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. Another staff person 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 Director of the St. Joseph Museums graciously agreed to share this information online with the public by allowing the parts of the diaries describing St. Joseph to be digitized by OCTA for use on the Gateway website. To learn more about the exhibits, collections and research areas of the St. Joseph Museum visit stjosephmuseum.org.