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William Swain Letter
Written on the Trail to California

July 4, 1849
in camp for celebration
eight miles below Fort Laramie

Dear Sabrina,
I have just left the celebration dinner table, where the company are now drinking toasts to everything and everybody and cheering at no small rate. I enjoy myself better in conversing with you through the medium of the pen. It is now some time since I wrote home, or at least since I wrote at any length, having written to you a line by a returning emigrant whom I met on the road and had just time to say that we were all well. But there is no certainty in sending letters by such conveyance. You may or may not have received some of the many letters I have sent you by traders and others, on many of which I have paid postage of 25 cents.

...We shall pass Fort Laramie tomorrow, where I shall leave this to be take to the States. It will probably be the last time I can write until I get to my journey's end, which may take till the middle of October.

We have had uncommon good health and luck on our route, not having had a case of sickness in the company for the last four weeks. Not a creature has died, not a wagon tire loosened, and no bad luck attended us.

The country is becoming very hilly; the streams rapid, more clear, and assuming the character of mountain streams. The air is very dry and clear, and our path is lined with wild sage and artemisia.

We had a fine celebration today, with an address by Mr. Sexton, which was very good; an excellent dinner, good enough for any hotel; and the boys drank toasts and cheered till they are now going in all sorts around the camp.

I often think of home and all the dear objects of affection there: of George; dear Mother, who was sick; and of yourself and poor little Sister. If it were consistent, I should long for the time to come when I shall turn my footsteps homeward, but such thoughts will not answer now, for I have a long journey yet to complete and then the object of the journey to accomplish.

I am hearty and well, far more so than when I left home. That failing of short breath which troubled me at home has entirely left me. I am also more fleshy. Notwithstanding these facts, I would advise no man to come this way to California.

Give my love to George and Mother and tell them that I am well and enjoy myself. Kiss my little girl for me, and when I get home I will kiss you all.

Your affectionate husband until death,
William Swain

[TEXT: J. S. Holliday, The World Rushed In (1981), pp. 168-70.]


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