Dundass Overland Trail Diary

Over seven hundred travelers along the Great Platte River Road left journals or diaries about their experiences in going West. These documents often have a vividness which particularly grasps the attention of a modern reader. The Samuel R. Dundass diary of his journey from Stebbenville, Ohio, to California in 1849 includes a description of several Nebraska locations along the trail such as Fort Kearny and Chimney Rock. Dundass noted in the journal entry for May 26, 1849:

“Having arrived at the Platte River, we proceeded along its banks in an upward direction for about ten miles, and encamped a little below Fort Kearny, where we improved an opportunity of writing to our friends. The Fort was but lately established; no buildings were yet up, but those built of sward taken from the surface of the Prairie. About one hundred soldiers were on the ground, and actual preparations were in a state of energetic prosecution for the erection of a garrison and other buildings necessary for the regular military fortification of the place. Here we found a small store, but as the demand for most goods had been greater than the supply, the prices were very high, and even at the most exorbitant rates, the stock had been almost exhausted, being bought out by needy emigrants. To take the advantage of a fellow creature’s necessity is a development of human nature, found even here in the wilderness.”

June 12, 1849, found the company “encamping opposite Chimney Rock, which was in view from the previous day. It rises in a regular conical form, being about 300 yards in circumference at its base, and about 200 feet high; running gradually to a point on the top till within 40 or 50 feet of the pinnacle, when a round column of stone some 80 or 100 feet in diameter, of a soft texture apparently part lime, and part sand; stands perpendicular on the top. Supposing it only a small walk a number hastened off to visit it, and a cedar hollow near it while supper was being prepared. But like other objects viewed at a distance on the plain, it proved much farther than we had anticipated.”

Shortly after arriving with his company in California, Dundass began to suffer from health problems and decided to return to Ohio. He embarked on a vessel bound for New York City, where he began the last segment of the journey. However, he was able to travel only as far as Buffalo, New York, where he died October 6, 1850, of typhoid fever.

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