Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Foolery #41: 150 years ago tomorrow

Oregon Trail mural Conestoga by mharrsch

In the words of her son, written sometime in the 1930s, a not-so-foolish but true story about my pioneer great-great-great grandmother. I don't have an ounce of her stamina.

I am now to record an event that was of common occurrence, but would no longer be considered possible among normal persons. William D. McIlroy and his wife Elizabeth had started the long journey into the wilderness with full knowledge of the fact that far out in that land of peril a child would be born to them. No physician was in the wagon train and no supplies such as we consider indispensable at the present time. There would be no place to go to for help or to purchase needed material or medicine. Among the pioneer people it was the custom to call in any woman of middle age who had been a mother to help the mother to be in the delivery of the baby. In older established settlements a regular midwife was generally available.

At Grass Springs, west of the summit of the Rocky Mountains, on July the 4th 1859, Sierra Ella McIlroy was born. She was their first child. The wagon train was delayed only one day because of the event, and still all went well with mother and child.

Can you imagine?

The family 1870 Bible page records Grass Springs as 8 miles west of Big Sandy River at Grass Springs then in what was known as Oregon Territory some 20 or 30 miles East of the East Fork of Green River on what was called Lander Cutoff on the road between the Mississippi River and Pacific Coast.

Sadly, the same Bible also records Sierra's death September 21, 1864 at about 4:00 PM at Hope Farm Prairie, Skookum Chuck, Lewis County, Washington Territory. Cause of death was diphtheria, she lasted about 5 hours and her throat closed. Age 5 years, 2 months and 17 days.

Happy 150th 4th of July birthday, great-great-great aunt Sierra. You were clearly way ahead of your current popularity and I wish DTap was around back then for you.