Sources of information on overland travelers include journals written during the trip, letters written back home describing the trip, and later life reminiscences of the trip. Some of these have been published; many more are in manuscript form at various libraries and museums. Sometimes, you may be lucky enough to find something actually written by one of your ancestors; sometimes, you'll find them mentioned in someone else's writing.
Trail writings are found in many collections. For example, "Platte River Road Narratives" by Merrill J. Mattes [University of Illinois Press, 1988] includes brief descriptions of journals and reminiscences found around the country, including 121 items for 1853. Mattes' abstracts often include the place a wagon train originated and the dates of travel. Below, I have abstracted some of the information from another valuable publication for trail info seekers:
K. White and M-C. Cuthill (1993), Overland Passages: A Guide to the Overland Documents in the Oregon Historical Society. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press. 125 pages.
What is especially useful about this publication is that there is an every-name index of people mentioned in the manuscripts reviewed. Not every name included is of an Oregon Trail traveler - the compilers made no effort to separately categorize names of fellow travelers, people met on the way, people back home, etc. - and, of course, seldom is everyone on a given wagon train mentioned by name, Nevertheless, here are more clues to who came when and with who.
Below, I've given a brief summary of each of the Oregon Historical Society manuscripts that cover the year 1853. Included are: the author of the manuscript; the OHS manuscript number [note that several contributions may be included under the same manuscript number]; a title and/or a brief description of what the manuscript includes; departure and arrival dates and places, if given; and a list of the people mentioned in the manuscript. I have included an alphabetical index to all the surnames on this page, and also my webpage on arrival dates from donation land claims.
1. ALLLYN, Henry - Oregon Historical Society Mss #1508: "A
record of daily events during a trip from Fulton County, Illinois,
across the plains to the Willamette Valley in 1853." 204
Departed Fulton Co., IL 28 March 1853, arrived Willamette Valley 6 Sept 1853.
ALLYN, Elizabeth and Henry; ANDERSON; BARRETT; BEAVER, Elias and James; BIDAMON, John; DUNNING - Franklin, James, John & Mary Emeline; EPHRAIM, Betsy and Joseph; JONES; KEITH; KISER, Ann; LEPER; MEWETT, Waltenberg; PEASE, I; PITTMAN; SAMUELS, James; SHINN; STREET; WESLEY, James and John; WILCOXON, E. I.; WILSON - Franklin, James, John, Simeon, and William; WOOD, Martha
2. BELSHAW, George - OHS Mss #1508: "Diary of George Belshaw."
Originated in Lake Co., IN; left Council Bluffs, IA, 15 May 1853, arrived Willamette Valley 27 Sept 1853.
ASBERRY; BELSHAW, George, Samuel, Thomas; MARTIN, Stephen; PARSONS - Oscar and Richard
3. BELSHAW, Maria A. Parsons [Sister-in-law of George BELSHAW,
above] - OHS Mss #1508: Untitled 46 page typed copy of diary.
Originated Lake Co., IN; departed Council Bluffs, IA 15 May 1853; arrived Marysville, OR 9 Oct 1853.
ABBOTT, A; BELSHAW, George, Samuel, Thomas,William; CAMPBELL; COONTS; MARTIN - Charles, Mary Parsons, and Stephen; McCARTHY, Fayette; PARSONS - Elizabeth, Harriet, Helen, Henry, Marcia and Oscar
4. CISCO, Aaron - OHS Mss #174: Six letters on trip [no dates]
from Ohio to Oregon.
CISCO - Aaron, Francis, Luther, and Nathaniel; HANKS - Harriet, James, and William; WALLING, Albert
5. CONNOR, John O. - OHS Mss. #1508 - Extracts from the diary of John O. CONNOR. 7 pages.
Left Fort Laramie, WY 23 June 1853, arrived Portland, OR 28 Sept 1853.
COAL, Mark; COLE, E; CONNER - Aeron, Daniel, John O., and Sam; COZBY; LANDRETH, William; MORGAN, Peter; SQUIRE
6. CONNOR, Thomas J. - OHS Mss #1508 - 12 page diary, typed
Left Andersonville, IN 9 March 1853, arrived Salem, OR, 7 Oct 1853.
