Monday, March 21, 2016

What We Could Learn From the Early Pioneers

I am very excited to be putting my first post up on the Sweet Americana Sweethearts blog!  I can’t thank all of the other authors enough for letting me join the fun :)

Since I have just finished an amazing Oregon Trail giveaway to help launch the new book I have coming out very soon…I figured I would keep the Oregon Trail theme going with this post!

During the research for my book, and then while writing the book, I kept thinking of what those early settlers were truly going through. I tried to imagine myself in their worn shoes, walking those many miles towards an uncertain future.

Today, we feel anxiety if we walk out of our house without our phones to keep us connected to the rest of the world.  We can’t imagine not having constant opportunity to keep in touch with anyone we need at the simple touch of a button.  There are no worries of being left without the ability to reach help if we need it.  And, if there is an emergency, we are always able to be reached.

We don’t need to worry if we are getting low on bread or milk, or any of the other staples in our cupboards.  We can easily run to the store to get what we need.

When hearing what the settlers on the Oregon Trail faced, some of us think, “Oh, it wouldn’t be that hard.  I know how to rough it.”

For us, roughing it means driving our cars out to a location for a few days, pitching a tent and setting our coolers out with the food we have brought.  It only needs to last a couple of days, so it isn’t a concern about keeping food from spoiling. And, we can bring a lot of the non-perishable food anyway, because we aren’t going to be hauling it any further, so it won’t be too heavy.

Sure, we may have no electricity or running water or any luxuries like that.  However, we have most likely filled up enough jugs of clean water to keep us hydrated and clean for the few days we are out “roughing it”.  And, if the weather ever got really bad, we always would have the option to climb into our vehicles and turn the heat on if we had to.

If things got really bad, we could drive home and be safe and warm within just a couple of hours at the most.

Now, imagine yourself living through what these emigrants did while on the trail….

You have sold everything, using your money to buy a wagon, livestock to pull it and to make sure you have enough supplies to get your family across the country.  You need to have enough food that won’t spoil, but not too much because you don’t want to load your wagon down making it difficult to pull.

There won’t be stores along the way to restock as needed.  Of course, there are the forts you will come to over the trail every few weeks, but the cost for supplies at these forts are double what you would pay elsewhere, and you aren’t guaranteed they will have everything you need.  You need to make sure you still have some money left at the end of the trail for the new future you have planned.

You don’t want your family to starve, but you also need to take into account the weight.  If your wagon is too heavy, along with your personal items you are taking with you, it will be too hard on the livestock pulling the wagon.  Things will need to be left behind on the trail if it gets to be too much.

And, having to choose between food to keep your family alive or personal items that may have sentimental value but aren't crucial to survival, you know what will have to be left behind.

You are relying on the creeks and rivers along the way to provide water for drinking and bathing. However, because of the tremendous numbers of people going over the trail during these years, the water is becoming full of bacteria that can cause serious illness, such as cholera, that can kill you.

These pioneer families are completely at the mercy of the land for months.  

It isn’t something we could even comprehend now.  We have all become accustomed to having access to anything we need.  We can push a button on a computer and have things delivered to our homes.  We can pick up our phones and tap it to instantly be connected to help if we need it.

As I read the journals and the stories, my heart broke over and over hearing about lives that were lost along the way.  I read about treasured heirlooms being left behind on the trail - things they had hoped to have in their new homes to remind them of family left behind.

But, the ones who made it over the trail, and followed the dreams they had for their new lives, truly inspired me.  They made it through, and they proved just how tough we can be when we have to be.  They were true pioneers, and I hope future generations never take for granted the sacrifices and the hardships these people faced to make things better for their families.

It’s a lesson in strength and persistence everyone could learn from.


Kay P. Dawson’s first mail order bride series, Wilder West, is available on Amazon.  Her new series, Oregon Sky, will feature the Wallace family who have settled in the Willamette Valley.  The first book in the series, “Phoebe’s Promise”, takes place over the Oregon Trail - to be released early April 2016.

Find Kay P. Dawson…

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  1. Those pioneers sure had to endure a rough existence. I think I would have made a very grouchy pioneer! If I had a choice, I would have waited until traveling by train made the entire experience easier!

  2. Agree 100%. For those who know me, my non-fiction life is about keeping the stories of the pioneers alive. In fiction, we try to bring the realities to life, while still having our happy endings. Here's to the stories we tell and the lives of those who inspire then. Angela/Doris

  3. Enjoyed your first post about your impressions of what it was like on the Oregon Trail. We forget how convenient we have things. This is a reminder that if you forgot something important, or if things went wrong, it could prove deadly.

    I remember enjoying Oregon Trail novels several years ago, and then it seems like I didn't see them offered. I'm so glad to see your new series, and look forward to reading it.

  4. Very interesting post, Kay. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and learning. (There IS a reason I was born in the 20th century.)
    We're so pleased to have you with us at Sweet Americana Sweethearts!
    Kristin Holt