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The Diary of Abigail Buckingham on the Oregon Trail


May 1, 1848 Dear Diary, Hello, my name is Abigail Buckingham, I have a Papa named Peter, a Mama named Charlotte, a little brother named Gabriel and an older sister named Emily. We are about to begin one of the greatest adventures of our lifetimes, traveling the Oregon Trail across the rugged land of North America. We will not be able to attend a school along the way so mama, papa, and Emily will be schooling Gabriel and I. I love reading and writing but I struggle with mathematics. Papa says we will have plenty of opportunities for me to use math to help us during the trip. All of my questions he asks me and the answers will be at the back of my diary. We will all travel in my family’s covered wagon that will be pulled by a team of oxen. We will all leave Independence, Missouri and travel approximately 2,000 miles to the fertile land of Willamette Valley, Oregon. Papa said we will hopefully arrive in Oregon by the 1st of December. He asked me to find out how many miles a day we might have to travel to reach Oregon by December 1? It took some time but I figured it out in the back of my diary. Papa is a doctor so it is less likely for any of us to get sick and we have $1200.00 to spend on supplies before we start our journey! We will leave Independence Missouri to with our 6 oxen, 10 sets of clothing, 160 bullets, 2 extra wagon wheels, 2 extra wagon axles, 2 extra wagon tongues, and 1800 pounds of food and $544.00 left over. Papa asked Gabriel and I to divide the food equally and tell him how many pounds of food each person gets. Gabriel got it before I did; he is getting really good at math.


The weather is clear and it’s very warm a perfect day to begin our journey, at least that is what papa says. Papa said our first major stop if Fort Kearney, he handed me the map and told me to tell him approximately how many miles is it from our home to Fort Kearney? The map is a huge help, Gabriel was quite good at finding out this problem. Our journey begins here; Lord only knows where it will end. Mama and Papa seem worried, but mama said the Lord will protect us. Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


This is a plain wagon; I have labeled all of the parts as papa would. I hope to remember the wagon parts in case I must help repair them.


May 13, 1848

Dear Diary, We have finally reached the Kansas River crossing. Our journey has only just begun, but I miss home dearly. I wonder how Mary and Elizabeth Smith are doing. We used to enjoy racing to school from the corner, right next to the only store in town. Since we left Independence we have found some wild strawberries that we have added to our food storage. Mama broke her arm when she fell off of the wagon on the 5th of May. I hope she heals quickly, I pray for her every night. Papa says we all need to stay healthy. There was a crowd of people waiting to cross the river on the ferry. Rebecca Sims, a farmer’s wife who, they are also headed to Oregon said we may be stranded here for days. With so many travelers papa is worried about our oxen getting enough fresh grass to eat, but we must wait for the ferry. Papa says our wagon is too heavy to caulk or float across the river. Some travelers are caulking their wagons to float across and letting their animals swim behind them. Papa said that if it begins to rain they would be in trouble. Papa is willing to pay five dollars for our ticket across the river. We have to wait three days for the ferry to help us across the river. Papa said the ferry ensures us a safe crossing and he wants to keep us safe. We all love papa dearly. Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


This is our wagon train. By the time we finally left Missouri I could not see the end. There are so many people traveling the Oregon Trail.


May 16, 1848

Dear Diary, We arrived on the other side of the river safely today! Papa said it is the safe way to cross the river but later in our journey we too will have to caulk our wagon. Papa told us of all the serious types of diseases that are common threats on the trail, especially during the second half of the trip as supplies are running low and travelers are getting exhausted. Among these diseases are measles, which is highly contagious and most commonly spread through coughing. Papa said to watch for these symptoms of measles, a fever, runny nose, sore throat and a cough. Up to 11 days after being exposed to the virus a bright red, blotchy rash breaks out on the forehead, face and neck. Within a few days the rash spreads to the body, arms and legs, by which time the rash will begin to fade from the face. Also cholera, which is caused by contaminated feces in water. Papa said the symptoms of cholera include vomiting, muscle cramps, diarrhea. A loss of fluid occurs and creates other symptoms such as weakness, thirst, a coma, or even death. Another disease papa told us about it dysentery, papa says that when people have dysentery their intestines swell causing stomach pain, fever and sometimes they vomit blood. The last illness papa told us about was typhoid fever caused by salmonella. People who have typhoid may feel weak, or have stomach pains, headaches, and a loss of appetite. Papa says when members of the group fall ill, you must be wise and rest for several days and allow for the person to get better. I pray that everyone stays healthy. I cannot wait to continue or journey to the Big Blue River crossing. Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


