“We were all of us children of polygamous parents.” (Elinore Rupert, Part 13)



Mormon pioneers at South Pass, Wyoming, about 1859
image credit:  Charles Roscoe Savage, Courtesy BYU

… when it became necessary for him to discard a wife it was a pretty hard question for him because a little child was coming to the second wife and he had nothing to provide for her with except what his first wife’s money paid for. The first wife said she would consent to him starting the second, if she filed on land and paid her back a small sum every year until it was all paid back. So he took the poor “second,” after formally renouncing her, and helped her to file on the land she now lives on. He built her a small cabin, and so she started her career as a “second.” I suppose the “first” thought she would be rid of the second, who had never really been welcome, although the Bishop could never have married a “second” without her consent.

At long last, we have reached the end of the Elinore Trail. It certainly has been educational!

In this final episode, Elinore gets an education in the Mormon practice of polygamy in the early 1900s. She also recounts her successes growing and raising food on her homestead. She definitely paints a rosy picture, rosier than the one we saw during the Women Homesteader’s episode. Was that Elinore having a positive attitude, applying a positive spin, or something else? Maybe we can just say, Elinore being Elinore.

Farewell Elinore!


“Your pork and beans must be out of a can.” (Elinore Rupert, Part 12)



Blazing campfire at night
Image credit: James Owen on Unsplash
I crossed a ravine with equal frequency, and all looked alike. It is not surprising that soon I could not guess where I was. We could turn back and retrace our tracks, but actual danger lay there; so it seemed wiser to push on, as there was, perhaps, no greater danger than discomfort ahead. The sun hung like a big red ball ready to drop into the hazy distance when we came clear of the buttes and down on to a broad plateau, on which grass grew plentifully. That encouraged me because the horses need not suffer, and if I could make the scanty remnant of our lunch do for the children’s supper and breakfast, we could camp in comfort, for we had blankets.

In today’s letter, Elinore sets out to hire some help, and ends up being a big help herself. She also educates Mrs. Coney about the proper cookware for a camp-fire breakfast. Rupert’s letters are in the public domain.


“…She gave him a dose of morphine and whiskey.” (Elinore Rupert, Part 11)



Sally Hemings’s Quarters (image credit: monticello.org)

Someone On The Internet said, “Studying history will sometimes make you feel extremely angry. If studying history always makes you feel proud and happy, you probably aren’t studying history.”

I must be doing it right!

I had forgotten that Elinore was born and raised in the antebellum South, but she reminded me with her Christmas letter and racist party “game.”   As I was trying to figure out a way out of recording it,  I remembered why the American Revolution became more interesting to me.  It was because I learned more about the Founding Fathers in their full humanity, and not as demigods in bronze and marble.  You’ll be glad to know that there are no demigods in this episode.  Only fallible human beings. 🙂

Additional Reading on the Founders, slavery, and the African Americans mentioned in the episode:

The Founding Fathers on Slavery (battlefields.org)

James Madison and Slavery (including Billey) (princeton.edu)

Thomas Jefferson and Slavery (monticello.org)

Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings (monticello.org)

James Hemings (chef) (monticello.org)

Benjamin Banneker (whitehousehistory.gov)

Letter from Benjamin Banneker to Thomas Jefferson (archives.gov)

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Banneker (archives.gov)

Phillis Wheatley (poetryfoundation.org)

Phillis Wheatley and George Washington (gilderlherman.org) 

Letter from George Washington to Phillis Wheatley (loc.gov)


“The old sorrow is not so keen now.” (Elinore Rupert, Part 10)



It is true, I want a great many things I haven’t got, but I don’t want them enough to be discontented and not enjoy the many blessings that are mine. I have my home among the blue mountains, my healthy, well-formed children, my clean, honest husband, my kind, gentle milk cows, my garden which I make myself. I have loads and loads of flowers which I tend myself. There are lots of chickens, turkeys, and pigs which are my own special care. I have some slow old gentle horses and an old wagon. I can load up the kiddies and go where I please any time. I have the best, kindest neighbors and I have my dear absent friends. Do you wonder I am so happy?

