Note: David McDannald was 14 years old when he made this journey. His parents,
John and Margaret McDannald, were 48. John was elected Captain of the wagon
train. John's brother-in-law, Philip Linn, was his assistant. In some
documents this is known as the McDannald-Linn wagon train. David wrote
this journal of the trip using his father's trip log for dates and events in
1905, 50 years after the journey.
The cross country trip begins at their home in Mt Sterling, Illinois. They traveled
north into Iowa along some well used roads that went through many established
towns until they reached Plattesmouth, Nebraska on the Missouri River.
It was here that the journey became more primitive and dangerous
as they crossed the Nebraska plains, eventually joining the Oregon Trail
at Fort Kearney on the Platte River. From here to Oregon, the government
strictly controlled the route of the immigrant trains because of the danger
from Native Americans.
Mr. McDannald's journal starts here =
"It is now April, the season when all things begin to show signs of life,
the season when the woodland songsters mate, the flowers bloom on the hillsides,
and in our little Illinois home there is great activity, for the time is drawing
very near when we are to say farewell to all that has been most dear to us
in our childhood days. It is April and our dreams are of another land, where we
are to have a new home, where the winters are warmer, and the summers
are longer than those of Illinois. The members of the caravan have about all
gathered now. Uncle Phillip Linn, with his seven sons and seven daughters,
several of whom had families and equipment of their own helped materially to swell
our caravan to the goal of one hundred souls.
Father had planned to start April the 12th, but fate seemed to decree that the
time was not yet. For old Mother Nature took a hand here, and it simply rained
in a steady down pour for several days and nights, making the clay roads
a veritable quagmire and impassable. So Father, who was in charge of the train
postponed the starting, saying that "A few days of delay in starting was far better
than to impoverish the energy of the beasts trying to pull the heavy loaded
wagons through the sticky mud."
Tuesday, April 25, 1865. 28 wagons are in readiness for the start as the
Brass Band from Mount Sterling came out to the camp and played while the
caravan was forming. Our wagons began to roll at exactly 15 minutes
past 12 o'clock on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 15. Owing to the
trouble of getting the wagons formed into a regulated traveling column,
we only traveled about seven miles that afternoon, and with the band
serenading us all the afternoon and far on into the night before they
returned, we came to the little town of Clayton, where we made our first
nights camp of the long to be remembered journey.
Wednesday, April 26. We left Clayton quite early in the morning for our
first full day's travel on our trip.
Thursday, April 27th. This morning the train got a good start and
was passing through Augusta at 10:30AM. We took dinner that day away
out on the prairie by a small stream called "Branch" in those days.
That night we damped on the right side of the road near a school house,
and it rained all night.
Friday, April 28th. It had been a bad stormy night for us, and this
morning it was hard to get the train in motion. We drove as far as "Bear
Creek" where we ate dinner in the rain. This made the roads bad for travel
during the afternoon,and that night we camped on "Big Bear Creek", and
we youngsters feasted on onions that we roasted by the camp fire.
Saturday, April 29th. Today we took dinner at Oakwood, then after dinner
drove on to the banks of the Mississippi. Since we were to spend the
rest of the day here and all day Sunday, all that evening and far into
the night was spent in a last, joyous good time. The Band of Stringed
Instruments who had left Mount Sterling with out train were still with us.
A heavy tarpaulin was stretched over the rain-soaked ground, and to the
music of the Stringed Band we danced the hours away, in an attempt to
alleviate as far as possible, the sorrow of the parting of the last
of those who were to return home.
Monday, May 1st. This day found us much rested and refreshed by the
day of rest. We were all eager to be on our way, and had crossed the
old Mississippi by 8:00 o'clock, passing through Keokuk in the afternoon.
And when time came to stop for the night we were ten miles out of Keokuk
on the "plank road" where we camped for the night.
Tuesday, May 2nd. We were now on what was then known as the old "Plank
Turnpike" out of Keokuk. On account of this road running through a
swampy stretch of country out of Keokuk, it had been necessary to plank
it in order to make it passable at all. So for this day we set the record
of miles traveled in one day for our entire trip. By night we had traveled
twenty-two miles to where we camped on a small creek, about a mile out
Wednesday, May 3rd. I shall never forget this day as long as I live,
for it was during the day that we hit a stretch of road running through a
gumbo slough for about 12 miles that almost put our expedition on the blink.
We had just started again after having our dinner right out on the plains,
when Tim's wagon got in bad. We had traveled all morning over roads that
"tried men's souls", and the endurance of horses and oxen, for the wagon
wheels cut deep in the putty-like clay that clung to the spokes and hubs of each
and every wheel. But as we attempted the passage of the slough, the first wagon
made the trip with no great difficulty, then each succeeding wagon cut deeper
and deeper in the moist dirt until the combined strength of more beasts was
required to move the mud laden wagon along. It required the combined
strength of eight yoke of oxen tugging at the chains to drag the last mud laden
wagons through. They would make a pull of fifth yards, and then give the
oxen a few minutes respite, before attempting another pull.
Thursday, May 4th. It was with a great deal of mistrust that we tackled
the muddy roads again this morning. We passed through Winchester about 10:00 AM
but soon came to another slough that looked decidedly like the one that had
almost wrecked our hopes the day before, so the men decided that they would
rather spend some time making roads rather than to repeat the experience of the
day before. It was necessary to make a detour of several miles, through
pastures where the men must lower embankments and make culverts across deep
ditches, and it was over this temporary detour that the train of wagons followed
the men as they worked. We had made very slow progress for the past two days
so Father decided to return to Mount Sterling from here that me might
superintend the buying and loading of the trains supply of flour, bacon and
other weighty provender to be used on our journey. He would ship this to
Eddyville, Iowa, which was then the western end of railway transportation.
Friday, May 5th. It just seemed as if our troubles could not be shook off,
for today I must record another incident that happened to one of our train
causing still more delay. The extremely bad, muddy roads through this portion
of Iowa had caused us to go slow, and was so hard on the stock that some
began to lose courage and wished that they had never started. It had begun
to tell on the weaker stock, and especially those that were overloaded.
We had just passed through Libertyville in the morning when out a few miles we
came to a very bad mud hole in the road that could not be avoided and right
here is where accident #1 happened to the Canterbury family.