the banks of the river. An hour or so before sundown we passed freight cars on a side track snow under, nothing visible but the brake wheel. They were flat cars though.

(Fifth Day) Saturday morning, the sun consented to come forth and smile on us, our first pleasant day. We went to bed in a land of snow and awoke in a country where all the snow that was visible lay on the mountain tops! We had beautiful scenery all the way and our eyes scarce left the windows. High hills with over-hanging crumbling rocks were hedging us in on one side or the other nearly all the way now, and in fact sometimes on both sides where a passageway had been blasted through solid rock. Sometimes we had a river on one side and bluffs on the other, and the thought that some of these huge rocks might loosen as we rumbled by and sweep us off the embankment down into the turbulent river below was rather depressing. But the scenery was so varied and grand now mountain clothed with evergreen and son, then beautiful little valleys, that such thoughts quickly vanished and we were lost in wonder. We were constantly exclaiming, and point out curious things to each other. Windows at last did not satisfy us and the car platform was crowded continually. I counted 14 at one time on our rear platform. We are the last car on our train which gives us a better chance for sight-seeing. Small cabins and dugouts are scattered all along the route; occasionally we see Indians or Chinamen occupying them. But most of them are deserted, having been built by track layers probably. We have seen a number of Chinese graves too, surrounded by little log pens, with a pine board for tombstone with Chinese hieroglyphics. We made a stop at Garrison of half a day’s length. How we rushed through dinner, grabbed hats, shawls etc and prepared to climb the mountain that lay behind the town! “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” was our motto and at last we succeeded in reaching the top. Nearly all the passengers were out and as excited as school children; we had been penned up so long! we gathered stones and evergreens, and captured a cactus of the prickly variety, with which the mountain was well supplied. Jud and I also took a walk of over a mile down the track on which we were going to leave town, trying in vain to get around the curve with was always just before us. We saw a veritable cow-boy today, he rode out from his home, lariat in hand, and rode a short distance into a group of horses who were feeding on the dead grass, and soon had the one he wanted by the neck. We saw plenty of horses, cattle and sheep feeding on dry buffalo grass, and all looking well. We got out of bread today and Will went out and got one small loaf and eight dry biscuit for a quarter. We wished we had laid in a supply at billings. Eggs 50 cts., butter 5 cents, canned peaches 50. Went to bed tired with our tramp, but closed our eyes regretfully on the beautiful scenery which lay all around us.

(Sixth Day) Sunday — but no one would imagine it, here where no one seems to fear, or reverence God. It seems as though the country we are passing through must impress the most hardened mind, with the wisdom and power of Him who hath made it all and keeps us in the midst of danger as in “the hollow of His hand.” But on every side we see men busily at work, the acquisition of gold their only thought. This morning we found ourselves in snow country again, with a heavy fog hanging on the hilltops. I forgot to tell you that the express train took us 50 miles beyond Helena, where you remember we expected to be left for a freight. Since we became freight of course our progress is slower, as we make so many stops. Early this morning we crossed a high trestle-work bridge said to be over 200 feet high. Judson says 220. Later we crossed on 95 feet high, which we thought high as we cared for. It was not considered very safe we were told after crossing and that no more trains would be allowed to pass! They are going to put in an iron bridge. We went through these tunnels today, one was a mile long, and we were six minutes and a half going through. In all there are six tunnels on our route. In the afternoon we were reading and enjoying ourselves in various way not paying much attention to scenery, when something jarred our car, and the brakeman came running through and told us the step had been swept off our car by a falling rock! It was on the side where Jud usually stood, but just then he was on the other side, and said he saw something go flying along under him as the car sped along. It was a narrow escape, and we don’t admire rocks so close at hand any more. On one side of us was perpendicular rocks, on the other a river, called Clark’s Fork. So that if the rock had been a little larger we must have been swept off in the river and if we had escaped being crushed would probably had been drowned. Tonight as Settie and I were retiring she told me that some of the passengers had told her that we would cross Lake Pend Oreille [Editor’s Note: pronounced: pond-ə-ray] on the ferry in the night — two cars at a time. We were so frightened at the idea that we could not sleep. We crossed the lake about an hour before dark on a high bridge and rode along beside it till dark and we couldn’t see why we need cross it again. Finally we slept and next morning inquired eagerly if we have ferried in the night. no one seemed to think we had and on questioning the trainmen found that we were to ferry the Snake River late that afternoon. We passed through Spokane Falls at night so had no chance to see Isaac or his farm.

