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Catherine Sager (1835–1910)

Author of Across The Plains In 1844

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Catherine Sager was the oldest girl in a farming family of seven children. In 1843, her parents decided to go west to settle in the new frontier of the Pacific Northwest. In April of the following year, they were among 300 people in 72 covered wagons crossing the Missouri River and beginning the journey along the Oregon Trail. In Wyoming, 9-year-old Catherine broke her leg in several places, an occurrence that could easily have proven fatal; however, a doctor set her leg and helped save her life. Both her parents died of fever along the route. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, a missionary couple in present-day Washington, adopted the orphaned children. In 1847, tensions between the white settlers and the Native Americans erupted into violence, and the Whitmans and a dozen other people were massacred. Another 54 women and children were captured and held hostage, including the Sager sisters. Several prisoners died in captivity, among them Louisa Sager, aged 6. The survivors were ransomed and released about a week later. Catherine married Clark Pringle, a Methodist minister with whom she had 8 children. Her book about her family's journey, Across the Plains in 1844, written about 10 years after her arrival in Oregon, was never published in her lifetime. Her children and grandchildren preserved the manuscript and today it's considered one of the most moving and authentic eyewitness accounts of the great westward migration.
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