Best of Covered Wagon Women, Volume 2

Written by Kenneth L. Holmes (ed.)
Review by Audrey Braver

These are letters and diary entries written by various young women and girls detailing their journeys overland by covered wagons between 1846 and 1865. The last entry written in 1898 tells of a short journey from Tecoma, Nevada, to Sweet Home, Oregon. Also included are three letters from two women of the ill-fated Donner Party that was trapped by snowstorms in a mountain pass between Nevada and California in 1846. For the most part the authors, none of whom had the responsibilities of a wife or mother, concentrated on the uniqueness of the landscapes, flora, fauna, and the few “Indians” of various tribes they encountered, and the hospitality they enjoyed along the way. Often the reader runs across familiar names of American folk heroes like Jim Bridger, whose Native American wife is described.

Holmes (1914-1995) edited and annotated this volume, part of his eleven-volume compilation, Covered Wagon Women. These letters contain improvised grammar and spelling, but are easy to understand and relate rare firsthand observations and personal experiences that are invaluable to the historian, particularly writers of historical fiction.