In the recently released Old West Christmas Brides collection, Chimney Rock plays an important part of my story.
Located in Nebraska, this rock formation was one of the many prairie or desert “registers” along the pioneer trails leading west. The tall spiral could be seen from as far as thirty miles away. Some considered it the eighth wonder of the world.
Thousands of travelers carved or painted signatures onto these “registers.” Sometimes they left messages to those traveling behind.
Those in a hurry would simply hire one of the businessmen who had set-up shop at the base of the
|Chimney Rock is not as tall today.|
The best known and most recognized landmark on the Oregon trail was Independence Rock, called the "Register of the Desert." Located in Wyoming, the granite outcropping is 1,900 feet long, 700 feet wide, and 128 feet high and has been described as looking like a turtle or large whale. It’s a mile around its base.
Reaching it any later could be disastrous. For that would mean, travelers might not reach their destinations before running out of grain or the winter storms hit.
|Camped next to Independence Rock--True West Magazine|
Travelers climbed the rock to engrave their names, but also to look for the names of friends or relatives who had passed before them. One of the earliest signatures to be found is that of M.K. Hugh, 1824.
Lydia Allen Rudd reached the rock on July 5th, 1852. Though she wrote in her diary “there are a million of names on this rock,” she was somehow able to locate her husband’s name. He had passed by the rock three years earlier.
John Fremont was so impressed by what he saw, he wrote: "Everywhere within six or eight feet off the ground, where the surface is sufficiently smooth, and in some places sixty or eighty feet above, the rock is inscribed with the names of travelers. Many a name famous in the history of this country, and some well-known to science, are to be found among those of traders and travelers..."
Unfortunately, erosion and time have taken a toll, and many of the names have vanished or faded, but the echoes of the past linger on.
If you had been a traveler in the 1800s, what message would you have left to encourage those traveling behind?
"This tale charms." -Publishers Weekly