It was an engaging title, "The Diary of a Pioneer Girl," and the sub-title, "The Adventures of Sallie Hester, Aged Twelve, in a Trip Overland in 1849." This title appeared at the head of each of seven serialized episodes in the California weekly periodical, The Argonaut, from September 1 through October 24, 1925. The first episode opens with Sallie and her family leaving their hometown, Bloomington, Indiana, for California on August 25, 1849. The last episode closes with her marriage to James K. Maddock of Eureka, Nevada, on October 5, 1871.1
The very title is in error: Sallie was not "Aged Twelve," but was a mature 14-year-old at the time of the overland journey. She tells us her birthday and age in her diary. She indicated on "October 27 . -- My birthday."2 She had already told her age in an earlier entry, that on May 6, , "I am only sixteen and engaged to be married."3 Her tender age led to calling off the engagement. These two entries, however, do tell us that she would have been born on October 31, 1835. So at the time of the beginning of the diary and the departure for the long overland journey she was fourteen, not twelve.
The second sentence of the first entry in her diary, March 20, 1849, also makes the following statement: "Our family, consisting of father, mother, two brothers and one sister, left this morning for that far and much talked of country____________________