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Arthur, Maud G.
Diary of Maud G. Arthur, of Baker City, Baker County, Oregon, kept while Traveling by Covered Wagon through Oregon, 1917-1918

12mo, 122 typed pp., dated 22 August 1917 to 7 June 1918; bound in small six ring binder, limp pleather binding, measuring 4” x 6”, typed, good condition. There is a title-page, a one-page preface, and a two-page epilogue at rear bringing the family story up to 1937. Title page reads: “For Clayton and Jeannie Arthur and Family / A copy of Grandmother Arthur’s diary / in her own words, of the family traveling / Oregon in a covered wagon. / copied by Laura Arthur” This is a typescript copy, made for the family, by a family member, of the manuscript original, the whereabouts of which, is unknown.

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A curious diary, wherein a family seeking to improve their lives decides to move west across Oregon on hearing of the opening of government lands on the coast. They travel across the state using a covered wagon, the mode of Oregon’s original pioneers. The diary recounts the events and occurrences along the way.

      Maud G. Jeffries Arthur (1885-1965)

    Maud G. Jeffries, was born 8 November 1885, in Kansas. She was the daughter of farmer John G. Jeffries and Clara his wife. Her father was from Ohio, her mother from Illinois. In 1900, Maud is found with her parents and siblings enumerated at Manchester, Grant Co., Oklahoma.

    In 1903 Maud married George W. Arthur. Arthur was born about 1878, in Missouri. He was the son of Martin Arthur and his wife Martha. George’s family in 1900 was living in Wakita, Grant Co., Oklahoma, where George worked as a farm laborer, after the death of his father.

    After George married Maud in 1903, they appear to have remained for a little while in Oklahoma. In the 1910 Census Maud and her new family were living at Banner, Grant County, Oklahoma, where George worked as a farmer. At some point the family moved to Baker City, Oregon where Maud’s diary begins in 1917 and recounts the family’s adventures traveling west across Oregon and also documenting the return trip back, all by horse and wagon, with five children and their dogs.

      In 1920 the couple was living at Baker City, Oregon, where George was working as a contractor on the highway. By 1928, the diary tells us Maud and her family moved from Baker City, Oregon to Portland, Oregon, where they are found in the 1930 Census. In Portland, George went into the insurance and real estate business. He died on 3 March 1937. Maud died on 26 September 1965, in Los Angeles, California, having outlived her husband by almost thirty years.

    Together Maud and her husband George had at least nine children: 1. Elmo Arthur (1903-1986); 2. Elmer Carroll Arthur (1906-1970); 3. Boyd Arthur (1908-1985); 4. Darrell Arthur (1914-); 5. Howard Arthur (1916-1917); 6. Harold Arthur (1916-1994); 7. June Lorraine Arthur (1919-1983); 8. Paul Arthur (1924-1964); and Crystal Arthur (1928-1957).

     The diary begins on 22 August 1917 when Maud, her husband and children, her brother Guy, and two other families, decided to relocate to the west coast of Oregon. At the time they were living in Baker City, Oregon, which is in the northeast part of the state, about 60 miles from the Idaho border. They decide to relocate to Coquille, Oregon, which was on the western edge of Oregon, almost on the coast, or about 500 miles west of Baker City. They made this trip in a covered wagon. Besides the three families, they took with them five horses, two colts, and two dogs. The stated reason for their trip west was:

 “We decided to have a home for ourselves and six boys. Knowing of government land to be had in Oregon, we decided with my brother Guy and two Metzger families, who were going along, to take six hundred acres and have a stock ranch, and freedom for the boys…”

   Just before they begin their journey, their infant son, a twin, died. The family, undeterred, pushed on:

“…on January 10, 1917, Howard went up to heaven, but still we decided to go on. What a mistake when one has too large a vision. We surely couldn’t see out future in our plans, but at last the big drive was started in August 22, 1917, from Baker to Coquille, with five head of horses, two colts, and two dogs.”

