map drawn by my daughter when she was at Oregon State
There are certain historic events that take on mythic
qualities. In America, some of those have had lasting consequences, others not
so much: Boston Tea Party; Revolutionary War; Lewis and Clark Expedition;
Indian Battles; Pony Express; Building of the Railroads; Civil War; and on any
list, the westward migration across the American continent.
When the United States
government wanted to consolidate its power over this nation, the answer was to
give away land. One such act was the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850:
most generous federal land sale to the public in American history, the law
legitimized the 640-acre claims provided in 1843 under the Provisional
Government, with the proviso that white male citizens were entitled to 320
acres and their wives were eligible for 320 acres. For citizens arriving after
1850, the acreage limitation was halved, so a married couple could receive a
total of 320 acres. To gain legal title to property, claimants had to reside
and make improvements on the land for four years."
"The Donation Land Law was significant in shaping the course of Oregon history. By the time the law expired in
1855, approximately 30,000 white immigrants had entered Oregon Territory, with some 7,000 individuals making claims to 2.5 million acres of
land. The overwhelming majority of the claims were west of the Cascade Mountains. Oregon’s population increased from 11,873 in 1850
to some 60,000 by 1860." William G. Robbins in Oregon Encyclopedia
These giveaways attracted people from all walks of life. Mostly
they were neither unusually rich nor poor. I’ve read it cost around $1000 to acquire all needed to
make the 2200 mile journey from Independence, Missouri
to the Willamette Valley.
For a family of four, that meant wagon, clothing, tent, bedding, livestock, 600
pounds of flour, 400 pounds of bacon (packed in barrels of bran), 100 pounds of
sugar, 60 pounds of coffee and 200 pounds of lard. Add to that sacks of bean,
rice, dried fruit, salt, vinegar and molasses. Eggs packed into cornmeal
were then used to make bread.
photo of pioneers at Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, OR
If they brought a milk cow, butter was made by putting the
morning's milk in buckets that churned it during the day’s travel (which
illustrates how enjoyable riding in that wagon would be). They waited for the
grass to green up in the spring and then hoped to beat the snows before they
went over the last mountain ranges. The road west was littered with graves,
which for the Oregon Trail wasn’t so much from Indian
attacks as cholera and accidents.
Fortunately, for our understanding what they went through,
some of the pioneers kept journals. We can read past the cold facts of the
journey, to their own words, which tell of the sacrifices and difficulties they
faced for the hope of a better life in Oregon.
“Then cholera took my
oldest boy. His sister Isabel fell beneath the wagon And was crushed beneath
the wheels.” from Overland 1852
“The children and myself are shivering round
and in the wagons, nothing for fires in these parts, and the weather is very
disagreeable.” Amelia Stewart Knight, 1853
“This is the ninth
case of death by violence on the route, three of whom were executed, the others
were murdered. This route is the greatest one for wrangling, discord and abuse
of any other place in the world, I am certain.” Abigail Scott Duniway
It was into this saga, of hope and loss, sacrifice and
danger, struggle and victory, that I set my first Oregon
historical romance, Round the Bend. To
do all the research required, write the story of an epic journey, and set it into a tumultuous romance, it helped
to have a hero and heroine who not only inspired me but always stayed true to their character.
At seventeen, Amelia Stevens, having grown up in a nurturing
environment, is full of dreams and the many books she’s read. When her best
friend, since childhood, Matthew Kane lets her know he has feelings for her,
she pushes him away. He's ruining everything.
At almost twenty-one, Matt has already seen too much of the
hard side of life. He holds few illusions about the trip or his own future. His
family is as different from hers as darkness to light. Even if Amy changed her
mind, it really couldn't work. She deserves someone more like the handsome wagon train's
scout, Adam Stone.
Round the Bend,
book one in what will be a series of four, tells of the purest of love
and the most driven
of hate. It is the story of the westward march of pioneers. Most of all,
it is the story of how a man’s highest ideals can change
his life and that of others. Heat level (with 1 least and 5 most) is