Trail Diaries

In the mid-1800s over a half-a-million people moved west. It was an experience of a life-time. Fortunately for us today, many of these pioneers wrote of their experiences in diaries.  Often these diaries were passed down in families and were later published or were donated to libraries.

In 1988, OCTA held their annual convention in St. Joseph. Up until that time very little primary research had been done on the trail out of St. Joseph and the role the City played as the major jumping-off point for the California gold rush.  The staff of the St. Joseph Museum undertook this task. They visited libraries along the trail or contacted them to see if they had any trail diaries by those who departed from St. Joseph.  Staff also visited libraries to the east to gather more information. The result was a collection of first-hand information of what St. Joseph was like in the mid-1800s through the eyes of the emigrants. This information is housed in the Nancy Hampton Archival Center of the St. Joseph Museums.

During the summer of 2018, the St. Joseph Museums agreed to share this information online allowing parts of the diaries describing St. Joseph to be digitized for use on the Gateway website.To learn more about the exhibits, collections and research areas of the St. Joseph Museum visit

For further research see and


Berrien, Waring

Accord, William Henry


Best, Elijah and Susan-Obituary


Campbell, hezekiah-descendants


Caples, R. M. and Family


carriger, Nicholas


Case, william m.-reminiscences


Chambers, andrew jackson


Clark, c.m.-a trip to pike’s peak & notes by the way


Clark, John hawkins-overland to the gold fields of ca in 1852


clark, sterling b. f.


coffey, alvin aaron-a black pioneer’s trip to california, 1849


Cone, anson sterling-reminiscences


crowley, george

cady, Samuel


campbell, James and david-1850 diary


carr, dabney


Carstarphen, James


chalmers, robert-1850 journal


chapman, a. h.-1850 diary


clark, john-The California Guide 1852-1856


Clyman, james-diaries and reminiscences


Collins, martha e. gilliam- reminiscences


cordonier, henry a.-family tree


cosgrove, hugh-reminiscences


cornell, william-1852 journal