I couldn't remember if I showed any part of this quilt before. Turns out I did, way back in June. I finally finished it today. Women of the Oregon Trail.
It is an entry for an Oregon-themed show. The women represent the native people who were already here when the Westward migration started; the generations of women who came, sometimes not entirely of their own free will with husbands and fathers; and a representative black woman. I learned that although slavery had already been outlawed in the Oregon Territory by the time the migration began, many emigrants brought slaves west with them and the law was pretty much ignored. After the Civil War freed slaves came west on the trail seeking land and new lives. My own great grandmother came from Missouri in a wagon on the Oregon Trail. She was eight years old when she arrived in Oregon with her parents. I grew up in Idaho within a few hundred yards of where the Oregon Trail came through the Portneuf Valley. It has long been a fascination of mine and I am especially drawn to the diaries written by women on the trail.
It was an incredibly hard journey for women and children and many of the diaries became a tally of graves passed and deaths along the way. Many young women, some mere teenagers, were married only days before heading west with their new husbands, leaving home and family behind, most likely never to be seen again. Babies were born, many died and were left in graves along the trail. One of the most heartbreaking accounts was of a family, within sight of Oregon City, the end of the trail, who had to cross the Willamette River to arrive at their destination. After months of hardship, harsh weather and near starvation the end was in sight. In the river crossing, one of the wagons overturned in the current and one of the children was swept away and never found. One has to wonder if it was worth it. Especially for the women.
The 2,000 mile trek was made by more than 400,000 men, women and children between the years of 1841 and 1869. Behind the women in my quilt is the traditional quilt pattern "along the Oregon Trail."