Town Quotes

All of the quotes in this room are listed below. Where available, we've provided you with additional information about the source of the quote and possible links to download or access the original source material. The quotes are listed in the order in which you might encounter them in the room.

“The roads, in every direction, are lined with wagons of emigrant parties from … Missouri, and from Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois.” – St. Joseph correspondent to the St. Louis Missouri Republican, May 2, 1849

No electronic access was located for this reference.

Paragraph from St. Joseph Gazette, May 5, 1852

“Our streets are crowded, and every house in the town filled. The steam ferry is crossing hundreds daily.”

The paragraph shown above is from the St. Joseph Gazette, a weekly local newspaper. The May 5, 1852 edition is quoted on a panel on the wall facing the elephant and can be viewed at

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“Oh, surely we are seeing the elephant, from the tip of his trunk to the end of his tail.” – Lucy Rutledge Cooke, 1852

No electronic access was located for this reference.

Excerpt from Eleazar Stillman Ingalls' Journal, Aug. 5, 1850

“Morning comes, and the light of day presents a scene more horrid than the rout of a defeated army; dead stock line the roads, wagons, rifles, tents, clothes, everything but food may be found scattered along the road; The desert! you must see it and feel it in an August day, when legions have crossed it before you, to realize it in all its horrors. But heaven save you from the experience.”

The excerpt above is quoted twice within the Trail Center (also in the 40-mile desert room) and once on the plaza. It is from Eleazar Stillman Ingalls' Journal of a Trip to California by the Overland Route Across the Plains in 1850-51. The book is currently out of print and available through book collectors and libraries (including the library at the CTIC). A small portion of it (but not the one with this quote) can also be downloaded from the OCTA website. The entire text can be accessed on Project Gutenberg.

The edition in the photo above was published by Ingalls' daughter, Josephine S. Ingalls Sawyer. She writes, "The manuscript with this, relating to a journey made by my father, E.S Ingalls, from Illinois to California in 1850, is beyond doubt the original record kept by him. I knew of it as a child and often heard my father and mother speak of it as The account of his trip written as he went along. It was given to me by my mother more than twenty-five years ago. She had always treasured it as one of her choicest keepsakes after my father's death in 1879.... He was a pioneer nearly all his life. When a boy of eighteen, he came from Nashua, New Hampshire to Lake County, Illinois, much of the way on foot... My father, in company with other drivers, brought the cattle through. Many times their way, especially through Indiana and Illinois had to be cut through trackless wilderness and swamps, where roads had to be cut for their ox teams to traverse."

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Excerpt from Richard May's October 2-5 diary entries

“Let me tell you I have Seen the Elephant in the way of Mountains; … We have experienced a great deal of hard-ships in getting this far through.” – Richard Martin May, October 2-5, 1848

This diary was published as A Sketch of a Migrating Family to California in 1848, by Richard M. May. No electronic access was located for this reference.

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“Some think they see the elephant. If fatigue, weariness, constant excitement, and awful distress among the cattle make the sight, he is surely here.” – John Edwin Banks, 1849

No electronic access was located for this reference.

Excerpt from Sallie Hester's diary

“As far as the eye can reach, so great is the emigration, you see nothing but wagons. This town presents a striking appearance – a vast army on wheels – crowds of men, women and lots of children and last but not least the cattle and horses upon which our lives depend.” – Sallie Hester, 14 years old, St. Joseph MO, April 27th, 1849

Sallie Hester's diary is published as a stand-alone book and as part of the Covered Wagon Women series of books (Volume 1 and "Best of" Volume 2). These books may be available for purchase in the CTIC gift shop.

You can view a Google Books preview of her diary in a Covered Wagon Women book.

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W.S. McBride's April 24, 1850 journal entry

“St. Joseph resembled in some respects a vast besieged city …. All the principle roads leading to the town were thickly beset with white tents on either side.” – W.S. McBride, 1850

This journal is part of the Merrill J. Mattes collection and can be downloaded from the OCTA website.

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“the streets [are] thronged with strangers, bound for the West, waiting for the first appearance of grass. The landing [is] covered with wagons and other articles of outfit for a trip across the plains.” – St. Joseph Adventure, April 9, 1852

An electronic version of this article was not available at the time of the construction of this app. However, the online digital archives of the St. Joseph Adventure are still being updated. They can be accessed at the State Historical Society of Missouri Digital Newspaper Project webpage.

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Excerpt from Doyce Nunis' book The Bidwell-Bartleson Party

“The account given of the Pacific Coast was so inviting that many resolved to visit it.” – John Bidwell, Reminiscence of 1841

This quote is found in The Bidwell-Bartleson Party: 1841 California Emigrant Adventure : The Documents and Memoirs of the Overland Pioneers by Doyce Blackman Nunis.

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Excerpt from Volume 1 of the Utah Historical Quarterly

“Where my husband goes, I can go. I can better stand the hardships of the journey than the anxieties for an absent husband.” – Nancy Kelsey, Reminiscence of 1841

This is an oft-quoted reference that is attributed to Nancy Kelsey by Joseph B. Chiles in his memoir "A Visit to California in Early Times". The reference to Chiles' use of the quote appears in the Utah Historical Quarterly, 1930, Volume 1, p. 53.

