WLM Fall and Holiday 2015 - Page 20

WLM | inspirational woman ELIZABETH MORTIMORE PAUL,  Embodiment of the Pioneer Woman By June Johnston Images by June Johnston “Passed a grave enclosed by a picket fence, painted white. A lovelier spot I never saw. There was an opening of perhaps, half an acre, with one large shady pine near the center. Under this lone tree was the grave. The beauty of the place and the care bestowed upon the remains of the woman caused us all to look at it.” Julius Merrill, 15 August 1864 Envision watching a hundred or more wagons winding down a trail heading west to Oregon, Washington and California. Studebaker Wagons and farm wagons, with canvas covers stretched over rounded staves on top, fashioned a home for the next four to six months. My husband and I have crisscrossed the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri to Montpelier, Idaho. It’s hard to imagine what the pioneers went through from the comfort of an airconditioned four wheel drive pickup, as opposed to walking beside a wagon in scorching heat. This was an endeavor that involved around 500,000 men, women and children, mainly from the mid-1840s to 1869, as they traveled west, one step at a time. Thirty thousand or more people died along the trail. This enormous undertaking would change the face of our country forever. 18 Reluctantly, women agreed to make the trip, giving up the known for the unknown and the dangers that went with it. Tearful goodbyes were said to friends and family by the thousands. Often parents and grandparents were left behind, all full well knowing they probably would never see each other again. Pregnancy averaged one in five women. Elizabeth Mortimore Paul was one of those. It would be her eighth child. And her last. Wyoming Lifestyle Magazine | Autumn & Holiday 2015 Sheryl Bentley, whose husband is a descendant of Elizabeth’s, shared reminiscences of Mrs. Louisa J. Estes, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Paul: “We left Iowa, Mahaska County, for the western country May first, 1862. We had the wagon bed fitted so as to hold flour, meat, coffee, sugar, tea and all necessary things to last us through the summer, or until we reached our journey’s end.”