jewels from jane - may 9
Picture of the seven sisters who made the Trek to Tucson
Monday, May 9, 1870
"We spent the day in climbing up and down hills. In the everning we reached the ever-memorable place, 'Mountain Springs,' the entrance of the American desert. For several miles the road is up and down mountains. At the highest point it is said to be 4,000 feet above the level of the sea. We were compelled to stop here to breathe. Some of the Sisters lay down on the road side, being unable to proceed further. Besides this terrible fatigue, we suffered still more from thirst.
"Before proceeding further, I shall give you a brief description of the place. We were going south. Before us lay the American desert, 40 miles long -- 800 feet below sea level. It is said to have once formed a portion of the ocean. It has every appearance of having been covered with water. On the right lies a great salt lake, supposed to have been a part of the ocean, which, hemmed in by mountains, could not recede with the other waters. On the left rise ugly mountains of volcanic rock and red sand. I wished Sister Euphrasia to make a sketch of it, but she said it was not necessary as she would never forget its appearance.
"After a few moments rest we commenced to descend. We were so much fatigued that it seemed as if our limbs were dislocated. We had yet two miles to descend on foot, the greater part being very steep. We joined hands, two by two, and ran as well as we could. It was certainly a novel sight to see the Sisters alone, on foot, crossing that lonely mountain in the wilderness. The sides of the road were covered with teams of horses, oxen and cattle that had dropped dead trying to ascend. At one place we counted 14 oxen, which had apparently died at the same time. When Mother beheld so many dead animals, she wept, fearful we might share their fate.
"We re-assembled at the foot of the mountain, and paused a few moments to breathe; everyone had something to remark about the place we had just passed. Sister Maxime said it was the 'Abomination of Desolation.' The carriage overtook us there, but we continued on foot, as it was yet too dangerous to ride, though we had quite a distance to go before we could take to the conveyance. We traveled as fast as we were able, in order to reach the ranch, for we were almost dead of thirst.
"We expected nothing but a drink of water, and we were not disappointed. After refreshing ourselves with a drink of cold water, we retired to the stable-yard, where we had left our carriage, in which we had spent the previous night. The wind was so high that the driver had to use means to prevent the carriage from being blown over. There were upward of 20 men there, some of whom were intoxicated. They annoyed us very much; some offering to shake hands with us, others trying to keep them off; and all swearing, etc.
"We were not only tired, but hungry, as we had scarcely anything to eat that day. We placed ourselves under the merciful protection of our Heavenly Father, our Blessed Lady and St. Joseph, as we were exposed to fearful dangers in that ugly place. We will never be able to tell our dear Sisters all the mortifications and humiliations we had to endure there. It was 9:00 o'clock before we could get a chance to make some tea; in the meantime, we remained near our carriage -- it was our only home. Mother felt much discouraged. She said, 'If Reverend Mother knew where we were, she would not go to bed this night.'
"Four of us slept in a shanty; the cook brought us a blanket, and, after picking some 'grey backs' off it, presented it to us. The men were coming in and going out all night. We asked the cook what it all meant. He replied in a somewhat embarrassed manner that 'ladies seldom pass this way, and when they do, the men wish to enjoy their society.' Mother, Sisters Ambrosia and Maxime remained in the carriage. The driver stayed with them as a protector. The cook was our guardian. He seemed to be a very nice young man and well educated.
"We started this morning at 5:00 o'clock, and entered the desert. It is a vast bed of sand. Traveling over it is rendered dangerous on account of the sand storms. We were told that about a month previous to our crossing it, they found a government wagon loaded with firearms, which had been forwarded several months before, and a stagecoach with seven passengers all buried in the sand. As sand is a good conductor, consequently the heat is extreme. When the sun is at meridian height the sand is hot enough to blister.
"In one place we passed a drove of horned cattle, said to contain 1,000 head; every one died of heat the same day. Another place we passed the remains of 1,500 sheep, smothered in a sand storm. In several places the sand is so deep that we were obliged to walk. We could get water only in one place and when we did get it, it was not only hot, but so full of minerals that we suffered more after taking it than before.
"We traveled until noon, rested until 4:00 o'clock p.m. Made some tea, which refreshed us. Recommending our journey to our Heavenly Father, we traveled until midnight. It was then cool and pleasant. The moon shone brightly; we walked and rode alternately. As we walked along we chanted a hymn. It was, indeed, a beautiful sight to see the Sisters at the lonely hour of midnight, crossing the frightful desert, singing hymns.
"We sang all the time, and imagined St. Joseph in our company, protecting us, as he did the Infant Jesus and his Blessed Mother, through the Egyptian desert; thus we felt no fear. At midnight we reached a ranch. We would not have refused some refreshments, but for us there was none. We lay down in the corner of the stable and rested until 4:00 o'clock a.m.
"We resumed our journey until 9:30 a.m., when we came to a ranch. The proprietor showed us great kindness; we were at once accommodated with water to wash, refreshment we sorely needed, as we had not wahsed since we left San Diego. You may imagine our condition after our weary trip. One of the Sisters wore low shoes, her feet and ankles were very painful; and it was with difficulty that she removed her stockings, as they stuck to the flech with the blood which had congealed there. After getting them off, she found 22 bleeding sores, produced by the cactus plants, with which the desert abounds. She advises all the Sisters coming to Arizona, to be sure to provide themselves with very high boots, in order to avoid the like disaster. At 6:00 o'clock p.m., we resumed our journey and traveled until 3:00 o'clock in the morning.
"Although nearly overcome with fatigue, everyone was cheerful and full of courage. We then arrived at a ranch. The man offered us the barroom to sleep in; but we said we preferred the stable. He replied, 'There are 40 men in the stable.' Six of them gave us their places, and in the twinkling of an eye we were fast asleep, and did not wake until 7:00 o'clock a.m. We then saw the strange place we were in -- 40 men, sure enough! And as many Indians. Nevertheless, they all treated us with the greatest kindness and respect. The weather was extremely hot and we were so sorely fatigued that the driver advised us to remain until evening.
"After breakfast he carpeted the stable with a wagon cover; then brought in some rocks and seed sacks for seats; thus we were very comfortably seated. There was a man there whose life I had been instrumental in saving. From the manner in which he spoke, I think he recognized me. He was extremely kind to us, procured for us such delicacies as the place afforded. He gave us some fresh eggs for our journey. We left there at 6:00 o'clock p.m., and traveled until 8:00 o'clock -- only two hours. We wished to go on, but the driver insisted on our remaining where we were. Of course, we had to submit. Sister Euphrasia and I remained in the wagon, and the other Sisters rested themselves on a pile of straw. At midnight we resumed our journey."
Trek of the Seven Sisters: Diary of Sister Monica Corrigan, 1870