Along the Oregon Trail: Three Island Crossing

Growing up the Oregon Trail to me was a video game. I always tried to be a farmer who could make it to Oregon with $400 dollars and a big dream.  I played online today with my seven year old. You can find the link here.

At one point in the game,  my character got lost for two days. “It is was probably because you spent too long talking to people, Mom,” my kid said.

Eye roll.

A few minutes after I finally decided to return, we ran out of food, and my character died.


No problem. I could restart my game. However, it made me think about the brave men and women who traveled the Oregon, California, Mormon and other trails over a hundred and fifty years ago. They sold their homes, packed supplies into a wagon, and set off for a part of the world they had never seen. They only had hope that their lives would be better once they reached their destination. On our recent family trip, we visited one of the sites along the Oregon Trail, the Three Crossings of the Snake River.

Three Crossings is located near present day Glenn, Idaho. When the settlers arrived here they had to decide whether to continue down the south side of the Snake River where there wasn’t as much water or to risk crossing the river. They could die of thirst or die drowning in the river. It wasn’t an easy decision.

IMG_6090The strength and fortitude of these emigrants is amazing. I am out in the hot sun for ten minutes and I want to run inside to my house where it is cool. I get a few mosquito bites and I am annoyed, but I don’t have to worry about getting infectious diseases.  I am so blessed to live in this time and to have so many comforts.

Many of my ancestors traveled the Mormon Trail. My fifth great grandmother Lydia Goldthwaite and Newell Knight left their home in Nauvoo, Illinois. The home was only a few years old and had a tidy lawn and new corrals.  They left in the cold of February because mobs from the surrounding cities threatened to come into the city and destroy their homes and harm the women and children. Mobs had destroyed their home in Missouri only eight years before.

Newel and Lydia Knight traveled with their seven children across the muddy plains of Iowa and eventually settled in a place called Ponca near the Missouri River.  They made crude dugouts and lived there throughout the harsh Nebraska winter. Newel became sick from the exposure to the cold.

From Lydia’s journal,”On Monday morning, Jan. 4, 1847, Bro. Knight, whose health had been failing for some time, did not arise as usual, and on going to him he said, “Lydia, I believe I shall go to rest this winter.”

Lydia watched as her husband declined for ten days.

“I felt at last as if I could not endure his sufferings any longer and that I ought not to hold him here,” she wrote. “I knelt by his bedside, and with my hand upon his pale forehead asked my Heavenly Father to forgive my sins, and that the sufferings of my companion might cease, and if he was appointed unto death, and could not remain with us that he might be quickly eased from pain and fall asleep in peace. Almost immediately all pain left him and in a short time he sweetly fell asleep in death, without a struggle or a groan, at half past six on the morning of the 11th of January, 1847.”

Lydia and family look on at Newel’s grave.

I can’t imagine losing my husband and then having to cross the plains with seven young children. Lydia did it. She did not give up. Her motto was, “God Rules.” She wrote in her journal, “I still trust in God knowing He will do all things for the best.

My faith is not as strong as hers. If my husband were to pass away suddenly and I was left to raise my boys by myself, I don’t know if I would be as strong as her. I know I would struggle and it would be hard for me to say, “Heavenly Father, I Trust in Thee.”

I would like to have Lydia’s kind of faith. In the next few levels of my real life, I want to remember her and her faith and I want to become stronger. I can choose today to restart my life and strive become better each day.




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