This Road We Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick is the story of Tabitha Moffat Brown’s historic 1845 trek from Missouri to Oregon.
While traveling the established Oregon Trail, Tabby, her daughter’s family and many others chose to split from the main group – enticed by the promise of a shorter trip – to be among the first wagons to travel through the Applegate- Smith Pass. Not a wise decision. Facing down weather, illness, and starvation, the trip takes much longer than the existing route and becomes a challenge to simply survive. (A few families that also split off made an even worse decision, taking a route through the Sierra Mountains. This group included the Donner family. Tragic story for another time.)
Defying the odds and arriving in Oregon, Tabby now closing in on 70, wrestles with finding her purpose. Determined to make her remaining years have meaning, she goes on to fill a need no other had considered – earning herself a place in history and often referred to as the Mother of Oregon.
Having recently read Kirkpatrick’s The Memory Weaver, I was surprised and pleased to see references to the tragedy at the Whitman Mission, direct interactions with Eliza Spalding and the Sager children – Catherine Sager later marrying Tabby’s grandson Clark. As she mentions in the Author Notes and Acknowledgements, the vast frontier was very much a small town.
I’ve always been fascinated by those who moved west by wagon train, particularly settlers along the Oregon trail, and no one seems to capture their journeys like Jane Kirkpatrick. Having written more than 20 books on the subject, all focusing on the strong women who made so much of settling this country possible, her extensive research, obvious love of the subject, and of course excellent writing make these stories come to life. I’ve enjoyed each that I have read so far, plan to make my way through all she has written, and look forward to more to come.
I highly recommend This Road We Traveled for anyone wanting to learn more about the amazing brave families the helped settle the west.