May 24, 1848

Dear Diary, We hit heavy fog on the 20th of May but found some wild strawberries growing next to the trail. They tasted so sweet we ate more than we stored. We finally reached Big Blue River crossing today. Papa was able to weigh our food in the wagon. We have 1,495 pounds of food left, papa asked me to find out how much food we have eaten so far. This problem was fairly easy; papa will check my work later. Mama’s arm is still broken but everyone else is doing well. We are all full and healthy; I can’t say the same for everyone else on the trail. Hopefully mama will heal soon! The prairie is mighty pretty with all the wild flowers and tall grass, but Marnie Stewart who is another women traveling the trail thinks there’s too much of it. She misses not having a town nearby. I heard Big Louie talking to papa about not pushing the oxen too hard. “A lame- footed ox is about as good to you as a dead one! He exclaimed, but papa already knew that. Another man was telling papa how he was worried about Indian attacks. We haven’t seen any Indians yet but papa said the Shoshani Indians have territory here so to be on the lookout. We decided to caulk our wagon and cross the river; we had no trouble even though we were all a little worried. Next stop Fort Kearney!

Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


The prairie is so beautiful. I love the smell of the wild flowers and wish I could lay in them all day!


June 4, 1848 Dear Diary, We have arrived at Fort Kearney today after a long, rough journey. When papa was able to weigh our food he told us we had 1,330 pounds of food left. So he asked Gabriel and I to estimate how much food each person has for the rest of the journey. Sometimes it takes me a few tries to get the answer right but papa said to only put the correct answer in my diary. Papa decided we need to rest for a couple of days. In early June mama’s arm was healed. I guess the rest did her well. Our next stop is Chimney Rock; papa gave me the map to find out the distance in miles from Fort Kearney to Chimney Rock. These questions are getting easier! Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


June 14, 1848 Dear Diary, Our journey is getting harder and harder. Papa, Gabriel and the other men from the wagon train went on a hunting party. They all came back with Buffalo meat! We have been hitting a great deal of fog lately. Hopefully the weather will clear soon. Papa says Emily is suffering from exhaustion and we must let her rested. Papa let us sleep in our wagon for a few days; the weather was finally in our favor. Although we rest Emily was not showing any signs of improvement. We must have faith our dear Emily will be well again. I will pray for her tonight. Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham

This is our wagon; papa and another man are talking while I think mama is praying for Emily to be well.


July 17, 1848 Dear Diary, We lost our dearest Emily this morning. Papa said she died from cholera, bad drinking water. It was a sad day for us all. The other families helped papa dig a spot to properly bury Emily. Mama has not stopped crying and it’s hard for me to look at her and not cry too. Losing Emily makes everyone thankful to be alive. Papa says we need to keep moving, to keep our minds off of losing her for now. He said we all need to take care of our health. We buried Emily and picked some flowers to lay next to the cross Papa made to mark her grave. We said some prayers and have to continue our journey until night fall. We are now past Chimney Rock and on our way to Fort Laramie, we are all moving very slowly. Mama has just been in the wagon sleeping. I’m not sure but papa says she will be better soon. That she just misses Emily, I dreadfully miss Emily too.

Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


This is Emily’s grave, mama and I picked some nearby flowers to lay over it and papa made the cross with her name on it.


