April 3, 1864
I first want to thank you so much for sending Else back to me. I was never happier than when I opened her box. I also want to thank you and your mother for the bed you made for Else. Papa said he will make space for it in the wagon to California, so Else will have a cradle. We have so much to do to prepare for our journey West. Papa has been talking with a wagon master. I think he is a leader for people in wagon trains. Papa came home yesterday with a wagon and 2 OX! I named them myself.
I have drawn a picture of me and Else, Liesel and Gunter, so you can have a picture of us too. Mama helped me a little. I am not a good artist like you. I have saved the picture you drew for me and will pin it up in my new home in California. Papa says we will be leaving soon, so I wanted to write to you before we leave. Our first stop will be at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, but Papa says you should send a letter to the Post Office in Sacramento, since we do not know when we will be there precisely.
Thank you for being my friend.
God Bless you, very Sincerely,
One day during our stay in the Independence Inn, Papa called
Mama and I to come outside he had something to show us.
Imagine our surprise when we saw a beautiful green wagon and two ox to pull it!
"Is this ours?!" I asked.
"Yes, this is our home for the journey West."
There were 2 oxen who were very gentle and calm. Papa said they were young, but well mannered. He had been told by several people that a yoke of oxen might be slower, but very much more hardy than horses or even mules. Papa said we must give them names.
I thought we should call them Gunter and Liesel, after Uncle Gunter and his wife Liesel.
Mama and Papa laughed but agreed these were fine names.
Papa lifted me inside the wagon. I was very excited!
"When are we leaving Papa?! Can I ride inside and on the seat too?"
"Yes, yes, but you and Mama have much shopping to do first!
I spoke to a wagon master who is leaving from here in 2 weeks.
He has given me a list of items we must have."
The amount of provisions should be as follows;
to each person except infants:
200 pounds of bread stuff (flour and crackers)
100 pounds of bacon
12 pounds of coffee
12 pounds of sugar
Each family should also take the following articles in proportions to the number as follows:
From 1 to 5 pounds tea
From 10 to 50 pounds rice
From 1/2 to 2 bushels beans
From 1/2 to 2 bushels dried fruit
From 1/2 to 5 pounds saleratus (early form of baking soda)
From 5 to 50 pounds soap Cheese, dried pumpkins, onions and a small portion of corn meal may be taken by those who desire them.
(Excerpt from an article in St. Joseph, Missouri Gazette, March 19, 1847)
The next 2 weeks were a very busy time. Papa was purchasing tools and equipment. Mama and I were purchasing dry goods and other supplies. I never enjoyed anything so much. All
the shops had so many interesting things I had never seen before.
The best part was Mama said that if I helped her find the best price at every store at the end of the day she would get me a penny candy!
On our way we took a last look at Independence Square.
We also saw a Pony Express poster. Papa pointed it out to me and said,
"It is the Pony Express Riders who will take your letters to your
friend Isabelle from California. They are very brave boys."
The first day in the wagon train was spent moving all the wagons across the Missouri river.
We were near the front, and Gunter and Liesel pulled us easily across. After we pulled up where the Wagon Master, Mr. Conklin, wanted us, Papa and I went to the river to watch the rest of the wagons cross. Papa and I counted more than 50 wagons! Mr. Conklin the Wagon Master said the larger our train the safer we would be. Papa changed the subject before I could ask what that meant.
The next morning we headed out into the Plains of Kansas. It was so lovely the grass was green and blew softly in the breeze in waves, just like an ocean. I was walking out in front of our wagon, just watching the grass waves, when a voice said behind me,
"Hiya! I'm Elizabeth, I'm 8 too! Mr. Conklin said you was up here in front, but boy I had to run to catch you up!"
I turned around and the prettiest girl was walking up to me.
"Hello, I'm Kirsten." I said.
"Where are ya from Kirsten? I can tell ya aren't long in America!"
I would come to find out quickly that Elizabeth was very direct and was not afraid to ask, or say, anything.