Elinore shares some of the personal joys and sorrows that she has experienced since moving to Wyoming. I appreciate Elinore’s attitude about it all. Even in the midst of heartbreak, there are always things for which we can be grateful.

Rupert’s letters are in the Public Domain.


“They told us the Indian ways were bad.” (US Indian Policy: Violence, Displacement, and Assimilation)



Pupils at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Pennsylvania, c. 1900 (public domain)

There were eight in our party of bronzed children who were going East with the missionaries. Among us were three young braves, two tall girls, and we three little ones, Judéwin, Thowin, and I. We had been very impatient to start on our journey to the Red Apple Country, which, we were told, lay a little beyond the great circular horizon of the Western prairie. Under a sky of rosy apples we dreamt of roaming as freely and happily as we had chased the cloud shadows on the Dakota plains. We had anticipated much pleasure from a ride on the iron horse, but the throngs of staring palefaces disturbed and troubled us … children who were no larger than I hung themselves upon the backs of their seats, with their bold white faces toward me. Sometimes they took their forefingers out of their mouths and pointed at my moccasined feet. Their mothers, instead of reproving such rude curiosity, looked closely at me, and attracted their children’s further notice to my blanket. This embarrassed me, and kept me constantly on the verge of tears.

“The School Days of an Indian Girl” by Zitkála-Šá

For decades, before they were forced onto reservations, Native Americans had friendly and even intimate contact with non-natives.  But as settlements increased, so did the violence, and death.  Eventually, the US government calculated that it was cheaper to kill the Indian way of life than to kill Indians.

Music:

“Allah-u-abha” by Roman Orona

“Prayers” by Darren Thompson

Further reading and listening:

Carlisle Indian School Research Podcast

Carlisle Indian Industrial School: Indigenous Histories, Memories, and Reclamations (Jacqueline Fear-Segal, Susan D. Rose)

“Indigenous People in Wyoming and the West” (wyohistory.org)

Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry H. Sibley listing the Dakota who were to be hanged, December 6, 1862

Letter by Captain Silas Soule to Major Edward W. Wynkoop describing Sand Creek atrocities (Scroll down the page for the letter.)

Life of George Bent: written from His Letters

Personal Stories from the US Dakota War of 1862

Stuff You Missed in History Class Podcast (Jim Thorpe)

Zitkála-Šá: Trailblazing American Indian Composer | Unladylike2020 | American Masters | PBS


“Horse-thieves and desperate men seemed too remote…” (Elinore Rupert, Part 9)



Image credit:  Adam Jahiel Photography

Elinore continues her awe-inspiring descriptions of the Wyoming frontier.  Her signature humor is also alive and well.  This time, Elinore gets a little taste of cowboy living, and of cackle-berries.   And though she doesn’t mention the race of the cowboys she meets, it is worth mentioning that at least one in five cowboys was African American.   Two of the most famous were Nat Love and Bass Reeves, but there were hundreds of other black men who made their living wrangling cattle on the American plains.

5 African American Cowboys Who Shaped the American West

African American Cowboys on the Western Frontier (Library of Congress)

Black Cowboys (Texas State Historical Association)

The True Story of the Black Cowboys of Philadelphia Depicted in Concrete Cowboy (Time Magazine)

Rupert’s letters are in the Public Domain.


“See that shack over yonder?” (Women Homesteaders)



“Miss Mary Longfellow holding down a claim west of Broken Bow, Nebraska
(image credit: nps.gov)

“In about a week we had a cabin ready to move into. It had a dirt floor and dirt roof, but I tacked muslin overhead and put down lots of hay and spread a rag carpet on the floor. I put the tool chest, the trunks, the goods box made into a cupboard, and the beds all around the wall to hold down the carpet, as there was nothing to tack it to. The beds had curtains and there was a curtained alcove between the beds that made a good dressing room. So we were real cozy and comfortable.”