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Letter from Tamsen Donner, May 11, 1846

“I am willing to go & have no doubt it will be an advantage to our children & to us.” – Tamsen Donner, 1846

Tamsen Donner, wife of George Donner, was a schoolteacher. She lost her life during the tragic winter of 1846/1847 in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The May 11, 1846 letter to her sister is published as part of the Donner Party papers in Covered Wagon Women Vol. 1 (and the Best of Covered Wagon Women Vol. 2) These books may be available for purchase in the CTIC gift shop. The book(s) can be previewed on Google Books.

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Entry from the May 19 entry of Edwin Bryant's diary

“We are joined to-day by nine wagons from Illinois, belonging to Mr. Reed and the Messrs. Donner, highly respectable and intelligent gentlemen, with interesting families.” – Edwin Bryant, May 19, 1846

Edwin Bryant wrote this entry shortly after crossing the Kansas River. Their wagon train had grown to include "98 fighting men, 50 women, 46 wagons and 350 cattle." The Donner-Reed party traveled with them for awhile, but would later choose to separate from this group.

Edwin's diary can be viewed and downloaded from the Library of Congress. You may also be interested in the Edwin Bryant diary tour of our outdoor plaza.

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Beeson's July 22 diary entry

“I am 17 years old today. 2,000 miles from my native place. We are now within 500 miles of our destination.” – Welborn Beeson, July 22, 1853

No electronic access was located for this reference.

Helen Carpenter May 26, 1857

“Our wagon has square bows, which makes it much more roomy than the rounded bows. Inside the cover on each side are pockets in which odds and ends may be stowed away. There is an ‘upper deck,’ or double floor; the supplies being packed between floors and the bed on the upper one.”

“In the way of supplies there was flour, sugar, bacon and ham, tea, coffee, crackers, dried herring, a small quantity of corn starch, dried apples that we brought from Indiana, one bottle of pickles, cream of tartar and soda and that about made up the outfit.”

The diary excerpts above are from Helen Carpenter's diary and are referenced on informational panels in this room. Her diary can be downloaded from the Oregon - California Trails Association (OCTA) website. Another of her diary entries is quoted in the Great Basin Room.

Both of these quotes came from her initial May 26, 1857 diary entry in which she describes the first leg of their journey and the materials and supplies they've brought with them.

Helen McCowen Carpenter (1839-1917) traveled with her family to California in 1857. After arriving and trying mining, the family moved to Grass Valley and then to Ukiah. She has been referred to as one of the "belles" of early California. Later in life she wrote for magazines and published a number of books of ceremonies used by lodges across the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Her son, Grant, became a writer as well, and her daughter Grace Hudson became an artist (painter).

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Edwin Bryant, June 28, 1846

The mules, stupid as we regarded them, knew more about this business than we did; and several times I thought I could detect them in giving a wise wink and sly leer, as much as to say, that we were perfect novices, and if they could speak, they would give us the benefit of their advice and instruction. A Mexican pack mule is one of the most sagacious and intelligent quadrupeds that I have ever met with.” – Edwin Bryant, June 28, 1846

Edwin Bryant wrote this entry in the vicinity of Fort Laramie. He had decided that he wanted to trade his wagon for some pack mules so his journey's pace could increase.

Edwin's diary can be viewed and downloaded from the Library of Congress. You may also be interested in the Edwin Bryant diary tour of our outdoor plaza.

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“Some of the emigrants have wagons fitted up in the best possible style, carpeted, with chairs, bed and looking glass, for the convenience of families.” – St. Louis Missouri Republican, 1846

No electronic access was located for this reference.

Excerpt from Covered Wagon Women (Louisa Cook), Vol. 8

“Mary & I with 3 others sleep in the omnibus. The seats are on the sides & we have boards which we lay across & a cushion & our blankets make a real comfortable place to lie on. Mrs Skader at the corners gave me a pillow which comes real acceptable here.” - Louisa Cook, 1862

Louisa Cook's letters appear in the Covered Wagon Women Volume 8 book, which may be available for purchase in the CTIC gift shop.

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“This was a busy time, for it was a long, hard trip and there was much planning, provisions to buy, and nothing must be overlooked that was necessary on this six months trip.” – Susan Isabel Drew, 1853

No electronic access was located for this reference.

“When you leave each home with nothing but a wagon full of hope and new baby after each move everything finally gets lost or broken – even your dreams sometimes.” – Elizabeth Duncan

No electronic access was located for this reference.

Excerpt from Luzena Wilson's memoir

“It was a strange but comprehensive load which we stowed away in our ‘prairie schooner’ and some things which I thought necessities when we started became burdensome luxuries, and before many days I dropped by the road-side a good many unnecessary pots and kettles, for on bacon and flour one can bring but few changes, and it requires but few vessels to cook them.” – Luzena Stanley Wilson, 1849

Luzena Wilson came to California from Missouri with her husband and two children in 1849. The family first settled in Sacramento, where they kept a hotel. After the Sacrameto flood of 1849, they moved to a mining camp, where Mrs. Wilson ran another hotel until 1851, when the Wilsons journeyed to their new farm near modern Vacaville. Luzena Stanley Wilson, '49er (1937) contains reminiscences of her overland journey and early years in California dictated to her daughter in 1881. Mrs. Wilson chronicles pioneering in Vaca Valley and her Hispanic neighbors, closing with comments on Vacaville's gradual anglicization and urbanization.

Her memoir can be accessed at the Library of Congress.

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