      The wagon train starts in Baker City, Oregon, then travels through Oregon stopping at John Day, and then Burns, Oregon. The Metzger families decided to turn back as they were afraid of crossing the desert. The Arthur family moves on through the desert to Bend, Oregon, then they head south to La Pine, then Crescent, they visit Crater Lake, Elephant’s Back, then move on to Prospect, Sam Valley, Gold Hill, Grants Pass, and wind up in Gasquet, California, then Crescent City, California; Smith River, California; before heading back into Oregon to Gold Beach, then up the Pacific Highway to the mouth of the Rogue River, their destination, which they reached on 3 October 1917, only to find:

 “We find out it’s impassable up the Rogue River where George and Guy were intending to take up 600 acres of government land. They are both disgusted and want to go back. But find out the rainy season has set in and with the horses tired out and everyone was wore out from the time we had arrived, so have decided to find work and go out in the spring. It’s very discouraging as the only work here is in the logging camp and dairying. So, neither one wants to work at these as it is out of their line of work. We go on farther north to the mouth of Coquille River and find a logging camp. Here we house up in our tent for the winter. So, George and Guy go to work in a logging camp called Craines Camp.”

    At this point the diary ends, before the entries resume on 30 April 1918, presumably the family camped over the winter in their tents at the logging camp while the men worked. When the diary begins again it states:

“April 30, 1918. Mr. George W. Arthur, wife and five boys, left Craines Camp on the Coquille River for Drewsey, Oregon. After laying over since oct 17, 1917, in one of the worse swampy countries that ever existed. Such experiences they wouldn’t look good in print. So, we’ll say were rigged up once more for Drewsey. George is going back to work for the P.L.S Co….”

     On the 30th of April 1918 the family began their homeward trek back to Eastern Oregon. They go to Coquille to take care of business with the bank, then on through Myrtle Point, Roseburg, Oakland, and Drain as they work their way in a northeasterly direction follow the Pacific Highway and the Willamette Valley until they reach Springfield, where they intend to “leave all and pass over the Cascades.”

    They pass through several “bergs” one of which was Cottage Grove, then continue on to Springfield where they find it is impossible to pass through the Cascades for another month on account of the  six feet of snow on top of the mountains. They decide not to camp for a month and head north to Portland. They pass through Albany, to Oregon’s capital Salem, to Oregon City, where George takes a trip into Portland to get information about passing through the mountains, then they move on to Cascade Locks, but fail to board a boat due to the high water on the Columbia River during which boats could not stop. They then have to head back down to Bonneville to catch another boat there. They board the boat and travel along the Columbia River, through the locks and on to The Dalles. After passing through the mountains they then head southeast, stopping at Kent, then on through Antelope and to Mitchell, Dayville, then finally to the town of John Day, having successfully crossed the desert a second time. They reach Drewsey, Oregon, their destination on 5 June 1918. Altogether the trip back home was about 600 miles.

    The Arthur family only stayed one month at Drewsey, where George and two of his sons found work on a ranch, but after a month they moved back to Baker City, Oregon, which was about 100 miles northeast of Drewsey. The last two pages of the diary appear to be entries that were written 36 years later (about 1954?). Maud appears to have copied out her original entries from her diary of 1917-1918, perhaps in 1954, and was then typed by her granddaughter Laura Arthur.

    The diary offers a very interesting look at a family traveling through Oregon in a covered wagon in the early 20th Century, at a time when there were autos and trains passing by them. The young children are very helpful in catching game, fishing, taking care of the horses, etc. They have to deal with scarce water and feed for the horses, foul weather, crossing mountain ranges, and antipathy from local residents, being chased off of people’s property, or simply being pushed on by people not wanting them to camp on the public highway.




     Sample entries from the diary:

“August 24,1917. The Metzger families joined us and we started out on another terrible rocky uphill climb. Still hot and dusty, we went through the town called Sumpter that was recently destroyed by fire. We camped on a hillside for dinner at the foot of a large mountain. Then the fun commenced, one team quite on us. We tried a little of everything on her then she came along dandy. Then with horses wore out we stopped long enough to bag a couple of grouse. The men just saw where a bear crossed the road ahead of us, so they took the dogs and tracked it a short distance, but gave it up as a bad job, as the dogs were foot and hot. So, we go on our tiresome trip until dark before we find water to give our tired horses. We’ve stopped at Camp Creek a beautiful place but the atmosphere seems different…There is a forest fire ahead, perhaps we will see where before another day. Well, with tired and cross children and whooping cough no better, we will retire.”

