A Diary of an Overland Trail Mother

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Diary Entry for the 24th of February 1865:

Two days ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, and my husband and I named him Joseph, after his father. Our little Joseph Bertrand was born on February 22nd, and today, after only two days with him, we sadly lost him. Joseph was a very small child and suffered from complications during birth. The biggest complication faced during childbirth was Joseph having his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. His father and I worried that our poor child would be strangled before the end of the delivery. Thankfully, this was not the case. I do believe that this unfortunate event is part of the reason he contracted pneumonia just mere hours after his entrance into this world.

Joseph’s death leaves my husband Joseph and I with only one child, our daughter, Theresa, aged sixteen years this year. While my husband and I love Theresa, we have always wanted a son as well; especially Joseph, for he wanted his name to be carried on. While giving birth to Joseph I also suffered and continue to suffer from complications. The doctor has told me that if I were to go through childbirth again, especially since I am no longer in my prime, I would most likely die as a result. This news was hard on both my husband and I for our hopes of having any more children, gender aside, vanished.

Theresa seems to be taking the death of little Joseph particularly hard, which surprised me at first. However I have a feeling that she was looking forward to having a younger sibling and helping to raise Joseph. Most of all, I think that Theresa was hoping to find companionship, as Joseph grew older, and now that will sadly never happen.

Diary Entry for the 21st of March 1865:

Joseph and I have been doing a lot of thinking about our lives and how the loss of our infant son has impacted our feelings of home. We decided earlier this month to move out with the next wagon train to come by these parts and go with them into the Oregon Territory, in hopes of finding a clean slate and a better chance of happiness. A few days prior, Joseph and I sat down with Theresa and told her of our plans, so that she would know what was going on. Luckily Theresa is very happy with this plan, which will make the journey smoother. Today we left our home in order to travel to Oregon and start over, will write more tomorrow.

Diary Entry for the 22nd of March 1865:

Today, we managed to be able to cross the river after waiting for most of the night and most of the morning. We are only able to cross today due to being at the front of the wagon train. That however is the only good news I have of the day. While crossing the river, our dear daughter Theresa lost her footing and drowned. Joseph and I were so busy trying to direct the oxen that we didn’t notice until it was too late. Now we are childless and heading out into the unknown, wishing we would have stayed at our home. It is too late to turn back now though, and so with low morale we will trudge on to the end.





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