BETHERS; CAPIAS, George W; CARLTON; CLARK, Nelson; CONNOR, Thomas J.; CRESWELL, Will; CROW, M. M.; DENNING, John and Stephen B.; EDWARDS, James; FISHER, John C.; FRANKLIN, William; GRAY, Dennis; HECKER, J. F.; HOWARD, John; KENDRICK, W. H.; KENOYER, J.; LAWRENCE, Boyd; LICHTENTHALER; MASON - David, George, Jonathan, Joshua, and Peter; OSBURN; PENNELL, H. C.; SHISLER
7. DINWIDDIE, David - OHS Mss #1508 - Overland from Indiana
to Oregon - the Dinwiddie Journal. 14 page printed diary.
Left Porter County, IN, 15 March 1853; arrived Willamette Valley October 1853.
8. DREW, Susan Isabel Biles - OHS Mss #1508 - Crossing the
plains in 1853. 9 pages of reminiscences.
Left Louisville, KY Spring 1853; arrived Woods Prairie, WA, 22 Nov 1853.
BAKER; BILES - Charles, Clark, David, George, James, Susan; DREW, Susan Isabel Biles; HIMES
9. DUNLAP, Caroline Cock. 140 pages of typed reminiscences.
Left Council Bluffs, IA, 24 Apr 1853; arrived Olympia, WA August 1853.
BATES, Tom; CRAMER, Ralph; DUNLAP, Caroline Cock; HOLT; LEWIS; REINHART, Sara Cock and William; STERLING, Jack; WISHMIRE
10. GOLTRA FARRINGTON, Elizabeth Ellison - OHS Mss #1508: 23
page handwritten journal.
Left Kansas City, MO, 29 Apr 1853; arrived Oregon City 29 Sept 1853.
GOLTHRA - Elizabeth Ellison, Nelson, Nora, and William Harris; LITHCOE
11. HITE, Joseph - OHS Mss #1508 - Joseph Hite Family. 6 page
Left Kanesville, IL 6 May 1853; arrived Oregon City 19 Oct 1853.
ALEXANDER; HITE, Elizabeth and Joseph; MILLER, J.R.
12. HOCKERSMITH, Martha J. - OHS Mss #615: 6 pages of typed
Left Bloomfield, IA 5 Apr 1853; arrived Salem, OR, Aug 1853.
ELIOT; GALE - Daily, Howard, J. Marion, John, Newton & William J.; HOCKERSMITH, Jackson and Martha J.; McNUTT; MILLER; SCOTT, Felix; SKINNER
13. HOFFMAN, William - OHS Mss #537: 49 page typed journal.
Departed Weston Ferry, Missouri River 21 May 1853; arrived Jacksonville, OR 31 Oct 1853.
DUCKER; GARNET; GRAY; HAWKINS, John; HOFFMAN - Betsy, Carrie, Florence, Mary Jane, and William; JOHNSON; ORRICK, Benjamin; SEW, Royal; WHARTON
14. JESS, James - OHS Mss #676: The Jess family in southern
Oregon; 10 page typed family history.
Left Indiana March 1853; arrived Gresham, OR Oct 1853.
JESS, Alexander M.; MOORE, Jacob J. and Martha J.
15. KENT, Horace A. and Deborah G - OHS Mss #95 - 6 pages of
Left Illinois Feb 1853; arrived Oregon City 27 Nov 1853.
KENT, Deborah G. and Horace A.
16. LONGMIRE, James - OHS Mss #1004 - 28 page typed reminiscences
Left Evansville, IN 6 March 1853; arrived Puget Sound, WA, 9 Oct 1853.
BRAILE; BURGE, Andy; CHAMBERS, McLean; CLAFLIN, William; DAY, Joseph; GOODWIN, Frank; HARMON, Hill; HIMES - George H., Judson and Tyrus; HUGHES; HURD; HUTCHINSON; LANE, John; LIGHT, E. A.; LONGMIRE - David, Elcaine, John, and Tillatha; McCULLOUGH; MELVILLE; MITCHELL; PERKINS; PORTER, Allan; RAY, Samuel and William; SARGENT, Asher and Nelson; SHELTON, Levi and Martin; TOLMIE; VAN OGLE; WATT, Ivan; WOOLERY
17. McCLAIN, Martha Ann Tuttle - OHS Mss #1055 - 40 pages of
Left Knoxville, IA 18 Apr 1853; arrived Jacksonville, OR via Applegate Trail, arriving Oct 1853
McCLAIN, Martha and William Jackson
18. McCLURE, Andrew S. - OHS Mss #732 - 3 volume handwritten
Left Shaker Prairie, IN 21 March 1853; arrived Deschutes River, OR, 11 Sept 1853.
