Tested On All Sides

In May 1838, Mary Richardson Walker was newly married, pregnant, and riding horseback in Missouri on her way to Oregon. She was traveling with her husband and three other missionary couples to take up ministry with Indians. The party journeyed with fur trading companies for protection and guidance. Her original spelling is retained.

[May] 5th.Saturday. Rose before sunrise. Left the camp at eight. Very cold. Did not dismount till about two. . . . Baked some bread & assisted Mrs. Gray in making pot pie. Mr. Smith undertook to help Mr. W. correct me for dictating to Mr. Gray. I think the reproof quite unmerited. Feel so tried with Mr. W. I know not what to do. He seems to think more of Mrs. Smith than of me. Spends a great deal more time in her society than in mine. Do I deserve all this, or is not my dear W. to blame? I feel that I am cruelly neglected. I think I try to do all & the best I can.

6th.Sabbath. Last night a frost. Ice in the pail. Mr. W. rather sick. Travelled about 24 miles. Not a very pleasant way of keeping the Sabbath. Very cold, almost like winter. Had no idea that we were to experience so much wind & cold. Some of our company expressed regret that they have undertaken the journey. I suspect more from aversion to the toil then real dread of sin. . . .

10th.Thursday. Killed a calf. I dressed the head. The other family [i.e., the Grays and the Eells who shared the other tent] was displeased because the calf was killed. Refused to eat of it. I felt exceedingly tried to have things go on in this way. Resolved to talk with husband; think he has done wrong. Had been too much influenced by Br. S. & upheld him when he ought to have reproved.

11th.Friday. Was gratified & pleased to find Mr. W. determined if possible to [effect] a reconciliation. I found it almost unnecessary to say what I had contemplated. Mr. S. & wife seem much less inclined to make concessions. I think S. is stubborn. . . . It seems to me that he is more out of the way than Gray. He insisted in the first place that we should cook the veal for dinner, but we did not. . . . At tea he insisted again on my cooking veal but I told him until there was peace I would not cook or eat of it. Mr. W. thought as I did, so though he looked cross, he said no more.

After the horses were picketed, we went in Mr. Gray’s tent & a treaty of peace was negotiated. It was agreed that the past should be forgotten, that they would commence anew. Several resolves were passed, but the peace so far as it related to Mr. Smith, I fear was a forced point. He could not in any decency have helped falling in with the proposition. But I believe the same wrong spirit remains. . . .

17th.Thursday. Last night had a pretty fair specimen of prairie shower. We were scarcely expecting rain & made no preparation. In the night, it stormed tremendously. Our tent scarcely screened us at all. Our bed was utterly flooded & almost everything wet. It was windy but cleared away so we traveled about 15 miles & encamped where there was no wood. . . . Used prairie coal [dried cow chips] for cooking. Altho windy it was not very cold. Rode more comfortable than I have some other days. . . . It was very pleasant & afforded us a good chance to get dry & prepare properly for another storm. For this, thankful.

[June] 10th.Sabbath. Today were designing to cross the Platte but the rain prevented. So we have for the first time an opportunity to lay by on the Sabbath. I am not sufficiently well to enjoy it as much as I would like, yet, I am glad of rest. I have reflected much on the goodness & mercy of God. I think he has given me a good husband & trust he will grant me favor in his eyes. He treats me kindly & I can but believe loves me.

I, however, experience some anxiety on this account. But I think I am rather gaining ground. That he feels more confidence in me & sees more plainly the defects of others. My attachment to him does not in the least abate. I feel as much anxiety as ever to please him. I regard my husband as a special blessing conferred by Heaven & I am determined if possible that my life shall evince my gratitude.

My health at present is rather feeble & I find it difficult to keep up a usual amount of cheerfulness. If I were to yield to inclination, I should cry half the time without knowing what for. My circumstances are rather trying. So much danger attends me on every hand. A long journey yet before me, going I know not whither; without mother or sister to attend me, can I expect to survive it all? . . .

Thus far I have been enabled to keep my temper on all occasions though my feelings have been tried exceedingly by some of the company. . . .

11th.Monday. Rainy. The water comes into the tent. I was sick of diarreah. A little past noon, we were summoned to cross the Platte, just at that time the rain ceased. We crossed safely in boats constructed of Buffalow hides & the bottom of two waggons. In the forenoon, I cried to think how comfortable father’s hogs were. In the afternoon, felt we were dealt with in mercy. The snow capped Mts. appeared.

15th.Friday. This morning, there being no dew, went in company with Mr & Mrs Gray to the top of the rock. It is, I should judge more than 100 ft. high & a half mile in circumference, eliptical in form. The rock is a coarse granite, in which quartz predominates. It appears as if it had been scraped by something. . . .

The scenery has been beautiful & magnificent & with me the pleasure of beholding it has relieved in great measure the weariness of the way. Dear God, the mountains speak aloud thy powers, and every purling rill proclaims thy praise.

I wish Mr. W. would seem to feel as much interest in viewing the works of nature, as I do. I think the journey would be much less wearisome for him.

24th.Sabbath. Mr. S. has gone to living by himself. Query: does not the course he is pursuing cost him some misgivings? It will be pleasant not to hear so much fault finding. . . . Mr. Walker preached in the A.M. on judgment, sitting in the open air in the shade of our beautiful grove. He had 18 hearers. We enjoyed the meeting much.

In the afternoon Mr. Eells preached. Had only our family. . . . Read “Saints Rest” between & after meetings. Husband seems to like to stay in the tent now. We all put on our Sunday dresses & acted as much like Sabbath at home as we could. I think I am rather happy.

Related Links:

The creators of the PBS documentary on the Oregon Trail present some of their findings here: 


More from PBS here: 


By Mary Richardson Walker

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #66 in 2000]

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