Oregon Trail Journal

by David Sutherland


The date is May 28, 1847. I am Franck Ribery, a French Banker hoping to pick the pockets of settlers in the West. However, since this pocket picking is done without me leaving my bank, they are, effectively, pick pocketing themselves. I am traveling with my wife, Sarah Ribery, my eldest son, Kuba B. Ribery, my eldest daughter, Sarah Ribery II, my youngest son, Daniel S. Ribery, my youngest daughter, Mary Jane Ribery, my newborn, which is unnamed, and my elderly father, Robert L. Ribery. We plan to settle in Oregon and move around with the population center. The wife suspects that even more people will follow us West, so we shouldn't settle too deeply in any single town. My father and I made a pretty profitable business back home in Boston, Massachusetts. Even after buying all of our supplies, we still have $500 to spend. I hope to keep this money to start the bank in Oregon. I estimate at least $250 is needed to buy the necessary provisions to build my bank. By using stories and letters that have come to me from friends that have either completed the journey or have already started, I have been able to make an educated supply list and have drawn a good route for us. We are in Independence, Missouri, resting for the next part of our journey. Our children are in good health and the old man is cranky, all is good.

Day 1 In Journal

It is a nice day in May, none of the children are sick (albeit bored) and water is plentiful. We came across a river that flowed as gentle as one this size can. We forded it at a relatively shallow spot and made it across alright. We filled up our water barrels after crossing. The water is good and we will have enough water to make it to the next river. Family back in Boston thought it unnecessary to bring two, but letters from Yaya and Aguero said that too much of the trip is devoid of water for one to be enough. While the lush scenery around us now is certainly not devoid of water, the maps all do say that there are deserts before the final mountain pass. We continue on, in hope and fear of what lies ahead.
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Day 2 In Journal

It is June now, and the weather is certainly getting hotter. After buying a ferry for our wagon over the last river (Wife had a bad feeling, what can you say), we filled up and I am certainly glad we filled up and brought two. Even though we do not necessarily need all of the water to drink, it is great at cooling you down in the middle of the afternoon (and temporarily shuts up the old man). We have not stopped to hunt, as we have enough food to make it to Oregon and any delay brings more chance of sickness. We pass by graves often, and they have stopped marking the names but have started marking the illness, just so you know what to look out for. We were about to drink from a pond when Kuba spotted a grave nearby that said Dysentery. The days are long and nights cruelly short, but our water stays wet and our food stays filling, so we continue on.

Day 3 In Journal

September has come and the days (while still hot) are not as hot and long as those from June. Mary Jane fell under a wagon wheel a few weeks ago but survived through the night. The doctors all say that, unless you have sinned, making it through the first night signifies that you will live. While her arm is useless and she is often in pain, it appears to be setting right and the doctors seem right. It has been eight days without new water and we have begun rationing the final barrel (I told you, Uncle Robben, that it would be needed). Our food stays good and we have, knock and wood combined with thankfully, have not fallen to illness. We have not made contact with Indians, however, we have seen a deserted wagon or two that had already been picked clean by people before us. I spend the days talking to Kuba about the bank we will build. Sarah spends the days tending to Mary Jane, who has not become ill and has avoided infection. As we walk it gets colder, and I am heavily reminded of the ticking clock that hangs over the Mountain Pass; counting down to Winter.

Day 4 in Journal

It is early November. The passes have already started filling with snow, but there is a guide here that says he can take us through before it is impossible to pass. Sarah believes that if we wait too long we won't be able to find a suitable place to set up our bank. Location is key in most places, and with a bank, it is essential. We have decided to trust the guide and head up the pass. It grows colder as we climb up. We have abandoned all but our money, food, water, fire tools and clothing in order to lighten the load. Mary Jane has healed, which is a blessing, for I would not know what to do with her on this steep slope. The snow, while only being a few inches at first, has now risen to half a foot. Even the guide seems a little more jumpy. The guide is determined to make it through, even though the snow is now one foot high. The trip is taking longer than we thought and we are now running low on food. We are out of wood. Mary Jane has developed pneumonia. Robert has dysentery. Mary Jane just died and now Daniel is a little green around the gills. Sarah has developed pneumonia. Dad died three hours ago from a mixture of pneumonia and dysentery. Daniel has died from hypothermia. Kuba, Sarah, the newborn (now 5 months old), Sarah II and the guide are all who are left. We have not had time to bury the bodies, as the snow is now two feet deep. We killed and ate our last ox and left our wagon behind. Sarah and the newborn fell off of a cliff, we do not know if they have survived and do not have time to check. Sarah II has cholera. The guide has the measles and we have left him behind so it does not spread. Sarah II has died. Kuba and I are all that are left. We wear the clothes of the deceased to keep us warm. Despite leaving the guide behind Kuba has developed the measles and died shortly after. I have run out of food and become weaker. The snow is nearly 4 feet now. I will stow this Journal deep within in my jackets and I will hope it survives until a kind-hearted soul finds it. I am almost glad I will die, as I could barely imagine life without my Sarah, my Mary Jane, or my Kuba.
I have named several of my family members after famous soccer players. I tried to base them in my mind off of them. (Daniel's middle name is Sturridge, Robert's is Lewandowski.)