Frauen im Wilden Westen: Amelia Stewart Knight

Über ihre Reise auf dem Oregon Trail berichtete Amelia Stewart Knight in ihrem Tagebuch von 1853. Die Reise dauerte fünf Monate.

Frauen im Wilden Westen:  Amelia Stewart Knight

Amelia Stewart Knight wurde  in Boston im Januar 1817 geboren und heiratete am 18. September 1834 den englischen Einwanderer Joel Knight, der als Hutmacher arbeitete. Dieser studierte in Boston Medizin und verkaufte Hüte. 1837 zogen Amelia und Joel mit ihrem fünf Monate alten Sohn Plutarch Stewart nach Iowa und lebten dort 16 Jahre.  1853 beschloss Joel Knight, dass er und seine Familie die strengen Winter in Iowa verlassen sollten und es gesünder sei, in der Gegend von Oregon zu leben. So brach er am 9. April 1853 mit seiner Frau und seinen Kindern Plutarch Stewart, Seneca, Frances, Jefferson, Lucy, Almira, Chatfield und Wilson Carl aus Iowa auf, um nach Oregon zu ziehen. Über ihre Reise auf dem Oregon Trail berichtete Amelia in ihrem Tagebuch.  Die Reise dauerte fünf Monate. Amelia war schwanger, beklagte sich aber auf der Reise nie über Schwierigkeiten der Hitze, Nässe, Kälte und den Schlamm. Dazu kamen kranke Kinder und körperliche Gefahren sowie Kopfschmerzen und das Heimweh. Am 18. September 1853 brachte Amelia ihr achtes Kind am Strassenrand zur Welt. Einen Tag zuvor hatte die Familie ihre Reise beendet.
Das Tagebuch von Amelia Stewart Knight beginnt am Samstag, dem 9. April 1853 in Monroe County, Iowa und endet am 17. September 1853 in der Nähe von Milwaukie in Oregon. Für jeden Tag gibt es einen Eintrag, der oft sehr kurz gehalten ist (Knight, 1853).  
In ihrem Tagebuch schrieb sie am 9. April 1853: “STARTED FROM HOME about 11 o’clock and traveled 8 miles and camped in an old house; night cold and frosty.“ (Knight, 1853). Die erste Nacht ist kalt und frostig, als sie in einem alten Haus übernachten. Am Sonntag, 10. April 1853 berichtete sie: „Sunday, April 10th -- Cool and pleasant, oad hard and dusty. Evening Came 18 miles and camped close in to the Fulkerson’s house.“ (Knight, 1853). Am 11. April 1853 berichtete sie, dass es anfing zu regnen und zwei ihrer Kinder krank wurden: „Monday, April 11th -- Morn. Cloudy and signs of rain, about 10 o’clock it began to rain. At noon it rains so hard we turn out and camp in a school house after traveling 11 miles; rains all the afternoon and all night, very unpleasant. Jefferson and Lucy have the mumps. Poor cattle bawled all night“ (Knight, 1853). Sie berichtet, dass es aufhört zu regnen und sie ihre Kleider trocknen können. Mit der Weiterfahrt müssen sie warten, da die Wege zu nass und zum Teil überschwemmt sind. Am 13. April reparieren sie die Wagen bei schönem, trockenem Wetter.
Am 14. April 1853 berichtete sie von einer Flussüberquerung und dass andere Wagen ebenfalls den Fluss überqueren wollten. Am Abend bekam sie Kopfschmerzen:
„Thursday, April 14th -- Quite cold. Little ewes crying with cold feet. Sixteen wagons all getting ready to cross the creek. Hurrah and bustle to get breakfast over. Feed the cattle. Hurrah boys, all ready, we will be the first to cross the creek this morning. Gee up Tip and Tyler, and away we go, the sun just rising. Evening -- We have traveled 24 miles today and are about to camp in a large prairie without wood. Cold and chilly; east wind. The men have pitched the tent and are hunting something to make a fire to get supper. I have the sick headache and must leave to boys to get it themselves the best they can“ (Knight, 1853).
Am Freitag, 15. April 1853 schrieb sie in ihr Tagebuch, drei ihrer Pferde seien in der Nacht ausgebrochen und wieder eingefangen worden:
„Friday, April 15th -- Cold and cloudy, wind still east. Bad luck last night. Three of our horses got away. Suppose they have gone back. One of the boys has gone back after them, and we are going on slowly. Evening - Henry has come back with the horses all right again. Came 17 miles today. Roads very bad and muddy. Cold and clouds all day. It is beginning to rain; the boys have pitched the tent and I must get supper“ (Knight, 1853).