July 23, 1848 Dear Diary, We arrived at Fort Laramie on July 19, papa wanted to keep moving. He says we are starting to fall behind schedule and might get caught in the snow. So we keep moving towards Independence Rock. Papa only stopped when some of the other men in our wagon train decided to hunt. Papa asked me how many miles we have traveled from Independence, Missouri to Fort Laramie. He was surprised at how fast I figured it out. The hunting party did not bring much meat back, but we were able to replace the meat that had gone bad. Gabriel and I got to look for fruit and plants along the way, I found some wild peas. We also found some berries and mama got lucky and found herbs that she could use to make our soup taste better. Papa is getting restless, fresh food and water is becoming scarce. I hope we reach Independence Rock soon! Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


This is Independence Rock, it might not look like much but when our wagon train stopped there it was packed.


August 17,1848 Dear Diary, We reached Independence Rock today! Papa decided that we need to rest from our long journey. The oxen are getting fresh grass and the water here tatste so sweet. The rest for the oxen was very important to the rest if our journey. Papa gave a local merchant man $58.00 for 100 pounds of food while at Indendence Rock. I guess he was a little worried food might get scacer still. Papa gave me a new math problem. He asked me to find out how much money he spent on each pound of food he bought. This problem took me some time, but papa said I did it right! Our next stop is the South Pass. Papa and mama are beginning to get tired and mama has lost a lot of weight. I pray we have a safe journey to Oregon from now on. Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


September 12, 1848 Dear Diary, We finally reached the South Pass on September 2nd. Papa weighed our food; we only had 660 pounds left. Some travelers decided to head to Fort Bridger to buy supplies, but papa wanted to take the short cut to Green River Crossing and be on our way. Along the way we found wild berries but our oxen were getting hungrier every day. Some of the water along the trail was bad and not suitable for drinking. When mama become ill with typhoid fever papa said we must stop and rest. I pray that mama is better soon. I think she hasn’t been sleeping. She doesn’t know it but I wake up to her cries at night. We all miss Emily but I don’t know if mama will ever be the same. Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham This is mama by our wagon. She spends a lot of time alone lately. I think she is always talking to God asking him to keep Emily safe. Mama trusts God with all her heart.


September 26, 1848

Dear Diary, We continued our journey to Green River Crossing on the th 15 of September. Gabriel needed more rest on the 24th and papa did not want to chance him becoming ill. So we rested on the side of the trail for the day. Papa went hunting and brought back a squirrel and two rabbits. Mama and I made a rabbit stew that was so good there was nothing left over. Gabriel is feeling much better today and papa said we were approximately 3 days from the river. I can’t wait to drink fresh water and bath in the river. Papa says it’s going to be crowded but our journey will end with time. Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham

This is Gabriel and two of our oxen I like to call Betsy and Louise. Papa says we shouldn’t name our animals.


September 30, 1848

Dear Diary, We reached Green River Crossing yesterday. We found some wild fruit and wild peas along the way. I met a young boy at the river who’s family didn’t buy enough food back in Independence, Missouri and they were all eating small rations, his sister’s health is poor because she has mountain fever which is similar to typhoid fever. I heard Mama talking to a Shoshoni Indian woman that said when wagons first started coming through they did not mind. They even traded game and fish with the travelers to help them cross the river. Now there are too many white men and too little land for grazing, she said. Papa decide to follow Big Louie and cross the river himself by caulking the wagon, Papa was right, we made it! Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


October 22, 1848

Dear Diary, Gabriel broke his leg this morning. It took papa all day to get the swelling down enough to replace it and rap it. It must have hurt when papa realigned Gabriel’s leg because everyone in our wagon trail heard him screaming and came running to ask questions. Papa said we are heading to Soda Springs first thing next morning. To keep up with me schooling papa told me to find out how many weeks we have been on our journey. I am getting a lot better at mathematics since we have started our journey. I hope we reach Soda Springs soon. Papa said we should reach the springs in about five days. Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


The beautiful Soda Springs. The water taste so fresh and sweat we didn’t want to stop drinking it.


