Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly 32:3 (Summer 2012).
"You cannot be too careful of your teams; on their condition depends entirely your success in getting through" to the Pacific coast, warned Philip L. Platt and N. Slater in their 1852 Travelers' Guide across the Plains upon the Overland Route to California.1 The diaries, letters, and guidebooks written by the emigrants who crossed North America on the overland trails during the mid-nineteenth century reveal a new awareness of the animals that journeyed with them. Often written as advice to those who might follow them, the travelers worried about their animals in ways beyond what theologians and philosophers would have expected or anticipated. Borne out of the need to get to California, Oregon, or Utah safely, emigrants learned a new standard of care required for the animals that hauled them across the continent. Their writings add to the knowledge not only of the rigors and challenges along the overland trails but also of how the emigrants manifested a new relationship with their livestock.