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Letters from the Plains

Salem, Iowa, August 13, 1852.

Mr. Galloway: the three following letters recently received from the plains I send you, with a few not material alterations and slightly abridged and corrected in diction, as they were written in the usual hasty emigrant style. Though they relate to similar subjects, yet they will be read with interest by their (the writer’s) friends and acquaintances, as well as by others who may have friends on the route, or who may contemplate emigrating to California or Oregon. Stuart Richey, Caleb Richey, James Akin and James Ingram and their families left the neighborhood of Salem on the 16th of April last to emigrate to Oregon. They got separated for awhile on the route, as the letters show. The three first named emigrated to Iowa in 1835 and settled about three or four miles northeast of Salem, at a time when there were but few white inhabitants in Iowa—when the Sac and Fox Indians were privileged to occupy this portion of the state as their home and hunting ground. They were all comfortably situated to live—had well improved farms and happy homes, but, prompted by a romantic and daring spirit of adventure, that first led them to the wilds of Illinois, and then to Iowa, they sold their farms at a sacrifice and, bidding a long adieu to kindred and friends, they again plunged into the western wilds of American—on their long, long journey across the continent.

With the view of finding new and happier homes in a happier and more congenial clime west of the Stony Mountains; where the great Columbia rolls the waters of her numerous tributaries to the vast Pacific! It is one of the longest overland journeys on earth, with perhaps the grandest and sublimest scenery on the way, where numerous rivers rise and flow their entire destined lengths. Grand, extensive plains or prairies, the natural haunts of the buffalo, elk, antelope, deer and various other animals that roam, monarch of all they survey—extend for many miles along the route on either hand, like the green expanse of the boundless ocean!

Again the emigrants plunge into the dark forests of towering grandeur, the natural haunt of the fabled god, Sylva! Then again we may imagine the scene changed, as on the verge of yonder distant horizon appear to view the snowy summits of lofty mountains that rise to the region of the clouds—whose sides are clothed in the perennial verdure of towering pines and cedars, presenting some of the most picturesque scenery on the globe. Such I imagine to be the scenery of the Rocky Mountains—wild, romantic and beautiful—the pride and home of the American Eagle!

Though many dangers and hardships are to be encountered on an exodus of over 2000 miles through the howling wilderness—the home of numerous tribes of Indians—yet such is the determined, migratory character of our people, that all these dangers are bravely met and overcome by many; as if in defiance of danger and of death!

Some there are who, no doubt, rue the day they started and would that they were back again, pleasantly situated on their old homesteads. Still, thousands of emigrants throng the road, and thousands more are anxious to go, and press hard upon the rear; who will soon line the shore of the Pacific with towns and cities; and will, ere half a century, make Oregon the abode of happy millions. For,

"Wide shall our own free race increase,

And wide extend the elastic chain

That binds, in everlasting peace,

State after State—A mighty train."

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