Not Half the Trubles

Not Half the TrublesAfter her escape from the horrors of the winter of 1846-47, thirteen-year-old Virginia Reed wrote a cousin in Springfield, Illinois about her experiences as a member of the Donner Party.

When the letter was first printed, in the Illinois Journal, on December 16, 1847, the editor of that paper said “The artless manner in which the child details the sufferings of the party, and especially of her own family — the joyful meeting of her father after his absence of five months — can scarcely be read without a tear, — while her notices of the country, which she had reached with untold tribulations, will cause a smile.” That is true today, just as it was then.

In Not Half The Trubles, Virginia Reed's letter is presented in a transcription as close to the way she wrote it as possible, with spelling, capitalization, and punctuation marks (or lack thereof) just as she first put them on paper. Her spelling is delightful. She wrote “Ma waies 10040 pon” meaning “Ma weighs 140 pounds.” Her lack of punctuation makes reading the letter as she wrote it difficult, but the book includes complete notes and an edited version to allow the reader who expects proper modern use of English to verify his interpretation against what she meant. Also includes a brief description of the events she described.

Not Half The Trubles: A Letter From Virginia Reed, May 16, 1847. Charles H. Dodd, ed. 19th Century Publications, 1996. 5½ by 8½ inches. 54 pages. Letter typeset in a script that evokes a feeling of handwritten letters of the era. Picture of Virginia Reed as an adult. Facsimile copy of Virginia's signature of the letter on the back cover. $7.95.

How to Buy.

Special Note from Chuck: California schools study the Donner Party in the 5th grade, if I remember correctly. My granddaughter became a real heroine when she took a copy of Not Half The Trubles to class with her, and her teacher appreciated it for the insight it gave her into the subject.