Settlement on the Santa Fe Trail. While a woman named Susan Shelby Magoffin is often credited as the first white woman to travel the Santa Fe Trail, Mary Donoho made the trek 13 years prior. Leaving Independence, Kentucky in , Mary and her husband, William Donoho, headed to Santa Fe, bringing along their 9-month-old daughter. Together, the Donohos created La Fonda, an inn for travelers at the end of the trail.
It was here that Mary gave birth to two more of her five children—all of whom she eventually outlived. Later in the 19th century, with the allotment of land to Native Americans, women are given pieces of property that they owned in their own right. Narcissa Whitman, who was killed during the Whitman Massacre. Believed to be one of the first two white women to cross the Rocky Mountains on foot, Narcissa Whitman left behind accounts of her life as a missionary in the Oregon territory with her prolific letters home to her family in New York State.
She, her husband and others were killed by Indians in a savage attack on the mission. Soon after marrying Marcus Whitman, a physician and fellow missionary in , they left for Oregon Country and settled in what would later become Walla Walla, Washington. She wrote of the travails of rugged travel, such as fighting the current while fording strong rivers, and getting all of her belongings soaked each time. Marcus held church services and practiced medicine while Narcissa taught school and managed their home. Already struggling with the unfamiliar customs of the Native Americans, she fell into a deep depression after her beloved toddler daughter drowned in the river behind her house.
Her sorrow eased somewhat when she and her husband adopted a family of mixed-race children. On November 29, , tensions between the missionaries and the local Cayuse turned deadly.
Accounts say that after Narcissa refused to share milk with some tribespeople—and shut the door in their face—they struck Marcus with a tomahawk in the back of his head, and shot and whipped Narcissa. In total, nine white people were killed and two more died days later. Susan Shelby Magoffin, circa In June , after just eight months of marriage, year-old Susan Shelby Magoffin and year-old Irish immigrant Samuel Magoffin set off on a trading expedition along the Santa Fe Trail, a 19th-century transportation route connecting present-day Missouri to New Mexico.
After Mary Donoho, Susan Magoffin was one of the first white women to travel that trail. She detailed the plant life and terrain of her journey, as well as her personal challenges. On her 19th birthday, July 31, , she lost a pregnancy, possibly due to a carriage accident. She contracts yellow fever, loses another child, is responsible for setting up and maintaining homes, and finds herself repeatedly pregnant and uncomfortable. By July , 13 months after their journey began, Susan contracted yellow fever and gave birth to a son who died shortly thereafter. The Magoffins eventually abandoned their trading life and settled back in Kirkwood, Missouri.
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