BELVINS, F. M. and William F; BOND, Allen and Rachel; BOND, William and Hetty; BRUCE, David; HOWARD, William; McCLURE - Andrew S., Elizabeth, Harrison, James, Jane, Nancy and Sally; SHRAMM, Jacob; THURMAN, William
19. STEARNS, Orson A. - OHS Mss #328 - 16 pages of reminiscences
Left from Freeport, VT 6 Apr 1853, arrived Rogue River Valley 30 Sept 1853
BEESON; CONDRA; DOWELL, B. F.; GEORGE, Abel; HOLTEN, John; MILL; MILLER, John; PEARSON; POLAND; SUTTEN; SWARTOUT; THOMPSON
20. STEWART, Agnes - OHS Mss #1508 - account of the "Lost
Left Alleganey, PA 16 March 1853; arrived in the Cascade Mtns. 29 Oct 1853.
BUCKINGHAM; CLINE; LOVE, David; MILLER; STEVENSON; STEWART - Agnes, John and Thomas Warner; WARNER - Elizabeth, Fred, Janet, John, Mary and Tom.
21. TAYLOR, George N. - OHS Mss #1508 - 33 page typed diary
Left Iowa 14 Apr 1853; arrived Oregon City 12 Oct 1853.
BOOTS; COX, Thomas; CRANSTON; HICKS; KNOX, William; LAMB - Jacob, James, John and Mary Anne; MINFORD, Agnes; PALMER, Judson; PERRY, Margarette and Viola; REED, Ira; RENARD, William; SHILLING, Martha Jane; SHORT, George; STEWART; STONG, John; TAYLOR, George N.; WOLFORD - Amelia, Charles, Devolt, Earhart, Elizabeth, John and Mary
22. WARD, Dillus Burgess - OHS Mss #1508 - 55 pages of reminiscences
Left Arkansas 9 March 1853; followed Santa Fe Trail first segment; arrived Waldo Hills, OR 1 Oct 1853.
BENTLEY, Ivan and William; CASON, Hilary; COLBY; GRIFFIN; HARRINGTON; HENSHLEY; HINES, Gustavus and H. K.; KING; SMITH, Bob; WARD, B. S. and Dillus Burgess
23. WEST, Calvin B. - OHS Mss #692 - 33 page typed
Left Defiance, OH 30 Apr 1853; arrived Foster's Ranch, OR, 13 Aug 1853.
CORNWALL; CRANK; CRUZEN, A. J.; HUBER; JACKSON; LEAVER: ROOT,H.F.; WEST,
24. WEST, George Miller - OHS Mss #1508: 49 page typed manscript.
Left Burlington, IA 28 March 1853; arrived Willamette Valley1853.
ARMSTRONG; BERTION; BRYDOLF, Fannie; BUTLER - Ira, Nute, Parradine, Peter; BUTTERFIELD, Dave; CARSON; CHRISTIE; CHURCH, Dan; CODINGTON, Joe; CUNNINGHAM, James; DAVIDSON, Hosa; DAVIS, Charlie; DUEST, George; EBY; FAWCETT, Charles and Zeb; GARRETT, Sam; GIBSON, George; GROWNDS, Ed; HALEY, Berryman and John; HALICK; HAWKINS, Joe; HOWARD; HUFFMAN, Tom; HUTCHINSON, Sandy and Tom; LATIMER, Mat; LEEPER; NORTH, Sam; OLIVER; RANDALL, Dick; RICHARDS, Tom; ROE, James; SCOTT, Zachariah; SICKMAN, Dave; SMALLY, Jay; THOMPSON; TICHENOR; VENERABLE; VERTRUSE, Pete; WALLACE, Cal
25. WILLIAMS, Velina A. [Stearns] - OHS mss #1508 - 34 page
Left Freeport IL 5 Apr 1853; arrived Klamath Lake, OR, 30 Sept 1853.
BRANNAN/BRENNAN, William; BULLFINCH; CANNON, George B; CARMON, George; CONDRY; DONEGAN; DUDEN; HOYT, Herman; McLANE; PENGRA, Byron J. and Charlotte E.; STEARNS - Adam, Arminda M., Avery P., David, Dorcas, Edwin A., Fidelia, John R., Leonora, Louisa, Myron N., Mary A., Newell D., Orson A., Oscar L., Samuel, Susan W., and Theresa; WILLIAMS - Alonzo W., Aseneth, Frank, Henry Orsa, Issacher, and Velina A.
26. WOODCOCK, William C. - OHS Mss #982 - 11 page typed diary.
Left Albany, NY 1 Mar 1853; arrived St. Johns, OR 29 Sept 1853.
ADORABLE; WOODCOCK - Horace, Martin and William C.