An elegant blend of story and illustration developed from a diary and childhood memories of two sisters growing up on a homestead in the mountain country of Northeast Oregon. An author-signed, limited-edition printing, 8-1/2" x 11" in size, illustrated with original watercolors by Don Gray and... show more
An elegant blend of story and illustration developed from a diary and childhood memories of two sisters growing up on a homestead in the mountain country of Northeast Oregon. An author-signed, limited-edition printing, 8-1/2" x 11" in size, illustrated with original watercolors by Don Gray and photographic imagery by Gildemeister, with 28 black & white images and 18 color plates. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 and the branch route to the Pacific Northwest in 1884 many families who could muster the rate of passage chose the much safer and faster rail travel westward. Instead of six months of grueling travel by horse-drawn wagon, the trip by rail could be made in less than a week. one of these families who traveled by emigrant train was the Wassons -- Joseph and Jennie with their two children, Daisy and Caroline, and their Grandmother Blevans, Uncle Steve, and Aunt Allie. The group left their home in Nevada, Missouri in 1885 and headed for the Wallowa Valley of northeast Oregon. People would ask, "Why in the world did your folks ever come to this Godforsaken place when they could have had a much easier life in the Grande Ronde Valley? " If only I could make them see with our eyes the way it looked to us, coming from Missouri -- all clean, lovely waving grass, cold water, tall trees, and mountain scenery too beautiful for words to describe." -- Daisy Wasson. The Wasson family's reason for seeking a new life in the West differed from most others, for Caroline had contracted spinal meningitis, and her doctor recommended the drier climate of Eastern Oregon, for he believed it would be better for her health. When the family arrived in the Wallowa Valley they found the choice land taken up, so Joseph decided on a plot of ground situated on the Divide, an open bench close to the Cat's Back Ridge. There, a long eighteen miles from any semblance of civilization, with the closest neighbor over two miles away, he started his homestead with a new log cabin. The family struggled to survive in this high, inhospitable land, with its short growing season and long hard winters. But they loved this place on the high open bench with its awesome view of the surrounding mountains, and remained there for ten years while the girls grew up, assembled a variety of family pets, and attended their first school. For Christmas of 1894, Caroline received her very first diary, and promptly began an account of daily family life, recording common events as well as cherished memories and troubled times. Over the years the girls corresponded, recalling their childhood and reminiscing about their experiences. Nearly fifty years after leaving the homestead, Daisy sat down to write their family life on the Divide. "Mama always knitted while Papa read to us each evening in the comfort of our new log cabin. Although the cabin was finished in every way that was possible without money, and we had plenty of good food thanks to the carefully hoarded seeds which Mama brought from Missouri, and a kindly neighbor who plowed our garden, we still needed winter supplies, and perhaps a cow and chickens. So, the first few years Papa would go outside the area and work during the summer. This was to be his first time out, and as he prepared to leave for the mining town of Cornucopia he promised, 'When I come back I'll bring you each a big silver dollar.' With tears in our eyes we kissed him goodby. Oh! How we would miss him and wait for his return. . . . ." The Wasson homesteading story is just one of thousands about families who settled the American West, but this story of their ten years on the Divide symbolizes the typical life of the early pioneers -- searching for a new home site, battling the elements of nature, and the day-to-day struggles to survive. But, there were also the good times, and the wonderful memories of their homesteading years far from civilization. What makes this story so special and unusual is that the accounting is taken from a child's point of view.