Am 2. Mai 1853 berichtete sie, dass ihr Camp jeden Tag von Indianern besucht wurde, die um Geld und Lebensmittel bettelten:
„Monday, May 2nd -- Pleasant evening; have been cooking, and packing things away for an early start in the morning. Threw away several jars, some wooden buckets, and all our pickles. To unhandy to carry. Indians came to our camp every day, begging money and something to eat. Children are getting used to them“ (Knight, 1853).

Am 5. Mai 1853 überquerten sie mit einem Dampfschiff Hindoo den Fluss, womit sie von Iowa Abschied nahmen. Sie berichtete von Problemen mit den Tieren auf dem Schiff und dass sie sich auf der anderen Seite des Flusses in eine Mormonenstadt begaben:
„Thursday, May 5th -- We crossed the river this morning on a large steam boat called the Hindoo, after a great deal of Hurrahing and trouble to get the cattle all aboard. One ox jumped overboard and swam across the river, and came out like a drowned rat. The river is even with its banks, timber on it, which is mostly cottonwood, is quite green. Costs us 15 dollars to cross. After biding Iowa a kind farewell we travel about 8 miles and camp among the old ruins of the Mormon towns. We here join another company, which will make in all 24 men, 10 wagons, and a large drove of cattle. Have appointed a captain, and are now prepared to guard the stock, four men watch 2 hours and then call up four more to take their places, so by that means no person can sleep about the camp. Such a wild noisy set was never heard“ (Knight, 1853).

Am 31. Mai 1853 begegneten sie Viehzüchtern, die sie mit Pistolen angreifen, so dass sie mit ihrem Vieh auf einem anderen Weg flohen. Im Tagebuch heißt es:
„Tuesday, May 31st -- Evening -- Traveled 25 miles today. When we started this morning there were two large droves of cattle and about 50 wagons ahead of us, and we either had to stay poking behind them in the dust or hurry up and drive past them. It was no fool of a job to be mixed up with several hundred head of cattle, and only one road to travel in, and the drovers threatened to drive their cattle over you if you attempted to pass them. They even took out their pistols. Husband came up just as one man held his pistol at Wilson Carl and saw what the fuss was and said, “Boys, follow me,” and he drove our team out of the road entirely, and the cattle seemed to understand it all, for they went into the trot most of the way. The rest of the boys followed with their teams and the rest of the stock. I had rather a rough ride, to be sure, but was glad to get away from such a lawless set, which we did by noon. The head teamster did his best by whipping and hollowing to his cattle. He found it of no use and got up into his wagon to take it easy. We left some swearing men behind us. We drove a good ways ahead and stopped to rest the cattle and eat some dinner. While we were eating we saw them coming. All hands jumped for their teams, saying they had earned the road too dearly to let them pass again, and in a few moments we were all on the go again. Had been very warm today. Thermometer at 98 in the wagon at one o’clock. Towards evening there came up a light thunderstorm  which cooled the air down to 60. We are now within 100 miles of Fort Laramie“ (Knight, 1853).

