Lucinda Cox Brown

Lucinda Cox Brown traveled with her husband, her father and his children, her uncle and his famly. She left behind in Illinois her twin sister, Malinda. They had been married in a double wedding ceremony when they were both seventeen, the twin sisters marrying two brothers. Lucinda and Elias Brown, along with their extended family, began the journey in high enthusiasm. They were young and strong; the new world was theirs to win. But Lucinda Brown’s diary becomes another example of how often the overland journey began in optimism and ended in despair.

They had just reached the Platte River, which meant the journey was hardly at its halfway mark, when Elias took a severe chill and died. He was a young man. Whether the chill had come from the many river crossings or whether it was typhoid cannot be read from the diary. Lucinda was suddenly widowed, left with three small children. Eight months and sixteen days from the time they left Wilmington, Illinois, the wagon train reached Salem, Oregon. The emigrants were alive, but stripped of everything, except the clothes they wore.

During the first winter in Oregon, Lucinda supported herself by making caps and clothing. In the summer she made her bonnets out of plaited wheat straw and trimmed them with ribbons. She managed, somehow, to save enough money to move onto a claim of her own in 1849, and two years later, she married Hiram Allen with whom she had four more children. This woman who wove hats of braided wheat and decorated them with ribbons was survived by eight children, twenty-two grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. A friend remembered her as a woman who “cheerfully accepted her lot.”