–Emma Hill

Under the Homestead Act of 1862 and its revisions, over 1 million applicants received a plot of land from the Federal government.  Thousands of the homesteaders were women.   They were black and they were white.  Some were recent immigrants from Europe.   Some were looking for husbands, others had left husbands, or lost them to death, divorce, or desertion.  Quite a few had no interest at all in a husband.  But they all worked hard to “prove up” their homesteads.

And most of them realized that the land they were claiming had been home to Native people for centuries.

Further Listening and Reading:

Pre-Columbian Cultures and Civilizations, The History of North America Podcast

Women of the Frontier : 16 Tales of Trailblazing Homesteaders, Entrepreneurs, And Rabble-Rousers by Brandon Marie Miller

Before Wyoming: American Indian Geography and Trails

African American Homesteaders in the Great Plains

Journals, Diaries, and Letters Written by Women on the Oregon Trail 1836-1865

Land of The Burnt Thigh: A Lively Story of Women Homesteaders on the South Dakota Frontier by Edith E. Kohl

The Journals of Lewis and Clark

Mark Soldier Wolf: Northern Arapaho Past and Present


“… We were almost starved.” (Elinore Rupert, Part 8)



image credit:  goodreads Leatherstocking Tales, James Fenimore Cooper

February, 1912

Dear Mrs. Coney,—…Soon we started again, and if not quite so jolly as we were before, at least we looked forward to our supper with a keen relish and the horses were urged faster than they otherwise would have been. The beautiful snow is rather depressing, however, when there is snow everywhere. The afternoon passed swiftly and the horses were becoming jaded. At four o’clock it was almost dark. We had been going up a deep cañon and came upon an appalling sight. There had been a snow-slide and the cañon was half-filled with snow, rock, and broken trees. The whole way was blocked, and what to do we didn’t know, for the horses could hardly be gotten along and we could not pass the snow-slide…”

Today, Elinore gives us a peek inside her humble abode, and then tells us about a literature-inspired dinner.  Once again, there’s snow involved.

The letters of Elinore Rupert are in the Public Domain.


“A very angry Aggie strode in.” (Elinore Rupert, Part 7)



Black and white image of a railroad station
Rock Springs, Wyoming Railroad Depot Train Station (image credit: hippostcard.com)

October 6, 1911

Dear Mrs. Coney,

… Aggie was angry all through. She vowed she was being robbed. After she had berated me soundly for submitting so tamely, she flounced back to her own room, declaring she would get even with the robbers. I had to hurry like everything that night to get myself and Jerrine ready for the train, so I could spare no time for Aggie. She was not at the depot, and Jerrine and I had to go on to Rock Springs without her. It is only a couple of hours from Green River to Rock Springs, so I had a good nap and a late breakfast. I did my shopping and was back at Green River at two that afternoon. The first person I saw was Aggie. …”

In this episode, the Edmonsons and their sweet Cora Belle make another appearance. Some new characters–big and small–also join the group.

The letters of Elinore Rupert are in the Public Domain.


“The wind was shrieking, howling, and roaring.” (Elinore Rupert, Part 6)



image credit: homesteader.org

September 1, 1910

Dear Mrs. Coney,

—It was just a few days after the birthday party and Mrs. O’Shaughnessy was with me again. We were down at the barn looking at some new pigs, when we heard the big corral gates swing shut, so we hastened out to see who it could be so late in the day. It was Zebbie. He had come on the stage to Burnt Fork and the driver had brought him on here…. There was so much to tell, and he whispered he had something to tell me privately, but that he was too tired then; so after supper I hustled him off to bed….

Zebulon Pike Parker shares his story from home, then a frightening storm is followed by a beautiful sunrise.

The letters of Elinore Rupert are in the Public Domain.