"My Papa brought us from Denmark. We are going to California to stake a claim on a farm." I answered.
"Didja come acrost the ocean?" she asked with an awed expression.
"Yes, my Uncle Gunter owns ships and he made it easy for us to cross. We sailed from Copenhagen to New York."
"I heard of New York, but I ain't never heard of Copa-habby-what's it!"
I couldn't help giggling, "Cope -En- Hag-En." I said it very slowly and distinctly.
"I'll just call it Copa-whats-it." Elizabeth grinned and we both laughed and ran ahead.
Suddenly Elizabeth stopped, "Wait a tic! Didja say California!?"
"Yes, Papa wants to stake a claim for a farm in the Santa Inez Valley in California."
"Oh no! We's goin to Oregon. Ya think your Pa might change his mind?" She asked.
I was quite as struck as Elizabeth seemed to be. We had just made friends and now it looked like we would be separated in a couple of months when the wagon train would split up into 2 different directions.
"I don't think Papa will change his mind. There are other Danes who have settled in that area. Papa wants us to go there and stake a farm claim." I responded sadly.
"Well, we just hafta try and change someones mind! Either your Pa or mine!" Elizabeth laughed and grabbed my hand. We walked hand in hand for a long way until we got tired. By mid-day the sun became warmer and Elizabeth invited me to walk back to her wagon to meet her family.
Elizabeth's mother, Mrs. Pitt, found us first. She was worried about Elizabeth walking off alone.
Just as we turned to walk back to Elizabeth's wagon, Mr. Conklin stopped us.
"Now you ladies know the rule, right? Don't go anywhere you can't see the wagons. You never know what's out there in the grass."
Mr. Conklin scared me a little on his tall horse with his guns and all,
but Elizabeth talked right to him!
"Is there Injuns Mr. Conklin? Do ya think we'll see some soon!?"
Mr. Conklin laughed. "Girl I feel sorry for your future husband.
Let's hope if we see any Indians it's just for trading."
Elizabeth's mother spoke to Mr. Conklin, "I have heard that the last train had a peaceful crossing is that true Mr. Conklin?"
"Yes, that's what's been said, but we still need to keep our heads about us. It's been an easy winter and the buffalo and antelope herds are full, so there's plenty for hunting. That usually keeps things from getting tense. I ain't never lost a wagon yet, and I don't plan to."
Mr. Conklin and his next in command, Mr. Carel, rode on past.
I must have looked astonished, because Elizabeth said, "Didncha know we might see Indians? Sometimes they come in a take all the stock and kill people even!"
"Elizabeth, that's enough!" Elizabeth's mother reprimanded her in a stern voice.
"The tragic encounters between Settlers and Indians is nothing to be taken lightly. Our danger could be very real, my dear."
Elizabeth's mother knelt down, looked at me and said in a calm voice, "My husband talked to a lot of men before he chose Mr. Conklin's train. He has a reputation for being wise and resourceful, so do not worry about tomorrow Kirsten, we must put our trust in God and Mr. Conklin's experience."
I tried not to think about Indians, but I was scared. Papa and Mama tried to comfort me, but I couldn't forget what Elizabeth had said. Mama said she wished Elizabeth was not so free with her words.
A couple days later we were in Nebraska and we passed Chimney Rock. Mr. Conklin told Papa that Fort Laramie was only two or three days ahead. I would be happy to be inside the fort.
Finally Mr. Carel rode past the wagons shouting that Fort Laramie had been sighted. We should make it by nightfall.
As we got nearer the Fort Mama and I saw teepees! There were Indians.
I thought we should hide, but Papa reassured me that these
Indians were friendly, and I should not be afraid.
Indians were friendly, and I should not be afraid.
Inside the Fort as Papa and Mama were unloading what we'd need
for the next couple days, Elizabeth ran up to me,
"You'll never guess what Kirsten! We are going to have school!"
I could tell Elizabeth was very excited, but all I could think was,