National Frontier Trails Museum

Pioneer Narratives

"It Was Like Tearing Our Hearstrings Asunder"

The following was written by Lavinia Honeyman Porter when she reflected back on her April 14th, 1859 departure for California. Her beloved sister and others had crossed the Missouri River with her and her husband at St. Joseph, and they had a final meal together on the Kansas prairie. Then it was time to say goodbye

"Forty-seven years ago it was a serious thing to say good-bye to all that was nearest and dearest. To uproot ourselves from home and go forth into the wilderness and into many unkown dangers"
"My sister and friends were to return by the ferry to St. Joseph. My husband and brother were too tenderhearted to remain and witness our sad parting. They hurriedly gathered the cattle from where they were feeding on the shor grass, yoked them to the wagon, put my little son into the wagon beside them and drove slowly away, leaving me to bid my friends a long and last farewell."
"I never recall that sad parting from my dear sister on the plains of Kansas without the tears flowing fast and free. Even now as I write, although so many long years have passed since then. I cannot restrain them. We were the eldest of a large family, and the bond of affection and love that existed between us was strong indeed. It was like tearing our heartstrings asunder. But such sorrows are to be endured not described. As she with the other friends turned to leave me for the ferry which was to take them back to home and civilization, I stood alone on the wild prairie. Looking westward I say my husband driving slowly over the plain; turning my face once more to the east, my dear sister's footsteps were fast widening the distance between us. For the time I knew not which way to go nor whom to follow."
"But in a few moments I rallied my forces, and waving a last adieu to my beloved sister, turned my dim and tear-stained eyes westward and soon overtook the slowly moving oxen who were bearing my husband and child over the green prairie. Climbing into the wagon beside them, with everything we possessed piled high behind us, we turned our faces toward the land of golden promise that lay far beyond the Rocky Mountains. Little idea had I of the hardships, the perils, the deprivation that awaited me."
Lavinia Honeyman Porter