This is a long post, but it is a quick read. Beginning tomorrow I am starting another sew-a-long (what did I say yesterday????). Barbara Brackman (Civil War Quilts
) is hosting a new block of the month, "Westering Women". Do read her post if you are at all interested in the history of our westward movement. I too believe there was little quilting done while traveling west. When would they have the time?
I know I can manage one block a month and this one is near and dear to my heart. Come on and join the fun. I know we all had fun with the Time Warp Stars (my finished quilt WILL be posted someday.
I made a quilt back in 2003 as part of special "Oregon Trail" exhibit at our Maine Quilt Show that summer. I wrote little story in the form of a diary of a fictional couple going west. I named the characters after my childhood neighbor (Arzetta Poole) who taught me how to quilt. (There is a little bit of Mrs. Poole in every one of my quilts!)
Here is the quilt
I inked the heading and the diary pages.
My wagon wheels look as if they have traveled over a lot of ruts!
and here is the story I wrote if you are so inclined. Do get a cup of tea or better yet a glass of wine!
“Westward Ho o”
The Journey of William and Arzetta Poole
(quilt & story by Wendy Reed 2003)
seems nearly impossible that we have said our goodbyes and are on our way to Independence, Missouri
where we will begin our westward journey along the Oregon
Trail. Through the tears I could see my mother’s face longing for
me to change my mind and stay here, near my family and friends. Of course, I
cannot, for my home is now with William and I go where he goes. William is
certain we are heading for a better life than the one we are leaving behind.
opened my eyes this morning to a sea of wagons. With all the canvas billowing
atop their frames it reminds me of the sails in Boston Harbor
on a busy day. I cannot let my mind wander home again, for if I do this journey
will become unbearable for me. As we listen to the stories traveling down the
waterfront on what to expect along the trail, and what our daily duties will
be, it becomes clear to me that I will have little time to pine.
is making fast friends with a man named Simeon Porter. Simeon has spent the
last two years before the mast of a whaling ship, a situation which he can no
longer endure. So, he and his wife Mary and two young boys, Joshua and Evan are
making their way west. We shared our evening fire with them making our meal a
true pleasure. Mary collected her needlework purse and shared with me a few
bits of her precious calicoes. I opened mother’s abundant scrap bag and in turn
handed her tiny remnants of my past to add to her piecing.
weather was too severe today for the oxen to move the heavy wagons so we are at
camp until the weather breaks. Mary and I will try to take a few moments
together after the boys are down for the evening. She has been working on the
most clever design. It seems that pieces so small, I would have normally tossed
to my younger sisters, are now being worked into my quilt. I have Mary to thank
for showing me her talent for using up every scrid of calico in a most pleasing
way. We have both vowed to finish our tops before reaching Oregon and that we will meet after our
arrival and quilt them together.
so many older, yet less experienced men on this journey, William has become
quite popular with many of the families. He helps me with my evening fire and
then sets off to assist others in need, barely making it back in time for his
supper. I admire his generous nature, but I fear he will wear himself out if
not careful. I am doing my best to keep him comfortable in the evenings. I have
found that not all men are as patient and obliging as my William. My job is so
much easier than of those with children and difficult husbands.
have been piecing tiny triangles this evening for the blocks in my quilt.
Joshua has been feeling poorly so Mary has not been able to piece with me the
last few evenings. I do hope he will feel better soon, she worries so. He is a
small boy, but he has such a cheerful nature, I’m sure he will be up and about
before long. Mrs. Patterson has offered to aid in Joshua’s recovery. Being a
midwife, she is the closest thing to a doctor that we have met thus far. Mrs.
Patterson does some piecing from time to time as well. I think I will offer her
some of my scrap bag for her kind assistance.
came by this morning to tell us that Joshua is feeling much better today. He
said if he continues to improve that Mary will be by this evening for a bit of
piecing. Breaking camp was a bit tedious this morning, as the wind has come up
strong already. William has gone off to render assistance to the Applegates and
Mr. & Mrs. Patterson. I’m sure these families appreciate William’s help.
