WLM | inspirational woman
ELIZABETH MORTIMORE PAUL,
Embodiment of the
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
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