October 27, 1848

Dear Diary, We reached Soda Springs today. Papa said we will rest for three days. Papa and some of the other men in our wagon train went hunting when we arrived. They came back with squirrels, birds, and rabbits. Papa said there were 7 men hunting. They came back with 8 birds, 7 squirrels, and 6 rabbits. He wanted me to find out how many animals each man got to bring back to his family. Mama and I used two rabbits for our stew using everything not to waste. Papa skinned our squirrel and put it in storage for another night. We found out that papa’s friend Miles Hendricks will part ways with us at Fort Hall. He is headed to California in search of gold. We are headed towards Snake River in hopes of reaching Oregon before the snow. Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


December 9, 1848

Dear Diary We left Soda Springs on October 30th and finally reached Snake River today! Mama, Mrs. Sims and other women

washed our clothes in the clear streams and Papa fixed up the wagon leaks that there might be. Papa thought it best to buy some food so he found an Indian that was willing to give us 100 pounds of food for $96.00! Papa said we’ve traveled almost 1300 miles, I wonder how many more miles are left in our journey? I had to help Gabriel with this problem. One night our wagon caught fire but papa got to it quickly so we only lost some bullets, “Praise the Lord”. We decided to rest when Mama got a fever, and it did Gabriel a lot of good seeing that he is better now. The wagon tongue broke a few days after we started again so papa needed a day to fix the wagon. We hit our first blizzard; it set us back another day. We finally reached Snake River Crossing today! Some people crossed the river without an Indian guide. Papa thought it best that we get one so one of the Shoshoni men guided us for 2 sets of clothing. Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


This is our wagon train towards the end of our trip. Everyone was very tired and hungry.


February 13, 1849

Dear Diary, We reached Fort Boise on January 2nd; people said it was only 445 miles until we reached Oregon, papa wants to know many miles have we traveled? I had my answer for him the next morning. We reached Grande Ronde Valley in the Blue Mountains on February 1, 1849. Some travelers headed to Whiteman’s mission to buy supplies but Papa wanted to keep going, he said we are almost there and we took the short cut to The Dalles. We reached The Dalles today. People were saying there was only around 300 miles left

so Papa wanted to leave as fast as we could, we decided to raft down the Columbia River. We made it down the river and finally into the Willamette Valley the same day! We arrived with our 6 oxen, wagon parts, 8 sets of clothing, 62 bullets, and 295 pounds of food and $82.50. Mama, Papa, Gabriel and I were so excited that we almost forgot about the hard journey from Independence Missouri to Willamette Valley Oregon. Papa and the other men plan to settle close to one another and be able to use each other’s oxen for plowing the fields and carting heavy loads. We need to work together to build houses, for now we will sleep in our wagons and wait until spring to build. I can’t wait to return to school and have a new home! Sincerely, Abigail Buckingham


Mathematics Questions May 1, 1848: 1) Papa asked me to find out how many miles a day we might have to travel to reach Oregon by December 1? Well if there’s 31 days in May, July, August and October. There’s also 30 days in June, September, and November. 31 days multiplied by 5 months equals 155 days 30 days multiplied by 3 months equals 90 days 155 days plus 90 days equals 245 total days Now we have a total of 2,000 miles to travel over these 245 days. 2,000 miles divided by 245 days equals about 9.3 miles per day 2) Papa asked Gabriel and I to divide the food equally and tell him how many pounds of food each person gets. We have 1,800 pounds of food all together and 5 people who need to eat. 1,800 pounds of food divided by 5 people equals 360 pounds per person. 3) Papa said our first major stop if Fort Kearney, he handed me the map and told me to tell him approximately how many miles is it from our home to Fort Kearney? Use the key located on the map on pg. 2 to find the answer Approximately 600 miles from Independence to Fort Kearney May 24, 1848: 4) Papa said we have 1,495 pounds of food left, papa asked me to find out how much food we have eaten so far. We started with 1,800 pounds of food and now have 1,495 pounds of food. 1,800 pounds minus 1,495 pounds equals 305 pounds of food has been eaten so far. June 4, 1848: 5) Papa asked Gabriel and I to estimate how much food each person has for the rest of the journey. We have 1,300 pounds of food left and 5 people that need to eat. 1,300 pounds of food divided by 5 people equals 260 pounds of food per person.