“September 1, 1917 Silvis Valley. The climax came when the Metzger’s turned around and went back, afraid of the desert so they said but we never turn back is our motto. So, here we go on by ourselves. We hated to leave our traveling companions. This is another old plateau up high I the mountains, but not so high as Bear Valley, more like home, sage brush everywhere. Every now and then you see a lovely spring in the bank of a little raise in the ground. We had better luck, bagged three sage hens, which looked as large as turkeys. Then we arrived at a farm houses, but no one was home. So, we just stopped anyhow and put our tired horses in the corral and fed our hay to the horses that we packed for two days in case of an emergency Then we cooked our birds which were fine and had some to spare. Well with the whooping cough improving a little and the coyotes howling at eleven o’clock at night, I’ll quit.”

“September 7, 1917. Got up sick and three or four of the others have cramps. Something we ate or drank didn’t agree with us. Our horses have no water, plenty of feed so we drive on, expect to get water early. About five miles before we came to water and it was no good, but it wet the horses’ throats. We filled our canteens in case of an emergency. My headaches so bad I didn’t get to see much of the country this morning. When we stopped for dinner it was pretty much the same, no water. As the evening draws near the feed seems to grow scarce and we got into more alkali beds. We draw into a small settlement with large windmills and plenty of fresh good water. But no one at home, there a padlock on the gates and a sign that says, “NO TRESPASSING,” well what do you think of that in the middle of the desert, too tempting so they just crawl in the fence and take a tub and help themselves, so much good fine water. So, we have fine stew of jack rabbits. Seems to be the home of the jack rabbits, and cotton tail, the rattle snake and the coyote.”

“September 8, 1917. We’re in the desert still with plenty of rabbits and a nice little settlement every now and then. It looks so strange away out from nowhere. The people come to stay in the settlement and there is a small schoolhouse so I guess the people are trying to do justice to their children. They have stages here for transportation. Of course, if the time ever comes to, they can have water it will be a very prosperous country, as they have a mixture of soil here that looks might fine. Of course, there is lots of claims taken up that are deserted now but they claim that this is a very bad year here so maybe they have deserted it this year…”

“September 11, 1917. We survive after the storm and start on to Bend. We arrived at Bend about 11:30 A.M. We decided to stop in town only long enough to get our supplies. Quite a peculiar little town, although very prosperous with a payroll of $100,000 a month. It was a new town in 1910, with just a post office with five hundred inhabitants, now it has five thousand population. Now with kids hungry and tried we start out on our trip south. We leave town about three miles behind then camp and eat then hitch up and drive until almost dark leaving all water behind but take the beautiful pine forest road. The roads are awfully cut up by tourists traveling to the lakes so here we camp without water.”

September 19, 1917. We came on toward the National Park where tourists from all over the United States come to see it. As we came to the cross roads which road Fort Klamath or to the Pinnacle Road to Crater Lake, of course we wondered what the meaning of Pinnacles was or the way it was used. But as we came on, we didn’t wonder any more as we came up a divide or ridge in the mountains, we looked down a Canyon more than 1,000 feet, a lovely stream flows through it. You can’t understand such wonderful foundations of Nature’s handy work. Looks like looking down on a city of churches and church towers of every description or it resembles a cemetery. It was not for the little stream rippling at the bottom of it, it would be almost as silent. Such wonder. We keep on until at least we came to where they were erecting a new log cabin which will be a beauty when finished. There we read a sign which said, a new National Park Station. There we stopped and asked if they could tell us how far it was to water, meaning of course how much farther down the road because we could see the water down 1,000 feet in the canyon and no way to get to it….”


“September 29, 1917. We started out on our westward trip across the East Fork of the Illinois River and zigzagged across the country until we came back to the main road. We came on to a wide place in the road and a town called Waldo where we load on about $10.00 more of provisions for man and beast. We go on and camp to a small stream at the edge of the wonderful Siskiyou National Forest. Then after dinner we go on and begin our climb of our first over the coast range divide and of all the roads this is one wonder. We make a zee going up and come to where we think the divide is, but not knowing as there is no sign boards. We come to a little stream and camp for the night.”

