Sunday, January 23, 2011

Amanuensis Monday- Hannah Lee's Overland Journal

Hannah Lee’s Overland Journal

Hannah Hyndman Whitten Lee was my husband’s Great Great Grandmother and an early pioneer in the settlement of some remote areas of Wyoming. She and her descendants took up land in several places in Wyoming which set down the roots for our Grandpa, Robert Earl Harvey, and others. Our family claims a rich and varied history in the state which the pioneering spirit of Hannah Lee and her husband Milton E. Lee left to us. Hannah wrote a journal of her travels and memories which will be presented here as it was written and in her own words but first a short story of her family and life to set the stage.

Hannah and Milton Lees’ families:

Milton Lee’s first marriage was to Hannah Osborn in 1859 in Iowa.  A daughter was born to this couple, after which they were divorced and we know very little of this daughter.

Hannah Hyndman was born in Jefferson County, Ohio and migrated with her parents to Iowa where she was married to Willard Whitten on 6 Aug 1856.  A son David was born 17 May 1857 and he died in May 1858 of typhoid fever and the father, Willard, died soon after on 18 September 1858.  Hannah was again with child and having no other place to go, went back to live with her parents William Hyndman and Sarah Ann (Stover) Hyndman in Jefferson County, Iowa.  Hannah’s daughter Sarah Emma was born 25 March 1859 in Jefferson County, Iowa. A beautiful little girl who was born under the shadow of her own father's death.

Milton Lee and Hannah Whitten met in Iowa and were married 24 July 1863. A second marriage for them both and to this couple five children were born. There were two little girls who died very young, but the other three children:  Fannie, Peter Smith and Mary Ellen lived to adulthood.  Milton and Hannah raised their children in Henry County, Iowa but later on resided in Jefferson County.  Their daughter Fannie married James William Harvey in Jefferson County, and Mary Ellen married John Jackson in Jefferson County.  Their son Peter Smith Lee did not marry until later in life.

The family migrations of Milton E. Lee and Hannah Hyndman Lee from Iowa to Wyoming: 

In 1889 Milton, Hannah and Peter Smith Lee who was Milton’s brother, and Peter Smith Lee, the couple’s son, made the trek by team and wagon to the prairies of Wyoming. Friends of theirs had earlier moved to Wyoming and had written them of the good possibilities of homesteading there.  Milton and Hannah took up a homestead in the vicinity of Albin,Wyoming.  For some reason, possibly due to crop failures, Milton and Hannah relinquished this homestead and returned to Iowa but Milton’s brother, Peter Smith Lee, continued on to the Jackson Hole Country of Wyoming and did not follow them back to Iowa.

In 1895 Milton and Hannah again made the trek by team and wagon to Wyoming and their destination this time was the Jackson Hole Country.  Here they either bought or homesteaded a parcel of land upon which they constructed a road house and took in boarders who were touring the country side.  They remained in Jackson for several years but by 1900 they were back in Iowa as they appear on the 1900 census there.  Upon returning to Iowa, Hannah wrote her journal or diary of their travels to Jackson Hole which I will now share some of the highlights from it with you.  My mother-in-law, who is in possession of the original diary graciously undertook the task of transcribing Hannah’s journal and has used all the original spellings.

