Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters from the Western Trails, 1840-1849 - Vol. 1

By Kenneth L. Holmes | Go to book overview

The Diary of Elizabeth Dixon Smith

INTRODUCTION

Elizabeth Dixon Smith's diary is one of the classics of western history. It was published first in the Transactions of the Oregon Pioneer Association for their 35th annual reunion in Portland in June, 1907, published in 1908. This is the copy that historians have worked with and quoted from. It is not an accurate copy. These transcribers corrected Elizabeth Smith's spelling, punctuated her sentences and capitalized words where she had not done so. We have gone back to the original1 in the Oregon Historical Society's manuscript collection and transcribed it as accurately as possible. It is published with their permission.

Now, as to the manuscript itself: It is written as a letter with the diary entries following each other line after line. with no diary format at all. Elizabeth Smith had kept a diary all right, but this document is a letter to two friends in Indiana in which she copied her original diary, and, evidently because of a shortage of paper, she used every square inch of space as efficiently as possible. Her writing is clear and easy to read for the most part, but it is very small. She wrote the last entry in her actual diary on February 24, 1848, and she dated the letter copy May 25, 1848. She also inserted some comments about events that had taken place in the meantime, such as the Whitman Massacre. These are fairly easy to discern, as her language gives them away.

So far it has been impossible to learn the exact date of

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1
Postal Mss 641.

-111-

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