N. Whitman letter 1836

Narcissa's Journal August 1836

7thCame fifteen miles without seeing water, over a dry parch earth, covered with its native sage as parched as the earth itself. Heat excessive but mitigated with a gentle breeze. We have encamped on a fine place plenty of good grass for our weary animals. Thus are blessings so mingled, that it seems as if there was nothing else but mercy and blessings all the way. Was there ever a journey like this, performed where the sustaining hand of God has been so manifest every moment. Surely the children of Israel could not have been more sensible of the "pillar of cloud by day & of the pillar of fire by night," than we have been of that Hand that has led us thus safely on. God has heard prayer in our behalf, & even now while I am writing on this Holy day is the sweet incence of prayer ascending before the throne of Heavenly Grace. Nor are we forgoten by our beloved churches at home in the prayers of the Sanctuary. We are too sensible of its blessed effects to believe otherwise & O how comforting is this thought to the heart of the Missionary. We love to think &talk of home with such feelings as that. It warms our hearts. Strengthens & encourages us in the work of our beloved Master & makes our journeyings easy.

8thMon. Eve. Snake River. Have an excelent camp ground tonight, plenty of excellent fead for our horses & cattle.Quite a change in the tempertures of the atmosphere since yesterday noon. It was so cool last night & we have such a wind today, that we and our animals have traveled more comfortably for it. We think it remarkable that our cattle should endure the journey as well as they do. We have two sucking calves that appear to be in very good spirits, they suffer some from sore feet, otherwise they have come on very well. Have come eighteen miles today & have taken it so deliberately that it has been easy for us. The hunters came in last night well loaded. They had been in the mountains two days after game. Killed three Elks & two antelopes. This is the first Elk meat we have had, & is the last opportunity we expect to have of taking any more game. We are told many have traveled the whole distance from Rendezvous to Walla W. without any fresh, living entirely upon the dry. We think ours will last us untill we reach the Salmon fishery, at Snake Falls. Thus we are well provided for all the way, contrary to our expectations .Mr McLeod has excelent hunters, this a reason why we live so well. There is but [little] game & that little is found at a great distance from the route

11thTeaus & Wed. have been very tedious days, both for man and beast. Lengthy marches without water. Not so tedious today for length, but the route has been rocky & sandy. Had a present tonight of a fresh Salmon, also a plate of fried cakes from Mr McLeod (Girls if you wish to know how they taste, you can have the pleasure by taking a little flour & water & make some dough, roll it thin, cut it into square blocks, then take some beaf fat &fry them (You need not put either salt or pearl ash in your dough.) Believe me I relish these as well as I ever did any made at home.

12Frid Raised camp this morn at Sunrise. Came two hours ride to the Salmon fishery. Found a few lodges of Diggers on the Snake tribe, (so called because they live on roots during winter) who have just commenced fishing. Obtained some & boiled for our breakfast find it good eating. Had we been a few days earlier we should not have been able to obtain any fish, for they had but just come up. They never go higher than these falls, but come here every season. Friday eve. Dear Harriet the little trunk you gave me has come with me so far, & now I must leave it here alone. Poor little trunk! I am sorry to leave thee. Twenty miles below the Falls on Snake River. This shall be thy place of rest. Farewell little Trunk. I thank thee for thy faithful services & that I have been cheered by thy presance so long. Thus we scatter as we go along. The hills are so steep rocky that Husband thought it best to lighten the waggon as much as possible & take nothing but the wheels, leaving the box with my trunk. I regret leaving anything that came from home especially that trunk, but it is best. It would have been better for us not to have attempted to bring any baggage whatever only what necessary to use on the way. It costs so much labour, besides the expense of animals. If I were to make this journey again I would make quite different preperations. To pack & unpack so many times & cross so many streams, where the packs frequently get wet, requires no small amount of labour, besides the injury done to the articles. Our books what few we have, have been wet several times.In going from Elmira to Williamsport this trunk fell into the creek & wet all my books & Richards, too very much.The sleigh box came off & all of us came near a wetting, likewise.The custom of the country is to possess nothing & then you will loose nothing while traveling farewell for the present.

13thSat. Dear H, Mr McKay has asked the privaledge of taking the little trunk along so that my soliloquy about it last night was for nought, however it will do me no good it may him.We have come at least fifteen miles & have had the worst route in all the journey for the cart, we might have had a better one, but for being misled by some of the company who started out before their leaders. It was two o'clock before we came into camp. They were preparing to cross Snake River. The river is divided by two islands into three branches & is fordable. The packs are placed upon the top of the highest horses &in this way crossed without wetting. Two of the tallest horses were selected to carry Mrs S & myself over. Mr. McLeod gave me his & rode mine. The last branch we rode as much as a half mile in crossing & against the current too which made it hard for the horses the water being up to their sides. Husband had considerable difficulty in crossing the cart. Both the cart & the mules were capsized in the water and the mules entangled in the harness.They would have drowned, but for a desperate struggle to get them ashore Then after putting two of the strongest horses before the cart & two men swimming behind to steady it, they succeeded in getting it over. I once thought that crossing streams would be the most dreadful part of the journey. I can now cross the most difficult stream without the least fear. There is one manner of crossing which Husband has tried, but I have not, neither do I wish to. Take an Elk Skin and streach it over you spreading yourself out as much as possible. Then let the Indian women carefully put you on the water, & with a cord in the mouth they will swim & drag you over.(Edward how do you think you would like to ride this way.)

15thYesterday Mr McLeod with most of his men left us wishing to hasten his arrival at Snake Fort, leaving us a pilot & his weakest animals to come in with us at our leisure. This is a relief to us for it is difficult to bring our cattle up to the speed they wish to travel. We have had such a cool wind today & it has been so comfortable traveling that we have made better proggress than usual. Considerable stony however. We passed the hot Springs just before noon which are quite a curiosity. Boiled a bit of dry Salmon in one of them in five minutes.

16thThis evening found a plenty of berries called hawthorn on the stream where we have encamped. They are as large as a cherry & taste much like a mealy sweet apple. Our route on this side of the river is less hilly & difficult than on the south side & said to be two days shorter.

19th Arrived at Snake Fort about noon. It is situated on Big Wood River, so called because the timber is larger than any to be seen this side of the mountains. It consists chiefly of cotton wood, and is small compared with timber in the States. Snake Fort is owned & built by Mr McKay one of company whom we expect to leave here. He with Mr McLeod gave us a hearty welcome. Dined with them. Mr McLeod was ready to leave on the morrow but said he would stay a day longer to give us the opportunity of doing some necessary work, for which we were thankful.

20thSat. Last night I put my cloths in water & this morning finished washing before breakfast.I find it not very agreable to do such work in the middle of the day when I have no shelter to protect me from the suns schorching rays. This is the third time I have washed since I left the states or home either. Once at Fort Williams & at Rendezvous. Mr McLeod call this eve to see if we were ready to leave. Observed that we had been so engaged in labor as to have no time for rest & proposed for our sakes (the Ladies) to remain over the Sabbath. This I can assure you was a favour for which we can never be to thankful for as our souls need the rest of the Sab, as well as our bodies.

Last updated: October 4, 2016

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