I’m happy to have such a wonderful group to travel with. It would be impossible
to make this trip alone.
days are so windy and dusty you can hardly see the oxen in front of the wagon.
I feel I have swallowed five pounds of dust in the past few days. It must be
hard for the animals as well, but our team marches on as though they hadn’t a
care in the world. They are such hardy creatures. Amos is my favorite, although
I wouldn’t tell the others! All four are extremely hard workers and although
they have lost a bit of weight in the past few weeks, they are still quite robust.
I love them all dearly.
is a great deal of sadness in camp this morning. Young Laura Brown lost her
baby shortly after midnight. Mrs. Patterson was with her through the night and
says she is now resting comfortably. In my prayers last evening I asked God for
strength to endure the hardships I am facing on this long journey. I am now
ashamed that I thought only of myself and I can only imagine the pain and loss
that Laura must be feeling today. I will make every effort to comfort her for
the remainder of our journey.
air this morning is crystal clear and the view to the west is like none I have
ever seen. Mountains rise above the earth as if to beckon you toward heaven
itself. For the first time since our departure from Boston, I understand William’s desire to
experience this new world. There is still a long way to go, but I have found a
new outlook on our journey. William has seen the change in me and in his face I
see a joyous expression that I have not seen since we left. This is truly a
mountains are getting closer. I can almost hear them calling to us. We had
quite a gathering at our fire this evening after supper. Laura is beginning to
piece with us, and Mrs. Patterson came by with a few other ladies. I started
Laura out on a simple 4-patch and she seems delighted with her efforts. I’m not
sure what I would have done if I had not had mother’s scrap bag. It has helped
me make friends and has kept me busy in the evening when my mind likes to
mountains which seemed so magnificent to me but a few days ago now bear
treacherous trails and arduous climbs. We must rest the team far more often
than on the flat. The evenings are so cold there is no opportunity for piecing
around the fire. Mary goes down at night now with the boys to keep them warm. I
have given our extra bedding to the Brown’s. I am now wishing that my quilt
were finished as it would come in handy on these cold nights.
have finally reached Fort
Boise. It is not the
settlement I had hoped for, but we are able to purchase a few much needed
supplies for the nearly 400 miles that remain ahead. William has heard talk
this morning of a number of families that will now be veering off to California. I am
thankful that the Porter’s, Patterson’s and Brown’s are not among them. I would
miss Mary terribly if they were to leave now. God willing, we should make it to
our destination in another month.
last few days have left us all quite weary. Our one salvation is that we are so
very near to our destination that we can endure almost anything to get there. I
am anxious to finish the quilt top I began so many months ago. I have not had
the time or the energy these last few weeks, but I am determined, as is Mary,
to finish this before we set foot on our new soil. William keeps me in good
spirits each night by describing the house we will build on our newfound land.
I will have pleasant dreams tonight.
have made it! Like the pearly gates of heaven, the tiny steeples of Oregon City
are a sight to behold. As we head into town I can see the great relief in
William’s eyes. It has been a long arduous journey and we have survived it
together. After resting the team, William made his way to the Government Claims
Office. He chose his 640 acre tract with confidence. Within the week we will
head for our new home. We spent this first evening in civilization with our new
friends. It seems that Simeon and Mary have chosen a parcel less than two miles
from ours. Life is good.
We are merrily preparing our Christmas repast. Simeon and
Mary and the boys will be by for the noon meal. I miss my mother and my family
back east more than usual on this eve of celebration. I am thankful to have
Mary as my friend and we will make our own traditions here in our new home. I
have finished my quilt top and we put it in my frame last week. Mary has but a
few more pieces left and I have promised to help her put hers in before New
Year’s Day. I know that 1850 will be a wonderful year.