(Seventh Day – Monday) We begin to see a hint of green grass today and the sagebrush has taken on a green hue. We have made some very pleasant acquaintances on board and some very disagreeable ones. Nearly all our passengers left today, most of them bound to Walla Walla. the 15 children and their parents we were not sorry to part with. A Dr. Buffum and family we made friends with and we lose them tonight regretfully. Right across from our seat live an old couple on their way to Eugene City OR. The old lady is 72 years old but has stood the trip remarkably well. She has a feather bed with her. She is going to her sons at first and after a while to W. T. where she has a daughter. They have come out to live with their children. He is a step-father. We like them very much. The stop off at Portland with us and wait till the next day for their train. Between 3 & 4 o’clock we reached Ainsworth on Snake River and were ferried across safely. After we saw the boat we were not afraid; it looked strong enough to carry a whole train. We went way up on deck and watched our progress. The Snake River is a very swift stream of water. They are building an iron bridge at Ainsworth for the cars; it is to be a swing bridge. Nothing but sand and sage brush to look at from now until dark so we visited and when we reach Wallula unction [WA], said goodbye to the Dr. & family. Some of the trainmen tell us we will reach Portland at 6 o’clock and we are filled with dismay as in that case, we cannot see the Bridal Falls. Someone contradicts the story, and we go to rest determined to wake up early.

(8th Day) And do so! and dress, and hurry out on the platform as we are informed we are nearing that beautiful fall of water of which we have heard so much. The Falls is a beautiful stream of water coming down almost perpendicularly from the mountains till it is within 20 feet or so of the valley where it strikes and falls again! Of course it is a snow-fed river and the water is as white as snow. We passed several lesser falls which would be considered grand anywhere else. As soon as these were passed we hurried to our packing and had not much time to spare as the cars steamed into East Portland at 7.30. [manuscript torn] we left the Emigrant car (without regret) and ferried over to [manuscript torn]land proper. Fighting our way to the International Hotel through [manuscript torn] usual crowd of hawk-men & hotel runners. And so ended our journey.

One incident worth of mention has been omitted. At Missoula, a brakeman came in our car at four o’clock in the morning and ordered passengers to get out of their berths and make room for others who had just got on the train. He said they had carried the banner all night and now it was our turn and that it was time to get up anyway. But Dr. Buffum drew his revolver and swore an oath that made the lamps rattle. And the old man from Mich. who was in the opposite berth began to pull up his socks and gird his loins and prepare himself for battle. The brakeman left and did not show himself for several hours.

[This is on the last page. Very faded, and in the creases the paper is disintegrating]
The rolling stock of the N. Pacific is new [manuscript torn] and [manuscript torn] bad [manuscript torn] seems to [manuscript torn] Management is poor and the employees do not know [manuscript torn] thing more about railroading than a pack of cowboys [manuscript torn] No attention is given to the wants of passengers after [manuscript torn] are once on the train. All of the circulars about [manuscript torn] richness of the Coeur d’Alene mines come from the [manuscript torn] road to get people to travel. The Oregon Rez & Nav Co [manuscript torn] from Wallula Junc. to Portland seems to be better managed. The Oregon Short Line will be completed to Ogden this summer [manuscript torn but I think it says something about a better alternative to] Northern Pacific.
Bits of Family History J. D. & E. L. Miner

For the cousins:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glendive,_Montana
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garrison,_Montana
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Pend_Oreille
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clark_Fork_River#/media/File:Clark_Fork_Map.png

About Libbi

Writer for 30 years. Genealogy a hobby for about 40 years. Yes, I'm in my 50's, I learned about genealogy at my mother's knee!
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