                             Hannah Lee’s Overland Journal

Dear Mr. Edditor…As I am back in Iowa I will rite a short sketch of our travels threw the western Country to the mountains in 1895. My husband, son and I and Mr. Oleary started from Fremont County, Iowa to Marysvale, Uinta County, Wyoming better known as The Jackson Hole country, 60 miles south of the National Park.    On May the 19 we ate an early dinner & got a board our prairie schooner & was soon on our way to Nebraska City.  Nite finds us campt at Mr. Watsons farm on the Missouri bottom.  Wee ate supper & go to bed.  In the morning wee are soon ready & start on our Journey.  Now we cross the Missouri River on a tole bridge, the cars cross the same bridge.  (does she mean railroad cars)?  This town is a flourishing little town.  Here we pas some of the nicest farming country, nice buildings & plenty of water.  Now we are near Lincoln, Nebraska this town is longer than wide & is part in a valley & is quite a nice place.  We go on a few miles & camp for the nite.  In the morning we all ate a harty breakfast & are on our way to Seward Nebraska, this little town is in the hills here we camp & eat supper.  The boys are out attending to the horses a heavy rain is coming up the boys came in to camp about as wet as they cared to be but all in a good humer & were soon in a dry suit. In the morning we go north west for a few days then we cross the North Platt river to Grand Island Nebraska.  Here we meet a Mr. Palmer & family on their way from Lincoln going to Evanston, Wyoming so we all go to gether.  At North Plat Mr. & Mrs. Berger & 3 children join us, now there is five men 3 wimen & 4 boys.  2 days later five nice teams join us bound for Portland Oregon.  They are all nice people & we travel together more keep coming till there is 19 teams all rigged out in good shape.  Now we go up Plat river, have good roads no hills to speak of.  Nebraska is a nice country, that is in the east part.  We will have to go in to camp & here we turn our wagons with the fronts to the south & are but a short distance from the UP Railroad.  After supper the women are all seated talking about hard times & about those they had left behind, while the men were telling stories & examining their Winchesters.  At Sidney Neb we stay all nite in the morning after breakfast we are all ready to start & after shaking hands with our new found friends & wishing them gook luck on their Journey we leave them & start across the country northwest.  Here we travel a distance of 60 or 70 miles & find ourselves at Harrisburg. While doing some trading here we find Mr. Slingbaum an old time friend.  He said we go past his place & must stay over Sunday as he is in his buggy.  He drives faster & gets home to tell his girls & son & as Ed was a cowboy, it didn’t take him long to get  in his saddle & ride out about 3 miles to meet us & escort us to his home.  That nite he wanted to know if their was a fiddle in the crowd & we told their was & he said he would have a dance in honor of the occasion & away he flew on that poney and half past seven the house was full of girls & old people.  They danced till one oclock.   We awake in the morning to find a beautiful day.

We had a good time all day & my husband & Mr. Slingbaum put in most of the day talking of our trip to Laramie Peak in 1890.  Monday morning we start on.  Here we travel for miles over a vast country of Prairie where we see herds of cattle & horses & once and a while a large ranch.  Here we cross a railroad at a little station called Badger, then we travel on a good many days.  Here  we came to the warm springs in Wyoming.  We halt & camp for dinner.   We start up a hill.  Mrs. Berger & my self thought we had better walk as it was a bad hill.  We went up all rite & are on higher ground & can look as far as our eyes can see & there is nothing to be seen but a vast plain before us as beautifull a country as one would wish to look upon.  We travel for a few days longer & camp 2 days & rest.  Here we wash & bake enough to last about a week.  We soon find our selves at Ft. Laramie the old government Fort situated on the Laramie River in Wyoming.  Camp at noon & stay till the next day.  We visit the grave yard where there were lots of soldiers buried, then we go down to the river.  Here we see lots of old Canteens & camp kettles that reminds us of our Soldier Boys of Iowa.  As we go to supper we think of the day we said good bye to them dear Boys.  Some of them we never met again. 

Authors note: It must have been a  truly sad sight for Hannah and her family to see the remnants of the Indian wars, Ft. Laramie and graves which at that time were still quite new. A sobering reminder of those who had fought to open the country into which she and her family were headed.

A handwritten page from Hannah Lee's Journal

Hannah, Peter Smith Lee and Milton Lee
To be continued next Monday...

source: The original journal of Hannah Lee, © and owned by Kathleen Hopkins

Amanuensis Monday is a popular ongoing series created by John Newmark at Transylvanian Dutch Blog

Part 2 of this story is here.
Part 3 of this story is here.


  1. I love reading diaries and accounts of these type of trips. Look forward to page two.

  2. I can't imagine how hard these pioneers had it with death being so commonplace - husbands, wives, young children... poor Hannah losing nearly half of her babies.

    How blessed your family is with this diary, and to get a glimpse of the journey directly from a participant! Thanks for taking the time to share it. This is history you can't get anywhere else.