Weiter berichtete  Amelia Stewart Knight, dass die Familie auf ihrer Reise immer wieder aufgehalten wurde. Es war schwer, Flüsse zu überqueren, die Kinder wurden krank, durch das schlechte Wetter wurden ihre Dinge beschädigt oder Strassen unpassierbar.  Viele andere Wagen trafen sie auf dem Weg.
Am 5. September 1853 berichtete sie von einer nächtlichen Begegnung mit betrunkenen und lauten Indianern, die sich im gleichen Camp wie die Familie aufhielten und ihren Hund, der sie und das Vieh beschützte:
„Monday, September 5th -- Passed a sleepless night last night as a good many of the Indians camped around us were drunk and noisy and kept up a continual racket, which made all hands uneasy and kept our poor dog on the watch all night. I say poor dog, because he is nearly worn out with traveling through the day and should rest at night; but he hates and Indian and will not let one come near the wagons if he can help it; and doubtless they would have done some mischief but for him. Ascending a long steep hill this morning, which was very hard on the cattle, and also on myself, as I thought I should never get to the top, although I rested two or three times. After traveling two or three miles over some very pretty rolling prairie, we have turned our cattle out to feed a while, as they had nothing last night. Evening - Traveled about 12 miles today, and have encamped on a branch of the Deschutes, and turned our cattle and horses out to tolerably good bunch grass.“ (Knight, 1853).

Nachdem die Familie durch die Prärie gereist war, fand sie auf dem weiteren Weg in Oregon eher eine waldige, sanfte und hügelige Landschaft. Diese wird von Bergen und Bäumen, die auf dem Weg lagen und die Fahrt behinderten, unterbrochen. Am 10. September wird im Tagebuch berichtet:
„Saturday, September 10th -- Pleasant. Noon - We have just halted in a little valley at the foot of Big Laurel Hill to rest ourselves and the poor, weary cattle an hour or so. We dare not rest long in these mountains, for fear of a storm, which would be almost certain to kill all our stock, although the poor things need it bad enough, after what they have gone through with this forenoon. It would be useless for me with my pencil to describe the awful road we have just passed over (let fancy picture a train of wagons and cattle passing through a crooked chimney and we have Big Laurel Hill). After descending several bad hills, on called Little Laurel Hill, which I thought is as bad as could be, but in reality it was nothing to this last one called Big Laurel. It is something more than half mile long, very rocky all the way, quite steep, winding, sideling, deep down, slippery and muddy, made so by a spring running the entire length of the road, and this road is cut down so deep that at times the cattle and wagons are almost out of sight, with no room for the drivers except on the bank, a very difficult place to drive, also dangerous, and to make the matter worse, there was a slow poking train ahead of us, which kept stopping every few minutes, and another behind us which kept swearing and hurrying our folks on, and there they all were, with the poor cattle all on the strain, holding back the heavy wagons on the slippery road. The men and boys all had their hands full, and I was obliged to take care of myself and little ones as best I could, there being no path or road except the one where the teams traveled. We kept as near the road as we could, winding round the fallen timber and brush, climbing over logs, creeping under fallen timber, sometimes lifting and carrying Chat. To keep from smelling the carrion, I, as others, holding my nose. (Must quit, as all hands are getting ready to travel again.) Evening - Came 10 miles today. Crossed Sandy River once and have camped by it about dark. Fed the stock flour and cut down alders for them to browse on. Nothing else for them, poor things. Kept them yoked and tied all night (there I was sick all night and not able to get out of the wagon in the morning).“ (Knight, 1853).

Am 17. September 1853 endet das Tagebuch mit dem Eintrag:

„Saturday, September 17th -- In camp yet. Still raining. Noon - It has cleared off and we are all ready for a start again, for some place we don’t know where. Evening - Came 6 miles and have encamped in a fence corner by a Mr. Lambert’s, about 7 miles from Milwaukie. Turn our stock out to tolerable good feed. A few days later my eighth child was born. After this we picked up and ferried across the Columbia River, utilizing skiff, canoes and flatboat to get across, taking three days to complete. Here husband traded two yoke of oxen for a half section of land with one-half acre planted to potatoes and a small log cabin and lean-to with no windows. This is the journey’s end. (Finis)“ (Knight, 1853).
Zwei Joch-Ochsen wurden gegen ein halbes Stück Land getauscht, mit einem Hektar Land, auf dem Kartoffeln angebaut waren und einer kleinen Blockhütte ohne Fenster. Damit endete die Reise von Iowa nach Milwaukie. 

Knight, Amelie Stewart (1853): Diary

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