Many of the emigrants who followed the Cherokee and Overland Trails through Colorado kept diaries or journals. Some are just now being discovered, dusty, ragged pages hidden away in attics or basements. Most of the diaries have common threads running through them: the river crossings, scenery along the trail, numbers of travelers in the party, Indians camped near by, and the numbers of troops stationed at Camp (Fort) Collins. Here are some excerpts from a few of them.
One of the earliest diaries was written by Edward Bliss who describes the trip from Denver in October 1862. Having left Denver in the morning, they ate lunch along Boulder Creek, and camped at Camp Collins that evening, traveling about 75 miles in one day, which was remarkable. In contrast, George Bruffey was on a train of about 50 wagons which left Denver early in the morning on a September day in 1863, and didn't reach the Cache la Poudre until late on the third day. This party had 47 men, nine women, and fourteen children. He writes this about the Cache la Poudre: "A beautiful, quiet stream, walled in by slender cottonwood tress, bordered a well-cared for garden of watermelons, squash, and cabbage." They continued on their trip "by way of the new stage road over fine, grassy peaks in the Rocky Hills to Virginia Dale..."
This diary page was written by a lady as her wagon train was camped very near to where the South Platte and the Cache la Poudre meet near present day Greeley. It reads as follows:
"Sunday May 26th, '63
This morning we arose finding the Sun shining clear and a cool refreshing breeze. We were all expecting to cross the Platte to day but sickness disappointed us. Mrs. Bosworth was unable to travel to day. We are camped near the River in a beautiful place. The day has been very warm and I have enjoyed the shade of the cotton woods near our camp very much. I bake Sixteen loaves of bread to day and feel some weary this eve. We have been singing some this eve. The boys are now wrapped in the sweet embrace of sleep and I must soon be the same. Good night all, Parker."
Traveling in 1863 on the Overland Trail, Howard Cutting kept a rather detailed diary. He noted, as they crossed the Cache la Poudre, that "...there are a great number of settlers along our route...they farm and raise stock having Denver as a market." They passed an Indian camp which included "29 huts or tents, and in short order the Indian children flocked to the road to see up pass." When they camped for the night about a mile after crossing the river, they were soon ingulfed by crowds of Indians wanting something to eat. They were warned by a soldier from Camp Collins of the "...hungry and aggressive bears and mountain lions in the foothills nearby." After passing through the "Black Hills", Cutting notes that the "stage stations here are merely big stables."
Franklin E. Adams was in a train of 64 wagons. At Camp Collins in June of 1865, he wrote that "...the Indians are very troublesome...and had stolen some horses and killed seven men..."
Traveling from Salt Lake City to Denver on the Overland Stage Line in 1866, Julius C. Birge writes that before they came to Virginia Dale, "...the driver became drunk and the reigns had to be wrested from him to regain control of the stage. " The next day, "...after a change of horses and driver...", he continued on to Denver.
See also Rules of the Road from a diary by John McDannald--1865.
Check out these links to more than 100 Diaries, Memoirs and Letters written along the Trails West.
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