6) Our next stop is Chimney Rock; papa gave me the map to find out the distance in miles from Fort Kearney to Chimney Rock. Use the map on page 9 to figure out the answer. Approximately 200 miles from Fort Kearney to Chimney Rock. August 17, 1848: 7) Papa asked me to find out how much money he spent on each pound of food he bought. Papa bought 100 pounds of food for $58.00. $58.00 divided by 100 pounds of food equals .58 cents per pound. You can check this answer by multipling .58 by 100 equals 58.00 October 22, 1848: 8) To keep up with me schooling papa told me to find out how many weeks we have been on our journey. May, June, July, August, and September all have 4 full weeks in the month and from October 1st to October 22nd there’s 3 full weeks. 4 weeks multiplied by 5 months equals 20 full weeks 20 full weeks plus 3 full weeks in October equals 23 full weeks we have been on this journey. October 27, 1848: 9) Papa said there were 7 men hunting. They came back with 8 birds, 7 squirrels, and 6 rabbits. He wants me to find out how many animals each man got to being back to his family. There are 8 birds, 7 squirrels, and 6 rabbits. 8+7+6=21 animals totals. 7 men went hunting, 21 animals divided evenly among 7 men. 21 ÷ 7=3 animals each. December 9, 1848: 10) Papa says we’ve traveled almost 1300 miles, I wonder how many more miles are left in our journey? 2,000 miles from Independence to Oregon. 2,000 total miles minus 1,300 miles traveled equals 700 miles left to travel. February 13,1849: 11) People said it was only 445 miles until we reached Oregon, papa wants to know many miles have we traveled? The entire trip is 2,000 total miles and we only have 445 miles left travel. 2,000- 445= 1,555 total miles traveled.


The Diary of Abigail Buckingham is appropriate for the fourth grade social studies by, a number of different contents and content understanding from the Social Studies Core Curriculum. Such as, focusing in content understandings of Native American Indians of New York, Three Worlds (Europe, the Americas, Africa) meet in the Americas as well as industrial growth and expansion. Concept/Theme History: Movement of People and Goods, change, interdependence Geography: Places and regions, Environment Economics: Needs and wants, Scarcity

Standard #1-U.S History #2- Geography #4- Economics

The Diary of Abigail Buckingham is appropriate for the fourth grade by a number of performance indicators. The performance indicators include, 4.PS.3 Interpret information correctly, identify the problem, and generate possible solutions, 4.N.11 Read and write decimals to hundredths, using money as a context , 4.N.18 Use a variety of strategies to multiply two-digit numbers by one digit numbers (with and without regrouping), 4.N.20 Develop fluency in multiplying and dividing multiples of 10 and 100 up to 1,000, and 4.M.8 Make change, using combined coins and dollar amounts. Math Strand Problem solving

Standard Students will build new mathematical knowledge through problem solving

Performance Indicator 4.PS.3 Interpret information correctly, identify the problem, and generate possible solutions

Number Sense and Operations Strand

-Students will understand numbers, multiple ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems. -Students will understand meanings of operations and procedures, and how they relate to one another.

4.N.11 Read and write decimals to hundredths, using money as a context

Students will use units to give meaning to measurements.

4.M.8 Make change, using combined coins and dollar amounts

Measurement Strand

4.N.18 Use a variety of strategies to multiply two-digit numbers by one digit numbers (with and without regrouping) 4.N.20 Develop fluency in multiplying and dividing multiples of 10 and 100 up to 1,000

Work Cited -“Center for Disease Control and Prevention”, Page maintained by: National Center for Health Marketing, Page last updated: November 1, 2010; < http://www.cdc.gov/ > -National Park Service U.S Department of the interior, “The Oregon National Historic Trail”, <http://www.nps.gov/oreg/> -New Perspective of the West; “Archives of the west 1806-1848” <http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/two/62_11.htm > -The Oregon Trail computer Game Copyright 1993 by Mecc

The Diary of Abigail Buckingham  

Read about a young girl's travels on the Oregon Trail. See how she uses math along the way.