Hardship on the frontier is one thing. But throw a couple of kids under the age of 10 into the mix, and you get one hell of a miserable time. None of that stopped Marie Dorion.
A member of the Iowa tribe, Marie married Pierre Dorion as a teenager, and she accompanied him on a trip west after he was hired by John Jacob Astor’s fur-trading company to find easier routes. In tow were her five-year-old, two-year-old and one on the way. After setting out from their Midwest home, Marie gave birth to her third child nine months later in Oregon, but she lost the newborn eight days later. In January 1814, she took the kids and a horse in search of her husband’s camp somewhere in Idaho. Upon arriving, she found he had been killed and only one man was alive. She loaded half-dead man on the horse, but he died soon thereafter.
Then, upon arriving back at her home camp, she found everyone there had been slaughtered as well. She loaded up her boys and some food and started heading west out of hostile territory. For three months they crossed the snowfields of the Blue Mountains and eventually had to eat the horse they rode. After surviving the winter in the mountains and walking some 250 miles, she and her boys came to the Columbia River where the Walla Walla tribe helped her recover. She went on to remarry and have more children, the ancestors of whom settled the Willamette Valley.
To learn more about the tough life of Marie Dorian, the US Park Service has a nice write-up about her.