“September 30, 1917. Will wonders never cease. About midnight I hear someone talking and wake up thinking a hold-up gang has us but no, they just came to camp the same as we and had built a bonfire. They sat up all night close to us and this morning they were singing when we awoke. They soon beat it as there were three men. The grade was eight miles through two small towns, one was called Monumental and the other Patrich Creek. Then we started up for five miles and of all the cold sweats and hair-raising trips it is past the limit. Some places are so narrow it is almost impossible to pass…”

“May 9, 1918. Got up late again and drove 4 miles. It rained again in the night. The kids got good and wet. The rest of us didn’t feel extra good. But we decided to drive until we got to the wonderful McKenzie River to camp and let me wash. George wants to shoe a horse and grease the wagon. We arrive here about 11 o’clock and pitch camp. Got dinner over, washing done and George succeeded in getting his work done, even though he had company. One man wants to cross the Cascades but seems afraid, another one is Allen German, who acts rather peculiar…As we came to a little divide in the mountains, we can see the mountains we are aiming to cross. They have lots of snow on them. So, we haven’t yet found anyone who knows whether or not we can cross. So. here’s good luck to us and company.”

“May 14, 1918…George said he wished he had stayed in the little grove but here we are looking for a place to camp. We find a vacant house and a good one and a grove of trees with grass with a fence around it, so George went to a little house close by and inquired if we might stop and camp and she favored us as they had said they had charge. They left us stay there. It had a good cook stove in the house and a heater, but we don’t want to impose on good nature so we just used the cook stove and are thankful. It sure beats the tent so with the boys and George in bed, I guess I had better take the baby and beat. It. Good night.”

“May 18, 1918. We’re up and it is still raining which makes it bad for our camping. Gee, I’ll be glad to leave this rain behind. Well we are still going up the million-dollar road. The most beautiful scenery that an eye might see. No one can describe, the splendor, but it wasn’t made for people to travel with teams, as it keeps on looking for the horses to fall and break a leg. As one of our horses fell down on the start and knocked his teeth loose. As we drove all morning, we saw one fall after another, each seemed to be more beautiful than the other. Some were 1,000 feet and others only 225 feet but each was lovely. We drove until two o’clock but couldn’t find a wide place in the boulevard for us to stop and camp. We just put the brakes on the wagon and the nose bags on the horses and all climb in one wagon and partake of a lunch…”

“May 20, 1918…We camp about a mile from town to eat lunch and then we hurry along our way to the landing. And there we find two autos ahead of us. We have quite a time getting loaded. Finally, all set with a couple of high life girls trying to ride their horses to amaze the men. I find thing pretty comfortable on the boat, with a number of companionable ladies, but with a heavy heart as the fellow at the locks told us we couldn’t come up the rapids with our loads. So, it makes a person’s heart heavy but we smooth along just fine, awful slow until we come to the rapids and they were just the same as the ocean, half the time we were going more backward than forward, finally we made the locks, and again I say it is a wonderful construction. We got into the locks and waited 25 minutes for the locks to fill and the gates to open again. Then we were on smooth sailing for a while. Stopping at every little landing we made fairly good time. Then we finally behold the wonderful sight of Mt. Hood, beautiful in its dress of white. As I leave it behind, I know I’m leaving the Cascades behind. We arrive at The Dalles about twelve o’clock all sleepy, tired out and hungry. So, we all hustled around and camped. We chase the docks. Got a light lunch and got to bed about one o’clock. George loaned a couple of Mexicans one of our tents, which we didn’t use.”

“May 21, 1918…We see more immigrants going the way we came from. The poor devils, God pity them because we can’t as we told them about the kind of country they were going into. They can’t say they went blindfolded….”

“May 25, 1918. We got up early and found the horses had strayed out on the range. Elmo went out and found them. Then we hooked up and got about a quarter mile then some Indians over took us and wanted to buy a horse for $10.00 but George and them couldn’t deal. He said his women had the money. We drive on and found a little stream that had made a deep gully…”

“June 1, 1918. We came through the same little town of John Day as we did ten months ago. Don’t see any improvements, I guess it will be the same in ten years from now. We drive on through the County seat of Grant County, which is a very peculiar looking place but busy. People are squirreling around about like they were in Portland. They have mined a great deal since we were here. We came on up the same Canyon Creek we traveled before, we see no change. We run across a woman going, who was very entertaining. We came at last to our old camping grounds of last year. There we camped the night with memories fresh of ones that were with us here but gone we know not where. So, we ate out supper and sit down to dream of others. Good night.”

“June 2, 1918. We came on through the same old country, the scenes we came through last year with no change. But it refreshed one’s memory and makes a person lonely and sad and wonder why one is just a wanderer on the face of the earth when there is kindred and friends everywhere. We come on and camp on the very spot where our traveling companions of a year ago turned back and where we divided partnership. I wished they were here as I expect we could exchange many experiences since we parted…”