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As It Was: Rachel Taylor Keeps Journal of the 1853 Preachers Train

In 1853, Rachel Taylor left Illinois with her family, traveling to the Rogue Valley in what became known as the “Preacher Train” because five Southern Oregon preachers came on that same wagon train.

Taylor’s uncle described it this way: “We go out in a company of about 20 effective men—three of them Methodist preachers—13 wagons and about 200 head of cattle.”   The train reached Oregon on the Applegate Trail.

Taylor celebrated her 15th birthday near Independence Rock.  In her journal, she described a feather that had fallen from a tree burial site.  Indians like the Sioux placed their dead with their possessions in trees. 

It was difficult to travel 15 to 20 miles a day as they had hoped.  Taylor wrote, “We were delayed in the morning as a new ox yoke had to be constructed to take the place of the broken one.”  Another time she wrote, “Did not start until late as the broken wagon had to be repaired.” 

Most wagons traveled seven days a week.  At least one preacher observed Sundays as days of rest and prayer, yet his wagon was the first to reach Oregon. 


Sources: Holmes, Kenneth, and Dunway, David. Eds. Covered Wagon Women 1853-1844, Bison Books, 1998;  Casebeer, Robert L. The Preachers Train, as published in Emigrants to Oregon in 1853-1854; edited by Stephenie Flora, 2004.  http://www.oregonpioneers.com/ThePreacherTrain.pdf. Accessed 13 Mar. 2018.

Maryann Mason has taught history and English in the U.S. Midwest and Northwest, and Bolivia. She has written history spots for local public radio, interviewed mystery writers for RVTV Noir, and edited personal and family histories.  Her poetry has appeared in Sweet Annie & Sweet Pea Review (1999), Rain Magazine (2007), and The Third Reader, an online Journal of Literary Fiction and Poetry. In 2008 she published her first chapbook, Ravelings.  She organized a History Day for Southern Oregon.